Rec’s and Reviews: “Inside Out”

(The “Inside Out” poster from

(The “Inside Out” poster from

Disney•Pixar’s newest film, “Inside Out,” has been getting huge amounts of positive buzz. Critics and viewers alike are raving about the daring film. The endless positive reviews seems to indicate that risk has led to reward. Sitting in the audience tells a different story. Disney•Pixar has created a wonderful film, but it has also failed to connect with some of its main fans: children.

“Inside Out” centers on 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), but it spends most of its time with her emotions. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust (Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling) live together inside Riley’s mind in “Headquarters.” They can see what Riley sees and use a control panel to influence her actions. The film does an excellent job of illustrating Riley’s psychology in a way that is beautiful and relatively accurate. The director invited well-known psychologist and emotions expert Paul Ekman to work with the crew, and it shows.

The film follows Riley and her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) as they move from Minnesota to San Francisco. The family is close and fun-loving, but it is a stressful move. Early on, Riley’s mom praises her for staying upbeat, and the emotions decide they will do all they can to keep Riley acting happy. Joy tries to stop Sadness from having any influence, but it’s like Sadness cannot help herself, accidentally tinging memories with unhappiness and influencing Riley’s reactions.

Adults and older children will recognize this behavior as compartmentalization. It is children who understand the basic emotions, but not the more complicated ones Riley is developing, who may be troubled by the film. It was hard for some children in the theater to understand the film’s appeal. They felt with Riley, and like her, they had trouble processing their emotions. Adults could appreciate the sadness, the subtle humor, and the genius illustration of the concepts. Some kids just felt sad, and a little lost — much like the main character.

Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness at the control panel. (Image source:

Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness at the control panel. (Image source:

The youngest children probably will not understand the film’s plot, but they can still enjoy its transcendent music and animation. The music was composed by Michael Giacchino, who also scored Disney•Pixar’s “Up.” Like the music from “Up,” the “Inside Out” soundtrack can tell the entire story on its own, but never distracts or detracts from the rest of the movie. The movie is also visually captivating but not overwhelming, thanks to its foundation in basics like color, shape, and texture.

The brilliance of “Inside Out” starts with its broad concept and ends with its intricate execution. There are only a few things that parents might find objectionable for young children — some scary moments and bad decisions Riley makes. Overall, the film is beautiful, thoughtful, and artfully crafted. It is one the family should see together and discuss together afterward. At its most basic, this story is about emotional turmoil, and the audience feels every minute of it. Adults are more able to deal with complex emotions, but young viewers may need help to understand Riley’s emotions and their own. For more detailed reviews and information, visit:

Sing and Dance the Summer Away!

WDMCS Community Education is offering two sessions of show choir camp: beginner and experienced, for students entering grades 5-6. Students will have fun making music with others who enjoy singing and dancing.


Beginner Show Choir Camp

For students entering grades 5-6 This camp is designed to be a first-time show choir experience and is appropriate for any student—no singing or dancing experience needed! Students will learn song sets with appropriate choreography to match. Singing in unison and two part harmonies, as well as vocal techniques will be covered. This camp also promotes self-confidence on and off the stage! Students will present a concert for family and friends on the last day and receive a T-shirt to wear. Taught by Courtney Copic.

Session July 20-24 from 1-4 p.m. Location Stilwell Junior High, 1601 Vine Street, West Des Moines Cost $95

Register Online Registration Information

Experienced Show Choir Camp

For students entering grades 6-7 Would you like to improve your singing and dancing? We’ll focus on both large and small group choreography while singing in two-three-plus-part harmonies. We’ll also promote self-confidence on and off the stage! A concert for family and friends will be held on the last day and you’ll receive a T-shirt to wear.

Session July 27-31 from 1-4 p.m. Location Stilwell Junior High, 1601 Vine Street, West Des Moines Cost $95

Register Online Registration Information

Instructor Tips: Peri Halma — Baking Like a Pro


This month’s instructor tips come from Peri Halma, a family and consumer science teacher at Stilwell Junior High and an avid baker. She has entered baked items including cakes, pies, breads, cookies, and candies in the Iowa State Fair for the past 20 years. Peri loves to see the joy of cooking in young people and wants to inspire them to continue this joy at home. She will teach Community Education’s Summer of Learning Baking Academy class this summer.

Peri Halma’s Top Five Baking Tips

1. Use the best ingredients available. Think you won’t be able to tell the difference between imitation and real vanilla extract, or that Dutch Processed Cocoa won’t make a difference? Think again! Using quality ingredients makes a huge difference.

2. Bring ingredients to room temperature. Okay, confession: I don’t always do this — but I really should. When you use eggs or milk straight out of the fridge, they don’t combine as smoothly with the dry and room temperature ingredients. This can result in clumps of one ingredient sticking together and making an appearance in one unfortunate bite, which is no fun.

3. Preheat your oven, and then take the temperature. It goes without saying that you should preheat your oven, but I’ll say it anyway: preheat your oven! If you put batter in before the oven is ready, it will mess up their baking process. Ovens can also be finicky. Invest in a good oven thermometer, and then use it! Double-check the temperature of your oven before you put your batter in.

4. Bake in the center of your oven. When you’re ready to bake, set pans on the center of a rack set in the very middle of your oven. This will ensure good airflow and help even out heat distribution, preventing overcooking on any one side of the pan.

5. Resist the urge to peek. I know that baking is exciting, but don’t open the oven door over and over to check on your progress! If you slam the door open or closed towards the start of cooking, it can cause fragile air bubbles in the batter to burst, and you’ll end up with a dense product.

Check out Halma and her students in action in these photos of her Kids in the Kitchen class from the WDMCS Community Education Adventures program.

Mythbusting Monday: Out-of-District Registration for Summer of Learning

ced_summer_of_learning_catalog_coverSchool is out for the summer, but that does not mean the end of learning for the year. WDMCS Community Education offers a wide variety of rewarding and affordable Summer of Learning classes that help students explore their interests each summer.

  • Myth: Summer of Learning classes are only for students in the WDMCS district.
    • This myth is FALSE.
    • All Summer of Learning classes welcome out-of-district students. Some classes may have specific registration requirements related to district enrollment, but any student in the appropriate grades can complete the registration process.
    • Out-of-district students interested in Summer of Learning opportunities can find registration information on the individual class pages.

WDMCS Community Education Summer of Learning classes offer opportunities for students who want to prepare for the next school year, foster their talents, or discover new passions. We are excited to invite you to come learn with us! For more information, please contact WDMCS Community Education at or 515-633-5001.

CE in Photos: Summer of Learning Jazz Jam

Jazz Jam Workshop is one of WDMCS Community Education’s Summer of Learning classes. Students in grades 7-9 can take this four-day workshop to get a solid base in different jazz styles. There was an informal concert for parents, family, and friends today, the last day of the program. The course was taught by Greg Simmons.

Safety Town 2015 Press Release

safety_town_t-shirt_designSafety Town is for children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2015. Safety Town (a WDMCS Community Education Summer of Learning program) is a comprehensive safety education program for young children from all districts that covers safety around strangers, fire, water, traffic, buses and poison. Children will have an opportunity to learn through experiences in the Safety Town village, a field trip to the police and fire stations and various classroom activities. A West Des Moines police officer, certified teacher and teacher assistant will lead the activities for the week.

Sessions include:

FULL – June 8-12:  Session 1         9-11:30 a.m. and Session 2 12:30-3 p.m. 

June 15-19: Session 3 from 9-11:30 a.m.   FULL Session 4         12:30-3 p.m.

June 22-26: Session 5 from 9-11:30 a.m.  and Session 6 from 12:30-3 p.m.

July 6-10: Session 7 from 9-11:30 a.m. and Session 8 from 12:30-3 p.m.

Safety Town will be held at Hillside Elementary, 713 8th St., West Des Moines. The $50 fee includes a T-shirt. For more information or to register, call 515-633-5001 or Click Here

Monthly Motivation: Enjoy the Outdoors

One of the best things about summer is enjoying time outside with your family. Warm weather and long days provide plenty of opportunities for playing, hiking, going on picnics or bike rides, and exploring. The season also brings plenty of bugs. Some of the most prevalent are ticks and mosquitoes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together some helpful tips for preventing and treating bites from these insects.


Going Outside

  • Wear protective clothing. Hats, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks are a good idea. Tucking pants into socks offers even more protection. Hair should be covered. Long hair should not be worn loose.
  • Ticks like humid environments, so avoid wooded areas, and even areas with higher amounts of shrubs, plant litter, and tall grass. Walk in the center of trails. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so limit outdoor activity at these times.
  • Always apply insect repellent before going outside. The CDC recommends various repellents for ticks and mosquitoes and provides a list of every registered repellent brand in the U.S. There are safe and effective repellents for every budget, age, and preference.

Coming Inside

  • Any mosquito bites should be treated promptly.
  • Tick bites are not as immediately apparent as mosquito bites. To prevent them:
    • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for one hour soon after coming inside. This should kill any ticks left on clothing.
    • Shower or bathe within two hours of coming inside. This will help to remove any ticks remaining on the body and is a good chance to perform a full-body tick check. Pay special attention to hair, under arms, belly button, behind the knees, around the waist, the groin area, and in and around ears.
    • Check pets and any gear as well. Ticks can enter the house on animals or equipment, then attach themselves to people later.

Young children pose outside of tent

After a Bite

  • Mosquito bites can be itchy, but will go away in time. Try to avoid scratching. For itch relief, use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. An ice or cold pack might also help.
  • Mosquitoes can pass on West Nile virus, which has a variety of symptoms. If you think you have been infected with West Nile virus, see a healthcare professional.

    West Nile virus (WNV) neuroinvasive disease incidence reported to ArboNET, by state, United States, 2013 (Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

    West Nile virus (WNV) neuroinvasive disease incidence reported to ArboNET, by state, United States, 2013
    (Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • If you find an attached tick, remove it as soon as possible. Grasp it with tweezers, getting as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out. Clean the bites and your hands with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or an iodine scrub.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  • In the weeks following a tick bite, watch for signs of illness like a rash or fever. See a healthcare professional if they develop. Knowing information like when the tick bit you, where you live or picked up the tick, and how long the tick was attached may be helpful.


CDC:  Stop Mosquitos
CDC: West Nile virus site
Mayo Clinic: Treating Mosquito Bites
CDC: Stop Ticks
CDC: Tick Removal

Enjoy the outdoors this summer, and watch this blog for more ways to stay healthy and happy!

CE Today: June 3 — A U.S. Astronaut Walks in Space


Edward White during NASA’s Gemini 4 mission. (Photo credit: Commander James McDivitt. Source:

Edward H. White II became the first U.S. astronaut to walk in space on this day in 1965. White was chosen to join James A. McDivitt on the four-day orbital flight of Gemini 4. White was often called the most physically fit astronaut and showed his prowess on June 3, during the third orbit, “walking” through space for 21 minutes with the assistance of a maneuvering unit. White so enjoyed his space-walk that when McDivitt called him to come back in, he replied, “I’m coming back in…and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”




Life Magazine: “America’s First Space Walk”
NASA Biography: Edward H. White II
Encyclopedia Britannica: Edward H. White II (American astronaut)

Incoming Freshman – Sign Up to Participate in the Silver Cord Program

ce_silver_cordWe invite all incoming ninth graders to participate in the Silver Cord program beginning the summer following eighth grade. The Silver Cord award is a graduation award available to WDMCS district seniors who volunteer a minimum of 50 hours for three or more non-profits during every year of high school. The Silver Cord year runs from June 1-May 31. The purpose of the Silver Cord program is to encourage volunteerism and allow students to experience the joy of giving back to the community. Volunteering can provide a constructive use of time, foster the exploration of career interests, support youth seeking employment and college admission, and gives new graduates the con­fidence to serve in leadership roles after high school.

Sign Up

  • Students and parents should read through the Silver Cord’s user manual that can be viewed here.
  • Students should complete the online form to set up a Silver Cord online account to sign up.
  • Please write down the user name and password, and use an email address that is checked regularly. We will use this email address to communicate throughout the duration of the four years.
  • Once the form has been submitted, an email will be sent with information on how to log in to the online account.
  • Students can then start submitting preapprovals if needed. Please read through the preapproval process before submitting a preapproval.
  • Students can start their service hours on June 1, 2015.

Parents Please Note: If you have had a student in the Silver Cord program in the past, the process and some of the guidelines have changed. Detailed information about participating in the Silver Cord program is provided on our website. Please take some time to review this information. This information includes: Program Process Program Guidelines Student Online User Manual Preapproved Activities– Students do not have to go through the preapproval process with these activities as they are already preapproved. Thank you for your interest in the Silver Cord program! Silver Cord Flyer