Rec’s and Reviews: Three Colorful Books About Fall

  • We review: three colorful books about fall
  • These books are for: kids in preschool and early elementary school
  • Summary: With fall coming to a close and winter weather setting in, it’s the perfect time to stay in and curl up with a book. Here are three books that capture the fun of fall while also educating young readers about the changing seasons.


"Awesome Autumn" by Bruce Goldstone. (Image source:

“Awesome Autumn” by Bruce Goldstone. (Image source:

“Awesome Autumn”
by Bruce Goldstone
For readers in preschool through third grade.

Bruce Goldstone’s “Awesome Autumn” lets readers explore autumn through comparisons, the five senses, fall activities, and more. Readers will learn about why leaves changes, ponder how autumn feels and sounds, and study hibernation and migration. Fall activities like leaf rubbings, hand turkeys, and roasting pumpkin seeds round out this fun book.


"Re-Cycles" by Michael Elsohn Ross. (Image source:

“Re-Cycles” by Michael Elsohn Ross. (Image source:

by Michael Elsohn Ross, Illustrated by Gustav Moore
For readers in preschool through third grade.

A Yosemite National Park naturalist and educator, Michael Elsohn Ross introduces young readers to the natural soil and water cycles, as well as the compost cycle, in “Re-Cycles.” Ross’s simple but lyrical prose and artwork from Moore will help readers understand the three different cycles in this fourth installment in the “Cycles” series. Ross also gives readers tips for assisting nature by using recycling centers and composting.


"Leaf Jumpers" by Carole Gerber. (Image source:

“Leaf Jumpers” by Carole Gerber. (Image source:

“Leaf Jumpers”
by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Leslie Evans
For readers in kindergarten through second grade.

“Leaf Jumpers” celebrates the beauty of autumn leaves. With short rhymes and close-up leaf illustrations, Gerber and Evans teach readers to tell which leaves are which. The last page of the book also describes photosynthesis and how it leads to the changing colors of fall.





Work Out with Ashley Tapps

Ced lw ashley tappsMeet Ashley Tapps, owner of AllFit Health and Fitness and the new instructor for Little Hip Hoppers and Stroller Time Fitness! Ashley is originally from Urbandale, Iowa, and finished her undergraduate degree in business and master’s degree in sports and recreation at the University of Iowa. Ashley is a certified ACSM Group Exercise Instructor with over five years of experience teaching and coaching dance, teaching kids’ and adult fitness classes, and working with clients of all ages and abilities.  She is looking forward to bringing fun fitness and recreation programs to kids and adults in the Des Moines area.

New! Stroller Time Body Buster

Looking for a great workout while keeping your kiddos close? This class is a perfect way to connect with other local parents while getting a whole body workout! Stroller Time Body Buster will incorporate cardio and multiple major and core muscle exercises to get you on your way to becoming a leaner and healthier you. Exercises will include squats, lunges, plank exercises, push-ups, yoga balances, and much more including countless modifications that will allow anyone to feel challenged and engaged. Come ready to work hard and have fun with your child in a stroller/car seat by your side! Please bring a towel/blanket/yoga mat, as we will be venturing outside, and feel free to bring your kiddo(s) in their stroller or car seat. Course taught by Ashley Tapps of AllFit Health and Fitness.

Tuesdays, 9/20-10/11, 11-11:45 a.m., $37. Learning Resource Center. WEL03.

Register Online

Fall Learning Opportunities

LW-Fall-2016-Catalog-CoverFall is right around the corner, along with fresh opportunities for personal growth and lifelong learning. Our quality learning opportunities are for students of all ages and many interests. All our classes are offered locally in our school district community, so sign up with a friend or on your own. We invite you to explore our programs, find something new, and register today!

This year, we combined the youth and adult catalogs to make it easier for you to find engaging, affordable programs that interest you and your family. You can also find information about our class offerings on our website, Facebook page, and other social media accounts.

We would like to extend a special thank you to our excellent teachers. They work with us to keep our wide variety of classes engaging and valuable for everyone. Thank you to all our LEARNwest and Adventures teachers for sharing their time, talents, and skills with our community!

If you would like to join our talented teachers or have an idea for a new class, give us a call or send us an email. We are always looking for new classes and activities, and we would love to know what you are looking to learn—or even teach—as we start planning for the winter session.

Sue Otte, Program Coordinator

View Classes Online

View Catalog (PDF)

Rec’s and Reviews: “The Jungle Book”

Poster for "The Jungle Book."

Poster for “The Jungle Book.” (Image source:

  • We review: “The Jungle Book,” directed by Jon Favreau and starring Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and Idris Elba
  • This movie is for: kids in third or fourth grade and older
  • Summary: “Man-cub” Mowgli flees the jungle with help from family and friends when he is threatened by vengeful tiger Shere Khan in this revisiting of the classic “Jungle Book” tale.

Most notable for its hyper-realistic visual effects and star-studded cast, “The Jungle Book” is a good lesson in how to tell an old story a new way. Promoted as a live-action remake of the animated Disney classic, “The Jungle Book” is a gritty and engaging take on the classic tale.

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) with the wolf pack that adopted him.

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) with the wolf pack that adopted him. (Image source:

Though it takes its plot from the animated Disney movie and Rudyard Kipling’s original stories, the visual effects make “The Jungle Book” feel all-new and completely different in tone. It is intense and action-packed, even edging into scary territory at times. Viewers share Mowgli’s awe when presented with majestic elephants, but also his sense of peril when he’s on the run. They get an up-close view of injuries sustained by Mowgli and witness an important character’s death.

The strong cast is another highlight. Idris Elba thrills as the villainous but relatable tiger Shere Khan, while veteran Ben Kingsley provides a reliable presence for Mowgli and the audience as Bagheera. It is practically impossible to look away from Mowgli’s wolf family, especially when Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Raksha, is on screen.

Neel Sethi (Mowgli) filming "The Jungle Book."

Neel Sethi (Mowgli) filming “The Jungle Book.” (Image source:

Even amongst such talented co-stars, newcomer Neel Sethi stands out as the scrappy Mowgli. His enchanting and natural performance is even more impressive knowing that, throughout filming, he often acted opposite puppets in a blue room far from the jungle.

It is undeniable that the visual effects
are the star of the film, but its hopeful message should not be overlooked. Mowgli’s character arc promotes acceptance and creativity, and the overall
story has simple but positive messages about environmental respect and all types of families.

Have you seen “The Jungle Book”? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook!


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Common Sense Media

Kids West at Adventureland

Kids West field trip to Adventureland – June 2016. Kids and adults had a great day at Adventureland.

Instructor Tips: Angie Loney — Keeping Your Summer Musical

It may be summertime, but the show must go on! As summer gets into full swing, here are some tips from WDMCS teacher and Community Education instructor Angie Loney to keep your child’s music skills polished.

Tips to Keep Your Summer Musical

  1. If your child plays an instrument, encourage them to practice  To make it easier, use a timer and set a goal.  Whether it’s practice five days a week or 90 minutes a week, choose a goal and a reward to motivate your child to practice!
  2. Is your child a singer? Then sing! Sing along with the radio, in a children’s choir, sing with a CD, sing at church, or sing songs in the car. It doesn’t matter what song you sing, just sing!
  3. Does your child like drama? Encourage your child to take a drama class, or take them to see a show at one of the many community theaters or the Civic Center.
  4. Another way to motivate your child to practice is a performance! There are many places your child can perform. An informal performance can be as simple as performing for family and friends at home (even the cat or the dog), while a formal performance could take place at a retirement home or church. Have your child choose the songs, create a program, and plan snacks for after the show.
  5. Most importantly, music should be fun! Find what your child likes to do and encourage them to participate and take lessons, classes, or workshops.  As a family, take time to listen to a variety of music and enjoy the many arts experiences our community has to offer.

ced_blog_AngieLoneyTipsAngie Loney has taught vocal and general music for 21 years, the past 14 at Crossroads Park Elementary.  She has taught music for grades K-12, including show choirs, honor choirs, musicals, music camps, bell choirs, and community choirs. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her three children, reading, shopping, and maintaining her black belt in taekwondo. Along with her excellent tips, she included a quote that will inspire everyone to start enjoying music this summer: “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” — Ronald Reagan

To learn more about Angie Loney’s classes and other WDMCS Community Education summer music programs, visit and our post about Band Bash and Summer Strings.

Music Programs Remain a Favorite Summer Tradition

Summer music programs Band Bash and Summer Strings are staples of West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Community Education’s Summer of Learning program. Offered each summer for more than 20 years, Band Bash and Summer Strings each provide instrumental music students with a place to advance their skills in areas they are passionate about.

Students practice "The Pink Panther Theme," a Summer Strings favorite.

Students practice “The Pink Panther Theme,” a Summer Strings favorite.

The groups learn several pieces to perform for their friends and family at the end of two weeks. Students in the programs rehearse every day, and some take part in musicianship classes and sectional rehearsals. The improvement seen is partially due to the wide range of ages in each group. Band Bash is available to students in grades 6–12, and Summer Strings has offerings for students entering grades 5–9.

“It is a great opportunity for our younger students to see what they can accomplish if they continue in our program and work hard,” WDMCS elementary orchestra teacher and Summer Strings instructor Matt Meyer said. “It is also a good time for our older students to serve as role models for the younger kids and reflect on where they’ve been ability-wise on their instruments and how much they’ve improved and grown over the years.”

French horn students practice together during Band Bash.

French horn students practice together during Band Bash.

Program instructors agree the daily contact with students is a factor, since students do not get instrumental music time every day during the school year. The programs give students the opportunity to develop their skills and gain confidence in their abilities while meeting new friends with similar interests.

“My favorite part of teaching Band Bash is being able to work with the kids in a fun, no-pressure situation where most of the kids really want to be there,” WDMCS band teacher and Band Bash instructor Jon Lewis said. “We always have a lot of fun making music.”


CE in Photos: Kids West Makes Tin Can Phones

Incoming second-grade students in Kids West at Hillside Elementary experimented with tin can telephones earlier this week. They used cans, styrofoam cups, and strings with different thicknesses to make their “telephones.” They also got to decorate and test their creations.

Summer Adventures in Learning 2016 Press Release

2015_SAIL_4Students can still register for Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL), a weeklong WDMCS Community Education program for student entering grades 1-7. SAIL offers refresher classes in reading, writing and math, as well as enrichment classes in chess, computers, art, science and much more.

SAIL classes run from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 pm., June 27-July 1, at Crossroads Park Elementary, 1050 50th St., West Des Moines.

By offering four different class times throughout the day, SAIL gives students and their families the ability to choose classes that fit their needs, interests, and schedules. Students can take one or two classes or attend the whole day by taking four classes and staying for lunch and recess.

This year’s SAIL classes include:

  • BOOM! Pianos Lost in Space, a music class involving keyboards and musical tubes called Boomwhackers;
  • Developmental Math classes for students entering grades 2-7;
  • Hanging with Henkes, a reading and writing class inspired by books from popular children’s author Kevin Henkes;
  • LEGO® Creations, for students who love both books and Legos; and
  • Reading/Writing Success, a reading and writing development class for students entering grades 6-7.

Grades listed for each class indicate the grade students will be entering in the 2016-17 school year. To see all SAIL class listings, visit

Interested families can learn about registration at or by calling 515-633-5001 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Families should register by Monday, June 20, to avoid the $25 late registration fee.

Learn more about SAIL on the WDMCS Community Education website at

Safety Town 2016 Press Release

safety_town_t-shirt_designSafety Town is for children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2016. 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:

  • Session 1: June 6-10: 9-11:30 a.m. FULL
  • Session 2: June 6-10: 12:30-3 p.m. FULL
  • Session 3: June 13-17: 9-11:30 a.m. FULL
  • Session 4: June 13-17: 12:30-3 p.m. FULL
  • Session 5: June 20-24: 9-11:30 a.m.
  • Session 6: June 20-24: 12:30-3 p.m.
  • Session 7: June 27-July 1: 9-11:30 a.m.

Safety Town will be held at Fairmeadows Elementary, 807 23rd Street, West Des Moines. The $50 fee includes a T-shirt. To get more information or register for Safety Town, call 515-633-5001 or Click Here.