Try Something New with LEARNwest

LEARNwest Catalog Cover Winter Spring 2018Welcome to the winter/spring 2018 LEARNwest catalog! We are no longer printing or mailing this catalog, but you will still find a variety of opportunities for you to experiment with a new subject area or build on a previous skill and expand your area of expertise.

Many people enjoy connecting with other people who have similar interests. It’s rewarding to meet other people who also like to keep active and live in the same neighborhood!

Our early registration discount is also being offered again! When you register at least two weeks before the class start date, you will receive a $5 discount. The online class prices automatically reflect the discount when it applies. Mail-in registrations must be postmarked at least two weeks before the class start date to qualify for the discount, or the regular rates apply. Make sure to sign up in time to receive this discount, and secure your place in the class of your choice.

Enjoy your new year by trying something new.

For information about LEARNwest please call Program Coordinator, Sue Otte at 515-633-5007.

Raising Healthy White Kids: A Conversation for All of Us

Raising White Kids Book Jacket and Jennifer Harvey

Join us as WDMCS Community Education hosts Dr. Jennifer Harvey to speak about her soon-to-be-released book, “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America.”

Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 from 7-9 p.m.
Learning Resource Center | 3550 Mills Civic Parkway | West Des Moines

Our society is quickly becoming one of the most racially diverse in the world. The conundrums of raising healthy white children in a society like ours is tough. Should we teach them to be “colorblind” or to notice race? What is the best way to talk about white privilege and real injustices? How do we teach about race honestly without making our children feel bad about being white?

Important public discussion exists in regard to the impact of race and racism on children of color. But good dialogue about and understanding the impact of race on white children is lacking. This workshop is designed to foster that dialogue. Raising healthy white kids is important work and a critical investment in the well-being and futures of all of our children.

Dr. Jennifer Harvey is a writer, speaker, and professor at Drake University. Her work focuses on racial justice and white anti-racism. Harvey’s most recent books include “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” (Abingdon Press) and “Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation” (Wm. B. Eerdmans). Harvey also contributes to The New York Times and Huffington Post and is ordained in the American Baptist Churches (U.S.A.). She lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

Watch for updates on Facebook.

2017-18 Susan Asklof Enthusiasm Award Presented to Nic Hoover

A head shot of Nic HooverThe 2017-18 Susan Asklof Enthusiasm Award was presented to Nic Hoover at the West Des Moines Community School’s welcome back celebration on Monday, Aug. 21. Nic is a third-grade teacher at Clive Learning Academy.

WDMCS Community Education began giving this award in memory of Susan Asklof, the district’s wellness supervisor from 1986-91. Susan helped many students and staff understand the importance and reward of a healthy lifestyle. The recipient of this award is an employee who exemplifies her amazing qualities: Lives Life Fully, Loves Unconditionally, Learns with Joy, Laughs Heartily, and Leaves a Legacy.

Here is excerpt from Nick’s nomination form:

“When people think of Clive Learning Academy, they think of Nic. He is always willing to lend a helping hand or listening ear. He co-sponsors Student Council and Circle of Friends, is in charge of PBIS, serves as the WDMEA representative, and has served on countless other committees. Whether earning his master’s degree with coworkers or leading through the implementation of New Tech, Nic is always up for a new challenge and approaches everything with a positive attitude. He makes a lasting impact on students because of his dedication to making them feel important and like they belong to the school community.”

Congratulations, Nic!

Nick Hoover Susan Asklof Award

Welcome Phil Simmons to the Facility Use Department

Please join WDMCS Community Education as we welcome Phil Simmons, our new Facilities Use Coordinator.

PhilSimmons eAs the Facilities Use Coordinator, Phil will oversee the scheduling of district buildings that are available to community members outside of the regular school day. He will also supervise the facilities schedulers and building supervisors. The part of his job he is most looking forward to is connecting community members with accessible spaces for their activities.

Phil most recently worked with the YMCA as a program director and coordinator of the Fatherhood Initiative. Before officially joining the WDMCS Community Education team, he worked in collaboration with Community Education on the intramural program and was a member of the Substance Abuse Prevention Community Coalition and the Community Education Advisory Council. He is excited to be back in the district and working with Community Education.

Phil and his wife, Aubrey, have four children: eight-year-old Harper, six-year-old Amelia, and four-year-old twins Elam and Ezra. They enjoy outdoor activities like camping, fishing, and hiking, and are involved in their church community.

For more Community Ed. Highlights, stay up-to-date with the WDMCS Community Education blog!

Rec’s and Reviews: Join the Community Education Book Club!

ExitWest coverThe new WDMCS Community Education book club, led by Intercultural Outreach Coordinator Jeanna Bauer, met for the first time on Tuesday, June 20. The club discussed “Little Daughter,” the memoir of Zoya Phan, a political activist from Burma of Karen descent. The discussion was followed by a discussion and Q&A with Mone Aye, co-founder and board president of EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center).

For this month’s Rec’s and Reviews post, WDMCS Community Education is inviting you to join us for our next book club discussion. We will be discussing “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid. The fictional novel follows a young couple, Nadia and Saaed, as they flee violence in their homeland, passing through a magical door that drops them into a completely new and different life.

“It’s a breathtaking novel by one of the world’s most fascinating young writers, and it arrives at an urgent time,” NPR’s review of “Exit West” said. “Hamid encourages to us to put ourselves in the shoes of others, even when they’ve lived lives much harder than anything we’ve endured.”

Join us from 5:30-7:30 on Thursday, Sept. 14, for a book discussion and presentation centered around “Exit West.” Watch the West Des Moines Community Education Facebook page and ”Exit West” book club Facebook event for reminders and updates.

Have questions or want more information? Contact Intercultural Outreach Coordinator Jeanna Bauer at 515-633-5116 or


Made in the Shade: Helping Kids Keep Cool This Summer

People in swimming poolAs temperatures rise this summer, make sure you know the best ways to keep your children safe. A child’s body will not cool down as quickly as an adult’s, and children may not recognize that they are getting too hot or be able to explain it to an adult. Here are some tips from the Polk County Health Department’s 2017 Extreme Heat Toolkit that families and caregivers can use to help keeps kids safe during summer:

  Signs of Heat Exhaustion   Signs of Heat Stroke 
  • Heavy sweating
  • Feeling weak
  • Dizzy
  • Headache
  • High fever (greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Flushed/red skin
  • Lack of sweating
  • Muscle weakness/cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Skin that feels cool and moist
  • Rapid breathing/rapid heart rate

While heavy sweating is a sign of heat exhaustion, a lack of sweat is a sign of heat stroke. Heat stroke can also make a person’s skin feel cool, instead of hot.

Ways to Keep Cool
Beat the heat with light clothing, sunscreen, and fluids. Even if you are not thirsty, drinking water is a great way to stay cool. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light, loose clothes made of cotton will protect kids from the heat and let sweat evaporate to keep them cool. Spending just two hours a day in the air conditioning can also help prevent heat-related illnesses.

The Polk County Health Department recommends families sign up for CodeRED, an automated system that sends out notifications during emergency situations, including extreme heat. Learn more about CodeRED online.

Find more tips and information in the Polk County Health Department’s 2017 Extreme Heat Toolkit.

Read to Stay Up to Speed This Summer

Elementary school student laying on the floor and reading children's books.Summer is a time for family, friends, and fun—but it’s also important for kids to keep learning. Helping your children stay engaged during summer is a great way to make sure they retain what they learned in the past year and ease the transition back to school in the fall.

One of the best ways to keep kids thinking during summertime is reading. Here is a list of summer reading programs from libraries that serve West Des Moines Community Schools families:

Families in Windsor Heights are welcome to join programs at libraries in neighboring cities. Several area businesses are also holding summer reading challenges. Find a full list of reading challenges at

Pairing books with activities or movies is another way to encourage your children to read during summer. You can also make reading at home fun by reading outside, making up stories with your kids, or creating your own reading challenges.

Join Us for the Summer of Learning!

Summer of Learning Catalog Cover - Boy Holding Globe in front of chalk boardAre you wondering how you’re going to keep your kids busy this summer? Join us for the 2017 Summer of Learning! We have many fun, enriching, and affordable learning opportunities available—whether your children need a little extra help with schoolwork or want to expand their knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. Help your child find a program that sounds interesting, fun, or rewarding, and register today!

Check out the 2017 Summer of Learning catalog.

Register for a Summer of Learning class.

Community Education Advisory Council Seeking Representatives for 2017-18

The WDMCS Community Education Advisory Council (CEAC) is a volunteer group of citizens who identify community needs and find ways to meet those needs. The council consists of volunteers who represent the schools and other organizations in the West Des Moines Community School. The CEAC meets monthly during the school year.

About Us

The CEAC operates at the community level to understand and represent the needs of the broader community.

CEAC Graphic Where We Fit

CEAC members are selected to serve because they are involved citizens willing to support programs and processes that uphold the philosophy of Community Education.

Representatives include:

  • Schools
  • Neighborhoods
  • Police Departments
  • Youth/Students
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Library
  • Human Services
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Seniors
  • and other citizens

We currently need representatives from Clive Learning Academy, Crossroads Park Elementary, Stilwell Junior High, and Walnut Creek Campus.

Responsibilities of CEAC members:

  • Attend an orientation meeting (new members).
  • Attend a minimum of six CEAC meetings (September-May).
  • One-year renewable term
  • Serve on a project committee and work cooperatively to achieve goals.
  • Serve as an advocate for WDMCS Community Education.
  • Share emerging community needs, ideas, and concerns that impact the quality of life in the community.
  • Maintain two-way sharing of information between the CEAC and represented group, as appropriate.
  • Review the budget and ensure fiscal responsibility.

If you are intersted in learning more about becoming a member of the Community Education Advisory Council, please contact Shahna Janssen, Director of Community Education, at 515-633-5004 or

Rec’s and Reviews: Thirteen Resources for Talking About “13 Reasons Why”

Official "13 Reasons Why" image: Teenage boy wearing headphones stands in front of a mirror. The mirror shows a reflection of a teenage girl. Text: A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES. BASED ON THE BEST SELLING MYSTERY. 13 REASONS WHY. IF YOU'RE LISTENING, YOU'RE TOO LATE.

(Image source:

Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, has initiated a lot of discussion surrounding teenage mental health. In the series and book, the teenage characters learn about their classmate’s reasons for dying by suicide after her death. The series has proved popular with teenagers and been renewed for a second season.

There is concern in the suicide prevention community that the series glamorizes suicide, sends detrimental messages about mental health, and could be triggering, especially for young people. The series graphically depicts suicide, rape, survivor’s guilt, and other emotionally complex topics that students may not be prepared to process on their own.

District counseling staff want to provide West Des Moines Community Schools families with resources to support discussions about suicide, trauma, and the “13 Reasons Why” series. Please let your school staff and counselors know if there are other ways we can be of assistance to your family.

13 Resources for Talking About “13 Reasons Why”

Tips and Talking Points

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why Talking Points” from SAVE and the Jed Foundation
  2. “Tips for Parents for Talking with Their Children About 13 Reasons Why and Suicide”  from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  3. “Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider” from the Jed Foundation
  4. “‘13 Reasons Why’ Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists
  5. Teachable Moment Using “13 Reasons Why” to Initiate a Helpful Conversation About Suicide Prevention and Mental Health” Video from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists
  6. Preventing Youth Suicide” and “Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists

Also remember to make sure your children have access to local and national crisis resources:

  1. Your Life Iowa Hotline: 1-855-8111 (24/7)
  2. Your Life Iowa Text Line: Text “TALK” to 855-895-TEXT (8398) (2-10 p.m. daily)
  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7)
  4. ReachOut USA
  5. Download the free “A Friend Asks” app from the Jason Foundation

You may also be interested in:

  1. “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons” (on Netflix)
  2. “Prevention: The Critical Need” by Jack Pransky (a great book that addresses this topic and more)

Open discussions between adults and young people are a powerful way to help students see problems through a different lens. When talking with young people about suicide, remember to focus on wholeness and well-being, rather than on fear. Encourage them to see the feelings they’re experiencing as a storm cloud: noticeable but temporary. Remind them they can make it through the rain.

Thank you to our district counselors for their assistance with this post.