The secret to beautifying a neighborhood, according to 5-year-old Sean Robertson, isn’t green grass or window boxes - it’s good use of cow manure.
Sean, who attends Sheridan Elementary School, took first place for growing the largest sunflower in his neighborhood near Libby Center, 2900 E. First.
Last spring, Jayce Keeling, who teaches gifted children in grades two through six at Libby Center, decided to turn the northwest corner of the Libby field into a natural habitat.
With help from students, grant money and a donation from Northwest Seed and Pet, Keeling’s students planted native flowers and trees. To spur neighborhood involvement, her students distributed sunflower seeds to area children.
In the spring, children from Hutton, Hamblen and other elementary schools planted serviceberry, chokecherry trees and sunflowers - plants that would attract birds and animals.
While many of the sunflowers grew 7 or 8 feet tall, Sean’s plant in his backyard, a block from Libby, towered to 11 feet and flowered with a 16-inch bloom full of seeds.
Fertilizing with fresh cow manure gave him the edge, he said.
“His aunt has a farm,” said his mother, Jennifer Robertson.
On Halloween Day, Keeling and her students walked to Sean’s house, to present the award.
Anna Czechowski, 11, and Lili Kellman, 11, sixth-graders at Hutton, presented Sean with a certificate, a blue ribbon and the grand prize: a stuffed sunflower with arms, legs and a pair of tennis shoes on its feet.
Student wins principal’s job
Seventh-grader Laura Kuznetz won the chance to exchange jobs for a day with Chase Middle School Principal Alison Olzendam.
Fortunately, Olzendam proved herself a better student than last year, when she got in trouble for talking in P.E.
Kuznetz, 12, who was acting principal on Oct. 30, answered phone calls from school district officials and parents and patrolled the halls during class breaks.
The exchange was part of the school’s Renaissance program, which recognizes academic achievement.
For the past two years, Olzendam has allowed a student chosen at random to be principal for a day.
Olzendam said she was prepared for Kuznetz’s classes that day, but the pop math quiz was a surprise.
“I think I did pretty well,” Olzendam said. “It was a multiplication test. I was in my comfort zone.”
While Olzendam said she went home tired at 3:30 p.m., Kuznetz was sorry to end her stint as principal.
“I think it’s fun. I would be interested in extending the job,” Kuznetz said.
But Kuznetz said she was glad she didn’t have to discipline anyone that day.
“I think the hardest thing would be talking to a child meanly,” she said. “If they have to go to the principal, I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings.”
The principal’s office staff was also impressed by Kuznetz.
“She’s doing wonderfully. She’s been doing her own typing. She’s doing the phones,” said one of the principal’s aides.
“In fact we might leave in her there for a couple more days and leave the principal in class.”
Olzendam said she was amazed at the amount of work students have to do in one day.
“I took a test. I made a waterborne critter in science out of Jello. I wrote a speech. I gave a speech - two tongue twisters, which I had to say without giggling.”
On the serious side, Olzendam said exchanging roles with a student for a day can be enlightening.
“We make decisions all the time without considering kids,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of teachers here tell me they want to try being a student for a day.”
Native American speakers wanted
Grant Elementary is looking for volunteers from the Native American community to talk to students this month about their culture.
Peggy DiFillippo, a special education assistant at Grant, has been decorating the school’s display case in honor of a different ethnic group each month.
In September the school celebrated Hispanic culture.
“We had Hispanic and Latino speakers come in and talk to the kids,” she said.
“We had a parent come in and see the display,” DiFillippo said. “His eyes got so big. He was so happy. Not only the kids, but the parents enjoy it.”
Sally Rainey, a reading specialist at Grant, described the school as the most ethnically diverse elementary school in School District 81.
“We want to move beyond an appreciation of different cultures to an understanding,” she said.
Veterans Day program planned
Medical Lake High School, which serves students who live on Fairchild Air Force Base, will host a community day on Friday at 11 a.m. in the school auditorium.
The program will commemorate Veterans Day with a special emphasis on “Women in the Military,” said Carol Petersen, the school’s library assistant. Parents are invited to come at 10 a.m. for refreshments in the library.
Wheelchair athlete to race at state , Tyler Byers, 14, will compete Saturday in Pasco in the wheelchair division of the Washington State Cross Country Championships.
Byers, who was born with spina bifada, attends Ferris High School. He finished eighth in the men’s wheelchair division in this year’s Bloomsday race.