HJ/EDApril 10, 2006

St. Mark's teaches students in and out of the classroom

By Jenni Sebora

St. Mark Lutheran School in New Germany guides its students, pre-school through grade eight, in spiritual, physical, and intellectual growth through a variety of opportunities and activities, including academic and learning activities and extracurricular and service opportunities.

Besides the daily academics and learning activities, the students at St. Mark engage in other special learning opportunities.

Most recently, as part of the school’s Lutheran Schools Week celebration, the school conducted its annual learning fair and art exhibit. This year, the focus areas were social studies and science.

The students prepared science and social studies projects, which were put on exhibit at school and shared with parents and other visitors during the special week.

The school also has educational speakers come in to share knowledge and information with the students. In March, the staff and students enjoyed a presentation on reptiles by Jeff LeClere.

The students were able to get a close-up view and touch some of the reptile visitors, which included an albino frog, an alligator, lizards, turtles, and snakes, one of which was a 80-pound python.

During the spring, St. Mark students, along with other area Lutheran school children, have the opportunity to participate in a spelling bee at Lutheran High School in Mayer.

Class trips are important and valuable hands-on learning opportunities at St. Mark. Each year, the seventh and eighth grade students travel to a destination in Minnesota or a surrounding state for a fun learning adventure.

Last year, the group took a trip to southeastern Minnesota, where they visited an Amish colony, Laura Ingalls Wilder museum, a fish hatchery, and Niagara Cave.

A visit to Duluth and the North Shore and even a drive into Canada one year taught students the geography of those areas without having to learn it from a textbook.

The Chippewa Falls area in neighboring Wisconsin will be the destination for the class trip this year.

Students and chaperones will be visiting a museum of technology and science, where they will learn about the history of the computer and participate in several hands-on projects related to science and industry.

They will also be visiting a moraine reserve, where they will learn about glaciers, nature, and animals through hiking, demonstrations, and activities, such as a tomahawk throw. Other stops will be made at a park with a cave and a waterfall, a school museum, and a World War II Veteran’s Memorial.

School trips involving the whole student body and the staff have been annual events, also. In the spring, when the baseball season blossoms, the whole school loads up on a bus and heads off to the Metrodome, to cheer on the Minnesota Twins and have fun as a whole school body.

In spring, the fifth through eighth grade students travel to Mayer Lutheran High School to participate in a track meet with other area Lutheran schools, in a day of friendly competition.

Sports opportunities

Student learning, achievement, and fun at St. Mark also takes place on the courts and fields with extra-curricular activities.

“The sports program at St. Mark Lutheran School has been very successful,” teacher and coach Linda Edmison said.

The school offers opportunities at all levels in various sports. At the fifth and sixth grade level, flag football, volleyball, and boys’ and girls’ basketball are offered for students to participate in after school.

Girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball and softball are provided for the seventh and eighth graders.

St. Mark is a member of the Minnesota Lutheran Athletic Association, which includes 11 Lutheran schools from the surrounding area that get together for sports activities. Many games and small tournaments are provided to build skills and learn about each sport, Edmison noted.

At the end of the volleyball and basketball seasons, there is a league tournament which takes place at Mayer Lutheran High School.

In basketball, three or four teams earn a trip to the Lutheran State Basketball Tournament held annually in the Twin Cities. If a team does well at the state level, it may even earn a trip to the National Lutheran Tournament in Indiana.

St. Mark teams have earned trips to both the state and national tournaments in the past several years and have done very well, Edmison noted.

In January, the school also co-sponsors a basketball tournament with St. John’s School of Chaska.

“It provides the students with an opportunity to play in a great Christian atmosphere and have fun. This event also provides a great opportunity for Christian parents of both schools to work side-by-side and help promote a tournament that has Christian emphasis and values,” Edmison said.

Sharing the Christmas story

Sharing the Christmas story is important at St. Mark. The students present the story through recitations and songs the Sunday afternoon before Christmas, which makes it easier for many elderly people and others to attend because they do not have to travel at night, teacher Connie Stahlke noted.

After the special Christmas program, refreshments and fellowship are shared by everyone in attendance.

This past school year, the fifth and sixth graders also went caroling to spread Christmas cheer around New Germany.

“We had a lot of fun singing, walking, laughing, and visiting at homes around town. After returning to school, we enjoyed cupcakes and hot chocolate. It was fun to spread some Christmas cheer,” teacher Becky Aurich said.

Helping others

Each quarter of school, the students and staff at St. Mark collect money through chapel offering that is given to selected mission projects.

This quarter, they are giving to “Hearts for Jesus,” which helps provide Babas for Babies in Bulgaria.

“Babas are basically grandmothers who go to the orphanages and hold the children and show love and caring through their touch,” Aurich said.

Other offerings have been designated to local organizations, such as Friends for Life Food Shelf in Watertown and the Carver Lifelines Dresser Project, which provides a dresser filled with baby clothes and items to a needy mother in a crisis pregnancy situation.

The school also supports missionaries and helps provide school supplies for children across the world. One such project that the school collected for was Coins for Kids, which helped children affected by 9/11.

“We collected coins for that quarter in a big water bottle. The bottle was so full at the end that we had a contest to guess the amount in the jug. Our typical offerings for the quarter were, at that time, approximately $300. Our grand total for that quarter’s project was over $900!

“It is our prayer that our money will help meet people’s needs and also that we can share the love of Jesus with many people around the country and world,” Aurich said.

During Lutheran Schools Week, St. Mark School works together with the American Heart Association in promoting Hoops for Heart and Jump Rope for Heart events. The students participate in these activities, which help fund research and make progress in fighting heart disease.

The physical activities, camaraderie, and fun that the St. Mark students participate in to raise money for certain causes does not stop there.

Each fall, the students and staff put on their walking shoes and head to Baylor Park for a walkathon to support their school. Each child collects pledges for walking part of an afternoon. The money collected helps purchase extra items for school to be used by the students.

Parents, grandparents, and other community members are encouraged to join the students for an enjoyable afternoon walking on different trails and interacting with the children and other adults. The afternoon event culminates with a picnic lunch prepared by some of the parents.

The students also enjoy creating some fun projects for fellow students to enjoy. The fifth through eighth graders use some of their art time to do projects for other students, and one of those projects includes making piñatas.

With the students working in groups, they create and decorate piñatas for school-wide piñata parties. One piñata is made for each class and enjoyed by those students, as well as the rest of the student body and staff who gather together to cheer on the piñata participants.

Since 1990, St. Mark School has been collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, which has been one of the longest service projects for the school.

“We appreciate being healthy and want to help those who are having serious health problems,” Stahlke said of the Ronald McDonald House service project.

St. Mark students also enjoy lending a helping hand locally. Students have made Valentine’s Day table favors filled with chocolate kisses and mints for residents at Elim Home in Watertown, and this past winter, assisted the ladies at St. Mark Lutheran Church in New Germany with their quilt-making mission project.

For years, the ladies at St. Mark Church have been making quilts for Lutheran World Relief, which distributes them to people and countries in need.

This past February, the students in grades five through eight at St. Mark School decided they wanted to be a part of this project, St. Mark Church ladies aide member Helen Wendorf noted.

Before actually tying the quilts, the students viewed a short film showing the need for these quilts and those who benefit from them.

Each grade then spent one hour in the church basement tying the quilts. At the end of four hours, the students had tied a total of 22 quilts.

After the quilts are tied, they are hemmed and delivered to the World Relief warehouse in St. Paul.

“Making the quilts is a big job, but then they must be shipped to the area of need. The students were also moved to take a collection to cover some of the cost of shipping the quilts. The money was given to the quilt committee to be used for shipping. We have very thoughtful students,” Wendorf said.

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