KIPPsters Compete in National History Day Competition

Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2018

KIPPsters celebrate National History Day results at the regional competition
KIPPsters celebrate National History Day results at the regional competition

KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy 8th graders competed against students across the state for National History Day Colorado in the culmination of their project-based social studies learning curriculum. KIPPsters earned first and second place in the group exhibit categories, second place in the individual exhibit category, and third place in the website category for the junior division. 

National History Day is a national organization of social studies and literacy programs for elementary, middle, and high school levels that lead to junior and senior divisions of project competitions. Students who compete and place at regional competitions move on to a state competition, then from the state to the national competition at the University of Maryland.

Mr. Jentz has taught National History Day curriculum at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy for four years. All 8th graders complete a project based on the curriculum and present it at the school level for a grade. Students decide whether they enter the regional competition based on a set of criteria he sets.

For KIPPster Yatziry, competing in National History Day is a thrill in her journey to and through college.

“I really like competing against other people in schools,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m going to be someone in high school or in college, someone who is prepared.”

Yatziry’s project offered a way to connect with her family’s history.

“My project was about The Bracero Program,” she said. “People from Mexico came to the U.S. during World War II to do agriculture and they were discriminated against so they protested.It’s personal for me because my grandpa was a Bracero.” 

This year’s theme was conflict and compromise. KIPPsters covered topics and groups including the Bracero Program, the Harlem Hellfighters and World War I, Women’s Rights Activists, and the Crimean War.  

Kevin, Brian, and Alberto completed a group project about the Harlem Hellfighters and won first place. For them, their expression of history underscores contemporary social issues that they witness today. 

“Nowadays there’s the Black Lives Matter movement against discrimination. It’s kind of the same thing because the Harlem Hellfighters were doing these amazing things during World War I but never got recognized by the United States, and things like that are still going on today,” Kevin said.

“It was really interesting to us that they were discriminated against even though they were giving up their freedom to help the country,” Brian said. 

Mr. Jentz is proud to see the students demonstrating grit and zest through their projects. 

“The kids worked really hard on these projects,” he said. “I had students who didn’t even compete in the regional competition but who still came in on parent-teacher conference day just to finish their projects. They encouraged their teammates and their classmates. The whole process was transformational because they started to become leaders of their own learning.”

For one KIPPster, persistence paid off after his project last year did not advance. 

“It was all worth it because last year I went to the regional competition but I lost. This year I won and I’m going to state,” said Duilio, who submitted a project about the Crimean War.

National History Day in Colorado reaches nearly 23,000 students each year. The regional winners will present at the state competition on May 5th at the University of Colorado Denver on the Auraria Campus. 



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KIPP Colorado Parent Leaders Sharpen Their Advocacy Skills

Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2018

KIPP parents visit KIPP LA as part of their trip to Innovate Public Schools training
KIPP parents visit KIPP LA as part of their trip to Innovate Public Schools training

Four KIPP Colorado parents from Southwest Denver traveled to San Pedro, California in March for Innovate Public Schools’ Parent Leadership Institute. During the three-day conference, they developed their leadership skills and learned how to leverage the power of community organizing to drive change in their schools and communities.

Innovate Public Schools is a nonprofit organization in California that works with school networks to build the capacity of parents, community leaders, and educators in order to support parent and community demand for high-quality public schools.

The parents who attended the conference are committed to building relationships with school staff and supporting school affairs because they believe it is integral to the success of their children. Irene, who is new to the KIPP Team & Family this year, says she plans on sharing the leadership tools she gained with other parents at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy who are interested in building a parent association. 

“I learned that as parents, we have a voice at our children’s school, and it’s important for us to exercise that voice,” she said. “My daughter knows that she can ask me about what’s happening at the school. That builds her trust in me when I can provide her with information and advocate for her needs at the school and in the community.”

Adriana, a KIPP Colorado alumna and current parent, has experience in community organizing and advocating for school choice with KIPP. She attended the Parent Leadership Institute to learn how to build a parent leadership team that works with the Southwest Denver community. 

“My family has been involved with KIPP since 2002, both of my brothers and I attended KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy,” said Adriana. “I remember back when we were asked to advocate for the school because they were going to take away funding from it. My brother and I testified at a school board meeting, it was before he was even enrolled to go to KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy. When that happened, I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and my goal was for the school to stay open so she could attend when it was time.”

Now, Adriana’s youngest daughter will begin ECE 4 in the fall as part of KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary’s inaugural class. Her oldest daughter attends KIPP Northeast Elementary and will transition to KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy next fall. 

“I plan to try and get KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary their permanent building,” she said. “I would like to be part of that. It was cool to see my oldest daughter’s school get their own building, so I want to see that for the new elementary school.”

KIPP Colorado works hand in hand with parents to help raise their voices about matters that affect their children’s schools and communities. The communities our parents create and support are foundational to KIPPsters’ journey to and through college! 



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KIPPsters Get Firsthand Look at Colorado's Legislature

Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2018

KIPPsters take it all in on the floor of the House chamber
KIPPsters take it all in on the floor of the House chamber

The Colorado League of Charter Schools welcomed hundreds of charter school students from across the state to the State Capitol on March 13th, for Charter School Advocacy Day. Among the students were eight student ambassadors from KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School. 

Students learned about the legislative process, effective advocacy strategies, and the state of current education bills with impacts on charter schools. KIPPsters toured the state capitol and sat in on the floor of the House and Senate chambers while legislators discussed various legislative topics. 

House Speaker Crisanta Duran took KIPPsters through the window of the House chamber and out onto the West balcony of the state capitol building, where she graciously answered questions and posed for photos. Later in the morning, Representative James Coleman, whose district includes the communities surrounding KIPP Colorado’s schools in Far Northeast Denver, helped students practice their lobbying skills by facilitating a discussion around the importance of school choice and how to be advocates for excellent schools.

Nallely, a senior at KIPP Denver Collegiate, found a change in perspective about the legislative process. 

“I used to think politics was boring and I wasn’t sure how it worked,” she said. “Being there and talking to the legislators was really cool and it wasn’t what I expected. It was amazing, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to have gone!” 

For Keith Moreno, 7th grade science teacher and head of the student ambassadors club, the experience of leading students through conversations with legislators was inspiring and memorable. 

“This was, by far, one of the most amazing experiences and highlights of my educational career,” said Mr. Moreno. “It was an experience I think the kids will remember for a long time.”

As advocates of our schools, student ambassadors lead tours of their building, share their stories with community members and potential students, and continuously engage in conversations about matters that impact their education. Student ambassador clubs are currently active at KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School, KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School.



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New Science Curriculum Boosts Student Engagement

Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Active learning and hands-on experiences are driving a new science curriculum at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy (KSPA) and KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School (KNDMS). The new curriculum is part of a strategy that emphasizes more computer science, technology and engineering tracks, and is being adopted by KIPP schools across the country. 

The new curriculum is called Amplify, and it moves students away from memory-based learning and toward active engagement in which students “figure out” new concepts instead of “learning about” them through memorization.

For example, in a recent lesson about energy, Mr. Mullet’s 7th grade class at KNDMS simulated the movement of molecules by shaking magnets in a lab that illustrated how kinetic energy works. During class, the students also reviewed how molecules become solids, liquids, and gas using an online activity with the classroom’s laptops. 

So far, the new curriculum is receiving positive reviews from both staff and students. 

“It’s more fun,” said Tyanna, a 7th grade student at KNDMS. “We do a lot more labs now. Before it was boring and not as cool because we would just do worksheets and read out of books.”

The curriculum is more than just fun and games, though. It provides assessments to measure individual students’ areas of growth, and can provide recommended activities based on those results to ensure students are on track to master the subject matter. While many of the class activities are done as a group, instructors can now provide individualized lessons and activities for students using online tools and in-class laptop computers. 

The adoption of the Amplify curriculum is part of a broader move to spark a greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, sometimes referred to as STEM subjects. With many post-secondary career opportunities in STEM fields, developing a passion for science can help students prepare for choice and opportunities in careers that may not even exist today. 

As is the case in other subjects, teachers continue to have a great deal of autonomy in deciding how best to adopt and implement the Amplify curriculum. Mr. Mullet has opted to create small group lessons, allowing half the students to complete the hands-on portion of the lesson, while the other half to review the science behind it, before switching halfway through the lesson. Mullet believes this is a powerful factor in allowing students to take ownership of the lesson, and thus feel more invested in the learning process. 

The curriculum also facilitates collaboration across schools and state lines for teachers. Teachers can connect about Amplify and share feedback or advice on presenting the curriculum. After learning about Amplify over the summer at the KIPP summit, Mr. Mullet visited a KIPP school in Baltimore to see how they implemented it. Now, he and his colleagues believe the new curriculum represents an important evolution in how students at KNDMS and schools across the country learn to love science.

Tags: KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School

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KIPPsters Find Life Lessons at High Altitude

Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2018

KIPPsters from KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School got a real-life lesson about what it means to get back up after a fall, as teachers from the two schools organized the first ever KIPP Colorado snowboard and ski trips. Students across all grades participated, and, for many, this was their first time on a snowboard or skis. 

The schools partnered with SOS Outreach, a Colorado nonprofit founded in 1993 to help teach youth character strengths like courage, integrity, wisdom, and compassion by connecting them with the outdoors through activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and camping. 

Phoebe Novitsky, a special education teacher at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, organized the snowboarding outing to Vail Mountain for KIPPsters in January. Having managed youth programs for SOS Outreach in the past, she hopes providing access and exposure to new experiences will help students step out of their comfort zones and learn how failure can be integral to being successful. 

“This experience aligns with the character strengths KIPP teaches, like grit, resilience, and positivity,” said Novitsky. “Accepting that an experience is challenging and pushing through it is a lesson that aligns with KIPP’s mission and values. We’re excited to continue to find ways to integrate more outdoor learning experiences to complement what students are learning in the classroom.”

Alyssa Bull, who helped organize the outing for KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, saw her students take a strong interest in the mountains. 

“It was really cool to see what each student took away from this experience,” said Bull. “Some kids didn’t end up loving it but they still were glad to have tried it, while other kids were asking ‘when can I move to the mountain?’ Other students hadn’t realized there were so many people who worked in the mountains to keep them running each day. It got them to reflect on their own interests and possibilities in outdoor recreation that they might have never considered.”

SOS outreach coordinates with the mountain parks to provide inexpensive tickets to the slopes. For $25, they provide each student with a lift ticket, ski rentals, a helmet, boots, and skis/snowboard. They also provide all the special clothing students need, like ski pants, jackets, gloves, and goggles. 

Ms. Novitski and Ms. Bull both hope to continue and grow the program, so that students can continue to learn about the outdoors and about themselves in the process.  

“As a math teacher, I feel like I have great days in the classroom and not-so-great days,” said Bull. “It can be hard to make math memorable all the time, especially for every student. But to have a day when you can tell students that they are going to grow from this and remember and cherish it for a long time is really cool, because I feel the same way. I’m going to remember this and cherish this forever.”


Tags: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School , KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy

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