Brandywine first day opens with fun: Kindergarteners decorate gingerbreadmen, 1st graders color self-portraits, 2nd graders play games

Laura Dillon - Berks-Mont Newspapers Sloan Radcliffe and her son, Ian Radcliffe, on first day of school at Brandywine Heights Elementary School Aug. 25:
Laura Dillon - Berks-Mont Newspapers Mackenzie Hija, right, and her mother, Michelle Newell, at Brandywine Heights Elementary School on first day of school Aug. 25.

Topton >> Summer vacation is over, and it’s back to school for the students of Brandywine Heights Elementary School.

Teachers, parents and students shuffled in yesterday morning to begin a new year with excitement and anticipation of what the year has in store.

For the first day, Kindergarteners decorated gingerbread men, hiding them for a scavenger hunt and then, of course, eating them. First-graders colored self- portraits, while second-graders played games to get to know their classmates and learn the rules.

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“You can’t beat elementary school,” said 3rd grade teacher Michelle Beekman. “It’s so much fun to be a teacher.”

Beekman has been teaching at Brandywine for 30 years, and, like the other teachers, considers the school’s updated technology to be an exciting part of starting the year.

“We can bring the real world into the classroom,” she said. “The last five years of my career have been the most evolutionary.”

Joking that she comes from an age of loading the film into the projector, Beekman is still optimistic about learning alongside her students to use the new technology.

The school has invested in personal computer devices, a science program that allows virtual and hands-on learning, and one-to-one computer integration for its students.

For first grade teacher Jean Condos, this means her students will get to track and communicate with both a musher and a teacher involved in the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Condos returned from a trip to Alaska that sparked her idea for the project.

When asked what they liked best about Brandywine, the teachers agreed that the size of the district creates a sense of community. Teachers, staff and Principal Karen Long carefully worked together as the day began to help students find their classrooms and get situated. The teachers have spent time meticulously preparing their rooms, lesson plans and first-day activities with the cohesive goal of launching their students into a year of educational growth.

“It helps that we have very supportive parents,” said second grade teacher Ronlyn Harner.

Parents’ goals for the year are on track with those of the teachers.

Michelle Newell looks forward to her daughter, Kindergartener Mackenzie Hija, learning new skills like reading, writing and socialization. The two recently moved to Brandywine from Delaware County and are pleased with the friendly, helpful attitudes of the administrators and community members. “It’s a new journey for us,” said Newell.

For Sloan Radcliffe, it is compelling to watch her son Ian, going into Kindergarten with the same teacher her daughter had eight years ago.

“I am curious to see if the change from a half to a whole day makes a big difference,” said Radcliffe.

Ian had one thing on his mind when asked what is most exciting about starting school.

“I like recess and playing,” he said.

For the majority of the students, recess was at the forefront of their brains, but for Carson Seip, when asked what he looks forward to about the school year, his answer was the library. Parents Steve and Lydia Seip expressed confidence as Carson walked into his first day.

“He’s done two years of Pre-K, so he already knows a few of his classmates,” said Steve Seip.

As the new school year kicks off, staff and administration expect the combined efforts of teachers, parents and the new technology to have a significant impact on the quality of education at Brandywine Heights Elementary School.