From tots to teens, bells ring in school year |

From tots to teens, bells ring in school year

Mary Benson’s kindergartners peeled away from their parents Tuesday morning and were settling into their seats for their very first day of school.

Suddenly, the morning bell rang out, signaling the start of class.

“Boys and girls,” Benson said, “Does anyone know what that means?”

“It means it’s time to go out and play!” yelled Ben Kurk.

Ah, the lessons of childhood.

Ben and the rest of the kindergartners at Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs soon learned that all-important lesson: The morning bell means the start of the school day.

While Benson’s class played a name game, singing along with their guitar-strumming teacher, across the hall, Jan Giezentanner’s kindergartners learned another school tradition: putting their hands over their hearts and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

It was smooth sailing Tuesday at the south Glenwood Springs elementary school as the last of the region’s public school students headed back to class.

Brendan Wagler and a trio of buddies strode around Giezentanner’s classroom with hands in pockets, checking out the kid-sized desks, magnifying glasses and colorful bulletin board displays. The other children checked out the classroom’s very own pint-sized bathroom, which matched the pint-sized countertop in the school’s office.

“It’s small!” said Kaylynn Carman.

“Yes, it is,” Giezentanner said of the miniature toilet and sink. “It’s much smaller than what you’re used to at home.”

The class played their own name game. Collecting in a circle, each called out his or her name, and what they like.

“My name is Aurora and I like ladybugs,” said Aurora Connolly.

“My name is Brendan and I like to ride bikes,” said Brendan Wagler.

Benson had made an extra effort to put her kindergartners’ parents at ease. At the entrance to her classroom, a pile of letters with cotton balls attached to each one were made out to “My Dear Parents of K-1.”

“As you hold this little cotton ball in your hand,” the letter read, “the softness will help you to recall the gentle spirit of your child. … I promise to do my very best every day to be your child’s companion in learning and exploring this bright new world they have just stepped into …”

Trick bikes and

a deck of cards

Upvalley, Carbondale Middle School students already had at least six years of `first days’ under their belt. For the most part, kids managed to get to school on their own, either on the bus, on foot or via bicycle.

The bike racks out front of school were filled exclusively with BMX-style trick bikes covered with X-Games stickers. There wasn’t a mountain bike or road bike in sight.

Custodian Greg Holland was busy Tuesday morning taking down the school’s faded American and Colorado state flags, and replacing them with brand-new flags, right out of the box.

“It’s a good way to start off the year,” he said.

Inside, students got their locker combinations at the school office, which had a regulation-sized countertop. They met teachers and attended classes.

In the gym, physical education teacher Joe Markham herded a group of about 35 seventh graders into a circle to organize them for their third period P.E. class.

“How many … no ingles … hands?” Markham asked the group.

Eight hands shot up.

“OK,” he said, “Those of you here who are bilingual … I’m going to need your help. We have a lot of non-English speakers in this class.”

Markham held out a deck of cards to the students, and each child picked one. All those with an ace lined up together. Those who picked twos, threes and on up the deck did the same.

“It’s important we’re all on the same page,” Markham said. “This week we’re going to be inside and we’ll work on what this class needs to look like to be successful. And Friday, we’re going swimming.”

An audible sign of approval swept through the group.

“We’ll be going over to the swimming pool for a free swim day,” Markham explained.

Well, maybe going back to school isn’t so bad after all.

Questions and answers

School didn’t seem so bad in Brian Koster’s advanced placement English class at Basalt High School Tuesday. The class played its own version of getting acquainted. It was almost lunchtime, and Koster answered questions his students wrote on index cards.

“Someone wants to know where I went to college,” Koster said. “I went to Tufts University in Boston. Boston is an awesome city. It’s full of colleges, and full of young people.”

The class collectively giggled. These students are close enough to graduating to imagine what kind of adventures await in a city filled with college students.

“OK, someone else wants to know how old I am,” he said. “I always like to ask my students how old they think I am.”

“Twenty-seven” a student called out.

“Right!” Koster said. “Now, here’s a question. What did I get my degree in? Actually I double-majored in anthropology and English. I also have a master’s in education. Who knows what anthropology is?”

“It’s the study of societies,” a voice called out.

“Close,” he said. “It’s the study of human culture. It’s the study of why human beings are the way they are. Why, for example, do humans have this insane fixation with fashion?”

The class erupted in peals of laughter, particularly amidst some of the more stylishly dressed students.

“Anthropology is really cool,” he added, “but it’s not entirely practical. I really wondered what I was going to do with it after I got out of school. So did my dad.”

Once again, the class though Koster was pretty funny.

The lunch bell rang at Basalt High School in a different tone than the morning bell at Sopris Elementary – and this time, kindergartner Ben Kurk was right. Students picked up their books and packs and made for the doors.

It was time to go out and play – if only for awhile.

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