Category Archives: Voices of Mallinckrodt

Kargus' 5th graders "voting" on Primary 3/15/16

5th Graders Voting in the Primaries

By Lisa Kargus, 5th Grade Teacher

Kargus' 5th graders "voting" on Primary 3/15/16

Working hard researching politics, presidential candidates and the issues.

My 5th grade class has been investigating the issues being debated in the political races.
After researching the candidates and reading news articles on topics such as gun control, immigration reform,education standards, and the proposed increase of minimum wage, the my students visited Mallinckrodt’s polling place on Tuesday, March 15.

An election volunteer poll manager explained to the students the process of voting, registration cards, paper ballots vs.electronic machine voting, and how the votes are tallied after the polls close. Back in the classroom, students then placed their own primary votes for the candidate of their choice on Newsela Elementary, the current event ELA website we use in class. Check out Newsela Student Vote 2016 for more info.


Newsela, is an innovative website that offers kids 1000’s of current event articles which are updated daily.
Students can learn about national and international events in science, art, law, money, sports, and health. Newsela makes it easy for an entire class to read the same content, but at a level that’s just right for each student. Articles can be assigned to students at varying lexile scores – a tool used to match readers with books, articles and other leveled reading resources – making differentiation in the classroom easier. Newsela also offers customized quizzes and structured writing prompts which can be used to to show growth in individual students.

My students use this website consistently, accessing it through their iPads. The quizzes are taken electronically, and their constructed responses are also completed on the iPads. Students can track their own progress and review the quizzes after they have completed them. Students can also log into their accounts from home to continue exploring the ever changing current events articles.

Lego Robotics

By Brian Keller, Robotics

The FIRST® LEGO® League competition falls in November every year. Each year we have to squeeze as much information, creativity, hard work, and dedication from the students.

The challenge is posted 10 weeks prior to competition date and just like track runners we all line up at the gate and then sprint as fast and as hard as we can towards the finish. We may stumble along the way but we manage to have every member of the team not only finish, but finish with our heads held high and our emotional well-being reasonably intact. After the competition is over and we pack away the pieces for another year, I can’t help but reflect on the tumultuous 10 weeks and feel nothing but pride for all those who competed each year.


Robotics is not just about STEM, but also blends real world character education into the process.

The robotics aspect of the competition is relatively easy to get once you grasp the basic understanding of what the robot is capable of doing, and how to program it do it. What makes FLL challenging is that you are working on a team of individuals, each with their own ideas and beliefs. Teams have to focus on three different aspects at the same time:

1. The Challenge – Design, build and program your robot to complete as many successful missions in 2 minutes and 30 seconds

2. The Project – This year we researched trash and came up with our own innovative ways to fix any part of the trash problem that is occurring in society (trash vortex, Styrofoam trays in the lunch room, what to do with old VCR cassettes, abandoned homes, and the trash in East Saint Louis)

3. Teamwork – Displaying the First Lego League Core Values of teamwork and gracious professionalism

Working as an individual student or as a team focused on one task may not seem too difficult. But, having to balance all three aspects, and do it all together, really extends the kids beyond their comfort zone. The difficulties come from deciding whether to compromise in order to move forward, or stop all progress of the team because you know you are right and you cannot abandon your principles.

Our Guiding principles

Students identified 3 basic traits that they need to be successful in robotics: Grit, Open-mindedness, and Creativity. These are the words that they decided are the most important when working with a team competing in Lego Robotics. They need creativity to decide how to solve problems with the best possible solution, grit to stand up for what they believe in or to accomplish the challenges that may be too difficult and open-mindedness to see others’ ideas completely before coming to a quick decision about their own ideas. These guiding principles will see us to the finish line.

Color Our World Happy

By Meaghan Mittler, Art Teacher

“So, what do you do in art class?”
Parents ask me that question a lot.


As most of you know this is my second year (of many!) at Mallinckrodt. I could not be happier here! The students, families and staff are so dedicated and so positive. This is a happy place to work and a happy place to go to school. It is my goal to make the art room and myself as much a part of that good feeling as I can.

Last year was all about getting to know the kids and setting up a good foundation. My projects were focused mainly on basic art skills appropriate to each grade level with some art history or multiculturalism thrown in for good measure.

While I believe in that model, I also believe art education can be more. I want to ask bigger questions of my students. I want to teach them how to think about art in relation to themselves and to the world. I want to promote ownership in my classroom by providing basic skills and then allowing students to choose the direction of their work. In short, I plan to encourage more critical thinking, problem solving, and personal goal setting with my curriculum this year.

All of my lessons include one or more of the following components:

  • Art history/famous artist reference
  • Multicultural foundations
  • Basic art skills, knowledge and vocabulary (primary colors, stippling with a paintbrush, learning about color “value,” etc.)
  • Interdisciplinary curriculum (relating art back to the regular classwork – i.e. color mixing and fractions)
  • Missouri Grade Level Expectations (GLEs are included in every lesson)
  • Reference to local resources or events (right now 2nd grade is doing color-value hot air balloons in reference to the balloon glow in Forest Park)


This year is about “Choice”

Pre-K -1st

The curriculum for these grade levels will be focused on basic art skills and concepts (think cutting, drawing, the color wheel, painting, positive/negative space etc.)

I will often include art history and multiculturalism. I will ask the bigger questions as well (How does art help us communicate feelings? What do you think artists are trying to say?) But, my main goal will be to give these grade levels the necessary foundation for a self-guided art education.


The first quarter of this year will consist of a few teacher-led projects that I know the kids love. Projects will be skill- and concept-based, with some art history or multiculturalism included.

The last 3 quarters I will move to a new curriculum called “Choice Art” or “Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB).” As opposed to a “one size fits all” approach, Choice Art accommodates many different learning styles within a class and allows students to take charge of their learning.

In this model students decide what they will make and how they will make it. I will provide different art centers (painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, fiber arts, collage, clay, technology, etc.) for students to utilize. Each day I’ll give a quick demonstration of a skill or concept from one of the available centers – creating value or shading in the drawing center, or sewing fabric together in the fiber arts center – and then the students decide if they will use the new skill or explore something else.

All demonstrations will be based on the Missouri GLEs in order to meet our state expectations. Sometimes the demo will be an introduction to an artist or culture and a relative concept. All student work will require an artist’s statement and a brief written plan. Students will need to explain the “why” and the “how” before they can begin to work. This model is completely focused on the process rather than the product as it puts greater focus on the thinking and problem solving that goes into a project rather than just making a “pretty piece of art.”


I’m going out of order here, because 2nd grade will be a bit of a combination approach and I wanted to explain both first.

Our first semester will be teacher-led and we’ll revisit basics – skills and concepts.

Second semester, I’m planning to do a modified Choice Art. I’ll be teaching the kids new skills and giving them some prompts or essential questions to guide their work, but allowing them to choose the materials. For example, the class might have a discussion about how artists communicate ideas and emotions through color and medium and then I’ll have them create something that communicates an emotion or how they feel at a certain time of day.


I’ve visited other TAB classrooms and the kids love it! I am excited about this new approach to art education. I believe this is just right for Mallinckrodt and it supports our PBL (Project-Based Learning) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focus. I can’t wait to see what our kids come up with.

YOU CAN HELP: Check out Mrs. Mittler’s DonorsChoose page Weave, Sew and Grow

Please feel free to get in touch any time!

p.s. Artsonia will be back! More info is coming soon!

Peppers Maybe Hot

By Amanda E. Doyle


I couldn’t care less about the school garden.

That’s what I would have told you when Brian and I first toured Mallinckrodt, in the fall of 2011, looking for a school for our son, Milo. You’ve maybe seen that Facebook meme, “I’m outdoorsy in the sense that I like drinking wine on patios”? That’s me. I reluctantly keep alive a few houseplants, and every spring I really, really mean to keep some basil and cilantro and mint going through the summer in containers on my porch, but it just never quite works out. Death comes early to the neglected herb “garden.”

So when we were shown what was then just a shadow of the glorious oasis we see outside our school these days, I think it’s fair to say both of us went, “Meh.”

Here’s what we didn’t notice then: it’s not about the garden. What’s growing out there is a community — not just our kids and teachers, but the little siblings who like to play out there before pickup, the families who volunteer to water over the summer (and take home some mint for summertime Mallinckrodt Mojitos!), the neighbors who are free to come and harvest what they wish, the congregants at Gethsemane Lutheran who host (and shop) our weekly farmers’ market at their church. Our garden, now expanded and lush, accented with inviting seats and shade and a beautiful fence and trellis, provides a landmark along Hampton and gives us an identity beyond “it’s the school just north of Target.”

And also: it’s totally about the garden. The enthusiasm and joy with which almost all of the teachers have embraced the garden as an outdoor learning space, as a place where it’s so much more interesting to learn math and environmental science than sitting at a table, have grown at remarkable speed. From Spanish to regular old second grade, teachers have risen to the occasion and developed curricula specifically because our garden is there. When Punita and other Gateway Greening folks are leading our kids through a very Socratic approach to learning about food (and through food, about sustainability and justice and consumption and free markets and equity and our fractured city and so much more), they are soaking it in while they chomp on veggies some of them wouldn’t otherwise touch with a ten-foot pole. They’re examining the migrating monarchs (thanks, milkweed!) and the creepy-crawlies (thanks, healthy soil!) and the paver stones (thanks, painting coordinator volunteers). Parents and grandparents are in the garden at least as often, weeding and prepping beds and building structures like the Bug Hotel.

We visit the garden often these days, just to check what’s growing, to read the signatures of fellow class gardeners and the sometimes-funny signage in the beds. We grab a few handfuls of basil or a cucumber to go with dinner. We try to keep our second kid from eating too much mulch. (How much is too much, I wonder?) And when I give school tours, or talk to anyone about our school, I make sure to point out the garden.

Focusing on the positive

By Jacob Norman, Spanish Teacher


With the first week of school officially in the books, it’s easy to remember why schools have always been a cornerstone of tight-knit communities. Kids come back from summer excited to see friends they only know as classmates, and parents have a familiar crew to socialize with.

Teachers might feel it more than anyone. We part ways in May or June, not even pausing to look in the rearview mirror as we pull out of the parking lot one last time. Still, we know that we’ll be more than ready to see each other as August rolls around. When those hundreds of smiling faces burst through the door, it’s hard not to smile with them.

As the year gets underway though, it’s easy to let that feeling fade into the daily routine. That’s the real challenge: keeping learning fresh and exciting, during January and February when we’re counting the days by the number of indoor recesses in a row. Focusing on the positive, of all the new students in the building, not one told me their first day of Spanish was scary. In my book, that marks a great start to another great year at Mallinckrodt.

Setting a New Benchmark

By Punita Patel

It’s amazing what a difference a couple of places to sit can make.


Before the school ended last year, we acquired two benches and a trash can from Gateway Greening as they were purging their storage. Dr. Wuch, Mr. Thomas and I decided to put them close to the playground under the great sycamores. This area gets a lot of parent traffic during the school year in the mornings and in the evenings. Kids love playing in the dirt under the trees since the grass will not survive under it. Neighbors often stroll through after hours with their dogs. Yet, this area had very little seating.

Our first step was to make this a more welcoming area. Since we were on a shoestring budget we worked with what we had. School kids mulched the areas and I got some awesome giant tree stumps for sitting and hopping. We relocated a patio table and chairs from the garden out front to the back by the sycamore. Dmitri Kabargin, a parent of a 2nd grader, offered his expertise and time to secure these benches over the summer. It saved me a ton of time that I would have otherwise spent researching and learning how to get this job done.


This summer I was working with Dig It STL, a youth employment program of Gateway Greening. The majority of the Dig It crew was high school kids from St. Louis city. Gateway Greening’s goal with Dig It is to provide a job training opportunity for kids who come from disadvantaged background. The program offered these students a minimum wage and equipped them with necessary hard and soft skills they will take with them to their future jobs. So, when this bench install project came along, I knew it would make a great lesson for Dig It crew. I was glad to hear that Dmitri was willing to work with our crew even with his busy schedule. The biggest challenge turned out to be coordinating schedules to find a day this summer that was dry enough to pour the concrete. Toward the end of the program, we caught our lucky break and poured the concrete to set the benches. Things have a way of working out.


About a week before school started, Dmitri and I finished up the project and bolted the bench down. It was rewarding to see Ms. Jackson and our new librarian Ms. Lewis under the sycamores enjoying their lunch on the salvaged patio furniture. We got them to test out our newly installed benches as well. They are “Jackson approved.” The next time you are at the playground try out the table and benches for yourself.