Ninilchik School celebrating 100 years

Posted: Monday, January 31, 2011

The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary for Ninilchik School. One of the strongest traditions throughout its rich history is commitment to academic excellence, by the school and the entire community.

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Photo Courtesy Of John Andrews, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Photo Courtesy Of John Andrews, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Heather Bear and Sabrina Hilbrink work together on schoolwork at Ninilchik School on Jan. 12.

Volunteer and community support are vital to the success of every school, and Ninilchik is fortunate to enjoy continued community support. Community members Debbie Blossom and Debbie Carey are full-time volunteers for the kindergarten through second-grade classrooms. They help with a multitude of tasks and lend their expertise with reading groups, offering one-on-one support.

Marrie Boone is a full-time volunteer librarian and lends support to all of the classrooms in the school.

Vanessa and Helena Bock head up a quilting group that recently completed 19 quilts in a single weekend. The quilts are part of a school tradition, where each kindergarten student receives a handmade quilt.

"I have been at the school for over 20 years and I continue to be amazed at the depth of community support we enjoy. They help with everything, including our daily classroom work and special projects," said Julie Boll, kindergarten through first-grade instructor.

The pool facility is an important tie that binds the community and school. The pool is utilized by hundreds of community members, from Ninilchik and several neighboring communities, as well. The pool hosts everything from baptisms to Alaska State Trooper training.

For many years the Ninilchik Traditional Council has sponsored two weekly activities -- a free, after-school swim is offered each Wednesday, and on Fridays the littlest swimmers get a turn during preschool swim time.

The pool not only serves as a source of recreational activity, it also is an important resource to teach kids to protect against one of Alaska's highest causes of death -- drowning. All students receive swimming lessons as part of the instructional day and special survival classes are offered to students, including a canoe safety class for junior-high students.

A survival class for high-school students has them donning survival suits and practicing the steps involved in an incident of abandon ship, using an actual craft provided by a king crabber. They learn how to conserve energy once they get in the water and the formations to use in order to draw attention from rescue planes. At the end of the semester the students test out their skills in a protected bay.

"The water in the pool is very warm compared to the 32-degree temperatures in the bay. It's important for the students to understand what that will feel like," said Ginny Johnson, Ninilchik pool operator.

Inside the classrooms, education is anything but dry. Eric Simondson, Ninilchik music teacher, is integrating the use musical instruments with reading and writing.

"Music helps to underscore and strengthen the skills needed in all curriculum," he said.

Simondson uses melodic tones and rests to emphasize the role of punctuation in writing. Just like the musical instrument brings sheet music alive, punctuation gives text on a page increased emphasis and meaning.

In order to prove this point, Simondson uses the story, "Yo! Yes?"

"The book would virtually have no meaning if not for the role of punctuation. It's a perfect accompaniment to the lesson," Simondson said.

In another lesson, students further understand reoccurring themes and ideas through the use of ostinatos -- a melody that is repeated throughout a piece of music. Students compose music to familiar, reoccurring parts of stories, like "Three Billy Goats Gruff" and "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs."

Parents and community members will have the opportunity to see and hear the instruments during the school's upcoming spring concert.

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