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  • Business suit icon"My daughter graduated in 2012, and I was more than confident that she had all the skills needed to succeed in whatever she chose to do after WMAES. I am proud to be a WMAES Eagle Mom."
    -- April Nelson - Parent and Staff

Spring is Here: Baby Animals by Ms. Holly

Spring is here and so are baby animals! I LOVE baby animals and when I see one that is all alone, it just tears at my heart. My first instinct is to help the baby animal, but I am encouraging everyone to leave baby animals where they are. Miss Holly and Mr. Shawn can't take care of them and neither will your local animal shelter or nature center. Here are a few tips on what to do if you find a baby animal all alone:

1. Baby birds often fall from the nest or have tried to fly and are resting. If the bird is featherless and appears brand new and you can reach the nest, put it back in the nest. If the nest is too high, hang a basket or something as high near the nest as you can with the baby in it.  
2. If you find a rabbit that is at least 4 inches long and eyes open, it is fine on its own. If you find a nest and a baby rabbit in the nest-leave the baby there and the mother will back shortly, however If the nest looks like it has been disturbed, cover it up with natural materials from the area and try to keep all pets and children away from the area.
3. Squirrels- leave baby squirrels where they are and the mother will come for them. 
4. Sometime turtles may need to be helped get across the road so they don't get hit.  If you stop to help a turtle, please be very careful of traffic.You can be most helpful by getting the turtle to the side of the road that it was facing. If you find baby turtles, please take them to the nearest body of water-don't pick them up and keep them as a pet. It is against the law to keep Michigan's wildlife as a pet. Feel free to bring it to WMAES and let it go in the pond or we would love to do that with the students and it is a good opportunity to learn how to safely return animals to the wild. 
I hope you have a spring filled with baby animal sightings! I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorite baby animals with your students, like our Eastern bluebirds and hopefully our local Box turtle will make an appearance. 

Students Take a Bite out of Physics

Leslie Matildez and Nancy Parsons are ninth grade physical science students at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science. Students were asked to create projects using an animal of their choice, a physics concept covered in class, and a creative story to tie the two together. Leslie and Nancy chose the topic of force for their class project, using a T-Rex and a story about salsa to convey their understanding of force in physics.

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Chompy the Dino is a T-Rex who makes salsa by chomping on tomatoes while he adjusts the speed of his chomping to produce more salsa. Our drawing is representing the force and speed concepts. Chompy picks up a tomato with his mouth, begins to chomp up the tomato and starts to make the salsa. His name “Chompy” is representing the force of his actions. His amazing trick and intentions are to make salsa for his family, friends and his store. The amount of speed he uses; the more salsa he provides. His love for his family and store gives him the ability to change jaw force, which in turn makes him more determined to make more salsa in doing so.

Winter Weather Reminder

As we begin to experience some of the more “normal” winter weather for West Michigan, please make the necessary safety arrangements to get your children to school.

-Keep your eyes and ears open for cancellations that will be posted on most television stations before 6:30 am.

-Please be sure we have your most recent and up-to-date phone numbers, as we will be sending out School Reach messages when a cancellation occurs.

-Leave home earlier than normal, as traffic and treacherous road conditions will slow you down.

-Please be sure your child/children are dressed appropriately for the weather in case there is an emergency where they might be exposed to the elements.

-If you choose to keep your child/children home, please be sure to contact the school office so that accurate attendance records can be kept. Contact us at 616.791.7454.

Please keep in mind that we are thinking of you and your family’s safety first when making decisions to cancel school. It is very rare that we will ever start school late, as most of our families’ parents/guardians work during the day and would be unable to leave work to bring their children to school. Likewise, it would be rare for school to be cancelled once we are in session for the reason(s). We have had to cancel or release early in the past because of inclement weather – another reason your contact information must be up-to-date and accurate.

Once again, your family’s safety is our priority when making these decisions. Thank you for your help as we work through our challenging West Michigan winter weather. 

The Green Scene - New Freedom for Willow

Meet Willow the wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)



She arrived at Blandford Nature Center in 2004 and is likely at least 20 years old.  In captivity, wood turtles can live more than 50 years.  Wood turtles are very fond of earthworms and can lure the worms to the surface by tapping their shell on the ground or stomping their feet. Willow has injuries to her shell and is missing both front legs below the elbow.  She cannot dig and damages her plastron as she walks so she is a permanent resident at the nature center.


With the help of teachers and students at the West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, we set out to make prosthetics to protect Willow’s shell and improve her mobility.  Using clay and Lego building blocks, the students determined the optimal height and placement for the prosthetics.  Students tested wheels and flat skid plates.  A skid plate with minimal contact area provided the most freedom of movement and protection.


The next step was to find an adhesive for our new prosthetics.  Previously, epoxy has been used to apply transmitters or repair turtle shells.  However, epoxy is exothermic when it sets, meaning it gives off heat as it hardens.  This heat can damage the living tissue just under the keratin of the shell.  Dr. Larry Majznerski and his team shared their expertise in light cured orthodontic adhesives.  These specialized glues are durable and perfect for exposure to water.  However, there is a fair amount of preparation time and some expense when using these adhesives.  As Willow grows and sheds scutes, the prosthetics will need to be replaced.  A fellow veterinarian, Dr. Katie Carron, enlisted the help of her husband Steven Lilly and his engineering knowledge.  We decided upon 3M VHB tape rather than glue.  This tape forms an instant near-permanent bond even on an uneven surface.


Dr. Chris Dykhouse, VMD volunteered his time and 3-D printer to make perfectly sized skid plates out of biodegradable plastic.  These new prosthetics are light, durable and fit perfectly within one scute on the plastron.  The small ground contact area minimizes drag.  With the help of the young animal lovers in our families, the new skids are attached.  Willow is practically running around once again.


Heart of Gold

This year’s Toys for Eagles was more successful than ever! With many classrooms collecting over 50 toys each, WMAES was able to ensure that 18 families – 50 children in all – had a special gift available on Christmas morning. – Read more about Toys for Eagles here!

However, there was one sixth grader who made it her mission to provide gifts for as many children as she could. Elena Aguilar-Preciado is a 6th grader here at WMAES.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she brought in close to 100 toys,” stated Mrs. Byrnes, Elena’s Spanish teacher.

Elena donated 94 toys for the Toys for Eagles drive, yet her class didn’t even win the donation drive. Although her classmates were a bit disappointed, Elena said “I didn’t really care about the prize. I didn’t even really want it. I just wanted to give to others.”

According to Mrs. Donohue, Elena is “a very compassionate and warm-hearted young lady. She is often heard encouraging her peers and thinking of others before herself.” –Elena, thank you for helping so many families this holiday season. Keep being the YOU, you are! 

WMAES Holiday Cheer

Every year, WMAES students and families come together to participate in the WMAES Toys for Eagles drive.

2015 was WMAES’ fourth year promoting their holiday giving program. Similar to Toys for Tots, Toys for Eagles collects toys, clothing and gifts for WMAES family members who are experiencing hardships during the holiday; making gift giving difficult. This year was another huge success! In all, 18 families were able to pick up gift boxes for their children – that’s over 50 children who are receiving gifts donated by students at WMAES.

Thank you to all who donated and help make the holidays even brighter for 18 fellow WMAES families. 


Box Top Challenge and School Fundraisers

It’s time to bring in those box tops, and participate in other school fundraising possibilities!

Box Tops: This contest is from January 11-15. Bring your box tops to your classroom – and the class with the most box tops wins a movie and popcorn.

Tyson Project A+: Ever notice those education labels on your Tyson products? We can utilize those rewards at WMAES as well! Cut, save, and bring into your child’s teacher anytime during the year. WMAES will submit them to Tyson for rewards to help your child’s education.

Target Take Charge of Education: Do you have a Target REDcard? If so, sign up for Target’s Take Charge of Education program; it’s free! From every swipe of your card, Target will donate 1% to WMAES. Sign up here!

My Coke Rewards – KULA: WMAES is signed up for Coke Rewards. If you drink Coke products, save your lids and enter them in on the WMAES profile. This will help WMAES earn rewards for educational purposes. Ready to submit your rewards? Enter them here!

Fall Blissfulness

Fall Blissfulness

October sure is a pretty time of year at WMAES! The last wildflowers are still in bloom; the trees are showing their fall colors; the sky is full of birds migrating south for the winter. What a perfect backdrop for one of the many outdoor classrooms at WMAES. Along with fall comes the fall harvest of apples. Each year, students get a first hand look at the importance of Michigan’s apple crop by actively participating in making fresh apple cider. Some of the apples even come from our property! Did you know that Michigan is the nation’s third largest producer of apples? There are more than 9.2 million apple trees covering 36,500 acres on 850 family-run farms in Michigan. Michigan produces more than 900 million pounds of apples per year. WOW, that’s a lot of apples!



Summer Sadness

Summertime Sadness

The mud oven was destroyed by vandals this summer during the 4th of July weekend! Everyone was really sad to see the destruction, and we tried to understand the reasoning behind it all – perhaps it’s because they wanted a MUD OVEN PIZZA? Don’t fret! We made another mud oven with the help of some volunteers. This year’s mud oven is even bigger and better than before, and Miss Holly and Mr. Shawn are excited to start cooking some pizzas with all the students this school year! Maybe you didn’t even know we had a mud oven? So, you’re probably thinking… what in the world IS a mud oven? Well, we used clay, sand, straw and water to create a building material referred to as Cob. This material is mixed on a tarp with our feet, and then we form an oven shape over top of a sand mound. This dries for about 2 weeks, and then the sand is removed, leaving an open area where the fire can be built. This fire then heats up the cob material, which is like sand at the beach – it absorbs the heat and then circulates it throughout the oven. Just like a conventional oven at home! Get ready to make some chicken BBQ pizzas this fall during Environmental Science class! Who’s feeling hungry?

20th Anniversary Fun

Thank you to all the parents and families who came out and supported West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science for our 20th Anniversary.

Mayor Huizenga and State Representative Ron VerHeulen were in attendance at our Groundbreaking Ceremony.

There was an overwhelming number of families present at this year's Groundbreaking Ceremony & Pig Roast. Thank you to all who were able to attend, meet this year's teachers, and celebrate WMAES' 20th Anniversary.

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Welcome Back, Students

Can you hear that?

It's the sound of shoes squeaking against the newly polished floors; it's the sound of loud chatter as students reminisce of their summertime fun; it's the sound of teachers learning to pronounce the names of their newest class members; it's Mrs. Barrett or Mr. Morgan saying the afternoon announcements over the intercom; it's the trees of West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science's campus, blowing wind smelling of apples and peaches.

All the smells, sounds, and new and old faces remind us that it's back-to-school. It's back to friends, learning, gardening, open classroom windows, and walks in the woods. Embrace the first day of school. Let it soak in. This is the start to a brand new year. This is the start to your future as students, and as citizens. What do you plan to make of the first day of school?

Earth Week is almost here!

Our schools' favorite time of year! Please see below for next week's daily happenings. Green living rocks!

Monday, April 21st: Lights Out Day
Tuesday, April 22nd: Earth Day and Garden Work Day! Your child may also wear blue and green for $1 to support the West Michigan Environmental Action Council! 
Wednesday, April 23rd: NO Paper Day
Thursday, April 24th: Elementary Earth Day Concert at 1:30pm
Friday, April 23rd: Plastic Free Day and Campus Clean-Up! Have your child bring all snacks and lunch in a reusable container! 

Throughout the week, each class will also get to plant a tree with Mr. Shawn and Ms. Holly. 



The GREEN Scene - Makes Maple Syrup

With the "polar votex" fading fast, the sapping season finally started to arrive.

The main factor that determines when the sap will flow is the temperature. With the unusually cold winter, we got a bit of a late start. When the temperature is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, the sap starts to flow. Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure and force the sap out of the trees. This trend usually lasts a few weeks, long enough for WMAES to collect a few hundred gallons of sap.

WMAES has approximately 20-acres of sugar maple trees that sap is collected from. Each year, staff and students collect somewhere around 300 gallons of sap. That might sound like a lot, but it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. When the sap is collected, it is comprised of 97% water and 3% sugar. Enough water needs to be evaporated to bring it to 66% sugar, 34% water. It's a lot of work to evaporate that much water out of the sap!

The syrup will be used for a pancake breakfast for many of the students that helped collect the sap. The students can't get enough of our syrup! So the next time you're at the store and see maple syrup, don't be surprised if it's really expensive, there's a lot of work that goes into making it.

-Miss Holly and Mr. Shawn

Juniors Prepare for College

The WMAES Juniors were able to participate in the annual trip to the National College Fair at DeVos Center on April 2.

Students were able to explore their college and university options, and have the opportunity to talk with representatives from a variety of schools - both in and out of the state. This is a perfect time to share your "college selection" story with your scholar! Don't have an exciting story? Why not make it a date and explore the college campuses together?

Me-Oh-My It's Dinosaur Time!

Preschoolers were able to visit the Dinasaurs Unearthed exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in early April. Kiddos enjoyed hands-on learning with interactive stations that explore dinosaur sounds, anatomy and digestion, as well as fossil detective work. The kids dig site was also visited, entertaining amateur paleontologists as they found their own fossil discoveries. The extra dinosaur exploring provided further learning of the Dinosaur theme for this month!

London Bridges... Don't Fall Down

The WMAES Spaghetti Bridge Team was able to participate in a bridge building competition in March.

Students recreated the Old London Bridge from the 1200's. Though the WMAES team didn't win any of the events, the director of the event took a moment to mention how well behaved and enthusiastic our team was. Several other coaches and officials praised the students, their effort and teamwork.



March Was Reading Month

Both elementary and secondary classrooms participated in door decorating contests, dress up days, celebrity readers and much more! A Reading Month assembly was also held for the elementary at the end of the month, announcing the winners of the reading classes, as well as the college/career-writing winners. The students had fun reading and learning! Thank you to all of our celebrities, parents, friends and staff who assisted during this time.

Top Reading Classes:
Mrs. Thompson - Kindergarten
Mrs. Lameris    - Second Grade
Mr. Murray       - Fifth Grade

College and Career-Writing Winners:
Kindergarten   - Hannah TenElshof
First Grade      - Ryder Zuinga
Second Grade  - Damaris Sarabia
Third Grade    - Amara Holman
Fourth Grade  - Faith Helms
Fifth Grade     - Claudia TenElshof

Spring Break April 4th-April 13th

School will resume Monday, April 14th. Have a wonderful spring break!

Recycling Challenge - New Deadline!

Thanks everyone for all the plastic bags that have been recycled and will hopefully allow WMAES to WIN!  We are only collecting bags until April 3rd, as no one will be here during spring break to collect or turn them in. Thanks and keep collecting bags!

Essay Winners!

Congratulation to A. Juarez, I. TenElshof, and G. Oliva - three students from WMAES who have been named local winners in the 45th annual America & Me Essay Contest, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance.

A. Juarez's essay will advance to the state level competition.

Way to go, WMAES students!

March is Reading Month - WIN!

As your child grows older, he’ll be on the move ­‐ playing, running, and constantly exploring his environment. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and brings the two of you closer together. Snap a photo of that special moment and enter it in our photo contest https://a.pgtb.me/jdhkpS.

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