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Before new food items hit the menus in fall 2019, Mansfield ISD hosted a free food tasting party to get honest opinions from its most valued customers—students.

The Summer Tasting Party was held at Timberview High School on June 13. Staff members from MISD’s Student Nutrition Services said it is a good way to see what works and what may need to be improved.

“We wanted to get the real live feedback from students concerning the flavor profiles,” said culinary trainer Isabella Cannon. “They’re the ones who make or break our program. If they’re not going to eat it, then what’s the point?”

Several of the foods on MISD’s menus are scratch-made or locally grown. The new items up for vote were Cajun chicken alfredo, Italian squash blend, ham and Swiss cheese panini on Italian bread, and turkey bacon panini on a ciabatta bun.

“I ate some of the alfredo. That was good,” said Cidney Shanks, incoming senior at Legacy High School. “The ham sandwich was good, but I liked the other sandwich the best. That was my favorite one.”

After the students ate the food, they were given a questionnaire to rate the taste and determine whether they would select it for lunch. Depending on the feedback, the items may be added to the high school menus for next year.

Cannon said enjoying a school meal is important because it contributes to student success.

“Our goal is to make more students happy, to have their bellies full, for them to perform better in school because they are satiated and aren’t worrying about where their next meal’s going to come from,” she said.

By providing nutritious and delicious food, the Student Nutrition Services helps students develop life-long skills to make healthy food choices. The department served more than 5.3 million meals during the 2018-19 school year and hopes to surpass that in the upcoming year.

Through science, fun and creativity, several Mansfield ISD students were able to spend a part of their summer working together to solve real-world problems.

Mansfield ISD offers many enrichment camps during the summer months to keep students engaged during the break. Two camps that will conclude this week are Science Camp and Camp Create.

In MISD Science Camp, kids entering first through fifth grades get an engaging hands-on experience through labs and experiments using in-depth study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Nearly 300 students signed up for the experience, which was divided up into two one-week sessions.

“They’re taking virtual trips through a virtual reality headset, and they’re going to learn about some drones,” said camp coordinator Daniel Beauford. “They love the fact that they’re learning, but they don’t necessarily realize it.”

Other areas of focus at the science camp were space exploration and drone maneuvering.

For students entering fifth through eighth grades, the summer learning adventures continued through Camp Create. The camp is team-driven and explores various science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, or mathematics (STEAM) concepts in a hands-on environment. The students take on daily challenges with a major project to be completed at the end of the week.

“It’s fun, but it’s also challenging because you have to get random household objects, and you have to make these things do a job,” said Abryn Patek, incoming seventh-grader at Brooks Wester Middle School.

About 80 students signed up for Camp Create. Camp coordinator Hope Hutchison noted that the skills used will help the kids in every aspect of life.

“Those are 21st century skills that kids are going to need in their future—working together, talking and collaborating,” Hutchison added.

Each camp costs $125 per child. Registration opens in May on a first come, first serve basis. Both camps have been operating during the summer for more than four years.

The students are gone, and the school bells are silent; but instead of packing for a vacation, some teachers in Mansfield ISD decided to begin their summer break by honing their skills even more.

Hundreds of educators attended the district’s free annual summer curriculum from May 29 through May 31. The sessions are open to all teachers in the district for a chance to learn new teaching techniques while earning their staff development equivalency hours.

“The teachers especially love that it’s them doing the presentations,” said Teresa Francis, advanced academics coordinator. “It’s not some person who hasn’t been in the classroom or doesn’t know what’s going or talking about some educational theory that doesn’t really have anything to do with what they do in their day-to-day job.”

A bulk of the planning for the conference begins January. Organizers said they research what’s relevant in teaching and use objectives they learned in other trainings to customize each session.

“We’re always looking for what we can offer our staff members that will be helpful to them,” Francis said.

Along with the core subjects, the classes covered topics such as leadership, CPR, gifted and talented, special education, dyslexia, college readiness and more. The sessions are centered around the district’s strategic plan, Vision 2020, which guides how  Mansfield ISD will fulfill its mission of inspiring and education students to be productive citizens.

“It continues year after year to be a very popular event for our teachers,” said Christie Alfred, MISD’s chief innovative officer. “They really appreciate the fact that it’s focused on Mansfield ISD to the things that are specific to our teachers and to our district.”

The summer curriculum classes are held at Legacy High School, a centralized location for the staff. Organizers said that the goal each year is to provide quality lessons that can be immediately implemented in classrooms.

Mansfield ISD held its third annual Innovation Conference on May 6-9 at the Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners.

The theme this year was focused on early childhood education and featured the research and plans that resulted in the Academy for Early Learners facility.

“We are very proud of what we do here in MISD and we want to share what we’ve learned,” said Mansfield ISD Associate Superintendent, Dr. Sean Scott. “Also, we grow incredibly from our visitors and colleagues from around the state and so we want to learn from them and make sure that we continue to stay on the cutting edge of education.”

The conference, which drew educators and leaders from across the state, included a tour of The Academy, history and research behind the creation of the unique facility and techniques/tips on how to provide experiential learning and instructional strategies for early learners. The conference featured four one-day seminars for participants to be immersed in the active explorative experiences.

“We first heard about the academy at the mid-winter conference and so we were very blessed to be able come and experience this opportunity for ourselves,” said Kelley Estes-Jones, assistant director of Region 10 for early childhood services. “To be able to see the young children engaging in their everyday learning through these wonderful experiences was magical.”

Over four days, the Innovation Conference served about 160 educators.

“We’ve gotten to learn from the staff here at Mansfield ISD,” said Estes-Jones. “I have enjoyed being here for the Innovation Conference because we are all about high-quality early childhood experiences, learning and anything that we can gain and take back to further the cause.”

The Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners, which opened in January, is the first prekindergarten campus of its kind in Mansfield ISD and throughout the state of Texas. It was designed for inquiring young minds using creative, hands-on, interactive experiences within a researched-based early childhood program.

For more information on The Academy for Early Learners, visit its website.

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