From start to finish
The following stories about Sydney and Rebecca are part of a yearlong series. The Signal will continue to follow the kindergartner and senior, highlighting different aspects of the students' school year.
Kindergartner learns reading fundamentals
Sydney Clem stood at the front of the group of kindergartners, moving her elbows and singing about an elf in unison along with the rest of her classmates.
Sydney's kindergarten class at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center was learning the letter for the day, "E," and that meant the students sang a new song, complete with actions, introducing the letter to them.
Sydney's introduction to the alphabet is an effort to help her learn to read. But she's quick to say she can't read by herself just yet.
"I'm just learning the letters," she said.
Sydney's teacher, Marcia O'Neil, said kindergarten is an important time to learn the basics of reading.
"You lay the foundation in kindergarten," she said. "You need to prepare them for first grade."
Sydney and the rest of her class have been learning the reading basics through animated literacy. O'Neil said reading is taught using a variety of methods including storytelling, singing, movement and drawings.
"It keeps minds, muscles and imaginations always active," she said.
Last week marked National Children's Book Week. O'Neil's class had several volunteers reading stories throughout the week.
"Libby's mom read to us, and Caroline's mom," Sydney said. "They read good books."
Sydney also remembered the school's principal, Deb-Ehling Gwin, visited her class to read a book about friends and talk about how reading is the key.
"Then she gave us keys," Sydney said pulling a key out of her pocket, "because reading is the key."
She said she always kept the key in her pocket.
"Because it's so special," she said. "I don't want to lose it."
Sydney said her mom also reads to her at home.
"I have 100 books," she said. "Or maybe it's more."
Barbie and Teletubbies are two of her favorite things to read about. Horses also make the favorites list.
"Because they're so cute," she said.
O'Neil said Sydney appears to enjoy the reading activities and grasps the concepts with relative ease.
"I think she's doing great," she said. "She's picking up the identification of letters, the sound of letters. She's picking up everything."
Sydney doesn't seem to think of the activities so much as learning as she does ways she gets to sing and color.
"I like doing them because it's fun," she said.
Senior's career dream becomes part of school project
A half of a year of work is nearly at an end for Rebecca Verhaeghe.
The Baldwin High School senior has all but finished her senior mastery project. The only thing standing between her and a final grade is a five to 10-minute presentation before a four-person board.
"I'm pretty much ready for it," Verhaeghe said. "I just need to practice it a few times so I'm comfortable with it."
All BHS seniors must complete a senior mastery project -- an in-depth research project where students' topics range from careers and hobbies to technology and athletics -- as part of their graduation requirements.
Verhaeghe chose to do her project on a day in the life of a doctor.
"I want to become a pediatrician," she said. "I thought it would be fun to do it on something I'm interested in doing."
The senior project is designed to take all of the school year, but students have the option of taking the accelerated track and finishing their projects by the end of the first semester.
Verhaeghe opted for the accelerated track and is set to present the final part of her project Dec. 7.
"I just wanted to get it done," she said.
By finishing early, she said, she will have the opportunity to take a college class next semester.
In order to be finished by next month, Verhaeghe had to get a good jump on her project before the school year even began.
She turned in her proposal in May, then started work on her project this summer.
She attended a National Youth Leadership Forum on medicine in Pennsylvania and shadowed a doctor who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. She also completed a research paper outlining the steps to becoming a doctor during her summer break.
Once school started, Verhaeghe shadowed the doctor a couple more times and presented information about her topic to two human anatomy classes at BHS.
She said she was a little anxious about the class presentations.
"I'm not that good at public speaking," she said. "But I think they really got something out of it, and I had fun doing it."
She also spent the last few months compiling a portfolio and preparing for her final presentation.
Now it's just a matter of making the final adjustments on her project before it's completed.
When she started her senior project, Verhaeghe said, she wasn't too sure she would like it.
"At first, I was not too into the whole senior project," she said. "Not too many seniors were into it.
"But I had a lot of fun with it," she said. "I learned a lot. I learned I really do want to be a doctor."