5th Grade Eco Columns

February 9th, 2016

Our 5th grade students have been busy creating eco-columns!

The purpose of the experiment is to observe how the eco-column functions as a self-sustaining, closed system. It replicates planet Earth and demonstrates what factors Earth requires to function and survive.

These factors include food chains, as well as chemical and nutrient cycles. Over time the columns will be tested for certain nutrients using probe sensors and carefully observe the changes, which could take place within the columns.

The results of this experiment will take time to realize, but hopefully demonstrate the actual events that could take place in nature as a result of certain changes in the environment and will show the significance of natural relationships found on Earth.

Students have constructed their eco-columns out of soda bottles and one large water jug. The soda bottles were cut to form a column consisting of divided sections and where then stacked on top of the water jug. The components for each section, aquatic, terrestrial, and decomposition, were collected and added accordingly. They consisted of organisms such as insects and fish for consumers, grass for producers, decomposers, and dead leaves, twigs, dirt, and water for the environment.

Once each level was filled and stacked, students taped off the system except for one slit for testing the water. This made the eco-column not a completely closed system; being sealed the majority of the time except for student testing periods.

The eco columns demonstrate that if the system becomes open and exposed to the external system out side the bottle, external factors could enter the ecosystem and influence it by adding or releasing certain elements.

Mrs. Ninnette Patzik, 5th & 6th Grade Science Teacher.


Guiding Principles In Action!

February 3rd, 2016

Guiding Principles in Action!

Here at Henderson International School, our Guiding Principles are:

  • Student-Centric Focus
  • Collaborative Efforts
  • Deliberate Practice.

An example of all three of these occurred last week when Mr. Cadena invited a special guest teacher to come in for the day and share her expertise with our elementary musicians. We asked our Musicianship teacher to tell us about this special event:

Mr. Cadena: “On Thursday we had a special guest join our musicianship class. Ms. Groberg is a middle school choir teacher who asked me to observe her and offer her tips on her teaching techniques. In return, I asked Ms. Groberg to visit with my students and facilitate some vocalization games and tricks with them.

I took this as an opportunity to get a fresh point of view from a new colleague on my classes and how I teach them. It was refreshing to hear my students answering her tough questions, with me realizing just how much they’ve learned here at Henderson International School. It was also a nice change of pace to see a different approach taken with my students, as she introduced them to some of her own techniques and methods. It is important for me to keep watching other teachers, to constantly learn so that I may offer my students new lessons, new ways for old lessons and watch them continually grow.”

This combination of putting the best interests of his students first, working collaboratively with like-minded professional peers, and seeking to improve the quality of the instruction he provides, is an excellent example of our Guiding Principles in action and the first-rate learning environment that our teachers provide every day here at Henderson International School.

Mr. John Heffron, Lower School Principal

Box Exchange

At Henderson International School we have a deep respect for the abilities of our youngest students. We believe that if we provide them with opportunities to connect with others and develop a greater awareness of the world they live in, they will show us insights into how we can all communicate and grow together. We have constantly been impressed with the work young students do when collaborating with students in another country or from another culture, particularly when we ask them to reflect on the experience and share their discoveries.

This year we’ve been very busy exposing our young children to different parts of our planet. We have done so through collaborations with schools around the world via a box. Our international box exchange project has been very successful. Sharing cultures through a box full of typical items from each country has allowed our students to engage, form global relationships, and discover the value of working with students who have different perspectives and ways of being. We think it is our job as educators to foster these experiences so that, as our students grow older, they can start seeking out similar opportunities and sharing their knowledge and experiences with others. To date we have exchanged boxes with India, Slovakia and Colombia. We hope to continue to find more schools around the world to join us in this experience.

Technology is a powerful tool for global collaboration as well. Our box project works well and was easy to get started, but we have also shared videos and pictures of our friends overseas via our iPads and computers. There are also many websites such as National Geographic Kids that allow us to explore other places and cultures without traveling. It has made the experience so much more real and valuable.

Ms. Lizette Fiumara, Early Childhood Team Leader

Math Differentiation in 4th Grade!


One way that 4th grade is Differentiating our students’ Math experience is by integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) into our weekly program.  Through STEM we are exposing our higher-performing mathematicians to more challenging and enriching real-world experiences, while helping to prepare them for the careers of the future.  Right now, 4th grade students are spending time in our new MakersLab, using the app 123Design to design three-dimensional shapes and then create them using our new 3D printer.  This experience aligns to our Math strands of Geometry and Measurement.  It is also cross-curricular in nature, in that students learn and practice Math concepts and skills through the use of Technology and Science.

By differentiating our math lessons to meet the needs of various groups of students, we are able to push our students to new heights. We do this through technology integration, project-based learning, a focus on STEM, and challenging units of student that enrich our students’ learning experience. By making use of our new MakersLab, students and teachers are given a variety of tools with which to explore and learn in new and exciting ways. With the introduction of our new 3D printer and special design software, students work toward mastery of the standards, while creating new and useful designs and learning the real world uses of mathematics.

Mr. Michael Euken, 4th grade teacher

Visual Arts In Early Childhood

February 1st, 2016

Visual Arts in Early Childhood

Art is an important part of Early Childhood programs. Here at Henderson International School, art is part of our weekly curriculum for many different reasons. Artistic endeavors and explorations are not only fun, but educational as well. Art allows our young students to practice a wide range of skills that are useful not only for life, but also for learning.

Skills students practice when participating in art activities include:

  • Fine motor skills: Grasping pencils, crayons, chalk and paintbrushes helps children develop their fine motor muscles. This development will help your child with writing, buttoning a coat, tying shoelaces, and other tasks that require controlled movements.
  • Cognitive development: Art can help children learn and practice skills like patterning and cause and effect (i.e., “If I push very hard with a crayon the color is darker.”). They can also practice critical thinking skills by making a mental plan or picture of what they intend to create and following through on their plan.
  • Math skills: Children can learn, create and begin to understand concepts like size, shape, geometry, measurement, making comparisons, counting and spatial reasoning.
  • Language skills: As children describe and share their artwork, as well as their process for making it, they develop language skills. You can encourage this development by actively listening and asking open-ended questions in return. It is also a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary words regarding their project (i.e., texture).

Froebel, the father of kindergarten, believed that young children should be involved in both making their own art and enjoying the art of others. To Froebel, art activities were important, not because they allowed teachers to recognize children with unusual abilities, but because they encouraged each child’s “full and all-sided development”.

Our curriculum includes activities that will help children develop their fine, cognitive, math and language skills. It gives them opportunities to express what they are thinking and feeling. When children participate in art activities with classmates, the feedback they give to each other builds self-esteem by helping them learn to accept criticism and praise from others.

This month Early Childhood students are involved in a collaborative project with Ms. Laurie Mallon, our Lower School Visual Arts teacher. Each classroom is painting a beautiful canvas sketched by Ms. Mallon.  The art works are inspired by master artists such as Picasso, Warhool, Van Gogh and Dahli. They will be donated to our PTA to be auctioned at the Silent Auction on March 6.

The students are enjoying their visits to the Lower School Art Studio. These visits serve a few purposes. Students are introduced to the Lower School Art Studio as a bridging exercise into Kindergarten. Our students enjoy a sense of satisfaction while involved in making art with their classmates. And we generate some student-created artwork that parents hopefully enjoying purchasing for the benefit of our wonderful PTA.

Ms. Lizette Fiumara, Early Childhood Team Leader

Cool technology at HIS

January 29th, 2016

Technology is integrated in everything we do at HIS.

Years ago, “computers” was a separate class, and students would go to a computer lab to learn about programs and coding. Now, technology is brought in to the classroom, with robotics, 3D printing, iPad carts, and even a “maker’s space” where students can take apart computers to see how they work.

Here is a sample of some of the cool technology lessons and experiments we’ve seen on campus so far this year.

We’re preparing students for a 21st century world. These are the leaders of tomorrow.



Please join Henderson International School and our preschool experts for a free potty-training seminar on Friday, December 4 at 8:15 a.m.


Come along to meet new parents, gain expert top tips and advice as we share tried and tested methods to help your child get potty trained and ready for school!


Potty training is one of the first significant milestones in a toddler’s young life, and for many parents, its one of the first major hurdles to overcome. For some families, potty training can become a battle of wills and series of setbacks that lead to frustration. The important thing to remember is, timing is key. Most children are potty trained around age three, right at the time they should be ready to enter a preschool program. It is important to remember; potty training your child earlier does not prove anything about your parenting skills or child’s intelligence or development.

There are some key behaviors that you can look for to help recognize when your child is ready to graduate from diapers. According to Pampers.com, you may recognize the following:  

   Does she have bowel movements at a fairly predictable time?

   Does she let you know through words or behaviors that she’s aware that she’s going?

   Can she pull down and pull up her pants?

   Does she show an interest in the bathroom and what other people do in it?

   Can she walk over to and sit down on the potty by herself?

   Has she started saying “No!” to you?

   Does she like to have at least some of her toys in certain special places? This shows that she’s interested in controlling things

   in her environment.

   Does she know what “wet” and “dry” mean?

   Does she respond to praise and want to please you?

According to parenting.com, the three top training methods are; rewards (hugs and kisses or toys), cold turkey (no diapers or transition pants, just discomfort from soggy britches) or training pants. Each had its own pros and cons and no one method is perfect for every child. No matter which method you choose for your child, we know that you can take some simple steps to help your child avoid accidents.

Our Henderson International team of experts has some words of wisdom to share. For example did you know that Sippy cups can be a hidden pitfall during potty training? Constant drinking increases urination, and frequent bathroom trips can become too much for a beginner. Be mindful of how much they drink before bed, long car rides or shopping trips.

Preschool teacher Megan Zappulla said it’s important to dress children in clothing that they can easily remove themselves. “Often by the time they realize they need to go, they really need to go. Difficult snaps, buttons, zippers, tights and layers can increase the chances of an unnecessary accident,” she said.

Preschool teacher Carrie Rozsell often reminds parents that accidents will happen. “It’s best not to make a big deal out of an accident,” advised Rozsell. “Keep it calm, and just keep spare pants and underwear on hand at all times so you can change quickly.”

The key to successful potty training is patience and consistency. When children first begin the process, they want to visit every bathroom to explore. Don’t let this frustrate you when they ask to go but then don’t actually need to. It’s all part of the natural process.

Henderson International’s preschool program begins around age three, once the child is potty trained. If you would like to speak with one of our experts for free potty training advice, come along and visit us during our free event. We would love to meet you and share even more top tips.


Our first trimester has been wonderful! We started with the strongest results from last year’s Educational Record Bureau (ERB) tests, and have already built upon that success across the grades. Strong teaching leads to solid learning, and I thank our teachers for all of their work to design and implement personalized learning plans while achieving excellent results. Success of the last trimester are below:

First trimester measures of success

We started the year with some impressive results from the spring ERB tests on which 73% of students in grades 3-8 scored 90% or better on at least one subtest of this assessment, qualifying them for consideration by The Center for Bright Kids’ Western Academic Talent Search (WATS). Henderson International School is in process of becoming a testing site for the region. More on this soon, but we are targeting the test dates in January and February. Taking the Explore, SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), or ACT (American College Testing) at a young age prepares exceptional students to be challenged above the confines of grade level assessments, letting them know about challenges above and beyond.

Grades 5 and 6 attended Astrocamp in Idyllwild, CA and grades 7 and 8 went to Pali Adventures in Running Springs, CA.  These annual outdoor education experiences, which rotate among several venues, provide exceptional opportunities for class bonding, off campus study with different instructors than our faculty, and a trip away from the comforts of home. It provides the opportunity to develop independence and personal responsibility, which are necessary to expand executive functioning during late childhood and early adolescence. Within our Mission of developing Global Citizens finding personal confidence and appreciation for our opportunities and obligations seems an obvious rationale.

We have experienced several on-campus “field trips” and science explorations in Early Childhood classes, including parents sharing their international connections with our young Wolverines.  This term the 4th graders traveled to Carson City and Virginia City for their on site study of the Capital Region of Nevada – an experience many adults have not had.

Our Learning Commons is now complete. The transition from a secondary school library to a primary school learning commons is noticeable in the appropriately sized shelving units, color scheme, updated technology, and comfortable seating. During this process many older volumes were donated to local Title I schools and organizations, along with the former furnishings. Our goal has been to help others at each step of the transformation!

Pumpkin plants are growing in the Elementary School garden and we are planning for our Henderson Arbor Day and second annual Earth Day celebrations in April.

We are delighted that 3D printers are in use, as is our Maker Space for learning how things work. Students are designing and printing on the two PTA sponsored 3D printers.


Grade 7 and 8 created a magnificent recycled art project that will be on display at The Palazzo, and we are entered into the statewide art competition.

Grade 4 has completed their first arts rotation among Musical Theatre, Band, and Visual Art.  This rotation exposes each child to all three programs over the final year of lower school, and in 5th grade they will choose one area of art study for the year. Performance season is upon us, and the children have been vigorous in their rehearsals to make wonderful music and perform in public.

Our kindergarten has been working on their Thanksgiving show that will debut on Friday, November 20.

Student artwork has been on display at the Henderson Pavilion on several occasions this first trimester.

In our first trimester bridge building elective, the lightest design carried over 200 times it’s weight before breaking. These engineering design projects had to be no more than 500 grams, and were created entirely from popsicle sticks and glue.  The held weight of 113 pounds more than doubled last year’s most sturdy design.


Preparations are complete for the Meritas Games competition in Orlando, Florida, which will take place the week after Thanksgiving. The largest contingent of student-athletes will compete this year, 62 strong! A new individual sport has been added – Archery. Several of our middle school overnight trips have included archery, scouts have studied archery for their merit badge, and a few students regularly shoot at archery ranges. We are very excited about this addition!

And so to basketball! The Findlay Prep team defeated the 2015 Jr. College National Champions in Arizona. This was a preseason game. The athletes have started the regular season off well winning the first two games by double the opponent’s score. NCAA College team commitments: Carlos Johnson – UNLV Rebels, Skylar Mays – Lousiana State Univ. Tigers and Tristan Clark – Baylor Univ. Bears.

Our 7th grade flag football team earned their stripes in the 11-12 year old league played on Saturdays at Frias Field in Las Vegas. Thank you to their dedication in making the season happen!

Grade 5/6 volleyball played well all season, and grade 7/8 volleyball earned a spot in the post-season tournament. Our grade 5/6 flag football also earned 2nd place in the league. Congratulations to everyone! During trimester one, we also hosted our first cross-country race on campus, receiving rave reviews about our campus and the organization!

We hosted our Henderson International School Triathlon, thanks to organization by the PTA and Mr. Mike Chinn. We also hosted our annual Autumn Fun Run with varying distances based on grade level.


While standardized testing is only one metric of many we use to personalize academic progress, it is a reality that taking tests is something that our generation of students will be doing for most, if not all, of their academic and professional careers. In addition to starting the year with strong ERB results from the spring we have additional strong indicators about our curricula and programs:

 Initial writing assessment (WrAP test) results in grades 3-8 were very strong relative to Independent School norms (the strongest comparison/competition across the country). While we have a range of abilities demonstrated, the strong majority are in the middle to top Stanines, with over half of each MS grade in the top half of the top 2% of the country! Students will take these again in late winter at which time we look for improvements and also have time for further growth prior to the end of the year.

Elementary grades on the CPAA:

  • In the area of Phonemic Awareness, 42% of Kinder students met or exceeded expectations back in late August. Now, by the end of Trimester 1, 81% of students meet or exceedThe number who exceeded expectations has risen from 28% in August to 67% now.
  • In the area of Phonics/Writing, 42% of Kinder students met or exceeded expectations back in August. Now, that number is at 78%. Those who exceed has risen from 22% to 47%.
  • In the area of Reading, 64% met or exceeded back in September. Now that number is at 81%. Those exceeding has risen from 8% to 39%.
  • In the area of Phonemic Awareness, 80% of 1st grade students met or exceeded expectations back in late August. Now, by the end of Trimester 1, 91% of students meet or exceedThe number who exceeded expectations has risen from 23% in August to 43% now.
  • In the area of Phonics/Writing, 77% of 1st grade students met or exceeded expectations back in late August. Now that number is at 95%. Those who exceed has risen from 34% to 50%.
  • In the area of Reading, 77% met or exceeded back in September. Now that number is at 95%. Those exceeding has risen from 18% to 43%.
  • In the area of Phonics/Writing, 70% of 2nd grade students met or exceeded expectations back in late August. Now, by the end of Trimester 1, 84% of students meet or exceedThe number who exceeded expectations has risen from 24% in August to 43% now.
  • In the area of Reading Mechanics, 60% of 2nd grade students met or exceeded expectations back in August. Now that number is at 67%. Those who exceed has risen from 30% to 51%.
  • In the area of Reading, 67% met or exceeded back in August. Now that number is at 84%. Those exceeding has risen from 16% to 38%.

This has been a remarkable first trimester, and we look ahead to the following months, where more great progress and activities is expected.


Third Grade Trip to the Apple Store

Each year the third grade students read the novel Poppy by Avi. It is the second book in the Dimwood Forest series and is always a class favorite! After reading the book, this year we did something different. The students were put into collaborative groups, each creating a movie trailer as if the movie “Poppy” was coming out. First, each group had to think about the important events that took place in the story and the sequence in which they happened. The students had to work together with their groups and agree upon the scenes that they wanted to film. After several skit rehearsals in the classroom, the groups were ready to go outside to film. Using student made props, the groups acted out and filmed their scenes. Next, we watched the clips to see how they came out. The actors, actresses, and camera people were given constructive criticism by the class and went out to film again the next day. This process was repeated a few times before going to the Apple Store on October 27 to turn our movie clips into movie trailers using the app iMovie. At the Apple Store, the students were taught by the Apple geniuses how to use iMovie and turn their scenes into an edited trailer. The trailers were almost complete when we left, but many students wanted to refine their work at school. Finally, on Friday, November 6th, the third grade students, teachers, Mr. Lindsey, and Mr. Heffron assembled in the Learning Lab for a Movie Trailer Premiere. The students and teachers voted for their favorite two trailers. The top two student choices and the top teacher choices are can be seen by 3rd grade families – go to your grade-level Site, then to the Photos tab.

Lots of learning took place throughout this project. After the reading of the book, the students learned by coming up with the most important events in the story and recognizing what the differences were between the main events and the more minor details. They learned that the main events take place in a logical sequence, which will help them when they are trying to sequence events in their own creative writing. They certainly learned about character traits because these characters were very strong and dynamic. They learned how to work collaboratively in a group, realizing that this requires compromise. Students learned how to receive constructive criticism and how it is useful for improvement. Boy, did they learn about persistence! Some of those scenes needed to be shot over and over, and moving the clips into iMovie and getting just the right words to go with the scenes was hard work! Overall, it was an enjoyable, productive learning experience, aligning well with our Reading and Writing standards, plus technology integration and teamwork!

-Molly Heenan, 3rd grade teacher

2nd Grade Literacy Growth

November 12th, 2015

Dear 2nd grade families-

One of the ways that we monitor student growth toward the standards is through a tool called the CPAA (Children’s Progress Academic Assessment). This Formative tool is used from Preschool through 2nd grade and assesses both early literacy and math skills. We have students take it at the beginning and again at the end of each trimester so that we can measure growth over the marking period and over the entire school year. The assessment is taken on the iPad in the classroom.

Simultaneously, our Learning Support team has been pushing into the classrooms to help teachers do small-group instruction targeting specific Literacy skills. In 2nd grade, this small-group Literacy instruction happens three days a week, for 20-30 minutes each time. The classroom teacher works with a small group while the Learning Support teacher works with another small group. This structure allows us to differentiate the activities that each group is doing, based on the needs of the students, with an experienced educator facilitating each small group.

As students’ abilities grow, they are transitioned either to a higher level of activities, a different group, or to independent Literacy activities. In this way, we keep the groups flexible and adaptive – no student is locked into any given group for the entire year.

I’d like to report to you some of the encouraging CPAA data that our Learning Support team has compiled which demonstrates the value of teaching to the standards, small-group instruction, and frequent progress monitoring of student growth.

In the area of Phonics/Writing, 70% of 2nd grade students met or exceeded expectations back in late August. Now, by the end of Trimester 1, 84% of students meet or exceed expectations. The number who exceeded expectations has risen from 24% in August to 43% now.
In the area of Reading Mechanics, 60% of 2nd grade students met or exceeded expectations back in August. Now that number is at 67%. Those who exceed has risen from 30% to 51%.
In the area of Reading, 67% met or exceeded back in August. Now that number is at 84%. Those exceeding has risen from 16% to 38%.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating our students, classroom teachers, and Learning Support team for their hard work and their dedication to increasing Literacy for all of our 2nd grade students.


John Heffron
Lower School Principal