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Williamston Sunrise Rotary Club puts ‘Service Above Self’ into action

WILLIAMSTON – “Service Above Self” is a common phrase, but how often does action back up these three simple words? For the Williamston Sunrise Rotary Club, its goal is to put these words into action.

The club hosts several events throughout the year to raise money for the community, charitable organizations and grants.

“All the money we make, we turn around and give it to our community or international charities,” secretary and webmaster for the club Gene Klco said.

One event is the duck race held the third week in June. Community members purchase tickets that match up with a numbered duck. Only one hundred ducks are randomly selected from the thousands of ducks in the group. These lucky one hundred ducks race down the Red Cedar in hopes to finish first.

Klco said the event typically raises $10,000 to $12,000 between tickets and sponsorships.

In late September the club hosts Taste of Williamston. Several local restaurants bring in samples of dishes for attendees to try. Tickets sell for $30 and they typically raise $7,000 to $8,000.

“The thing I like about the Rotary Club is their activities are specifically geared towards individual projects. Some people just throw money in things but they actually put a plan together before they engage in something,” Williamston community member Mark Gilman said. “They do a good job with making sure the money they raise goes to causes that have specific needs.”

The club also hosts several poker events throughout the year. They also work on smaller projects and are always open to new ideas.

“Everybody has that thing they want to put together in their community, or they think ‘I wish our community did this’,” President-elect Nicholas Horstman said. “In Rotary Club you have the ability to influence that.”

In addition to raising money for the community, they also host a guest speaker every week at their meeting.

They’ve had a variety of speakers such as local strawberry farmers and chocolatiers. They have also brought in both Republican and Democratic government leaders.

Horstman said the goal is to provide club members with a well-rounded education of what is happening in their community.

Currently the club is working to provide less fortunate families in Williamston with goods and services for the upcoming holiday season.

Anyone is welcome to attend Williamston Sunrise Rotary Club meetings held every Tuesday at Brookshire Inn at 7:15 a.m. The last Tuesday of every month they are located at Williamston Pub and Grill at 4 p.m.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for individuals to get involved and to influence their community in a way that they want to see their community  progress,” Horseman said.


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Williamston High School partners with Michigan State University on research project to improve science program

WILLIAMSTON – On Sept. 5, five doctors who specialize in education gathered to discuss the future of Williamston High School’s science curriculum.

Two of the doctors were research associates from Michigan State University’s Education Department. MSU is working with the University of Helsinki in Finland on a research project called PIRE.

The school wants its students to enjoy learning and thanks to the PIRE program, it now has a way to measure that enjoyment.

Dr. Michele Cook, Williamston Community School’s director of curriculum and special education said they wanted to get involved with the PIRE program because of the Next Generation Science Standards.

“The NGSS is more of a hands-on, investigative, problem solving model so this project of PIRE is looking at students at a single moment in time to see how they are feeling about what they are hearing in the classroom during a science lesson,” Cook said.

The program was provided by a research team from MSU’s Education Department. Several of Williamston High School’s science classes have had hands-on, inquiry based lessons added to their curriculum.

Researchers are studying whether there is more engagement with the new units or traditional learning methods.

Tim Kelly, physical science teacher at the high school, said the state has changed the science curriculum standards. Content is required to be based more on real life situations where students have to work together to solve a problem.

“PIRE units are based on The New Generation Science Standards,” said Kelly. “I am excited to do it. We don’t have a lot of curriculum ideas yet because this is all new to us.”

The units provided by the PIRE program have given Williamston High School inspiration to better implement the recent requirements of NGSS.

Kelly was given three inquiry based PIRE lessons focused on force and motion to teach in his physical science classes. Another science teacher will be teaching inquiry based PIRE units focused on chemistry.

Williamston High School principal Dr. Jeffrey Theones said, “If teachers pick up even one or two or three good ideas from being a part of this and they add that to their toolbox for teaching, then we’re better for it.”

Currently, students are given survey questions regarding their traditional science lessons. The PIRE lessons will be implemented into the curriculum within the next few weeks. Students will then be given a similar survey once the program begins.

After the survey answers are compiled, the MSU research team will then compare the results from each learning method to see what way students are more engaged.

“They’re going to take all of that data and put it together with the lesson being taught at that moment and see if there is a correlation with what they’re learning and what they are feeling at that moment in time,” Cook said.

Thoenes said he’d be willing to continue with similar programs because of the evolution of learning techniques, such as the requirements of NGSS.

“I think it will help redirect our traditional approach towards a more innovative and modernized teaching and learning,” Theones said. “I can say this with good confidence, Williamston is very progressive and very willing to reach out and do different things and see if they work.”

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Williamston elementary schools implement STEAM into the curriculum

WILLIAMSTON – Principal Pat VanRemmen never could have imagined how positive the effect of adding STEAM to the curriculum would be at Discovery Elementary.

The new elective, focused on bringing Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math together, has been successful for both the parents and students.

“I had one parent commenting about how their daughter is coming home with ideas for inventions,” VanRemmen said.

The program was implemented in Discovery (young 5s through second grade) and Explorer (third through fifth grade) Elementary Schools in the fall. STEAM is an additional elective all students must take.

VanRemmen said although the program is still in the beginning stages, the feedback has been very positive.

“I’ve had parents emailing and stopping me in the hall and just saying how excited their kids were about learning to problem solve and work together,” VanRemmen said.

STEAM works to combine the skills students learn in their core classes with team building and hands-on learning.

“You’re pulling from different tool boxes and solving problems in real world application,” VanRemmen said.

Superintendent Adam Spina first introduced the addition of STEAM to the curriculum. The first grade teacher for the past seven years, Sean Ferguson was chosen to instruct the elective. Over the summer he attended STEAM workshops to better implement the program.

Ferguson said it encourages students to go beyond content knowledge and instead, focus on application.

“Here they actually design projects or do constructions and apply what they are doing in real world situations,” Ferguson said. “They get to see a little bit more realistically how what they have been learning in the classroom actually works in real life.”

STEAM is not an elective at Williamston Middle School and High School. However, Ferguson said the older students take courses that focus on problem solving and teamwork. STEAM allows elementary students to become familiar with these skills early on so they can be prepared when they move on.

As for the future of the program at the elementary schools, Ferguson hopes what they do in the STEAM room will eventually spread into regular curriculum.

Dr. Michele Cook is the director of curriculum and special education for Williamston schools. She says they are working to expand on what they have already done.

“Right now we are building as we go,” Cook said. “We are looking at other districts that also have this in place in Ingham County and we are going to expand STEAM to incorporate pretty much a true program.”

Even with all the positive feedback from parents and students, the school doesn’t plan to stop improving the program.

“We are doing great things for kids and we are being progressive,” Cook said.

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City Council voted to rename Deer Creek Park after recently deceased, Howard Dahlstrom

WILLIAMSTON – Williamston City Councilwoman Sandy Whealton tearfully celebrated the renaming of Deer Creek Park to Howard Dahlstrom Memorial Park at the Oct. 9 council meeting.

Whealton was a longtime friend of Dahlstrom, a beloved member of the community who died suddenly on Sept. 22.

The park was originally named after Deer Creek that runs behind the park. However, Deer Creek Park was known as Lions Park by many. The Williamston Lions Club had a tent there during Williamston’s Red Cedar Jubilee event in the summer.

Not only did people often think of The Lions Club when they thought of the park, but also Howard Dahlstrom.

Dahlstrom was an active member in the club and is remembered cracking jokes behind the grill during jubilee.

“Howard was an amazing man. He did so much for this city that really a lot of people didn’t realize,” said Whealton. “He was lion of the year, rotary member of the year, and citizen of the year. He was just honored very much.”

Lions Club president, Kris Horstman, said Dahlstrom not only touched every single service organization in town but anyone in need. He helped the sick and blind. Dahlstrom was there for those suffering from domestic disputes, intrusion problems, financial struggles, divorce and death.

“He was always checking in on people,” said Horstman. “If somebody died he’d bring the whole family enough food to feed them for a month. If somebody was sick, he would go see them. He’s just touched every life here.”

Earl Wolf worked with Dahlstrom on several service committees such as rotary and parks and recreation. Wolf looks up to Dahlstrom for his constant efforts at spending his retired days from the police department quietly working to make Williamston a better place.

“It’s never printed but everyone knows it,” said Wolf. “He was the guy to get somebody out of a really ugly jam that normally might have been on the front page of the paper, but he didn’t want it that way.”

Whealton first introduced the idea of renaming the park to the parks and recreation committee. The committee was completely in agreement with the proposal. Next, she brought the idea to city council and there was a unanimous decision of approval.

Although the vote ended being unanimous, there was an argument regarding precedent.

“If somebody else wants something in town, let them fight for it like I am,” said Whealton. “This is our park. We have used this for 40 years. It’s The Lion’s and jubilee’s. We fenced it and fixed it. Howard was a part of that.”

Now that the park name has been approved, Whealton is working on signage and approving the design. She hopes to have it completed by winter.

“He was amazing and it couldn’t have been named after a better person and I hope it stays like that forever,” said Horstman.

Howard Dahlstrom’s memorial celebration will be held on Oct. 20 at St. Mary Catholic Church on 157 High St., Williamston, MI at 11 a.m.

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Williamston Red Cedar Garden Club is hard at work, even with end of summer

WILLIAMSTON – Although the summer may be coming to a close, this doesn’t mean the Williamston Red Cedar Garden Club is calling it quits for the chilly months ahead.

The club purchases, plants and maintains six gardens owned by the city. These include the gazebo, butterfly garden, Blue Star Memorial, the area around the McCormick Park restrooms and two planters in downtown Williamston. They also maintain the Williamston Depot Museum and the Williamston U.S. Post Office.

Williamston Mayor Tammy Gilroy said, “They have been very integral with keeping our community very colorful.”

In the cooler months, the 47-member club finds plenty of ways to stay busy when they can’t be outdoors beautifying the city.

“Most people don’t realize that education is a really big part of what we do,” said Williamston Red Cedar Garden Club president Cathie Ware.

The group works with the National Garden Club and the Michigan Garden Clubs to provide the public with presentations regarding garden care, plants and insects. Locally, the club offers several educational meetings. Examples of topics covered include pest control without chemicals and how to better prune trees.

“It’s part of our goal that we have six educational meetings a year and they’re open to the public, as well as to our membership,” said club treasurer Arla Weaver. “It’s that kind of thing that we do when we can’t get out there and really plant and get dirt under our fingernails.”

The club encourages the love of nature to the youth by hosting a contest where elementary students must create a poster illustrating Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl.

In addition to hosting a contest for younger students, the club raises money for future undergraduates in fields relating to horticulture. The club sends money to the state and the state provides between 15 to 20 $1,000 scholarships.

In November, the club will be selling wreaths, swags, and grave blankets. In December they are decorating holiday mugs and filling them with greenery and candy. These are given to people in nursing homes and rehab facilities.

Williamston Red Cedar Garden Club is always looking for ways to not only beautify the city but help out the community.

“Things I find most rewarding are new things that we are doing within the club and new ways we have of connecting with the community,” Ware said.

Mayor Tammy Gilroy said the Williamston Red Cedar Garden Club is just one of the several volunteer organizations in the city that make Williamston such a great city.

“We rely on them. We praise them,” said Gilroy. “We give them the accolades because without those service organizations we’d just be an ordinary community. I think because of all of our service groups that put time and effort into Williamston, it makes us extraordinary.”

Through the organization’s fundraising and volunteering events, Weaver, explains how she has meant so many great community members.

“I love the camaraderie and the fact that I can do anything from maybe getting a new plant somebody shares with me, from getting a tip with what I can do to make the plants I have actually grow, or how I can fight the bug that’s getting my plant down,” said Weaver. “It’s just the being able to rub elbows or shoulders with those who have the same love.”

The club is open to anyone, regardless of one’s gardening experience. There is no Williamston address or attendance requirement. The meetings are held the second Monday of every month. For more details, contact Williamston Chamber of Commerce at 517-655-1549.