Fort Dodge Community School District

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Do You Like Pickles? - from The Messenger

August 25, 2021

Paxton Chance, 9, a fourth-grader, had a pretty good ice breaker for the first day of school at Duncombe Elementary School on Tuesday.

"Do you like pickles?" Chance asked while getting to know students in Kristin Johnson's class.

"Do you like the smell of pickles?" Chance continued.

When the answer to both of those questions was answered, "yes," he pulled out a green marker and had classmate Asa Piromis, 9, take a whiff.

The reaction appeared favorable when Piromis gave a smile.

"I got blueberries and coconuts, too," Chance said.

Unfortunately, not all of the markers had a pleasant smell.

"Do you want to smell a stinky marker?" Chance asked.

That one was labeled "old rotten tooth."

"That's really gross," Piromis said.

Meanwhile, students were playing an ice breaker dice game. Nearby, Jenny Litwiller, a teacher who specializes in English Language Learning, was working with a new group of students.

Litwiller said she was happy to be back in school.

"I have a lot of new students this year," she said. "I love meeting them and helping them get adjusted."

"The hugs and smiles" are among her favorite things about starting school.

"It's great to be back in the building with kids," Litwiller said.

One noticeable change at Duncombe this year is the addition of fifth-graders to the building. Throughout the district, kindergarten classes were moved to one location at the new Early Childhood Center, while fifth-grade classes moved out of the middle school and back to the elementaries.

Sue Martin is one of the fifth-grade teachers who were getting students back into the swing of things.

Her class played a game called "Are you more like sand or dirt?"

Another game helped to show students how they are similar.

"You name a category like swimming and the students who like to swim stand up," Martin said.

The first day is mostly about understanding rules and expectations.

"We go over rules," she said. "Establish community. Getting to know each other."

But expectations aren't just for students. Martin also posted expectations for herself, which include: be helpful, be kind, be fun and do your job.

Being good listeners, being respectful, having fun and smiling are among expectations for students.

After the games, Martin noticed students interacting with each other.

"I really like that you guys are talking to each other," Martin said.

Principal Ryan Flaherty was happy to welcome students.

"I love all the excitement from the adults and the kids," Flaherty said. "All the positive energy in the building."

One of his favorite parts of starting a new year is welcoming students who have never been to Duncombe before.

"One of the treasures is students starting for the first time and welcoming them to our family," Flaherty said. "We try to make everyone feel part of our family."

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