Tustin, LeRoy families enjoy Kettunen outing

TUSTIN — When elementary students and their parents saw a snake in the woods on a nature hike Thursday, the opportunity served as a chance to learn about the animal.

“Snakes like to come out when it’s warm,” explained Kettunen Center program coordinator Laura Jacobson.

Tustin and LeRoy elementary schools teamed up with the Kettunen Center for a night of fun family activities at the camp in Tustin. Along with the nature hike, the event brought families together for family reading, observations of animal skulls and furs, and animal habitat games played outdoors.

“It’s great to see families having fun together,” said Tustin Elementary principal Al Thomas. “Many families are so busy with sports and activities that they don’t have time to spend together.”

With help of the Pine River junior honor’s society, 100 people, students and their families, enjoyed the evening at the camp. Students in the family reading session played get-to-know-you bingo, asking parents and other students in the room to sign bingo card if they had characteristics such as being a twin or having a pet cat or having had pizza for dinner last week. Students also received books and won prizes.

Jordan Gonsalez, fourth grader at Tustin Elementary, came with a friend’s family and said his favorite part of the evening was winning a gift certificate at the family reading session.

“I am so happy I came to this,” Jordan said.

The evening was part of three family nights this school year funded by a $200,000 Positive Action Grant from the Lake County Courthouse. The three-year title five grant began in the 2010-2011 school year and also funded a Positive Action teaching curriculum for preschool — grade 12 teachers to incorporate into their lessons.

The term “Positive Action” includes anything that reinforces positive action in children, such as parent fun nights, bullying prevention and other positive initiatives.

“There’s always a positive solution to any problem and the kids are being taught that from the very beginning,” said Kim Loop, Lake County Juvenile Court supervisor. “It changes the culture of the school.”

The grant is also used to fund positive action initiatives in other Lake County schools and programs including Baldwin Schools and Tustin and LeRoy Headstart, as well as D.A.R.E program and Baldwin Department of Human Services.

“Positive actions lead to positive thoughts, which leads to positive feelings which leads to positive actions,” Loop said. “Our intent (with this grant) was to change the belief system of the kids from negative to positive.”