Weather MachineMeteorologist Andy Parker from Channel 2’s WGRZ television spent the afternoon with the students of St. John’s.  As part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiative, Mr. Parker brought the infamous “Weather Machine” to Klauder Hall and dazzled students, faculty, and parents alike!  The Weather Machine is a great learning tool for students to experience problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning and actively engage in situations in order to find its solution. "Green Energy" elements of The Weather Machine were also highlighted during his nearly 90 minute long presentation.

St. John’s School has been endeavoring to win a visit from the “Weather Machine” for a couple of years now.  Each month, schools from across WNY have the opportunity to win if the school wins the most votes.  Large public schools often have the edge due to their sheer size.  Two SJS faculty members, Kindergarten assistant Mrs. Laurie Krygier and 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Carol Schaeffer, became passionate advocates for landing the weather machine at St. Johns.  They began sending in “extra credit” projects and eventually the efforts of everyone paid off! 

 Students from Pre-K through grade 8 were engaged and enthused upon seeing the presentation.  One third grader commented, “It was my best day yet this year at school and that even includes Halloween!”  An eighth grader indicated, “I never realized the various sciences that went into weather forecasting.”  Thanks to all those in the Ken-Ton who helped make St. John’s dream to host the weather machine come true!


Nickel CitySTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been a keen focus of St. John's curriculum. With its math scores for graduating 8th graders in the top 2 to 3 schools in all of WNY, St. John’s students know their stuff.  So, just how does the faculty capture the interest of its students?   This year particular emphasis has been placed on bringing science to the school to make concrete, meaningful connections of the scientific theory taught in the classrooms to the actual science swirling around us in everyday life.  Recently, Jeff Musial of Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics dazzled students by showcasing an assortment of exotic animals, including reptiles, mammals, and amphibians.  From a furry tarantula that sat upon a student’s hat, to a playful spider monkey, an adorable bear cat, and many other varieties, students learned about how animals preserve and thrive in our environment.  A myriad of issues were presented including preservation, conservation and sustaining habitats.

“When you look at how our economy has changed over the past couple decades, as well as the focus of the world’s economy, there’s no doubt that math, science, computers, and writing will be the key skills required of tomorrow’s adults,” says Linda Garrity, head of the school’s Math Department.  “As a faculty, we endeavor to find “real world” examples of these disciplines to instill a genuine enthusiasm into children.  Some of our greatest scientists found their passion at a very early age, like Steve Jobs and Neil Armstrong!  We’re thrilled to bring these programs to our school; we had the weather machine last month, and we have others lined up including a planetarium, health and wellness, and a dental program.”


Jonathan Burgard, alias “Slim Goodbody,” brought his message to promote healthy bodies and smart food choices to the students of St. John’s in Kenmore as part of their spring fitness campaign.  Burgard, who performs in conjunction with the national “Slim Goodbody” tour, enlightened students Slim Goodbooyfor over 90 minutes using song, music, and lots of audience participation to drive home his message.  The program is designed to teach the fundamentals of anatomy, nutrition, fitness, and personal hygiene.  Moreover, promoting self-respect and motivating students to be the best they can be are the over-arching themes infused throughout the presentation.

Mrs. Cynthia Jacobs, Principal of St. John’s, was determined to bring this program to her students now.  Mrs. Jacobs states, “Over the past twenty years, the number of overweight children in our nation has tripled to over nine million children.  It’s important to instill good nutrition and exercise habits at an early age and through multiple channels.  Parents are their primary teachers, but physicians, coaches, and educators can reinforce this message, too!  The Slim Goodbody program is such an appealing and engaging means to educate our kids.”  Throughout the program, audience members ranging from age 4 to 14 were called up to assist with various demonstrations, from breathing techniques to spider push-ups.  Mrs. Jacobs summed up the day saying, “When you have kids laughing and clapping and begging for the opportunity to participate and learn, you know the program is effectively delivering its message.  And, respecting and caring for one’s body is such a vital message for our youth to embrace!”


Poet and author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater captivated students at St. John's with her enthusiastic and appealing presentation. Author of “A Forest Has a Song” and two other books, VanDerwater’s passion for poetry was hard to deny. Although the poet lives in Holland, NY, for more than a 1decade she’s travelled around the country to workshops to hundreds of teachers and students about writing style and process. The four presentations she delivered to the St. John’s students were tailored to each age group, allowing her to fully engage students through interactive dialogue and in the hands on materials such passed around, such as pieces of fur or animal bones that inspired her own creative writing process. VanDerwater discussed how she finds ideas to write about and offered many readily understood writing tips, such as choosing ‘voice’ and ‘point of view’ during the process. Moreover, she challenged students to pursue whatever their passion is with rigor, stating it’s often the interests that fascinate us when we’re young that could serve as inspiration and motivation for future education decisions and careers.
The author visited the school’s “Poetry Café,” where she dined with a couple students from several grades to further discuss writing and her career. VanDerwater loved the school’s idea to set up a poetry café, where teachers could go with their students to a quiet room to grab a snack and be surrounded in a warm, comfortable atmosphere to stimulate the writing process. Following lunch, the author spent some additional time with fourth graders where they had a poetry exchange; she read some of her poems to them while some of the students shared their writings with her. 

VanDerwater also writes a column for “Edible Buffalo” and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio. She affectionately refers to her rural home as “The Poem Farm,” where she lives with five people (her husband and children), two dogs, five cats, eight sheep, one bunny, five chickens, one fish, and countless critters in the field, creeks, and forest. The students and faculty thoroughly enjoyed having her at St. John’s and learning about her fascinating craft and style!