The Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary School gym roared with laughter, cheering and excitement as a handful of lucky students tested their appetite to participate in a human version of the well-known children’s game, “Hungry Hungry Hippos.”

In a superhero learning assembly held Jan. 29, Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary students were recognized for their achievements in math and reading. Ten students received the opportunity to participate in the game as a reward for reaching their math and reading goals set by teachers in the beginning of the school year.

This was the second of four superhero assemblies. Students achieving 25% or 50% of goals set in either reading or math had their names entered into a drawing for a chance to participate in the activity. Ten students — from kindergarten to fourth grade — were chosen to participate.

Participants laid down face down on a scooter while a teacher held onto their feet to push them into the center of the gym in hopes of collecting as many balls and bean bags as possible. Each student was assigned a teacher, who ensured their safety. Students held onto a laundry basket to grab the items and pull them back toward the wall, where they placed them into a hula hoop. They also got to wear a super hero cape, as part of the assembly’s theme.

The assemblies are a fun way to encourage achievement in the classroom. As someone who enjoys math, Caden Starkson, seems to agree.

“It was really fun, this was my first time [participating in one of the assembly activities],” said Starkson, recognized for his achievement in math.

Judging by the smile on Sophia Belcher’s face before, during and after the activity, it was clear that she agreed with Starkson.

Elementary school Principal Katy Schuerman, who Tracy Erlandson says is the mastermind behind the superhero assembly activities, challenges herself to make the one activity more fun than the last, which proves to be a hard task at times.

“Last time we had four teachers dress in superhero gear, and we put a shower cap on them and filled it with shaving cream. The kids threw cheeseballs at them and the team that had the most stuck on won,” said Schuerman. “I was worried about not being able to up it and the other day I saw something about the “Hungry Hungry Hippo” game, and knew that was the activity.”


Schuerman says that the elementary school started goal setting with parents and students three years ago. Teachers track students’ progress in math and reading throughout the year, with four assemblies held to celebrate 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% acquisition of goals. Outstanding readers and mathematicians are recognized at every assembly, whether or not they reached their goals.

“We recognize acquisition toward the goal and it’s one of our ways that we can help students learn persistence,” said Schuerman. “We do not make the goals easy, it takes some grit to get to and that’s the message we want students to have, you have to work hard and sometimes you fall short but we will continue recognizing them along their way of reaching 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% acquisition of their goals.”

Every grade level sets a specific goal.

For students to achieve 50% in reading, kindergartners must read to themselves for 10 minutes, first-graders are challenged to recognize the first 100 sight words, second-graders need to bring their “book in a bag” back 80% of the time, third-graders must read to themselves for 20 minutes a week and depending of what teacher fourth-graders have, they must either be halfway through the number of books or words they chose to read for the entire year or have read six different genres of books.

Fifty percent acquisition in math requires kindergartners to recognize numbers from 0 to 31, first-graders must identify numbers 0 to 120 with 80% accuracy, second graders are either working on +8’s or beyond, third-graders have mastered all 100 subtractions questions on the website, which is similar to the fourth-graders’ goals.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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