Petaluma students are busy studying the starry skies and learning computer code

The "Littlest Christmas Tree" was performed by the littlest school in town according to the members of the Petaluma Elks Lodge. On Dec. 17, the student body from Lincoln Elementary School — all 12 students — performed its holiday play for the members of Elks Lodge #901. This tight-knit campus on the Marin County border brought a very special gift of holiday spirit to all those in attendance.

The students and staff at Dunham Elementary School enjoyed the annual Science Night two weeks ago. The evening event provided students and families with the opportunity to get together and experience hands-on science. The school's community room and a classroom were filled with a variety of experiments, microscopes and challenging contests. Students explained their displays. This year, the event's organizing team added an egg drop, in which kids and parents built paper devices to protect an egg when dropped from a 4-foot height. Also on hand were members of the Sonoma County Astronomical Society (sonomaskies.org) with telescopes trained on the moon, Venus and other celstial bodies..

Teachers may be interested in knowing about a grant opportunity to possibly support their science curriculum from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The organization is accepting applications for environmental education projects under the agency's Environmental Education Grant Program. The program works to engage communities across the country through a wide variety of educational projects that have a lasting impact on people's health by facilitating environmental stewardship.

For more information, visit eegrants@epa.gov.

Many schools in the Petaluma area participated in the Hour of Code event last week as part of the National Computer Science Education Week activities including Kenilworth and Petaluma junior highs. Petaluma Junior High had more than 20 students participate in the program. Principal Renee Semik reported it was a great turn out for the school for the first of its kind event. Some students had already worked through the first level or two at home before they came to the Hour of Code, so they quickly got to the practice coding in Java. All of them worked individually, but when they got stuck, wanted some advice, or had occasion to celebrate their successful coding, they shared with students and staff around the room. After the students completed their initial coding, which included learning how to program moves in Angry Birds, they got a digital certificate of completion that they were asked to email to the hosting teachers, Sara Brooks-Long and Terra Hazen. Several students asked if they could come back the following day at lunch to continue to work on their coding projects. Semik shared the good news that with code.org, they can work on it any time.

Budding computer scientists in Mr. D-Z's room at McKinley Elementary School also participated in a nationwide campaign to get students working on computer code for an hour in the classroom. The kids coded solutions to a progressively more difficult maze, first as a class, then in partners. They then moved on to building projects together using the Hopscotch Visual Programming app.

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