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THE CHALKBOARD: Busy week as schools prepare for spring break

Over at Wilson Elementary School sixth-graders are on their Outdoor Education Adventure at Walker Creek Camp. Principal Eric Hoppes also shares a campus Geography Bee was held on March 8. After several rounds, Adin Casarotti, a fifth-grader, was named the competition winner. He received a medal, and his name will go on the perpetual plaque that will hang in the upper grade hallway. The academic competition was open to all fourth- through sixth-grade students with six students qualifying based on an online Geography Quiz administered through the school. The top students then competed for the Wilson School Geography crown. “It is a fun event, and one more way kids get the chance to perform in front of a crowd, offering some wonderful life skills along with an academic demonstration. We are proud of all of the contestants,” shares Hoppes. Congratulations, Adin!

La Tercera’s Elementary School students were some of the youngest participants at the Sonoma County Office of Education STEAM Showcase at Luther Burbank Center on March 3. “As students and teachers from Sonoma County’s first STEM school, it was an honor and a pleasure to participate. Our first-graders presented the life cycle of a butterfly using hyperduino. This technology allows student presentations to be heard at the touch of a button. Second graders shared their knowledge of pollination and the hand pollinators they created. Our fourth graders have been working with San Francisco State and learning about the Zombee. They shared their learnings about the declining bee population and their Zombee traps,” shares teacher on special assignment Kristy Corbett. According to Corbett, each grade soared through the 20-minute judges interview, answering questions with ease and confidence. While students were not presenting, they were able to view the work of older students to gain inspiration, ponder scientific principles and engage with the other displays. What a wonderful way for these students to demonstrate their understanding of the scientific concepts.

The Petaluma Arts Center welcomed Grant Elementary School students last week to participate in a Visual Thinking Strategy Activity accessing current art displays. This academic tool provides students skills initiated by teacher-facilitated discussions of art images, and documented to have a cascading positive effect on teachers and students, according to the program website vtshome.org. The instruction offers thinking skills that become habitual and transfer from lesson to lesson, oral and written language literacy, visual literacy and collaborative interactions among peers. Students from Ms. Ihrig’s sixth-grade class used VTS while observing the Petaluma Arts Center’s exhibition “Discovered: Emerging Visual Artists of Sonoma County.” The VTS facilitators were Karen Tribble, former teacher from the Old Adobe District, and Garth Bixler, a Petaluma Arts Center board member.

The 10th annual Westside Band Festival takes place on April 26 from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the Petaluma High School Gymnasium. This year’s event will be a night of fun and incredible student music, culminating in performers from grades four through 12 participating in the Grand Finale.

St. Vincent de Paul High School will be host the Bay Area Junior High Speech & Debate Tournament on March 25. The competition format consists of two areas: Speech and Debate. The competition is open to any middle schooler in the Bay Area. Current SVHS debate team members are available to the teams for coaching. The SVHS Debate team is currently ranked as one of the top in the nation, so this is an incredible opportunity for up and coming debaters to learn from some of the best local student resources.

(Maureen Highland is a Petaluma mother and executive director for the Petaluma Educational Foundation. She can be reached at schools@arguscourier.com.)