THE CHALKBOARD: Holiday fun with giving, feasting and gift making

FACEBOOK PHOTO Sonoma Mountain Charter School sixth graders graduated from the DARE program taught by a Petaluma Police Officer.


Happy Holidays all around!

Several schools participated in local food and donation drives to support the community. Others performed holiday songs for those living in care facilities or for their school communities at various social events. Carrying on the holiday spirit, one local campus got creative and had its school featured as one of the displays at the Petaluma Hotel second annual Gingerbread House Contest. The main school building and entryway were built out of gingerbread, gumdrops and lots and lots of white frosting. We even spotted a snowman made of marshmallows welcoming gingerbread students to school as part of the display. Congratulations, McDowell Monarchs for having your school take center stage at this seasonal community event.

Wilson Elementary School hosted its annual Gifts from the Heart program on Friday, Dec. 15. This is a day when every student gets the opportunity to make gifts for their families. It is a special tradition for Wilson Wildcats and creates wonderful memories for all involved — especially those receiving these handmade treasures for these sweet students.

The community of Cinnabar Elementary School donates gently used items to the fifth grade to sell in its annual Holiday Shop, according to principal Sandy Doyle. The money earned goes toward the class outdoor education program at Walker Creek in March. The fifth-grade students set up the store the day before, deciding the cost of the items, ranging from 50 cents to $5. When “customers” arrive, they are assigned a personal shopper who assists in calculating the gifts purchased based on how much money each student “customer” brought. The fifth-graders set up, manage and close the store. All items purchased come with complimentary wrapping and tagging so they go home ready to be placed under the tree. “The students are so proud to both shop for family holiday gifts as well as manage the store,” shares Doyle.


Science for the season was reported happening at Vincent de Paul Elementary School this month. Some curious third-grade students predicted and observed which liquid would dissolve a candy cane the quickest in the campus science lab. Half the class predicted that vinegar would dissolve the candy the quickest, while the other half believed it would be the warm water. The experiment proved that warm water did the job more quickly, while the vinegar was the slowest according to the school’s report on the project.

Sonoma Mountain Charter School is celebrating its sixth-graders as they graduate from the well-known local DARE Program. “Our students have been working with Officer Rivera from the Petaluma Police Department for the past 10 weeks, and have learned strategies to lead happy, healthy, and responsible lives,” shares Principal Michele Gochberg. Proud to see your participation in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program — keep up the great work, SoMo students.

Genius Hour comes to McKinley’s PACS program. Young scholars in Mr. D-Z’s class chose a topic that interested them, developed questions for research, and dove deep into learning more about it. According to Mr. D-Z, the sky is the limit on the topics the students could choose to explore. The students presented their passion projects on Dec. 14 to an audience of their peers and families. Topics ranged from bearded dragons to horse diseases, even cheese and the Tesla Coil, reports Mr. D-Z. Their presentations were articulate, engaging and full of information, says D-Z, who thinks his students did an amazing job on this fun academic project.

Most of the local schools are now accepting registration requests for the 2018-2019 school year. Please be sure to check your district and campus for specific deadlines and details.

Happy holidays to all! May your celebrations be merry and bright. Looking forward to sharing even more news about the amazing students and schools in our community in 2018. Stay tuned …

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