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THE CHALKBOARD: Crossroads preparing outdoor classroom

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Karen Kesseru, a teacher at Crossroads who obtained the Fish and Wildlife grant for a California Natives Outdoor Classroom, reports the students have contributed many hours preparing the site by weeding, digging a trench around the perimeter, spreading compost and mulch and forming rain gardens. “Last week, they spent three mornings working with Daily Acts reps and teachers to plant more than 220 California native plants to form pollinator and bird habitats. Gophers have proven to be not our only formidable obstacle to realizing this project through to completion.” Kesseru shares that students are proud to know they turned a dry, weed-infested hillside into a beautiful, nurturing learning environment that other students at PJHS should enjoy for years to come. Crossroads teacher Mike Watts adds the members of the ninth-grade class is in the process of building insect hotels to attract pollinators, as well as fabricating mole cages in an attempt to keep little critters from munching on the new roots.

Congratulations to several Spanish-language students from San Antonio High School and Valley Oaks School who attained national recognition for excellent performance on the 2018 National Spanish Examinations. Students from San Antonio and Valley Oaks Schools earned a total of three gold, one silver and one bronze medals along with four honorable mentions. “Attaining a medal or honorable mention for any student on the National Spanish Examinations is very prestigious because the exams are the largest of their kind in the United States with over 150,000 students participating in 2018,” said Kevin Cessna-Buscemi, national director of the exams. Principal Rebecca Lofton notes, “Our students have a history of high achievement on these exams, and were taught by our amazing Spanish teacher, Señora Burroughs. Additionally, three of our students successfully took the ‘credit by exam’ Spanish test at SRJC with one of our ninth-grade students earning an A.” The National Spanish Examinations are administered each year in grades 6-12, and are sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Harvest Christian School participated in the Middle School Sports League Track Meet held Friday in Santa Rosa. The event was for all sixth- through eighth-graders in the league. Students competed in track and field events such as high jump, long jump, shot put and a variety of running events. Kudos to all those who were part of the athletic program. Also happening at Harvest is the annual student theatrical production. This year, the cast put on three amazing shows. “Part of the Classical curriculum we offer at Harvest is performing arts,” says vice principal and performing arts instructor Jake Aharonian. “It is important that we bring these types of opportunities to the school for our students to act and sing and perform large productions for an audience.” Last year, Harvest performed “Annie” and prior to that, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Sound of Music” and “The Music Man” in previous years. “It takes months and months of preparation in addition to the acting and singing practices including costumes and set creation. We have a wonderful team of supporters and volunteers that help make it all come together,” says principal Jon Wraith.

Valley Vista’s Vikings have been busy practicing for their third-grade play, “Mission to Mars,” taking place on May 23. The students are also gearing up for the chorus and band concert on May 24.

The Petaluma Health Care District is hosting its annual Community Partnership Appreciation Breakfast event on Wednesday where guests are encouraged to bring a book to support the Community Health Initiative for Petaluma Area Little Free Libraries program. Donations of new or very gently used books for babies through young adults in English or Spanish will be made available through distribution boxes in the Burbank Housing properties in Petaluma. It is a wonderful way to encourage reading and offer access to books outside of the academic setting of a classroom, especially as summer approaches. For more information on how to donate books to this program for local students, contact Erin Hawkins at erinh@phcd.org.

Congratulations to all the students who participated in this week’s Eastside Relay and Westside Relay. These annual events are hosted at Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools with members of the track and field teams assisting coaches and teachers with the coordination of the meets. They are always great events with a tremendous amount of good sportsmanship and school spirit on display.

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