THE CHALKBOARD: McKinley fourth graders set sail to adventure

FACEBOOK PHOTO Petaluma's FFA members collected joy in fundraiser they held at Tractor Supply.


Students attending fourth grade at Petaluma Accelerated Charter School on the McKinley Elementary campus set sail on quite the adventure last week. With their sailor caps on and quills in hand, the young adventure-seeking mariners in Mr. D-Z’s (Matthew De Lucia-Zeltzer) classroom chronicled their travels across the Atlantic Ocean in the second phase of their history simulation. For this creative learning exercise, the students were organized into small crews, taking on roles like helmsman, boatswain and ship’s surgeon as they contended with the dangers of early exploration. They tracked their progress in a ship’s Log and wrote in their own personal log each day about the trials and tribulations of the crew. Using quills, they wrote in formal script on antiqued stained paper detailing the route just as those taking the journey back in the year 1495.

McDowell Elementary School Monarchs were busy in November with lots of fun campus activities, according to principal Lauri Anderson. McDowell had a fantastic November, continuing to focus on the campus core values program. November was the month of perseverance. Anderson shares that the Monarchs demonstrated this value as they learned and cooperated on a new sport through the lunchtime leagues: flag football. The weather cooperated during the month, and permitted some great competition. The student-led Friday Flyers assembly empowered students to share their understanding of what perseverance is, and why it is important. Students never gave up. They used the message of the core value and applied it to raising money for their PTA Walk-a-Thon event, despite needing to postpone because of our community’s fire emergencies. “Families and students worked hard to raise money for our PTA’s ambitious projects this year, beating last year’s school total. We celebrated a fun-filled Turkey Trot Walk-a-Thon together on Nov. 17.” Anderson promises December will be another month full of learning and fun, this time deepening the student understanding of respect as the core value focus continues at McDowell School. Go McDowell Monarchs!

Ms. Anne teaches a unit on The Life Cycle of Bats at Cinnabar Elementary. “I just love how she displays the students paper rendition of bats in her classroom. The backdrop shows each step of the life cycle in her second-grade classroom of enthusiastic scientists,” shares Sandy Doyle, Superintendent/Principal of Cinnabar. While making her daily visits to classrooms, Doyle is excited to share all the adventures ahead for the students; like Cinnabar School’s third-grade classes participating in the LandPaths’ In Our Own Backyard program this school year. The students will be going on four field trips for hands-on science activities to cultivate a connection to, and appreciation of, the outdoors, according to Doyle. In Ms. Wurr’s class, the students enjoyed a great day at the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility last week, discovering and exploring the surrounding area. They saw many species of birds, deer, jackrabbits and a crawdad, and found footprints of other animals that live in the area. They learned about the salt marsh harvest mouse, and the plants that grow at Ellis Creek. The third-graders loved to walk on the trails together, as well as to sit by themselves to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Petaluma wetlands, reports Wurr. At one point, students formed a human chain to remove a plastic bucket from a marshy area during a science lesson near one of the Ellis Creek ponds.

Petaluma Educational Foundation’s annual PEF Scholarship Program is officially “live” as of Nov. 1. The online application process is for students currently attending any Petaluma area high school who is planning to graduate this school year. The program offers awards for those looking to attend 4-year, 2-year and vocational programs following graduation. The application portal will close Jan. 24. To access the site, visit, click on the Scholarship tab and select the application link. Last year, PEF awarded $208,550 in scholarships bringing the total awards to $3,132,185 since the program was first launched in 1990.

Wow, what a great way to kick off the holiday season! Petaluma FFA students at Petaluma High School hosted a student craft booth at Tractor Supply last weekend. The items were all made as part of class and program projects. Together the group of students raised about $2,300 between sales and donations. In addition to the fundraising, Tractor Supply surprised the students by offering a special shopping discount so they could use the proceeds to fill a total of seven overflowing shopping carts of toys for children who were affected by the recent fires. Great work, Petaluma FFA members!

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