THE CHALKBOARD: Penngrove students join the coding movement

SANDY DOYLE PHOTO Max Martinez and Oscar Lara Moya build a table in the Maker Class at Cinnabar Elementary School.


Penngrove Elementary is coding. Last week, Penngrove Elementary participated in the Hour of Code movement, which has become a way to acknowledge and celebrate computer science. “At Penngrove, we’re fortunate to have a STEM program, where students in every grade participate in computer science all the time. Our STEM coach works closely with teachers to help weave coding, digital portfolios, student presentations, and so much more into the regular classroom curriculum,” shares interim principal Maureen Rudder. As with many schools, the Hour of Code started as an introductory lesson to computer science at Penngrove and is now part of the general education program for all students. “We’re proud to be helping students develop their 21st century learning skills in a meaningful way,” says Rudder. Way to go, Penngrove Panthers.

Valley Vista’s Vikings hosted the Wilson Wildcats on the gridiron. The game of flag football last Tuesday wrapped up lunchtime sports with a friendly game, now a tradition, between the two campuses. Coaches Eric Hoppes, Jenna Ackman and Scott Granger supported all the athletes and made good calls throughout the game, reports the cheering section. Way to show great school spirit on both sides.

Students in middle school at Cinnabar Elementary did a Colonial project creating a newspaper to reflect the times of that colony. Principal Sandy Doyle was invited to do the “Museum Walk,” checking out the completed work while students rotated critiquing the newspapers presented. The teacher, Mr. Winston, comes from a family of teachers and his grandmother, a retired teacher, assists on Friday’s in his classroom. Mr. Winston is part of Cinnabar’s Middle School team along with Mr. Ribeiro and Ms. Vanko. Mr. Ribeiro is also running the campus’ middle school Maker Class where Max Martinez and Oscar Lara Moya recently worked on building a table. According to Doyle, students have built bench seats and worked on various STEAM projects in the past thanks to grants acquired through Petaluma Educational Foundation and local private donations to the school.

Crossroads Community Day School students have been embarking on a project that will provide many hours of environmental study. Students put in the first phase of their garden last spring, and already they are seeing an increase in birds and insects to study. They are gearing up to do a soil study comparing this phase one garden soil to the unimproved soil of the next phase garden area — to look for an increase in organic matter, insect activity, and they will send in samples to UC Davis for carbon data study. They just finished laying the foundation of the second garden area by clearing, trenching, composting, and sheet mulching the entire 4,500-square- foot area. In the spring, the space will be planted with California native plants to create butterfly, bird and lizard habitats. Daily Acts, City of Petaluma, Petaluma Garden Club, Santa Rosa School Garden Network, and the US Department of Fish and Game have supported this major project. It is exciting to see the progress and dedication of this team of students working so hard to develop the program.

Former McNear Elementary kindergarten teacher, and current McNear grandparent, Margaret Potts, had an idea for a school-wide project to honor the numerous agencies that responded to the recent fires. Project Gratitude was born when Margaret came across a list of hundreds of first responders from all over the country that came to our aid. The list was narrowed to 375, and each McNear student was invited to write a letter of thanks to an agency. Enlisting sixth-graders, retired teachers, parents and former parents to design letterhead, lead lessons, address and stamp envelopes, the project began to take off. The final step was for students to place a pin in an oversized map indicating the location of all of the agencies to gain an understanding of the scope of impact. Project Gratitude was an opportunity for students to say “Thank you,” but also to understand that help is available when you need it. Many students learned that there are real-life superheroes that don’t necessarily wear capes.

Continuing to spread holiday cheer, the students at Harvest Christian School went caroling. It was a great time of bringing joy to the residents of Springfield Place reports parent Kerri Petersen. The singing was great, but the interaction with the residents afterward was even sweeter and the residents really enjoyed talking to and giving hugs to the children says Petersen. Merry! Merry!

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