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Real hands-on learning

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Valley Vista sixth-graders are in “build-mode,” according to principal Catina Haugen. The students are measuring, cutting and assembling various materials to create underwater ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) to test in a local pool at month’s end. Haugen shares that lead teacher Mr. Granger walks teams through motor assembly, buoyancy adjustments and the teamwork required to complete the underwater obstacle course successfully. The students get a hands-on learning experience with many skills packed into this memorable project.

Petaluma Junior High students take Petaluma being the World’s Egg Capital very seriously. These determined students designed and tested various ways to protect an egg from being dropped to the ground in what Terra Hazen, PJHS librarian and science challenge organizer, named Save Humpty Dumpty from his Fate Challenge. A group of students who had utilized the campus Maker Lab space to design their contraptions, gathered to conduct the challenge. “We had three groups of students whose designs successfully caught an egg falling from more than 3 meters, reports Hassen. This exciting exercise was in preparation for the Naked Egg Drop, one of the events in the Bay Sci Challenge, a fun local science competition happening in March where team events in engineering, design, trivia and the scientific method are presented. Also happening in this creative campus space are catapults, Hit the Spot” paper airplane flights and building a Tower of Strength. Stay tuned for more trial run results.

The school that reads together … McNear Elementary School (the entire school) is getting ready to read Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn-Dixie.” “McNear Reads!” is a program to build community and increase literacy through a common reading experience. Some classroom teachers in the primary grades will be reading this book aloud, but students and families are encouraged to read at home as well so that the entire student body can experience the same story. The event kicks off with a school community breakfast this week. The library has plenty of copies of the book to ensure everyone will have a chance to read it. What a wonderful way to share the love of reading across grade levels.

River Montessori has announced Jan. 27 as the date for its annual Creator Faire. The event, in its third year, is a maker-style community program celebrating hands-on learning, sponsored by the Petaluma Kiwanis Club. Parents, volunteers, nonprofits and local companies will be at tables, under tents and indoors to provide this fun and educational experience for children of all ages — rain or shine according to the event description. New this year: students from across Sonoma County will compete in a Physics Olympics, with awards in three categories: Lego Bridge, Flying High and Ball Launcher. Their creations are tested and their performance will be recorded. The best performing teams will be recognized with awards given in the different categories. Good luck to all.

Keeping things casual and cozy during a cold winter evening is the plan later this month at Corona Creek Elementary and Meadow Elementary schools. Both Waugh District schools will participate in a Simultaneous P.J. Bingo Tournament. The community-building event invites students at both campuses to bring their families to their home campus to engage in friendly rounds of B-I-N-G-O with cookies and milk.

Registration for most public, private and charter schools is currently in taking place with many campuses hosting tours and parent/student information events. Please check with your local district and/or campus for specific details and tour information.

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