THE CHALKBOARD: Grant helps Petaluma FFA program grow

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Petaluma High School students participating in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program were performing macronutrient testing in soil chemistry last week using the classes’ new kits from a NCAP grant award. The focus of the grant is on developing agriscience curriculum and provides the materials, supplies and equipment needed to deliver that curriculum. Petaluma High’s agriculture department is excited to have been a member of this consortium, and has developed and implemented three new agriscience courses; Sustainable Ag, Biology, Agriculture and Soil Chemistry and Agricultural Systems Management. These courses were developed with the UCCI and all are aligned with entrance requirements for California state colleges and universities. The Agricultural Systems Management course is actually designated as an honors course due to its rigor. “Thus far the grant has provided funding for several projects including new cabinets and work tables in the Agriscience Classroom, textbooks for the new chemistry course, lab materials for both the biology and chemistry courses, upgrades and updates to our greenhouse, a new truck for travel and student project supervision as well as professional development for our teachers and funding for leadership activities for our students,” shares teachers Jake Dunn and Kim Arntz.

Harvest Christian School junior high students participated in a friendly pancake-baking competition where the winner is awarded the Golden Spatula trophy. A mixture of seventh- and eighth-graders concocted their own pancake recipes for a delicious breakfast, according to Harvest’s Jake Aharonian. The annual tradition calls for the passing of the Golden Spatula award to the student cook with the best pancakes voted on by staff. This year’s winners are Kayla Crook, Olivia Alexander, Gabriel Smith, Zach Parelius and Courtney Kroyer.

Wilson Elementary School recently held the school’s annual Geography Bee and Spelling Bee. These are fun learning experiences for all of the participants, reports Principal/Superintendent Eric Hoppes. “We invite parents to join our third- through sixth-grade students as our audience for these events,” Hoppes said. “This year, both events were very competitive, with Adin Casarotti narrowly beating out Michelle Lauritzen to win the Geography Bee. It was Casarotti’s second win. We have a new commemorative plaque in our office that will show his consecutive wins.” The Spelling Bee was recorded as another tight (but friendly) battle. Casarotti and Aidan Jenks will move on to the county competition. Other news from Wilson School has several students working on their 5-minute Film Festival entries in the after-school Film Club. The club is run by the campus technology coordinator with the digital media tools needed for these young filmmakers coming from a recent PEF Impact Grant.

When Sandy Doyle took the reins at Cinnabar School this year, she had a plan to bring the community to the campus in ways that made both visitors and students feel engaged in something special. Doyle has community member volunteers come to campus one or two times a week, during lunch, to provide activities for students. The following Lunch Clubs are currently on campus: Ballet Club, Lego Club, Crochet Club, Art Club, Band Club, Choir Club, Doggy 101 and Organized Sports Club. So far students, and those community members offering their talents, are enjoying their time together.

Corona Creek Elementary, with support for the district’s WISE Foundation, hosted a student art show on Jan. 18. The art exhibit showcased art concepts taught by Cara Markovich as part of the campus curriculum this year in grades TK-6th. It was a wonderful evening interacting with these young artists who were excited to share their masterpieces with their friends and families.

Art Adventure Week 2018 is coming soon to Sonoma Mountain Elementary. The entire campus will engage in a variety of artistic outlets for all ages during this annual creative program. The fun-filled art adventure kicked off with Family Art Night. Ms. Yurth identified great projects for students in all grades and invited SoMo alumni to volunteer as part of the campus community activity. What a great way to get involved and give back.

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

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