THE CHALKBOARD: Bees, maps and pumpkin fun

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The fourth-grade GATE project at Grant Elementary School invited students to bring in something to represent each of California’s four geographical regions. Instructions asked students to cover the regions on a map with materials relating to the location. Next, they were asked to explain their perspective regarding what was used on the map. Coming up at Grant is a creative learning event being held on Election Day, Nov. 6. “Handwriting the Constitution” will feature special guest Bibi Summer, who will lead sixth-grade students through a focused workshop where as a group, they will closely examine the United States Constitution. Sounds like students are engaged in innovative activities offering hands-on learning.

Honey, Where Are My Bees? That was the big question at La Tercera last week. On Wednesday, Ettamarie Peterson from the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association visited the La Tercera fourth-graders to share her knowledge of bees, specifically honey bees, according to teacher Kristy Corbett. “People are bees biggest enemy,” explained Peterson, who went on to share, “we have a job to do to change that.” The students are learning about bees in their beginning of the year-long Project Based Learning program. They had built prior knowledge in the science lab about the life cycle of bees as well as honeybee facts, shares Corbett. “In science lab we figured out there are 20,000 types of bees,” says fourth-grade student, Arianna. “It takes 21 days for a bee to hatch from the egg,” offers classmate Peyton. During her visit, Peterson showed the students the trays that are located in the hive. “How do you get the honey?” wondered student Lindsey. Peterson explained how the wax is scraped off and then spun in a honey extractor. “The fruits and vegetables we eat won’t be here if the bees cannot spread the pollen” was one of the key lessons she shared during her special guest visit.

Harvest Christian School’s second-graders visited Spring Hill Dairy’s Peter Pumpkin Patch to take in the fall harvest. New teacher Miss Brown said, “this is a great time of year for our kids to get out and learn about growing pumpkins and harvesting the bounty our local Sonoma County brings, but most of all, we just like to have some fun.” The kids got to play in the corn kernels, pet the animals, look for pumpkins, and Miss Brown milked a cow.

It is Red Ribbon Week at Sonoma Mountain Charter Elementary School. This week is Red Ribbon Week with the theme “Life Is Your Journey, Travel Drug Free.” All this is a great opportunity to reinforce with your child the importance of making positive, good choices every day and to take care of themselves. Students and staff will show their Red Ribbon Spirit with various spirit days — wearing red on Monday; wearing something that reminds students of your favorite place (Hawaiian shirt, a Disney dress, a hat from their favorite lake) on Tuesday. Wednesday was The Future is Bright day with students wearing neon and Thursday is Sock It to Drugs — Wear Silly Socks. Friday caps off the week with students wearing the school colors of teal and purple.

Learn to code, make your own apps and have fun with math is what Meadow and Corona Creek elementary schools are offering through the after-school STEAM classes in the Waugh District. Students in grades first through third can take Fun with Computers to gain the basic skills of early coding exercises while practicing reading along with mouse and keyboarding skills. Students in third through six grades can participate in MIT Scratch with programming language for games, animation and applications taught to teams that are building portfolios of Scratch projects. Fourth- through sixth-graders can also choose to join the Math Team class. This program is for those wanting to build skills and deepen math logic and problem solving in a setting where ideas and insights are shared, along with a few contest challenges.

Casa Welcomes Parent Institute for Quality Education this school year. Well over 100 Casa parents attended the first PIQE workshop last Thursday night, according to principal Eric Backman. The event, held in the Big House Library, is a new program on campus. Backman reports PIQE will offer a series of nine evening sessions designed to support parents of first-generation students and to empower families to be informed and engaged partners with their school and teachers. Contact Casa Grande High School for more information on meeting topics and scheduled dates for presentations.

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

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