THE CHALKBOARD: Mary Poppins pops in at Cinnabar

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Mary Poppins and all her Disney friends arrived on Cinnabar campus last week. Dress Like Your Favorite Disney Character was a creative “welcome back” activity to kick start the second half of the school year for the students. “We had a great day and a huge thank you goes to Mickey Mouse for his personal message to our students,” shared Mary Poppins (superintendent/principal Sandy Doyle). This special visit was not the only guests welcomed to campus in recent weeks. Cinnabar students are enjoying two roosters donated by school board president Jennifer Elu and her daughter, Sarah. Doyle noted that once the roosters, Bristle and Daytona, have settled into campus life, the students will learn how to care for them with guidance from Sarah. Bristle and Daytona will also be on display representing the school during this summer’s fair through the Future Farmers of America program. “We are encouraging our students to learn more about agriculture. It makes Cinnabar feel as if we are a little school located out on a farm,” said Doyle. What a wonderful way for the next generation to learn about the history of our local agriculture in an elementary school setting.

In early December, the robotics teams from McNear Elementary and McKinley Elementary schools came together on the McNear campus to prepare for the Sonoma County Robotics Challenge. McNear kindergarten teacher Freya Sharp shared that McKinley teacher Matt Jackson and McNear parent Ramsey Musallam have been working with students to build and program Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots to participate in a number of challenges for the county event this spring. Sharp noted at this first meeting, the McNear fourth- through sixth-grade robotics team collaborated with McKinley’s seventh- and eighth-grade robotics students on the “Drag Racing Event.” The teams will meet again in a few months to collaborate on other events such as “King of the Hill” and “Sumo Wrestling.” We look forward to updates on their progress as the two schools work together to develop students’ skills in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) curriculum.

Visitors from the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County visited Penngrove Elementary this week. Students in grades transitional kindergarten through fourth-grade experienced all the fun of the museum right on their own campus. The museum offers a “Museum-on-the Go” program, with the focus being on forces and motion with hands-on activities and interactive lessons. The Penngrove Panthers enjoyed the opportunity to explore the remote museum set-up and share in the learning experience.

River Montessori’s fourth annual Creator Faire, a maker-style community event celebrating hands-on learning, will take place on Jan. 26 from noon until 4 p.m. The indoor/outdoor event will be set up at River Montessori Charter School located at 3880 Cypress Drive. Last year, more than 40 different hands-on art and science-centric Creator Stations attracted more than 500 people. This year, the event is expected to be bigger and better, according to Julie Carolan, administration and communications manager at River Montessori. A suggested donation of $7 per person or $25 per family (no one will be turned away for lack of funds) will provide 40-plus art and science, hands-on Creator Stations for families to enjoy. The Petaluma chapter of the Kiwanis Club and Stonecrop Technologies are partnering with River Montessori Foundation to present this event for the community, announced Carolan. Some favorite 2019 Creator Stations are facilitated and sponsored or hosted by: Dylan and Alisha Try It All, FACTS (Families Advocating for Chemical and Toxics Safety); Hamilton Stoneworks; Jayme Cellitioci, Author of “Wonder is My Compass”; Patterson’s Appliance; Pediatric Dentistry; Raymond A. Ramos, D.D.S & Associates; Petaluma ROCKS; Point Blue Conservation Science; STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed); Sage and Salt Nutrition, Steve & Kate’s Camp; Stonecrop Technologies; The Northern California Chapter of the Mars Society; The Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County; The Petaluma Chapter of the Kiwanis Club; Toy B Ville; YPI (Young Performers International). Others are created and run by River Montessori families, like the ever-popular TASBot.

The fifth annual LumaCON!Comic Convention is taking place on Jan. 26 at the Petaluma Community Center and Lucchesi Park. Diana Spaulding, teen and adult services librarian at the Petaluma Regional Library invites all to join in the fun and view student entries alongside professional artists in the Youth Artists’ Alley, Junior Artists Gallery, Written Word contest and more. For event times and additional information about the program, contact Spaulding at or visit the event website at

The PEF online scholarship application portal is open for all members of the Class of 2019 attending any of the seven Petaluma area high schools (Petaluma High, Casa Grande High, St. Vincent High, San Antonio High, Sonoma Mountain High, Carpe Diem High, and Valley Oaks High) looking to pursue further education at 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, and vocational training programs. Completed applications are due by Jan. 23.

Campus tours and open houses are happening now. If you are a parent interested in learning more about specific campuses and enrollment information for the 2019-2020 academic year, please contact schools directly for a schedule of their visiting days and parent information sessions.

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

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