THE CHALKBOARD: Loma Vista students celebrate Lunar New Year

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Let the celebration begin! Loma Vista Immersion Academy students rang in the Lunar New year last week with a school-wide family fun night. Parent Laine Gen shares, on Friday, Loma Vista Immersion Academy celebrated the Lunar New Year with a community building night of food, crafts and entertainment. The Redwood Empire Chinese Association performed a Lion Dance and then invited students to participate and experience the costumes and drumming. Local restaurants Simmer and City Chopsticks donated delicious Vietnamese and Chinese food and fifth-grade students ran a crafts table for making lanterns, Year of the Pig puppets and fans. School librarian Alex Porrata also helped the students raise money for sixth-grade camp by raffling off baskets of books in English and Spanish about Lunar New Year.

Students are bringing history to life at McDowell Elementary School with models of California missions. The fourth-grade scholars in Room C3 displayed their own handcrafted models of the landmarks. Maestra Nealon reports her students have been actively learning about the California Native American experience since the beginning of the school year. “During our research, students have learned about the impact the early California missions had on the hunter-gatherer economy. Many students chose to make a model of their mission to be displayed in the McDowell School library after our class oral presentations,” the teacher said.

During the first week of February, River Montessori Charter School’s lower elementary classes attended a symphony performance at Green Music Center. The students were also treated to a sighting of Petaluma’s own Clover Sonoma Clo the Cow as she entered “stage right” making a special appearance as part of the day’s musical adventure. Just the week before, River’s transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes went exploring at Ellis Creek. The fun afternoon trek made for a memorable experience. The children wandered along the path and read information displayed at each viewing area describing the local habit of birds and other animals living in the space.

Shamrocks on the move from Westminster Woods to Coloma and on to San Francisco. Grant School students wasted no time in making the most of their class trips starting with the tradition of Outdoor Education camp in Occidental. Sixth-graders made the most of their stay by tackling the ropes course, sharing meals and learning just as much about each other as the outdoor classroom environment they called home for a few days. Grant fifth-graders embarked on their own journey over the bridge and through the park to land at the De Young Museum in San Francisco last week. Students spent the day exploring the museum, including a stop at the De Young Observation Deck. Fourth-graders boarded the bus and headed to Coloma for an overnight field trip to gain hands-on learning about our state’s history during the Gold Rush days. Lucky for these young adventurers they made it home before the heavy snows hit.

The big story in local weather has been the heavy rainfall. The students and staff at Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley have been working on a project for a while now to capture this natural resource and use it on campus to construct a water harvesting system with recycled food grade barrels. Partnering with Daily Acts and BlueBarrel Systems, the school community is learning the principles and practices of rainwater harvesting and gaining hands-on experience in outdoor plumbing assembly, ventilation and filtration practices, downspout tie-in and overflow, according to the school’s recent newsletter. A workshop scheduled for this weekend will be lead by Damien McAnany of Abundant Earth: Deep Green Land Design. The program invites students and parents to work together to build a 12-unit BlueBarrel System with lessons on outdoor plumbing assembly, ventilation and filtration practices, downspout tie-in and overflow.

On Tuesday, Miwok Valley Elementary Charter School hosted the Young Athletes Program. According to principal Mary Reynolds, the Young Athletes Program is a sports and play program that introduces children, ages 2-7, to the world of sports through fun activities such as walking on a low balance beam, jumping on targets, and throwing/catching/kicking a ball. “The essential learning for all students is one of acceptance and inclusion through participation.” South County Consortium classes along with Miwok’s Transitional Kindergarten and K-second-grade SDC class participated in 10 events. Miwok fourth- and sixth-graders were station leaders, notes Reynolds. The culminating activity of the event was the participation award ceremony. What a great day for all those involved with making this event happen, especially the young athletes.

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

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