THE CHALKBOARD: Penngrove School ready for spring

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Spring is coming and the students at Penngrove Elementary are ready. Kindergarteners, first- and second-graders have been working hard on their spring art projects, including a colorful display in the office hallway of Chinese New Year lanterns and drums marking the start of the Lunar New Year. Meanwhile, the kindergarteners planted seedlings several weeks ago, and now are seeing their hard work come to life as the plants are starting to peep out of the soil. The outdoor education lessons continue with fifth-graders making root divisions of day lilies and helping weed the upper breezeway, while sixth-graders have weeded and replanted the herb box and fourth-graders split the single worm bin into two bins. According to principal Amy Fadeji, bluebirds and tiny titmice are scouting the bird boxes for nests thanks to all the hard work the students are doing to make their school a welcoming spot for all.

Performances of the much-anticipated annual sixth-grade musical wrapped up this past weekend at Wilson Elementary. “Alice and Alex @ Wonderland” was a hit with everyone from kindergarteners to high school siblings to grandparents,” shares principal Sheila Garvey. Wilson’s Wildcats invited community members, family and friends to join in the fun of their humorous modern spin on Lewis Carroll’s classic story. The annual play performed by Wilson sixth-graders has been a school tradition since at least 1970. Also happening at Wilson is Mr. Tacata from Petaluma High School bringing some of his marine science students to campus to work with Mrs. Bruce and Mrs. Clark’s first-graders. The young scientists learned fascinating facts about marine mammals, asked questions about marine science and created artful whales during the special instructional time. Petaluma High School students had an opportunity to be the teachers as they mentored the first graders. The high schoolers also brought along the skull of a gray whale to help their elementary counterparts understand just how majestic these ocean dwellers are.

Read Across America was celebrated at Cinnabar Elementary when the school’s transitional kindergarten/kindergarten honored Dr. Seuss’s birthday by making the iconic “Cat in the Hat” hats, but added their own special twist of using the white stripes of the classic story headgear for the letters of their own name.

Some very special guests attended Harvest Christian School for a day. Grandparents were honored and appreciated as each class performed a poem, a skit, a song, a Bible verse and even a foot-stomping square dance by the transitional kindergartners, reports Kerri Petersen. “These VIP guests were then able to visit the classrooms and play games with their grandkids.” “Grandparents are such a joy, and such an integral part of many of our students’ lives that we like to take a day to celebrate them, and show them what Harvest is all about,” said Principal Jon Wraith. Off-campus, kindergarten, first-, fourth- and fifth-graders took a trip to Weill Hall to attend a Santa Rosa Symphony performance as the students learn about musical instruments and the families of them in an orchestra. Peterson also notes eighth-graders were off to San Francisco to experience the Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum to complement their science studies. During this visit, students were granted a special viewing of a master impressionist’s works in the Monet exhibit.

This week, students from several local elementary schools will experience a live theater performance at the Mystic Theater. The Petaluma Educational Foundation is hosting two free shows of “The Caterpillar Hunter” by the professional traveling theater group, Traveling Lantern. Students receive a playbill and following each performance is a question and answer session with the actors. The program is a longstanding tradition for PEF with this performance funded by the members of the North Bay Association of Realtors/Petaluma Chapter.

Petaluma Accelerated Charter School at McKinley Elementary School has been recognized as one of the state’s most exemplary schools by being named a California Distinguished School. PACS was the only school in Sonoma County to be designated as a Distinguished School in 2019, and is among just 162 middle and high schools that were recognized statewide. PACS currently serves 107 students in grades seven and eight in Petaluma, according to the Sonoma County Office of Education. Students at PACS engage in STEAM-focused electives, an honors level English class integrated with an interactive history class, a competitive science program integrated with a compacted and accelerated math program, and a high school-level Spanish I class. It also focuses on closing the achievement gap by making sure its neighborhood community members, many of whom are English language learners, have access to an accelerated, academic program. Keep up the great work, Mustangs.

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

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