Sharing ‘The Story of Toys’

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Sonoma Mountain Charter School presented its performing arts production, “The Story of Toys,” with Woody, Buzz and many other favorites who came to life on stage through great acting, singing and dancing. Every first through the sixth grader was invited to participate, and more than 90 students joined in the production with a variety of roles, including the essential intermission break and backstage crew. “Our students practiced since November to perform a record-breaking five-show schedule for our community,” states principal Michele Gochberg. SoMo’s performing arts program is coordinated by parent volunteers and provides a wonderful opportunity for students to ignite a passion, inspire others and foster a love for performing arts which is the school’s charter focus, notes Gochberg.

Literacy abounds at Wilson. The Wilson Wildcats are in the midst of a school-wide community read of “Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate. The Wilson PTA purchased a copy of the book for each family according to superintendent/principal Sheila Garvey. The community read was kicked off with students and staff watching a video of the author telling when and why she wrote the book. At weekly assemblies, the students can win raffle prizes for answering “Wishtree” trivia questions, and campus hallways are decorated with student art depicting what their own Wishtree would look like. “It’s been fun for me to hear from the kids how their family is reading the book — older siblings reading to younger ones, dads reading to kids, or whole families reading it together,” comments Garvey. Additionally, two Wilson fifth graders, Onya Bolan and Lucia Nosecchi, the school has an after-school Book Club for second and third graders. Ignited by their passion for reading, the girls first approached Garvey with the idea and shared, how they loved to read so much that they wanted to help younger students to love reading. The Book Club’s 15 members will meet on Monday afternoons with their fifth grade leaders to do different creative and fun book-related activities. This is Onya and Lucia’s second Book Club at Wilson — the first one for fourth, fifth and sixth grades met in January and February.

The youngest Liberty School students are sharing their love of letters, thanks to Sonoma State University student Christa Sullivan. Sullivan is currently getting her master’s degree from SSU, and as her final MA project she worked with kindergarten students at Liberty School to create their own A-B-C book called P is for Petaluma. Sullivan’s passion for teaching drew her to produce the special Petaluma-themed letter book. This collaborative project enables children to work together create a book that is set in their town of Petaluma. Students worked to come up with each letter along with drawings of two things that can be found in Petaluma that start with the letter. “The kindergarten students worked collaboratively to think of the ideas, write the words and draw the pictures,” shares Sullivan, who is bringing the students’ ideas to life by creating a real hardcover and softcover book for them.

La Tercera Elementary School held its sixth annual Salute to STEM on April 5. Students and their families engaged in hands-on learning throughout the school campus. “This event is always the most attended STEM event all year. This year our attendance exceeded all previous years. The success is due to the amazing participants from Sonoma State, SRJC, Casa Grande High School and local community organizations,” reports Kristy Corbett, La Tercera teacher on special assignment and event coordinator. “We are so fortunate to be in a community that supports STEM learning and is willing to donate time to support the learning of our elementary school students.” Second grader Avery stated, “I liked the whale bones best. They showed the mouth and the head.” There was such a variety of volunteers and quite an extensive representation of local STEM clubs and businesses. “Seeing all the students interact with the many different STEM activities was amazing. Students had amazing questions, and were very interested in learning more from each volunteer,” reports Interim Principal Katie Boss.

Kevin Jackson, Petaluma High School social science and ASB advisor, has been selected as a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar from a national applicant pool to attend one of 32 summer seminars and institutes supported by NEH. The Endowment is a federal agency that, each summer, supports enrichment opportunities at colleges, universities and cultural institutions so teachers can study with experts in humanities disciplines. Jackson will participate in an institute entitled “The First Amendment and 21st Century America: A Summer Institute for K-12 Teachers.” The one-week program will be held at The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, directed by Bruce Allen Murphy, Ph.D., Fred Morgan Kirby, Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn.

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

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