In preparing for our new state standards (Common Core), we have taken an innovative approach in partnering with the Cotsen Foundation to improve our instructional practices. Our new Common Core State Standards will require extensive teacher training, mentoring, collaboration and mastery of new curriculum. These new performance standards located on the California Department of Education's website, will require our students to engage in higher level thinking skills that will result in active and engaging project-based learning. We have been progressive in developing a long-term strategy that will ensure a successful transition to the new Common Core State Standards.
The Cotsen Foundation, created by Mr. Lloyd Cotsen, developed a vision that would provide some of our most talented teachers a golden opportunity to receive professional staff development at a high level of efficiency. The Cotsen Foundation has built a tremendous partnership with the UCLA School of Education. We are extremely fortunate to be one of the few districts in Northern California to participate in the Art of Teaching created by the Cotsen Foundation. During the next three years the Cotsen Foundation will invest over $400,000 in providing selected Cotsen teachers opportunities to receive exceptional staff development training which will increase their teaching strategies. Being selected a Cotsen "fellow" is a rigorous and demanding process. Teachers are required to demonstrate that their present teaching skills are very effective and that they are continuous learners at their school site. The emphasis of Cotsen is to select quality educators who will become gifted educators and will change the lives of students to a greater degree.
All of our schools continue to take the "can do attitude" in creating golden opportunities for enrichment activities before, during and after school. It has been extremely pleasing to watch the creation of high energy activities that enable our students to become imaginative learners in a creative environment. Our parent groups have been outstanding in donating funds for activities throughout our district. Upon our return from winter break our schools again will be buzzing with interactive clubs and project-based learning that will peak the interest of our students. The learning environment and the nurturing of students at all five of our schools is truly the key to being successful with our children.
Once again, I would like to thank you for being highly involved in your child's education. Working collectively with our parents and community-at-large will enable us to create learning environments of academic rigor and relevance. I invite you to visit our website to learn more about our district and the key individuals who are making a huge positive impact throughout our district for all students. I look forward to meeting and interacting with you during my visits to our schools.
Read the article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, published on March 2, 2014.
The Engineering Club, run by students from Cabrillo College's Engineering Department, is a popular after school activity at NBMS. The middle school students have been enjoying the challenge of the club which takes place after school, on Fridays, in Room 37. Whether designing windmills and testing the amount of power they produce, or experimenting with building the strongest bridges they can, the students are relishing the challenge of building, testing and refining their designs. As well as testing their design skills, students are also developing their cooperative skills, collectively working in teams of three, using science, technology, engineering and math to solve the engineering challenge of the week. Stop by room 37 at 1:30 PM on Fridays to witness our young engineers in action!
During weekly after-school Math Club meetings at Main Street School, 25 fourth and fifth grade students work in cooperative groups to develop their mathematical thinking. Students play math games (such as Krypto and Set), solve complex problems, and discuss and present solution strategies. In addition, fifth grade participants will have an opportunity to compete both individually and as a team in the countywide math competition in May. Students love the club so much that one student, Cathryn Perry, exclaimed, "I wish Math Club was every day!" Others have expressed dismay when time is up, wanting to keep working on math problems. Are you ready to test your math skills? Here are two problems students are solving. 1. Christine has homing pigeons and seeing-eye dogs. Together these have 36 heads and 80 feet. She needs 2 pounds of birdseed for every 4 birds, and 10 pounds of dog food for every 2 dogs. How many pounds of each type of food does she need? 2. How many squares are there on a chess board? (Hint: there is 1 large square, 81 small squares, and many more squares in between sizes such as 2 by 2, 3 by 3 squares, etc.) Are YOU smarter than a fifth grader?
Soquel Elementary is excited to announce that all our teachers have embarked on, and are dedicated to, a school wide focus of Writers Workshop this year! Our teachers have seen the need to ensure all students are writing daily and that we are using the best curriculum. During the writing workshop, students are invited to live, work, and learn as writers. Teachers will be promoting learning through asking students to observe their lives and the world around them while collecting information, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing well-crafted narrative and expository texts. Students will receive direct instruction in the form of a mini-lesson and a mid-workshop teaching point and sharing their writing at the end of each workshop. Our teachers will explicitly name a skill that proficient writers use, demonstrate the skill, and provide students with a brief interval of guided practice using that skill. Students are also given time to write and to apply the skills and strategies they've learned towards their own writing projects. As students write, the teacher provides feedback that is designed to move students along trajectories of development. The feedback is given through one-to-one conferences and small group instruction, and includes instructional complements and teaching.
The new year looks exciting for Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary and Opal Cliffs schools, because we will be bringing STEM education into the classrooms, from T-K through 5th grade. Through the non-profit, Learn to Discover, and with generous support from our Home & School Club, we plan to offer Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics (STEM) classes during the school day covering subjects like robotics, stop motion clay animation, theme park design, intro to programming, and oceanography. Every student on our campus will be exposed to a rich, hands-on, 21st century learning experience designed to enrich the core Science curriculum, with the goal that their imaginations be lit up with a lifelong love of all things STEM.