School district takes center stage at state conference

   When the California School Boards Association holds its 2009 Annual Education Conference this week, two Ramona Unified School District (RUSD) programs will take center stage—Celebrating Science: Igniting the Passion of K-12 Science and ACHIEVE.

   The conference will be in the San Diego Convention Center from Dec. 3-5.

   On Friday afternoon, Dec. 4, Ramona High School (RHS) science teachers Rosanna Lupien, Sherri Edwards and Beth Miller, with some of their students, will talk to state educators and school board members about the Celebrating Science program at RHS.

   On Saturday, the district will receive a Golden Bell Award for its ACHIEVE (Alternative Computer-based High School Instruction for Excellence in Virtual Education) online learning programs at its three high schools.

   The RHS Celebrating Science program is now a statewide model, RUSD Supt. Robert Graeff said at the district’s November school board meeting.

Those at the meeting saw a preview of the conference presentation.

   “In anticipation of our proposal being accepted, last spring, when we were having our Celebrating Science presentations at the school, I asked Sergio Estrada from Olive Peirce Middle School to create a video for us,” said Assistant Supt. Cathy A. Pierce.

   The Celebrating Science video showed RHS students working with Barnett Elementary students. In it, Lupien explained the program’s origin.

   “Five years ago, I saw a large group of college students teaching the general public about chemicals and doing really cool science experiments,” said Lupien, who teaches chemistry.  The students were doing demonstrations “with just everyday people, and I thought what a fabulous way to teach science and to connect with science, and I thought I bet my high school kids could do the same thing with the elementary school students.”

   The high school science students design safe and simple science experiments, prepare lesson plans and bring their ideas and whatever supplies they need to the elementary schools. Because the high school students are competitive, one teacher said,  “they want to have the best experiment, engage the most kids when they’re here, and they spend so much time preparing a lesson and making it exciting and dynamic for the kids.”

   “As you can see behind me, it is an interactive fun day for everybody,” said Lupien, with the camera showing the busy scenes and upbeat sounds of younger students learning from the older students.

   “It’s really cool to see the kids so interested in science,” one high school girl said.

   “It’s really fun for us, too, just to show what we learned this year,” a male student commented.

   “Not only do they learn,” said another high schooler, “but when I explain it to them, I understand more about the experiment myself.”

   An added benefit is increased interest in science.

   “It’s a really good opportunity for these kids to come and look at all these experiments, what they’ve got to look forward to in high school,” said one high schooler.

   The district is starting to see results in the increased number of students who were in elementary school when the program started and are now in high school, said Pierce.

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