Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SFUSD's Future Dining Experience

By

Credit: Courtesy SFUSD & IDEO
Leave it to San Francisco to take the gustatory pleasure of kids seriously. In an effort to raise a cadre of happy, healthy, food-savvy eaters, the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD) switched to a new lunch provider last year. Oakland's Revolution Foods now serves up fresh meals cooked daily—no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives—to students in the district. Vegetarian pasta alfredo; nitrate-free burgers topped with hormone-free cheese—everything is far tastier than the dreaded “mystery meat” at other schools. Using pint-size consultants, and staffing up with employees (like Tunji Elegbede, pictured) who really care, the District has also developed “SFUSD's Future Dining Experience,” a plan to upheave the system with age-tailored approaches to eating: family-style meals for primary schoolers, mobile carts for middle schoolers, and online ordering for high schoolers. San Francisco, we salute you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SCHOOL STAFF: Ruben Urbina: Athletics to Tech

| Mission Local

This is Mission Local’s first episode of “School Staff” — a series that will profile the people who work in Mission schools but are not classroom teachers.

California parents on school participation

Wealthy parents are more likely to make cookies for bake sales, volunteer in classrooms and be otherwise involved in their children's schools than lower-income mothers and fathers. That's the conclusion of a survey of California public school parents released Thursday.

Yet even parents with greater financial resources are reluctant to spend hours at meetings or on school committees - even though that's where the money decisions are made. Just 1 in 4 parents said they had ever participated in school committees, according to the survey of 1,003 parents.

But with the state putting more budgeting power in the hands of local districts and schools, education leaders have an obligation and an opportunity to bring more parents to the table, said Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource, an Oakland nonprofit education research organization, which sponsored the survey.

The new education funding system is based on student enrollment and gives more money to schools with higher numbers of English learners and low-income students.

The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, requires schools to include parents - and specifically low-income and English-learner parents - in the budgeting process.

"There had been no other poll, really, that drilled down to give us a baseline to see how involved parents are, what the attitudes are to their schools," Freedberg said. "We asked parents what it would take to get more involved."

The answer: Parents want to participate more, but schools need to make it easier, Freedberg said of the results.

"Parents are more likely to cite a lack of time, rather than a lack of interest or a system that is unreceptive to their input, as an obstacle to greater participation in advising and decision-making," the survey concludes.

Parents want translators, advance notice of meetings, weekend options and perhaps most importantly, they want to know their input matters, the poll found.

San Francisco school officials have already been working on that, offering community meetings in various languages to explain the new funding system to parents and encourage involvement. The district already uses a budgeting process that incorporates parent input at each school.

"They know their kids the best," said Myong Leigh, San Francisco Unified deputy superintendent. "That knowledge comes to bear in the school planning discussions. It really helps complement the work the teachers and administrators are doing."

Yet getting parents involved in the new funding process at all schools is a top priority for the California PTA, said state President Colleen You.

"PTA really feels it's absolutely essential that parents are comfortable, engaged and informed," she said. "Every parent has something to offer based on their expertise in being a parent."

Local PTA parent academies are part of the organization's efforts to increase participation, as well as statewide outreach efforts.

"Parents don't automatically become advocates," she said. "But 30 years of research really proves student success improves when parents are involved and engaged."

The survey was taken between Nov. 5 and 12. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Parent participation

A poll of 1,003 public schools parents found:

-- 76 percent of parents overall say they are somewhat or very involved in their children's schools
-- 39 percent of parents with incomes greater than $100,000 said they were very involved in their children's schools compared with 24 percent of parents making less than $30,000.
-- 57 percent of parents said they knew nothing at all about the new state funding formula for schools
-- Two-thirds of parents said time and work schedules were obstacles in participating at their children's schools.
Source: EdSource

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Watch The Award-Winning Anti-Bulling Videos From San Francisco’s Kids

Sasha Lekach | Bay City News via SFAppeal.com

Students from three San Francisco high schools were named winners in
District Attorney George Gascon’s second annual anti-bullying video contest.
 The “Bye Bye Bullying” contest, launched in October, asked participating San Francisco middle and high students to make a 60-second video about cyber bullying.

Forty entries were submitted, and the three winning videos were announced at a ceremony at San Francisco City Hall this afternoon.

Gascon introduced the videos, calling them “powerful” and reflected on his youth as an immigrant with limited English skills getting bullied at school.

“This is a problem that is not going away,” he said about bullying.

He called the video contest a collaboration between youth and adults to help combat the epidemic of online and schoolyard bullying that has a “direct impact on truancy and graduation rates.”

He said bullying can lead to physical attacks and some victims turn to suicide as a reprieve from the vitriol.

The first place award went to Lincoln High School ninth-grader Lillibelle Liang for her video “Part of the 13 Million,” referring to the estimated number of American youths affected by bullying each year.

Lillibelle was in an exam at school today and unable to attend the ceremony to receive a certificate from Gascon and her $250 prize.


The second-place winner was Christopher Pang, a senior at Galileo High School. His video was an overview about what cyber bullying is, where it occurs online and tips for how to prevent it.

He attended today’s event in a Galileo sweatshirt and said after he received his prize, a Jambox wireless speaker set, that it took him several days to create his short clip.


The third-place video, “Love>Hate—Make the Right Choice,” was made by Wallenberg High School 11th-grade students Allison Talker and Amy Johnson.

Allison urged her fellow students to show respect for different types of people.
“It makes no sense to hurt people with your words,” she said.

Her co-creator Amy said she got involved in the project because “it is important for everyone to feel loved and care for.” She said she hopes her short film will “let people know they are not alone.”

The two received baseballs signed by Giants pitcher Javier Lopez and first baseman Brandon Belt.
Judges for the contest included Giants announcer Renel Brooks-Moon, ABC7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings, San Francisco Youth Commissioner Mia Tu Mutch, and Jason Brock, a contestant from season 2 of the TV show “The X Factor.”

Brock attended the awards ceremony and said it was tough to decide which of the videos deserved to win. He called all the entrants winners for sharing messages about resilience and respect.

“So many made me cry,” he said.

Brock said he was bullied as a child, an experience he remembered as “painful and scary.”

The videos were evaluated on quality of presentation, creativity, educational approach, and the overall message conveyed.

A party to celebrate the work created by all contestants will be held Monday.

Monday, December 2, 2013

S.F. Middle Schools Use ‘Innovation’ Gift to Beef Up Student Tech

 
Students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in San Francisco
complete a science assignment using iPads. (Ana Tintocalis/KQED)

San Francisco middle schools are in the midst of spending the largest gift ever given to the district.

In October, Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff dropped a cool $2.7 million into the San Francisco Unified School District, with the only requirement being the money goes toward “innovation.”

The district will use about half of the money to beef up its technology infrastructure. The rest will go to 12 middle school principals, each of whom is getting a $100,000 grant.

Those principals are now trying to parlay the money into real change.

“One hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money,” said Tony Payne, principal of Presidio Middle School, in the Outer Richmond neighborhood near the Presidio. “The first thing to do is get over the shock. Now, I’m looking at how to get the biggest bang for the money.”

Presidio students consistently post high marks on state tests. Kids began using iPads at Presidio three years ago. Payne now plans to use his innovation grant to add to his already solid academic program.

“After school we started a robotics club. … Part of the grant will also go to strengthening and building on our outdoor education program,” Payne said. Payne is also investing the money in a zero-period science class just for girls of color.

The situation is very different across town at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

King, located in the city’s Portola neighborhood near the intersection of Highways 101 and 280, is a more typical urban school because it serves a large number of at-risk students. Roughly 80 percent of students at the school are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program.

Principal Natalie Eberhard says unlike students at Presidio and private schools, most of her students don’t have an Internet connection at home, let alone their own laptop computer.

“That’s a huge equity gap,” Eberhard said. “What is exciting about this (grant) is that it is an opportunity for us to jump over that gap.”

Eberhard is using the grant to put iPads in all of her science classes.

Students at King are more engaged in these classes now that the tablets have arrived. However, teachers believe the real challenge is to make sure the device is not just replacing paper and pencil.

“(The iPads) come with a great expectation,” says science teacher Kristin La. “We can’t just use them to go on Wikipedia.”

La says her goal is to use the device so students can work together and teach one another. She and other educators say they need much more training so they can take advantage of all the educational apps that now exist for the iPad in their classroom.

Education tech expert Steven Anderson says “tech training” is best taught when information is spread out in bits and pieces over the entire year. He believes the best classroom projects allow students to use technology to investigate issues that are “meaningful” in their lives.

Anderson points to one class in North Carolina that used technology to analyze economic data, and conduct science experiments. The class was investigating the impact of a proposed high school stadium in their neighborhood. They ended up writing letters to their city council.

“The kids are now talking about things you’d never think they would talk about because they’re engaged. … (The issue) has meaning to them,” Anderson said.

Middle school principals like Natalie Eberhard like the idea of revamping instruction using technology. Eberhard thinks this grant will be a catalyst for real change.

“The reality is that the present system hasn’t been giving the students here at MLK what they need to succeed. The idea of being able to blow up the box is like, ‘Thank God! Hallelujah! Finally.’”

If the district’s middle school principals can blow up that box in ways that produce real academic results, SFUSD officials expect Bay Area tech giants will be even more willing to share their wealth in the name of changing education.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Children New to Thanksgiving Grateful for Parents, School, Food

First grade teacher Mario Chang tries to keep his students quiet as they wait for the
rest of the school to assemble for a Thanksgiving meal. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)
  Tables in the cafeteria at the Mission Education Center (MEC) are carefully laid with pine cone turkey decorations, bright-colored tablecloths and big pieces of pumpkin pie. Students at this San Francisco public school are “newcomer” children, recently arrived to the United States from various Latin American countries. The Thanksgiving meal — actually during lunch on the Friday before Thanksgiving — is the first time many of them have tasted turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.

While the holiday is brand new to the children, the concept of gratitude is well understood. Teachers at MEC use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to ask their students to reflect on why they are grateful, and to share their life experiences with classmates. It is a moving experience for the teachers, many of whom have taught at MEC for more than 20 years.

When I no longer had her near, I felt my heart was splitting and I’d cry so much that I couldn’t even breathe, just thinking that she had abandoned me and that I would never see her again….

“Our kids have gone through a lot,” said first grade teacher Mario Chang. “Some of them have not seen their parents for many many years — I teach first grade and I have  a student who has never seen her mom before.”

Many MEC families have experienced being apart for lengthy periods of time. Parents left their children with relatives in their home countries while they immigrated to the U.S. After settling, they found ways to bring their children to join them.

First grade Mission Education Center students sang "I Am A Turkey" as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)
First grade Mission Education Center students sang “I Am A Turkey” as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)

At the Thanksgiving event, fourth and fifth grade students read essays about what they are thankful for.  Mario Castro wrote about his family. His excerpt was translated from the original Spanish by teacher Lilly Chow:
This is the very first time that I am going to celebrate Thanksgiving Day; in my country, Honduras, I never heard of this special day…

I want to give thanks with all my heart because I am finally living with my mom. When I was four years old, my mom came to the United States. Nobody told me anything and so when my aunt arrived at the house, I asked her where my mom was, my aunt answered me that my mom had to leave because she couldn’t find any work to support our family. I felt so very sad because my mom was my light, the one who took care of me and who gave me all of her love and affection. When I no longer had her near, I felt my heart was splitting and I’d cry so much that I couldn’t even breathe, just thinking that she had abandoned me and that I would never see her again….It has been a few months since I came here to live with my mom. At first I felt very confused but then little by little I got used to her.
Another student, Daniela Renderos, wrote:
I give thanks for all the meals and food that my parents give me and for those which I receive at school. I consider myself very fortunate because I know that there are millions of people in the world who do not have anything and they starve to death. That’s why food is such a treasure to me and it hurts me to see when others waste it throwing it away in the garbage. Finally, I give thanks for having the opportunity to learn in this school and for advancing more — well, in the school where I used to be, I didn’t get to read every day nor did they teach me how to divide.
Teachers at the Mission Education Center face many challenges when trying to prepare their students for other district elementary schools, where most instruction is in English.

“It’s really, really hard not only for the academic background, because some of them have never been in school before, but also the emotional impact,” said fourth and fifth grade teacher Lilly Chow. She said her students often act out in class because they are frustrated or confused not only about school work, but also about being in a new country with families they haven’t seen in a long time.

The school district recommends the Mission Education Center to families if language and placement exams show that the student has few English skills and little academic experience. Chow says some of her students are in fourth or fifth grade, but have only completed first grade in their home countries. The school district operates a similar newcomer school for Chinese-speaking children in the Financial District called the Chinese Education Center.

Listen to Katrina Schwartz’s story from November 22.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giving public school kids a seat at S.F.'s tables

Whether you want sake in the Mission or albondigas in the Castro, this is a city that offers just about every type of food and every experience of ambience. At a price, of course. The Bay Area has the seventh-highest-ranking income disparity between rich and poor in the United States (topping the list is New Haven, Conn.), and food is one of the most poignant indicators of our division.

But a new collaboration between the design firm Ideo and the San Francisco Unified School District is trying to close that Grand Canyon-size chasm with an innovative approach to student nutrition. For the last five months, Ideo and the school district have involved 1,300 students, parents, nutrition staff members, principals, teachers, administrators and community partners in an unprecedented design process.

The first phase of the collaboration, which culminated last month, was to rethink school food in the city's public schools. Many of the 10 design ideas that have emerged could not only get kids eating healthfully, but also strengthen the relationship between the city's foodies and public school students, more than half of whom live in poverty.

It was morning rush hour on BART and people were wobbling collectively while catching up on e-mail on their smartphones. I was on my way to see the exhibit that Ideo and the school district had put together synthesizing all the learning from individual and group interviews, simulations with students, field research, number-crunching, and an endless arrangement and rearrangement of Post-it Notes (designers love Post-it Notes).

Suddenly, a pale teenage boy in a navy hoodie crumpled onto the commuters in front of him. They stood him upright via his skinny shoulders and then someone jumped up from a nearby seat so he could settle in. Within minutes, he'd confessed to not having eaten breakfast that morning, and had been given a bottle of water and a Ziploc full of snacks from perfect strangers. Turns out San Francisco does want to feed its kids well.

Who matters most?

When I arrived at Everett Middle School, about a dozen people - cafeteria workers, students, district administrators, designers - were huddled around an exhibit set up in the school's cafeteria. Coe Leta Stafford, the design director and project lead from Ideo, was instructing the tour guides for the day on how to engage the 200 or so expected visitors - all people with a stake in the improvement of school food, including parents, school principals, Board of Education members, local food advocates, etc. "Who is it that matters most?" she asked.

The students raised their hands tentatively. "That's right!" Stafford shouted. "This is all about the students, so you guys are playing a really important role today. The best thing you can do is make it personal."

Ideo is masterful at "making it personal," as evidenced by the big, beautiful images of students and a video featuring their thoughts about what they care about: friends, their future, the food they love - everything from green tea mousse to flautas. Ideo calls it "human-centered design," and it is at the heart of all of the work the firm does - whether for multinational corporations or more unusual clients, like the 56,000 diverse students of San Francisco's public schools.

Although 43 percent of San Franciscans are white, only 12 percent of the public school students are. Twenty-four percent are Latino, 42 percent are Asian, and 10 percent are African American. Sixty-one percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (the standard is a family of four that makes $40,000 or less a year).

Student appeal

One of the most radical things about this collaboration has been its uncompromising focus on the students themselves - not just what's "good" for them, but what's attractive to them.
In October 2012, Ideo took one look at the initial request for proposal from the school district's Student Nutrition Services, which largely focused on labor and facilities assessments, and reframed the conversation. Sandy Speicher, an associate partner at Ideo, explains: "We had a conversation with the district leadership and said, 'What if, instead of framing it in terms of equipment and budget, we create an experience that the students choose and thrive within?' "

"Ideo helped us get out of our adult way - to shift from being systems-centered to actually being student-centered," said Orla O'Keeffe, the district's executive director of policy and operations.

Though SFUSD is the largest meal provider in the city of San Francisco - serving school lunches, breakfasts and snacks adding up to 33,000 meals every day - and though it works with well-respected holistic food vendor Revolution Foods, student participation has steadily decreased since 2009. Only 57 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch eat it, and only 13 percent of those who don't qualify do.

This isn't just bad for the budget (which repeatedly suffers shortfalls), it's bad for students.
Research consistently shows that those who go off campus for lunch eat poorly, if at all, and that children consume 40 percent of their daily calories at school. Further, exposure to a wide range of whole foods - and a basic understanding of how food is grown, processed and sold, not to mention nutrition - are increasingly becoming cultural capital; think about all of the meetings between Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that happen over foods that poor kids may not even know exist (one could write a dissertation on the class implications of the kale craze alone).

Local foodies have wanted to get involved in improving school lunches, but giving is not as simple as it sounds when it comes to the school district. SFUSD has as one of its core philosophies "access and equity"; what might sound like abstraction is actually a strong determinant of the kinds of partnerships that the district will take on. O'Keeffe explains: "Generous members of the larger San Francisco community have felt like there was no entry point. People would come to us and say, 'I'd love to donate this wonderful food.' But we actually didn't have the infrastructure to accept that kind of help while staying true to our commitment to equity."

It is usually the schools with the least economic insecurity and the most empowered parents that are offered these kinds of donations, O'Keeffe elaborates - not the ones that actually need help the most.

In order to safeguard against exacerbating inequality among the students, Ideo has helped the school district imagine district-wide infrastructure that might build those missing entry points for well-intentioned San Franciscans. Central among them is the "community portal" - an online platform that would allow local citizens to offer donations including food, lessons on food preparation, money for specific food needs, etc. The imagined portal would match altruistic citizens with schools that need help the most, as well as those that have the capacity to integrate the donations into existing programs.

If the portal serves as a virtual meeting place for San Franciscans and public-school students, then the proposed "community kitchen" will be the physical equivalent. It promises to be a dynamic off-campus space where food entrepreneurs can incubate new businesses (like La Cocina, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps mostly women from communities of color and immigrant communities start small businesses); local foodies can influence school menu planning and meal development; and kids can learn about and begin to train for careers in the culinary arts.

All of this - and eight other visionary ideas - are theoretical for the moment, but the design process included a three-stage rollout plan with rigorous financial projections. The full proposal was presented to the Board of Education in September to an overwhelmingly positive response. The Sara and Evan Williams Foundation, which funded the design phase, has committed to providing ongoing support as the school district begins to bring these design ideas to life.

When asked if he had any reservations about taking on such an ambitious agenda, San Francisco schools Superintendent Richard Carranza reinforced his commitment in no uncertain terms: "If you're in a leadership role in a large urban school system, you can't be timid about embracing a vision for a better life for kids. You have to be ready to be fired for the right things. While I'm not interested in being fired, I don't think anyone can disagree with the vision. It's absolutely attainable."

In their own words

"At lunchtime I'm just looking forward to sitting down and relaxing."
Virginia, 14, Lowell High School

"Some of the meals, I actually like to eat them, but it's just how they package it."
Bridget, 10, Grattan Elementary School

"I usually eat outside because my friends are out there."
Adam, 11, James Lick Middle School

"I try to learn about other cultures through food."
Joyce, 17, Thurgood Marshall Academic High School

More quotes from students and teachers

"I eat school food because it gives me a chance to be more with other people."
Student

"I wish the food was delivered with care, love and a smile."
Student

"I wish the cafeteria was a place to connect and relax rather than a chaotic eat-and-dash zone."
Teacher

Kids come up with 6 ways to make the cafeteria cool

So how does a school district turn school lunch into something kids actually want to stick around for?

Well, truth be told, kids do request ice cream when you ask them what they really want, but scratch beneath the surface and you find that their connection to food is more complicated than "more, sweeter, faster."

After extensive interviews, Ideo found that kids care about each other (duh), about feeling heard and respected by adults, and about the capacity for pleasure and learning in food. In other words, it turns out that kids are not so different from adults in terms of what they desire out of a dining experience.

Here are just a few of the ideas aimed at making school food a hipper proposition for San Francisco's public-school students:

-- Today's cafeterias are industrialized and generic spaces. Instead, create spaces that are inviting and personalized by students and local artists.

-- Create a website and corresponding app that lets kids preorder meals first thing in the morning and rate them after lunch. (Bonus: cuts down on food waste.)

-- Renovate kitchens so kids have places to host cooking clubs and get culinary skills that might help them make a little cash outside of school.

-- Cut the waiting time by creating express lines and increasing grab-and-go options for multitasking students.

-- Reward kids for their campus loyalty. The more food they buy, the more points they earn for school "merch."

-- Encourage students to submit recipes online that the rest of the school community then votes on. Winning recipes get made and sold on site, fostering the dreams of budding chefs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

S.F. schools combat online cruelty amid wide concern

By: Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

Kellyn Dong listens with her son Lucas, 11, during
"Stand Up, Don't Stand By: How to Put an End to Bullying
in a 24/7 Digital World," a presentation on cyberbullying at
James Lick Middle School in San Francisco.
Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

With each beep or buzz, a message flashes across the screen: You're ugly. No one likes you. You're a slut.
You should kill yourself.

About half of American teens receive similar personal attacks - verbal or visual cyberbullying - on their phones or computers each year. That's up from about zero just a decade ago.

The reverberations trickle onto schoolyards and into classrooms, where distraught students can't focus, avoid interacting, or skip school altogether to avoid embarrassment or threats.

The list of kids who take the texts or posts so seriously that they kill themselves is on the national radar.
"When it happens on the playground ... there are people looking out for that," said Kevin Truitt, San Francisco school district associate superintendent of student, family and community support.

"When it's on these devices, it's more sinister in a way. It's so invasive, and we can't stop it."

The escalation of electronic attacks has politicians, parents and school principals scrambling to catch up to today's tech-savvy kids to prevent more damage - and death.

San Francisco school and city officials are trying to head off a worst-case scenario like the one that took place in Florida recently, where authorities are prosecuting two girls, ages 12 and 14, on charges of aggravated stalking related to the suicide of a classmate they allegedly harassed online.

Doing something

District Attorney George Gascón recently gathered parents of school-age children and school staff at James Lick Middle School to talk about cyberbullying and what parents and others can do about it.

He stood at the front of the school's auditorium and peered out over the audience of mostly empty seats.

"There should be standing room only," he said. "This is a problem that affects so many kids. The reality is there are hundreds of thousands of cases every year where kids are suffering in silence."

And by the time a case hits his desk, "It's already too late," he said.

Parent Edgar Beals was among the 50 adults in the auditorium.

He said he is trying to monitor the online world where his son, 12, and daughter, 14, spend a good deal of time.
"My daughter and son opened Facebook accounts secretly before I knew about it," he said, adding that they lied to get around the site's minimum age requirement of 13. "They are rogue in terms of their use of cyberspace. They know it and they are way ahead of me."

The dark side

Co-sponsored by the San Francisco school district and Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that rates media and encourages cyber-responsibility, the event offered parents a glimpse into the dark side of the digital world and advice on how to guide their children through it.

"Kids are speaking another language we adults don't understand," said Merve Lapus, educational program manager for Common Sense Media. "Even if you don't understand everything your kids are doing, you can still parent."

Teens send an average of 3,400 texts per month, and children 8 to 18 spend about 53 hours on electronic devices - not including phone calls or homework, Lapus said.

New social media sites and apps are popping up all the time, offering novel ways to communicate and the potential to torment.

Graphic illustration

As parents filed into the auditorium, Gascón pulled out his iPhone to illustrate how quickly an online innovation can go from entertainment to intimidation.

He Googled an app called Snapchat that Stanford University students developed. It allows users to send a photo or video that, once the recipient sees it, is almost instantly deleted.

The idea is to send an image that has a one- to 10-second life span.

It is, teens and others have discovered, the seemingly perfect app for sending nude or semi-nude pictures or videos.

Without trying hard, Gascón said he instantly found "leaked Snapchat" images, saved from a screenshot or other method by recipients and then blasted onto the Internet. Some of those images are of semi-nude and pornographic photos taken by Snapchat users, some of whom appear to be underage.

So much for short-lived. Recipients can take a private message and share it, perhaps after an ugly breakup.
School policies and laws are increasingly acknowledging and addressing the problems associated with malicious use of digital media, especially after highly publicized suicides connected to cyberbullying.

Tragic consequences

Last year, Saratoga High School student Audrie Pott hanged herself after boys she knew sexually assaulted her when she passed out at a Saratoga home and then took pictures of her that were posted online. The boys are facing charges of sexual battery and possession and distribution of child pornography, plus a civil suit filed by Audrie's parents.

This month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that allows educators to suspend or expel cyberbullies, even if the harassment has nothing to do with school and occurs off campus.

Some school districts have gone further. In Glendale, officials have hired a firm to monitor middle and high school students on social media.

After hitting 'send'

In San Francisco, the district is focused on prevention, offering monthly lessons on "digital citizenship" to help students understand the possible results of their actions after they hit the send button.

And on Nov. 12, San Francisco schools will hold the second annual Digital Media Safety Instruction Day, offering 60 to 90 minutes of advice to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Truitt, the San Francisco school official, has seen the emotional toll cyberbullying takes on students, with students as young as 6 or 7 experiencing digital harassment.

And he has seen the text messages from students encouraging classmates to kill themselves.

"They keep it, they hold it, they let that simmer in them and it eats away at them," he said. "Schools have been taking much more ownership on dealing with these things."

What is bullying?

California defines bullying as "any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils ... directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following:

(A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil's or those pupils' person or property.
(B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health.
(C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance.
(D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

Source: California Education Code

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Improving School Lunch by Design

By Courtney E. Martin | New York Times

Nicolas Zurcher
At the Everett Middle School in San Francisco, students, parents, school
administrators and community partners toured an exhibit displaying the vision
for new dining experiences in local schools.
What if the secret to getting kids to eat healthier is to stop focusing on food?

In spring 2013, the San Francisco Unified School District (S.F.U.S.D.) began a five-month collaboration with the design firm IDEO to re-imagine the school food system. This effort might not sound unique.

Childhood obesity has become a hot topic, in large part thanks to the first lady’s Let’s Move! campaign and projects by high-profile chefs like Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters have aimed at getting fresh, healthy foods in schools.
When adults eat outside the home, it’s about more than just food. The same is true for children.
In this case, however, the adults aren’t as concerned with what students are eating as they are with how they are eating.

“When adults dine, we don’t just think about the food,” explained Orla O’Keeffe, the executive director of policy and operations. “The food is important, but so is what’s going on around it: the ambience, the service, the company. Why would we assume kids are any different?”

And yet that’s just what most school districts do. The S.F.U.S.D., to its credit, has made great strides in the quality of food available to students in the last decade, most recently engaging Revolution Foods, a company dedicated to creating healthy meals for schools, as its primary food vendor; but, until now, they hadn’t put as much effort into considering what the 40 short minutes that students actually have for lunch are like. IDEO, known for putting people’s experiences, not objects, at the center of the design process (what they call “human-centered design”) insisted that this be the starting point.

On July 11, 2013, at Everett Middle School, a diverse crew of high school students sit around low round tables in a cafeteria and look at a picture of Maru, the Japanese cat that became a YouTube sensation for jumping in and out of boxes, illuminated on a screen. “Maru is the best prototyper ever. Fearless. Fun. Today we want you to channel your inner Maru,” instructs Coe Leta Stafford, the design director and project leader from IDEO. The teenagers have come to participate in a prototyping session, which will help determine what it is that high school kids really care about when it comes to lunchtime.

Joyce Gu, a senior at Thurgood Marshall High School, lets out a giggle. She’s wearing skinny jeans and Converse All-Stars, scrolling through her Instagram feed on her cellphone. She’s known for posting pictures of unusual foods that she’s tried (the most recent was Chinese abalone).

Joyce is one of the 56,000 students in the district, 61 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch (a family of four that makes $40,000 or less a year qualifies). Despite the district’s location in San Francisco, which is 43 percent white, only 12 percent of the public school students are white (24 percent are Latino, 42 percent are Asian, and 10 percent are African-American.) Many white students end up at one of the many prestigious private schools in the city.

Joyce and 14 other students spend the next hour participating in simulations of their lunch hour. They are given an allowance ($5 for the whole week and various options for how they might pick up their food each day, including the traditional lunch line (not a big hit), a vending machine (though the food appears to be fresh, students are skeptical), and a mobile cart featuring meals from a local restaurant (everyone’s favorite). Afterward the students are asked to reflect: What did you choose and why? What works best for you? How did you choose?

The answers are wide-ranging and sometimes surprising. Some students delay gratification — choosing to bring a lunch from home until Friday, when they will reward themselves by spending all $5 at once. Some talk about prioritizing sharing food with their friends who don’t have any — a dent in their budget, but a boon for their social lives. Still others focus on figuring out which meal they can get the fastest (they have homework to do) that will also give them the most energy for sports practices later in the day. Almost universally, they say that lunchtime is about spending time with friends — first and foremost — not food. The IDEO team documents their answers painstakingly.

Then Stafford asks the students to check out an app on the cellphone stationed at each table. It’s a prototype of what IDEO calls “smart meal technology”— where kids can pre-order meals in the morning that they will eat later in the day. They can also provide feedback on the meals and set dietary preferences; student nutrition services, for their part, can collect data on kids’ preferences and eliminate food waste. The kids intuitively start tapping away.

Joyce looks at O’Keefe, who is seated at her table observing, and says, “This is too good to be true. Who cares what students want?”

O’Keefe looks crestfallen. When I talk to her about the exchange later, she says: “It was a profound moment. You spend so much of your existence serving kids and then they are genuinely shocked that adults would be invested in doing something for them.”

The collaboration, aimed to change that perception, was paid for by the Sara and Evan Williams Foundation, which essentially bought the S.F.U.S.D. time (multiple staff members, like O’Keefe, were pulled off their day-to-day grind to participate), and of course, IDEO’s expertise.

But it also bought them something more intangible — the space to be truly innovative. Superintendent Richard Carranza explains, “If you look at the private sector, they have R&D [research and development] departments where people get to dream and create things that don’t already exist. That’s a luxury that doesn’t exist within the school system where we are often barely able to keep the trains running on time.”

The S.F.U.S.D. is the largest meal provider in the city of San Francisco, serving 33,000 school lunches and snacks a day. Even so, it’s greatly underutilized. Currently, only 57 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch eat it, and only 13 percent of those who don’t qualify do. Not only is this a lost opportunity for improving student health (research consistently shows that those who go off campus eat poorly, if at all, and that children consume 40 percent of their daily calories at school), but also for the district’s budget (Student Nutrition Services has consistently operated with budget shortfalls the last few years.)

The S.F.U.S.D. — like most school districts — would have traditionally approached a challenge like this by doing an assessment of its current labor, vendors, equipment, budget etc., and then writing a lengthy report of recommendations for improvement. Places like Oakland High School, right across the bay, have recently taken to closing school campuses during lunch in order to force kids to eat the healthy meals provided.

“Sure, we could close all the campuses and get the same results,” says Sandy Speicher, an associate partner at IDEO, “but designing with the kids’ desires in mind makes them feel valued. Kids learn about what they’re eating through their choices. The district learns about consumption patterns and reduces waste. Everyone gets smarter.”

Over 1,300 students, parents, nutrition staff members, principals, teachers, administrators and community partners were involved in the process, which included workshops, prototypes and experiential exhibits — all trademark IDEO tools. The IDEO and S.F.U.S.D. teams, consisting of almost a dozen people, then worked together to consolidate the learning and come up with 10 design recommendations and a comprehensive plan for how they might be prioritized, paid for and realized in schools.

The whole team presented its proposal at the Board of Education meeting on September 17 to an unusually full house, starting — not surprisingly — with student voices and also including testimony from nutrition staff workers, the other population for whom the design of the food experience in schools is most urgent.

They proposed three very distinct eating experiences aligning with the developmental stages in a student’s life, but most fundamentally based on what the students themselves expressed wanting. For elementary school, they imagine lunchrooms where kids sit together at round tables and eat family style — learning to serve one another in stages (healthiest foods are brought out first by nutrition staff workers who oversee their own carts).

Principal Dennis Chew of Lau Elementary, who had initially expressed skepticism about the communal dining idea during an early workshop, was inspired by the final design and the idea of bringing back the ritual and lost art of communal dining: “The elementary school children are the best teachers for the parents.”

He requested that the pilot program take place at his school, where a large majority of the 700 students are Asian immigrants. “Their exposure to American culture is coming through the food that the dining services provides,” Principal Chew explained. The cart concept would work well, he believed, because it would be reminiscent of familiar styles of eating, like dim sum, but feature new foods.

For middle school, the focus shifts toward more independence; students can choose “grab-n-go lunches” from mobile carts and then sit in spaces designed by them.

And in high school, it’s all about choice; students multitasking on their short lunch break leverage the convenience of new technology, like the app tested out in the simulation, and are rewarded with discounts for making healthy choices and eating at school more frequently. They spend less time waiting in lines and more time hanging with friends.

After hearing the presentation, Jill Wynns, the commissioner of the Board of Education expressed some apprehension: “I am, of course, along with the rest of the board, excited about all of these recommendations and appropriately skeptical and nervous about the ongoing costs…As a matter of principle, we need a go-slow plan.”

But the other commissioners, seven in all, seemed on a much faster track: “Put me to work. I’m really excited about this. I want to see us move forward,” said Hydra Mendoza.

“Sometimes when we involve students, it’s often just to say we did and it’s in a token way,” admitted Matt Haney. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of the students involved in this project and they said it was the opposite of that. If we can do that, not just with school food, but with everything we do as a school district, we’re going to get better results.”

Only time will tell if the S.F.U.S.D. team is able to realize the recommendations, but they have continued support from the Sara and Evan Williams Foundation and are fiercely determined. “I’m long in the tooth,” says O’Keefe. “I’ve seen the ‘thud effect’ with consultants — they plop down a big report and move on before you’ve even finished the engagement. This never felt like that. We all have a genuine desire to see this come to fruition.”

Carranza, the schools superintendent, puts it a little more poetically: “We’ve had a chance to imagine where the rubber meets the sky. Now we’re getting back to the road with a totally new vision.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Francisco Middle Schools Receive $2.7M Donation From Salesforce CEO

Bob Butler | CBS SF

The CEO of Salesforce.com visited a San Francisco school on Monday to highlight a $2.7 million donation by his company to the city’s middle schools — the largest one-time donation in the school district’s history, city officials said.

Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza joined Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the city’s Portola neighborhood to announce the donation.

Lee said the donation came about after discussions with Benioff and other local tech leaders about how to improve education in San Francisco, saying the city’s elementary and high schools were getting the bulk of the attention while resources were lacking in some middle schools.

Benioff’s donation includes $1.5 million that will go toward technology and infrastructure at the district’s 12 middle schools, as well as $100,000 for each school’s principal to use for innovation and improving STEM — or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — learning.

The first phase of the project is the introduction of 750 iPads to the schools. School officials took Benioff and the mayor to a science class in which each student was equipped with a tablet.

When the teacher asked a question, each student answered it individually on the tablet.
“Every teacher knows the exact answer that a kid gives,” Lee said. “I don’t think you get that kind of feedback as we used to do by asking one or two kids to give an answer and the rest of the class is not paying as much attention. So I think that type of technology is tremendous.”

Benioff said his donation, given via the Salesforce.com Foundation, is “about our children, the most important resource in San Francisco.”

He said that with the tremendous wealth being generated by tech companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valey, “if we don’t give back, it’s all for nothing.”

Along with the financial gift, the Salesforce.com Foundation has pledged to commit thousands of employee volunteer hours to support the city’s middle schools.

Lee said Benioff is also giving him a year to come up with a proposal asking for an even larger donation from Salesforce.com.

Superintendent Carraza said, “This is a seminal changing point for public education in San Francisco.”

“We are in the technological Mesopotamia of the world … and our public schools should reflect that innovation,” he said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Tech titan's high-grade gift to S.F. middle schools

By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com founder
Photo: Steve Jennings, Getty Images For TechCrunch


Some months ago, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and schools Superintendent Richard Carranza met with Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff to ask the tech titan for some financial support to boost access to technology in the city's 12 middle schools.

It was a gutsy plea - enough to buy hundreds of iPads, provide wireless access in classrooms, and leave enough extra to train teachers to use all of it well.

But Benioff was frustrated by the size of the request.

"You have to think bigger," the CEO told them.

Instead, let's start with $100,000 for each middle school principal to spend - an "innovation grant" to pay for what is needed most at each school, Benioff told them.

And, by the way, yes to the iPads and the rest, too, he added.

The three city-school-tech leaders are scheduled Monday to announce the $2.7 million donation, the largest single-year business investment in the district's history.

But Benioff isn't done.

He asked the mayor, who has made the city's middle schools his top education priority, what else he wanted for the 12 sites.

Lee didn't have an immediate answer.

"You don't ever get to do what you really want to do," Lee told The Chronicle.

Offer open for a year

 

With pen poised above a checkbook, Benioff told Lee he had a year to figure it out and come back for more.

"We wanted to make this bigger," Benioff said. "The city and school district weren't ready for us to do more."
How much more?

"We're loaded with money," he said and the mayor's focus on preparing middle-school students for the future workforce is a perfect match for the tech company's philanthropic foundation.

"Why shouldn't San Francisco have the best 12 middle schools in the country?" Benioff said. "What is preventing that? We are their partner in this."

The school district and mayor's office are already planning, working with the schools, parents, teachers and others to think big.

"I know that I don't want to take his money and waste it," Lee said. "You want to make sure it has the kind of impact it deserves.

"Mayors just dream of these opportunities."

Business support

 

The long-term goal, however, is to bring more businesses into the district's philanthropy fold, following Salesforce.com's footsteps, Lee and Carranza said.

That's already happening, the mayor said, with Autodesk agreeing to load 3-D technology onto the iPads.

With the innovation grants, principals have been buying additional technology, including equipment and supplies for robotics clubs at Presidio and Roosevelt middle schools.

Teachers have been incorporating the tablets into class work since the beginning of the school year.

(Unlike Los Angeles schools, which had to confiscate iPads last week after students took them home and hacked into them, San Francisco middle-school kids can use them only in class.)

In Griffin Gorsky's seventh-grade science class at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School on Friday, students spent the first part of class taking a paper-and-pencil test and then switched to the iPads to draw a picture of an eye and then make an audio recording of a poem they wrote about their own eyes.

"My eyes are mysterious, big and wild," Ruqaiyah Angeles recited into the tablet. "My eyes are brown and shiny like a bronze medal."

She read the rest of her poem and then held the tablet's speaker to her ear to make sure it had recorded. Then, with a push of an icon, she electronically turned in the work to her teacher.

"In the olden days, no one got to do that," she said.

The incorporation of the tablets hasn't been without some struggles, Gorsky said at the end of the class.  There have been some wireless issues, and some students can't seem to remember their log-in information.

One artistic student created a picture of an eye on the tablet, only to accidentally and irrevocably erase it.

In the past, computers and other technology have been pushed into schools, but were never fully utilized by untrained teachers or were left to collect dust after they broke or became obsolete.
 
The tablets aren't the goal, Carranza said.

"The iPads are just a tool," he said, adding that the donation is related to the district's emphasis on STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.

Critical thinking

 

For example, students are already making iMovies with the tablets, rethinking the actions of historical figures and embedding historical documents, he said - a combination of doing critical thinking using a high-tech tool.

"I think it would be shortsighted for anyone to look at this and think it's about iPads," he said. "This is really about putting the T in STEM."

For Benioff, it was about making a seven-figure down payment on what he promised would be a long-term partnership.

"All the city has to do is tell us what they want," Benioff said. "This will not be our last grant."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Preschool for All gives youths edge in kindergarten

By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

Instructor Oscar Chavez guides students in a building project at
S.F.'s Zaida Rodriguez Early Education School. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Over the past nine years, San Francisco's property-tax-paying residents have spent $94 million to put 18,000 children through a year of preschool - a huge investment made without knowing what the payoff would be.

"People need to know whether it worked or not," said Wei-min Wang, program coordinator for First 5 San Francisco, which coordinates the taxpayer-funded preschool program. "It was the right time to ask the question."

The answer was yes.

Children who participate in the city's Preschool for All programs have a huge advantage when they get to kindergarten, according to a scientific study released to The Chronicle.

The report showed the preschoolers had a three- to four-month advantage over kindergarten classmates who didn't participate in the program.

Sharper skills

 

In simpler terms, it means the Preschool for All students were way ahead in identifying letters and words, counting numbers and doing simple adding and subtracting. They were also better at listening, following directions, focusing for longer periods of time and controlling impulses.

The preschools are primarily funded by Proposition H, a 2004 voter-approved measure that established the universal preschool program, as well as art, music, physical education and other enrichment activities. The 10-year tax measure expires after next year, and city officials are expected to ask voters to renew it.

This year, an estimated 3,400 4-year-olds will get a free half-day of preschool at one of the 137 sites across the city through the program - about 65 percent of those eligible, said Laurel Kloomok, executive director of First 5 San Francisco.

All told, 83 percent of San Francisco children attend preschool, compared with 74 percent nationally.

High quality

 

Significant gains were seen in preschool participation rates among African American and Latino children, with 80 percent now in preschool programs, compared with 68 percent and 54 percent, respectively, before 2004.

"It's free for everybody," Kloomok said.

And not just free, but high quality, she added.

School district and federal Head Start preschool programs that existed prior to 2004 had to go through a rigorous evaluation to qualify for the Preschool for All approval and associated funding. Program officials hope to add nonprofit and private preschools to the list, with each meeting qualifications including a minimum enrollment of 25 percent low-income students.

While there was pressure to push quantity over quality, organizers pushed back.

"We kept our eye on what we wanted, Kloomok said. "We kept up that standard."

To the untrained eye, most preschools might look the same - children playing, painting, singing.

But there's a difference, said Kathlene Dominguez, a veteran kindergarten and preschool teacher.

Play teaches skills

 

In Preschool for All programs, play is structured to learn skills. Teachers know how to communicate with students to get them to think critically. Activities and lesson plans help students learn social skills and how to follow directions.

In addition, there are health and vision screenings as well as mental health consultations and support for children who might need special education services.

As soon as Preschool for All children hit Dominguez's kindergarten classroom, she could tell.

"I did see a very huge difference when Proposition H went into effect in terms of what the kids were bringing in," she said. "They were ready and they knew what school was about."

The students knew how to get along with classmates who looked or acted differently; they knew how to share; they could sit for 45 minutes to do academic work, she said.

They knew the little things that matter, like how to ask a classmate to play or even what a friend was.

With academic expectations now higher than in years past, a kindergarten teacher can't focus on finger-painting and doesn't have as much time to teach students how to be kind or how to be a good friend, Dominguez added.

"You're getting a lot of children learning the basic social foundations we take for granted in the school environment," she said. "It's very easy to identify the Preschool for All kids."

Learn more

For the full report, go to www.first5sf.org and to learn more about the Preschool for All program or information on enrolling, call (415) 354-3873.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Students build futures in old-school shop classes

By: Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle 


Derek Kwan, 17, tightens a bolt on a Porsche 914 during auto shop class at
Washington High School. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

Several engine blocks sat on racks near an early 1980s white Volkswagen Rabbit and a slightly beat-up, bright yellow Porsche 914 on a lift.

A greasy garage smell wafted out the door.

High school students - including one in a Members Only jacket, another in a "Star Wars" shirt and a third in a Robert Plant concert T - tinkered with wrenches, screwdrivers and other tools, a couple huddled under the Porsche.

1983?

Nope.

Last week.

Along with '80s pop culture, high school auto shop has made a comeback at Washington High School in San Francisco, with students learning the ins and outs of car repair and maintenance and earning elective course credit for it.

The class is among a growing list of career-based courses at high schools that offer students a taste of possible vocations - much like the old shop classes - while acknowledging that college is still critical for the vast majority of 21st century job options.

The course was added to the school's list of electives last year. At Washington and across the country, old-school shop classes were phased out over the past few decades as public education rejected the tracking of students into either college or blue-collar careers. In recent years, schools have revisited the idea, creating career-based classes that often count as a college-prep courses as well as providing exposure to different lines of work. Courses in hospitality, construction and medicine are among the offerings.

The new future

While it feels like a blast from the past, the course is intent on helping students find a future, said Principal Ericka Lovrin.

"It's not so much the old vocational" education, she said. "It's preparing students for the new future of technology and industry."

And in that future, as in the past, people will be driving cars.

People will be needed to design them, build them, test them, plan for them and, yes, fix them. All of those skills will probably need education past high school, if not a college degree.

Many of today's teens, however, don't know much about cars or motorcycles or trucks, how they work or how to do basic repairs.

And the students often don't know what a socket wrench is, or the difference between a Phillips screwdriver and a flat head.

The course curriculum includes all that, said teacher Andre Higginbotham, a high school history teacher who wanted to be a mechanic when he was a child.

Practical knowledge

 

The class "isn't just about being a mechanic," Higginbotham said. "A lot of these kids are interested in science."

On Tuesday, many of the students worked on model cars that they would later race and purposely crash.
The assignment was intended to teach them how an axle works and the difference between potential and kinetic energy, as well as design elements that increase durability.

"It's just an awesome experience," senior Naim Algaheim, 17, said as he put the gas tank back on a motorcycle. "There aren't classes like this anymore."

Naim, in the Members Only jacket, doesn't think he'll be a mechanic; he's thinking more about a career in business.

But if his car breaks down on the side of a road, he wants to have an idea why, he said.

Elective fills up quickly

 

About 30 students are taking the class, offered just one period during the school day and also as a twice-a-week after-school program, which is open to students from across the district.

Local 1414 machinists helped get the old shop classroom, mothballed for years, cleaned up and outfitted.
Higginbotham was recruited to teach it last year, and for sixth period each day he happily pulls on blue coveralls over his history-class shirt and tie.

"It's awesome coming to work," he said. "I'm a history nerd, and now I get to mess around with cars and call it work."

While the after-school program still has openings, the sixth-period elective class quickly filled with 30 students before the school year started.

While his classmates tested their model cars, propelled by mousetraps, junior Tyson Krug, 16, held his, wondering why it would go only a few inches. Maybe it was the gobs of glue around the wheels, or perhaps not enough potential energy in the string-mousetrap mechanism.

Higginbotham, wandering among the groups of students, paused at Tyson's table.

"This is great," the teacher said, asking how it was going and getting a frown in response. "This is why we do it."

Moving beyond mistakes

 

Engineers and car designers also mess up before they come up with a good design, he told Tyson.
Mechanics have to guess and test to see what's wrong with a car.

That's real life, Higginbotham said.

"Screw up like 10 more times," he said. "You'll finally get it."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teaching Comes Naturally

By Melanie Pepper | KQED



Growing up, I wanted to be exactly like my two older brothers. They were my tree-climbing, river-swimming and garden-tending heroes. Their deep love for the earth quickly made me an ally and student of Mother Nature.

Now, as a recent college graduate, I'm transforming this love into a profession. Every day I work with San Francisco public elementary school students to bring science learning to life in an outdoor classroom. I'll admit it's not always easy. Where I work, some students have lives that make doing well in school a challenge. One bright but struggling 3rd grade student comes to mind. He showed me, in one afternoon, exactly why I do what I do.

For weeks his classroom teacher and I brainstormed ways to manage his behavior, without much success. Then, one day after school I saw him hanging around the yard. I invited him to join me as I worked in the garden and was pleasantly surprised when he enthusiastically ran over.

I taught him how to place a young lettuce plant into the soil. Then he planted another by himself. Before I knew it, he was totally engaged. We worked side by side for a while. The door for deeper connection opened.

I asked how school was going. He brought up having trouble with fractions in math. So we made up some simple fractions using the lettuce plants. How many heads of lettuce did we have here? How many had red leaves? How can we show that as a fraction? Immediately he was drawn into the lesson. I pulled out my white board and soon he was scribbling fractions all on his own. And he didn't stop at the lettuce. He also created fractions to describe the pea plants, the carrots, the kale and even our garden tools. We had taken a simple math concept and found a way to apply it to something tangible that he enjoyed. In the weeks to come, I watched his math skills improve and his leadership in class garden visits grow.

I hope to connect with many more students like him. Whether it's math, science or language arts, the garden provides natural points of entry to educational curriculum for all ages. And, just as my brothers fostered the love for nature within me, I try to inspire the future leaders of tomorrow to be strong students and stewards of our Earth.

With a Perspective, this is Melanie Pepper.

Melanie Pepper is a member of the Education Outside Corps. She teaches at Sanchez Elementary School in San Francisco.

San Francisco school reintroduces auto shop class

By: Lyanne Melendez | ABC Ch. 7



We're going to take you down memory lane when high schools offered auto shop as part of the curriculum. One high school in San Francisco is revving up its program and encouraging other students to sign up. 

Few schools in the Bay Area encourage high school students to get down and dirty to repair cars. George Washington High in San Francisco is reintroducing car shop as part of its curriculum.

"I just like the feeling of messing with cars and you can tweak cars and all of that," said student Derek Kwan.
"I feel girls should know. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, you should know how to get out and fix that, you know," said student Adina Vasquez.

We saw some older pictures of the auto shop which closed in 2006 after the teacher retired.
The last time I saw a high school auto shop was in a movie and there was even a catchy song that went with it -- "Greased Lightning" in the hit movie "Grease."

"Oh yeah, favorite movie, I love that movie," said Vasquez.

So why now? Why reintroduce something that many considered long gone? Many educators are finally realizing that there should be other options for students other than college.

"It's not simply an issue of sending kids to college, it's really preparing our students to be ready for the world and it's college and career," said Mark Alvarado from the San Francisco Unified School District.

The trade unions and Toyota gave most of the money to restart the program at Washington High School. Today there is a competition among auto dealers to secure good mechanics. Many predict there will be a shortage of technicians in the near future.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation's demand for auto mechanics is expected to grow about 17 percent from 2010-2020 adding 124,800 jobs.

"If you are succeeding in that career, you are going to be very well compensated, job security is there because, like I said, the number of cars is not getting any smaller," said Igor Giderman from Toyota San Francisco.

Someone starting out as a maintenance technician earns almost $18 an hour or $36,000 a year. A more experienced master technician can earn six figures. That could be an attractive proposition for many of these students.

And students from other high schools in San Francisco can take that course after school at Washington High.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

High school career-path program helped San Francisco woman find calling

B
Counselor Olivia Leung patrols the hallway at Aptos Middle School, where she helps kids make the transition to high school. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
Mike Koozmin/The S.f. Examiner
Counselor Olivia Leung patrols the hallway at Aptos Middle School,
where she helps kids make the transition to high school.
When Olivia Leung attended Abraham Lincoln High School, she knew she wanted to work with children one day, but wasn't sure in what capacity. After enrolling in Career Academies and Pathways, she found her calling.
Leung now works as a sixth-grade counselor at Aptos Middle School near the Ocean Avenue corridor. This school year is her first as a full-time counselor, and she credits the courses she took in the academy for steering her on her career path.

"You might have an interest, but you might not know your passion," Leung said of participating in the courses. "It doesn't hurt to try."

Career Academies and Pathways are programs aimed at offering experiences and career exploration. Starting in their sophomore years, students spend three years taking elective and core classes that focus on a certain career or field of study. During summer months, students volunteer at jobs within their fields of interest. Academies vary in subject matter, from the education, childhood development and family services programs Leung enrolled in to building and trades, hospitality and tourism, and information technology.

The San Francisco Unified School District currently offers eight different academies at eight high schools, with some offering more than one. All courses count toward high school graduation requirements, district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

For Leung, when a friend mentioned to her the possibility of taking the academy course, she became curious.
Leung said she was always a good student and enjoyed learning, but nothing sparked her interest until she enrolled in the academy courses, which opened her eyes to psychology.

Leung graduated from Lincoln High in 2006, then earned a bachelor's degree from UC Santa Cruz. She completed her master's in pupil personnel services at the University of San Francisco in May.

While in college, Leung interned at Leadership High School in Balboa Park and Marina Middle School. At both schools, she continued to learn more about the field of counseling. Though she hopes to one day return to high school counseling, Leung said she's enjoying helping kids transition from elementary school to middle school.

"I have a fondness for sixth-graders," she said. "They have so much room for growth."

As Leung settles into her role at Aptos, she hopes to be a resource for the community both in and outside of school.

"I've always wanted to come back to San Francisco and give back to the community by helping these kids," she said.