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Science Festival, wine MBA, free music, Eden, field trips and best professors

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor

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If you have been eager to get inside the new Carneros Brewing Company on Burndale Road, save the date of Sunday, Oct. 13, from noon to 4 p.m. for an Oktoberfest to benefit Sonoma Valley Teen Services. The afternoon in the beer garden will feature live music, gourmet food vendors, wine and beer, a silent auction and music by both BackTrax and SVTS teens. Tickets are $25 each and available online at svteens.org.

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If your student is at all interested in science, the third annual Bay Area Science Festival is sure to be spectacular. The festival includes 50 events spread over 10 days and dozens of venues across the Bay Area. The festival runs Thursday, Oct. 24 to Saturday, Nov. 2, and the full schedule will be released at bayareascience.org.

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If Massachusetts were a country, its eighth graders would rank second in the world in science, behind only Singapore. California came in second to last in math and science among the states who were benchmark participants, just ahead of Alabama – but landed close to the middle of the pack internationally. The survey tests the knowledge and skills of fourth and eighth graders around the world. (More than 600,000 students in 63 nations participated). Massachusetts eighth graders also did well in math, coming in sixth, behind Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. There is good news for the U.S. as a whole as we came in 10th in science and ninth in math, with scores that were above the international average. While achievement tests are not the be-all and the end-all in measuring school effectiveness, I am always curious how the U.S. stacks up beyond our borders. (Source: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.)

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Two-dozen wine industry leaders just completed the first-ever executive wine MBA program at Sonoma State. The Napa Valley Vintners hosted the lecture classes at its headquarters in St. Helena and provided resources and research materials. As part of the graduation requirement, executives completed a capstone program that stressed innovation and planning. The course was heralded for its combination of community involvement, hands-on experience and collaboration among the cohort of 25. You can apply or learn more at Sonoma.edu/sbe/emba.

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I am always writing about free ebooks, but did you know that you can download free music from 150-plus classical composers, courtesy of musopen.org? Musopen provides free public domain scores and a library of recordings by classical composers. You can browse recordings organized by composer, performer, instrument, form and time period. Music can be streamed online for free and if you become a registered user for the site, you can download five tracks per day. musopen.org/music/.

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If your child enjoys Minecraft (and I have already written about its educational merits) then you might want to explore Eden-World Builder. Players construct with blocks that vary in material, appearance and effect. Players can upload and download maps from a server, explore the maps and modify them. Reviewers say that Eden-World Builder appeals to anyone who loves Legos and wants to experience that kind of fun in a computer game. The app is 99-cents in the iTunes store.

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The results of the first-ever, large-scale, random-assignment experiment of the effects of school tours found that: “school field trips to cultural institutions have notable benefits. Students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of an art museum experience improvements in their knowledge of and ability to think critically about art, display stronger historical empathy, develop higher tolerance, and are more likely to visit such cultural institutions as art museums in the future.” (Jay Greene, U. Arkansas). Unfortunately, culturally enriching field trips are in decline. Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours. The study found that the benefits of a school tour are generally much larger for students from rural areas and high-poverty schools, as well as minority students. Disadvantaged students in the study made exceptionally large gains in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance and becoming art consumers.

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The controversial website ratemyprofessor.com annually ranks the colleges with the best professors based on student ratings. The top 10 (in order) this year surprised me as there are some names that don’t frequently make top ranking lists: Duke University, Vanderbilt University, Penn State, Stanford University, U. Wisconsin at Madison, U. Georgia, Washington University in St. Louis, Rollins College, Texas A & M and U. Michigan. The list is based on the overall average professor rating and a school’s overall rating. While most of the colleges are huge, supposedly school size does not affect the outcome of the list.

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The monthly Sonoma Valley Unified School District meetings are long but very informative. I urge you to attend one. Here are the rest of the dates for this school year so you can add them to your calendar: Oct. 8, Nov. 12, Dec. 10, Jan. 14, Feb. 11, March 11, April 8, May 6 and June 10. All take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Meeting Room at the police station, except the May 6 meeting which takes place at the district offices on Railroad Avenue. The public is (warmly) welcome to attend.

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Eager to see the kind of testing that will accompany the new Common Core State Standards in California? You can see free grade-by-grade practice tests right now at smarterbalanced.com/practice-test. Sign in as a guest, there is no need to provide any personal data.

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If you have a student enrolled in community college in California who wants to transfer to the UCs, there is a terrific online guide that outlines exactly what needs to be done and when: communitycollegetransferstudents.com/transfer-community-college-uc/. The organization’s entire website is very helpful.

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The colleges coming to visit with students at Sonoma Valley High School this week include University of Montana, University of Washington and New York University. A good mix of schools. Students in any grade should stop by the College and Career Center for details. Parents should also browse the high school website college counseling pages for lots of great online resources useful in the college planning process.

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Sassarini School’s annual pasta dinner and auction will be held Saturday, Oct. 5, at 5 p.m. Dinner from the Pasta King includes salad and garlic bread plus a beverage. Fifth-grade families will host a cupcake bake sale during the event and fifth-grade students serve as waiters and waitresses at the sit-down dinner. There will be an auction and raffle prizes. Proceeds will go toward the school garden, updating the mobile computer cart, field trip transportation and the fifth-grade’s four-day Outdoor Education field trip to Westminster Woods in Occidental. Advance tickets are $10 (adults), $8 (seniors/students). To purchase tickets, stop by the Sassarini office during school hours or call 935-6040.

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I know that it is a long way to travel, but Challenge Success, the renowned Stanford parenting think tank, is hosting its biggest parent education event of the year on Friday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. at Stanford University. The topic is “Keep it in Perspective” with New York Times bestselling author Dan Pink and Challenge Success co-founders (and authors) Denise Pope and Madeline Levine. They will talk about raising happy, healthy and motivated kids. The website, challengesuccess.org, is a wealth of information and where you reserve a spot at the talk.