Tiger Mom is back, teenage risk taking, Road to Reality, free teen aviation, kindergarten is the new first grade, teacher trips

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor


Tiger Mom Amy Chua is back in the news with a new book with this thesis: “For all their diversity, the strikingly successful (cultural) groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex – a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite – insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.” The groups she cites as strikingly successful are: Indian-Americans, Iranian-, Lebanese- and Chinese-Americans and Mormons (she cites the fact that Indian-Americans earn almost double the national figure). She also mentions that while “Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United States’ adult population, they account for a third of the current Supreme Court; over two-thirds of Tony Award-winning lyricists and composers; and about a third of American Nobel laureates.” Her new book is “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.”

Sonoma Skypark airport is an active part of the Sonoma community, offering monthly events and educational opportunities open to the public. Did you know that kids ages 8 to 17 can get a free airplane ride on the second Sunday of every month from 9 to 11:30 a.m.? And in its Air Explorer program, participants learn all aspects of aviation and gain knowledge and experience that could help them pursue a career in the aviation industry. Aviation Exploring is available for boys and girls ages 14 to 20. It meets on the second Sunday of every month at 12:30 p.m. sonomaskypark.com.

The Atlantic magazine tackles the subject of teenage risk-taking in a long piece that is both comforting and terrifying for those of us with teens. In a nutshell, the increased natural dopamine being released in the adolescent body “can give adolescents a powerful sense of being alive when they are engaged in life. It can also lead them to focus solely on the positive rewards they are sure are in store for them, while failing to notice or give value to the potential risks and downsides,” said the author, UCLA psychiatry professor Daniel Siegel. tinyurl.com/lfyvb3q.

Researchers have quantified what we have suspected for some time – kindergarten is the new first grade. “In less than a decade, we’ve seen the kindergarten experience essentially transformed,” said Dahna Bassok at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “Academic skill-building has really taken center stage in today’s kindergarten classrooms, in a way that just wasn’t the case” before the late 1990s. Today’s kindergartens now feature homework, worksheets and an emphasis on learning to read by the end of the year. phys.org/news/2014-01-kindergarten-grade.html

There are dozens of fellowships, workshops, seminars and service trips for teachers who are interested in traveling overseas this summer (at no cost). If you know of a teacher who might be interested, forward them this link: http://tinyurl.com/m6ebjme

It is a social media arms race out there among our schools! Just when I think one school is pulling ahead, another does something cool using Facebook or Twitter. Last week, Altimira Middle School launched a YouTube channel and loaded it with fun videos of kids talking about research projects. http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu1C-uRbQcS4UYSEXFlfog?feature=watch


The Sonoma Community Center’s beloved Trashion Fashion show is accepting entries now through Friday, Feb. 14. The children/teen category has been increasingly popular in recent years. The show will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building. The cost is $30 to enter ($15 for ages 9 to 17).

The fantastic Road to Reality Day, sponsored and put on by the Sonoma Soroptomists, will take place all day on Thursday, Feb. 6. All Sonoma Valley High School seniors attend this lifeskills program at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building where they learn about financial planning, personal safety and legal issues and career opportunities from experts in our community.

There is a growing body of research that questions the merit of stand-alone middle schools (as opposed to K to 8 schools). Educators were previously enamored with the middle-school model but now many are challenging the notion that grouping students in the middle grades is the right approach. (Only 2 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders in private schools attend a stand-alone middle school.) According to a professor at Columbia, “In the specific year when students move to a middle school (or to a junior high), their academic achievement, as measured by standardized tests, falls substantially in both math and English relative to that of their counterparts who continue to attend a K to 8 elementary school. What’s more, their achievement continues to decline throughout middle school. This negative effect persists at least through eighth grade, the highest grade for which we could obtain test scores.” educationnext.org/stuck-in-the-middle/

The Prestwood Elementary School PTO is holding a Valentine wine raffle fundraiser. The community is invited to buy a ticket for $25 at the school office from now until Friday, Feb. 14, to help support important programs at Prestwood, like art, technology and the library. The grand prize is six cases of wine and second prize is five cases.

Sonoma Valley High’s music department is having a “Jazz N’ Cakes” fundraiser from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9,at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building. There will be organic multi-grain blueberry pancakes, sausage, orange juice, coffee and a musical show from current students, alumni and local professionals, as well as a silent auction. Sonoma chef Marco Ilaria will be heading up the kitchen. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children (9 and under).

Woodland Star Charter School is having an art exhibit at Bump Wine Cellars from Feb. 7 to Feb. 28. The “16×16 Series” is a collection of artwork from a selection of local artists connected with the school. The community can bid on the artwork, starting at the opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7. Hors d’oeuvres from DISH will be served with live music by Full Chizel. Bump will donate 20 percent of all wine proceeds for the evening to the school.

PG&E has helped underwrite a new, interactive hydroelectric exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa. The exhibit demonstrates how hydroelectric power plants work and how this energy source provides electricity to homes and businesses. The museum is located at 1835 W. Steele Lane.

St. Francis Solano School students will be raising money for the American Heart Association from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, on its school playground. Jump Rope for Heart has been an annual Valentine tradition at the school for the past 13 years, raising more than $26,000 for the American Heart Association during that time.

Atlantic Magazine had another fantastic article this month about a public elementary school of engineering in a poor area of Greenville, S.C., that is graduating its first class this year. I can’t do it justice in a quick summary but the school manages to work engineering and project-based learning into all subjects along with a great arts program, thanks to active community involvement. Read more about it here: http://tinyurl.com/mjgpyj6

The Healers Trilogy is launching a $25,000 “Fight For Teen Literacy” reading contest for sixth- through 12th-graders. Six winners will receive money for themselves and their school/library, as well as a visit from author Donna Labermeier. She’ll also visit the Boys & Girls Clubs in the winners’ towns to present donations of much-needed computers and e-readers. She is giving away free copies or downloads of the first book in the trilogy. To enter the (essay, poem, song or video) contest or to download the first book for free, visit healerstrilogy.com.

If your student age 13 to 21 is interested in the visual or performing arts, the best list of summer programs around the country and around the world that I have come across is at: da.org/podium/default.aspx?t=117646.

Is there a great untold story out there at your school, or a current of former student who is doing interesting things? Please email story ideas to ourschools@sonomanews.com.