Tag Archives: bret harte elementary

Day of Story Kicks Off Script To Stage Workshop

Twenty fifth-grade students from Bret Harte and Thomas Edison Elementary Schools met for a Day of Story at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library on Thursday, March 1.

The students worked one-on-one with volunteer mentors from the Burbank area on developing an idea for a story and creating a movie poster for it, according to Burbank Unified Arts & CTE Coordinator Peggy Flynn.

Burbank Business Partners, a group of local business people who fund and mentor programs for Burbank public schools, wanted to offer a program for students who may not yet have had much exposure to arts, theater and storytelling.

Participants and mentors at the Day Of Story show their posters at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library. (Photo By Ross Benson )

Not every child will find a passion in math, science or sports, was Burbank Business Partners’ reasoning, and the group felt it was important to provide an additional outlet to help young students explore their creative and expressive sides.

So the BBP partners with Young Storytellers Foundation, an organization that has provided many programs over the years in Burbank public schools. In the Script to Stage program, YSF teaches students the elements of  storytelling, while partnering each student with a mentor to guide and develop the young writer’s voice.

Storytellers gather to tell their stories. (Photo By Ross A Benson )

BBP is sponsoring the Script to Stage program for these students in the coming months. Over seven weeks, YSF and the volunteer mentors will provide sequential storytelling training once a week at Bret Harte and Edison schools for the participating students during lunch period.

Jessa Freemyer of the Cusumano group helps her student during critiques. (Photo By Ross A Benson )

The Script to Stage program will culminate in a Big Show at which the students’ stories are acted out by professional actors in front of the students and others.

“Burbank Business Partners is dedicated to the proposition that the success of our community depends upon the strength and quality of our schools and Burbank Business Partners is committed to engaging the entire community – businesses, teachers, parents, and students alike – to build partnerships that ensure we are not only meeting, but exceeding, the needs of our most precious commodity: our children,” commented BBP Chair Michael Cusumano.

“The Young Storytellers message is that every child has a story to tell and every voice is important,” Cusumano added.

“Our participation in Young Storytellers is an investment in our youth and is but another step towards enhancing the educational experience that is available in our community.”

Bret Harte Fourth-Graders Dissect Squid For Science Lesson

Fourth-graders in Andrea Terrell’s classroom at Bret Harte Elementary School dissected whole squid as part of their study in science.

In a group of three or four students per squid, the nine- and ten-year-olds started with a lab packet outlining questions they would need to answer, based on their observations.

Students measured the physical dimensions of the sea creature and described the texture, coloring, external and internal anatomy, explained Terrell.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

After Terrell went over the vocabulary related to the science project, she connected what the students have already learned in class to the squid anatomy and its functions.

Once Terrell cut open each squid, the students were able to match what they see on the table to the diagram of its internal anatomy. She asked students to point out certain physical structures of the squid and answer questions within their group.

“We talk about the history between squid and sailors, fun facts and how each internal structure serves a purpose in the survival of the squid,” added Terrell. Then, “we cut out the beak (mouth) of the squid, and take out the quill which is like the backbone of the squid.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Students ended the lab by puncturing the ink sac and writing their name in squid ink on their paper using the quill and ink from the ink sac.

“With the Next Generation Science Standards, we have been learning about how plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, reproduction, behavior and growth within their environment,” said Terrell.

“We have read articles and done research about different  organisms and their ecosystems, including water ecosystems. I wanted the students to have a hands on experience and see for themselves what those internal and external structures look like and how they function.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Several of the students commented on aspects of the squid dissection they liked or didn’t like and what they learned.

“I learned a lot from the dissection about how their body functions, such as how the chromatophores on the mantle of the squid help the squid camouflage and hide from predators,” said student Charley Barnett.

“Not many people in their life get to touch a squid,” added Kayla Kassin. “It’s so amazing that at such a young age I get to touch an animal that once lived in the ocean. But I didn’t like watching Ms. Terrell cup open the squid! That was the only part of the dissection that I didn’t like.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“I love that I was able to see all the organs, and learn what a squid needs to survive in its environment, they have many adaptations,” commented Willie Colvin-Marvin. “I would have liked to cut into the funnel retractor muscle, because it  looked like it would be full of interesting things to explore. I also enjoyed writing my name using the quill and ink from the ink sac.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Jhanessa Equila said, “I liked that we were able to take a closer look at the body parts of a squid. This helped me to visualize what we were learning about it class.”

“I learned from the dissection that squid have many adaptations to survive,” she also said. “For example, they release ink to confuse their predators so they are able to escape.”

“I liked the fact that I got to see inside the body of a squid!” added Jeremiah Rivas.

“I now know what the ink sac looks like and I learned that a squid has three hearts, a systematic heart and two gill hearts and they don’t have the same functions.”

“You can only learn so much from a book,” Terrell continued. “I feel that a first-hand experience allows them to connect what they have read to the real world.”

“The squid dissection is the visual bridge that allows them to transfer their knowledge to something concrete. As a result, they will be able to think critically and provide evidence from their experience to formulate stronger opinions and communicate more efficiently about the subject because they have made a connection.”

Bret Harte Jungle Book Kids Stirs Excitement And Engagement

The entire second-grade class at Bret Harte Elementary School presented the annual Bret Harte Jungle Book Kids play for two performances at the school on Thursday and Friday, April 7 and 8.

Students in Darlene Crain, Jennifer Brown, Catherine McMurry, Linda Gregorczyk and Jennifer Niwa’s classes worked together with school staff and parent volunteers to produce the show.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

All second-grade classes have performed the musical annually for the past five years.

Six years ago, a former second-grade teacher, Wendy Thompson, and a former Bret Harte parent, Lisa Dyson, wrote a grant funded by Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA) so Thompson’s class could put on the production of Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids.

After that inaugural year, two second-grade teachers would collaborate to present the musical, explained Gregorczyk. “This year, for the first time, we had all the second-grade classes in one musical performance.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“With Common Core curriculum and time constraints, the second-grade team got together and wrote a whole Common Core curriculum integrating The Jungle Book musical,” she went on to say. “The curriculum involved language arts, math, science, social studies and art.”

Parent Portia Schaeffer designed a new set for the production this year. Teachers and parents made the costumes and helped with face painting the day of the production.

“Each child is given a script which they take home so they can learn the musical and prepare for auditions,” Gregorczyk  added. “After some rehearsal, we hold auditions for the lead parts.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“What’s so unique about our production is that every child has a part in the production and a chance to perform on stage, not just the leads.”

“I was excited, yet nervous to perform,” commented Lena Luka, who played the character of Bagheera.

Georgia Dadekian, who played Baloo, said, “It was fun and exciting. It was the first time I ever got to play a lead role! I had fun.”

“It’s a lot of extra work for the teachers but we all feel it’s so rewarding for the students that it’s worth it,” said Gregorczyk. “There are students who struggle in school but get so excited about the production, that this is an area where they are able to excel.”

“It warms all our hearts to see such excitement in every child.”


Congressman Adam Schiff Observes Bret Harte STEM Lessons

Congressman Adam Schiff stopped by Bret Harte Elementary School on Monday, October 5, to observe a fourth-grade classroom science lesson and see the growing Science Lab at the school.

Teacher Alicia Boylan, who teaches both fourth- and fifth-grades, taught a mechanical engineering lesson about the invasion of the cane toad into an indigenous ecosystem, to 29 fourth-graders.

The students then created a device to capture a toad using materials such as dominos, paper towel tubes and cotton balls. The catch and release concept was applied to relocate non-native animals, explained Principal Martha Walter.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“I enjoyed spending the morning with the bright and inquisitive fourth grade students of Bret Harte Elementary. It was exciting to see teachers put STEM education into practice in the classroom, as the students worked on engineering projects – traps for an invasive species of toad,” commented Schiff. “Students were learning to practically apply their knowledge in innovative ways and having fun in the process!”

Boylan credits a three-day NTSA Conference in Long Beach with opening her eyes to new possibilities for her students with STEM/STEAM lessons and NEXTGEN Science Standards.

“I began digging into Engineering and Computer Science to see how I could integrate these into my day. STEAM [Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics] blends so well with the Common Core Standards and I’ve seen the difference in my students,” Boylan added. “They are problem solvers and critical thinkers now, not just bubble filling robots on multiple choice tests.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“I thought the Congressman was very engaged with the students and seemed to genuinely care about what they were learning,” commented Boylan. “He was also knowledgeable about how important computer science, technology, science, engineering, and math are in today’s school.”

Over the summer, some Bret Harte teachers started work to turn a bungalow on campus into a Science Lab, but more funding is necessary to realize the teachers’ ideas.The dedicated science space provides teachers and students with hands-on activities to explore science lessons and concepts, according to Walter.

“Hopefully, in the future we will be able to have a real working Science Lab filled with the necessary equipment to conduct the experiments in the NEXTGEN standards!” Boylan said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Boylan also teaches block-based coding with code.org and has started a Coding Club after school so that she can reach all interested students.

“Too many students are graduating high school without the computer science and engineering skills to compete in today’s job market,” Boylan said. “I think they need to be exposed to it in school, especially elementary!”

“The Bret Harte staff is beginning to implement the Next Generation Science Standards through concept development and experimentation,” said Walter. “As a school, staff work to instill in children an excitement about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).”

“Early exposure to and experience with STEM content ensures that students will be able to create and become the kinds of innovative thinkers needed today and in the future,” she added. “As a school, we are grateful for Representative Schiff’s interest in and support of STEM/STEAM initiatives and pleased to have this opportunity for him to see our young inventors in action.”

Bret Harte Elementary Students Visit With Time Travelers

Historical figures from American history stopped by Bret Harte Elementary School for a visit with students on Friday, November 14. John Burroughs High School drama students brought the characters to life during visits with every classroom in grades one through five.

Burrough senior Samantha Rubin portrays Sacagewea for Bret Harte Elementary students. (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Dyson)

Burrough senior Samantha Rubin portrays Sacagewea for Bret Harte Elementary students. (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Dyson)

Burroughs student Maddie Seiffert was Anne Sullivan, best known as the teacher and companion of Helen Keller.

Samantha Rubin portrayed Sacagawea, a Native American woman who accompanied explorers Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark on their exploration of the northwestern United States and was vital to the success of the expedition.

Tenley Patterson was pilgrim Sarah Goodson and Brennan Flynn portrayed Captain William Clark. Alex Aston acted the role of California’s own naturalist, author and preservationist John Muir.

Time Travelers is a program developed in 2007 by Joyce Costanza-Moskowitz and Sheila Cavalliuzi at Bret Harte Elementary in which historical figures visit with students, talking about their lives and answering quesitons.

Volunteer parents had originally portrayed the roles of the historical figures. However, two years ago Bret Harte PTA began a partnership with the JBHS drama program and its director Guy Myers.

Burroughs sophomore Maddie Seiffert portrays Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, for the Time Travelers program at Bret Harte Elementary. (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Dyson)

Burroughs sophomore Maddie Seiffert portrays Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, for the Time Travelers program at Bret Harte Elementary. (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Dyson)

Students in Myers’ Play/Production class now bring history to the Bret Harte Elementary classrooms, having portrayed famous American people including Elizabeth Blackwell, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Betsy Ross.

The Time Travelers program has been so successful that McKinley and Disney Elementary Schools will partner with JBHS to bring the experience to their schools in the spring of 2015.

Burbank High School students visit Miller Elementary for the Time Travelers program and will add a stop by Emerson Elementary in the spring of 2015, as well.

“The program benefits everyone involved, from the student actors who are gaining real world experience by having to research and become their characters to the students who enjoy learning about these famous figures,” said Burroughs PTA Art Chair Lisa Dyson.

“Time Travelers is a great opportunity for the kids at Bret Harte to learn about history in a hands on environment,” commented Bret Harte PTA President Shannon Marando. “The students are always excited to see the actors walk into the classrooms and talk about what they did back in their time.”

Burroughs senior Tenley Patterson brings pilgrim Sarah Goodson to life for the Time Travelers program at Bret Harte Elementary. (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Dyson)

Burroughs senior Tenley Patterson brings pilgrim Sarah Goodson to life for the Time Travelers program at Bret Harte Elementary. (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Dyson)

“The students have the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about a time in history they have been studying,” Marando added. “It’s a time for the teachers to sit back and observe the students and how much they are learning.”

“I get as excited as the students before a visit!” said third grade teacher Linda Young. “I like to prepare children with enough background knowledge so they can ask appropriate questions. Many times I use primary source materials and artifacts. We also spend time with new and interesting vocabulary.”

“After reading Sacagawea’s biography we were very interested in knowing what wapato and camas roots were,” she continued. “A computer search helped inform us and contributed to our overall learning.”

“Last year, one of my former second grade students came dressed as Anne Sullivan,” Young added. “I didn’t even recognize her because she was so authentic looking! She impressed me with all of her content knowledge and how well prepared she was for the role.”

“Time Travelers has enhanced the children’s understanding of important people from the past,” concluded Young. “I only wish that we could have the travelers visit us for a longer period of time.”