To E or not to E? That is the question, but not always the most interesting one.
Hands On with Anne Larsen, Lead Scientist
She wasn’t always Anne.
Fourteen year old Ann Larsen decided to add a silent ‘e’ to the end of her name. ‘Anne’ seemed more elegant than plain ‘Ann’. Now, she wishes she hadn’t, as she prefers the simpler spelling (cue nods of knowing relief from parents whose children decide to change the ending of their names to ‘ie,’ dotting the ‘i’ with a heart.)
The impulse to return to basics carries through to one of her great passions: gardening. Though obsessed with native plants, she admits to allowing a sprinkling of non-natives in her gardens — bamboo (contained in a pot, but still regrettable), a clutch of violas, rosemary, iris… “Rosemary?” I question. “I thought that one was a native.”
She shakes her head firmly. “Native to the Mediterranean. It does thrive here, though.” [Anne Larsen]
Ms. Larsen, also a Bay Area native, attended girls-only schools through the second year of high school. Teachers there might have described her as quiet, introverted and artistic. It was there, in 5th grade, that a teacher kindled a fire under her interest in science. “Shetaught ‘hands-on’ science — we examined rocks and insect collections, we looked inside of chicken eggs.”
Now a Lead science teacher in our district, she admits that hand-on methods require a lot of prep work on the part of the teacher, “but the payback is incredible.” Looking around her classroom, I see evidence of that payback — students’ vividly colored, precise drawings of favorite spiders (no shortage of Black Widows there) cover an entire wall.
Up and coming for Ms. Larsen’s budding second grade scientists are more life science work with words and spiders, physics (studies of balance and motion), geology, a study of dinosaurs and the cretaceous period, and a lot of work with plants.
Why does she teach second grade? “Second graders are sweet and eager to learn. You can still influence their behavior. There is a lot of learning and growth for them, especially in reading.”
Though she has taught K-4th grade (at Peralta full time since the Fall of 1990, though before that still in Oakland), she also loves the second grade curriculum, in particular the science, the math, and the books they read. That’s where we bump into another of Anne Larsen’s passions: reading.
“I read all the time. I have to stop myself,” she confesses. “I also likere-reading. When I re-read something, I’m not so anxious to get through and figure out what’s going to happen. I have time to appreciate the mechanics and clues in the text.” Currently, she’s re-reading two books: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, and Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose. “I suggest to my students that they re-read books as well. Some actually do.”
When I ask her to share one of the most interesting things she has learned in her many years of teaching), she has to think about it for a moment. Then she smiles wryly and shares, “Much of adult behavior is recognizable from child behavior. When I meet adults, I have a pretty good idea of what they were like as kids.”
Breaking news about what your kids actually consume in the mysterious time called 'lunch recess'
One of the least traumatic ways of thinking about school lunch involves Peralta’s salad bar. How great that our kids have the option of eating nice healthy salad right at school (which will not be sustainable unless we can get a more regular volunteers).
But, do they actually eat it? And if so, how much?
Just before lunch time, I spoke with longtime salad bar volunteer Anthony Pulsipher, now in his first year as salad bar coordinator, to get the scoop.
Care to guess what the most popular items are? (3…2…1…). Ok, I’ll tell you: croutons with ranch dressing. Second most popular: corn. Third place goes to our old friend, lettuce. So, yes, they are children.
The hardest sell? Cucumbers and red bell pepper strips.
“Starting today (1/31), we are integrating produce from Peralta's gardens. Pantaleon, the Edible Garden Manager, and I are developing a seasonal planting plan that will bring some variety of organic goodness to the salad bar,” Anthony added. Peralta Broadcast profile of Pantaleon here, in case you somehow missed it.
All told, I wondered, how much produce did Peralta kids go through in a week? Quite a bit, it turns out — four large bags of chopped lettuce (about 12 heads of romaine), around 100 little wrapped packs of baby cut carrots, and about 12 pints of grape tomatoes per week. And lots and lots of croutons, corn and ranch dressing. Way to go, Peralta school lunch eaters.
“It’s a nice way for kids to experiment,” Anthony offered. “They see what their friends are doing, then they try stuff.”
Speaking of peer pressure, HEY, adults: the salad bar is seeking regular volunteers, preferably 2-4x/month, from 11:15-1pm. “If you want a taste of school, and to get to know the staff better, it’s a great gig,” affirms Anthony. “And, you can spy on your kids a little bit.” Contact him for more information, or to sign up.
Perhaps you thought of the Oakland Education Fund only as that organization spearheading the drive to fingerprint and TB test us all to death in exchange for the privilege of driving our own kids and their peers on field trips? That's simply not true. It's a vicious lie, spread by their enemies, who want to discredit them. They do other stuff, too, like this:
African American Literature Read-In
A citywide reading celebration, February 6 – 10
Peralta parents/guardians/grandparents are invited to volunteer to read a book out loud to children in the classroom. You can contact librarian Sonia Kreit-Spindt if you're interested in volunteering at Peralta.
You can also sign up to volunteer to help out at another OUSD school. More info here.
- Feb 2: Go ahead. Make my day.
- Feb 3: Go ahead. Make your day. Sashay, Sidestep & Sprint-bike to School day. Small treats for those who arrive via human-powered means.
- Also Feb 3 (we're double booked): Lice check. And you thought the lice preferred PayPal. Professionals from Nitwits will check your kids' heads for free. They'll send a note home letting you (and only you) know if your child needs to be treated for lice. Permission forms for this have gone home. More available in the office. Sign and return (with a YES or a NO, it's totally up to you).
- Feb 11: 9am-1pm. The mother of all Garden Work Days. Sponsored by Mother Nature with an assist from the 3rd grade.
Previous answer: The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
Winner: Hadas Wimbish
Number of entrants: one. It's a sign.
Time it took Hadas to win: eleven days. Also a sign.
'Don't Read Me' seems more apt. All things run their courses. This contest has done likewise. Next edition, we'll move smartly along to something new.
If you've got school or class announcements, or interesting community events you'd like to share with your fellow Peralta-ites, or if you just feel like it, please do contact me. We publish every two weeks or so. Kudos, complaints and scintillating ideas for future posts can go to the same.