Through an innovation grant from the MVLA Foundation, the LAHS science department was able to purchase four ProScope HR digital handheld microscopes. These scopes can magnify up to 400X and have several lenses to allow students to visualize a wide variety of structures relevant to biology. My plan was to use the ProScopes to gain a better understanding of biological communities by looking at the diatom species living in the biofilm layer on the surface of giant kelp leaves. Unfortunately, this project will have to wait until next year (kelp forests had been shaved back by winter storms). We were able to use the scopes this year to determine stomatal density on the leaves from a diversity of plant species on campus. This technology allows for heightened engagement on the part of our students and I'm grateful to the foundation for making the purchase possible. I've attached an image that a student captured.
Los Altos High School
We received funds from the foundation to start a Space Program at MVHS. This program consists of a long-term goal of making an Earth orbiting satellite and a shorter term goal of starting a high altitude balloon program. We've just launched our first balloon mission into the stratosphere involving over 130 students in five classes ranging from Earth Science up to AP Physics C. The mission was a complete success with lots of learning and enthusiasm at all levels. I was particularly gratified when the Earth Science teacher told me she had never seen her students work so hard and were so excited about doing science.
I work with students in an SDC (Special Day Class) setting, whom have struggled with traditional teaching practices all their lives, therefore I needed to give my students a new more sophisticated academic experience. Thankfully I crossed paths with an Innovation grant provided by the MVLA High School Foundation.
With the grant money I was able to put together a project based learning activity that involved my students entering an art contest in San Francisco sponsored by Rhodes and Fletcher LLC. Given the theme of "things that go up and down," my environmental science students created kinetic artwork representing "up and down" climate change. All 13 art pieces were selected for an exhibition in the Financial District where my students provided context of their artwork. There were no SDC labels this night, as my students showcased in the utmost academic and professional manner possible. The success of this project was a result of innovation, grant support, and academic intent for students who now believe in their academic potential. Thank you MVLA High School Foundation for the opportunity!
Newspaper article: http://lahstalon.org/35267/features/things-that-go-up-and-down-an-environmental-art-exhibit/
Thank you so much to the foundation for our grant! When sophomore Owen Mountford approached me last year about running a TEDx event at MVHS I had no idea how we were going to make it happen, but it turned out to be a great experience. The foundation's funding was key since it enabled us to hire a professional videographer that allows their posted videos to stand equal in quality to the collected TEDx talks available online.
In my application for this grant, I asserted that drama is meant to be seen and heard. In Shakespeare’s day, people spoke of going to “hear” a play. One salient outcome of our play experience (seeing an exclusive production of My Manana Comes at The Marin Theatre Company) was that students got to “hear” other cultural perspectives dramatized with passion. Students were moved to understand immigrant experience in the U.S., not as a dry subject to be studied in a textbook, but as a living, breathing experience. Many of the students expressed a newfound respect for people working in the U.S. for long periods of time, far from families, in an effort to provide financial stability for those family members back in their home country (the dramatic situation of two of the main characters in the play).
The actors from the play stayed after the production to complete a Q&A with my students. We were the only audience for this special student matinee performance. The students learned how the actors learned about their own cultural biases in rehearsing and performing in the play. One of my more affluent students remarked that it felt strange to hear a character talk about taking a girlfriend to Applebee’s as a special date night – that this was a sincere statement, not something meant as a joke. He indicated it gave him concrete understanding of how financial situations make people see things differently. Some other students in the group were shocked he didn’t realize this and we had a meaningful exchange about our differences.
In terms of formal, academic, measurable outcomes, the payoff will come during this spring semester, when we have our cultural relativism unit. At that time, as indicated on my application for the grant, a summative assessment will ask students to write a synthesis essay that analyzes how cultural relativism is treated in different works from different genres: (My Mañana Comes and Translations (drama), an article on Cultural Relativism by James Rachels (essay), and Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe (novel). This cross-genre work will give students the kind of deep understanding that can only come from tackling a big subject by analyzing it through multiple lenses, utilizing multiple modalities. As we know from research, kinesthetic experiences (e.g., acting, speaking, attending performances) is at the top of the ladder when it comes to creating meaningful retention and deep (vs. shallow) learning.
This grant enabled me to take my classroom out into the real world and attach deep, visceral feelings to otherwise academic and abstract concepts we are exploring in our World Literature curriculum for 10th grade students. On behalf of my students, I am very grateful.
THANK YOU to the Foundation for the opportunity to attend the Community Health Council wellness forum this week! We found it to be powerful and inspiring and is so relevant to our work in this community. The LAHS Counseling Department is so grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities that the Foundation provides for us to become better counselors and educators year after year. Our students and families benefit every day from your support!
Los Altos High School
The MVLA High School Foundation is the backbone of our library media center. Through the Foundation's generosity, our school has a thriving library, with a full-time librarian and library aide to assist students in their learning throughout an extended school day. The Foundation has organized fund-raising to enhance technology access and use for all students. Recent renovations in the library have increased opportunities for students to work and relax quietly or to collaborate in pairs/small groups on projects. When I see the struggles many other school libraries face to keep their space viable, I feel lucky, indeed, for the support of the Mountain View Los Altos High School Foundation.