BCS Archery Instruction Hits Target

When Athletic Director Joseph Stark introduced his love of archery to students at Bullis Charter School this year, he hit the bull’s-eye.

“It was a passion of mine,” said Stark, who joined the staff in the fall. “It is something I learned and love, and I know it is accessible to a lot of students, so I thought I should bring it to Bullis.”

Stark taught archery during regular physical education classes, then began to offer it as an afterschool sport.

“Our afterschool athletics program is built around the community interest at our school,” he said. “Archery has been at the top of that list for a long time.”

Participation has been solid, according to Stark, with approximately 60 students enrolled in the afterschool program and 20 regularly attending.

The charter school designed its archery program with National Archery in the Schools (NASP) standards in mind, emphasizing safety and proper technique.

“It’s the second-safest sport behind pingpong,” Stark said. “It may not seem like it, because you are using bows and arrows, but we emphasize safety and steps to succeed.”

Stark trained students to participate in the NASP California Archery Tournament, which requires them to shoot 15 arrows from a distance of 10 meters and 15 from 15 meters. More than 20 students competed in the tournament, individually and as a team. Bullis Charter School eighth-grader Skyler Rosenberg placed third overall with a score of 281.

Archery became one of Skyler’s passions after Stark launched the sport at school. Skyler enrolled in the afterschool program and pursues it outside of class as well.

“I think archery is special because it is one of the sports that is really accessible to everyone,” Stark said. “You are not really held back by any disability – you don’t have to be the most athletically gifted in the world. A lot of it is about patience, focus and concentration.”

Skills learned through archery can be used in everyday life, he added.

“You go out every day and try to better yourself,” Stark said. “There are a lot of kids who understand that. They set their own goals and you see the excitement when they actually reach one.”

Stark said he is fortunate to work at a school that allows him to share his interests with the students.

“You can really see how my passion is reflected in the students’ growth throughout the year – I am lucky to have that,” he said.

Bullis Charter School is First “Future Ready” Local Public School

Teachers Implement Digital Learning Plans Aligned with Best Practices

Members of the Bullis Charter School (BCS) leadership team recently attended the Future Ready Regional Summit in Mountain View, CA to learn how to improve teaching and learning through the effective use of technology. BCS is now certified as a “Future Ready” school – the first local public school to earn this designation.

“We’re so proud to be recognized as a Future Ready school. Technology is woven into every aspect of our curriculum here at BCS because we want our students to be prepared to live and work in a high tech world while also learning how to be safe and responsible digital citizens.”

BCS furthered its commitment to becoming future ready by engaging in a series of workshops that offered expert support to build upon their existing digital learning plan that aligns with instructional best practices. BCS shares the vision with Future Ready schools to prepare students for success in college, a career, and citizenship.

“The Future Ready Regional Summits is a forum where local leaders can share knowledge with their peers, engage leaders from outside their region and better equip themselves with skills and tools necessary to provide students with what they need to be successful in life,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The summits are an important step toward realizing the goals of President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative, which is to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet and empower teachers with the technology they need to transform teaching and learning.

“Future ready is about helping district leaders leverage technology to empower teachers, engage students, and close persistent equity gaps by creating a learning environment where all students have access to the tools and expertise they need to be prepared for the future,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Education Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET).

Since its inception in 2004, BCS has utilized technology with both students and staff to help each individual reach his/her full potential. By partnering with Future Ready schools, BCS is taking the next step in ensuring that all students in grades K-8 benefit from digital learning as part of the core curriculum.

For more information about the OET, including resources for students, parents and educators, visit http://tech.ed.gov. #FutureReady

To download a PDF copy of this press release, click here.

Bullis Charter School Recognized for Digital Citizenship Program

One of Only Three Schools in the State to Meet Criteria for Certification

Common Sense, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids and families thrive in a world of digital media and technology, has recognized Bullis Charter School (BCS) as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship: Certified School for educating its students to be safe, smart, and ethical digital citizens.

BCS has demonstrated its commitment to taking a whole-community approach to preparing its students to use the immense power of digital media to explore, create, connect, and learn, while limiting the perils that exist in the online realm, such as plagiarism, loss of privacy, and cyberbullying.

“We applaud the faculty and staff at BCS for embracing digital citizenship as an important part of their students’ education,” said Rebecca Randall, vice president of education programs for Common Sense Education. “BCS deserves high praise for giving its students the foundational skills they need
to compete and succeed in the 21st-century workplace and participate ethically in society at large.”

BCS has been using Common Sense Education’s innovative and research-based digital-citizenship and literacy resources, which were created in collaboration with Dr. Howard Gardner of the GoodPlay Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in every class in grades K-8. The resources teach students, educators, and parents tangible skills related to Internet safety, protecting online reputations and personal privacy, managing online relationships, and respecting creative copyright.

“We’re honored to be recognized as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship: Certified School,” said Wanny Hersey, Superintendent/Principal at BCS. “By preparing our students to use technology safely and responsibly, we are providing them unlimited opportunities to maximize and personalize their learning.”

To learn more about the criteria Bullis Charter School met to become certified as a Common Sense Certified School, visit http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/certification.

To download a PDF copy of this press release, click here.

BCS Students Attend Turtle Camp to Learn Conservation

Fourth- and fifth-graders at Bullis Charter School stepped into the role of teacher last week when they taught kindergarten and first-grade students how they can help save leatherback sea turtles.

The school developed the event, called Turtle Camp, after receiving a $4,000 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean (NOAA) Guardian Grant awarded to schools that demonstrate a commitment to protect and conserve local and global waterways.

Jessica Lura, director of strategic initiatives and partnerships at Bullis Charter School, worked with students in her co-curricular class “The Blue Crew,” an elective class focusing on reducing marine debris, to design the Turtle Camp for younger students.

“The NOAA grant allowed us to expand upon our school’s mission to teach our students about the interconnectedness of people and their environments,” Lura said. “It is important for students as young as kindergarten to understand that they have a direct impact on our local waterways, and that small actions can have a big impact on our oceans and marine life – in this case, the survival of the leatherback sea turtles.”

Leatherback sea turtle protection and conservation are part of an Environmental Science unit that all grade levels participate in at Bullis Charter School. Lura and her students wanted to build on their knowledge of leatherback sea turtles and explore the negative effects of marine debris on the health of the oceans.

Fourth- and fifth-graders led the younger students through four activity centers, all focused on different aspects of protecting the oceans. The first station included a world map and an explanation of the gyre in the Pacific Ocean and culminated with students signing a pledge to recycle and use reusable water bottles.

“It was exciting to teach the younger students because it gave them a good chance to learn about how all of their actions affect the ocean,” said Sophy Mintz, a fifth-grader at the charter school. “We wanted them to learn about how harmful even one piece of trash can be in the ocean, and we used interactive activities like a skit at the end of our presentation to help them remember the information.”

Another station included a mini-lesson on how local waterways connect to the ocean. Kindergartners used ocean props and costumes to act out a skit demonstrating how a piece of plastic could eventually harm a leatherback sea turtle.

Students also had a chance to draw and write short notes on ways to help preserve the oceans and marine life. The notes will be mailed to their sister school in Costa Rica later this spring.

BCS Teacher Works With Online Lesson Plan Resource

Bullis Charter School has a new tool in its arsenal this year as it tackles the implementation of Common Core curriculum standards.

Seventh-grade teacher Lisa Stone was one of 200 chosen from among 4,000 applicants for the “Dream Team” assembled by the educational startup LearnZillion. Stone and the other members of the Dream Team worked to create online lesson plans for teachers that are Common Core-aligned.

LearnZillion, an online resource for teachers, offers a growing set of math and English resources for grades 2-12, developed by experienced teachers and connected directly with Common Core State Standards.

Stone spent the summer collaborating with four other teachers and a coach to dissect a Close Reading lesson for seventh-graders.

Her team was given a text selection and tasked with creating a five-day lesson plan around the text that would meet Common Core standards.

“Common Core now says that you need to put text in front of students that is really too hard for them to understand,” she said.

The final product instructs teachers on how to examine a piece of literature, identify what is complex about it and explain what to focus on with the students – step-by-step and at a determined pace.

The resource is valuable for teachers because it not only provides them with the lesson, but also offers real-time professional development, Stone said.

“It really teaches how to engage in metacognition,” she said. “It models for teachers how to teach these types of habits of mind.”

The lesson plans include instructional videos that teachers can use in the classroom or as part of their lesson preparation. The videos for each lesson are free and available to teachers, students and parents.

LearnZillion’s premium service provides details on how to build a unit around the Common Core concept. The end product of The Dream Team’s work is a textbooklike resource for schools and their districts that addresses the requirements of Common Core.

Common Core spells out the benchmarks and concepts that students need to learn, but leaves how to get there up to teachers. That’s where LearnZillion steps in.

“The focus of LearnZillion is on the metacognition – what are the building blocks you need to build up to the requirements of Common Core,” Stone said.

Because Stone served on LearnZillion’s Dream Team of teachers over the summer, Bullis Charter School benefits from the website’s premium service – equipping teachers with many different Common Core lessons to select and implement this school year.

“I think it is part of my job to help teachers become the best they can be,” she said. “Part of the reason why I chose to do this was because I need to go outside of my school and scale my impact.”

For more information, visit LearnZillion.com.

Local Parents Organize Summer Camp Experience for Those in Need

A group of Bullis Charter School parents established the Bullis Boosters Summer Bridge Camp to provide a summer camp experience for underserved local students.

The camp, in its second year, offers a free, weeklong program for second- through fourth-graders from the Los Altos and Mountain View Whisman school districts.

Charter school parents Martha McClatchie and Grace Yang co-founded the camp, which ran last week at the charter school on the Egan Junior High School campus.

“We do outreach to populations that wouldn’t normally get to attend summer camp,” said McClatchie, who is also a candidate for the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. “We really believe that in the summer, kids need something going on in their lives.”

And the timing of the camp is intentional, Yang added.

“Having the camp when we have it – two weeks before school starts – and just getting kids back in that mindset brings a real confidence when they come back to school in two weeks,” she said.

Yang and McClatchie stressed that the camp takes a village to host. The pair estimated that there are as many volunteers as there are campers – 50 – devoting hundreds of volunteer hours.

The campers enjoy a small-group experience, with a ratio of approximately 6:1 in the classroom.

Assisting are 14 volunteer counselors from local high schools and a number of volunteers from Explorabox and i3, who oversee science and math activities.

Explorabox, a nonprofit organization based in Los Altos, produces science-in-a-box kits that encourage students to participate in hands-on activities. Explorabox donated its boxes and volunteers to the camp.

i3, a group of Stanford University mechanical engineering students, volunteered to conduct science experiments and math games with campers.

A thirst for learning

In addition to the daily language arts, math and science activities the camp offers, students took a field trip to Deer Hollow Farm, where they identified plants and animals and connected them with their camp curriculum.

“I love watching the kids’ reactions and watching them learn right in front of my face,” said Mary Porter, a senior who volunteers with the camp. “This is an outstanding camp for the kids. If you watch their faces during the day, you see their faces change because they get hot and tired – but they are always so excited to see what comes next.”

Yang said student engagement is part of what makes the Bullis Boosters Summer Bridge Camp unique.

“All of our kids are so well behaved and so eager to learn, and that is unusual to see in many camps,” she said. “They are thirsty to learn, and they just need the opportunities.”

The camp is a true volunteer effort, McClatchie said. The only paid staff members are the two teachers, one from Castro School and another from the charter school.

Local organizations, including Linden Tree Books, Whole Foods Market, The Counter, LuLu’s, Spot Pizza, Choice Lunch, Smitten Ice Cream, Explorabox and the Kiwanis Club of Los Altos, donated supplies, lunches and money to offset camp expenses.

In the future, McClatchie and Yang said they want to create a “camp-in-a-box” model to share with other school districts.

“All you need is a group of dedicated parents to get started,” McClatchie said.

For more information, visit bullisboosterscamp.org.

Teaching Today for 21st Century Skills

It is estimated that over the next 10 years there will be two million unfilled ICT-related jobs globally, correlating with a projected talent gap of 8.2 percent by 2022. The 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report indicates a shortage of more than a million security professionals across the globe in 2014. In light of these projections, collaboration and dedication to meeting the critical demand for high-skill workers through strategic programs and collaborations for current and future generations will be needed.

Wanny Hersey, Principal of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, has specific ideas about how to serve students in light of current and emerging technologies. She and her teachers have worked and thought hard to create an educational culture that prepares students for success in a world that will look quite different than it currently does. Students are learning critical skills that span how to be creative in problem solving, how to work together and how to understand the value of the learning process. Through project based learning, not only are students learning practical skills, but they are learning what questions to ask so they can create things that are solving the problems of the future.

An emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) and creative skills will need to be central to curricula if we hope to fill critical talent shortages. Innovative, personalized approaches to education, such as the idea introduced at the Bullis School of “Focused Learning Goals” for every K-8 student based on each student’s unique needs, will be critical. As Wanny says, “Children learn at different rates.” They may also display mastery of a topic in different ways, so assessment of students must become individualized as well.

To help students feel comfortable with technology, Bullis has developed technology-focused Project Based Learning Units for each grade level, as well as design projects that require an age-appropriate level of technology proficiency. Eighth-graders also participate in longer projects each year that focus on STEAM subjects. The students must be able to explain their projects to a group and answer questions as well. As teacher Jessica Lura notes, “If you can’t explain it, you didn’t learn it.” This is one of the innovative methods Bullis uses to ensure immersion and mastery of a topic, and one that I hope other educational institutions will adopt soon.

STEAM education is not merely for students interested in pursuing careers in these fields. All jobs will be impacted by these changes, even non-high tech roles, regardless of industry. Robotics, automation, Big Data, analytics and security (both physical and cyber security) will become part of all of our daily lives. Workers of all stripes will need to be trained, skilled and experienced with technology.

Bullis Charter School provides a model of the kinds of individualized, whole-child learning approaches that will equip students with the skills our connected world requires. Watch the video below of my conversations with Wanny and Jessica and share your ideas on transforming the educational process to better prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

A Summer Boost For Kids

Fighting off the summer brain drain can be tough for families that can’t afford expensive summer camps, but two parents from Bullis Charter School are looking to turn that around with a free summer camp for at-risk elementary school kids in the community.

Bullis Boosters Summer Bridge Camp is a free, week-long day camp for disadvantaged youth in the Mountain View and Los Altos communities. Hosted at the Bullis Charter School campus, it runs through the week of July 28 and has 50 campers going into second, third and fourth grades this year — nearly double last year’s number — including kids from free and reduced lunch programs and families that rely on food assistance from the Community Services Agency.

On Tuesday, dozens of kids donning yellow camp T-shirts crowded around tables full of brown sugar, carrots and eggs for a muffin-making activity.

“This is the first time cooking for some of these kids,” said Martha McClatchie, one of the two camp directors.

Before the campers make muffins, they have an indoor lesson about how to measure ingredients, and the difference between teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. Parents take home the batter and bake the muffins overnight, and kids can see their results the next day. Depending on how things go, kids might get their muffins back a little deflated, or the carrots might be too chunky, but McClatchie said kids are proud to bring their muffins home to show off to their families.

The camp has a broad curriculum that goes well beyond muffin-making, covering math, science and literature. On Monday, volunteers from Explorabox, a nonprofit science education group, came in to teach kids about electricity in a program called “Watt’s up with electricity?” In one activity, the campers rub balloons against a carpeted surface and hold them above their head to watch how static electricity pulls their hair skyward.

The kids were also taught about motors, solar energy, and mechanisms like the Van de Graaff generator — not a light curriculum. McClatchie said her hope is that through these lessons, some of the information will stick.

“They might hear about the Van de Graaff generator and say, ‘Hey, I know what that is,'” she said.

McClatchie, along with Grace Yang, started the camp last year to provide a summer camp option for disadvantaged youth — specifically English language learners — in the community. McClatchie said kids learning English lose a lot of progress during the summer months, especially in homes where English is not commonly spoken. Camp counselors read out loud to groups of students, which McClatchie said helps avoid what she calls the “summer slide” for those students.

She said they coordinated with Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District, to reach out to at-risk children who could use the free summer camp the most. She said a number of kids were referred to them from Beyond the Bell — an after-school program that provides help with homework and academic activities. About 70 percent of the campers are from Mountain View.

Teachers from Castro Elementary School and Bullis Charter School donate their time to teach classes at the camp, along with 16 counselors from nearby middle and high schools, according to Yang. The camp also has a number of Spanish translators on-site, specifically when kids are being picked up or dropped off so they can communicate with parents, family members and caregivers.

Local food vendors also donate free lunch and snacks for the camp, including Whole Foods, The Counter, Spot Pizza, ChoiceLunch and Smitten Ice Cream. On Tuesday, the camp took a field trip to Smitten to learn how ice cream can be made very cold using liquid nitrogen.

Along with food vendors, a number of other groups have supported the program through whatever services they can provide. Educacy, a nonprofit education advocacy group, has been a fiscal sponsor and KidzJet, a transportation company, provided the camp with a good deal on vans to transport the campers.

McClatchie said all these groups have come together to help make the camp a fun and meaningful experience for kids who wouldn’t normally have access to summer camps.

“There’s a lot of people who understand that this is an important thing to do.”

BCS Hosts Junior Olympics for Area Charter Schools

The fourth biennial Bullis Charter School Invitational Junior Olympics drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 student-athletes and spectators June 1 at Foothill College.

The event is the only athletic competition of its kind in the area for students who attend charter schools. In addition to Bullis Charter School, participating schools included Charter School of Morgan Hill, Livermore Valley Charter School, Voices College-Bound Language Academy, Rocketship Discovery Prep and Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School.

“I can’t believe how amazing this event is,” said Sandra Lopez, parent of a student at Voices College-Bound Language Academy. “This is such a wonderful opportunity for all the children to experience something of this caliber – it feels like the real Olympics.”

Darcie Green, member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education Board, kicked off the event by welcoming the crowd during the opening ceremony, which featured a performance of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the entrance of all student-athletes onto the track and a choreographed rhythmic gymnastics routine starring students from first through eighth grades. Students carried a ceremonial Olympic torch, which traveled to all of the competing schools in the weeks leading up to the event.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to bring charter schools together for an event that promotes athletics and sportsmanship,” said Wanny Hersey, superintendent and principal of Bullis Charter School. “It is important for us to work together with our fellow charters not just in improving academic education for children, but in developing the whole child through events like this that incorporate goal-setting, resiliency and strong character.”

The daylong competition included traditional track and field events plus an egg and spoon race, a beanbag toss, a soccer-kick battle and a basketball shootout. Four local Olympians handed out medals to the event winners – including gold medalist Keshia Baker, who won the 4×400-meter relay at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

“I love that I get to come out here and support something that I enjoy doing and to see students and parents participating in activities that encourage a healthy lifestyle,” Baker said. “It’s important that it doesn’t end here, but that families go home and keep running, jogging and being active.”

BCS Celebrates 10 Years, State Recognition

More than 1,000 supporters gathered at Bullis Charter School May 22 to mark the school’s 10th anniversary.

Guests included alumni, founding families, current families, incoming families, charter school board members, representatives from the California Charter School Association and local elected officials.

The evening included a picnic dinner, photo booths, tile painting, an art show featuring the work of every student and a Maker- Space showcase.

Principal and Superintendent Wanny Hersey addressed the crowd briefly before they joined in singing “Happy Birthday” and cut the anniversary cake.

Following the cake presentation, a group of teachers, parents and students surprised the audience with a flash-mob dance to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

“It was very special for us to see over a thousand people from our local community come together to celebrate how far Bullis Charter School has come over the last 10 years,” said Vivian Lufkin, a charter school parent who helped organize the celebration. “As a community, we tend to move quickly from one thing to another, and it was important for us all to take a moment to celebrate what we have created here – a truly remarkable educational experience for the children in Los Altos.”

Distinguished School

Its 10th anniversary wasn’t the only achievement the charter school group celebrated. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently named Bullis Charter School a California Distinguished School.

The school’s signature Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) curriculum and personalized learning in the form of Focused Learning Goals qualified it as a Distinguished School. The charter school is one of only 14 schools recognized for an Exemplary Program in Visual and Performing Arts Education.

“I am really proud of how diverse our recognitions are for the Distinguished School award – it is a tremendous honor for us and shows the breadth and depth of what we offer at Bullis Charter School,” Hersey said. “Not only are we being recognized for our robust Visual and Performing Arts program, but also for our STEAM curriculum and Focused Learning Goals. It is a testament to the strength of our staff members and school culture that we are able to thrive in these different areas of instruction.”

The California Distinguished Schools Program recognizes schools whose signature practices demonstrate a commitment and an innovative approach to improving student achievement. The practices are shared with public schools across the state to improve education for all students. Torlakson added the Exemplary Program in Arts Education Award in 2013 as part of his initiative to redesign statewide learning.

“Bullis Charter School has a very diverse Visual and Performing Arts program with extremely high performance standards and outstanding administrative support and program design,” said Jack Mitchell, educational programs consultant for the state Department of Education, after he observed music, choir, drama and art classes at the charter school. “During my visit, I saw confident, self-assured students thriving in an environment of extremely high artistic expectations.”

Rhonda Beasley, coordinator for English language arts and literacy at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, also evaluated the STEAM and Focused Learning Goals programs at Bullis Charter School.

“When the authors of the new Common Core State Standards came together to create this whole new movement of really changing the education world for the better, I think this is what they had in mind – for all kids, for every kid in every corner of this country,” she said.