Shop class: Are old school skills back on the cutting edge?

Shop classes (and especially the term “shop class”) have fallen out of fashion in the last couple of decades. But Mark Martin, an engineer who started iDesign-M, thinks that basic manufacturing skills are still relevant in today’s marketplace. He says they are important for careers in design and engineering, as well as (obviously) the well-paying advanced manufacturing jobs that our president is promoting.

I know San Leandro High still offers a thriving industrial arts program. What about other schools?

Here is a video of the free, two-week iDesign-M program that 15 East Bay high school students attended this month. This is the second year of the program, which is heavily funded with private grants. It’s held at Laney College in Oakland. A story about the program should appear in the paper next week, possibly Monday.


School’s out: A series about the summer


As an education writer, I like the summer — and not because I get to file all my stories poolside (though that’s not a bad idea…). I like it because it sometimes gives me a break from breaking news, which means I get to work on projects.

I have a few up my sleeve, and I’m especially excited about one of them: a print and multimedia series about the summer, itself.

You can find the first story (print only) here.


Next week at the Grand Lake: An Acquired Taste Film Festival

A Beautiful Thing. Image courtesy of Jake Mulliken, Bayhill High SchoolRomantic Comedy. Image courtesy of Jake Mulliken, Bayhill High School

An Acquired Taste Film festival — noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 24 at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater — will showcase an eclectic group of student-produced films: noir, horror, romantic comedy, comedic spoofs, surrealist films and documentaries.

You can check out the trailers for yourself, on the festival’s website.

Jake Mulliken’s film students at Bayhill High School, a nonpublic school in Oakland (off Lakeshore Avenue, near Lake Merritt) for students with language-based disabilities, made the movies and designed the festival, itself.

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Aztec dance helps youth see life differently

Last year, I met a group of mostly Latino teenagers from rival gang turf who came together each week for a “homies dinner” at the Eastlake YMCA and who started serving breakfast to day laborers before school on Monday mornings. Some of those youths, including 18-year-old Ivan Cruz — a Castlemont graduate — have joined an Aztec dance group, Eztli Chicahua, which practices on Friday nights in East Oakland. In the video, Ivan explains how the dancing has changed him.

The group performed at Saturday’s Our Lady of Guadalupe procession across Oakland, a 7.5-mile trek from a Catholic church on 100th Avenue and International to the cathedral on Lake Merritt. Read the story here.


Oakland youth and the Oscar Grant verdict

A jury could begin deliberations this afternoon or tomorrow in the Mehserle murder trial, and there’s been much talk (some have called it hype) about what the reaction in Oakland will be, especially if the former BART police officer is acquitted. Youth UpRising is doing its part to keep the peace producing the above video and organizing an event at 5 p.m. on the day of the verdict, whenever that is. (Flier below.)

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Epilogue to the Skyline prank story

Some new intelligence has surfaced in the whole senior prank/commencement punishment flap at Oakland’s Skyline High School.

The Skyline staff member who allegedly conspired with the flour-and-water pranksters? Well, that same person allegedly (somehow) had a hand in Friday’s lunchtime car display as well, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

I’ll bet you can guess the conclusion: The lunchtime drivers will be able to walk the stage at tomorrow night’s commencement ceremony, after all. Flint said the school administration wanted to apply the same standard to everyone.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.


Banned from graduation: Did the punishment fit the crime?

Skyline senior's painted car (courtesy photo)

It seemed like a fun idea at the time: Painting their cars like floats in a parade and cruising down the off-limits service road that runs around Oakland’s Skyline High School campus at lunchtime.

But about 11 of the students that took part in Friday’s senior prank — those who were caught — learned yesterday they would be suspended and banned from walking the stage at tomorrow night’s commencement at the Paramount, said Raeshon Culberson, whose daughter Jasmine was suspended (and, incidentally, who used to teach at Skyline).

They’ll be allowed inside the theater, Culberson said, but not on stage — and not dressed in a cap and gown.

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Oakland to offer new media program

Oakland International High School filmmakers (photo courtesy of KDOL)

This fall, Oakland students will have the chance to produce news magazine-style video journalism and documentaries about life and issues in Oakland in a new R.O.P. class supported by KDOL, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and local filmmakers.

Jeff Keys, the fine arts chair and new media teacher at Head Royce, will be coming to OUSD to direct the Media Enterprise Alliance.

To get a taste of the kind of projects they’ll do, check out this 12-minute piece about Oakland International High School. OIHS students worked with documentary filmmaker Pam Uzzell and UC Santa Cruz film program graduate Chris Guevarra to produce the segment.

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Hearts for Haiti

Bret Harte Middle School
photo courtesy of Bill Watson Payne

Kids at Oakland’s Bret Harte Middle School are showing their love this month by raising money for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. So far, they have raised more than $700 for Oxfam, according to teachers at the school. Each heart represents a student’s contribution.

At Oakland School for the Arts, Graciela Olguin and her classmates organized an online art sale to raise money for the American Red Cross’s Haiti relief efforts. They set up this Web site, and generated more than $300 as of late last week.

If your school has undertaken a similar project, tell us about it.