Happy Earth Day!

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

I visited Peralta Elementary School in North Oakland this week to see how they are using the arts to teach children about the environment. A story about it ran in Saturday’s paper.

Below, you’ll find the “Miraculous Fungi” animation last year’s fourth-graders produced with their teachers to explain the concept of micromediation. (Normally, I’d explain such a term myself, but I’d rather let the students tell you how it works.) Next on the list: native bees.

You can view the other animation projects here.

What does your school do to promote environmental stewardship?


Oakland Fine Arts Summer School: Your (parcel) tax dollars at work

So often these days, I find myself writing about the end of things. But city’s fine arts summer school — free for any child who lives in Oakland — has weathered the downturn and years of budget cuts. Why? Measure G, a $195 school parcel tax that voters renewed (and made permanent) in February 2008, in part, to support fine arts in schools.

The program moved this year from Glenview Elementary to the Fruitvale-area campus of Think College Now and International Community School. This summer, it has more than 300 kids from public and private schools. I visited with photographer Laura Oda. You can find the story here.


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.


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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A tragic start to the new year

Chris Jones (courtesy photo)Chris Jones was all set to graduate from East Oakland School of the Arts and study music at Cal State East Bay. He had his graduation day marked on his cell phone calendar — along with a note about how happy he would be, at that moment.

But, as you might have heard, the talented 17-year-old was shot Friday evening outside his house, in front of his mother and two sisters. It was New Year’s Eve, and they were heading out to eat. Jones was Oakland’s last homicide victim of 2010. His older sister was injured in the shooting. You can read the initial news report here.

This evening, classmates and teachers from his high school are holding a vigil in the family’s home. Seventh Avenue Baptist Church (1740 Seventh Ave.) is having a musical celebration in his honor at 6 p.m. Sunday. The memorial service is at 11 a.m. Monday at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 1909 Market St. in West Oakland.

There will be a story about Chris in Sunday’s Tribune.


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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Summer school in OUSD: still here

At tonight’s Oakland school board meeting, a staffer handed me a colorful guide almost the size of a newspaper on summer resources for kids. Despite the cutbacks, the district is still offering:

  • Algebra Academies for middle and high school students
  • Oakland Fine Arts Summer School (at International Community School/Think College Now this year)
  • Bridges Program, to help kids make the transition to the sixth and ninth grades
  • Early Childhood Education programs
  • Migrant/refugee summer program
  • Pre-Collegiate Academy, summer enrichment (co-sponsored by the East Bay Consortium and Merritt College)
  • an extended school year for disabled students
  • Summer Intervention Program focused on math and reading and/or high school exit exam prep
  • Pre-K camp (with First 5 California)

The guide also includes pages and pages of other local programs and classes. You can find it online here. Any recommendations?


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.


Students to perform modern version of Shakespeare tragedy, set in Oakland in 1989

Hamlet: Blood in the BrainHamlet, a well-known work of Shakespeare performed at high schools and colleges across the country (and even in a high-security prison, one of my favorite “This American Life” stories), comes to the Oakland Tech stage this week.

Sort of. Naomi Iizuka’s “Hamlet: Blood in the Brain” is a modern, local re-telling of the popular tragedy. It’s set in Oakland in the late 1980s.

You can see the show at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday in Tech’s auditorium (Broadway and 42nd Street). It’s intended for an audience of high school age and older. Continue Reading