Noe Valley Voice May 2009

School Report


School parents share the news from Fairmount Elementary on Chenery Street and Alvarado Elementary on Douglass Street.


Two Nights in the Woods for Young Campers

Every two years, Fairmount's fourth- and fifth-graders, along with their teachers and parent volunteers, leave school for a few days and head north to Westminster Woods, deep in Sonoma County. There, they turn the woods into their classrooms. This year's three-day, two-night trip continued the school tradition of learning ecology and respect for the natural environment.

Working with guides, Fairmount's kids studied the environment of the streams, the habitats of animals, fish, and insects, and how the ecological systems of the North Coast woods are interwoven. They also learned how they can act as stewards and advocates for the natural environment they learned about.

The six classes were divided into small cabin groups with parents serving as chaperones. Everyone learned how to live and work with one another, as well as to help run the camp. The students worked in the cafeteria. After each meal, the students measured the amount of food and liquid waste they'd generated and drew bar graphs showing how they could reduce their impact by sending less waste to landfills.

The daytime activities involved hands-on natural science activities focused on animal and fish habitats, including collecting and analyzing through a magnifying device the various stream creatures. Students also engaged in trust-building activities and had free time on two playgrounds, one of which contained huge rope ladders and cargo nets to test their physical dexterity.

On the first evening of camp, students enjoyed a sing-along and heard a string of not-too-scary stories told by the experienced camp counselors. A highlight of the second evening was the night walk, where students learned how eyes adjust to the darkness without the use of flashlights. As they took their "solo" hike through the night woods, they listened for creature sounds and saw naturally luminescent insects along the trail.

Just before the bus came to take them back to San Francisco, there was a final session where the students shared their experiences and the appreciation they felt for one another and the Westminster Woods staff. A slide show depicting campers in all sorts of crazy camp activities, as well as in learning moments, provided comic relief, plus the chance to see how much the students had learned over the three days.

Returning to Fairmount that Friday afternoon were tired but happy students, teachers, and parents, who had spent three days experiencing the wonders of nature and rethinking how students learn about themselves and the environment.

FiestaVal Flying High

Fairmount's annual showcase "fun raiser," FiestaVal, was held on Saturday, May 2, at the school at the corner of Randall and Chenery streets. The crowd enjoyed some incredible homemade Latin American food, along with games and jumpy houses for the kids. Silent and live auctions featured a bevy of donated goods and services from Noe Valley merchants and restaurateurs.

All of the school's arts, music, and dance activities are financially supported by money raised at this spring fling. So Fairmount sends a big thank-you to all those who contributed. For information about future events or to take a peek at the campus, contact Principal Mary Lou Cranna at 695-5669.

--Tom Ruiz


Carnival Takes the Cakewalk to New Heights

Spring into Carnival at Alvarado Elementary School on Saturday, May 16, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and celebrate the school's rich mix of Latino roots while playing games, painting murals, and getting wet.

At last year's fest, students argued over which game was better--the waterball race or the fishing game--but all parents could talk about was the food.

"There was a long line, but the food was amazing," recalls Maureen Faphimai. Meanwhile, her son, Louis, ticks off his favorites: a science experiment, the jumpy castle, and the cakewalk.

This year, Alvarado parent Nancy Velasco will shorten the wait by simplifying the menu, she says. She's organized parent Claudia Rodriguez and a handful of other mothers to make carne asada and chicken tostadas with pico de gallo and all the trimmings.

In addition, Carnival will have its first barbeque, adding to the festive atmosphere reminiscent of celebrations in Latin America, she says.

Entertainment coordinator Angelica Guerrero has lined up dancing entertainment, starting with two student groups led by dance teacher Zenon Bayron that will perform traditional Mexican folk dances. The first will dance Veracruz, and the second will show off the Guadalajara style. Finally, Bayron's own dance group will perform.

Everyone is invited to a "paint-in," led by artist-in-residence Dan Stingle. Stingle worked with 25 third- to fifth-graders to create a mural of butterflies and insects for the wall next to the butterfly garden on the upper yard. The children will trace their designs onto the wall May 9, and it will be brush-ready for anyone to participate on the day of Carnival.

The children's art--from papier mâché to clay--will be on display in the motor skills room, vying for space with imaginative prizes for the cakewalk. Started in 2003, the cakewalk has grown wildly since. All parents are encouraged to bake. Veteran baker Kathy Sabatino put out 17 cakes last year, including a guitar, a Parthenon, a dragon, and several sports ball cakes.

"Every year, I see a kid who didn't win, so I bake more," she says. Parents often work with their classrooms to pull together a few cakes, too. Sabatino remembers her daughter's second-grade rock cake made shortly after the children had finished their rocks and minerals science rotation.

The PTA would like to send out its heartfelt thanks to those who made our bigger moneymaker--the annual Not-So-Silent Auction--a huge success. We forgot to thank Joe's 24th Street Café for the wonderful food, which helped create such a warm and friendly atmosphere.

"We're humbled that in these economic times our total surpassed last year's," says co-organizer Angela Danison, estimating a profit of $80,000. The money earned at Carnival and the Auction supports the arts and science programs at the school, as well as extracurricular activities.

Finally, many thanks are due Hill & Co., which hosted an open house for Alvarado student art and will continue to show the works in its office at 3899 24th Street at Sanchez through June 6. We are lucky to have such a supportive business community.

All Noe Valley is invited to the Carnival, held on the school grounds at 625 Douglass Street.

--Heather World


Alvarado Elementary School
Robert Broecker, Principal
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado

Fairmount Elementary School
Mary Lou Cranna, Principal
65 Chenery Street at Randall

James Lick Middle School
Bita Nazarian, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street