Classrooms across Milpitas Unified School District were among the thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers celebrating Read Across America this week in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday on March 2.
Photographed are activities from Rose, Spangler, Weller, and Zanker elementary schools. In addition, on Thursday Milpitas High School Art Exploration students visited seven of the District's elementary schools to deliver children's book sculptures and read to 10 classes.
Now in its 20th year, Read Across America (created by the National Education Association) focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources. Continue the celebration of reading and literacy March 2 and every day. For more information, activities, or resources, visit www.readacrossamerica.org.
On any given day, students across Milpitas Unified School District are setting off on Apollo missions alongside Neil Armstrong, visiting different countries they have only ever read about in their history books, creating and taking tours in homes they create, and reducing their speaking fears by presenting in front of a virtual audience.
What once seemed like science fiction has now become reality, Virtual Reality (VR), since the District kicked off its efforts in 2016.
“VR is the next progression of technology that students are being introduced to experience learning in an immersive way,” said Chin Song, the district’s Director of Technology Services.
He explained that, currently, two versions of VR exist: fully interactive and partially interactive. Oculus is full immersion, which couples a powerful computer with handheld controls while cardboard VR requires users to hold a mobile unit (usually a phone with limited processing power) with both hands.
“We’re starting our collaboration with Oculus (Facebook) to imagine what VR will look like in K-12 education,” Chin said. “Today, the primary purpose for students and staff is for them to be exposed to VR and its possibilities.”
Since the experience launched last year, Chin said a few teachers have used VR while teachers at multiple sites in all levels have utilized cardboard VR in some way and several teachers have had Google Expeditions to participate in a whole class virtual field trip experience.
On February 6, fifth graders at Burnett Elementary School went far beyond using VR as a tool to bridge an experience to one that is building intimate understanding, human connections, and empathy with others.
In order to introduce her peers to what it might be like for a person with autism to process incoming sensory information, fifth grader Gianna Ciardella teamed up with MUSD's Special Education and Technology Services department to bring Virtual Reality in the classroom that simulated visual and auditory experience.
This was just one part of a project that Gianna, aspiring to be a preschool special education teacher, created through “Genius Hour.” Students in Burnett’s fifth-sixth grade combination class and the other two sixth-grade classes were able to select something that they were interested in learning about and then did so under the guidance and facilitation of their teachers: Jenn Harlow, Michelle Mandeville, and Joanne Stallings, according to Principal Richard Julian.
"I am going to invent a Sensory Tool Kit. It is going to help teachers help kids with autism stay focused during class,” Gianna wrote in a letter to Chin, asking for support from his department by borrowing the glasses.
That day, students were immediately engaged and afterwards shared how much they learned about what it might be like to have autism and integrate sensory information.
The toolkit also included a variety of items to support students with autism in the classroom be better able to focus and attend to instruction such as noise-cancellation headphones, a variety of "fidget" toys, gum (great for proprioceptive input) as well as a weighted blanket, which can be helpful in calming and supporting self-regulation.
“It was an opportunity for students to engage in personalized learning in its purest form,” Principal Julian said of Genius Hour. “Students were intently engaged in learning about something that they were highly interested in. It was an incredible experience for them, their teachers, and our school.”
Chin acknowledged that the important aspect of slowly incorporating VR now is to demonstrate what is possible today, and what the future may look like.
“We hope to incorporate VR in our fabric of learning to help students expand their imagination and learn through experiences,” he said. “In addition, as VR will be a huge growing economy in the future, our hope is that our students will aspire to create VR experiences for others in addition to benefitting from the experiences. VR today is where the Internet was in the early 90s.”
If you are a Milpitas teacher interested in utilizing VR in your classroom, fill out the following Google form.
This editorial was written by Milpitas High School student Justin Tso for the campus newspaper, "The Union." Newspaper staff have authorized its use here, to share the newspaper's view on immigrants and refugees.
The sky is black, blacker than anything you’ve ever seen. The moon is nowhere to be found; the light of any stars did not choose to make the journey with the refugee. He waits sleeplessly, pushed to the rail by the mass of passengers along the deck, as the boat sails through the night.
A heavy wave makes the tiny wooden craft shudder, and the man’s thoughts churn as he thinks about his family. The last time he’d been on the ground of his home, there’d been eight of them. One by one, they’d made their goodbyes, and taken their own boats. Now it’s just him, his older sister, strangers, and the sea.
He doesn’t know what had happened to them: whether their ships had sunk, broken by the ocean, or whether they’d been attacked by the pirates who preyed on those who fled. Perhaps they had all made it safely across, but at the moment, with nothing but the ocean and and other lost people around him, the thought is too crushing to entertain.
He doesn’t know where they are; he doesn’t know where he is, either. In the darkness around him, he doesn’t know where he’s going. As the boat rocks on, all he knows is that he’s going away from everything he’s ever known. In that, there is hope.
We know this story. People like that refugee are going through that terror right now, on the other side of the world. But this narrative isn’t theirs; we’re not going to take their story for our own. The story that we’re sharing is the truth of some of our fathers and mothers, one that took place forty years ago. This isn’t the story of the Syrian refugees-—it’s the story of the Vietnamese boat people.
In a country torn by civil war and a hostile Communist takeover, people fled Vietnam by the thousands on ships and boats in search of safety. They made their own journeys through refugee camps and had their own reunions with the families they lost. They landed here, in America, and more specifically, in cities like Milpitas. Now, they’re the people we interact with every day, in our schools, our hospitals, and our neighborhoods.
It’s so easy to think of those on the other side of the world as “them”-—a different skin color, different circumstances, different religion. Even as stories are released of the harrowing journeys they experience, stories that we should all fundamentally understand, it doesn’t really register as real. But in our community, those refugees aren’t so far away: for many students at the school, the refugee story is right here, in a classmate or a best friend. For others, it’s as simple as the ride home.
We might not have all heard this exact story growing up, but for many of us, it’s familiar. It might not be Vietnam we’re running from, and it might not be war that brought us here, but so many of us in this community have roots in other countries and other cultures. We’ve been offered our own opportunities off the back of the dream of the people who gave up everything to come here.
Now, as thousands of Syrian refugees are rejected, immigrants are turned into scapegoats, and, most recently, our president has signed an executive order aggressively limiting immigration, we’ve come to a crossroads: do we focus on our own affairs and block out potential threats, or provide sanctuary for those who need it, opening ourselves up to infiltration from those who want to harm us? It’s not a simple question, and when we start to associate every stranger, every person abroad, as someone with the capacity to bring down skyscrapers, it’s easy to think of them as aliens and a needless risk. Letting even one radical refugee can hurt American citizens, and it’s something we have to take into consideration.
But for so many refugees who are denied, they’re not people who want to harm us. They’re not people who are going to steal our jobs, steal our tax money, and disrupt our lives. They are people just like our friends, our relatives, our parents. They’re the people who flee from everything they’ve known, be it on plane or on foot or on boat, for something better, for the lives that so many of us have right now. It’s the combination of a few extreme individuals and a culture that’s developed against them that’s preventing that dream.
We, the students of MHS, have a unique perspective on the effect of refugees and immigrants, in that we embody it. We’re the testament that the journey, all those fearful moments of not knowing what’s coming, is worth it. Turning away from their plight is a discredit to the stories that brought this community to where it is in the first place.
It shouldn’t be about “them”: the stories they’re bringing are too similar to the ones we already know. The refugee story is shared by all of us, and it deserves a happy ending. We know, better than anyone.
Robert Jung may be the newest member to join the Board of Education, starting just two months ago on January 3. But the long-term resident has been a familiar face across Milpitas Unified School District for nearly 15 years.
As an involved parent of two children, Robert has volunteered his time through a variety of different means through the years including with the Parent Teacher Association, School Site Council, and the Milpitas Community Educational Endowment, which was conceptualized in Spring 2009 after budget cuts to the school district. Robert has also served on the Community Board Advisory Council, Bond and Parcel Tax committees, and the Family Engagement Task Force.
“For me, the reason to be involved hasn’t really changed,” he said. “It has always been about giving back and contributing the community that I live in. It is just a different role to contribute.”
Robert admits his new role as a Board Member hasn’t altered his perspective of the school district, but has required a shift of sorts.
“Probably, the biggest challenge for me is not to be ‘hands on’ given my previous experience and be strictly participate with governance and direction setting,” he said. “I think that as a Board member, I hope that I can help to nurture and offer a vision to help the district continue to grow.”
While Robert may not be as closely involved in what goes on at the district level anymore, his passion remains the same.
“I’m passionate about education, and really want our students to succeed,” he said. “If our students succeed, I want our community ‘to politely brag about our students.’ I believe we have strength in our diversity and want to show the world that we are successful in offering our students a way to find their passion and an educational foundation to develop a path to success following their passion with the full support of their family and community.”
In order to build a strong external community, Robert believes it begins by looking inward to every student, family, certificated and classified employee, and Board Member.
“I think we have a group of individuals who are committed to improving academic outcomes for our students and encouraging community involvement,” Robert said of the Board. “I’ve known three of the four other members for a long time, so it would be fun to work with them in realizing our common goals.”
These goals, for him, are more than just words, but practices that should be reflected upon every day in the work of employees coming together to make Milpitas truly UNIFIED.
“I believe we can finally close the academic gap by being proactive and investing in our students at the earliest age and ensuring that they are making successful inroads every year,” he said. “I also believe we can create an environment for our students to find their passions and develop a path to success following their passions."
Public Hearing - Decision on the Independent, Countywide Rocketship Alma Academy Charter Petition Renewal
A public hearing on the decision of charter renewal petition for Rocketship Alma Academy charter school is scheduled to take place at the March 15, 2017, meeting of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. The hearing is scheduled to begin at approximately 5:00 p.m. at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, 1290 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95131.
As set forth in Education Code § 47605(b), the hearing shall be “a public hearing on the provisions of the charter,” at which time the County Board of Education shall “consider the level of support for the petition by teachers employed by the district, other employees of the district, and parents.” There will be time allotted for petitioners, district representatives, and members of the public to speak.
Additionally, I ask that you make this information available to your staff and to parents so that those who may wish to address the County Board of Education will have the opportunity to do so.
The complete petition is available for review on Santa Clara County Office of Education website: http://www.sccoe.org/supoffice/charter-schools-office/Pages/default.aspx or click on direct link: Charter Renewal Petition - Rocketship Alma Academy
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Khristel Johnson at (408) 453-3605.