Nearly 150 first, third and fifth grade students explored science through Project-based Learning as part of Milpitas Unified School District’s inaugural April Academy, which was held during Spring Break April 11-15 at Spangler Elementary School.
“All week the students were collaborating, planning, writing, researching, problem solving, and working with each other on a focused science unit,” said April Academy Principal Andrew Dinh.
Goals of the April Academy were to provide student access to rigorous and engaging instructional content; promote collaborative teamwork in researching and designing a product that is accessible to the community; and building self-efficacy in student motivation to be proactive in their learning.
“As a program, it went great,” said Dinh, noting that nearly 90 percent of parent survey respondents said they would return next year. “I can imagine this program growing and expanding.”
The Academy consisted of three first-grade teachers, two third-grade teachers, one fifth-grade teacher, and a specialty teacher who concentrated on Social Emotional Learning (SEL), physical education and art. Students went through a slightly modified school day from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch were provided at no cost to families.
First graders explored structures and behaviors of plants and animals, and then designed a nature-inspired solution to a student identified problem. Third graders investigated local species, researched and recorded information, and communicated those findings to a larger group.
“My favorite part was cup-stacking with rubber bands and working as a team,” said Anya, a third-grade student.
Fifth graders explored the most frequently used types of plastic, studied how recyclable they were, and identified what happens to mismanaged plastic.
“What’s great about April Academy is we can all work together on our projects,” said Kimberly, a 5th grader.
“I like how we learned a lot about plastics and we gave a presentation to the class about it,” added Alena, a 5th grader.
At the end of the week, students presented their science projects and discoveries to high school student volunteers, staff and families.
“They presented their findings and how it affects the environment,” Dinh shared. “I was very impressed with the outcomes. They were able to reflect and collaborate with each other.”
As the San Francisco Giants beat writer for MLB.com, Milpitas High School Class of 2010 alumna Maria Guardado has conversed with the likes of Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey.
“I write breaking news, game recaps, features, trend pieces and more on the Giants, providing daily coverage throughout the regular season, offseason and Spring Training,” said the 29-year-old professional journalist.
Guardado’s journey to landing a gig with Major League Baseball started in Milpitas at Weller Elementary School, Thomas Russell Middle School and MHS. Guardado then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History from Yale University.
“I feel fortunate to have spent my most formative years in MUSD schools, which not only provided the foundation of my education, but also exposed me to a multicultural environment that valued diversity and placed no limitations on my ambitions,” Guardado said.
Some of her fondest memories were competing on the MHS track and field team, as well as attending science camp in Santa Cruz during elementary school.
“Over the years, my teachers helped me become an avid reader, develop as a writer and stoke my curiosity, skills that have served me well as a professional journalist,” she shared.
One MUSD educator who inspired her the most was AP Spanish teacher Sra. Maria Vargas, “who saw my potential and went out of her way to connect me with people she thought would help me succeed.”
“I’m also indebted to Dena Lindstrom Chavez, who encouraged me to apply to the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program, a 10-day seminar that became my gateway into journalism,” Guardado added.
While she is living out a dream that many Bay Area baseball enthusiasts share, Guardado still treasures her adolescent years at MUSD and directs younger generations to do the same: ”Don’t be in a rush to grow up. You spend most of your life as an adult, but youth is a precious, fleeting experience.”
MHS Theater returns to stage April 7-9 for spring musical ‘Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’
In December 2021, Milpitas HS theater teacher Kaila Schwartz was approached by two of her senior students who wanted to put on a spring production.
Schwartz was admittedly a bit apprehensive due to the uncertainty of COVID, which had forced the cancellation of the last play, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” just two weeks before it was set to premiere.
“They just said they wanted to do another musical before they graduated,” recalled Schwartz. “I listened to them and their arguments for doing one, and I couldn’t disagree with what they said.”
That very evening, Schwartz applied for the rights to “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.” She had seen it on Broadway and thought it would be fun to do with her students.
“It’s a celebration of differences and overcoming obstacles and friendship,” said Schwartz, who then surprised her students with the news after her application was accepted. They will have three performances at the MHS Theater: Thursday, April 7 at 7 p.m.; Friday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
There was a catch, however, with this particular musical there is no online streaming allowed so it would be solely an in-person performance. With COVID lingering in our midst and wanting her students to perform without masks, Schwartz then met with colleague Jenn Hutchison and came up with a safety plan. All students involved in any facet of the production are tested weekly.
“We are the most ‘negative’ crew around, and we love it,” said Schwartz of the COVID testing results. “It’s been a joy working with the kids. Everyone is so excited about doing the show. They are all very supportive of one another. For some, this is their first time in a play.”
Nearly three dozen students are involved in the production as cast members, stage managers, tech crew members, and a five-person band. After the open auditions in January 2022, 17-year-old junior Noah Leabres was selected for the lead role of Percy Jackson.
“It’s so awesome and scary at the same time. It’s overwhelming but in a good way,” said Leabres, a first-time performer who also helped with building the set and even sewing shoes for the costumes. “Rehearsals have been great. The casting choices were perfect. Everyone fits their role really well.”
As part of the rehearsals, Schwartz brought in a professional sword fighter to work with the actors.
Junior Iris Chung, 16, who was disappointed after not being able to perform in Peter and the Starcatcher, is playing a variety of smaller roles for this production and is an understudy for Annabeth Chase.
“I’m so excited. …Everyone is like family. They are so nice and so funny,” said Chung, who re-read all of the Percy Jackson books after learning the news. “Ms. Schwartz is a wonderful teacher and director. It has been so much fun.”
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING:
The governing board of Milpitas Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.