Outlook 75.5 | May 2022

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OUTLOOK Environmental Literacy

Educators, the community, and local ecosystems all connect in the classroom LEARNING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND

First students to experience Science Camp at Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center learn and have fun in the snow


Venture Academy Family of Schools meeting the needs of students and families for 20 years


SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION Troy A. Brown, Ed.D., County Superintendent of Schools


Take a look to see what’s inside this issue! COLOR FUN RUN




















Waterloo students, staff, and parents paint the sky at annual Color Run The SJCOE connects Stockton community with educational programs at festival Students explore writing and their own stories in series of workshops with Brandon Leake High school students earning wages, taking college courses while learning job skills as state-registered apprentices in ARCH program Inspiring students receive Every Student Succeeding awards Girlie Hale becomes third president of Teachers College of San Joaquin Event teaching San Joaquin County third-graders about agriculture adds new location First students to experience Science Camp at Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center learn and have fun in the snow Venture Academy Family of Schools meeting the needs of students and families for 20 years


A look at carbon cleanup activities in the classroom, plus local groups networking for environmental literacy

Looking Ahead Events, trainings, & more!

Learn more about upcoming events, meetings, trainings, and workshops for students, families, and educators on the San Joaquin County Office of Education calendar at www.sjcoe.org/calendar.aspx.



VOLUME 75 | ISSUE 5 | MAY 2022 The Outlook is published bimonthly, September through May, by the San Joaquin County Office of Education Public Information Office.


San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools

SCOTT ANDERSON Deputy Superintendent Business Services



Associate Superintendent Student Programs and Services


Assistant Superintendent Educational Services



Assistant Superintendent Special Education and SELPA


Assistant Superintendent County Operated Schools and Programs

CHRISTINA TORRES-PETERS Chief Human Resources Officer

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) is a regional agency that provides educational leadership, resources, and customized services to assist school districts. The SJCOE promotes student achievement and accountability, serves San Joaquin County students, and strives to create an environment in which every student, regardless of circumstances, has an opportunity for a quality education. Zachary Johnson, Editor Carly Sexton, Editor Kailyn Hill, Contributor Lisa Bryant, Contributor Kim Borges, Contributor Melissa Galea, Contributor Brandie Moore, Contributor Gabrielle Pitman, Contributor CodeStack Digital Media



SUBMIT A STORY sjcoepio@sjcoe.net

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Waterloo students, staff, and parents paint the sky at annual Color Run

Color powder painted the sky and students at the Waterloo Middle School annual Color Run April 1, 2022. Waterloo Middle School has put on the Color Run for its students in grades 5-8 for several years. Parent volunteers also join in on the fun, for a chance to cover their child in colorful powder. With color stations set up all around the field, students raced around to see who could become the most colorful. The students were divided into two groups for the run. The students in grades 5-6 kicked off the run, followed by students in grades 7-8. They gathered on the lawn excitedly, awaiting the start of the music indicating that they could begin running around the field. Teachers and Principal Shannon Roberson joined the students for the run, too! As the run came to an end, the students headed back to the lawn, but the fun was far from over. Students received individual bags of color powder. Now, they had the power. Color powder filled the air once again as students chased their friends, teachers, and parents around the field. Events such as this color run are important for students because they get a chance to interact with their peers, teachers, and staff outside of the classroom, school officials said. It also gives students a chance to bond with one another while making lasting memories. There was not a single student that left without color on them and a smile on their face.




The SJCOE connects Stockton community with educational programs at festival “Attending Come Back Kids (CBK) has completely changed my life in many ways,” said Phetmany Thonesavanh. Thonesavanh enrolled in the high school diploma program 11 years after dropping out of high school when she became pregnant with her first child. Before the program, life was a struggle, she said. “I just couldn’t seem to get ahead,” she said. As a CBK graduate, Thonesavanh now has a job, is signing up for college classes, and has set her sights on dreams of a career in the medical field, which she previously put on hold. “Getting my high school diploma taught me to be proud of my accomplishments. I am proof that if you put your mind to something, focus on it, and believe in yourself -- you can achieve it,” she said.

Thonesavanh shared her story with the crowd at an April 13 event to connect the community with the wide range of San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) programs and services for families and students of all ages. The event was part of the Spring Fun Festival at the Factory Institute of Training (F.I.T.) in Stockton. The Stockton Educational Center (S.E.C.) and Faith in Action Education Services (F.A.C.E.S.) also partnered with the SJCOE to bring the event to the community. Programs highlighted at the event ranged from Head Start San Joaquin -- which oversees preschool and other early education services -- to the Greater Valley Conservation Corps paid work-experience program for youth ages 18-26, to CBK, which is open to adults of all ages. “The SJCOE has so many great programs, and they are all based on meeting

families and individuals where they are,” said Dr. Troy Brown, San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools, at the event. The festival also had food trucks, basketball, and even a mechanical bull. SJCOE programs brought games, books, activities, and information about life-changing services. “I am here to encourage you to join the program and maybe change your life, too,” said Angel Pantoja, a graduate of CodeStack Academy. Eliza Longoria, 31, shared that CBK gave her the flexibility to work and be a mom and still graduate with a high school diploma. “It made me feel good. It made me feel like I accomplished something. I did it for my kids, too.”




Students explore writing and their own stories in series of workshops with Brandon Leake To kick off a series of writing workshops with students in the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s (SJCOE) one.Program, poet Brandon Leake stopped by to meet the students and get to know them.

just talk about their dreams. They learned to process and express their emotions in writing. Leake told the students they have a story to tell and that it was his goal for them to express, write, and speak it.

He did this by asking students to share their dreams.

More than that, he asked them to think about how they would achieve their dreams through the process. “The dream is far more important than anything that they write here. Believing in themselves is the goal.”

“To travel.” “To get rich.” “To make a clothing line.” “To live a life without worry.” Listing dreams was the first step for the students to write their own poetry. There would be many more steps to come.

Brandon Leake,

Educator, spoken word artist, and 2020 winner of America’s Got Talent

Leake’s words have moved millions. His spoken word performance made him a champion on America’s Got Talent television show in 2020. Over several weeks, Leake -- who is also an educator from Stockton -- worked with students from one. Lodi and one.Discover to craft their own poems. The workshops were about writing, but they covered a lot more territory. Students didn’t


Students who participated in the workshops shared that they did feel more inspired to achieve their goals and began writing about ways to achieve them. One student, Kathleen, shared that she looked forward to coming to the workshops, which have helped her learn how valuable writing is. She has been able to take the writing skills she learned during the workshops and apply them in ways that have helped her process her own emotions. “He’s teaching us how to express ourselves better -- writing it down and getting it off our chest in a different way,” she said. “It’s a great learning experience.”


GROWING APPRENTICESHIPS High school students earning wages, taking college courses while learning job skills as state-registered apprentices in ARCH program

Building on its 2020 launch as an earnas-you-learn apprenticeship program for high school students, the Apprenticeships Reaching Career Horizons (ARCH) is expanding, adding new options for students looking to get paid job experience and a leg up on their careers. The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) program started with students from the SJCOE, Linden Unified School District, and Ripon Unified School District, putting students to work in their own information technology (IT) departments. Now, students are working in classrooms as paid teacher’s aides/paraprofessional apprentices. They also are concurrently earning college credit at San Joaquin Delta College. On the employer side, the program provides both short-term and long-term advantages. In Linden Unified, some high school students in the ARCH program provide valuable support in the district’s IT department, while others work alongside teachers assisting students. In the long term, the ARCH program allows the

district to put Linden students on the path to one day coming back to the district as fulltime employees in high-demand positions as IT professionals and educators. The program’s benefits have earned the support of both administrators and labor groups in the district.

knows that his apprenticeship means that he will be able to find work in IT, even if he is pursuing other options. “IT is needed everywhere, so finding a job won’t be hard.”

ARCH can assist students on career paths they may have already chosen for themselves. “We know we have future teachers out there,” said Dr. Jamie Hughes, assistant superintendent at Linden Unified School District. Bethany, a junior at Linden High, has known she wanted to be a teacher since she was a fifth-grader. She loves working with students as an apprentice teacher’s aide and feels like it is helping her get ready for her dream career. “I want to take this experience and put it into doing something that I love.” Cristian, a senior, has been an apprentice with Linden’s IT department since 2020. He hasn’t settled on a career yet, but he

ARCH is the first program in California offering state-registered apprenticeships to high school students. The SJCOE College and Career Readiness department can assist school districts wishing to offer ARCH to students. The program currently seeks employers in the private and public sectors interested in hiring high school students as apprentice farm managers, IT workers, educational paraprofessionals, and other professions. More information at www.sjcoe.org/CollegeAndCareer.



Valeria Acevedo Torres

Caleb Lee

Collegeville Elementary School

Melville S. Jacobson Elementary School

Micheal Clayton

Matthew Musselman

Harvest High School

Julius Cordes Elementary School


Inspiring students receive Every Student Succeeding awards

Blake Schroeder Village Oaks High School

Maddie Lee

Alexis Sabin


Juan Castro

Oak View Elementary School

Banta Elementary School

Mujataba Etimad

Jonas Calderon

Bethany Elementary School

Grace Maxwell

South/West Park Elementary School

Weber Institute

Emmi Arauzo

Lathrop High School

Not pictured at ceremony: Jorge Octavio Garcia, Sierra High School

When she was younger, Blake Schroeder understood what it felt like to feel uprooted, abandoned, and alone. She struggled in school and spent time living on the couch of one family member or another before re-enrolling in Village Oaks High School (Lincoln Unified School District). Now, the high school senior has not only found stability in her home life and academic success in school -- she has also brought with her a drive to help others find their place, too. She mentors other students, joined the Girls Empowerment Team, and started the school’s LGBTQ+ club. She plans to pursue a fashion design career and continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. “I know how it feels to be excluded or belittled because you happen to be different than others, so I wanted to create a safe place for others, so they didn’t have to go through what I did,” said Blake, who is transgender.

Students were nominated by their supporters at the school who helped them overcome obstacles, including overcoming physical and mental barriers, improving attendance, leaving a gang, returning to school, or changing their attitude. The students were recognized at a breakfast ceremony at the San Joaquin County Office of Education on March 14, where administrators, teachers, and families came together to watch slideshow presentations celebrating each student’s story. These included the story of Bethany Elementary School fourth-grader Mujataba Etimad -- who, in 2020, lost his father in an accident and, in 2021, spent a harrowing four days unable to leave Afghanistan to return to Mountain House. Despite the challenges, he has been an example of kindness and bravery to students in his class, teacher Sheri Keith said.

She was one of the 13 students from San Joaquin County schools to receive an Every Student Succeeding Award from the San Joaquin County chapter of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

All the students have stories that inspire educators, said San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Troy A. Brown, who spoke at the breakfast. They also inspire students facing their own challenges.

The purpose of the award is to honor students of all grade levels who have succeeded against all odds and beyond all expectations. It recognizes students who are inspirational, both to their peers and to the educators who worked with them to help them reach their goals.

“You give them hope. You have shown them the strength you have inside you,” he said. “The students you inspire will reach deep inside themselves with a new hope that, within themselves, they will find the same strength you have shown.”



A NEW CHAPTER IN LEADERSHIP Girlie Hale becomes third president of Teachers College of San Joaquin

The San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and the Teachers College of San Joaquin (TCSJ) formally welcomed Girlie Hale as the third president to take the helm of TCSJ at an investiture ceremony on April 12. A Stockton native and longtime teacher and administrator with 25 years of experience in education, Hale has been an adjunct faculty member and IMPACT program coordinator. Prior to joining TCSJ, she was a teacher, program specialist, math coach, assistant principal, and principal in Stockton Unified School District. Before an audience that included the TCSJ Governing Board, SJCOE Cabinet, and TCSJ alumni and students from across the years since the college’s founding in 2009, Hale said she would continue TCSJ’s mission to develop a workforce of teachers and school leaders. “We do this work with a focus on our four core values: providing learning experiences that are relevant, rigorous, reflective in practice, and driven by relationships,” she said. “Our goal for our region is to develop the best educators to serve our diverse students.” Hale shared the opportunities she had experienced in her career as an educator

as she looked forward to the role of TCSJ president, continuing to bring opportunities to educators in the years to come. “Regardless of where you are in your learning, we hope that we can be there to help prepare you for your next opportunity,” she said. “Whether you decide to enter teaching as an intern or resident, get ready to clear your credential through our induction programs, want to become a school administrator, further your education and earn a master’s degree, or continue your journey as a lifelong learner through our professional learning center, we want to be there for you.”

Legacy of Leadership Gary Dei Rossi President | 2008-2015 Diane Carnahan President | 2015-2020 Girlie Hale President | 2022-



AGVENTURE AT DURHAM FERRY Event teaching San Joaquin County third-graders about agriculture adds new location

The annual AgVenture experience for third-graders added a fourth location this year at Durham Ferry, a San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) site on the outskirts of Manteca. About 950 students from Banta Unified, Jefferson Elementary, New Jerusalem Elementary, Lammersville Unified, and Ripon Unified school districts came to learn about the agriculture industry from an army of volunteers. Unlike other AgVenture locations, the Durham Ferry site is home to many animals that introduce the third-graders to life on a farm. The site, owned by the SJCOE, is home to Venture Academy Family of Schools’ Durham Ferry Academy and the Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center. Students enjoyed the hands-on experience, though not every student raised their hands to try milking one of the goats at Durham Ferry. “It was uncomfortable. But I was glad I did it because I had never done that before,” said Laila, a third-grader from Monticello Elementary School. Her guide was Durham Ferry eighthgrader Jordan. It was the first time for

him to be called upon to teach younger students about the animals at the school. “I’ve never really done anything like this; that’s why I’m really excited to do this.” Other Durham Ferry students prepared presentations about horses, equipment, and more for their guests. Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from schools in Manteca and Tracy unified school districts, as well as industry groups, agencies, and other presenters volunteered to share their expertise, too. The field trip supported what students had been learning in social studies and science, said Shabana Boparai, a third-grade teacher at Monticello Elementary. “It’s a good experience to have first-hand,” she said. “I feel this is something students are going to remember for a long, long time.” Also held in Lodi, Manteca, and Stockton -- AgVenture is organized by San Joaquin County government and supported by sponsors and partners, including the SJCOE, and made possible by an army of volunteers. According to organizers, about 9,500 third-graders took an AgVenture field trip this school year.


“We are so excited to host AgVenture at SJCOE’s Durham Ferry. It is crucial that people know where their food comes from and understand the importance of agriculture in San Joaquin County,” said Katie Wipfli, SJCOE’s director of agriculture and environmental technology, a new position at the SJCOE created to connect agriculture industry partners with districts, students, and the community.


LEARNING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND First students to experience Science Camp at Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center learn and have fun in the snow

On a late winter’s day in the mountains, students from San Joaquin County schools built snow forts and made sculptures out of snow at the SJCOE’s Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center. But having fun is just one part of Science Camp. Students also measured snow samples, then melted those samples down on a camping stove to measure water content. They dug holes in the snow and measured volume. The naturalists at Sky Mountain also led students in discussions about how animals adapted to living in the snow and the local environment. “They don’t even realize that they are learning something that is school-related in this context,” said Elaine Vollmer, a teacher from Wicklund Elementary Schools at Sky Mountain with her students. “They’re having so much fun; they don’t realize it’s a lesson.” Fun and learning are all a part of Science Camp, which saw its first groups of fifth- and sixth-grade campers and high school cabin

leaders arriving at Sky Mountain this year. During one trip in early March, the visitors came from Wicklund and Lammersville elementary schools (Lammersville Unified School District) and Washington Elementary School (Stockton Unified School District). The SJCOE acquired the 62-acre Sky Mountain property in late 2020, following a five-year process in which the facility was donated by Pacific Gas & Electric. Ownership of the property opens up the Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center for a variety of uses throughout all seasons. Snow is just part of the winter experience. It can be a launching point for science learning and more. “Students learn the natural history of the area: How snow has changed over time. The watershed where this snow ends up because it ends up in the valley where students live,” said Lael Burgess, a naturalist at Sky Mountain. “This might be one of the first times that these kids have really

been able to get kind of remote in nature, especially being from big cities. This is the time to plant the seed for lifelong love and learning of nature, and it’s just an awesome responsibility and privilege that I have.” The first day of the three-day camp ended with nighttime activities, including a hike in the dark. Students were encouraged to think about their senses while walking through the darkness. The experience got Ryan, a sixth-grader from Wicklund, thinking about animal adaptations. “Because your eyes have to adapt to the dark, it’s kind of like how animals adapt to the dark,” Ryan said on Tuesday morning after the night hike, during a friendly snowball fight with classmates. The sky had cleared after morning rain. Hikes, snow-sliding, and snowshoe walks took place under a blue sky after a lunch of hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Keep reading on next page >


OUTLOOK | NEWS “We learn, and we also get to have fun,” said Brooklyn, a student from Washington Elementary School who really enjoyed hiking and sliding on the snow.” And the food is delicious.” On top of teaching science, state Environmental Principles and Concepts, and more, Sky Mountain Science Camp also focuses on social-emotional development, said Principal Forsman. “Students get to interact with their classmates at a completely different level,” he said. “They get their classmates at school for a few hours during the day. Here, they spend three days with them. So, there’s a different level of interaction. Just a different way of interacting with people.” Sky Mountain opens up the outdoors to all students, which is something that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives, he said. “I think that what we’ve seen is that it is accessible to everybody. My staff is doing a great job of making sure that everybody up here feels comfortable regardless of their level of experience,” Forsman said. “You might have somebody that’s never seen the snow, and they come up, they’re able to get full gear to feel just as comfortable as an experienced skier would.”




Operated by San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) STEM Programs, the Sky Mountain Outdoor Education Center offers a wide range of offerings throughout the year. Because the SJCOE owns the property, the SJCOE is able to accommodate more students at Science Camp, as well as offer more opportunities for students and educators. Sky Mountain also hosts learning opportunities for educators, summer camps, and more. These include: •

Color the Summer Art Camp. A sleep-away camp filled with arts and other activities, June 29 - July 2.

Educators in the Region 6 STEAM Hub Expanding Learning group focus on Environmental Principles and Concepts, Next Generation Science Standards, and social-emotional learning in April.

Educators in the California Environmental Literacy Project will attend an immersive five-day summer institute to build teacher leader capacity for implementing and supporting environmental literacy in their own counties.

Students in the SJCOE one.Program added hiking in the snow at Sky Mountain for students’ experience as a Quest activity.

Holds activities for students in the Migrant Education Program at San Joaquin and Merced county offices of education.

Hosts San Joaquin 4H summer camp.

Welcomes guest groups on weekends and in summer when student activities are not scheduled.




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Venture Academy Family of Schools meeting the needs of students and families for 20 years A small group of educators with a dream and a mission, working closely with parents and the San Joaquin County Office of Education, had a plan to create something new for students in San Joaquin County. Part of their goal was to build a nontraditional approach to learning that could awaken the passion and imagination of students and put them on a path to become lifelong learners who embrace challenges while pursuing their dreams. The plan came to life 20 years ago and it lives on today. It’s the Venture Academy Family of Schools -- one of the first charter schools in the county that is today home to about 1,600 TK-12 students in 13 distinct academies to provide options for students. “Everybody needs to have a home and be connected to others when they’re

in high school,” said Joni Hellstrom, Venture Academy’s division director. That home could be in any one of the academies, which typically consist of around 200 students and a core group of teachers to focus on different interest areas meant to connect and engage with students, she said. Or that home could be on a sports team, leadership class, the mock trial team, or within a full range of CTE (career technical education) pathways. These are some of the types of experiences students can have. Because the academies are all connected, larger-scale programs found at more traditional, comprehensive high schools become available, too. It offers the best of both worlds of high school. However, the strong connections between students and the school


can start long before freshman year. Over the years, Venture has added academies for students from transitional kindergarten through eigth grade, too. Like all of Venture’s academies, they were added to address student needs identified by staff. That is how Venture has developed and grown over the years, Hellstrom said. Whether it is a new academy, a club, or an extracurricular activity -- they all start with an idea from the Venture team. “Everything we do is about our students. Every decision we make, every program we create is intended to meet the needs of our students,” she said. “If a staff member has an idea, the question is asked: ‘Is this good for kids?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then we make it happen,” she said.

OUTLOOK | FEATURE “I really believe Venture is magic because students are at the core of everything that we do.”


The mission at Venture and its culture of collaboration and education empowerment was there at the beginning, too, more than 20 years ago. “What I’ve always said to teachers as we hired them was that in our program, we have a lot of flexibility and autonomy, but with that comes a huge responsibility,” said Kathy Focacci, Venture Academy’s first administrator, who retired last year. The culture has its roots in the one.Program, the SJCOE’s groundbreaking alternative education program that is also celebrating a milestone this school year since starting 30 years ago. Focacci was one of a group of a dozen educators from the one.Program exploring the idea of creating a charter school to create more options for students to find success. The new school included modified daily attendance, which is still a part of Venture. The goal was to increase parent involvement in their children’s education by having class on campus four days a week and at-home study on Fridays. Building Venture on a small-academy model is one of the most important features of the school, Focacci said, “Because we believe that every student needs a place. A place to call home. A place where everybody knows your name,” she said. It allows for a tight-knit community filled with people who care about the students and really get to know them, she said. If students had a fight with their parents, skipped a meal, or had other issues that they were dealing with at home -- the staff at the academy would know, she said. Driven by the passion of the Venture team -- the focus of individual academies draws students in and focuses them on their education and growth. The first themed academy had a focus on performing arts. Called “Act One” at the time, it continues today as the Foundations Academy. It is just one of the 13 academies at the school today. They range from Durham Ferry Academy, an agricultural themed academy located on the banks of the San Joaquin River in a rural area outside Manteca, to the brand-new TEACH! Academy, an early college program focused on preparing the next generation of teachers. Angelo Castillo teaches for both the Independent Study and the ImagineIT academies and has been with Venture for more than a decade. Castillo began teaching Independent Study because that is what some ImagineIT students at the time needed in order to follow CTE opportunities found at different locations in the county. “Even though I’ve seen it grow, I’ve also seen it stay very consistent in its approach to education,” he said.


Focus: Homeschool Grades TK-8 | Weekly class offerings and monthly check-in


Focus: Elementary School Grades K-5 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Arts and Technology Grades 6-8 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Kinesthetic Learning and Sports Grades 6 - 8 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Academic Performance for College and Career Readiness Grades 7-8 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Agriculture, Animal Science, Leadership, and FFA Grades 6-12 | Durham Ferry Campus, Manteca


Focus: Integrated Science and Technology Grades 9-12 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Theatre and Performing Arts Grades 9-12 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Critical Thinking and 21st Century Skills Grades 9-12 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Visual Arts and Career Pathways Grades 9-12 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Health and Sport Science Grades 9-12 | Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Independent and Individualized Learning Grades 9-12 | Monthly Check-In at Venture Campus, Stockton


Focus: Teacher Education and Early College High Grades 9-10 | Teachers College of San Joaquin, Stockton


OUTLOOK | FEATURE “Venture Academy has always done whatever is necessary to ensure student success, but also worked with students to make sure their personal needs were being met.”

The Right Place

Building strong relationships is at Venture Academy’s core, and those relationships can last a long time. Former students are now parents or staff members at the school. It is also possible to be a Venture Academy student from transitional kindergarten all the way through high school graduation. But there are choices and different directions for students to find just the right place for them, from different middle school academies to the variety of high school academies. Students at the school know when they find the right fit and why it works for them. Daniel remembers being an eighth-grader and learning about Imagine IT, where he is now a senior. He said the focus on career pathways and opportunities to be creative and hands-on intrigued him. He’s enjoyed taking classes in construction and welding. ImagineIT has led him to trying new and interesting paths in his education, he said. “The teachers here are, in my opinion, some of the best ones that I ever had in my life. They really try to establish a deep connection with you, and they try to figure out what’s best for you and your learning experiences.” Geist, a junior, said he likes that the flexibility of the end-of-year projects, called Defense of Mastery, at BrainworX Academy, which allow him to be creative and explore his interests and work toward making a difference. “It’s a huge project. It’s a lot of work, but it can be about anything that you’re really passionate about,” he said. “So, you can make a change with something that is really important to you.” Elijah, a senior, said that the staff at Excel Academy provides a system of support, whether it’s personal or academic. He also played on the basketball team, which he said helped make school more fulfilling, both on and off the court. “Instead of being reticent, I was able to be much more outgoing and talk with more people and really enjoy the full high school experience.” Before she knew about Foundations, Monique was very interested in the performing arts. “I was fascinated by all of it. So, when I found out that Foundations was catering to that, I was like, ‘Oh, this is this is for me. This is my academy,’” the senior said. Being at Foundations helped her overcome her shyness, and the academy’s focus drew her to class. “This really made me enjoy coming to school a lot more.”

Looking Ahead

With its 20-year history, it is possible to see the positive impact Venture Academy has had in the lives of its graduates, Hellstrom said. The world of education has changed over the last 20 years, and lessons learned during the pandemic will change it even more in the year to come, she said. Venture will change, too, but what comes next will be rooted in what has come before. “I know in my heart that we’re going to continue the tradition of being innovative and of collaborating with each other, our parents, and our students. And we are going to find a way to forever change what we do to meet the needs of students,” she said. “I’m excited about what we can do because I know what we’ve done in the past.”



Years of Venture A cade my


Environmental Literacy The air, water, and ecosystems in San Joaquin County connect with the broader environment of the region and the rest of the globe. The environment is an interconnected network -- and so is environmental education. This issue of the Outlook’s In The Classroom section looks at the importance of these connections and how they can have an impact in the classroom. Read more about how educators in the region are using new tools to help students explore local solutions to help reduce carbon emissions contributing to climate change. This issue also checks

in with the educators, students, agencies, and industry partners who came together at a brandnew summit organized by the San Joaquin County Office of Education to make important connections and increase environmental literacy in the classroom and the region. “I think it’s a really positive learning atmosphere. There’s a lot of variety of things to learn about, and everyone here is excited to help you learn.”

CARBON CLEANUP IN THE CLASSROOM Livermore Lab and SJCOE STEM Programs partnership gives teachers new tools for the classroom High school students learning about climate change want to do more than just understand the causes -- they want to learn how they can do something about it, said Jennifer Buck, a teacher at Tokay High School (Lodi Unified School District). In Buck’s classroom, students are learning how natural systems and man-made solutions can be used in California to reduce the conditions causing climate change. “It gives students a bit of hope,” she said. “Instead of being all doom and gloom about what is happening to the Earth, it’s more about what you can do and the careers you can go into to protect the Earth and bring down those carbon emissions.” Buck is one of the educators in San Joaquin County and the region using classroom exercises and lesson plans developed through the Livermore Lab Foundation (LLF) Carbon Cleanup Initiative, a public outreach and educational program focused on the science of carbon with a focus on the capture and removal of carbon dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse gases, including CO2, in the atmosphere contribute to climate change.

The connections bringing carbonrelated science into the classroom were made through a partnership with the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE). The SJCOE STEM Programs department developed classroom activities that align with the state’s Next Generation Science Standards and focus on the science of climate change and how to curb the impact of CO2. The activities in the Carbon Cleanup Initiative Science Toolkit range from measuring the impact of CO2 in the world’s oceans to looking at ways the region can play a part in capturing and storing CO2 to help California meet a goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2045. The hands-on activities that are part of the lesson are fun and engaging for students, said Meghan Kensler, a teacher in the SJCOE one.Program. “It puts students in the driver’s seat in terms of creating their

own knowledge,” she said. “It’s relevant. It’s local. It’s applicable. And it’s real life.” In addition to creating the classroom activities, the SJCOE STEM Programs team also coordinated training for a group of educators interested in adding the lessons to their classrooms. A group of about 30 teachers met virtually in November, February, and May to train to recreate them in classrooms throughout San Joaquin County and the wider region. The Carbon Cleanup Initiative stems from a report issued by the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the Livermore Lab Foundation. The report, Getting to Neutral, is an expert, non-partisan analysis of how California might achieve its carbon dioxide reduction goals. In the Classroom continued on next page >



Carbon Cleanup Resources for Educators Carbon Cleanup Initiative Science Toolkit

Developed in partnership with SJCOE STEM Programs, the Carbon Cleanup Initiative Science Toolkit consists of four distinct units, representing 14 hours of experiential learning and is available for direct classroom implementation. The activities are designed to work in consecutive order or as standalone units with cumulative learning. Two learning decks – one for students and one for teachers are available, free of charge and accessible via Google Slides for easy classroom use and implementation. Available at https://carboncleanupinitiative.org/?page_id=2281.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Research Academy Educators can also learn more about incorporating Carbon Cleanup Initiative activities in their classrooms at this academy, a unique summer professional learning experience for middle school, high school, and community college faculty. More Information at https://st.llnl.gov/sci-ed/teacher-research-academy.

Plus, More Resources Online! Getting to Neutral - an expert, non-partisan analysis of how California might achieve its carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction goals by 2045. Report issued by Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) Livermore Lab Foundation. Classroom Activity: Model Carbon Capture and Storage In one activity, students learn about methods of pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, then use a map of the Delta or Kern regions of California to show how these strategies can reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Topics include: • • • • • •

Direct air capture Restoring natural ecosystems Converting waste biomass to fuels while capturing CO2 Transportation of CO2 Geology considerations for storing captured carbon Storing CO2 in the earth




SJCOE STEM hosts a wide range of partners at the new summit focused on environmental education Educators, students, community organizations, and others gathered on April 2 to learn from each other, share their stories, and work together to improve environmental literacy throughout San Joaquin County and the region. Organized by the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s (SJCOE) STEM Program, the Community for Environmental Literacy Summit (CELS) brought together this group at the SJCOE’s Durham Ferry Outdoor Education Center, south of Manteca along the banks of the San Joaquin River. The rotating sessions allowed participants to expand their knowledge and networks while exploring the nature surrounding there. Teachers at the summit left with ideas that will be useful while teaching students in their classrooms.

“I will take back everything I learned today,” said Julie Makar, who teaches at Jackson Junior High in Amador County.” Having a summit like this helps support what is being taught, she said. “It builds relevance. It helps me teach students and helps them to look beyond their classroom -- beyond their town -- and look at something bigger. Even global.”

networks include Youth for Environmental Literacy (YEL), Teachers for Environmental Literacy (TEL), Green Engagement Leaders (GEL), and Community Partners for Environmental Literacy (CPEL).

By the end of the summit, Cera, a student from Tracy High School, said she had increased her knowledge of drought in California, renewable resources, and how solar panels are put together. “I think it’s a really positive learning atmosphere. There’s a lot of variety of things to learn about, and everyone here is excited to help you learn.” The summit brought together a range of environmental literacy networks in a five-county region. The



Program Manager “Just enjoying my job and being with family. And barbecues. We usually grill carne asada, but for Father’s Day, we do tomahawk steaks for the dads.”



Account Technician “Long summer days, warm nights. Playing on the beach with my grandsons. Family BBQ’s and visiting with friends.”

Project Liaison “Camping on the beach with my family. We’re used to camping in the mountains. This will be our first on-thebeach camping trip, at Bodega Bay.”



Parent Educator “I’m an ocean person, so probably the beach. I’ve been waiting to go on a trip.”


Program Manager “I’m really looking forward to spending as much time as I can with my kids. I’m going to surprise them this summer by taking them on a few short road trips before they both go back to school.”

The warm summer months are almost here. To gear up, we asked SJCOE, “What are you looking forward to this summer?”


Athletic Director “We bought an RV last summer and traveled the country for two months – it provided some great experiences. So, we plan for more trips this summer, but shorter and not as far this time around.”




Maintenance Worker “Looking forward to our family’s trip to Italy, Spain, and Greece this summer.”


Project Leader III “My birthday is on the first day of summer, so I am looking forward to celebrating another trip around the sun. I also can’t wait to attend concerts again. I’ve missed them so much!”