Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Author Brian Selznick Visits BCS

Celebrated author Brian Selznick visited Bullis Charter School last Tuesday to talk about his new book The Marvels, the final book in the trilogy that includes bestsellers The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. This amazing event was co-produced by Linden Tree Books in Los Altos.

The Marvels begins with almost 400 pages of illustrations that tell the story of a family of stage actors in 18th and 19th century London. Switching from pictures to words, the book jumps to the year 1990 and follows a runaway who is trying to solve a family mystery. The two stories come together at the end of the book.

BCS students watched with fascination as illustrations from the beginning of The Marvels played across the screen. Then, the author asked the students how many had read the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. More than two thirds raised their hands. “Well, I am the author of that book.” Gasps of excitement spread through the room. The children were now hooked on every word he had to say.

The author discussed his inspirations for his books and the sources of his different story influences and illustrations. His books are filled with real references and real places and the children sat captivated while viewing photographs of these places and their transformation into one of their beloved books.

One of the most interesting aspects of the event was when the author shared his process for creating a book. He explained that he always starts a book by developing a rough draft of both the story line and the drawings. First, he writes his ideas in a notebook. Then he types up these ideas and sends them to his editor, who sends them back to him with notes, just like teachers do on their students’ papers. He asked the children if they like writing rough drafts. A resounding “Nooooo” filled the room. “And how many rough drafts do your teachers make you write? One? Two? Well, I make 200-300 rewrites per book!” And he proceeded to show the students examples of his rough drafts covered from top to bottom, front and back with his editor’s notes scribbled in blue pen. In the end it takes Mr. Selznick, on average, three years to create a book, partly because of all of these notes and rewrites. Although he sometimes gets frustrated by all of this work, he has learned that the notes and the rewrites help to make the story better. Thanks to this hard work, he eventually produces a final draft he is proud to share with the world.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer segment and the author was asked how he felt when The Invention of Hugo Cabret was made into a movie. Mr. Selznick was, of course, thrilled by the movie and then he graciously shared pictures and videos from the movie set including the construction of the set and how special effects were created. It was amazing to learn about how one can implement creativity and innovation in unusual ways. The entire lecture reinforced the lessons and experiences explored every day by BCS students.

Thank you, Brian Selznick, for this incredible insight into your creative process!

Friday, May 22, 2015

BCS Is a Future Ready School!

As a school that is educating students to be active participants in the global community, BCS is now recognized as a national future ready school. As part of this process, a team from BCS joined other schools and school districts from California and beyond to participate in the San Francisco Future Ready Summit and pledged to be future ready.

For BCS, future ready is:
  • Fostering and leading a culture of digital learning within our school so that our students think critically, behave safely and ethically, and participate responsibility in the digital world.
  • Empowering educators through professional learning opportunities and by developing teachers as leaders.
  • Providing access to quality digital content so that BCS students are high-school, college, career, and life ready. BCS students are empowered to drive their own learning through focused learning goals and their personal interests and passions.
  • Mentoring other school and districts and helping them transition to digital learning so that they can learn from our experience.
You can read more about BCS and Future Ready schools here.

7th Grade Poetry Slam at BCS

Our 7th graders recently finished a PBL in which they explored the driving question, “How can we move people through poetry?” The culminating PBL event was a poetry slam, an opportunity for every single 7th grader to perform an original poem. For most of our students, this was their first time participating in such an event.

Teachers live-tweeted the slam and invited audience members to provide students feedback through surveys within Twitter - check out the stream here! Students’ poetry covered a range of emotions and topics. It was inspiring to watch and listen to our students finding their voices and speaking their truths.

As a result of this PBL, many more students have expressed an interest in poetry and a desire to continue writing and performing. They may even initiate a middle school poetry slam club!  

This creative group of students will be back on stage to performance A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the end of intersession. This is another opportunity for our 7th graders to plan and execute a unique performance.  We can’t wait to see what they create!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

BCS Archery Program in the News!

This spring, over 20 students competed in the California National Archery in the Schools Program tournament (CANASP) tournament both individually and as a team, and were competing against schools who have been doing archery for many years.  As a team, BCS did an amazing job for the first tournament in the first year of our archery program.

Individually, 8th grader Skyler Rosenberg scored high enough to be the #1 middle school archer in California for the year.  He came in 3rd place overall in the tournament coming in behind two veteran high school students.  

After the tournament, Skyler’s mom Kate had this to say about the unique opportunity to pursue a sport like archery at BCS: 

"Skyler is learning the exhilaration of following his heart... of jumping in and trying something new simply because it feels joyful, without worrying about succeeding.  It is powerful to take risks and explore activities in a low pressure and fun way. Archery requires a uniquely calm and singular focus which balances other demands of being a middle school student in Silicon Valley."

We also had two more students with impressive finishes in their first tournament: Anderson Wang placed 7th for the middle school boys division and Alisha Xiong placed 3rd for the 6th grade girls division. 

All of the archers did an amazing job representing BCS during the tournament.  Congratulations Mr. Stark and the entire archery team for this tremendous accomplishment!

You can read more about our archery program in this article from the Los Altos Town Crier.

BCS archery instruction hits target

Megan V. WInslow/Town Crier 
Archery, a new physical education offering at Bullis Charter School, has piqued the interest of many students, including Skyler Rosenberg, above, who placed third overall at a regional competition. 
When Athletic Director Joseph Stark introduced his love of archery to students at Bullis Charter School this year, he hit the bull’s-eye.
“It was a passion of mine,” said Stark, who joined the staff in the fall. “It is something I learned and love, and I know it is accessible to a lot of students, so I thought I should bring it to Bullis.”
Stark taught archery during regular physical education classes, then began to offer it as an afterschool sport.
“Our afterschool athletics program is built around the community interest at our school,” he said. “Archery has been at the top of that list for a long time.”
Participation has been solid, according to Stark, with approximately 60 students enrolled in the afterschool program and 20 regularly attending.
The charter school designed its archery program with National Archery in the Schools (NASP) standards in mind, emphasizing safety and proper technique.
“It’s the second-safest sport behind pingpong,” Stark said. “It may not seem like it, because you are using bows and arrows, but we emphasize safety and steps to succeed.”
Stark trained students to participate in the NASP California Archery Tournament, which requires them to shoot 15 arrows from a distance of 10 meters and 15 from 15 meters. More than 20 students competed in the tournament, individually and as a team. Bullis Charter School eighth-grader Skyler Rosenberg placed third overall with a score of 281.
Archery became one of Skyler’s passions after Stark launched the sport at school. Skyler enrolled in the afterschool program and pursues it outside of class as well.
“I think archery is special because it is one of the sports that is really accessible to everyone,” Stark said. “You are not really held back by any disability – you don’t have to be the most athletically gifted in the world. A lot of it is about patience, focus and concentration.”
Skills learned through archery can be used in everyday life, he added.
“You go out every day and try to better yourself,” Stark said. “There are a lot of kids who understand that. They set their own goals and you see the excitement when they actually reach one.”
Stark said he is fortunate to work at a school that allows him to share his interests with the students.
“You can really see how my passion is reflected in the students’ growth throughout the year – I am lucky to have that,” he said.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BCS Students Shine in Regional Competitions!

We are very proud to have our students participate in a plethora of activities outside of the regular school day in the areas of academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, and technology under the guidance of our teachers.

Here are several of the highlights from recent weeks:

Tech Challenge
More than 40 students from BCS (Grades 4-6) participated in the Tech Museum of San Jose’s Tech Challenge to design a building that could withstand an earthquake.  Over 2,000 local students joined the competition, and one of our 4th grade teams won Best Overall, Third Place for their design in response to the challenge to build an earthquake safe structure that will pass 3 simulated earthquake shake tests. See a video of their design IN ACTION at Saturday’s Challenge here.

Please join us in congratulating the “Kung Fu Penguin” team for their dedication and creativity on this project that they began working on in August!

40th Annual Mandarin Speech Contest
Nineteen BCS students (Grades 1-8) recently competed in the 40th Annual Mandarin Speech Contest organized by the Chinese Language Teachers Association of California. 

Congratulations to the three sutdents who received second place in their groups;  as well as the three students who received Honorable Mentions in their grade level groups. 

The Mandarin teachers are pleased by the growth all students have shown throughout the speech preparation process and want to commend every student who participated for their hard work and willingness to take risks!

Dare 2B Digital
BCS 8th graders Ananya, Meghna, and Claire are the winners of the 2015 Dare 2B Digital Contest in which participants were challenged to develop a creative solution to a global problem using technology.  

The competition, designed to increase digital fluency among girls ages 12-17 globally, had participants choose a problem from one of four categories - Cyber-Security, Environment, Health & Nutrition and Transportation and then create a video to describe the solution.  

Ananya, Meghna, and Claire created an innovative solution for saving water - check out their winning video entry here!

National Current Events League (NCEL) Winners
Since the beginning of the year, our 6th-8th graders have been participating in the National Current Events League (NCEL), The NCEL, which is a national news competition for students in Grades 4-12, consists of (4) meets, or exam days, in which all students take an exam. Each meet (exam day) consists of 30 multiple choice questions and each student who participates receives his/her own test which has questions that are selected from the following areas: General News, Arts & Entertainment, Science & Health, Business & Finance, Sports.  

The top ten scores are then determined and the sum of these scores is the school's team score, which is ranked against others in the state and the nation. 

Congratulations to the BCS 6th grade class which placed 2nd overall in the nation AND to 6th grader Madhav, who was the top individual scorer in the nation. Additionally, kudos to the BCS 7th grade class for placing 3rd overall in the nation.

BCS Chess Team National Tournament
Last weekend, over 30 BCS students in grades 1-7 competed in the CalChess Scholastic Super State Championship tournament.  Over 900 students from across the country competed in this tournament, and for many of our younger students, it was their first time competing in chess.  BCS teams placed in the top 5 in every category ranging from Rookie (Grades K-3) to Champs (Grades K-8).

Congratulations to all of our chess team members, and a special thank you to Lynn Reed who continues to coach our players year round!

2015 Saratoga Rotary Art Show
Ten BCS students had the honor of having their artwork displayed at the recent Saratoga Rotary Art Show last weekend.  Please join us in congratulating these young artists for their great work!

2015 Margaret Thompson Historical Essay Contest
Congratulations to third grader Krithi for earning first place in the historical essay contest sponsored by the Los Altos Historical Commission - read all about the event in this week’s Los Altos Town Crier.

Genius Kids Math Kangaroo Contest
Third grader Ryan placed first at both the state and national levels in the Genius Kids Math Kangaroo Contest held in March! Ryan has been working hard in math class this year, and we are proud to share this tremendous achievement with the school community!  
Keep up the great work, Ryan!

Holy Names University Choral Festival
Our Sonore Choir (Grades 4-5) participated in the Holy Names University Choral Festival last weekend, where our students had the opportunity to perform and participate in workshops with other local students and experts.  
Another great opportunity for our singers who have had several performances and adjudications in the last month!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Middle School Clubs Day at BCI

BCS Middle School students shared 
the amazing work they have done this year on the clubs they initiated at the Clubs Fair this week.  

Students in grades 6-8 collaborated to design and develop club programs based on their interests - this year's clubs included Girls Learn International, Woodworking, Web/App Design, Parody, Cooking Around the World, and several others.

Check out the photos below to see some of the great work students produced in their clubs this year!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Young Artists Showcase at SCCOE

For the second year in a row, BCS has two students whose work were selected by the Santa Clara County Office of Education to be displayed as a part of their permanent collection at their offices in Santa Clara!

Please join me in congratulating kindergarten students Alyssa and Aaron on this great achievement!  Alyssa and Aaron are two of only 30 students countywide whose pieces will join the largest collection of adjudicated student artwork in California.  

Aaron’s artwork, titled “Get the Bad Guys” shows a police car rushing to arrest some bank robbers.  When asked about his inspiration for this piece, he said, “I like police officers, and I love cars.  I would like to catch bad guys such as robbers and thieves.”

Alyssa wanted everyone to see a smiling panda in her winning piece titled, “Playing Panda” that she painted because she and her sister both like pandas. Alyssa added feet to her panda to make him look like he is walking. She is most proud of the mouth she drew on the panda.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sharing Best Practices at the CCSA Conference

In March, several representatives from BCS presented at the annual California Charter School Association Conference in Sacramento. 

Jessica Lura, BCS Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, and Kristina Plattner, 6th grade teacher, presented a session entitled “Deeper Learning Through Project-Based Learning and S.T.E.A.M.”, sharing examples from the BCS program and how these innovative, rigorous units facilitate a deeper conceptual understanding of content for our students. 

Seventh grade humanities teacher, Lisa Stone, who was one of only 200 teachers from throughout the country selected by LearnZillion to write curricula for the new common core state standards, introduced this free high quality resource to other California educators. 

Wanny Hersey, Superintendent/Founding Principal and Emily Nelson, BCS Communications Director, presented a session entitled, “Making Your Data Come Alive”, sharing what data are collected at BCS, and how these can be desegregated/analyzed, used to improve instruction and student outcomes, and can paint a vivid picture of a school’s success. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Middle School Pops Concert at BCS!

Last week, we had a standing room only crowd during the first annual BCS Middle School Pops Concert - it was one of the most fun musical events we have hosted at BCS!  Mr. Belles put together this short montage from the performances - definitely a must watch!

BCS Middle School Choir Pops Concert - February 2015 from Bullis Charter School on Vimeo.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Have You Googled Tom Hanks Lately?

If so, then you would see all the coverage from when a few BCS students sold Girl Scout cookies to him in downtown Los Altos last week!

Check out the all the stories that have been published this week, and see the original post on our Facebook page!

Los Altos Town Crier
Time Magazine
Huffington Post

Monday, March 9, 2015

Wanny's Words: Global Innovation Summit

By Wanny Hersey
Superintendent/Principal at Bullis Charter School

In February, I was invited to serve on a panel at the Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley, where I joined leaders from around the world who were also committed to building ecosystems where entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation can thrive.

During the panel discussion I was asked how BCS is able to create ecosystems within the public education model that foster creative confidence and inspire students.  

I have always believed that the secret to our success is in hiring great teachers and continually providing the necessary support systems so that they can model the very skills we hope to instill in our students.

Therefore, at BCS I ensure that our teachers also inhabit an environment in which to model and inspire students by providing them dedicated time to collaborate and innovate.  

Unlike school systems where teachers only meet with those within their own departments, BCS teachers are encouraged to work with their peers across disciplines to create units that integrate all subject areas.  

In addition to providing the time and the opportunity to collaborate, I shared the extensive training all staff members receive before the school year begins as well as the professional learning communities that they are a part of throughout the year with mentors, boot camps, and extra support in areas they seek to improve on individually and within grade level teams.

A graphic representation from the panel discussion
"Educated Insight: The Reinvention of Learning" at the 
Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley, February 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

BCS Receives Digital Citizenship Recognition

From Jessica Lura, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships:

I am pleased to announce that BCS has been recognized by Common Sense, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids and families thrive in a world of digital media and technology, as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship: Certified School for educating our students to be safe, smart, and ethical digital citizens.  

BCS is one of only three schools in the state to meet all the criteria for the recognition.

At BCS, we strive to empower all students to become digital citizens; students who think critically, behave safely and ethically, and participate responsibility in the digital world. 

We’re excited to be recognized by Common Sense for our on-going commitment to educate our staff, students, and families about the importance of digital citizenship in every grade, K-8.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sharing Project Based Learning Units at the Bay Area S.T.E.A.M. Colloquium

In January, five BCS staff members presented at the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s STEAM Colloquium, which is designed to inspire and equip educators with tools and ideas needed to develop robust S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curricula at their own school sites.  

Two of our 4th grade teachers, Amanda Marino and Jeri Chi, presented their Project Based Learning (PBL) and Design Thinking Unit “Ethical Zoo Habitat Design” in which students strategically apply their knowledge of ecosystems, organisms, and ethics to create an ethical zoo habitat that would meet the needs of two different animals assigned to the same space. 

Mrs. Marino and Ms. Chi shared how students utilized technology in the MakerSpace as well as vector-based drawing software and the laser cutter in the BCS FabLab to create their designs.

Lynn Reed, MakerSpace Director, showed attending educators on how engineering can be integrated into the elementary science curriculum. She showcased how students work in small groups in the MakerSpace to construct detailed models using basic household items and recyclable materials. 

Additionally, art specialist Andrew Lipson shared examples of the many wonderful projects that integrate the visuals arts into K-8 program at BCS. From prosthetic hands to the muscular clay & wire sculptures, robot turtles, and vector-based logos, his displays inspired many conference attendees.

Teachers presenting about PBL and integrated learning units
at the Bay Area S.T.E.A.M. Colloquium

Friday, January 30, 2015

Turtle Camp at BCS

BCS recently received a $4000 NOAA Oceans Guardian Grant for our school’s ongoing commitment to protecting local waterways.  As part of that grant, Ms. Lura and her co-curricular students organized a “Turtle Camp” for our kindergarten and first grade students to teach them about protecting our oceans and helping save the leatherback sea turtles. 


Bullis Charter School students attend Turtle Camp to learn conservation

Courtesy of Bullis Charter School
Bullis Charter School fourth- and fifth-graders guide younger students through activity centers that aim to educate about leatherback turtle conservation efforts. 
Fourth- and fifth-graders at Bullis Charter School stepped into the role of teacher last week when they taught kindergarten and first-grade students how they can help save leatherback sea turtles.
The school developed the event, called Turtle Camp, after receiving a $4,000 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean (NOAA) Guardian Grant awarded to schools that demonstrate a commitment to protect and conserve local and global waterways.
Jessica Lura, director of strategic initiatives and partnerships at Bullis Charter School, worked with students in her co-curricular class “The Blue Crew,” an elective class focusing on reducing marine debris, to design the Turtle Camp for younger students.
“The NOAA grant allowed us to expand upon our school’s mission to teach our students about the interconnectedness of people and their environments,” Lura said. “It is important for students as young as kindergarten to understand that they have a direct impact on our local waterways, and that small actions can have a big impact on our oceans and marine life – in this case, the survival of the leatherback sea turtles.”
Leatherback sea turtle protection and conservation are part of an Environmental Science unit that all grade levels participate in at Bullis Charter School. Lura and her students wanted to build on their knowledge of leatherback sea turtles and explore the negative effects of marine debris on the health of the oceans.
Fourth- and fifth-graders led the younger students through four activity centers, all focused on different aspects of protecting the oceans. The first station included a world map and an explanation of the gyre in the Pacific Ocean and culminated with students signing a pledge to recycle and use reusable water bottles.
“It was exciting to teach the younger students because it gave them a good chance to learn about how all of their actions affect the ocean,” said Sophy Mintz, a fifth-grader at the charter school. “We wanted them to learn about how harmful even one piece of trash can be in the ocean, and we used interactive activities like a skit at the end of our presentation to help them remember the information.”
Another station included a mini-lesson on how local waterways connect to the ocean. Kindergartners used ocean props and costumes to act out a skit demonstrating how a piece of plastic could eventually harm a leatherback sea turtle.
Students also had a chance to draw and write short notes on ways to help preserve the oceans and marine life. The notes will be mailed to their sister school in Costa Rica later this spring.