Tustin Unified School District and foundation to host educational technology conference

The Tustin Unified School District and the Tustin Public Schools Foundation are jointly hosting their second “Connect Institute,” a technology and learning conference, from Feb. 24 through Feb. 26.

Connect Institute #1 - March 2015More than 160 educational leaders representing 20-plus school districts throughout Southern California have registered for the three-day conference, which will be held at the Irvine Marriott. Attendees will explore connected teaching and learning, effective classroom technologies, leadership strategies and more.

This year’s keynote speakers will be Tustin Superintendent Dr. Gregory Franklin and John Couch, vice president of education for Apple. Couch is also a computer scientist and advocate for technology in education.

Picture1Board members, superintendents, principals, district administrators, IT directors and teacher leaders will get a chance to participate in strategic team planning sessions and workshops on a variety of topics, including educational technology in the classroom, essential tools for secondary math, establishing student-run technology help centers, developing student leaders to support robotics programs, building college and career-ready pathways, innovative online professional development, creating educational cafes in the classroom and utilizing Google Classroom at the secondary level.

Participants will also visit three schools – Barbara Benson Elementary School, C.E. Utt Middle School and Beckman High School – to see how teachers and students are using technology in the 21st-century classroom, and they’ll have an opportunity to tour the district’s Technology Operations Center at Beckman.

For more information about Connect Institute, contact Tustin Unified’s Communications Office at 714-730-7339.

Expert on music and brain function to speak at upcoming Creative Edge Lecture

Noted neuroscientist and musician Charles Limb, who has extensively researched how the brain creates and responds to music, will be the featured speaker at next month’s seventh annual Creative Edge Lecture, which will be held at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.39.58 AMThe 90-minute presentation, which starts at 10 a.m. on March 14, is also set to include musicians from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA. If your work involves education, business or the arts, this would be a good lecture to check out, and we’ve got the ticket information below. 

Dr. Limb, who has degrees from both Harvard and Yale, is a professor and chief of otology/neurotology and skull base surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He’s also an expert in music whose studies on how the brain works during musical improvisation led him to put jazz musicians and rappers through a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner, or fMRI.

By sharing his latest findings, Dr. Limb will offer invaluable insight on how humans generate new ideas, why creativity is a crucial part of who we are, and why creative pursuits are critical to the advancement of the human race. It’s pretty fascinating research, and as such Dr. Limb has been featured by a number of prominent outlets including the New York Times, CNN and TED.

Sponsors for this year’s Creative Edge Lecture include the Orange County Department of Education, Boeing, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Phil and Mary Lyons, Haskell & White LLP, UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Susan K. Hori, Carl Neisser, Judith Posnikoff, Janet and James “Walkie” Ray, Kay Mortenson and the Orange County Community Foundation.

The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Tickets are $25 if purchased before the early-bird deadline of Feb. 29 and $35 if purchased in March. The cost for students to attend is just $10.

To order tickets, visit www.SCFTA.org, or call 714-556-2787. For more information, contact Steve Venz, OCDE’s visual and performing arts coordinator, at 714-966-4128 or svenz@ocde.us.

Area high school teams prep for the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon

SuperquizgymOver the next two Saturdays, more than 500 students from 43 local high schools will participate in the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon, which concludes with the rousing Super Quiz Relay on Feb. 6.

Schools will once again be competing for top honors – and an invitation to represent Orange County at the California Academic Decathlon in March. Last year, Westminster High School won the county championship; Irvine’s Woodbridge High placed second but finished eighth overall at the state contest in Sacramento.

OC decathletes will kick off the communications portion of the county competition on Saturday, Jan. 30 by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches, participating in personal interviews and writing essays at Tustin High School.

One week later, they’ll take 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science at Westminster High School. Each of these areas, with the exception of mathematics, will be based on the 2015-16 theme, “India.”

As in the past, the event culminates with some of the most compelling drama. The Super Quiz Relay is a perennial crowd favorite that resembles a quiz show and sounds like a sporting event, with parents and classmates boisterously cheering on their favorite squads from the sidelines. The relay, which is open to the public, will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Westminster High School gymnasium, located at 14325 Goldenwest St. in Westminster.

Founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels.

Nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. Each team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below). Competitions culminate with the Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience.

On average, Orange County decathletes report spending 20 to 25 hours a week preparing for the Academic Decathlon. About 10 of those hours involve working with coaches and teammates at afterschool meetings; the remaining practice time is spent studying alone or with teammates outside of school.

Along with logging long hours, teamwork plays a crucial role in each team’s success. Students create tests and quizzes for one another, host scrimmages and analyze the prepared and impromptu speeches and interviews of their classmates. Students who are stronger at one academic subject often tutor and coach their teammates.

“Decathletes often refer to their decathlon team as their second family because of the countless hours spent together experiencing the rigors of competition,” says Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events. “The constant engagement in communication, along with the ability to collaborate with others, are important skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. For each Orange County team, the camaraderie and commitment towards achieving one common goal shines brightly.”

This year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon is supported by the generous donations of community members and made possible by sponsors including NuVision Federal Credit Union, C2 Education, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Learning.com, Teacher Created Materials and Aeries Software, Inc.

Top honors, medals and scholarships will be awarded at the OCAD Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Bill Medley Auditorium at Santa Ana High School.

For more information, go here, or contact Orange County Department of Education Program Specialist Kristin Rigby at (714) 966-4435 or krigby@ocde.us.

OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program leads clean-up event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

IMG_1634While many commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with parades and ceremonies, students from OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program annually celebrate the legacy of Dr. King by hosting their own MLK Day of Service event.

IMG_1674They did so again on Saturday, Jan. 16, with more than 100 local volunteers donating 300 service hours to collect 2,000 pounds of trash from the Upper Newport Bay estuary. The latest MLK Day of Service was organized by Inside the Outdoors – led by Development Manager Dawn Curtis – in partnership with the City of Newport Beach and OC Parks.

Volunteers included Orange County students across all grade levels, as well as Inside the Outdoors Foundation board members, community members and representatives from companies such as INK Agency, State Farm, Wells Fargo and US Bank. All were needed for a clean-up that yielded plenty of discarded food wrappers, cigarette butts and even an old, busted guitar.

“Each year, Inside the Outdoors hosts an MLK Day of Service at one of our field trip sites in local parks,” says Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors. “After teaching students and community members about the importance of Orange County’s natural areas, the days of service represent the opportunity for all of us to honor Dr. King by applying what we have learned to real life experiences.”

Check out the Inside the Outdoors website for more info.

Partnership between OCDE, OC Waste & Recycling wins top environmental award

GEELA2A waste-reduction partnership between the Orange County Department of Education’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling has received the state’s highest environmental honor.

On the heels of netting a major accolade from the California School Boards Association, Project Zero Waste, a service-learning program that empowers students with hands-on environmental science instruction, has earned its collaborators the prestigious Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, or GEELA.

OCDE and OC Waste & Recycling were jointly recognized — along with just 11 other organizations — Tuesday night at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento.

In the photo above, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez, left, is joined on stage by Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools; Isabel Rios, recycling and environmental programs manager with OC Waste & Recycling; Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors; and state Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program,” Kiesser said. “The GEELA represents the top environmental award in the state, and it’s a testament to the collaborative efforts of Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, which are promoting sustainability and changing lives.”

Project Zero Waste teaches students the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors field trips as well as in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Program participants get to apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which include campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up activities and other student-led activities.

The program, which in December earned the California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell Award, has offered science instruction to more than 325,000 students since it began in 2009. Follow-up assessments show these lessons increase STEM knowledge by an average of 14 percent, and schools engaging in Project Zero Waste have reduced their trash by up to 20,000 pounds annually.

Geelaseal“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said recently. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

Established in 1993, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals, companies and organizations that use sustainable business practices to conserve energy, reduce waste or prevent pollution while contributing to their local economy.

Finalists are selected by a panel of judges that includes the Governor’s Office and the secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

Each year, the panel evaluates and announces winners in the following categories: Environmental Education; Ecosystem and Land Use Stewardship; Climate Change; Zero Emission Vehicle Dealers; Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities; and Waste Reduction.

For more information on the GEELA program and this year’s recipients, click here. To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and be sure to visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved. 

OC educators will be able to remotely attend this year’s CUE educational technology conference

This coming March, scores of tech-minded teachers and administrators will once again descend upon Palm Springs for the annual CUE National Conference, featuring the latest educational technology innovations.

CUEBut what about those who can’t make it out to Palm Springs? Well, now there’s a way to participate remotely from Orange County. (Because technology!)

“CUE Connect” will enable registered educators to watch all three keynote speeches at the March 17-19 event and virtually engage in the breakout sessions from a conference center at the Orange County Department of Education, located at 200 Kalmus Drive in Costa Mesa. This is a first for CUE, which says it intends to explore other venue options in future years.

Founded in 1978, CUE works to advance student achievement by offering insight and training on the latest educational technologies. More than 6,000 teachers and administrators annually attend CUE’s signature conference, billed as the largest and oldest education technology gathering in California. It’s also among the largest in the U.S.

This year’s CUE National Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17; 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18; and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. The CUE Connect registration fee is $149 for all three days.

For more information, or to register, go here.

Marina High students tackle ultimate woodworking project with handcrafted viking ship (video)


In October, we read an intriguing story about an ambitious project over at Marina High School, home of the Vikings.

Students at the Huntington Beach campus, led by their enterprising wood shop teacher Bob Meade, were building a full-scale Viking ship — and planning to launch it in Huntington Harbour.

Naturally we had to check the thing out for ourselves.

The video above was edited by our own Greg Lammers, who was joined on the shoot by fellow OCDE Media Services team member Richard Rodriguez. Lammers, a Marina High graduate, pitched the assignment and plans to return for the ship’s maiden voyage in May.

Will the vessel prove itself seaworthy? We’ll find out this spring.


Is your school working on a cool project that you’d like to see featured on the OCDE Newsroom? Drop us an email at communications@ocde.us.