By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Life Lessons - Students, Projects Grow Together
0326 Science
Alexis Diaz, left, and Brianna Verdin are partners in a science project that showed how crowding can affect plant growth. VIRGINIA STILL/The News

California Avenue Elementary fourth grade teacher Penny Bartholomew currently has her students involved in a Rim Fire project that consists of an eight slide PowerPoint presentation and planting an acorn to grow into an oak tree that will be replanted in Yosemite. The area was extensively damaged by fire last year and many have joined the effort to replant trees that were lost to the flames.

The students have been given creative control over their presentations and are allowed to change the colors, fonts, backgrounds, add pictures and information on each slide.

This is the first year that the students have been issued Google Chrome Books to use for research and information. They will create the presentations on their own with the Chrome Books. The students use the Chrome Books once a week as well as have a computer lab once a week.

“It’s amazing how easy they pick up on it (Chrome Book) because it is interesting to them,” said Bartholomew. “That is where we have to go with education to continue to draw their interest.”

The fourth graders had the option to have their presentation on the following three topics: How did the rim fire affect the animal life, plant life, and visitation at Yosemite?

The acorn idea originated from Bartholomew’s mother, Nell, and close friend Susan Weiss.

Morris Nursery in Riverbank donated the containers and soil that the acorns have been planted in. The students take them out of the classroom in the morning, place them in the sun, water them, and then take them back into the classroom at the end of the school day.

The students are so involved with the project that they no longer have to be told to take care of the acorns.

“It is good responsibility,” said Bartholomew. “I am excited that they (acorns) started to sprout and they (students) are, too.”

Once the acorns get to a certain size Bartholomew and the fourth graders will take a field trip to Yosemite to plant the seedlings into the ground for a rebirth of new trees after the damage from the Rim Fire.

Joel Villanueva, Noelia Lizarraga, Esthefania Calzada, and Clarissa Verduzco have all started on their PowerPoint presentation with details from the Rim Fire and pictures that they researched from their Chrome Books.

“They love it, they love the research and love making PowerPoints because it is something new,” expressed Bartholomew. “Having the students plant the acorns in the soil allows them to see that it is actually a living thing and they can watch it grow.”

The students expressed that they really like the Chrome Books and have learned a lot about the Rim fire and the damage that it caused.

The youngsters will get to take the acorns home to observe them and will present the PowerPoint at the end of April when they get back from Spring Break.

“Thanks to Nell Bartholomew, Susan Weiss and Morris Nursery for the idea and donations of the acorns and planting materials,” stated Bartholomew.

The enthusiastic fourth graders have a few other projects that they are involved in, from an upcoming power point for California history, the smarter balance test and they are starting a biography report.

The students also have a science project that is currently under way with Science Night scheduled for Thursday, March 27 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. Each science project has a PowerPoint presentation that they will be presenting along with their written project boards.

One dynamic duo, Alexis Diaz and Brianna Verdin did their project on how crowding can affect a plant’s growth. The students had cup #1 that had 80 seeds and no sunlight, cup #2 that had 10 seeds and sunlight, and a 2 liter soda bottle that had 20 seeds and no sunlight that did not do very well due to lack of oxygen. However, all three containers were producing varying amounts of vegetation. The seeds being used are for radishes.

“Their project is awesome,” stated Bartholomew. “They were the first ones to do their presentation.”

Once the presentations are over the students will take their plants home.

Student teacher, Alex Nabors, assists Bartholomew with her class and has been taking pictures of the various aspects of the projects so that the pictures can be used in the PowerPoint presentations they create.

Bartholomew has been teaching at California Avenue for the past three years but has been teaching in the Riverbank Unified District for a total of 22 years. She also spent her youth going through the Riverbank Unified School District and after graduating from Fresno State wanted to teach in the community that she grew up in.

“I had a couple of teachers that were really supportive and I really liked Susanne Rich who is now at the county office, she was a big influence,” said Bartholomew. “I had some great teachers.”

With such an ambitious schedule, Bartholomew also expressed that her students are doing really well.

“They are doing awesome for having three major projects,” said Bartholomew of the students juggling multiple responsibilities. “We are enjoying it; we are having a good year.”