Fillmore Middle School Makes Science Exciting
By Jean McLeod — Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
At the October 8, 2013 Fillmore Unified School Districts (FUSD) Board Meeting a presentation was given by Art Teacher Doris Nichols and teacher Josh Bricker on the Fillmore Middle School NASA Program conducted after school during the summer break. The 20 day 10 exercise course provided students with a non-traditional classroom environment that reinforced the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students were given questions and problems requiring them to find their own solutions, both individually and in groups of four, through a hands-on empirical process. With real world constraints such as time, weight to power ratios, questions of sustainability/waste management concerns and a finite amount of materials (everything they used was recycled material and had to fit into a small cup by the end of the day) requiring budget restraints, the students were forced to develop creative solutions to the types of problems NASA engineers face daily.
They learned how to use gravity to aid travel, how to insulate with weight considerations and thermo design along with design and use of a solar oven and how to control its temperatures. One exercise required the students to design a propulsion system forcing them to engineer and design a space craft containing a specific list of essential elements; finding the volume of their craft to ensure the essential payload would fit, weighing their space craft, testing the rockets and an understanding of drag and aerodynamics.
From the activities students engaged in conversations of intellectual property rights as students began to "steal" one another's designs and the importance of competition, ethical consideration in appropriation and the difference between stealing and borrowing. Through the course of the project students came to realize scientific principles are important, tangible concepts and that science in many ways shapes contemporary life. The students said they enjoyed the course and wanted to know if it would be offered again so the could participate.
Assistant Superintendent Michael Johnson was then asked if the program would be continued and maybe become part of the GATE program. Johnson replied he anticipates there being another NASA program the next summer session.
During the Public Comments a Junior at Fillmore High School, Cynthia Perez, addressed the Board with her opinion on why Algebra II should not be required to graduate. She told the Board they (the Board) had it so much easier and less to learn when they were in school and how much harder it is today. She went on to say that the students today are so much busier and have less time.
Responding later Board Member Tony Prado told those in attendance that his goal as a Board Member is to challenge the students to strive for a higher standard and just because other schools are not requiring Algebra II does not mean that FUSD should not do it. He wants to send the message that you need more skills than a high school diploma provides in the work force today, ending with, "I don't want kids making excuses." Johnson informed the Board that a plan on what will be done regarding the Algebra II will be presented to them in November.
Some of the meeting's focus was on money matters. Superintendent Dr. Alan Nishino told the Board Sacramento politicians keep changing and shifting the money around and he is not sure the district will receive the funding proposed.
Another item that dealt with recent funding was during public comments Lynn Edmonds passed out a letter to the Board and those attending the meeting written by a large 501c3 nonprofit. In the letter Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (C.A.U.S.E.) asked the Board "to place high priority on its public engagement process in the development of its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) to spend funding from the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)."
Both LCAP and LCFF are the new funding formulas coming out of Sacramento for schools. The letter went on to read, "FUSD is one of the primary beneficiaries of the LCFF in our region.....(with) Significant new resources due to the passage of Prop. 30 and the LCFF.....C.A.U.S.E. was a key local anchor group in the campaign for Prop. 30, successfully turning out 17,000 identified supporters to the polls. This spring we talked to over 7,000 local voters about the importance of the LCFF, with 78% of those we spoke with supporting the plan. Those voters approved higher taxes." C.AU.S.E. seems to be very proud of helping raise taxes. In the past C.A.U.S.E. has employed workers to man the phones with a goal of convincing the public to overturn Prop. 13, a measure that helps keep property taxes low for Californians. As a 501c3 C.A.U.S.E. receives tax dollars through State and Federal Grants, but is not legally allowed involvement in political campaigning.”