Weekly roundup: Santa Ana students become amateur zoologists, OCSA wins mock trial finals, and more

Monkeys, camels, reptiles and dung beetles — they’ve become part of the school experience for more than 400 Carver Elementary students.

As the Orange County Register reported this week, the Santa Ana campus is taking part in a unique pilot program with the Santa Ana Zoo that’s providing students with hands-on learning opportunities, introducing them to potential careers and meeting the state’s science standards.

A different grade level from Carver visits the zoo each week. Once there, the students are tasked with collecting data and observing the animals and their habitats.

“This ain’t your grandma’s field trip,” Stacy Kline, a Santa Ana Unified program specialist, told the Register. 

Students eagerly record their observations in notebooks and discuss their findings in a classroom at the zoo. The program is designed to foster curiosity, critical thinking skills and a connection to the natural environment as students learn about ecosystems, food chains and biodiversity.

Here are some of the other stories we’re following this week:

  • As the Capistrano Unified School District looks to recruit its next superintendent, the school board has tapped a consulting firm that includes two former CUSD superintendents.
  • A mock trial team from the Orange County School of the Arts is headed to the state finals after topping El Dorado High in Orange County’s mock trial competition, which was hosted by the Constitutional Rights Foundation at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Title for "In the news"
  • OCDE has created an online training to help educators better understand the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act and how best to support students experiencing homelessness.
  • For two and a half months, incarcerated youth at Orange County Juvenile Hall helped train three shelter dogs for adoption through a unique partnership with a local nonprofit called Cell Dogs, which runs canine obedience classes in correctional facilities. The dogs were joined by their trainers at a small graduation ceremony on Jan. 17.
  • The Anaheim Elementary School District recently celebrated one of its own teachers who’s co-authored a children’s book on diversity in the STEM fields. “Nanotechnology” was written by Brittany Acevedo with scientist Dr. Alina Garcia Taormina as part of the STEAM-Powered Careers collection.
  • A Huntington Beach High junior will take center stage as lead vocalist during the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts’ “Playlist” concert this Friday and Saturday. Produced by the academy’s Music, Media and Entertainment Technology Department, the show will be held in the school’s theater.
  • The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach has added a space dedicated to wellness for its middle school members. To create “The Loft,” the club partnered with the nonprofit Design With Purpose, which has worked with CHOC and OCDE to bring WellSpace centers to middle and high schools throughout the county.
  • The interim superintendent for Orange Unified notified staff and families that a digital library app that’s available to students would be suspended while the district investigated parent concerns over some of its content. The app was restored on Friday following a review that found some glitches and four books misclassified, according to the Register.
  • ChatGPT, which provides artificial intelligence responses to questions and prompts, is drawing mixed reactions in education circles. While some districts have banned the site over concerns that students will use it to cheat on assignments, technology experts say students should learn about AI now since it will be part of their future.
  • Throughout the week of Jan. 23, students across Orange County looked to make a positive impact on their schools and communities by participating in the Great Kindness Challenge. The OCDE Newsroom shared a collection of social media posts from the campaign, while the Dana Point Times ran its own story on RH Dana Elementary School’s efforts.
  • Strong parent-teacher partnerships and a shift toward evidence-based reading strategies are integral to getting students to read at grade level, according to a panel of experts convened for an EdSource roundtable.
  • Autism rates among 8-year-olds in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area nearly tripled from 2000 to 2016, according to a study published by Rutgers University researchers. USA Today examined what that might mean for schools.
  • While there’s been no official announcement, state leaders appear to have walked back plans to add COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of required shots for students, EdSource reports.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.