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Sparklers for science

Two elementary schools hope to save their science programs by selling fireworks.

July 01, 2011|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • Paul Hillson, right, Kaiser Woodland Schools Foundation director of fundraising, hands signs to his children, from left, Jake Ryan Hillson, Dylan Hillson and Hannah Hillson. The children held the signs in front of the fireworks stand located in the Norms Restaurant parking lot in Costa Mesa.
Paul Hillson, right, Kaiser Woodland Schools Foundation… (Kevin Chang, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Two local elementary schools are trying to raise money to save their children's science programs by selling the ultimate science experiment: fireworks.

As a fundraiser to keep one of its dedicated science teachers, the Kaiser Woodland Schools Foundation is selling Fourth of July fireworks at the Phantom Fireworks stand in the Norms Restaurant parking lot, 2150 Harbor Blvd.

"I think it's worthwhile because it means I will have a better experience at school, and other people will have a better experience at school," said upcoming Kaiser fourth-grade student Elizabeth Peters, 9.

The program at Kaiser Elementary School, which serves grades 3-6, and its feeder school, Woodland Elementary, which serves K-2, is in jeopardy after a longtime anonymous donor pulled support for next year.

Without the donation, Kaiser loses its second science teacher, Tricia Lamb, third grade loses its science classes and instruction time in the fourth to sixth grades would be impacted, parents said.

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To keep that from happening, the foundation needs to raise $185,000 by May 1, 2012, to keep Lamb part-time next year and full time in 2012-13. The foundation has already committed to paying $70,000 for next year.

"We kind of have to take things into our own hands," said parent Amy Peters. "We want to lead in science. This is how we do it… We just want to ensure that going forward, we're giving our kids the tools we need to be part of that future."

Students have been receiving 75 minutes of science instruction weekly in third and fourth grades from Lamb, and 90 minutes in fifth and sixth grades from dedicated science teacher Phil Schinhofen.

Parents point to state test scores, which show fifth-grade students' science scores climbing after the school gained two science teachers, to highlight the importance of keeping the science program intact.

In 2006, 11% of students tested advanced in science. That number rose to 16% in 2007, the first year the school had two teachers. The percent of advanced students rose to 31% in 2008 and to 34% in 2009, according to the state Department of Education.

"It is very clear that this program works," said foundation board member Andy Peters. "This isn't a hypothetical."

The threat of losing ground in science education brought forward a core group of about 11 parents, who formed the foundation in February. They have already raised more than $35,000.

Although they still have about $150,000 left to go, they said they aren't daunted.

"It's doable," said Jenn Simmons, a foundation board member. "It is. We've had a lot of great accomplishments, and I think we're all pretty committed to making it happen."

Want To Help?

Buy fireworks through 7 p.m. Monday at Phantom Fireworks by Norms Restaurant, 2150 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa.

Make a direct donation online or volunteer at http://www.kwschools.org.

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