Stumped on your science project? Come to IUSD’s Ask-A-Scientist Night on Oct. 16

Students looking for help on their science projects will be able to seek the advice of real-life experts during “Ask-A-Scientist Night” at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School.

Ask-A-Scientist Night

The event will be held from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

As in years past, students in grades six through 12 will have the opportunity to tap the expertise of practicing scientists and engineers from places like Beckman, Allergan, Rockwell, the Irvine Ranch Water District, UC Irvine, USC, Irvine Valley College, Chapman University and other local science-related firms and institutions. In addition, district science teachers will be on hand to assist.

Attendance is free, but each child must be supervised by an adult for the entire evening.

Rancho San Joaquin Middle School is located at 4861 Michelson Road. We have it on good authority — and by “good authority” we mean the flier posted to the right — that visitors may park on Michelson and Yale without being ticketed, even though it says “No parking.”  (This special privilege only applies to Ask-A-Scientist Night.)

For more information, check out the flier, email or call (949) 936-5057.

Irvine to host Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO featuring energy-efficient homes of tomorrow

The City of Irvine is hosting a unique educational opportunity — one that happens to align nicely with IUSD’s recent solar initiative.

Twenty solar-powered homes of the future, all designed by teams of college students, will be on display at the Orange County Great Park during the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO. The event is free and will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for two straight weekends, Oct. 3 through Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 through Oct. 13.

About 800 college students spent up to two years designing and constructing the fully functional houses, which incorporate features and technologies designed to reduce carbon emissions while maintaining modern comforts. Their efforts culminate in a final competition, with judges deciding which home has most capably blended affordability, efficiency, energy production and curb appeal.

Meanwhile, the rest of us get to play the part of the nosy neighbors.

Obviously anyone with an interest in innovative home designs may want to tour these houses, but organizers say this will also be a great experience for kids, particularly those interested in science, technology or architecture.

Speaking of kids, Irvine students from Scott Bedley’s class at Plaza Vista School have been participating in an ongoing series of video chats with the team from Santa Clara University, so there’s a bit of a local connection. Here’s a preview of Santa Clara’s house, as published in the fall 2013 edition of Inside Irvine magazine:

Santa Clara University’s Radiant House is driven by the three E’s: efficiency, elegance and economy. The house carries the University’s tradition of using bamboo to a new level, using the sustainable material for structural wall and joist systems. With a  spacious and versatile “Great Room,” a large deck and patio area, and clean separation between private and public spaces, Radiant House offers an elegant, adaptable and affordable solution that balances the cutting edge with deceptive simplicity.

Radiant House uses inexpensive, commonly available materials in new and innovative ways with features that push the boundaries of architectural design. Features include a structural system, including wall and joist systems, made completely of bamboo — much of which is in raw, unrefined form to avoid the need for unsustainable treatment; solar panels that are seamlessly integrated into the roof structure using an integrated rail system; a front carport with electric car charging station; a generous, living space with high ceilings and clerestory windows that fill the interior with light and open to allow hot air to rise and escape; and spacious, accessible elements including a fullsized bathroom, walk-in closet, spacious kitchen and expandable dining table that can accommodate up to 12 guests.


The Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO will also feature other interactive exhibits and activities, all promoting energy efficiency in home design, transportation, consumer products, food production and education. Check out the video above or the event’s website for more information.

IUSD seeking feedback on its homework policy from students, parents and teachers

Two years after introducing a new districtwide homework policy, IUSD is encouraging students, parents and teachers to weigh in on the policy’s impact by taking brief online surveys.

Students in grades four or higher can take their survey by clicking here, while parents can share their perspectives here. (A separate link is being sent to all Irvine teachers.) The deadline to participate is Friday, May 10.

Adopted by the Board of Education in May 2011, the revised policy called for school-specific plans based on nine foundational principles to ensure that homework was purposeful, reasonable in scale and aligned with the educational objectives and needs of each student.

The revisions were based on the work of the district’s Curriculum Council, which surveyed thousands of parents, students and staff about home studies and later engaged in two daylong sessions before developing its recommendations.

IUSD school board approves revised homework policy

The IUSD Board of Education approved the second reading and adoption of a revised districtwide homework policy on Tuesday night.

The new policy calls for site-specific plans based on nine newly established foundational principles to ensure that homework is purposeful, reasonable in scale and aligned with the educational objectives and needs of each student.

The plan is based on the work of IUSD’s Curriculum Council, which surveyed thousands of parents, students and staff about home studies and later engaged in two daylong sessions to develop recommendations.

To view the policy, click here.


IUSD will use Twitter to capture feedback on Curriculum Council’s homework discussion

As we mentioned last week, IUSD’s Curriculum Council plans to collect feedback via Twitter tomorrow morning during the first of two meetings designed to engage local stakeholders in a discussion about the role of homework.

The interactive session is a first for Irvine, and it even drew the attention of The Daily Pilot, which published a story over the weekend. (You can read the Pilot’s article here.)

For those who want to participate, tomorrow’s Curriculum Council meeting will be broadcast live on IUSD’s channel 39, beginning with a presentation from 8 to 9:30 a.m. that will share research and trends related to homework. Irvine teachers will take part in a panel discussion on the subject from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., followed by a parent discussion from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Viewers may submit questions and comments at any time during the panel segments simply by following IUSD on Twitter and replying to tomorrow morning’s opening tweet about the Curriculum Council. Or, just send a tweet that includes “@iusd” and we’ll capture it.

Curriculum Council to air homework discussion live and seek community input via Twitter

IUSD’s Curriculum Council will convene on Wednesday, Feb. 16, for the first of two sessions to engage local teachers, parents and students in a candid dialogue about the role of homework in Irvine. While space is limited, you’re invited to participate by watching live on television and submitting your input via Twitter.

Wednesday’s conference will kick off with a presentation from 8 to 9:30 a.m. that will share recent research and summarize the longstanding debates and philosophies related to home studies. Teachers from throughout the district will then take part in a panel discussion from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Following lunch, a group of parents will engage in a similar dialog from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Those who are interested can watch the meeting live on IUSD’s channel 39, which is broadcast via Cox Communications in Irvine. Community members may also submit their own questions and comments during the two panel discussions by following IUSD on Twitter and replying to our message – or tweet – about the Curriculum Council. You can also send your own tweet that includes “@iusd” and we’ll be sure to find it.

In anticipation of the meeting, district staff also sent out homework surveys to gather feedback from students, parents and teachers.

“While our district has a long history of soliciting input from our community on matters of significance, this is the first time we will do so via Twitter,” said Assistant Superintendent Cassie Parham, who will lead the discussions. “This is an extremely important topic, and we want to ensure that anyone who is interested has an opportunity to join the conversation.”

IUSD’s Curriculum Council is made up of dozens of district educators and students who meet each year to refine instruction. Following its Feb. 16 meeting, the council will reconvene on Feb. 23 to examine data from the recent homework surveys, evaluate best practices and explore potential recommendations.

IUSD Curriculum Council will meet this month to examine district’s homework policies

So what’s your take on homework in Irvine? Is it always a meaningful exercise? Is there too much? Is there not enough? (Students need not answer the latter question.)

IUSD’s Curriculum Council, which is comprised of dozens of district educators and students, will spend two days this month engaging local stakeholders in a candid dialogue about the role of homework. In the meantime, staff is in the process of sending out surveys to teachers, students and parents seeking feedback on the subject.

Panel discussions during the Feb. 16 and Feb. 23 sessions will include these groups as well. Ultimately, the Curriculum Council plans to recommend parameters for home studies based on research and best practices.

Assistant Superintendent Cassie Parham, who oversees Education Services, noted recently that the comprehensive examination of homework aligns with IUSD’s ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.

This promises to be a very interesting series of discussions, and we’ll have more information as it becomes available.