Back-to-School: Sulphur Springs STEAMs ahead

Vice Principal Jenna Oikawa greets a family attending back to school night. Bobby Block / The Signal

The district whose namesake is one of the oldest schools in Santa Clarita, with approximately 150 years in the books, Sulphur Springs, returns to school Thursday. The district remains one of the oldest, but school officials maintain forward-thinking objectives with an emphasis on STEAM programs.

The district, which has recently added a handful of new state-of-the-art buses to its fleet of transportation, has been a leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Fair Oaks Ranch Principal directs family to classroom at back to school night event. Bobby Block / The Signal

“As a parent here for the last three years, we’ve been doing a lot of STEAM programs,” said Kirk Nelson, vice president of the Fair Oaks Ranch PTA and a member of the school’s site council. “Like last year, we did all the STEM giants, and so we had (lessons about Isaac) Newton and all these different things, brought in people to teach chemistry and the forces of nature.”

Nelson said at Fair Oaks Ranch, the PTA has been focusing on bringing more activities to the school, which results in more teacher involvement.

“We do a lot of robotics,” said Nelson. “We’re trying to bring in more and more STEAM, because that’s the future, and we’re trying to get the next generation of kids a lot better than we were as kids.”

“What we try to do here is have a lot of different robotics-related things,” said Julie McBride, principal of Fair Oaks Ranch. She added that her school was adopting a number of new STEAM and coding related programs, much like schools across the district are doing as well. “It’s more of a thinking process, and we want to be systematic thinkers.”

In addition to the science-related topics and programs, Fair Oaks Ranch is also tackling the “A” in STEAM, teaching arts as well as working on kids social-social emotional health through a program called Capturing Kids Hearts.

“We do things that focus on the academics, but we know the importance of the social-emotional health,” McBride said. “There’s a famous educator who said, ‘Kids don’t learn from people that they don’t like.’”

Fair Oaks Ranch has brought in programs such as the Aquarium of the Pacific, “Bee-Bot” activities for children to learn simple coding and then a “Space Dome,” which will be an inflatable set up in the school’s multi-purpose room that will teach kids about space and constellations.

However, these STEAM expos aren’t reserved for Fair Oaks Ranch, which was evidenced by the districtwide turnout for presentations at SSUSD’s STEAM Expo.

Principal Julie McBride directs a family at Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary’s back to school night event. Bobby Block / The Signal

“We have the ongoing grant money that is being used for exciting opportunities in the areas of STEAM and throughout the district with enrichment activities that will expand their learning horizons,” said SSUSD board President Denis DeFigueiredo.

DeFigueirdo also said Wednesday that the district was excited about the various construction projects across the district that occurred this summer.

“One of the things that our returning Pinetree parents are going to be happy about is that we got a brand new parking lot and they won’t have to deal with the bump and jar of dropping kids off in the morning,” said DeFigueirdo. “And Sulphur Springs parents of our TK-1 students will be excited about a brand new national demonstration fully-inclusive playground, and we’re very excited about that.”

DeFigueirdo added that he had spoken with teachers throughout the week, and noted their excitement to start the school year, a sentiment shared by SSUSD Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi.

“This school year, the staff is continuing its commitment to working together to provide excellence for our students,” said Kawaguchi. “We are focused on working to remove barriers that may be in the way of student learning, working to inspire our students to be even better than they thought that they could be, and working together to make a better future for each and every one of them.”

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