Local Sixth-graders Learn To Code

Posted on May 30, 2014 by  
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Kindergartners give the computer game Maze a try at the Los Altos School District CSTEM Showcase earlier this month as co-creator Sabina Davis looks on

More than 500 sixth-graders from the seven Los Altos School District elementary schools participated in the second Los Altos School District CSTEM Showcase May 1.

Students presented computer games and interactive devices they developed with programs like Arduino, JavaScript and Processing on Khan Academy, MIT’s Scratch and LEGO’s WeDo.

Using coding skills learned in CSTEM classes, student teams exhibited their creative endeavors. CSTEM, a cross-curriculum program, integrates computer science, science, technology, engineering and math.

In the spirit of hands-on learning, community members and fellow students gathered to interact with the students’ programs. Dozens of featured projects, projected on a large screen, received special recognition. Each represented one of the three Cs of CSTEM: creativity, collaboration and computer science. Students described their projects’ formation and development to the large audience.

“How impressed I am with our students and their ability to take knowledge and apply it in an incredible variety of ways,” said Superintendent Jeff Baier.

Alyssa Gallagher, the district’s director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships, said the program is unique in that includes every child.

Gallagher said one of her favorite conversations from the event was with a student enrolled in a special day class who showed her a game the student created during CSTEM time.“They are all being taught how to code and to apply these skills to an area of interest through their choice of project,” she said.

“I had several conversations with parents sharing examples of students learning perseverance, tenacity and willingness to take more learning risks through the CSTEM projects,” she said. “Coding may be the targeted skill, but through Sheena’s instruction, students are learning many more life skills.”

The CSTEM curriculum includes a study of computer hardware and software and its use in multiple areas. Students create art and animations through code as well as design and build computer games and explore physical computing and robotics. Teamwork is a focus, and students use tools including Edmodo and Google sites/docs to share and collaborate online.


Local Seniors Strike A Chord In Music

Posted on May 22, 2014 by  
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Kevin McCabe Teaching MusicWhen ukulele teacher Kevin McCabe led a class at The Terraces at Los Altos last week, his senior students hit a trend head-on: The tiny instrument once strummed by Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe has become something of a hipster sensation.

For the senior set, classes are, by nature, social enterprises. Last week at The Terraces three residents and one enlisted reporter divided up the chords of “Aloha ‘Oe” and, together, fleshed out a song as uke rookies. When Gwen Farey, Barbara Woods and Libby Stager struck a chord last week, they were building on a lifetime of musical experiences. Although I may have mastered a G chord, I found my ability to keep time sadly out shined.

McCabe teaches afterschool programs and at senior communities. Although he comes from three generations of banjo players, he moonlighted in the tech field during more than a decade of his musical career.

“I worked in software for many years at NASA,” McCabe said. “But when I stayed home to take care of my kids, I started the Saratoga Music Academy.”

When a student of any age picks up a ukulele, there are some eccentricities to allow for. The four strings are often tuned in a surprising order, with the outer two higher on the scale than the center two, rather than a steadily rising sequence from low to high pitch.

For arthritic knuckles, the ukelele’s soft nylon strings don’t present too dire a workout, and players can experiment with different ways to hold and strum the instrument, customized to every physique.

Seniors can spread the ukulele across a family, playing with grandchildren. All generations benefit from the math behind the music – practicing the mind-body connection encoded in notation hones timing as well as tuning. Music might soothe the soul, but it also sharpens the brain.


Upgraded, Expanded & Great Curb Appeal

Posted on May 15, 2014 by  
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539 Los Ninos Way

539 Los Ninos Way, Los Altos, CA 94022
Listed at $1,998,000 / Sold at $2,500,000
3 Bed / 2 Baths / Home: 1,955 sqft / Lot Size: 10,560 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached
Represented: Buyer


Pet Parade & Art Show This Weekend

Posted on May 14, 2014 by  
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Los Altos Pet ParadeDowntown Los Altos will bustle with activity this weekend as the city hosts two annual traditions.

• The 67th annual Kiwanis Pet Parade is scheduled 10 a.m. Saturday along Main and State streets. The annual event showcases a variety of pets marching or being carried along the parade route, accompanied by their owners, marching bands, service and school groups and local dignitaries.

Los Altos Police Sgt. Paul Arguelles, who has assisted the Kiwanians with the Pet Parade for many years, will serve as this year’s grand marshal.

For more information, visit losaltoskiwanis.org.

• The Rotary Club of Los Altos’ 39th annual Fine Art in the Park show is scheduled 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Lincoln Park, located along Foothill Expressway in Los Altos.

In addition to the selection of fine art available for purchase, Fine Art in the Park will feature entertainment and a food court. The Rotary Club’s Young at Art competition will display winning entries from local youth in the gazebo at Lincoln Park.

Proceeds from the event support scholarships for local high school and college students and a variety of nonprofit agencies.

For more information, visit RotaryArtShow.com.


LASD Official Named “Multiplier of the Year”

Posted on May 8, 2014 by  
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Alyssa GallagherAlyssa Gallagher, the Los Altos School District director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships, recently received recognition from the Wiseman Group as “Multiplier of the Year” in education.

The Wiseman Group, a leadership and research development center, sponsors the award annually to honor the top “genius makers” in business and education. Officials selected the 2013 winners from dozens of nominees based on their demonstrated ability to channel the intelligence, talent and creativity of their staffs.

The organization honored Gallagher for spearheading educational reforms in the district that resulted in significant and enthusiastic change.

In support of the district’s mission to revolutionize learning for all students, the Wiseman Group recognized Gallagher for promoting the professional development of teachers, cost-effectively investing in innovative year-round programs to nurture a passion for learning and involving leaders from across all nine campuses.

“Alyssa empowers those around her to achieve, and to believe they can achieve, beyond what would typically be possible,” said Superintendent Jeff Baier. “She builds a sense of confidence and trust in those with whom she works. And she accomplishes all of this in a setting of collaboration and mutual respect.”

The Wiseman Group defines Multipliers as “leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go on; ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the leaders who inspire the people with whom they work to stretch themselves and surpass expectations. These leaders use their smarts to make everyone around them smarter and more capable.”


Silicon Valley Gives & Local Charities

Silison Valley GivesMore than 500 nonprofit groups have registered to participate in the May 6 Silicon Valley Gives fundraiser, hosted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation with lead sponsorship from Microsoft Corp.

Organizers aim to raise millions in charitable donations for nonprofit organizations in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Benito counties during 24 hours of online giving.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has scheduled events at local Microsoft retail stores, several Whole Foods Markets and other locations May 6. PayPal will add a 1 percent match to each donation paid with PayPal during Silicon Valley Gives, up to a maximum of $50,000. Donations to the Intero Foundation will be collected online at svgives.razoo.com/story/Interofoundation.

“Enthusiasm about SVGives is running high in the local nonprofit community, and for good reason,” said Emmett Carson, CEO and president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “This event will raise awareness of – and money for – the many terrific organizations working to make our communities stronger, and along the way we are helping nonprofits strengthen their own capacity to attract donors and build for the future.”

With support from Microsoft, the Sobrato Family Foundation and sponsorship by Applied Materials, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation has hosted nearly two dozen training sessions for nonprofit organizations since last fall, with topics ranging from using social media to engage donors to storytelling strategies to help inform the public about their work in the community. The sessions are designed to help charities maximize their potential donations and build capacity for future fundraising, marketing and communications efforts.

“SVGives is an opportunity for us to make a significant, targeted impact on the organizations doing critical philanthropic work in our community,” said Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of technology and civic engagement at Microsoft. “SVGives is an innovative and engaging way for organizations to tap into the vast resources of Silicon Valley in an effort to better the lives of its citizens.”

For more information, visit svgives.org


Outdoor Kitchens Are Hot In Los Altos

Posted on May 1, 2014 by  
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Backyard Kitchen by Julie OrrOne of the wonderful perks of living in Los Altos is the temperate climate. Preparing a meal for family and friends while relaxing in the beauty of the garden is one of the top ways to relax and reconnect with one another. With our busy lifestyles, it’s no wonder that outdoor kitchens are among the top-requested items for a landscape remodel.

Following are questions to ask as you pursue an outdoor-kitchen project.

What is your cooking style?

If you are considering a kitchen for your backyard, it’s important to determine what kind of cook you are and how you entertain. If you are a gourmet chef who prepares multicourse meals, you may want more appliances and gadgets than the average person who grills steaks and hamburgers on weekends. Do you need specialty appliances to create stir-fry dishes, smoked meats or pizzas? The more appliances you add, the more space you’ll need for countertops and storage.

Kitchens are not only about food. You’ll also need drinks to accompany your meals. Do you need space for a blender or a keg tap? Do you require a refrigerator or an ice chest for canned or bottled drinks? Consider the types of drinks you’ll be serving and where your guests will sit as they enjoy their beverages. A bar top is a great way to keep conversations going with guests while manning the grill.

Why so expensive?

Remember how much you paid for your recent kitchen remodel? Well, now consider the fact that everything must be built with even higher standards, because your outdoor kitchen must withstand all the elements of nature. In addition to the cost of appliances, there will also be costs associated with running new gas (for the grill) and water (for sink) lines, not to mention permits from the city.

What should you incorporate in the design?

An outdoor kitchen should complement your entire landscape and home design. Along with complying with city setback requirements, consider the proximity of your outdoor kitchen to the one in your house. Typically, the farther apart from one another they are, the more appliances you may wish to add to your outdoor kitchen.

Once you determine how many people you typically entertain, you can begin to consider seating. Some of the seating might be built into your kitchen or an adjacent area via a dining table or lounge furniture. Also, for year-round cooking, consider whether your guests or the cook will need shade or rain protection.

Storage is often overlooked, so consider making room for trash/recycling, grilling tools, dishes, glasses and cutlery. You’ll also need to install access doors near your appliances and sink in the event future repairs are needed.

Because outdoor kitchens are custom built, anything is possible. To ensure that you don’t miss out on the myriad possibilities, consult with a professional landscape designer.