Tag Archives: C.J. Morris Elementary

C.J. Morris Elementary Teacher Bakes Through Pandemic

Kelli Gile

Walnut —On a recent Saturday, C.J. Morris Elementary teacher Jennifer Veneracion eagerly removed the jar containing a bubbling yeast concoction from her kitchen cupboard.

After four days of stirring and waiting, the fermented starter was finally ready to be combined with a few cups of all-purpose flour and mixed into silky dough.

She would spend the next several hours methodically kneading, allowing for rising, and repeating before shaping and popping in the oven.

And when the timer sounded, out came the steamy, crusty loaves of success.

The C.J. Morris Elementary Title 1 Specialist has joined legions of homebound bread bakers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Veneracion decided to learn a new skill at the onset of stay-at-home orders that began in mid-March.

“Bread making seemed fun to do as well as something the entire family could enjoy, and it could carry on after the quarantine,” she explained.

The novice baker had always been too intimidated to attempt baking from scratch.

“I was afraid the rising dough would grow so big that I couldn’t handle it,” said admitted.

“It feels silly now that I’ve learned more!”

The baking got off to a slow start because the educator first became a student desiring to learn all about her new hobby before donning an apron.

First, she bought a bread book for beginners, and then became immersed in reading recipes, articles, and following popular bakers including Amber’s Kitchen and Bonnie O’Hara on social media.

And then there was the shortage of flour and yeast on supermarket shelves due to the surge in quarantine baking.

But once Veneracion started, she was “hooked.”

During the past several weeks, she has cooked up traditional Filipino Pan De Sal bread, ventured into loaves, sandwich breads, tortillas, cinnamon rolls, and more.

Her tried-and-true techniques include keeping the right tools at hand: a big bowl, kitchen towels, kitchen scale, and food thermometer.

And before each baking session she measures out all the ingredients, puts them in different containers, and then combines as directed.

“Kneading the bread is key,” she added to the list of tips.

“You might think the dough is too wet, but if you continue to knead it, it will develop gluten which will make it firmer.”

Veneracion has discovered the restorative magic of the experience.

“Now that I’ve learned a lot, bread baking as become a form of therapy for me,” she said.

“Teaching remotely and getting my three kids on track with their work is rough, so unplugging and working on a recipe is both relaxing and rewarding.”

In the end, Veneracion’s family decides if each bake is a winner.

“My kids are pretty honest and will tell me if the bread is a hit – with reactions ranging from ‘Mom, this is amazing’ to ‘Whelp, it’s bread, I guess,’” she said.

“Either way, I’m hoping they see the importance of learning a new skill, celebrating the successes, and powering through the failures.”

IB Students Present Exhibitions

Courtesy: Kelli Gile
Groups research topics of their choice based on modern-day issues including climate change, poverty, GMOs, and cyber bullying for the year-end IB Exhibitions.

By Kelli Gile 

WALNUT Castle Rock and Cyrus J. Morris Elementary 5th grade students present collaborative inquiry-based research projects during the culminating weeks of their K-5 learning experience.


Students use IB skills, attitudes, and attributes acquired through the elite Primary Years Programme.


Groups research topics of their choice based on modern-day issues including climate change, poverty, GMOs, and cyber bullying for the year-end IB Exhibitions.


For the past three months, groups worked on exhibition projects with the support of mentor volunteer teachers.


Each plan was well-researched and thoughtfully prepared as the students took turns publicly sharing results at the microphone while incorporating the use of visual displays, posters, and multimedia presentations.


A six-person team at Castle Rock took on the impact that cell phones make on society and presented their findings in the comprehensive report for attentive parents and family members.


The group’s lines of inquiry included effects on people, effects on society, different types of usage, and effect on ecosystem.


Cell phones effect the ways people communicate with each other and types of usage include banking, job searches, maps, online shopping, social media, and more, the poised hosts explained.


“Cell phones can help people find jobs and connect with the world,” said Emily Zhao.


The students also presented a video survey of schoolmates and staff along with tips to reduce radiation exposure during usage during the May 24 exhibition.


“Try to keep phones at least an inch away from the neck or use Bluetooth,” suggested Fang Hong Foo.


For the project’s action plan, the team posted “Cell Phone Free Zone” signs along the school drop-off zone.


“We’re hoping parents will stay off their phones!” said Angel Wei.


“Texting and driving increases the chance of traffic incidents,” added Michael Wu.


A group of C.J. Morris students worked hard investigating the effects of terrorism for their exhibition project.


“There’s been so much damage around the world,” commented Marcos Davaloz.


The children fielded questions from parents after the May 17 presentation.


“We can enhance security to make it harder to smuggle in bombs,” said Diego Suviate responding to an inquiry about methods to stop the attacks.


For the culminating action plan, students sold water and fruit drinks for a dollar during recess.


“We decided to donate to the Washington Institute which helps end terrorism around the world,” explained Audrey Chavarin proudly reporting the team collected over $22.

C.J. Morris 3rd Graders Go One-On-One With WVUSD Schools Chief

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTSuperintendent Dr. Robert Taylor fielded questions from elementary students during an official town hall meeting on Tuesday.

About 100 inquisitive C.J. Morris assembled third graders were eager to learn about the role of the Walnut Valley USD leader.

The IB-PYP students have been studying about government and how it affects lives at the national, state, city, or school level, teacher Dave Boots said.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about how government works at the school level,” added IB coordinator Kelly Howard.

The children came prepared with questions about family, hometown, background in education, and role as superintendent, working with community and government, and more.

About 15 students took turns at the microphone and waited for the thoughtful responses during the hour-long event.

Dr. Taylor shared that his job is supporting all 15 schools in the District and then went on to describe the structure of the District.

“We have a School Board, Superintendent, which is me, District office with lots of people that support our schools, and our school sites with principals, teachers, and support staff.”

“We all work together for our students!” he added.

The assembled group wanted to know the best thing about being the superintendent.

“In the five years that I’ve been here in Walnut Valley, my favorite thing has been going out and visiting schools,” he said.

“Because I’m in education, I spend every day working with people – with kids like you, teachers, and principals. I like to find out all your interesting stories!”

Dr. Taylor also told the students that there have been more changes in education during the past five years than in the last 30 or 40 years.

“It’s been an exciting time to be part of that change and to see how successful things have gone here.”

The group of students also wanted some expert advice as they begin thinking about middle school and future careers.

“You’ll be well prepared for middle school because you’re learning how to study, how to do your homework, and projects. I would be excited, it will be great!”

“My one piece of advice I like to give young people is to find something you enjoy doing. If you find that, you’ll be happy!”

Truth Stovall asked the final question during the session held in the multipurpose room.

“What is your favorite color and why?” he said.

“My favorite color is green and here’s why: I told you I like sports and football. Raise your hand if you think you know who my favorite team is,” Dr. Taylor said.

“Green Bay Packers!” the children eagerly called out.

“I liked that Dr. Taylor came to our school and shared that to be successful students we need to be kind and have fun,” commented third grader Mia Veneracion after the event.



C.J. Morris students vie for spots on Science Olympiad team


Charles Lei’s Pasta Mobile with hand-carved wheels sails down the ramp during the Science Olympiad Trials. Photo courtesy: WVUSD

Charles Lei’s Pasta Mobile with hand-carved wheels sails down the ramp during the Science Olympiad Trials.
Photo courtesy: WVUSD

WALNUT, CA—C.J. Morris Elementary 5th grader Harrison Chung is hoping to win a spot on the school’s Science Olympiad team.

On Tuesday, he patiently waited for his turn during the Egg Drop trials held at lunchtime. The mission was to create a cushioned package to protect a raw egg from a high free fall. Chung, who used bubble wrap and straws, was relieved that his egg bundle survived the drop.

“Last year, I was an alternate, so I really wanted to be on this year’s team,” he said.

Several retired educators were invited to coordinate and judge three different events held September 27-29.  “They made the little containers and we put a fresh egg inside,” explained C.J. Morris retiree Katie Trumbo who recorded the entries.

Steve Cusson, retired social studies teacher from Suzanne Middle School, climbed up a ladder to drop each egg package over a chalk bull’s eye on the black top. “This has been a lot of fun! At Suzanne we did this from the top of the library!” he said.

For the second round, Cusson launched the egg bundles from about 15-feet atop a supply shed. A crowd of students and staff cheered as he held each entry over the drop area.

Five of the eggs survived the fall on the first day, others didn’t and splatted their yolks.

Forty 3rd-5th grade students are competing for 15 spots on the Science Olympiad team.

They’ve been encouraged to enter more than one event during the trials for prepare for regional competition held next spring, according to Principal Shezhad Bhojani. “Our goal is to provide more access to students in experiencing hands-on science in an authentic selection process to represent C.J. Morris at the L.A. County Science Olympiad.”

Students also showed off their creative skills during the Pasta Mobile and Can Race events.“This competition is also allowing them to think outside the box,” Bhojani added. The tin can cars were designed to drag down a three-meter track on the playground.

“I like science a lot and wanted to give it a shot!” said 3rd grader Lorelei Silva-James while waiting to race.

Students fashioned running arms from toothpicks and rubber bands to propel their entries. “They can put weights inside the can, but they can’t push it at the starting line,” said Suzanne retiree Ronnie Hee.

Teacher Dave Boots built a wooden ramp last weekend for the Pasta Mobile contest. Students used all shapes and sizes of dry pasta including penne, macaroni, and rigatoni to build their entries.

Boots steadied each car at the top of the ramp using a yardstick. On his cue, the little cars rolled down onto the 1.5-meter lane. The goal was to travel the farthest without going out of the boundaries or falling apart.

Fourth grader Hailey Chan’s lasagna car rolled an impressive 150 centimeters on Day 1 of the trials. And Charles Lei, a 5th grader who was leading after the first day’s noodle event, carved oversized wheels from flat noodles.

The elementary students are also invited to put their skills to the test this week during Anatomy, Astronomy, and Physical Science Knowledge multiple choice exams. In the Anatomy test, they will also be asked to identify structures and organs of the body. They’ll be quizzed about the planets, the moon and its phases, the sun, a spiral galaxy, a nebula, a star cluster, and a comet on the Astronomy quiz.

“It takes courage and confidence to come out and try for this team!” Boots said.

C.J. Morris To Explore America’s Beginnings

Photo Courtesy:  History.org A reenactment at Colonial Williamsburg

Photo Courtesy: History.org
A reenactment at Colonial Williamsburg

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – Two Walnut Valley educators will soon experience an exciting week of learning at the world’s largest living history museum.

C.J. Morris Elementary 5th Grade teachers, Tara Noelte and Jennifer Veneracion, have been invited to attend the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in Virginia.  They are among 50 teachers, selected from over 300 Los Angeles County applicants, who will study and experience Colonial times.

The teachers will meet character interpreters of 18th Century people and become immersed in early American History through hands-on activities and reenactments of historic events.

Participants will visit nearby Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English colony in America, and

Photo Courtesy:  WVUSD C.J. Morris Elementary teachers Jennifer Veneracion and Tara Noelte will explore America’s beginnings at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in Virginia this summer.

Photo Courtesy: WVUSD
C.J. Morris Elementary teachers Jennifer Veneracion and Tara Noelte will explore America’s beginnings at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in Virginia this summer.

spend a day at Yorktown visiting the battlefields where the Continental Army forced the British to surrender.

The professional development opportunity is slated for July 28 through Aug. 3.

These educators will bring back a new depth of knowledge and teaching strategies to show students that history is vibrant and alive!

Sharing The Plant

Global schools present exhibitions

C.J. Morris fifth graders took to the stage to present impressive I.B. Exhibitions on May 14.

C.J. Morris fifth graders took to the stage to present impressive I.B. Exhibitions on May 14.

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – This month, Castle Rock and C.J. Morris elementary schools invited parents and community members to “Sharing the Planet” International Baccalaureate (I.B.) Exhibitions.  Fifth graders, in their final year of the I.B. Primary Years Programs, carry out collaborative inquiry projects on global issues.

“Students identify, investigate, and offer solutions to real-life issues,” said I.B. coordinator Kelly Howard.

A C.J. Morris showcase, held on May 14, focused on animal abuse, child hunger, women’s rights in India, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and more.  During the exhibitions, students demonstrated their understanding of the key I.B. elements: knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes, and action.  They worked for eight weeks in preparation of the special learning celebration.  Each presentation included a technology component of a PowerPoint, Prezi, video, or website.  Many groups acted out skits or debated the pros and cons of their subject.

“We learned a lot!” said Hemza Sakr, 11.

Students plan the exhibitions, gather materials, record and reflect, and finally present the exhibition to the school community.  Students also fielded questions from the audience members.  The well-prepared youngsters stood poised on the stage, ready to share their expertise on the topics.

A C.J. Morris group focused on child hunger for their project.

“The biggest thing I learned is that hunger is everywhere,” said Zain Haideri, 11. “But, there’s more help in California and the U.S., than in Africa.”

Groups also offered action plans for their global issues.

“People can help by going to the freerice.com website,” said Isabella Marine. “For every answer you get correct, they donate 10 grains of rice to a person that’s hungry.”

C.J. Morris groups sold art pieces during the exhibition to benefit World Vision, Anti-Cruelty Society, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Castle Rock 5th Graders presented an impressive I.B. Exhibition on May 21, with information on 17 topics including global warming, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and vaccines.

“We all like alternative energy over fossil fuels, but for the debate we supported both sides,” explained student Mica Lin.

The water scarcity group talked about the millions of people who struggle each day to get water.

The women’s rights team took action with a bake sale that raised $224 for a non-profit organization.

The global warming group promoted “Walk to School Wednesday” on posters displayed at the school.

Parents learned more about topics during a question and answer session.

“This is very impressive!” said parent Simon Lu. “They put a lot of effort into it. I think working as a team is probably the most valuable of all,” he added.

Students were eager to show their passion for making a difference.

“We picked our topic because we’re in a drought and it’s been in the news,” explained Nathanial Liu-Sustayta from the water scarcity group.

Students were quick to offer simple water-saving tips.

“You can do full loads of laundry,” said Jacob Moskovitz.

“You can switch to low-flow toilets,” Liu-Sustayta added.

“We were surprised it affected so many people,” said Isabella Lisak, from the ‘buddies not bullies’ group.

The members performed a skit and created a website to bring awareness.

Small Hands Making A Difference

Students bring lunch to Habitat for Humanity volunteers

Photo Courtesy:  WVUSD Together we can make a difference! C.J. Morris Elementary third graders delivered lunches to Habitat for Humanity volunteers on May 23. Shown with teacher Lisa Peterson.

Photo Courtesy: WVUSD
Together we can make a difference! C.J. Morris Elementary third graders delivered lunches to Habitat for Humanity volunteers on May 23. Shown with teacher Lisa Peterson.

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – C.J. Morris Elementary third graders did their part to help make a home for a U.S. veteran.

The youngsters served lunch to 20 volunteers at the Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity construction site in Walnut on May 23.

Six students arrived at their school at 10 a.m. to begin making ham and cheese sandwiches and assemble the lunches during the Memorial weekend project.  Then the group, with teachers and parents, walked over to the construction site at Camino De Rosa, just a few blocks away.

After they delivered the food, the children interviewed and took photos with the helpers from Southern California Gas Company during their break.

Students learned the project started last August and the house is 2,443 square feet.

“It is not a typical Habitat house,” said construction manager Louis Jimenez.

The energy-efficient home is being built for a U.S. veteran who was wounded in combat.  The multi-family house will be completed sometime in the summer.

Student Eric Tapia said that he “wanted to do something special to help.”

The C.J. Morris group also toured the site wearing construction hats, of course.

“Thank you for bringing lunch!” said volunteer Carolyn Chang.

“I was exhausted until I saw these [lunches] and then I started to smile!” exclaimed volunteer Jim McInerney. “We really appreciate the support here with the food.”

Teacher Lisa Peterson organized the service project. Last week, the class collected grocery donations and decorated lunch sacks with special messages of encouragement for the volunteers.

“My main goal is that the students will go through life with a giving heart knowing that the world will be a better place because of it,” Peterson said.

One volunteer especially liked a lunch sack decorated with a blue monster truck and a “You are amazing, wonderful, and kind” message.

“I’m going to keep this on my desk at work!” Chang added.

The caring educator says she wants her students to “always have hope.”

“At some point in their life, they may be down on their luck or going through difficult times, but always to know there is someone willing to help. Who knows, it may even be a third grader!” Peterson said.

C.J. Morris Kinders Celebrate Day 100

By Kelli Gile

Three “little old ladies,” Kindergarteners Rachel Peiten, Chloe Thi, and Molly Chung showed off their 100-year old costumes on Jan. 29.  (Photo Courtesy:  Kelli Gile)

Three “little old ladies,” Kindergarteners Rachel Peiten, Chloe Thi, and Molly Chung showed off their 100-year old costumes on Jan. 29. (Photo Courtesy: Kelli Gile)

Walnut – C.J. Morris Elementary kindergarten students dressed up as adorable centenarians to mark the 100th day of school on Jan. 28.

The youngsters transformed into 100-year olds with gray spray-painted hair, glasses, and canes for the day of fun and learning.  Many of the little ones had their new “mature” hair tucked up in buns with rouge on their cheeks. They wore aprons, shawls and sweater vests.  Some even had painted-on wrinkles!

Chloe Thi, 6, said she liked wobble-walking with her little cane.

“This was the first time we’ve had the students dress as old people,” noted teacher Sarah Sherman.  “They came in with little mustaches and cotton ball eyebrows – it was so cute!  And by the time 10 o’clock came around, they took it off!” she added.

The teaching team included Luisa Salazar, Kelly Revells, and Sherman, who led the activities costumed with gray wigs, floral dresses, saggy socks, and a trio of canes.

“Mrs. Salazar looks like an old lady! She’s wearing a wig,” observed a giggling Jewelina Baker.

Counting to the 100th day of school serves as good practice for number recognition and beginning math skills.  It also means the students and their teachers made it about halfway through the school year!

The kids look forward to reaching the big 100 all year long.  They counted out 100 Fruit Loops cereal rounds to make necklaces.  They estimated walking one hundred feet.  They wrote little books about 100 things they’ve seen, eaten, or wanted to do.  At recess the young whippersnappers raced and played.

“We were two old ladies riding a race car!” exclaimed Rachel Peiten.