Social Synergy at Sunland Elementary School

by lejandro Magallanes

On Thursday, March 23, Sunland Elementary successfully hosted their first Community Open House. The turnout was good. After all, the school’s marketing committee, made up mostly of teachers, personally handed out invitations to this event, making connections with the business owners of the community. And why were they making such a huge effort to bring people into Sunland Elementary? It’s because the school is passionate about their vision of education, and part of that vision is to reach out to the entire community.

Principal Eddie Carrillo explained to his guests, “Our kids are going to learn English. They’re going to learn math. That’s a given. But here at Sunland Elementary, we are taking it a step further.”

The school, which hosts the Sunland Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Magnet, has programs such as orchestra, academic chess and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Many of the schools in LAUSD’s Northeast Valley are making similar advancements to their curriculum, but one major aspect that sets Sunland Elementary apart is their focus on social-emotional development within the entire school.

Psychiatric Social Worker Linda Good-Hart explained: “People often overlook the psychological health of the children. We need to provide the emotional support that these children need to prepare them for this everchanging world we live in.”

Sunland Elementary offers MindUP, a classroom-based, social-emotional learning program designed to enhance children’s pro-social behaviors: helping, sharing and cooperating. MindUp reaches every classroom with daily breathing exercises that help the students focus, allowing them to work together in a cohesive environment.

At the open house, the faculty presented their PALS Program: Preschool for All Learners. This program educates preschool children with special needs, teaching young ones to learn through various modalities. This gives all children an opportunity to reach their full potential.

Fifth-grade Magnet teacher Susie Hoard said, “In the current work environment, employers do not want to know ‘What were your grades? Can you pass a test?’ They want to know, ‘Can you collaborate with others to solve problems?’”

Sunland Elementary’s advancements in social-emotional development appear to be having a powerful influence on students, as evidenced by a short documentary presented in a Magnet class. A Sunland Elementary third-grader’s work with local homeless people was truly impressive. On his own accord, this boy raised money from recycled trash, went shopping with his parents for food and then distributed the food, putting him face-toface with the homeless he had set out to help. How’s that for social development?

Sunland Elementary’s social development is also long lasting. This month, a former student of Sunland Elementary returned to the school to convert an entire classroom into a Makerspace, a space where students can build things, expand imagination, challenge themselves and be creative. The former student, Christopher Coomber, is a Boy Scout who is creating the space to earn his Eagle Scout badge. He stated that he has fond memories of his elementary years at Sunland and wants to give back to his school.

The open house tour showed other areas where Sunland Elementary shines. A Science Lab, an Art Studio and a Computer Lab with Apple computers available to all students were highlights of the tour. The school also has partnerships with JPL and CSUN, who provide professional development for teachers, in order to prepare students for mastery of the New Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The school will also be ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act) within the upcoming year, receiving constructive renovations such as wheelchair ramps and an elevator.

So what was the goal of the night? It was to reach out to the community and welcome them right back into the school. Who does Sunland Elementary welcome? You. The community. They welcome families who are looking for a new school for their child. They welcome families who drive 20 minutes through traffic to take their kids to a private school, when they have a Gifted / Highly Gifted / HighAchieving Magnet school right in their backyard. They welcome businesses who want to thrive in our community and would like to work with our families.

Within this synergistic relationship between school and community, Sunland-Tujunga and the school will both win. The community donates their time and effort to the school, and in return, the school educates socially conscious, young adults with a greater respect for the community that helped raise them.

Principal Carrillo emphasized, “We want to nurture well-rounded students. We want to give our students 21st century skills they need to succeed in this ever-changing world.”

There will be another Sunland Elementary Open House on Thursday, April 6, from 5 until 6:30 p.m. This open house will address parents of local preschoolers who plan to enter Transitional Kinder and Kindergarten programs. Sunland Elementary School welcomes you.

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