Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Kids! of the Mont – May 1999 – Students in the Project Tomorrow Docent Program

The Docent Program at Trabuco Hills High School: Students Teaching Students

What a fun day! My students loved the lesson. The docents did a great job circulating throughout the classroom. It was great!
– fifth grade teacher at Ceila Vista Elementary School

Every day someone in my class asks when Traci and Sean are coming to do another science lesson. My class interest in science is at an all-time high! The enthusiasm of the docents in contagious. And the lessons are interesting, well-organized and fun.
– third grade teacher at Trabuco Mesa Elementary School

Our family had fun learning together. We had different ideas about what would happen. It sparked our curiosity.
– father of third grader at Family Science Night at O’Neill Elementary School

This month, Amazing Kids! is proud to honor the amazing work of students at Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo, California. 14 promising future science teachers from the high school are working with elementary students from 4 elementary schools, helping them learn about science.

The elementary students love their science lessons, because the high school student docents make it fun! Read about their story below, and who knows? Maybe you’ll want to become a cool science teacher too someday!

Saddleback Valley School District and Project Tomorrow: A Partnership Dedicated to Improving Elementary Science Education

The Trabuco Hills High Docent program began when some amazing adults at The Saddleback Valley School District in partnership with Project Tomorrow created the student docent program, in order to enhance science education at the elementary school level. The docent program, offered as a science elective class at Trabuco Hills High School, is made up of 14 juniors and seniors who are interested in possibly becoming teachers. These amazing students work hard designing science lessons that support the elementary science curriculum, and then go into the elementary classrooms to teach the lessons to the elementary students. The program provides extra hands-on science activities for students in grades K-6, which makes learning science even more fun for the younger students!

There are many benefits from the program for classroom teachers too! All the equipment and activities from the lessons are given to them, ready to use. They can learn about how to teach the lesson by watching the high student docents teach the younger students. As one teacher said: “Once again, it is great to have all the hands-on materials assembled in advance. The lesson was well organized and presented. As a teacher, with so many other things to do, it is hard to be so well organized. I really enjoy having these students (the docents) teach the lessons”

These amazing high school docents are great peer role models for the elementary students. The elementary students really love having the docents bring the lessons into their classrooms. They get excited about learning science because they get to work with the amazing high school students from Trabuco High School!

Ask the Experts: The Trabuco Hills High Student Docents Really Know their Science!

This year (1998-99) the docents have spent their class time learning science lessons for grades three and five. Working in grade level teams, the docents design lessons that add to the science lessons already being taught by the classroom teachers.

The lessons are designed to get the elementary students to ask questions about a science concept. During this segment of the lesson, the docents teach new science vocabulary, use visuals and conduct demonstrations. This “elicitation” portion of the lesson is followed by a hands-on, age appropriate activity which helps students reinforce their learning.

Finally, the docents end their lessons by using a “real world” example of each of the concepts they teach to help the students relate the concept to something outside the classroom.

The docents also spend time on the Internet searching for Web sites that could be beneficial to teachers when teaching a specific lesson. They also identify sites that are appropriate for the elementary students to use.

Once each science lesson has been designed and rehearsed, the docents are released from their high school classes and spend a day at the elementary sites. They carry the materials necessary to teach the lesson to the schools in big plastic tubs. When the docents have completed teaching the lessons, they leave the instructional materials as resources for future years with the elementary teachers. Because the docents give their time during the course of the school day, they are responsible for making up the class work they miss when they are out at the elementary schools. They must be well organized and have excellent time management skills.

In addition to teaching at the elementary schools during the day, the docents participate in the family science night program at the elementary sites. The family science nights have been created to generate community involvement. Including parents and families in science night activities helps build support for the elementary science programs and gives recognition to the existing program. In addition to enriching the district’s existing units, the family science nights generate positive attitudes toward science.

Trabuco Hills High School 1998-99 Amazing Docents!

Grace Barragan
Melissa Berry
Carolyn Castillo
Ryan Craig
Jennifer Gast
Jasmin Narvarro
Lindsay Pescara
Jenny Phillips
Katy Plattner
Todd Schulman
Sean Selff
Chris Smigelski
Kirstin Stamm
Traci Waller

Trabuco Hills High School Amazing Educators!

Paul Pedigo, instructor
Katie Fliegler, curriculum coordinator

When I am old enough to go to high school, I want to go to Trabuco Hills, so I can be a docent too!
– A fifth grade student at Trabuco Mesa Elementary School.

The docent program was intended as a model for other schools to use. The program is being expanded each year. Presently, the docents visit four elementary school sites. These include Trabuco Mesa, Cielo Vista, O’Neill, and Trabuco Elementary schools. Next year three more schools, Portola Hills, Robinson Ranch, and Melinda Heights, will be added to the program. The docents will concentrate on lessons for the first and sixth grade classes.

Saddleback Valley Unified School District Renaissance Project

The goal of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District Renaissance Project is to develop students’ passion for learning in the areas of science and technology, and to create independent, inquisitive students who are able to meet the rigors of post-graduate options. These goals are being accomplished through the implementation of programs that will foster scientific curiosity and teach life long learning skills including verbal and written communication and problem solving. The project involves five major components: The Summer Science Institute for elementary teachers, the high school docent program, the middle school technology program, the family night science programs and the high school science and technology career elective course.


“The Trabuco Hills High School Mission Statement is the driving force that guides our school curriculum, instruction, programs and activities. It states: ‘Through active participation in learning experiences, the Trabuco Hills community will educate students to graduate with the knowledge, discipline and social skills to become productive citizens in our changing world.’ This is truly a tall order. However, the faculty, staff and administration, in partnership with parents are committed to providing our students with the finest comprehensive education in Orange County.

The faculty, staff and administration strive to provide a clean, safe, and orderly environment that promotes student learning and enhances academic achievement. In addition to 99 well-trained classroom teachers, including the largest number of mentor teachers in the district, Trabuco Hills High School is one of the most technologically advanced campuses in the county. There are over 300 PC and Macintosh computers linked to the Internet for research and communication purposes. Specialized programs such as the Project Tomorrow Docent Program, Video/Television Production, Computer Programming (C++) and the newly created Institute of Medical Science and Health provide students with unique opportunities to use “state of the art technology”. Trabuco Hills High School is clearly leading the way in the development of productive, technologically literate citizens.”

Recent Trabuco Hills High School highlights include:

  • Academic Decathlon Championships ( 1996-97 Orange County Academic Decathlon Champions, 2nd in the State of California)
  • Professional Development Partnership with University of California, Irvine
  • Award winning programs in music, drama, debate and the arts.
    (Marching Band: Class A championships 1993 & 1994, 4 Grand Sweepstakes 1992-97. Visual Arts Awards: 18 first place awards at the Youth Expo. First place in the Drug Prevention Poster Contest and 4 students published in the Irvine Valley College Calendar 1997-98. Drama awards: Second place at the Fullerton Theater Festival; and Best Overall Production at the Saddleback College Competitions).
  • Project Create: Car Design Collaboration with CALTY Car Design Center (Designers of the Lexus)
  • Science Field Study Program – student guides and mentors at outdoor education center, Trabuco Elementary School
  • 93% of students pursue Post-Secondary Education
  • AP pass rate of 85% on 211 exams (1997)

Project Tomorrow: Partnership for Science Education

Project Tomorrow is a community partnership dedicated to systemic change in Orange County, California K-12 science education.

It is a collaborative effort between educators, businesses, and organizations to enhance science education by supporting projects and programs, professional development, and creating community awareness and involvement.

Project Tomorrow was founded in 1996 by the Orange County Science & Technology Alliance for Education. The alliance serves as the science & technology committee for the Orange County Business-Education Alliance and as the education committee for the American Electronics Association of Orange County.

Project Achievements

  • The development of hands-on science lessons and support materials that complement the existing elementary science curriculum in grades 2 – 5. In 1997 -98, 100% of the second and fourth grade students attending year 1 cluster schools benefited from the hands-on lessons. During 1998 -99 the program has been expanded to include grades 3 and 5 and two additional elementary school sites.
  • Implementation of a staff development program for teachers in grades 2 – 5 to enhance science content, knowledge, pedagogy and attitudes toward teaching science. Four Summer Science Institutes have been successfully completed during the summers of 1997 and 1998. After school staff development programs are being offered for elementary teachers to increase conceptual understanding and enhance instructional strategies.
  • Implementation of semiannual cluster planning and collaboration meetings that create an round table for K – 12 articulation.
  • Implementation of a Five Year Strategic Plan to incorporate Inquiry-based science lessons into the district core science curriculum and to inservice elementary science specialists on these lessons.
  • Implementation of a high school docent program that trains students in K – 6 science instruction. A core group of students are presently teaching science lessons at four elementary sites.
  • The development of linkages with the business and college communities for middle and high school teachers and students to expand training opportunities and knowledge of science applications.
  • Implementation of family science night programs at the four elementary cluster schools that provides parents with the opportunity to experience hands-on, inquiry based science with their children.

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