Category Archives: News

Westmore Oaks 6th graders built solar suitcases for Kenyan students

By Monica Stark
Sixty students in Ms. Garcia’s science club elective at Westmore Oaks built six solar suitcases and sent two of them off to a school in Kenya—a learning experience that reached beyond the classroom and is helping others in need. The ones staying at home will be used for further solar power education. Garcia attended a two-day professional workshop with 15 Bay Area teachers to learn how to teach solar electricity based on a solar platform called the solar suitcase. Together with her students, Garcia’s class will make the world a brighter place and more hopeful for youth living in regions of energy poverty.

Through building the solar suitcase, a 12 volt dc stand-alone solar system that can power lights, cell phones and small electronic devices, students learned how solar electricity actually works. The program is meant to improve students’ STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills and solar energy knowledge while also raising awareness of energy poverty in other parts of the world.

When paired with appropriately sized solar panels and batteries, the solar suitcase is capable of handling up to 200 watts of incoming solar electricity and can light up average sized rooms as well as serve as a charging station. It is an easy-to-use, easy-to-transport complete solar electric system. It is not only a simple technology, but also is extremely valuable to those who live without access to a grid for electricity supply.

As a learning experience, the students had to figure out all the various pieces and purposes of each piece that went into making the solar suitcases. Following engineering practices, the students learned that each piece had a purpose.

Garcia and a previous year’s class worked on solar suitcases, so this year’s students got to see the example of a finished product, which helped them figure out “what goes where” in terms of the various pieces.

Over 1.2 billion people in the world live without access to electricity, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Central and South America. For students, this means the opportunity to improve their life changes is severely limited by the hours of daylight. Connecting with the outside world is impossible. Their options of kerosene and candlelight are not only expensive sources of light, but also dangers and ineffective. Often students will gather under streetlights and near gas stations to try to study by the light provided. African students must sit for the demanding and difficult national exams to qualify for high school admittance. Without light at night, countless students are disadvantaged in preparation, ruling out further educational opportunities at a young age. Although many carry cell phones, they are unable to charge them regularly which results in a lack of connection to the larger world as well as the security of staying in touch with loved ones.

The students in Ms. Garcia’s science club elective were very motivated by knowing that the solar energy systems they are building will power lights and computers for students whose schools and homes go dark once the sun goes down. The students watched documentaries to help understand the situation in Kenya.

One of the students, Tyler Gabourie said, “it kind of hurt seeing their condition. It made me want to do the project more and see the improvement and that they don’t have to do that anymore. Even if it’s a little bit of a population… it’s more kids that won’t have to walk in the night to go study.”

He said when the class had completed the project and when the light went on, “It felt amazing because at the same time, it worked and it can go to Kenya.”

Garcia continued: “It’s hard for us to even imagine not having electricity ever. We’re not just talking we don’t have electricity because the power went out, there are no lines going to their schools or their homes. So, I really wanted (the class) to grasp that and I feel like for the most part, especially this class, (they) really understood what they were doing to have a major impact on people.”

“Subtile” unveiling: Public art piece unveiled in the Bridge District

By Michele Townsend

On Thursday, Nov. 30, Mayor Cabaldon enthusiastically represented the City of West Sacramento in the official unveiling of a new public art piece titled SUBTILE (pronounced: subtle). This art piece marks achievements in many aspects for the city. In 1993, the City Council adopted a land use vision for the Bridge District that integrated the river and public spaces as the heart of a planned new urban-scale, infill development. Since then, the development of the River Walk has been an ongoing project. As with any major plan, the development is, and will continue to be, done in phases. This $500,000 public art piece is the next step in that development. It’s not however, the city throwing money around! There was a process and several exciting steps that occurred in order for this art piece to become a reality.

Mark Friedman, of Fulcrum Properties, co-hosted the event. Fulcrum Properties is the developers that are responsible for the construction the area that, to date, includes The Barn, the new housing units that have been built in that area, and now the placement and installation of this piece. They are the “guys” responsible for making the vision come to life throughout the Bridge District.

In 2014, West Sacramento entered into a California Competition that supports “Art and Parks” in affordable housing areas. The vision for this group is to not only to build affordable housing, but to build good neighborhoods. West Sacramento was awarded the grant that has eventually led to the construction and installation of this unique piece of art.

But the story doesn’t stop there. In May of 2015 the City of West Sacramento requested for artist proposals for a public art installation on the River Walk. This piece was to be developed for this very specific piece of land. One hundred proposals were received by the city and the artist chosen was Federico Diaz.

Federico was selected as the winner of an international contest to commission this 40-foot-tall sculpture along the Sacramento River. Federico has previous projects on display at institutions that include the Venice Biennale, CAFA Museum Beijing and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, just to name a few. His art uses new media “to reveal simple aspects of everyday reality and our natural environment which are elusive through primary human senses”. Mark Friedman explained this as “The desire to make hidden forces that descend upon us, visible.” To create this vision, Federico walked the specific site, then entered the information he gathered into an algorithm to simulate the growth of trees. He then took those results and constructed a 40x16x11ft, 40,000 pound sculpture that contains 34,000 2 inch metal, reflective discs. The sculpture is shaped to reflect the many aspects of the surrounding environment. The mayor described it as a “monumental and spectacular piece of art that will look different each time you visit it.” Those in attendance saw for themselves just how true this statement is!

As the sun set, and the art piece picked up the colors in the sky, the sculpture was a beautiful golden, and in some places almost white. But as the speeches continued, and the whistle of the train across the river sounded as well as shining the light from the train, the piece took on an entire different look. It was, in fact, quite spectacular! The vision for the growth and development may be 25 years old, but it is still moving along with great thought and excitement. Mayor Cabaldon said “This is not the first, and definitely not the last, piece of public art that will happen here.”

Public tour of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Snow Geese can be seen in flying high in a rough “V” formation over the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Yolo Basin Foundation volunteers will lead a free public tour of the YBWA from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, December 9. / Photo by Cathy Kreitzer

Snow Geese can be seen in flying high in a rough “V” formation over the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Yolo Basin Foundation volunteers will lead a free public tour of the YBWA from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, December 9. / Photo by Cathy Kreitzer

Amidst the thousands of migratory waterfowl that have descended on the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area are noisy, swirling flocks of Snow Geese. The Yolo Basin Foundation invites members of the public to view these and other seasonal visitors during a docent-led tour of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Saturday, December 9, from 9 a.m.-noon.

Snow Geese are medium-sized geese can be identified by their white plumage and black wingtips in flight. The darker, blue morph has a white head and throat with a grey-brown body. This rare variant may be spotted among a flock of the white birds. Snow Geese breed in large colonies on arctic tundra and mate for life. Family groups travel south together. Snow Geese have an exclusively vegetarian diet that includes a range of aquatic plants, grasses, and grains.

All interested tour participants should meet a few minutes before 9 a.m. in Parking Lot A of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, at the west end of the Yolo Causeway. Directions to the YBWA are also available on Yolo Basin Foundation’s website at

Participants should bring binoculars and water (there is no potable water on site). Docents will have spotting scopes to enhance wildlife viewing. This is a driving tour on gravel roads with several stops and short walks. For more information, call Yolo Basin Foundation at (530) 757-3780 or visit

Yolo Basin Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the appreciation and stewardship of wetlands and wildlife through education and innovative partnerships. The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Family-Friendly Santa Sunday Returns to Yolo County Historical Museum on December 10

For first time, visitors may bring their dogs for separate professional photography session

IMG_6113The Yolo County Historical Museum (YHCM) welcomes visitors of all ages on Sunday, December 10, 2017, for Gibson House’s annual Santa Sunday photography event from 10 am to 2 pm. Proceeds from the event will benefit the museum’s children’s education program.

Santa will arrive at 10 am to visit and take pictures with children and families until 2 pm (guests must take their own photographs). Families are encouraged to stay and indulge in hot chocolate and coffee and to purchase home-baked goodies. Ornaments will be provided to decorate and take home, and Gibson House gardeners will be on hand to sell select plants.

“This is a special opportunity to celebrate the season, get to know or revisit an historical landmark, and feel proud about contributing to education,” said YHCM Executive Director James C. Glica-Hernandez.

For the first time, families may take photos with their dogs in a festively decorated area of the Dairy. A professional photographer will be on hand to take these pictures for $20 per image. You’ll be able to download your photo for free after the event. Dogs must be leashed.

“We’re now in our eleventh season of Santa Sunday, and we are thrilled to open our doors to families once again,” said Karen Lafferty, president of the Board of Directors. “We hope people of all ages will come out and capture the magic of the holiday season at Gibson House.”

Students from around the county experience the history that is brought to life at Gibson House as part of the museum’s education program. Each year, the education program brings in approximately 1,200 third graders and teachers to tour the museum, barns, blacksmith shop, dairy, and grounds. Nearly twenty retired volunteers from Davis and Woodland, all from educational and professional backgrounds, enthusiastically show, tell, and guide the children during their visit to the museum. Children learn how to churn butter, wash and wring laundry, push a plow, and listen to the oral history of the Gibson family and Yolo County farmstead life of the 1800s.

The cost to meet and take your own photos with Santa is $10 for one child, and $5 per additional child in family. All children who participate in the Santa photos are also invited to make a complimentary ornament at the craft station. The museum asks that visitors remember to bring their own cameras for the photos with Santa. The museum is located at 512 Gibson Road in Woodland.

The beautiful Greek Revival mansion, with its iconic white columns, was the home of William Byas and Mary Isabelle Gibson. Once part of a 2,400-acre farm, the home started out as a little one-room house in 1857, going through several renovations and additions until the main construction was finished in 1877.

The mission of YCHM is to preserve and protect the historical heritage and culture of Yolo County. School tours for students from throughout the county are the highlight of the museum’s educational programming. For more information about the museum, the children’s educational program, or Santa Sunday, please call (530) 666-1045 or visit

Dogs must be leashed and are not allowed inside Gibson House.