Bruce Olav Solheim, Citrus College Faculty Association, wrote Ali’s Bees in 2017. Ali, whose parents were killed in a terrorist attack in Iraq, has been sent to East Los Angeles to live with his beekeeper grandfather. Ali struggles with grief and post-traumatic stress disorder, but enjoys working with the bees and decides to do his science project on them. His work draws in Lupe, a classmate with problems of her own, and Jenks, a bully who cares for his disabled father. The three form an unlikely connection as they try to overcome their differences and challenges. Available on Amazon.
Solheim, a disabled U.S. Army vet who teaches history and is
a former Fulbright scholar, has written a play based on the book and is offering the streamplay (with live, remote actors and 3D virtual-world settings) free to middle and high school students. Check out a prerecorded version seen in February by students in grades 6-8 at Edgewood Academy in La Puente. To view it or the trailer, go to youtube.com and search for “Ali’s Bees.” To request the streamplay, contact email@example.com or
The motto of Shadow Ridge School in Hesperia is “The Idea Factory,” and high school teachers Jim Hoffmann (social studies) and Barbara Jacobs (English), both Hesperia Teachers Association members, provide plenty of opportunities for creativity. Among the various real-world projects, their students helped create two children’s books, Pancho Claus Vol. 2 and Face and Heart: An Aztec Tale. (Hoffmann helped with Pancho Claus Vol. 1; both volumes involved the “father of Chicano music” Lalo Guerrero and his son Dan.)
Students formatted Pancho Claus, based on the beloved Tex-Mex Santa and born out of the Chicano rights movement, and contributed several images. Face and Heart is based on a song by another Guerrero son, Mark, about the ancient Aztec people, who considered children their most precious resource; illustrations were done almost entirely by students. All available on Amazon.
Child-Friendly Look at COVID-19
United Teachers Los Angeles member and 30-year teacher Rogelio López has just published The Coronavirus Revealed, geared for children ages 3-4 and up. The book describes in rhyme the onset and fallout of the virus in a way children will easily understand, and offers a bright future. López, an educator at Noble Avenue Elementary, wrote and illustrated both the Spanish and English versions. On Amazon.
CTA/NEA-Retired member Gail Saito (pen name Gail Lee) taught elementary and middle school for more than 30 years in the San Diego area. Her passion to protect the environment led her to write Lizzabelle and the Plastic Bottle for children ages 4-8. The story follows Evan as he cleans out the family van, discovers a plastic bottle, and learns about recycling from Lizzabelle, the lizard. At the end are sections on facts about plastic and what you can do to help. On Amazon.
Gentrification of Sports
To basketball fans everywhere, the 1990s were a glorious time for the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Sean Dinces, Long Beach City College Faculty Association, wrote a book
a few years ago that uses the building of the United Center, the Bulls’ home arena, as an example of urban development that exacerbates American cities’ economic inequality. Bulls Markets: Chicago’s Basketball Business and the New Inequality is an illuminating text for older students. It shows how promises of private funding and neighborhood revitalization did not come through. Instead, the arena was funded by property tax breaks that average Chicagoans knew nothing about. Winners: the moneyed elite and connected politicians; losers: poorer citizens and sports fans. On Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the University of Chicago Press Books.