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Paso school board adopts science curriculum, despite skepticism 

A new K-5 science curriculum drew skepticism from Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board and community members who claimed that it presented false information and promoted social emotional learning.

Initially introduced at the Jan. 24 board meeting, trustees Laurene McCoy and Dorian Baker expressed hesitation over adopting the curriculum created by TWIG Science.

click to enlarge LEARNING SCIENCE A new K-5 science curriculum drew skepticism from some Paso Robles school board members. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • LEARNING SCIENCE A new K-5 science curriculum drew skepticism from some Paso Robles school board members.

During the meeting, McCoy asked whether the curriculum promoted social emotional learning under the guise of science. In response, district Director of Curriculum Maggie Tatman explained that the social emotional aspect plays a part in facilitating teamwork and would help kids "connect" with scientific topics such as determining what an animal's needs may be.

As someone who owns chickens, Baker said she took issue with a section of the TWIG curriculum stating that it takes about 50 gallons of water to produce one egg.

"It almost seems as if there is an agenda that meat based protein sources are inefficient, take too much water, and should be avoided," Baker said at the Jan. 24 meeting. "I consider this to be political, and we should be guarding against the politicalization of the curriculum, and we should be advocating for curricula that is well-sourced and scientifically accurate and transparent."

Amid concerns regarding false information in the curriculum, board members asked to table the discussion until the Feb. 14 meeting, something board member Joel Peterson disagreed with. He urged the board to listen to teachers and approve the curriculum.

"There might be a discrepancy of one person raising chickens in Paso Robles versus commercially farmed eggs across the country, there's easily going to be some discrepancy there," Peterson said. "I'm not going to discredit an entire TWIG curriculum that I've been researching before this meeting and during this meeting about the work that they do, because of one egg-to-egg study of someone who lives in Paso Robles, California, versus the giant commercial egg population of the world."

The parent group Moms for Liberty voiced opposition to the curriculum, stating in a press release that parents were not given the opportunity to weigh in.

"One email from the district during the busiest season of [the] year during work hours is not enough to show a good faith effort," the press release from group stated.

According to Tatman, the program was piloted by 26 district teachers and unanimously approved. She said that an email had been sent to families notifying them that the curriculum was available to view at the district office between November and December 2022. Tatman added that no parent had filled out the forms requesting to review it.

On Feb. 14, some trustees had a change of heart about the curriculum.

While trustee McCoy did vote to approve the curriculum, she still had some questions about false information in the curriculum.

"How do you go about correcting false information? Because kids don't always go home and talk to their parents about stuff," McCoy said. "And they just take it because they trust their teacher, which they should. But if their teacher didn't look into it, then how does that get corrected?"

The board voted to approve the curriculum 5-1, with Dorian Baker being the lone voice of opposition. During the meeting, Baker stated that her role as a trustee was to push back against an "increasingly bureaucratic education establishment."

"Aside from the obvious absurd assumptions about the water footprint of an egg, a chicken, and a pound of beef was the fact that under the guise of science, the publishers are persuading children to conclude that feeding human beings animal protein is inefficient and costly," Baker said.

Superintendent Curt Dubost applauded the board's due diligence in vetting the curriculum to ensure that community members and parents with questions felt heard.

"If we aren't more receptive to constituents speaking through their board members, asking questions like this and getting answers fully vetted, then I fear that there will be an impetus to have even more charter schools and more people desert us if they don't think that you're doing your job and we're not doing our job," Dubost said. Δ

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