United States’ Cultural Geography

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The 8th grade Humanities class recently wrapped up its month-long, collaborative, map-making, research project on US cultural geography. Academically, the students were challenged to understand how the way people live affects where they live (and vice-versa). On this level, the project is about making connections from the land to the people and trying to grasp the breadth of interconnections that goes into everything.

Students must work individually, in small groups, and as a cohesive class to discover and find a way to visually represent the personality of each state in an effort to understand cultural similarities and differences in various parts of the country. They also learn how to problem-solve creatively and work efficiently in a deadline situation.

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For maximum creativity on the artistic part of the project, the kids tried to employ “Think Like a Genius” methods, including looking at problems from multiple angles, making novel combinations, and using symbolism. In terms of working together, they were asked to follow a number of “Cooperation Guidelines,” including listening, asking strong questions, encouraging others with positive feedback, disagreeing in an agreeable way, and the ever-popular STAY ON TASK. They would track their progress with weekly reflections, and regular formative assessments also led to greater self-awareness and personal growth as the project proceeded.

The result is a beautiful map, a solid introduction to US cultural values, a more cohesive class, and a toolbox of powerful strategies for collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.

Hoot Owls Learn About Trees

The Hoot Owls have been very busy learning about deciduous trees! They have been working on a multi-step project to create their own unique trees. First, they painted a background on cardboard. Next, they experimented with oil pastels on top of the dry paint. Finally, they constructed the tree using real tree branches and small felt leaves.

They learned about the main parts of trees, the roots, trunk, bark, branches and leaves! They discussed some fun facts about the oldest and tallest trees in the world. Both are in California! They also thought about all the different animals and bugs they have seen living in trees. They used the left over branches to build log cabins.

Spooky Stories


Just in time for Halloween, the fourth graders shared their personal narrative spooky, fictional stories about walking in the woods. They used their plot diagram skills from reading to make sure they told complete stories. The number one goal for each student  was to write with elaboration (including similes) to paint clear pictures in the mind of the reader. Who knew they were such great story tellers?


Each student did an amazing job practicing their public speaking skills and delivering truly chilling tales that the parents really enjoyed!

Discovery Voyage

Since Ms. O., our Science Teacher, worked with NOAA this summer on a research vessel, she wanted to share that experience with her students! Two weeks ago, the 5th and 6th grade students joined the Marine Science Institute for a four-hour expedition of the San Francisco Bay aboard a 90-foot research vessel, the R.V. Robert G. Brownlee. The students discovered what lives in the estuary and how we are connected to it. They rotated through three stations using scientific methods and equipment to examine different types of life.

First, they went to hydrology to understand the water quality, and then performed a plankton tow to see the basis of the food chain. After, they used a mud grab to collect a benthic mud sample to look for invertebrates. And lastly, they worked together to deploy a 16-foot trawl net to bring fishes on board. In small groups, they studied the fishes using dichotomous keys. Students were inspired to observe and touch the live animals that they collected. Between sharks, crabs, halibut and sting rays, they saw a bunch of cool marine life!

Journal Writing in Kindergarten


Kindergartners began journal writing in October. They started with the reading of Good Dog, Carl, by Alexandra Day. This is a book with only pictures, no words. Good Dog, Carl, demonstrated to the children that a story can be told through pictures allowing them to tell a story through pictures, too. The children drew and then shared their stories with the class. After a week, the children began labeling some of the objects in their pictures during journal time. They sounded out words or the initial sound/letter in their label. Eventually, the children will begin writing sentences using inventive spelling. They are working towards the agreement between picture and words. Kindergartners are always excited to see Journal time on the class schedule.

Head’s Corner

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How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off

This morning we had our first Lower School Open House of the year with 17 people in attendance. As we prepared for the presentation, I started to think about the creativity part of our mission statement and how we encourage creativity in students. That process led me to one of my favorite articles on creativity. While the writer Adam Grant is talking about parenting, what he has to say applies to schools just as well. The read is well worth your ten minutes. Click here to read the article.

Warm regards,


Traveling Teddy Bear is Coming to Saklan

This November, you will notice a Teddy Bear on campus. This Teddy Bear is named Jerry and is an international traveler. Jerry is part of the Traveling Teddy Bear Project that connects students around the globe.
The Traveling Teddy Bears Project was started in 2014 with the goal of connecting young children in classrooms across the globe. This year, each of the bears is supporting one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to help spread awareness in schools around the globe. You can learn more about these goals here.

Jerry will be supporting the goal of Responsible Consumption and Production. Jerry believes that we need to protect our earth and resources by reducing waste.

Jerry started out his journey in Hong Kong visiting a Kindergarten class. He currently is in Australia hanging with some 1st and 2nd graders. From there he will be coming to Saklan. You can keep up on his travels here.

First Grade Learns About Space

Star light, Star Bright. Constellations, What a sight!

These creative constellations, fashioned from marshmallows and q-tips, were made by the imaginative first grade class. The first graders presented all the facts and stories behind their individual constellations.

Each first grade kept a ” Moon Log” observing each night the moon and its form.

First Grade Field Trip to Space!

Our class had a field trip at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland. We toured some of the exhibits, we saw a movie about the solar system, and learned more about the planets.

Coming soon… Simple Machines! Look forward to some imaginative inventions!

Halloween Couplets


The third grade has been working on using adjectives in their writing. Last week, they gave a spooky Halloween presentation for their parents where each student shared their original Halloween themed couplet.

Their poetry is on display in the third grade classroom. Please feel free to stop by to read their poems!

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!


The Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, takes place during the first two days of November. While the holiday’s observances include spending time in cemeteries, making shrines to the dead, and displaying skull and skeleton decorations, the occasion is joyful, rather than scary. Death isn’t seen as the end of one’s life, but as a natural part of the life cycle. During Día de los Muertos, it is said that the spirits of the dead come back to visit the living. First those who died as babies come home, then the older children, and finally those who died as adults.

Students set up an altar or ofrenda on the middle school deck. They decorated them festively with bright colors and had photographs, things that the dead people enjoyed, and items representing the four elements: fire (candles), water (drinks), earth (fruit), and wind (fluttering tissue-paper decorations.) Decorating with happy and cheerful calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons) and eating pan de muerto (bread of the dead, made in honor of the holiday) is part of the Día de los Muertos celebration.