Circus Fun in Kindergarten

September’s theme in Kindergarten was ”Circus.” A circus theme was a great way to introduce colors and shapes. Kindergartners had fun making tents, clowns, circus animals and reading stories about the circus. They also played circus BINGO.

One PE class, Mr. Crabtree taught the children how to juggle. Yesterday, the children put on their own circus with tricks, “animal” acts, and a special clown treat.

Their last circus event was to read the story, Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing, about the Brooklyn Bridge and Phineas T. Barnum of Barnum and Bailey Circus. This book is the introduction to bridge building which they will be studying in October.

Native American Conversations

The 8th grade Humanities class kicked off the school year with a dynamic, collaborative learning experience: Native American Conversations. The objectives of this weeklong project were multifold: 1) practice personal responsibility and critical-thinking skills; 2) practice cooperation/participation and teaching skills; 3) explore a wide range of Native American “fascinating facts” across 500+ years of history; 4) ask questions, make inferences, and develop a multiple-perspective understanding of Native American cultures in North America; 5) personalize and aim to put into real-world action what was learned.

Native American Booklet Cover pic-page-001

The students first partnered up in four “expert” groups to critically analyze four distinct sections of information. Each section included a range of topics, from “Young People Then & Now” to “Diverse Languages” to “Native American Creativity” to “2016 Dakota Access Pipeline Water Protection Protest.” The students worked together in their expert groups to ensure individual understanding of the material by reading closely, taking notes, asking questions, sharing ideas, and making connections (i.e., “big picture” inferences). After this research period within the context of the expert groups, the students split into “jigsaw” groups, which comprised experts from each group. Here’s a visual (each letter represents a student): Expert Groups: AAAA, BBBB, CCCC, DDDD. Jigsaw Groups: ABCD, ABCD, ABCD, ABCD.

Each student then assumed the role of teacher. So all the A’s taught everyone in their jigsaw group what they learned about the “A” topics. The B’s did the same, and so on. In this way, all of the students had to take on the challenge of being both teacher and student—and everyone was responsible for engaging with every single topic.

After each teach-in, the students wrote reflections to articulate what they learned (observations/information/inferences), how they learned (self-analysis of how their brains connected the info and ideas), and what they’re now going to (try to) do in their personal lives with what they learned. These takeaways are where you can really see the impact of what you’re bringing into the classroom.

Here are some standouts: 1) “I will now be more resourceful and less wasteful with what I have to show more respect for the Earth.” 2) “I will now be more grateful for everything that I have.” 3) “I will stand up for what I believe in and vote when I’m able to.”

This project is an ideal introductory activity to get the students comfortable with the expectations and responsibilities of 8th grade Humanities. It brings them together as a class and demonstrates the power of solidarity. It’s also a perfect intro to the Cultural Geography Project, which is already challenging—and rewarding!—the kids in similar ways. Onward…

Qué Hora Es?

Es la una en punto.  OR  Son las dos en punto.


Telling time on an analog clock is a very important skill and can be very useful in your daily life or if you are planning to visit a Spanish speaking country. Clocks can help you wake up in time for school, tell you when it’s time for lunch, and alert you when your favorite TV show is about to come on. Learning how to tell time can be fun when you use games, so 4th and 5th graders made paper plate clocks and practiced setting the clock hands on the right time.


Using hands-on activities in the classroom is an essential part of a child’s learning experience. Allowing students to learn while participating in an exciting activity is very motivating for children in the classroom. Hands-on activities in Spanish give students the opportunity to get involved and interact with one another.

Geography: The Next Frontier?

In 6th and 7th grade Humanities class, students are working on world geography. As many of you know, Americans are notoriously bad at remembering landmarks in the United States or identifying African countries. These are just a few examples of what students struggle with when answering questions about geography. I have included a link to an article that discusses students’ knowledge of geography throughout the world, but it definitely focuses on American students


Our goal this year is that Saklan middle school students will be in that small percentage of kids that will know basic, yet important, world geography. Also, our world is becoming increasingly small due to technology. Isn’t it reasonable to expect our students to know the location of most countries in the world? As we see it, understanding world geography is a proactive step into the next frontier of learning and educating our students for a global work environment.

Currently, the 6th graders are learning all 52 of the African countries. And, the 7th graders are studying the 42 European countries. Each world region will be chosen to enhance and support our students’ knowledge in relation to their topic of study.

Remembering September 11, 2001

6th grade with sign

In 6th grade Humanities class, students have been studying the events of 9/11/01 by watching a DVD called “What We Saw.” This film was produced by CBS News. Dan Rather, a retired news anchor, narrates bits of important news coverage from 9/11 and the rescue efforts made in the following days. September 11, 2011 is the second attack on American soil, the first being Pearl Harbor. Many students know very little about the actual event because it did not happen in their lifetime. In order to understand the massive impact that 9/11 had on America and the world, students wrote questions, interviewed an adult that experienced 9/11, and typed up a one-two page response on what they learned. Below are the questions students were assigned in order to solidify the most important aspects of the project:

  • What did you learn from the interview process?
  • How did this particular perspective add to your knowledge or view of history or of the event?
  • In what ways was your interviewee biased or not? Why?
  • How do you think the world has changed since 9/11/01?
  • How has the interview made you feel about the event? The United States? Other countries?

We are fortunate that Mr. Greg Ruppert, an 8th grade student’s father, was one of the lead FBI investigators on researching the financial funding of the 9/11 terrorists. He is coming to speak to Saklan’s sixth and seventh grade classes on Monday, October 1 from 12:45-1:45 pm. Parents are invited to come see Greg speak about his experience in following the technological money trail and how this helped catch some of the responsible parties.  Please send an email to if you are interested in attending Greg’s presentation.

Head’s Corner

A Great School…

In my previous blog post I wrote about using the Y-Chart to delve into gaining a participant’s voice in shaping a culture. I then asked for parents to use the Y-Chart to share with me their thoughts on what makes a great school. I received some thoughtful input that we will use to help shape our path forward. Thank you to those who took the time to share your thoughts.

Below is a sampling of your thoughts.

A great school looks like…

  • sunshine and shade under a tree.
  • busy, lively, diverse, inclusive.
  • smiling, engaged people with faces full of curiosity and wonder.
  • a welcoming and vibrant place with lots of stimulating activities and areas.
  • a united community of students, parents, and teachers dedicated to cultivating a culture of learning.

hoot owl.jpg

A great school sounds like…

  • a song.
  • laughter, ideas, acceptance, help, openness.
  • kids laughing and enjoying learning through hard work, experience, and fun.
  • quiet, soothing, drums, singing, questions, comments, advice, Spanish, Mandarin, laughing.
  • positive.

A great school feels like…

  • home, warm, caring, safe, an adventure, fresh, expansive, supportive.
  • a place with a vision to create and nurture world changers, from all disciplines.
  • home when you walk in the gate.
  • a good workout – some sweat, some strain, and healthy challenges.
  • a safe place where mistakes are okay and people cheer each other on to do their personal best.

Your participation helps us shape the future of Saklan. For a full list of the survey results, click here. There are some interesting trends to note.

Have a wonderful weekend,


Hoot Owls Visit Moraga Gardens

The Hoot Owls had a wonderful time on their field trip to Moraga Gardens. The Hoot Owls had the opportunity to pet, hold, and feed chickens! They also collected fresh eggs.

We toured the garden sampling herbs, tomatoes and strawberries. We paid close attention to the bee hives and talked about how important bees are to the planet.

Each Hoot owl planted their own sunflower start to take home. Thanks so much to the Avant family for having us!

Family Groups


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This month, Family Groups discussed collaboration: working as a team, taking turns, listening to ideas, doing your best, and encouraging others. Students read the book: The Dot, where a girl is encouraged to find out she is actually a great “dot” artist. She ends up encouraging others to find out what they are good and what they bring to the community. Students were then asked to create their own dot with something they are good at and bring to their community. Each family group worked together to build paper and sticky dot towers.

Life Sciences Field Trip

As the culmination of their Dinosaur Unit, the 2nd graders took a field trip to the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology yesterday. Led by their awesome paleontology docent Danny Anduza, the students got an up-close and personal tour of some unique fossils and heard incredible stories that they will surely never forget. Danny himself showed them pictures of a triceratops fossil that he himself found when working in Montana as well as a small model of a new dinosaur that has been recently discovered and not yet named.

They learned that birds and dinosaurs are closely related, they got to see the impressive T-rex, and they got to ask many burning questions throughout the experience.

The boys then got to find their own fossils in samples taken from Montana. It was a fun and enlightening day in 2nd grade!

Collaboration in the Classroom

This month the Hoot Owls have been learning about collaboration. We have been practicing working as a team and taking turns contributing to group art projects.

This is a collaboration created by the Hoot Owls by painting the bottoms of muffin tins and stamping paper on the painted tins.



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