Head’s Corner

Bouncing Forward

I was recently meeting with a couple of teachers and parents to discuss a student’s progress. The student had come to Saklan from a more traditional school and was struggling with how we approach learning.* What emerged from the conversation was just how difficult it is for a student to move from an educational system that feeds a student information to one that asks a student to synthesize what they previously learned into questions that lead to new understandings. In my former life as a teacher, students would often say “Just tell me what I need to know for the test” or for an essay “Tell me what to write about.” For students, the quickest way to “learn” something is to be “told” it. But this only leads to a shallow understanding of the material.


The easy way out for all of us, is to show the students exactly what to do, to tell them what they need to know, or to accept mediocre work. But in the long run, we are not setting them up for a truly successful and fulfilling life. Our 8th graders will be going off to high schools that will have a different culture than Saklan. Those 8th graders will one day graduate from high school and go on to a university that will require another culture shift. And on and on.

What that meeting reminded me of was just how difficult it is to switch cultures. In the case of the student above it was about moving into a culture that places a high value on student questioning and discovery. A culture that is reluctant to tell you what you “need” to know. To do a “culture switch” takes a large measure of perseverance and resilience. Both those characteristics are difficult to teach. As a matter of fact, they can’t be taught but have to be nurtured and learned.

At Saklan, we work behind the scenes to build  those inner muscles of resilience and perseverance. Kids fail and struggle and sometimes do not get it. We are there, like a family member, to support and help, but not to give them the answer. In the words of Rob Evans, we want to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child. So when they do meet with failure, defeat and ambiguity, they do not just bounce back – they bounce forward.

*  I intentionally chose the word “learning” instead of “teaching” as teaching feels like something that is done to us by others while learning tends to be both collaborative and self-directed.


Gold Rush Field Experience

Our Saklan 4th grade 49ers spent two days at the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School in Coloma last week. The students tried to strike it rich as they stepped back in time to 1849!

This outdoor adventure was full of hands-on learning, understanding our place in protecting nature and history, all while trying to “leave no trace.” Bringing history to life through exploration is exactly what Saklan is all about!


Save Endangered Species

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The 6th grade has been learning about climate change the last few weeks. In doing so, they not only learned how that may affect human health, coast lines, and society, but also ecosystems and some species that can not adapt quick enough.

Due to this, the students picked an organism that needs our help. These included the Snow Leopard, Polar Bear, Galapagos Penguin, Sea Turtles, Arctic Fox, and Narwhals. Students researched where they are located, why they are important in that ecosystem, and what threats there are to their species.

In order to help them, students are going to be holding an election next week. Starting on Monday, you will see decorated buckets that will be on the tables when you enter the school. We are hoping you will add your spare change to the organism you want to help the most. Each cent will count as one vote. So, one penny counts for one vote, a quarter 25 votes, a dollar a hundred votes, etc. All the money raised will go to the World Wildlife Fund which are working to help these organisms. We will symbolically adopt the organism that wins and let you know the winners! Thanks for helping out!


New Benches On Campus

We have two new wooden benches on campus! The benches were completed as part of Cole Peters Eagle Scout Service Project. Eagle Scout is the highest achievement rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America. Scouts are required to complete 21 merit badges and one Eagle Scout Service Project. Cole completed his 21 merit badges and decided on making two benches for our school.
The Eagle Scout Service Project gives the scout an opportunity to demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project that benefits his community. He and Mr. O’Connell worked on a design plan together. Supplies were donated by Home Depot. Working with his scout adviser, Cole organized the volunteers and dates for the building of the benches. The volunteers spent about 12-15 hours finishing the benches.
The students have already been enjoying the benches. Thank you for a job well-done, Cole!!

Exchange Students at the Exploratorium

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Two weeks ago, the Japanese exchange students went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco with their 8th grade buddies.

While at the Exploratorium, the students investigated how energy is transferred throughout different experiments, experienced how forces play a part in every day activities, and how different wavelengths affect the flow of energy. Our students and the Japanese students enjoyed the museum. They also got to visit the gift shop. The students can’t wait to do this again next year!


String Art and STEAM

The Japanese students learned a little science in the Art room.


A spectrum is a band of colors, like a rainbow, formed by a beam of light. Using string, the students created their own “beams of light” into designs. They were shown a couple different methods including radiating lines, rotating squares, and a spectrum.

The students worked fast and efficiently, creating designs completely original and complex. After completing their designs, students expressed how fun and creative the process was for them!

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Making a Difference


As part of their unit on people that have made a difference, the second graders have been reflecting on how they can make a difference. Looking at the amount of waste that happens in our lives at home and at school, they came upon a problem that they felt needed tackling. The students calculated that roughly 6,240 plastic forks get thrown away in a school year. In order to change this waste, the second graders implemented a scheme where metal forks are provided, and are washed and dried every day. It shows us that anyone can make a difference no matter the age. Well done, second graders!


Gold Rush Board Game

The 4th graders have taken the content they learned about the California Gold Rush and created their very own board games! Students played the games in class to review and prepare for their trip to Coloma on April 11-12.


Rorschach Ink Blot Paintings


The Kindergarten explored the famous Ink Blots used for personality tests. It was quite impressive to hear the images the students saw. Just to name a few: unicorns, bugs, faces, people, monsters, and animals. Once the students were excited to create such interesting paintings we got started!

It was at first a little hard to not paint anything recognizable to the eye when handed paper and a paint brush. Once they started to fold, press, and unfold their paintings, the wow factor came in and they couldn’t stop. We even stepped on our paintings! Sean found that the pattern on his shoe transferred to the painting when the paper was folded in half and when he unfolded it, it created this amazing symmetrical pattern. The students love this project because the result is quick and something new and different each time.


Saklan’s Lighthouse for Education Auction Shines Bright

On March 15, our community came together to celebrate and support our students and our school. There was a lot of excitement about who was there, Saklan75 signature cocktails, legacy baskets, croquembouche and cremant, Kay Long Martin’s famous lemon cheesecake, lighthouse decorations everywhere, and dancing afterwards. Everyone had a great time!

Together we raised almost $50,000 dollars for our Fund-A-Need. We’ll be able to provide all students in every grade with even more opportunities for hands-on academics, deeper experiential learning opportunities, a new van to take them out into the world, and more books in our library collection with an emphasis on diversity.

Our auction was all-around successful, because of the contributions received from many–parent volunteers, student artists, teachers and staff, alumni parents, grandparents, and our first-ever returning alum, Sarah Dey ’12.

Deepest thanks to so many. You are supporting our students, school, and our Saklan teachers who are our Lighthouse Keepers.