Head’s Corner

Summer Slide

Schools are such funny places, so full of young energy, optimism and a spirit of change, yet so rooted in the traditions and systems of the past. One of those traditions is summer break, which was created to accommodate the needs of an agrarian society. Everything we know about education tells us that 11 weeks off of learning leads to a thing called the “summer slide.”


Summer slide is the term given to the impact of not practicing skills learned over the past nine months. In general, students lose about a month of academic achievement over the summer break – with losses being greater the higher the grade level. Social-economic status also plays a role in this brain drain.

To be fair, most, if not all of our students, engage in learning over the summer – whether it is a trip to the Galapagos, devouring books or attending a camp of some sort.  And much of this learning is experiential, just what we love here at Saklan. Furthermore, “downtime,” play and being just plain bored are also important to our development (our electronic devices have stolen boredom and its associated benefits from us, more on that at another time).

But the skills that are hit hardest by summer slide are those associated with math and reading. In order to address some of this loss of learning, teachers have put together binders with summer work for each student. The work focuses on both math and reading and has been built to reinforce skills that have been learned during the year. As a rule of thumb, there is roughly 20 hours of reading to finish, and 10 hours of paper to pencil type of work. Some of it is creative, and some of it is routine practicing of skills.

This work will be coming home in  binders either Friday or Monday, depending on the class. We will be collecting the work in August on first day back to school. To be most beneficial, most of this work should be spread out over the summer and not done the last week of break. Please take a look at the materials and let us know if you have any questions. We ask for your support in ensuring your son or daughter completes the binders to the best of their abilities. They are designed to set them up for success for the new school year.

Warm regards,



Solar Ovens


The 6th grade has been learning about heat transfer around our planet, especially in regards to radiant energy from the sun. They spent time learning about the different types of wavelengths the sun gives off (the electromagnetic spectrum) and how each provide different kinds of energy. The students then looked at the suns potential. First, they saw how solar power works to excite electrons on a solar panel by racing solar panel race cars. Next, they learned how photos can be used to heat up water in solar farms to create steam to turn a turbine. And lastly, they created solar ovens where they used the suns energy and a mirrored cone to cook some cookies!


Lastly, as summer is quickly approaching, the students learned how to keep themselves safe from the sun. Wearing sunscreen, taking breaks in the shade, wearing sunglasses, and keeping hydrated and moisturized will keep everyone happier this summer and beyond!


Hoot Owls at MOCHA

The Hoot Owls visited the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland. The field experience began with artist, Mr. Z. reading the Hoot Owls Todd Parr’s book It’s Okay to be Different. The Hoot Owls are familiar with this book so they helped Mr. Z out with the words inspiring lots of laughs.

Next, the Hoot Owls were able to visit four different tables set up with art projects that complemented the book. They worked on mixing colors to paint a rainbow zebra. They created silly faces and masks. They also experimented with pastels and watercolor. One of the tables they were most excited about was the clay table!

They tried out many different tools and techniques while working with the clay. The Hoot Owls also were able to explore the museum and experience art made by different children in the community. Many students loved the experience so much they have asked their parents if they can visit the museum again to participate in the museum’s drop-in art classes and other fun community events!


Third Graders Visit the “Spirit of the Old West”

The third grade class went to the Blackhawk Museum on Thursday, May 23rd to explore the “Spirit of the Old West” exhibit. This exhibit is dedicated to presenting a balanced narrative of both Native Americans and American Settlers—depicting their challenges, their successes and failures, and their ways of life. Since the two main social studies units in third grade are about Native Americans and Pioneers, this was the perfect field experience to complement their studies.

They saw many of the animals that roamed the plains and mountains, many artifacts from Native Americans and Pioneers, a life size replica of a covered wagon, and a 150 foot long “miniature” diorama that tells the story of the settlement of the western plains. The third graders favorite activity was spinning the “wheel of death” to learn about the many ways the Pioneers might have died since life back then was much harder than it is today.


First Grade Trip to Lindsay Wildlife Museum

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The first grade class learned about Pond Life and Animal Habitats. They ended their unit by doing an indoor workshop called Animal Homes at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. The children were engaged with the activities by observing and classifying animals integrated with hands-on learning. It was a wonderful field experience for the kids and they really had a great time.


Andy Goldsworthy Natural Sculptures

With the end of the year around the corner and the sunshine peaking out of the clouds, the 5th grade is doing art class outside. Students learned about the British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy is famous for his site specific sculptures made up of natural materials such as rocks, leaves, and ice.

They discussed the concept of ephemeral art because most of Goldsworthy’s work does not physically exist in the present because of natural conditions destroying the work, but is documented by his photography. The students then went out and about the campus to gather twigs, leaves, and pine cones to arrange their nature sculptures throughout Saklan.


Science of Roller Coasters


The 8th graders culminating physics project was to design and create a roller coaster for a marble that utilized the forces the students learned about in class, had enough momentum to fulfill a loop, and had a slow down stop. Each group used their creativity, math skills and the scientific method to design, redesign, start over, and eventually create their coasters.

The students also got inspiration for their coasters by going to Physics Day at Great America, where they experienced the need for gravitational pull to power the coasters, centripetal force and air resistance to provide thrills, and of course friction to stop safely! You can see their amazing designs on the pictures. Our Science Teacher, Miss O, is extremely impressed with their efforts in this project. They are a great class and they are ready for high school!


Author’s Celebration


The fifth graders completed their Author’s Celebration project this month. Students have been learning many strategies for making their creative writing stories a joy to read. Some strategies they have learned this year in order to enrich their writing are: using vivid vocabulary, sensory words, figurative language, interesting story leads, “said” is dead, and character development.

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The students chose a favorite story they had written that best exemplified these strategies to make into a book. During the celebration, students read to groups of parents and made their stories come alive by reading with expression. They did such an amazing job!


Let’s Subtract!

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The kindergartners have been busy with subtraction. They had fun experiencing many ways to subtract. During centers, the children subtracted play dough balls with their toes. They played subtraction bowling and used manipulatives such as “hiding bears in a cave.”

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As a class, they had fun sending children to the bathroom and out on the yard as another way to understand the “take away” concept. Finally, the children began reading equations and crossing out pictures as a way to subtract.


Surprise from Ms. Kennedy!

The 4th graders wrote to one of their favorite author’s, Kim Kennedy. They tried to use their best persuasive writing skills to convince her to write a sequel to a book they read in class, Misty Gordon and the Ghost Pirates. They even gave her fantastic ideas, in case she had writer’s block.

Last week, the 4th graders received a box from Ms. Kennedy!!! She not only wrote each student back individually, but included Madame Zaster glasses (a very important feature in the mystery). Our class could not have been more thrilled!!! We hope, we persuaded her to continue writing!


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