Students started off learning about one of the five basic senses: touch. With their eyes closed and open, they experienced different sensations in feeling textures such as fur, sand paper, felt, rubber, fake grass, etc. They described what these textures felt like and whether they enjoyed or disliked those sensations and why. After the discussion on where such textures are on this planet, they were introduced to sculpture artist Louis Nevelson.
Louise Nevelson is most known for her monochromatic (one-color) large sculptures using found objects. After looking at some of her artwork and discussing what they see through the arrangement of objects, the students were excited to build their own sculptures. They were given a variety of materials with different textures to create a sculpture that has many layers and surprises to it.
The final steps include choosing one color that will cover the entire sculpture and giving the work a title. They will revisit Louise Nevelson’s sculptures and see how she used her titles to give meaning. The final step of making will be a mini critique so their peers have an opportunity to ask questions and the artist has time to explain their artwork and process.
The fifth graders have just finished reading the book Frindle by Andrew Clements and learned about story elements. The students made character trait posters which exemplified character traits for the two main characters. In addition, the students learned how to support the character’s traits by locating text evidence in the book.
Students enjoyed learning more about story elements and creating their posters with a partner. Awesome effort, fifth graders!
For the month of September, the Owlets have been learning about community helpers.
Last week, the children had a guest expert, Officer Baiza come in and talk to them about being a CHP Officer. He showed the Owlets his cool CHP truck, what he had inside his truck, and they even got to pretend to drive it. It was a lot of fun.
Then on Friday, the Owlets visited the Moraga Gardens Farm. The children saw what farmers and gardeners do, and what it takes to run a garden or farm. The Avant family even let the Owlets eat lunch in their backyard, play with their toys, and meet their chickens. It was another fun day!
This summer, a few parents and the PA approached the school offering to dive in and help with a Library makeover. They have been busy since the start of the year thinking and working (even giving up a Sunday) on reorganizing and beautifying our Saklan Library. After consulting with teachers, they have started to revamp the library to look and feel more like a bookstore, making access and organization easy for students to understand. They have sourced a new cataloging system and digital check-out software. With those tools, we will be able to move forward with ordering new books that will fill some of the gaps our library has (especially in the areas of diversity and global thinking). Keep an eye on this spot as they have bigger plans for the library, including a Birthday Book Program and family discounts at local booksellers.
To be more exact, Family Groups are one of our many superpowers at Saklan. For those of you who are new to Saklan, Family Groups are a long practiced tradition that helps our students build positive character traits. While working on character may not be something unique to Saklan, I believe it is how we do it that is powerful.
Late into each spring, as a faculty, we start a conversation about the character traits we want to help students develop the following year. Traits like gratitude, compassion, honesty are among some of the characteristics we picked for this year. While the classroom teacher focuses on the monthly trait, our Family Groups are where the deep work happens. Each family group is made up of students from different grade levels, with the older ones taking a lead role. Every month, we set aside time for the older students to teach the younger ones about a particular trait.
This student to student approach serves many goals. To start with, our younger students truly enjoy being taught by older students. The activities feel more authentic when an older peer is leading a discussion on character than when an adult is facilitating. More importantly though, is the impact the Family Groups have on our older students. To teach something, one needs to understand it. Our older students need to think deeply about what a trait like gratitude means not just to them but to a six-year-old. Working with younger students helps them develop another superpower, empathy. Adolescents struggle with seeing the world through the eyes of others, but working with younger kids helps build that empathy muscle.
Lastly, as adults, we can reinforce the trait by following three simple steps. We model the character trait we are working on not only by setting the example but by owning our shortcomings. Secondly, we celebrate when students exhibit the behaviors we are seeking. Not by just saying “good job” but by letting them know we admire how they have behaved, or how we are proud of them. Thirdly and crucially, we put students in situations where they can practice the behavior. For instance, if we want them to show gratitude by writing thank-you notes, we set aside the time and materials for students to do this.
This month’s character trait is friendly, with our Family Groups meeting on the 25th. Help us help them by discussing what they did during Family Groups that day – and seeing how you can model, celebrate, and enable friendliness at home.
Three weeks ago, the Middle School kicked off their first “Learning By Doing” Session. These classes are designed to create project and experience based learning that cover a variety of topics. This September, the 6th grade prepared for their upcoming Yosemite Adventure, the 7th and 8th graders participated in Saklan’s African Ensemble, designed a new mural for the Sports Court wall ball area, and took on the challenge of redesigning the gardens and planters at Saklan to be more drought tolerant and sustainable.
Over three weeks, 7 students designed a pollinator garden behind the science lab, and cleaned and re-potted the seven pots in front of the school. In the process, they discovered the difference between annuals and perennials, which types of plants attract bees and butterflies, why succulents are special, and how to plant and care for all of them. As Saklan strives to be part of a more sustainable culture, and educates our students about stewardship of the planet, we must begin with stewardship of the places they visit everyday. In addition to the philosophical benefits of gardening, the physical act of getting your hands dirty and caring for another living thing gives students a sense of real purpose.
Each student finished the class with their own succulent pot that they designed. If you want to see the fruits of their labors, come check out the new planters in front of the school, and check out the bees buzzing in the pollinator garden behind the science room!
The sixth graders have been learning about nutrition in Science class. Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining good health. The students learned about each food group, daily recommendations, vitamins and minerals, essential nutrients and what they do for the human body. Our bodies need to be treated right in order for them to function correctly. This unit helps the students gain the ability to practice making better food choices in their diet and, hopefully, reducing health risks through proper diet.
Guest expert Donna Pickthall, co-owner of Genuine Goodness cafe in Orinda and mom of Evie in 6th grade, came to the science lab to help teach the 6th graders about sugar in their food. Students got to create 3 types of bread dough with different sugar amounts to see and taste the difference. They also made healthy pizza rolls which they all enjoyed at lunch. It was a fun morning!
Fourth grade starts every day on the right foot with a Morning Meeting! On this day, we played “Toss N’ Talk” where we toss a ball and answer a question. Having this time to connect on a social/emotional level is a wonderful way to transition from home to our academic day.
Fourth graders learned how to take the information they learned about California’s four regions and turn that information into a Google Slide presentation. Integrating History with technology is something students really enjoy! Presenting to their peers helps them to practice their public speaking skills.