3rd Grade Visits The Museum Of The American Indian

Third graders have been learning about Native Americans and got to enhance their classroom studies by visiting the Museum of the American Indian in Novato. They enjoyed hearing stories about how the Coast Miwok tribe lived harmoniously with the land.

The students got to learn how two types of Miwok homes are built and go inside one of them. They experienced drilling a shell with a pump drill to make a necklace. It was a wonderful experience that really brought their learning to life.


Traveling Teddy Bear Coming To Saklan

Traveling Teddy BearArriving this week, you will notice a Teddy Bear on campus! This Teddy Bear is named Matteo and is an international traveler. Matteo is part of the Traveling Teddy Bear Project that connects students around the globe! He will be stopping in some of our classrooms and doing activities with our students.

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 our 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: https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030.html

Matteo is the oldest teddy bear to be a part of the Traveling Teddy group. He was born in New Jersey in 2005.  He loves traveling, learning about cultures, making friends, learning languages, dancing, and reading. He is ready to travel, learn, make friends, and read to many children around the world. Matteo is also very sporty and enjoys  yoga, swimming, baseball, running, and working out.unnamed

Matteo supports Global Goal #4: Quality Education. He believes that everyone deserves to go to school and have opportunities to read, write, and learn!

Matteo is currently in China from there he will be coming to Saklan, then to Ireland, and Canada.


Kindergarten – Tree of Life

Tree of Life
Misheel Javkhlangerel Tree of Love                              Sage Avant Tree of Love

Students have been working with chalk, oil pastels, and watercolor resist techniques in the Art Room. The students had a one day project for them to take home and the inspiration came from Gustav Klimt’s painting, The Tree of Life. The Kinders titled their artwork after explaining what their own tree represented.

The Tree of Life reaches up into the sky and down into the earth. It represents strength, protection, mother nature, wisdom, and beauty. The swirly branches keep your eye wandering and exploring the details in the painting. Using lines to make up the tree, students used oil pastels first and then water colored the whole paper to reveal the resist technique. This creates beautiful results that the students are proud of creating!


Alumni Corner


This past weekend, Saklan Alum Finn Anders and Sarah Zemmelman performed in Night of January 16th at The Athenian School. Saklan Alum Ada Martin was the production manager for the show and (literally) built the set. What a gift to have their MS teachers there to cheer them on and to reconnect.

We are proud of our alumni and love seeing what they are up to, whether it be in HS, college, or beyond. Follow us on IG, and send us updates or pictures!


Why Do You Donate?


“Saklan does an OUTSTANDING job of teaching to different learning styles. That my second grader can take charge of her learning by choosing which math activity she wants to do, that she can work on it lying on the floor or sitting on a ball, that she does work both independently and with partners and in groups, and that she is learning how it applies to the REAL WORLD makes my heart happy on a daily basis.

And I would be remiss if I did not sing the praises of our specialist teachers. Our kids get to make sugar skulls, engage in hopscotch tournaments and perform on stage in professional settings. And hats off to Mrs. Chaffey – last year I had to bite my tongue. A dear friend’s daughter was saying how at her school concert they were doing Disney songs – and I SO wanted to respond that ‘yeah, we’re playing African drums and singing slave spirituals and the kindergartners are learning songs from the Depression and our whole school is doing songs about perseverance and teamwork and classic country songs’ but somehow I thought that might just sound  a teeny tiny bit snobbish? Maybe? Just a bit? 

I’ve also seen tremendous changes in the Parents Association this year. I LOVE having themed meetings once a month. It really makes me motivated to go! And the blog just seems to be getting better and better and I really appreciated what was said at back to school night: The school could run on tuition alone, you could keep the lights on and pay salaries but that would be about where it ended. That by us parents helping out, our kids get to go on experiences like the working marine biology research ship, to gold country, and to make sugar skulls! And I remember thinking ‘here’s my wallet – help yourself!’

And last for me, I feel that Saklan loves, supports and appreciates my child. Kaylah is a friendly, bright, creative kid but she has her moments. And I feel like at Saklan, every single teacher has taken those moments and rather than do what as a parent I sometimes want to do which is throw up my hands and say ‘Why can’t you be like other kids?!’, they turn around and say ‘Huh – how do we turn this into something positive. How do we help you be a leader? How do we support whatever it is you’re going through? Because it’s what makes you amazing and special.’ And sometimes it’s through meetings with a teacher, sometimes it’s through family groups, sometimes it’s through general conversations at morning meeting, sometimes the solution is a mix of a whole bunch of stuff. But I feel like whatever happens, Saklan’s got my back and they’re there to catch Kaylah when she stumbles and challenge her and reward her and encourage her.”

Tara Nemeth and Timothy Grammer

Kaylah (2nd)


Head’s Corner


Guest Experts – Lighting The Fire 

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

One of the touchstones of a Saklan education is making experiential learning the center of getting students engaged in academics. While we all can learn from a book, a lecture or a video, it is the in-person experience that lights the fire.

Experiential learning can be as big as swimming with turtles in the Galapagos (as many of our students did this past summer) or as simple as visiting the Moraga Gardens Farm to learn about plant life. Each is an example of getting outside of the box and into the real world and getting your hands dirty.

But there is another type of experiential learning that is as powerful, the Guest Expert.  We practice taking our students outside our four walls – but bringing the outside world into Saklan can have just as powerful of an impact.

This is where you come in…

We have begun to assemble a list of guest experts that we would love to have in our classrooms and we are reaching out for help. Maybe you are the expert, or maybe you know someone. If you or someone you know has knowledge in one of the fields or areas attached, please contact me at doconnell@saklan.org. We can start a conversation about how you can help us light some fires.

Warm regards,


P.S. We use the word expert lightly; one does not need to have a PhD to be an expert, just some experience and a willingness to share knowledge.


Understanding The 5-D Process

pasted image 0-1

The 7th grade has been continuing their use of variables to represent an unknown number in a variety of contexts. In this chapter Mr. Zippin introduced the 5D Process as a new method to solve problems that our previous methods were too challenging or too time consuming to solve. In the 5D Process, the students carefully read the problem and write the important parts and relevant information in the Describe part. This is also the place where they could draw a picture if that would be helpful to solve for the unknown.

pasted image 0-2

The second D is the Define columns where the students carefully label the elements of the problem and define what they will be guessing. Mr. Zippin stresses that the columns must be carefully labeled and filled in with full math operations. The Do column is the place where they write out the full mathematical expression. The Decide column of their table is where the seventh graders check their answer with what they are trying to find and then decide what a good next guess would be. Finally, they end with a Declare that answers the question being asked by the problem.

pasted image 0-3

As they continue to use the 5D Process, they begin to add an additional line to our table, the variable. The students begin to recognize that the variable expression can be used to summarize the relationships in the 5D process. As they continue with the work, the seventh graders will write full single variable equations and solve them from words problems.


Learning With Pumpkins


Hoot Owls practiced some of the steps from the scientific method this month. First, they created a hypothesis when Miss Traci asked the Hoot Owls, “How many seeds are inside the pumpkin?” guesses ranged from zero to trillions!


The children collected data by counting the seeds into piles of ten. During circle-time, they counted all the seeds by 10’s together. They found that there were 493 seeds inside the pumpkin. Hoot Owls also practiced the concept of more or less when the teacher asked them if their guess was more or less than 493.

Hoot Owls learned about perspective with their first still life project of the year. They were asked to draw only what they could see while working on life-like drawings of three pumpkins. Miss Jessica helped the Hoot Owls pay close attention to small details and differences between the pumpkins. She asked that the Hoot Owls didn’t move the pumpkins because it would change the perspective of their art and their friend’s art. To help the Hoot Owls understand the concept of perspective a little more they read They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. In this story a cat walks through the world, but the illustrations of the cat look very different depending on which animal is looking at the cat!


Mexican Folk Art

Middle School Learning by Doing Elective Class

A Cross Curriculum Elective Unit with Spanish & Art

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest. It is celebrated throughout México and in recent years, has been adopted by many societies in the U.S.A.


The ofrenda (offering) altar is constructed to help guide the spirits of family members back to the land of the living on the noche de muertos, the night of November 2. The altar holds all four elements- earth, wind, water, and fire. Representing the element of earth, seeds or grains are left out in bowls, while salt is left to cleanse the spirits and purify their souls during the following year. The students made all parts to the altar and learned the significance behind each of the elements. They created embossed metal folk art which is a technique that raises a 2 dimensional image into a 3 dimensional. With embossing, students craft traditional Mexican imagery that surrounds the photos of the loved ones that have passed and sit at the top of the altar. They also created the Dia de los Muertos Lettering using hammers and nails to create the raised and textured designs. They made flores de papel (tissue paper flowers) to build the Día de Los Muertos arch and papel picado (perforated paper). These perforated designs are still hand-cut in Mexico with tissue paper, making it a recognized Mexican folk art. Draped around altars and in the streets, the art represents the wind and the fragility of life.

The ceramic skulls were made from past students who wanted them to be kept for the purpose of the altar every year. Placed alongside photos and possessions of the dead, the graphic representation of the human skull, confronts the observer with their own mortality. The brightly colored orange petals of the marigold flowers are said to represent the sun. Along with its sweet, floral scent, which gets carried along by the evening winds, the flowers lead the spirits to their shining altars. As twilight fades away, and family and friends gather around, the flickering lights begin to fill the nooks and recesses of the displays with a warm glow, which helps guide the dead to their altar. This is the fire element and it is believed that color, light, and strong scent of the flowers and candles can guide the souls from cemeteries to their families’ homes.

Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead) – which is a type of sweet bread that is only sold in the weeks leading up to the Día de Muertos. It’s eaten by the living, as well as left as an offering on the altar for the returning dead. The soap, a basin of water and the towel helps the spirits of the dead bathe and keep clean while they are back on earth. Pitchers of water are also left so the spirits can quench their thirst after a presumably long journey back home from the afterlife. This altar celebrates the loved ones we have lost within our community, as well as remembering and honoring those who have made an impact in our daily lives but were not directly related to us.


The Birth Of Civilization

pasted image 0-5

The sixth grade students have been studying the beginnings of communities and human civilization as we know it in Humanities class. They started the unit by reading foundational background information from their textbook History Alive: The Ancient World. The reading gave a summary about how our close cousins called Homo sapiens or wise men decided to give up the nomadic life for a more sedentary one. After working through the text, Ms. Parks showed a National Geographic movie to the sixth graders called The Birth of Civilization to bring this historical time period to life.

pasted image 0-6

The Paleolithic Age, (aka The Old Stone Age), lasted roughly from 8000 to 3000 B.C. During this time, nomads roamed the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East hunting and gathering food. When they would run out of animals to hunt and plants to eat, they would move to find another area that could sustain their group or family. Obviously, this life was difficult and left these people in continual survival mode. When agriculture was finally understood and applied to a fertile land area, humans entered the Neolithic Age or New Stone Age around 3000 B.C. This was a great turning point for humankind. People began to settle together in larger groups and built permanent shelters or homes to live in. Now that people in the community were providing a stable food supply through farming and domestication of animals, other community members were able to work specialized jobs to contribute to the good of the group.Some common jobs during this time were blacksmiths, weavers, pottery makers, scribes, shamans, soldiers, and merchants. Once these communities could sustain their entire community, they began to want other goods that they did not have nearby. Out of this need, trading was born, merchants collected goods, and trade routes were made. Through trade routes, different ways of life and ideas were spread, which starting to educate and connect the world.

pasted image 0-7

After learning all of this information, the sixth graders were assessed by taking a standard summative test that included sections that had multiple choice questions, map reading, analysis, and writing. Since each student was required to take notes during the movie, they were able to use their notes on this assessment. The other way Ms. Parks checked for student understanding was for each person to make a graphic organizer of ideas and pictures that told the story of humans moving from a nomadic life to a more community-based civilization. Please check out the pictures above that show a few great examples of their Birth of Civilization Mind Maps and enthusiastic sixth graders.


%d bloggers like this: