Head’s Corner

A Change Is A Chance 2020

Sometimes Saklan kids do some pretty cool things that we want to take all the credit for, but can’t. A prime example of that would be the podcast A Change is a Chance by 6th grade Saklan student Ryan Lo. In Ryan’s inaugural podcast, he interviews Ms. Obenchain about an array of scientific issues. Some of the topics Ryan will cover in the coming months are global pollution, systemic racism, and gender equality.


What I like about the podcast (besides the fact that one of our students created such a professional sounding production) is that it emphasizes what real-world learning is. Ryan describes how discovering one thing led to a more profound interest in other topics and a thirst to know more. That curiosity led him to develop deep probing questions that he could not answer without the help of an outside expert. Hence, the interview with Ms.Obenchain.

This is what Saklan and learning are about. I would love for us to take all the credit for Ryan’s podcast, but many factors went into Ryan’s journey of creating it.

Definitely worth your 15 minutes.

Warm regards,



The Great Gingerbread House Project

Fifth graders worked together to complete The Great Gingerbread House Projects. Students worked in pairs to design and build a to scale gingerbread house. First, they reviewed how to figure Area and Perimeter. Then students designed their gingerbread house floor plans. All floor plans could not exceed 432 square centimeters. When complete, students submitted their floor plans, side and front view dimensions and calculations to the Project Manager (Mrs. Peters) for final approval before building. Students then built their gingerbread houses to scale. Of course, adding candy was a fun part of the project, too!

In addition, students worked together to complete a poster that included all of their calculations and plans. During this process, fifth graders: designed, added, multiplied, predicted, worked cooperatively and creatively. They turned out great! Awesome job fifth graders!!


Free Writing

The seventh graders recently shifted their Language Arts focus from expository writing to “free writing.” For the purpose of the class, free writing simply means to write without stopping for an extended period of time (approx. 20 minutes). That said, this is not just a write whatevahhh exercise. While that kind of activity does have its merits, the students are currently being challenged to dig into all the possible meanings of a provocative or inspirational quote, such as “Truth is the first casualty of war,” or “Gratitude can make you happier.” And while they should write thoughtfully, even introspectively, they also are supposed to try to write without “thinking” (i.e., knowing in advance, self-judging, second-guessing, erasing, revising, rereading, etc.).


They are learning to FLOW from one word, phrase, or sentence, one idea, image, or story to the next. Questions beget more questions. Untethered creativity is encouraged. Tangents are also acceptable, as long as you stay in the realm of the initial prompt. The upshot? Fearlessness, confidence, invaluable brainstorm/first draft technique, and the potential for powerful revelatory moments when unexpected writing and ideas never imagined in your wildest Language Arts fantasies come to life on the page. Tuh-ruth!


Geometry Is Building Polyhedra


As part of the traditionally high school course, Aaron (8th) is hard at work making a variety of different prisms, pyramids, and other polyhedral as he investigates the relationship between the number of vertices, edges and faces. If you look closely at the picture, you should see a regular tetrahedron, a cube, and a regular octahedron (or as regular as you can get with toothpicks and sour cherry balls.)

He then used the pattern he found (vertices + faces = edges + 2) to learn more about different octahedrons, heptahedrons, and dodecahedrons.


The lessons continue with the Geometry students finding surface area and volume of many different shapes, and concludes with finding the amount of cleaning solution required to clean the outside of the TransAmerica pyramid in San Francisco!


See Some Art This Holiday Break!

Take the family on a trip to see some of these great exhibits happening in the Bay Area! There will be plenty to talk about over dinner. 🙂 Check Holiday hours and special exhibit showtimes, pricing, tours, workshops, etc. before heading to the museum. Attached is the exhibitions link to each museum, as there are plenty of other awesome exhibits and permanent collections at each of these museums.


  1. Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)


No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man

October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020

Marvel at the spectacular artwork and large-scale installations from one of the most widely-celebrated cultural events in the world when No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man takes over OMCA.

* Friday nights @ OMCA

From 5–10 pm every Friday night, the Museum has special programming, food trucks, live music, and more.


  1. Exploratorium – SF


Curious Contraptions

Nov.21 – Jan. 26th

Curious Contraptions explores small, surreal worlds through fantastical, often amusing mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical flying, sailing, and cycling machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks, and other simple mechanisms. Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama while also reflecting its maker’s worldview and sense of humor. Exposed inner workings and low-tech mechanisms invite the viewer to understand how each one comes to life.


  1. DeYoung Museum – SF


Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983

Nov. 5th – Mar. 15th

This internationally acclaimed exhibition, organized by Tate Modern, celebrates art made by Black artists during two pivotal decades when issues of race and identity dominated and defined both public and private discourse. The de Young’s presentation includes a focus on Bay Area artists whose work promoted personal and cultural pride, collective solidarity and empowerment, and political and social activism.


  1. California Academy of Science – SF


‘Tis the Season for Science: Life on Ice

The Academy’s annual holiday exhibit, explores the remarkable adaptations that allow Arctic and Antarctic flora and fauna to thrive in such extreme ecosystems. This year, you can marvel at one such live animal without having to travel to the tundra: See how reindeer are uniquely equipped to migrate incredible distances each year—on foot, contrary to popular belief…



Age Of Sail

Last week, the 5th and 6th grade stepped back into the past. The year is 1906; there has been a devastating earthquake and fire, and San Francisco lies in smoldering ruins. Much of the population is sheltered in tent cities, and doubts are being expressed about the city’s survival. Balclutha’s regular crew has jumped ship, either to escape the smoldering city, or to fight fires and help in the rescue operations. The Captain, looking to make a quick profit, needs a crew to sail to Oregon for lumber that will be in high demand. The students, or “lads,” arrived at Hyde Street Pier to sign aboard as the replacement crew.

Our Captain would not sail with inexperienced green-hands, though. The lads had to prove to the Captain, through the completion of tasks, that they were capable of sailing the ship. Activities, such as reeving a block and tackle, rigging a Bosun’s chair, rowing a longboat, preparing meals, and raising sails were vital to the safe and efficient running of the ship. Under the watchful eye of the Captain, officers worked with the “lads” to transform them from green-hands into tarry-handed “salts.” This taught them teamwork, grit and empathy for the past. Us tall sailors were truly proud of their hard work!

“One task we did well working as a team was raising and lowering the small boat. We did this by communicating clearly and giving our mate, Carlito, help when he needed it.” – Mia

“When I was positive my crew was positive, and when I wanted to do things, they wanted to do things. I saw my actions affect others positively in my crew.” – Gabe

“I felt like I was part of a team when we worked together to hoist a sail. Another time this happened was when I was giving orders and my team listened and we all did the work.” – Dillon

“This trip helped me see the importance of doing things right the first time. If not we got disciplined.” – Sadie M.

“I think Saklan asks us to do experiences like this trip so we grow and challenge ourselves in different ways.” – Milla


4th Grade Self Portraits


For the most part, our faces are fairly symmetrical. That means if we divided our face in half, each half would roughly be the same measurements and the facial features would be in the same places.

The students learned tricks to help them space the facial features out properly. Cutting their photo in half, students measured out the contour (outline) of their head using the measurements they have from the photo. Making little dots at each point, they measured and then connected all the dots for the contour line drawing. This gave them even more spacial awareness to where their facial features would go next. They measured where their eyes, nose, and mouth begin and end. We are now working on how to draw the facial features and shade.

Drawing a self portrait is probably one of the most daunting projects for kids. They are easily discouraged because it is one of the hardest projects for almost anyone! With that said, the students have been pleasantly surprised how accurate their self portraits are! Way to go 4th grade!


News From The Sports Court

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”
– Molière


One of the core tenets of The Saklan School is courage. Five Saklan students took a risk and ran a foot race against peers from other schools around the Lafayette Reservoir.  This cross country event was grueling. The distance around the lake is about 2.5 miles with a lot of up and down terrain.


Last Tuesday evening was the Fourth Annual Cross Country Invitational Meet. The Saklan School usually finishes well at this event and this year’s race was the fastest yet. A special shout-out to: Mac, Nick, Phoebe, Reese, and Thomas for completing this challenging adventure.

Let’s go Saklan!


Math Starts With Counting


Kindergarten is just completing Unit 4 of the Math program. They are busy with numbers 0-10.  A child is said to have concrete knowledge of numbers up to their age. Observe your child counting a large number of objects. It is common to see a child recognize the correct number of objects, 0-5, without needing to count, but when there are more objects, 6-10+, children will skip objects and/or count objects more than once. A child may recognize the number 8, but not really know how many 8 is the way we as adults can quickly recognize 8 of something by breaking 8 down to 4 and 4, etc.


Therefore, in Kindergarten many activities are used to break down the numbers so the children can have more concrete knowledge. This concrete knowledge is actually the beginning of addition and subtraction. They have been completing 10 frames every tenth day since the start of school. During morning bin time, the children have been building 10 frames. One Math time activity involved counting the dots on dominoes and sorting them. The next Unit covers numbers up to 31 and the fun will continue!


6th Grade Builds Volcanoes


The 6th grade has been learning about different types of volcanoes and their parts, where they are located, what type of eruptions occur, dangers and advantages of living by active volcanoes and how they create different rocks and formations. Students looked at different types of igneous rocks, tested different fluid viscosity to see how different lavas might flow, and then built their own shield volcano and tested off different batches of “magma.” They determined the speed of flow, what minerals make the lava flow slower and how those different flows cool into different rocks.

After they learned about historic volcanoes and ones we still might want to be concerned about. It was a lot of fun!


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