Fourth Grade Writes for Their Future

This week, the fourth graders in Ms. Ashley’s class used their voices to stand up for something they believe in. For the past few weeks, the class has been discussing environmental issues, investigating the effects of emissions, and thinking about how we can all reduce our carbon footprint.

As part of this learning, the class watched Greta Thunberg’s TED Talk from November 2018, where the then 16-year-old climate activist made the case for humanity to take urgent action to combat climate change. The message resonated with Saklan fourth graders.

To continue their exploration of climate change, the students then watched the TedEd video “Lifecycle of a T-shirt,” which presents a stark picture of where most t-shirts come from and how they are made. The process explained in the video left the students in disbelief, and wondering where their Saklan uniform shirts came from.

Saklan uniform shirts are made by Land’s End, but a review of the company’s sustainability webpage left the fourth graders dissatisfied. There were plenty of promises for what the company would do in the future, but very little information on what they are doing now.

The fourth graders came up with the idea to write a letter to the Land’s End School Uniform Department, detailing what they had learned and explaining what changes they would like the company to make. Their final letter, which will be sent to the company, is not only well-written and respectful, but also full of passion and heart.

You can read the full text of the letter here. We are so proud of this class for taking a stand for their future!


Native American Study

Saklan third graders recently finished a social studies unit learning about Native Americans. The class studied the different groups of people who inhabited North America long before European settlers arrived and the United States was established. They also learned how unique each Native American group was, and how their lifestyle changed based on where they lived and the natural resources that were available to them.

To continue their learning, each third grader chose one Native American group to research and become an expert about. Students learned about where their group lived, what the land and weather were like, what they wore and ate, what types of homes they built, and other interesting facts.

To conclude the unit, each student built a small-scale authentic dwelling that was representative of their Native American group. Students presented their dwellings and all the interesting information they had learned about their Native American group to the entire class. They all learned a lot from each other, and were able to discuss the similarities and differences between all of the different groups studied.


Saklan Spring Break

As we prepare for a well-deserved Spring Break, we wanted to remind the Saklan community of a few guidelines and protocols regarding travel and our return to school.

With infection rates where they are, we will not have an all-school virtual learning period following spring break. That means that students who remain in California during spring break will return to campus for in-person learning on Monday, April 5.

For those of you who are planning out-of-state travel, please note that we are still following the guidance of the California Department of Public Health. Your child will have two options for quarantining upon their return to California:

  1. Quarantine for 10 days after returning to California.
  2. Take a COVID-19 test within 3-5 days of returning. With a negative test result, students can return to school after 7 days.

We know this is less than ideal, and are grateful for all that Saklan families have done to make in-person learning successful. With your support, we can continue our streak of all negative COVID-19 test results.

On behalf of the entire Saklan community, we hope your family has a safe, happy, and fun Spring Break.


Hoot Owl Mosaics

The Hoot Owls continue to demonstrate their creativity through their study of different art forms. This month, they learned about mosaics with Ms. Zuly.

After spending some time gaining an understanding of what mosaics are, the Hoot Owls were free to design their own mosaics in any way they wanted. When they were finished, Ms. Traci asked each student whether their mosaic was abstract art or representational art — a difference the students have been learning about throughout the year. Each student successfully identified which type of art they had created!

After the students’ mosaics were complete, the class compared the art they had made to the abstract art of African American artist Alma Woodsey Thomas. They discussed how abstract art can evoke feelings within the viewer, then each student took a turn going in front of the class to discuss what the paintings reminded them of, and how the paintings made them feel.

The pieces inspired a range of feelings, from happiness, to sadness, to fright. Their interpretation of what the abstract artwork reminded them of was also varied, and included a ferris wheel, the aisle at a wedding, an sea creature, an eye, and a maze!

It is exciting to see the ways each student is developing their own artistic eye – some said they would like to visit a museum when it is safe to do so again!



During March, Saklan’s social-emotional learning focused on ways to be optimistic, which is especially relevant this year. While optimism is associated with being a “glass half-full” kind of person, there are lots of ways to be optimistic in everyday life:

  • Look for the good in others
  • Be a problem solver
  • Believe in yourself
  • Look for opportunities to learn something new
  • Take time for yourself to do the things you are passionate about
  • When things don’t go your way, don’t dwell on the negative. Instead, focus on what worked.

Focusing on the the things that make you feel lucky is also a great way to stay optimistic. In Ms. Rokas’s class, students completed a “craftivity” where they wrote four sentences that began with the phrase, “I am lucky…” They wrote their completed sentences on a four leaf clover – the ultimate symbol of optimism and good luck!


Head’s Corner

Saklan State of the School Recap

Thursday evening we held our State of the School presentation over Zoom with roughly 60 people in attendance.  The presentation lasted about 40 minutes, including time for questions from the attendees, and went well ( if I do say so myself).  

Like anything else, the product was good because the process was a well thought out collaboration between many stakeholders. I owe a debt of gratitude to Toshie Baba, Lori Anders, Jenny Choi, Mel Zippin, Geri Buhl, and Joanna Kauffmann for all the work they put into making the presentation excellent.

I also want to thank all those in attendance and the entire Saklan community for their continued involvement in their child’s education, and their investment in the success of our school.

If you missed the presentation, you can view it here.

If you are just interested in the slides you can view them here. 

If you have any follow-up questions, please reach out to me at

The State of the School and the State of the Community is strong.


Pi Day Competition

This morning, Saklan held its annual Pi Recitation Contest, in celebration of Pi Day, which was March 14. Students who participate in the competition are challenged to recite as many digits of pi as they can from memory – no easy task!

For the first time ever this year, two Pre-K students joined in the competition. Congratulations to Anand and Elliott for joining in with the older students and stepping up to the microphone – we are so proud of you both!

Anand kicked off the competition on a high note by reciting an amazing 51 digits – a tough act to follow! The lower school was represented by Makena in first grade and Kaylah in third. From middle school, Ari in seventh grade and Isabel from eighth grade took their turn in the spotlight.

Each student did an incredible job, but we have to give a special congratulations to this year’s winner, Ari, who recited 101 digits from memory!

Thank you to all the students who participated and all the teachers who supported this year’s competition. We are so glad we were able to keep this annual tradition alive, and hope to be able to have a representative from each grade at a live assembly again next year!


Kindergarten Celebrates Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and Saklan Kindergarteners celebrated with a musical tribute to one of our most noteworthy female signers – jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald!

While her career included many popular songs such as “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” it was Fitzgerald’s version of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” that first got her noticed and launched her into stardom. Saklan Kindergarteners worked with Ms. Chaffey in music class to learn this classic song, and debuted their performance during Friday Flag.

Enjoy the kindergarten class singing “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” below!


Second Grade Biographies

The second graders have been continuing to study people who make a difference, and have learned just how diverse that group can be. From sports stars to inventors to activists, there are so many extraordinary people who make an impact in our lives.

As part of their assignment, every student learned about six people who made a difference in their lifetime – people like Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and Thomas Edison.

Then students picked one person to study in depth, and created a biography report about their lives. They included important dates, key moments from childhood and adulthood, and details about the person’s accomplishments and the legacies they left behind.

We hope learning about these amazing people will inspire our second graders, whom we know will go on to be people who make a difference themselves!


Welcome Emily Cashen

All of us at Saklan are pleased to welcome Emily Cashen to the Saklan community, in her role covering middle school Language Arts for Mr. P, who is on extended leave. As a teacher by training who educates with her whole heart, Emily is an incredible addition to the Saklan faculty.

Emily has been a professionally trained teacher since 2004, when she received her teaching credential from Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga. Throughout 10 years of teaching in the Orinda School District, Emily simultaneously continued her own education through Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

After leaving Orinda, Emily taught middle school math at East Bay Waldorf School, and considers working with those middle school students to be the highlight of her teaching career thus far. After taking some time off to help her daughters transition to new schools and distance learning, Emily is excited to be back working with the students, staff, and families that make up the Saklan community.

Since jumping into her new role, Emily has quickly put together a plan for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes.

In sixth grade, the class will read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. As they read, the class will dive deep into learning about Malawi, and will align their learning with science class with Ms. O. Students will explore a variety of writing genres as well, and will practice the full writing process, including peer editing, citing evidence to support ideas, and composing bibliographies.

The seventh grade class will share the heartbreaking truth of the Japanese-American internment camps through the book Farewell to Manzanar. Reading discussions will align with Ms. Kim’s studies of Hawaii in Humanities class. Writing will happen in many ways, with a focus on fluency and peer editing.

Eighth graders will read Animal Farm by George Orwell, and will study the allegorical meaning of animals, not only in Orwell’s work, but also through shorter stories. They will learn about the historical context of Orwell’s work, as well as how he uses character development and language to get his points across.  Students will write in a variety of genres, with a focus on peer editing.

In all three grades, weekly book shares will help expose students to new genres and unfamiliar authors, and help to broaden their awareness of worlds other than their own.  

Please join us in welcoming Emily to the Saklan community in her new role!


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