Last Friday morning there was much excitement on campus as we kicked off our learning buddy program for the year! Learning buddies are a purposeful way to encourage cross-grade friendships, help students develop a sense of responsibility and practice mentorship, and make learning fun!

During the first meeting, the buddies took time to get to know each other and did some reading together.

The older buddies marvelously modeled good reading behaviors by reading with expression and fluency for their younger buddies. Some of the older buddies were also honored to listen to their younger buddies read too.

The younger buddies thoroughly enjoyed getting to know their learning buddies, and are already asking when they get to meet with their buddies again!

#SaklanBuddies #SaklanCommunity

Task Party!

This week in art class, students in 4th – 8th grade got in touch with their creative sides by participating in something called a “Task Party,” where students draw and complete random tasks.

Fourth graders worked collaboratively in table groups to “turn a stool into a monster.”

Fifth graders worked collaboratively with their table groups to “design and create a themed Met Gala gown for a member of their group.”

Middle school students independently drew tasks from a box and either completed as many as they could, or chose to spend the entire time on one task. Tasks included: making a treasure map, making a robotic arm, making a musical instrument, making a parrot and wearing it on one’s arm, making puppets and putting on a puppet show, making an octopus garden, making everyone name tags, making a walled fortress, and more!

Task parties originate from contemporary artist Oliver Herring and are meant to build community, inspire creativity, critical thinking, and fun through the arts. Tasks can be building and creating art with crafting and recycled materials or can be performance based and encourage students to step out of their comfort zones. 

The best part about a task party is getting to know the students as makers, artists and creative minds in an open, stakes-free environment. Because there is no right or wrong way to perform a task, everyone is participating and engaged, as there is little judgment or fear of making mistakes. 


Moving Up Day

This morning, all Saklan Preschool – fifth grade students participated in Moving Up Day. The students and teachers alike were buzzing with excitement!

This annual tradition allowed the students to get a snapshot of what next year will hold. The teachers planned special activities that highlighted their grade level and enjoyed getting to know their rising students a little better. Morning meeting activities, questions, stories, classroom scavenger hunts, and enthusiasm filled the classrooms! If your child “moved up” today, please ask them all about it. They will likely have something enthusiastic to share!


Day on the Bay

Last week the 5th graders had a great time participating in the Marine Science Institute’s Discovery Voyage. The students embarked on a four-hour expedition of the San Francisco Bay. During the trip the students learned about marine science through hands-on learning centers on board the R.V. Robert G. Brownlee.  

At the benthic (ocean floor) ecology station, the students dredged sediment samples from the bay floor using a Peterson benthic grab-claw, then washed the mud away on screens to expose native and non-native invertebrates. Students discovered a plethora of species, from Japanese spider crabs to jellies, sponges, bay shrimp, isopods, and clams, which were put into “touch-pool” buckets for students to gently handle and study. 

At the ichthyology (fish) station, students used teamwork to deploy a 16-foot net. After trawling it for several minutes, students worked again to haul the net in. Cries of ‘HEAVE-HO…HEAVE-HO” were heard yelled by students as they hauled, and much excitement followed as a leopard shark and sizable ray splashed the team that caught them. Fish were placed in buckets and students used dichotomous keys to identify them by examining their gill location, number of dorsal and pectoral fins, tail shape, coloring, eye location, etc. Additionally, adaptations for habitat and predator/prey relationships were observed, such as an intricate pattern of bio-luminescent spots on the underbelly of one fish, and the countershading of others, such as on a topsmelt. 

Meanwhile, at the plankton ecology station, the fifth graders collected a plankton sample and examined it under a video microscope, identifying many zoo- and phyto- plankton from single-cell organisms to complex species. At the hydrology station, they collected top and bottom water samples, and measured salinity, temperature and density of the bay. 

The students rotated through all stations in collaborative learning groups. The students enjoyed seeing each group’s catch, the highlights of which were leopard sharks, sting rays, halibut, and torbets. This experience brought to life many of the science concepts the 5th grade has been learning this year, centered around earth’s spheres, hydrology, life science/animal food chains, adaptations, and human impact on the natural world. 

Check out video highlights of the field experience here!


Class Pets

As budding scientists, Saklan students learn to pose questions, make observations, plan and conduct experiments, and draw reasonable conclusions. Before Spring Break, each 5th grade student got their own “class pet” to observe and plan an experiment for.

No, they did not get to adopt pets from the Humane Society, but they did get something a bit smaller…  wriggly red worms! Students began by observing their behavior on a damp paper towel with a small black construction-paper square “tent” available.  Most worms wiggled their way under the paper towel or under the square, away from the light.  The students concluded that worms prefer dark places to bright places, and linked to what they already know – “Worms do live underground, after all!” said Jack Z. 

Next, the class set up another experiment to see if the worms prefer damp places to dry places, hypothesizing that they do prefer damp places, because they live in damp soil.  Most worms headed to damper areas as the clock ran out on the experiment, and then the students put them to “bed” in a worm habitat.  This week, the fifth graders began to plan and conduct individual experiments to test worm likes and dislikes.

#SaklanHandsOn #SaklanScience

Service to the Community

Cesar Chavez Day is a commemorative holiday celebrated yearly on March 31st in the U.S. The aim of this holiday is to celebrate the birth and the enduring legacy of the labor and civil rights’ movement that activist Cesar Chavez started while fighting for farm workers’ rights in the 1950s. Chavez gave people a sense of their own power by helping them discover that they could demand dignity and better wages. On March 31st each year, this day is commemorated to promote service to the community in honor of Cesar Chavez’s life, work, and legacy.

At The Saklan School, the kindergarten through seventh grade students supported and provided a service for The Contra Costa Humane Society by making much needed items for dogs and cats in their care, as well as learning about Cesar Chavez’s life and important legacy. Students in kindergarten, first, and second grade were tasked with making catnip sachets. The third and fourth graders made kitty pom poms for cats to play with while in their cages. The fifth grade class made several dog beds and pull toys. And finally, the sixth and seventh grade group made braided pull toys for dogs. The goal of the community service project was to show compassion and make the animals’ lives more comfortable and happy while they wait for their forever homes.

#SaklanCompassion #SaklanServiceLearning

Dinosaur Dig Site

As part of their study of food chains and food webs, the 5th graders discussed how scientists have built knowledge of dinosaur food chains. The students concluded that ancient teeth fossils are the clue to this knowledge; from herbivores’ flat grinders, to carnivores’ sharp incisors, and omnivores’ combinations teeth, fossils can reveal a lot about the dinosaurs.  The class also discussed how scientists can date the existence, and the extinction, of dinosaurs through carbon-dating fossil-rich, deep geological rock layers.  Then, the students modeled dinosaur food chains using cards, and then modeled possible food chain interruptions and determined which creatures would have died first, next, and so on, if sunlight was blocked for a long period, and plants died.  They found that even carnivores would be impacted, as their herbivore food sources would die off. 

Finally, the class created a dinosaur fossil dig site!  Each student participated in digging, brushing, and washing bones. 

Next they will face the paleontologist’s greatest challenge: classifying and reconstructing the bones into whole or partial dinosaurs.  Tricky work ahead; good luck 5th graders!

#SaklanAcademic #SaklanHandsOn

Respectful & Accepting

This week, the 1st through 8th graders met with their families groups to discuss the January Social Emotional Learning themes of being respectful and accepting.

The 8th graders led a discussion of what the words respectful and accepting mean, and then shared the book Where Oliver Fits, by Cale Atkinson, in which Oliver finds that trying to fit in is a lot harder than he thought it would be.

Following a discussion of the story, the each student decorated a paper puzzle piece with words that describe them. Check out the puzzle pieces that each family group created below.


Willy Wonka KIDS

The school musical seems to be such an integral part of American classrooms, like a rite of passage. Performances are exciting, and costumes, microphones, and sets create a kind of magic for kids. Behind all that magic and excitement, there is real work, focus, and critical thinking that transfers to other school subjects and the real world as well.

Students begin with a focus on music, reading notes and decoding symbols, then pairing those symbols with words to give meaning. They pair those words and symbols with physical action, and so the act of learning how to sing and dance lights up the entire brain! Take that, and add in awareness of other people on stage, the need to work together to move set pieces quickly, quietly, and safely, and that school musical becomes the perfect project for fostering creative thinking, compassionate social interactions, and courageous moments of risk taking and working through fears.

Thank you to everyone who made our Lower School’s recent production of Willy Wonka KIDS into that project.

#SaklanCreative #SaklanCompassionate #SaklanCourageous

Solar System Size

In science, our fifth graders have been learning about the relative size and distance of the planets in our solar system. They began by drawing and cutting out scale models of the planets, and then went outside to measure their distance from the sun. The fifth graders had to go very far away from the Sun to correctly locate Mercury and Venus. Students started by placing the Sun in the far end of the church parking lot across the street from Saklan, and then used yardsticks to determine the correct placement of Mercury and Venus. They had to carefully cross the street, and continue measuring through the Saklan parking lot and into the front gate before they got to the correct spots for the planets.

This was definitely a multi-sensory, hands-on way to determine and understand the scale of our solar system!

#SaklanHandsOn #SaklanAcademic

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