Castle Creation Challenge

After classifying and naming 3D figures by their names, faces, vertices, and edges, the fifth graders completed a “Castle Creation Challenge.” Making their castles was a creative and fun way to end their geometry unit. Students formed three teams to build Max’s Mansion, Kai’s Creation and Kylie’s Castle.  The construction teams had to follow local building ordinances:

  • Each castle had to include at least one of each given 3D shape.
  • A minimum of ten shapes had to be used. 
  • No outsourcing allowed.
  • Team members had to create their own 3-D shapes.
  • Acceptable building materials were only paper, tape, and gluesticks. 

Finally, teams were awarded points for creativity!  Pencils and markers were allowed, to add color and flair to each creation. Results were terrific and teams are now available to hire for all your summer home remodel needs!

#SaklanCreative #SaklanHandsOn

Buddy Breakfast

Last week, the fifth grade students prepared a pancake breakfast for the Preschool – 5th grade students to enjoy with their learning buddies. This annual celebration took an unexpected turn when they tripped the power grid in the Pavilion! 

However, the 5th graders persisted, stepped up, and all pulled together to help each other when they ended up spread across the school mixing pancake batter, cooking pancakes, and getting them to the Pavilion for the buddies to enjoy. Together, the students ended up flipping over 150 pancakes!

The 5th graders were very excited to hang up their spatulas and share in the pancakes with their Preschool learning buddies at the end of the morning!

Thank you very much, fifth graders, for a wonderful breakfast! Your teamwork, creativity and persistence were very admirable to watch.

#SaklanLearningBuddies #SaklanService #SaklanConnected

Moving Up Day

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

This annual tradition allows 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, art activities, classroom scavenger hunts, and enthusiasm for next year filled the classrooms! If your child “moved up” on Wednesday, please ask them all about it. They will likely have something enthusiastic to share!


5th Grade Day on the Bay

Fifth Grade thoroughly enjoyed their Marine Science Institute field experience last week. Out on the San Francisco Bay, students learned about marine science and teamwork aboard the R.V. Brownlee. 

After a safety briefing, students learned about the estuary and why it makes a perfect nursery for local sea life. Students formed teams to work through three learning stations. At the ichthyology (fish study) station, students used teamwork to deploy a 16-foot net. After trawling it for several minutes, students worked again to haul the net in, and much excitement followed as a baby bat ray splashed them all. Saklan’s compassion was demonstrated in students’ concern at seeing a little blood near the ray’s stinger – the skin here is sensitive and thin, they learned, so that neurotoxins can be released when the ray is in danger; he did get a little scrape in the net, probably from the coral that was also netted. Once the ray was out of the net and in the touchpool, adaptations for habitat and predator/prey relationships were observed (watch out for that stinger!). Students also got to observe and handle a live baby leopard shark, netted earlier in the day, and along with California halibut, starry flounder, and a staghorn sculpin.

At the benthic (estuary floor) ecology station, students dredged sediment samples from the bay floor using a Peterson benthic grab-claw, then washed the mud away to expose native and non-native invertebrates, from bay shrimp, to isopods and clams, which were put into “touch-pool” buckets for students to gently handle, study, and identify. They also made a pledge to the bay, and sealed it by painting a little bay mud on their faces! 

Lastly, at the plankton ecology station, students examined water samples under a video microscope, identifying many zoo- and phytoplankton from single-cell organisms to complex species. 

This field experience brought to life much of the science the fifth graders have been learning this year, centered around Earth’s spheres, hydrology, life science/animal food chains, adaptations, and human impact on the natural world.  Students were engaged, respectful, and hard-working during this hands-on experience.

#SaklanFieldExperience #SaklanHandsOn #SaklanFieldWork

Lunch Ordering

Taco ‘bout a great lunch!  Last week, the fifth graders took their Spanish class out into the field to put their classroom learning to real use! The class headed to a local Mexican food truck, where they ordered lunch for themselves – in Spanish! Next, they headed to the Moraga Commons for an out and about recess.  And the lunch verdict? Delicioso!


El Plato Saludable

In Spanish, the fifth graders have been learning about the food groups and what types of foods make up a healthy, well-balanced plate. They each created a slide of a healthy plate and then wrote sentences about the items that one should consume for a balanced diet. Check out examples of their slides and sentences below!

Debes comer bistec, pan, y arroz.

Debes comer muchas uvas, zanahorias, y fresas.

Debes beber agua y leche.

No debes comer grasas y mantequilla.

No debes beber chocolate caliente.

Staying Safe Online

Following the Parent Coffee Talk on cybersecurity on January 27th, it was the students’ turn to learn about this important topic last Friday. Senior Inspector, Darryl Holcombe, of the Contra Costa County D.A.’s Office gave an informative talk to 5th-8th grade students about how to stay safe online. His top tips were:

  • Keep your personal information personal. Don’t share specific personal information online, including where you live or go to school.
  • Take lots of photos and have fun, but post them later, at home.  Don’t post “live” social media updates from a location.
  • Turn on “Ghost mode” in SnapChat, to disable its GPS tracker. 
  • Tell a trusted adult if a stranger asks personal questions online, such as when messaging on Roblox.
  • Share your PIN and passwords with your parents, and no-one else, even friends. 

Detective Holcombe gave interesting real-life examples of what has happened in our county when students didn’t follow these tips.

Students got to meet Jenny and “Ro-bear-to”, aka Bear, and learn about his training and work as a Facility Dog who supports children during forensic interviews and hearings in our County Criminal Court. Bear counted his age in barks (five) and played his favorite game, “silly dog” for the students. 

Hands-on Fractions

In math, the 5th graders recently moved from fraction addition to fraction subtraction, with renaming, mixed numbers, and simplifying fraction sums and differences.  

One day, the students cut ⅙ yard from ⅔ yard strands of ribbon they’d first measured and cut, then worked out how much of the ribbon was left. “This much!” was a great answer, but not to someone who was unable to see the ribbon, so they didn’t get out of the math that easily. This helped the students to see a need for being able to express the difference as a fraction that both ⅔ and ⅙ could convert to: sixths.  Thus lowest/least common denominator, ⅙ of 36”, ⅔ of 36”, and accurate measurement skills were all incorporated into this hands-on fraction subtraction introductory activity.

Another day, the students measured out 7 ¾ yards of “fabric” (they used white paper from a long roll, but visualized it as fabric).  Students then measured 2 ¼ yards of the “fabric,” representing a remnant after making curtains from the original cut.  Since their classroom mat area is not even 7 ¾ yards across, and their yard sticks are 39.37’/100cm rulers, there were many built-in opportunities for critical thinking, creative problem solving, negotiating, and sharing of roles to model and explain the answer to the question, “How much fabric was used to make the curtains?” 

Could the fifth grades have just written out ⅔ – ⅙ = ___ , and 7 ¾ – 2 ¼ = ____? Yes, of course! And that abstract algorithm is where they ended up, but by beginning with the lengthier, more complex task of hands-on modelling and talking about real-world math problems, the students developed conceptual understandings of how the algorithm works and what it represents.


On Thursday afternoon, Saklan’s 1st – 8th graders met with their family groups to discuss this month’s SEL topic: self-discipline.

The groups began by discussing what self-discipline means: recognizing or identifying that you need to help yourself to achieve a goal, task, assignment, etc. and being able to get yourself back on track.

Then the students watched this video of a lovable monster using tools to help stay on task! After the video they discussed the strategies the monster used: counting to 4, singing, imagining a cookie was a grandmother. The students then brainstormed additional strategies that could help them stay on task.

Each family group then used their list of strategies to act out self-disciplined ways to handle the following scenarios:

  • Someone cuts you in line.
  • You are having a hard time raising your hand, and keep calling out.
  • You are sad because you forgot your lunch.
  • You and your friend cannot stop giggling!
  • You are nervous/stressed over a test.
  • You are mad because someone grabbed the ball you were playing with and is now using it without asking.

The family groups ended their time together by creating posters showcasing suggestions to help others practice self-discipline in specific circumstances. Check out their posters below!


Apple Watches of Long Ago

Last month, the fifth graders were out on the turf holding paper plates. Was it picnic time? Not exactly! It turns out it wasn’t plates they were holding, but rather the “Apple Watches” of long ago!  As part of their Solar unit, the students made sundials, modeled a 24-hour day passing in a minute using a flashlight and their sundials, and then took the sundials outside to see if they would actually work.  They didn’t, until the clouds passed, and then, they did!

Did you know … that our 24-hour day is based on our ancient ancestors having 4-fingers and one thumb? Ask a 5th grader to explain how the ancient Egyptians developed what has remained a 24-hour clock for thousands of years, and how their plate-watches work.


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