4th Grade

Last week the fourth graders blasted off into space exploration! They began their study with the big question – why should/shouldn’t we explore space? Opinions were mixed at first, but after viewing NASA videos and taking a deeper look at the real Mars Rover program, students agreed that we should explore space. The class decided to make their own mission to an unknown planet and send a remote rover to explore it for them first. They looked at how real rover “drivers” operate their machines from earth by writing code. Then, the fourth graders each wrote a working code for their partner to read and follow exactly as a “human rover.” The goal for each rover was to successfully navigate obstacles on an “alien planet” to reach a “crater”  and retrieve a “rock sample.”

The students quickly discovered that their codes needed to be very specific or they wouldn’t work. After testing and improving the codes, the class re-launched their rovers and completed several successful missions. This week, the fourth graders have been using the engineering design process to build working Mars rover models!


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

Collecting Used Crayons

Three Saklan students in 4th grade are working on their Girl Scout Bronze Award, which is awarded after the completion of a project that helps make a difference in the community. Their troop decided to collect used and broken crayons to donate to The Crayon Initiative. The Crayon Initiative melts down the used crayons they receive and reshapes them into brand new crayons. They then send the new crayons to children’s hospitals all over the United States.

You can help the 4th graders (and patients in the children’s hospitals) by donating your old or broken crayons. Three collection boxes have been placed around campus: one in the office, one between the Owlet and Hoot Owl doors, and one by the pavilion.

Thank you for your support!

Voices Made Visible

As part of a new science unit on waves of energy, the 4th graders have been using math to analyze music. They learned why music notes are called “whole,” “half,” “quarter” and “sixteenth,” and then played some “Body Beats.” Next, they spent some time exploring different sounds and visualizing the waves using the Chrome Music Lab online. At first, the students experimented with sound by pressing different piano keys to see how different tones and sounds express themselves as “waves” on the screen.

It was quickly apparent that the lower notes had longer intervals between waves than high notes (frequency). They also experimented with the spectrogram, which visualizes sounds as colors. It was fascinating to “see” how similar and different all of their voices are and they are excited to show them to the world!

To conclude the study, students spent time at home making their own music.


Seeing the World

Most of the fourth graders had heard that we really see the world upside down. But why? After watching a series of videos, looking closely at their own eyes, and examining anatomical diagrams, the fourth graders put their hypotheses into practice by constructing their own working models of the human eye.

The students used readily available materials to make the iris (colored paper), pupil (cut-out circle), lens (magnifying glass), and retina (note card) for their models.

Then, the students experimented with light to determine how these structures interact and function by creating images for processing by the brain. In the end, they discovered that an image refracted through the lens of the eye will reveal a “flipped” image on the retina! The images on the retinas were surprisingly clear. Below are a few of the images the students captured. 


Rethinking Ranchos

Fourth graders continued learning about California’s history as they conducted virtual explorations of 19th century Mexican ranchos. Their study of the ranchos began with a series of learning centers, which included looking at historical and geological maps of the Bay Area and the entire state, a video virtual tour of a rancho, articles about the practices of land granting, branding and the savage treatment of Native people, and looking at images from the past that included hand-drawn diseños (rough maps). Next, the students worked together to determine which aspects of the ranchos were worthy of preservation and which they would want to make reparations for. Finally, working in partner teams, students plotted their own ranchos on a map, wrote a petition for a land grant to the governor, cooperated to create new and improved rancho policies, and then drew a scaled diseño of their ranchos.

The fourth graders had fun “visiting” each others’ ranchos this week and sampling some tortillas and frijoles after!


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


The fourth graders have just finished an in-depth look at the California Mission system and its lasting impact. 

Through Indigenous perspectives in art, news articles, online resources, and historical fiction, the class explored a few essential questions: 

  • Whose land are we on when we come to school at Saklan? 
  • Where are the members of those communities now? 
  • What happened to Indigenous peoples when the Spaniards arrived in this part of the world? 
  • What are local Indigenous communities calling for now and what can we do? 

The fourth graders used Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to explore pieces from Katie Dorame’s Alien Apostles series and video installations “City Indians” and “State of the Earth” by Kelly Caballero. The students made connections between imagery and themes in their work and their read aloud historical fiction novel, Lands of our Ancestors by Gary Robinson, about the beginning of the missions period. 

The fourth graders brought much of the conversation to present day through Indigenous voices, discussion on land back movements, and the Camino Real bell marker removal efforts in Santa Cruz. Additionally the students engaged in rich conversation connecting this unit with the themes of belonging and identity in the novels The Boy at the Back of the Classroom and We’re Not From Here

Come by the 4th grade classroom windows to see a few of the student’s answers to their essential questions if you are ever on campus for extended care pick up!


Learning Buddies

Last Friday, our Kindergarten and 1st grade students were delighted to find out who their 3rd or 4th grade learning buddy is for the year. For their first buddies meeting, the students played a get-to-know-you game and then spent time reading together.

The big buddies marvelously modeled good reading behaviors by reading with expression and fluency for their little buddies, and then were honored to listen to their little buddies read too. The Kindergarten, first, third and fourth grade students thoroughly enjoyed getting to know their learning buddies, are already asking when they get to meet with their buddies again!

Learning buddies are a purposeful way to encourage cross-grade friendships, help the older buddies develop a sense of responsibility and practice mentorship, and make learning fun!


%d bloggers like this: