Today was our last flag of the school year. It is amazing how fast this year has gone by, but equally amazing how many wonderful things have happened at Saklan. Our flag was hosted by two Kindergarten students, Arik Lopez and Narayani Chandra, who showed the confidence and courage to speak in public, which is a trademark of Saklan. At flag, we also recognized our student council and gave out student council awards. Our two Co-Presidents, Mikayla Perrin and Kylie Choi, have shown outstanding leadership this year, which is another trademark of Saklan students. A big thank you to our Middle School Dean, Kim Parks, for advising the student council and helping to develop the skills of leadership, community service and collaboration, which we have seen grow stronger in our student body.
Another area where great leadership has been shown is in our Parent Association. The well-attended, well-supported, and well-organized community events this year, such as our stellar Family Fun Night, is due to the efforts of our Parent Association. A big end-of-year thank you to our PA Board, which is made up of:
Co-Presidents: Vivian Ma & Jen Cogen
Secretary: Sandy Lo
Treasurer: Jenny Park-Choi
Communications: Lori Anders
Room Parent Coordinator: Sandy Lo
Next week is our last week of school and on Monday, our students will have fun participating in the Family Group Field Day. This is the last event in our Family Group program and is one that highlights the sense of community and “being at home” which our students feel while they are at school.
This year’s Family Fun Night truly lived up to its name as there were lots of families and it was FUN. What a great idea to get us ready for the summer with an event that combines relaxing on our turf, a wonderful BBQ and a good movie. Many thanks to the Student Council and Parent Association for organizing this event and a particular shout out to Jenny and Mike Choi for providing the delicious barbecued pork.
Thanks to our parents, their families and friends, The Saklan School has a long-standing history of being voted BEST OF in this annual contest put on by Parent’s Press which remains open until the end of May. Please take a moment to vote for your favorite school and note that there are separate categories for: 1) Preschool 2) Elementary School 3) Middle School 4) Summer Camp. Just follow this link to vote. This is one of the easiest things you can do to benefit our school!
A big thank you to all of our families for spreading the word about Saklan to friends and neighbors. In reviewing our marketing data from this past year, we see that once again parent referrals are a big factor in attracting new students to Saklan, and we would like to hear your ideas on how we can best get the word out in your communities. We will be holding an open meeting on the topic of how parents can support the marketing of Saklan on Friday, June 2, at 8:45in the Library. This meeting is intended for everyone interested in sharing ideas on how to attract great new students to our school. Coffee will be provided.
All parents are invited to our Graduation Ceremony on Thursday, June 8 at 10:00AM at the Holy Trinity Cultural Center. Come and hear what our graduates say about their experience at Saklan and share their goals for the future. This is a great opportunity for our community to see what is in store for their children and celebrate the students that have graduated with a Saklan diploma.
This last week has been a whirlwind of outstanding activities and events at Saklan. It started last Friday with a magical production of The Drowsy Chaperone at the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette. It was wonderful to watch the enthusiasm and talent of our middle school in putting on this clever and extremely funny musical. A standing ovation goes out to Grace Chaffey and all of our middle school students for this delightful feat of courage, confidence and creativity.
This was followed by an impressive Spring Arts Festival. Art of all kinds, and from every student, was displayed throughout the Saklan campus. As you know, creativity is an important cornerstone of the Saklan mission, and the level of creativity seen in the art on display was remarkable. I was also pleased to see the Family Groups integrated into the Art Festival and was very much impressed by our Family Group leaders who they took their groups through the different stations of the exhibit and engaged the students in discussion and reflection on the works of art. Many thanks to Natalie Palms for organizing the Art Festival, and more importantly for inspiring the students to produce such great works of art. Also, thanks to Mrs. C and Miss Amanda for contributing art from the PreK. Please look for an ongoing display of the art on our video monitor in the entrance way.
The Art Festival also resulted in many parents visiting our Book Fair. Thanks to Book Fair Coordinator, Vivian Ma, and her team for offering an interesting variety of books. To make the Book Fair truly special, we were able to host four local authors on campus to share their works and talk to our students about the creative process and the art of writing.
To wrap up this great week at Saklan, we are all looking forward to Movie Under the Stars, which starts tonight at 6:00PM.
On Thursday, May 18th, we will have the annual Spring Arts Festival. Our art teacher, Ms. Palms, has been doing great work with our students and I am confident that you will be impressed by the quality and variety of art that has been produced here at Saklan. Come see for yourself. The art show opens at 3:00PM and runs until 4:00PM. Each student in grades PreK-8 will have at least one piece of art on display.
The Book Fair, organized by the Parent Association, runs from Thursday, May 18 to Friday, May 19 in the Saklan Library. We have again collaborated with Orinda Books to offer a great selection of books for all ages. Included in this will be a large selection of books from the Summer Reading Lists for grades 2-8. Please come and visit the Book Fair which will be open from 8-10AM and 2-4PM on each of the days.
In conjunction with our Book Fair, we have organized a series of author visits next week. On Wednesday, Lily Williams, author and illustrator of “If Sharks Disappeared,” will talk to our PreK-3rd grade students. On the same day, Mitali Perkins, author of ten books for 9-13 year olds, “Tiger Boy” and “Rickshaw Girl” will speak to our 3-8th graders. On Friday, we will have two popular local authors visit. Lisa Bakos will speak to our PreK-2nd graders and Penny Warner will speak to our 3rd-7th graders. Books for all of these authors will be on sale at the Book Fair.
While visiting the campus next week, have a look at our lost and found bins that are currently overflowing.
As part of our Parent Speaker series, this morning Cherilyn addressed the much discussed issue of students and the use of social media in her talk, “Get Smart With Social Media.” This workshop is the third in a three part series and follows two previous workshops, one with 4-6 graders and one with 7-8 graders.
Cherilyn started her presentation by telling us that for teenagers social media, “is a scoreboard for a real time, 24/7 popularity competition.” She shared a wealth of information and data from many recent studies on social media use, as well as data that emerged from her workshops with our Saklan students. For example, the average 13 year old checks in with social media sites 100 times a day and is in some way connected online for 9 hours per day. In one study it was discovered that 90% of 4-8 graders surveyed have phones or tablets in their rooms and 33% indicated that they are regularly online after midnight on school nights. This goes up to 60% on weekends. In an indication of how unaware parents are of what their children are doing, it was found that only 11% of the parents in the study believed this happens on school nights and 38% on weekends.
Data from our own students showed that 40% of our 4-6 graders had YouTube channels, 48% were on Instagram, and 30% were on Music.ly. In her workshop with our 7-8 graders, only 21% indicated that their social media activity was monitored by parents.
Some of the big ideas that emerged from Cherilyn’s presentation were that stress caused by online activity was very much the same as that of real life experiences and it increased through the teen years. In order to effectively navigate their futures, students need to learn how to interact with others online in safe and mindful ways. Beyond monitoring their online activities, parents should engage with their children in ongoing dialog about the realities of using social media.
A big thank you to Kim Parks for organizing this important and engaging workshop.
One of the important presentations at Flag this morning was the message of gratitude given by the faculty and staff to our wonderful parent community for this week’s Teacher Appreciation Week. This is always one of the best weeks of the school year and we have been astounded, amazed and pampered with the wonderful meals and gifts organized by our parents. We are delighted by the new baking ovens that we can use for our school and extra-curricular programs, and feel truly appreciated with the many touching and personal messages that have sprung up on the campus walls and windows. We are thankful for the wonderful community that supports our efforts and inspires us to do our best in our work at Saklan. A special thank you to the Tai family for offering the food truck on Wednesday, which was one of the highlights of the week.
This week, I was officially informed by the National Geographic Society that Vickie Obenchain has been recognized as a Nat Geo Certified Educator. Certified Educators are committed to teaching their students about the world and how it works, empowering them to succeed, and make it a better place. This award comes at a perfect time as we have just had an outstanding Earth Day program, organized by Vickie, which saw our Family Groups engage in a series of activities to raise awareness about our planet. This included a visit by the Marine Science Institute that gave our students very close encounters with a series of sea animals. The next time you come on campus please look at the vertical garden of native succulent plants made out of recycled materials. It is on the wall by the middle school lunch area. Also have a look at the Family Group Sustainability posters which are on the entrance way bulletin board. We are fortunate to have Vickie as our Science teacher and applaud her work and latest accomplishment.
Next week, our students in Grades 4-8 will be taking the ERBs. This stands for the Educational Records Bureau Comprehensive Testing Program. This school-wide assessment program has been used at Saklan for many years and is a widely used tool in independent schools for looking at individual and school-wide achievement. While the test gives some measure of the educational program at Saklan, it is important to know that we do not teach to the test. Nor does the test assess many of the skills that we feel important in our program, like creativity, leadership or collaboration, to name just a few. The best preparation for this week of testing for our Grade 4-8 students is to make sure that they get plenty of rest, exercise, eat healthy meals, and get to school on time.
Did you know that this Sunday is the official World Book Day? The date of April 23 is symbolic for world literature and it is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference held in Paris in 1995 to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day. For more information on this go to: http://www.un.org/en/events/bookday/
At Saklan we naturally celebrate books and reading every day, and many of our students actually become authors during the school year. We also love having professional authors visit our campus and every year we introduce our students to a number of celebrated writers from our area and beyond. This coming Friday, our PreK through 2nd graders will meet author Frans Vischer who worked for the Walt Disney Company on such films as The Princess and The Frog and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He is the author and illustrator of Fuddles and Fuddles and Puddles.
I am also happy to report that we have four authors lined up for our three-day Book Fair which runs from May 17-19. The authors are Mitali Perkins (Rickshaw Girl and Tiger Boy), Lily Williams (If Sharks Disappeared), Lisa Bakos (Wrong Side of the Bed and Too Many Moose) and Penny Warner who writes the popular middle grade mystery series, TheCode Busters Club. Every year, our Book Fair gets better and better and this year looks to be stellar!
As I write this week’s blog, our 4th grade class is in Coloma on their annual overnight field trip to study the Gold Rush, and the 5th graders are in Marin Headlands on their three-day overnight field trip. These are the last two of overnight field trips in the calendar this year; which also saw our 6th graders spend a week in Yosemite, our 7 graders travel to Hawaii, and our 8th graders study US Government in Washington DC. All of these exciting educational experiences are made possible through the support of our wonderful parent community through donations and direct participation.
Today is officially Good Friday, which precedes the Easter, and I wish all of our families that celebrate this holiday a Happy Easter. In the spirit of creativity, which clearly runs strong at Saklan, and in connection with our goal of promoting happiness, our Hoot Owl students are celebrating the little known, but definitely engaging and enchanting, International Moment of Laughter Day. This day, which falls on April 14, is an unofficial holiday created by humorologist Izzy Gesell, who encourages people to forget the stresses of daily life, and give into the healing and relaxing power of laughter. Medical studies have shown that laughing reduces stress, increases blood flow, and lowers blood sugar levels. Some studies have found that people who laugh just before going to bed are much more likely to sleep better than those who did not. In addition to its health benefits, laughter also has social advantages. People who are jovial tend to be quickly accepted in social groups and have an easier time making friends. Laughter is a way to spread joy and happiness, and bring cheer in the lives of other people.
Our Hoot Owl students and families clearly had many moments of laughter this morning, which is a fitting way to prepare for a happy weekend. Thanks to Mrs. C and Miss Joy for coming up with this creative idea!
I would like to start by thanking all of the wonderful grandparents and special friends that came out this morning for our annual event celebrating this important aspect of our community. The day was truly enjoyable and our students were thrilled to show off their campus, teachers and classmates, and engage in a fun activity with their guests.
This is the time of the year when our 8th graders find out which high school they will attend in August. Finding the right high school is important and the middle school faculty at Saklan has worked hard over the past months helping our graduates make the right choice to match their skills, interests and goals. I am pleased to announce that this year’s graduates were accepted to the following list of high schools:
The College Preparatory School
The Athenian School
Monte Vista High School
Campolindo High School
Las Lomas High School
Benicia High School
Concord High School
Northgate High School
This is very much in line with the pattern of high school attendance for Saklan graduates over the past 10 years. Of the independent schools, the top destinations are Bentley, Athenian, College Prep, and Head-Royce. An important fact to note is that over 90% of our 8th graders got into their high school of choice.
We now go into our Spring Break, which I hope will be restful and re-energizing. Upon our return, we will have less than two months of school left, and in this time, we have a number of big activities planned at Saklan. These include the Middle School Musical, the Spring Arts Festival, Book Fair, Family Fun Night, Graduation, and a number of interesting field trips.
For the past two days, Saklan faculty and parents have come together for our second set of parent-teacher conferences. The close connection between teachers, parents and students is a hallmark of Saklan. These meetings which focus on celebrating student growth and setting goals for improvement are critical in forging the bond of collaboration, which will provide each student with an outstanding educational experience. If you have not been able to schedule a parent-teacher conference in these past two days, just ask your homeroom teacher or advisor to schedule a meeting at another time. It is important to us that we have a chance to meet and discuss your child’s growth at Saklan.
For the past few years our middle school students have been doing student-led conferences. This is a process whereby students play an active role in the conference and discuss and reflect upon their own progress and goals. This is a powerful way of having students engage in and show ownership over their own learning. Here are some student thoughts on doing these conferences:
Victoria (Grade 8) – A student led conference is a great way to check in on how you are doing and to figure out how to do better.
Tyler (Grade 6) – Student led conferences help us to know what we have to work on and take action.
Claire (Grade 8) – Student led conferences let you and your parents bring up and share your issues and it’s a nice way to check in with your teachers.
Olivia (Grade 7) – Student led conferences allow you to share your perspective on things and if you are in trouble you can create your own action plan.
Dhilan (Grade 8) – Student led conferences allow you to be comfortable in talking about your successes and issues in class.
Next week, our middle school students will be taking the National Spanish Exam offered by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish. The National Spanish Examinations are online, standardized assessment tools for Grades 6 -12, given voluntarily by about 4000 teachers throughout the United States to measure performance (interpretive communication) and achievement of students who are studying Spanish as a second language. The National Spanish Examinations are the most widely used tests of Spanish in the United States and are administered online. In 2016, a total of 169,697 students registered for the National Spanish Examinations. The purpose of the National Spanish Examination is to:
recognize achievement in the study of the Spanish language
promote proficiency in interpretive communication in the Spanish language
assess the national standards as they pertain to learning Spanish
stimulate further interest in the teaching and learning of Spanish
The results of the exam come out about a month after they are taken and students can receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold award based on their results.
Next Friday, March 31st we will hold our annual Grandparents and Special Friends Day. This will start at 10:00AM with grandparents and special friends being greeted by and sharing refreshments with their grandchildren during morning recess. This will be followed by visits to the classroom where grandparents and special friends can see where our students work and participate in a fun collaborative activity. We will end the morning with a flag to celebrate a great day of fun, family and community. Our students are excited and looking forward to spending a fun morning with some of their favorite people. Please RSVP today so that we can be prepared for your visit.