Atomic Attire

The 8th grade has been learning about the periodic table. From researching what all the symbols mean to understanding what the atomic number and atomic mass tell us about each element, they are becoming more comfortable every day.

They have been working on their atomic attire shirt. Each student picked one element they wanted to get to know more about. They designed a shirt for it to show off and model for you all. While our 8th graders are still figuring out what they want to be, some may have the skills to be runway models! Click below to check out their video.


Mexican Folk Art


The Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout México and, in recent years, it has been adopted by the U.S. On this day, families and friends come together to honor those who have passed and help support their spiritual journey.


The students learned about the Mexican folk art called “hojalatería y pintura.” They created embossed metal folk art – a technique that raises a 2-dimensional image into 3-dimensional. With embossing, students crafted traditional Mexican imagery.


They also made flores de papel china (tissue paper flowers) to decorate the arch for Día de Los Muertos. It is believed that the strong scent of the colorful flowers can guide the souls from cemeteries to their family homes.


Sixth Grade Math

In Math, the sixth graders have been working with positive and negative integers. Addition of integers was introduced with Cecil, an acrobat who can move forward and backward on a tight rope. Using their computers, the students investigated how Cecil could travel along tight ropes of different lengths. They had to combine positive and negative integers to successfully navigate the increasingly difficult challenges.

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To continue this idea, Mr. Zippin introduced Integer Tiles. The Integer Tiles are small plus and minus pieces that represent positive and negative one. By laying out 5 plus tiles, we represent the number 5. If we lay out 3 minus pieces, we represent the number -3. By combining these eight tiles we are representing the expression 5 + (-3).  The students noticed that the three plus pieces, when combined with three minus pieces made three zeros. After discussing the identity property of addition, they knew that adding these three zeros did not change the sum so the total value of the expression was 2.


Introduction to the Cell

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Biology this year starts off with understanding the basic building block of life, the cell. Seventh graders learn all the cell parts, discover plant cells and animal cells (their own cheeks) under a microscope, and then they learn how a membrane works. Students also learn why we produce carbon dioxide through cellular respiration and plants use that to produce oxygen in photosynthesis.

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Students have discovered this through hands-on labs – seeing iodine move across a membrane to turn corn starch black by modeling diffusion and seeing a balloon fill up with carbon dioxide as yeast cells perform cellular respiration. All these functions are vital to a cell’s survival. 


Yosemite Field Experience

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Last week, the 6th grade took off to Yosemite for a week of hands-on science, team building, connecting with nature, learning about themselves, and becoming more independent. It was one of our best trips ever. Between hiking below Half Dome, climbing through giant sequoias, seeing amazing wildlife and supporting each other when they needed it, we know they won’t forget their Yosemite trip. Here are some of the thoughts from their week away.

“I learned that I really like hiking with my friends outdoors and I really enjoy crawling through caves”- Bjerre

“I learned a lot about myself in Yosemite. For one thing, I thought I hadn’t packed enough, but turns out I over packed! Also, I learned my first assumptions about people are not always right. I thought some people were annoying, but after spending a week with them, I realize they are funny, kind and I like hanging out with them.” – Cassidy

“I learned that people want to get to know me more, I just have to open up more to others. We all actually have a lot in common.”- Ethan

“I felt connected to nature on this trip when Thomas lead me to a tree in one of our activities. It felt different and unique.” – Mac

“I felt connected when I threw a rock and watched it ripple and what that affected and that I was changing the natural flow of things. That made me feel connected to the moment.” – Dillon


Create a Culture


Each school year, 7th grade begins the year with the Create-a-Culture Project. This project offers the seventh grade students a wide array of activities that immerse them in all the elements that make up a culture. The main objective is to increase students’ understanding of what makes culture unique, as well as to help them see and appreciate the similarities and differences that exist among cultures. Students work in cooperative groups of three by designing a fictitious culture and deciding its history. Through that they will learn how cultures develop, change, and grow.


The Create-a-Culture Project is divided into five sections: making decisions, creating the culture, project ideas, culminating activities, and the Culture Fair. They have been working creatively and cooperatively problem solving issues that arise. Ultimately, each student group has compromised and worked collaboratively to bring forth a completely original culture.

We are inviting all seventh grade parents to a culture fair on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 10:30am. The fair will allow parents to see and understand each of the six created cultures, as well as enjoy yummy food. We look forward to celebrating and showcasing all of the students’ hard work.


Sustainable Gardening at Saklan

Three weeks ago, the Middle School kicked off their first “Learning By Doing” Session. These classes are designed to create project and experience based learning that cover a variety of topics. This September, the 6th grade prepared for their upcoming Yosemite Adventure, the 7th and 8th graders participated in Saklan’s African Ensemble, designed a new mural for the Sports Court wall ball area, and took on the challenge of redesigning the gardens and planters at Saklan to be more drought tolerant and sustainable.


Over three weeks, 7 students designed a pollinator garden behind the science lab, and cleaned and re-potted the seven pots in front of the school. In the process, they discovered the difference between annuals and perennials, which types of plants attract bees and butterflies, why succulents are special, and how to plant and care for all of them. As Saklan strives to be part of a more sustainable culture, and educates our students about stewardship of the planet, we must begin with stewardship of the places they visit everyday. In addition to the philosophical benefits of gardening, the physical act of getting your hands dirty and caring for another living thing gives students a sense of real purpose.

Each student finished the class with their own succulent pot that they designed. If you want to see the fruits of their labors, come check out the new planters in front of the school, and check out the bees buzzing in the pollinator garden behind the science room!


Sugar Awareness at Saklan

The sixth graders have been learning about nutrition in Science class. Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining good health. The students learned about each food group, daily recommendations, vitamins and minerals, essential nutrients and what they do for the human body. Our bodies need to be treated right in order for them to function correctly. This unit helps the students gain the ability to practice making better food choices in their diet and, hopefully, reducing health risks through proper diet.

Guest expert Donna Pickthall, co-owner of Genuine Goodness cafe in Orinda and mom of Evie in 6th grade, came to the science lab to help teach the 6th graders about sugar in their food. Students got to create 3 types of bread dough with different sugar amounts to see and taste the difference. They also made healthy pizza rolls which they all enjoyed at lunch. It was a fun morning!


Middle School Advance


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At the start of each school year, the middle school teachers bravely take the entire group of middle school students to a conference center in the redwoods outside of Occidental. We call the experience an “Advance” as opposed to a retreat, as we are moving forward in our lives. The Advance is unique to Saklan and gives us time to start the year working on building relationships. This 3-day field experience pushes the students outside their comfort zone and it helps create a strong  community.


Earth Day Promise

The Owlets and their 6th grade buddies got together and did an Earth Day project. They worked together to create a mosaic Earth out of small pieces of paper. Then they had to come up with ideas to help keep the Earth clean and beautiful.

After they finished their projects, they got to play together on the turf. It was a lot of fun and the Owlets sure do love their big buddies!