Free Writing

The seventh graders recently shifted their Language Arts focus from expository writing to “free writing.” For the purpose of the class, free writing simply means to write without stopping for an extended period of time (approx. 20 minutes). That said, this is not just a write whatevahhh exercise. While that kind of activity does have its merits, the students are currently being challenged to dig into all the possible meanings of a provocative or inspirational quote, such as “Truth is the first casualty of war,” or “Gratitude can make you happier.” And while they should write thoughtfully, even introspectively, they also are supposed to try to write without “thinking” (i.e., knowing in advance, self-judging, second-guessing, erasing, revising, rereading, etc.).


They are learning to FLOW from one word, phrase, or sentence, one idea, image, or story to the next. Questions beget more questions. Untethered creativity is encouraged. Tangents are also acceptable, as long as you stay in the realm of the initial prompt. The upshot? Fearlessness, confidence, invaluable brainstorm/first draft technique, and the potential for powerful revelatory moments when unexpected writing and ideas never imagined in your wildest Language Arts fantasies come to life on the page. Tuh-ruth!


Age Of Sail

Last week, the 5th and 6th grade stepped back into the past. The year is 1906; there has been a devastating earthquake and fire, and San Francisco lies in smoldering ruins. Much of the population is sheltered in tent cities, and doubts are being expressed about the city’s survival. Balclutha’s regular crew has jumped ship, either to escape the smoldering city, or to fight fires and help in the rescue operations. The Captain, looking to make a quick profit, needs a crew to sail to Oregon for lumber that will be in high demand. The students, or “lads,” arrived at Hyde Street Pier to sign aboard as the replacement crew.

Our Captain would not sail with inexperienced green-hands, though. The lads had to prove to the Captain, through the completion of tasks, that they were capable of sailing the ship. Activities, such as reeving a block and tackle, rigging a Bosun’s chair, rowing a longboat, preparing meals, and raising sails were vital to the safe and efficient running of the ship. Under the watchful eye of the Captain, officers worked with the “lads” to transform them from green-hands into tarry-handed “salts.” This taught them teamwork, grit and empathy for the past. Us tall sailors were truly proud of their hard work!

“One task we did well working as a team was raising and lowering the small boat. We did this by communicating clearly and giving our mate, Carlito, help when he needed it.” – Mia

“When I was positive my crew was positive, and when I wanted to do things, they wanted to do things. I saw my actions affect others positively in my crew.” – Gabe

“I felt like I was part of a team when we worked together to hoist a sail. Another time this happened was when I was giving orders and my team listened and we all did the work.” – Dillon

“This trip helped me see the importance of doing things right the first time. If not we got disciplined.” – Sadie M.

“I think Saklan asks us to do experiences like this trip so we grow and challenge ourselves in different ways.” – Milla


6th Grade Builds Volcanoes


The 6th grade has been learning about different types of volcanoes and their parts, where they are located, what type of eruptions occur, dangers and advantages of living by active volcanoes and how they create different rocks and formations. Students looked at different types of igneous rocks, tested different fluid viscosity to see how different lavas might flow, and then built their own shield volcano and tested off different batches of “magma.” They determined the speed of flow, what minerals make the lava flow slower and how those different flows cool into different rocks.

After they learned about historic volcanoes and ones we still might want to be concerned about. It was a lot of fun!


Can You Hula Hoop?


The physical education students have been practicing with hula hoops since the beginning of the year. Did you know that you can build with the hula hoops? Six hoops can be stacked to create a stand alone structure.


The Saklan students didn’t stop with six. During recess, a few ambitious builders have begun to stack the structures. The builders are looking for different locations which will allow them to reach greater heights. The tower is growing to four and five stories! Today, the students broke the record with four stories and this structure will go down in Saklan history!

Let’s go Saklan!


Traveling Teddy Bear Coming To Saklan

Traveling Teddy BearArriving this week, you will notice a Teddy Bear on campus! This Teddy Bear is named Matteo and is an international traveler. Matteo is part of the Traveling Teddy Bear Project that connects students around the globe! He will be stopping in some of our classrooms and doing activities with our students.

The Traveling Teddy Bears Project was started in 2014 with the goal of connecting young children in classrooms across the globe. This year each of our bears is supporting one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to help spread awareness in schools around the globe! You can learn more about these goals here:

Matteo is the oldest teddy bear to be a part of the Traveling Teddy group. He was born in New Jersey in 2005.  He loves traveling, learning about cultures, making friends, learning languages, dancing, and reading. He is ready to travel, learn, make friends, and read to many children around the world. Matteo is also very sporty and enjoys  yoga, swimming, baseball, running, and working out.unnamed

Matteo supports Global Goal #4: Quality Education. He believes that everyone deserves to go to school and have opportunities to read, write, and learn!

Matteo is currently in China from there he will be coming to Saklan, then to Ireland, and Canada.


Understanding The 5-D Process

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The 7th grade has been continuing their use of variables to represent an unknown number in a variety of contexts. In this chapter Mr. Zippin introduced the 5D Process as a new method to solve problems that our previous methods were too challenging or too time consuming to solve. In the 5D Process, the students carefully read the problem and write the important parts and relevant information in the Describe part. This is also the place where they could draw a picture if that would be helpful to solve for the unknown.

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The second D is the Define columns where the students carefully label the elements of the problem and define what they will be guessing. Mr. Zippin stresses that the columns must be carefully labeled and filled in with full math operations. The Do column is the place where they write out the full mathematical expression. The Decide column of their table is where the seventh graders check their answer with what they are trying to find and then decide what a good next guess would be. Finally, they end with a Declare that answers the question being asked by the problem.

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As they continue to use the 5D Process, they begin to add an additional line to our table, the variable. The students begin to recognize that the variable expression can be used to summarize the relationships in the 5D process. As they continue with the work, the seventh graders will write full single variable equations and solve them from words problems.


Mexican Folk Art

Middle School Learning by Doing Elective Class

A Cross Curriculum Elective Unit with Spanish & Art

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest. It is celebrated throughout México and in recent years, has been adopted by many societies in the U.S.A.


The ofrenda (offering) altar is constructed to help guide the spirits of family members back to the land of the living on the noche de muertos, the night of November 2. The altar holds all four elements- earth, wind, water, and fire. Representing the element of earth, seeds or grains are left out in bowls, while salt is left to cleanse the spirits and purify their souls during the following year. The students made all parts to the altar and learned the significance behind each of the elements. They created embossed metal folk art which is a technique that raises a 2 dimensional image into a 3 dimensional. With embossing, students craft traditional Mexican imagery that surrounds the photos of the loved ones that have passed and sit at the top of the altar. They also created the Dia de los Muertos Lettering using hammers and nails to create the raised and textured designs. They made flores de papel (tissue paper flowers) to build the Día de Los Muertos arch and papel picado (perforated paper). These perforated designs are still hand-cut in Mexico with tissue paper, making it a recognized Mexican folk art. Draped around altars and in the streets, the art represents the wind and the fragility of life.

The ceramic skulls were made from past students who wanted them to be kept for the purpose of the altar every year. Placed alongside photos and possessions of the dead, the graphic representation of the human skull, confronts the observer with their own mortality. The brightly colored orange petals of the marigold flowers are said to represent the sun. Along with its sweet, floral scent, which gets carried along by the evening winds, the flowers lead the spirits to their shining altars. As twilight fades away, and family and friends gather around, the flickering lights begin to fill the nooks and recesses of the displays with a warm glow, which helps guide the dead to their altar. This is the fire element and it is believed that color, light, and strong scent of the flowers and candles can guide the souls from cemeteries to their families’ homes.

Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead) – which is a type of sweet bread that is only sold in the weeks leading up to the Día de Muertos. It’s eaten by the living, as well as left as an offering on the altar for the returning dead. The soap, a basin of water and the towel helps the spirits of the dead bathe and keep clean while they are back on earth. Pitchers of water are also left so the spirits can quench their thirst after a presumably long journey back home from the afterlife. This altar celebrates the loved ones we have lost within our community, as well as remembering and honoring those who have made an impact in our daily lives but were not directly related to us.


The Birth Of Civilization

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The sixth grade students have been studying the beginnings of communities and human civilization as we know it in Humanities class. They started the unit by reading foundational background information from their textbook History Alive: The Ancient World. The reading gave a summary about how our close cousins called Homo sapiens or wise men decided to give up the nomadic life for a more sedentary one. After working through the text, Ms. Parks showed a National Geographic movie to the sixth graders called The Birth of Civilization to bring this historical time period to life.

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The Paleolithic Age, (aka The Old Stone Age), lasted roughly from 8000 to 3000 B.C. During this time, nomads roamed the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East hunting and gathering food. When they would run out of animals to hunt and plants to eat, they would move to find another area that could sustain their group or family. Obviously, this life was difficult and left these people in continual survival mode. When agriculture was finally understood and applied to a fertile land area, humans entered the Neolithic Age or New Stone Age around 3000 B.C. This was a great turning point for humankind. People began to settle together in larger groups and built permanent shelters or homes to live in. Now that people in the community were providing a stable food supply through farming and domestication of animals, other community members were able to work specialized jobs to contribute to the good of the group.Some common jobs during this time were blacksmiths, weavers, pottery makers, scribes, shamans, soldiers, and merchants. Once these communities could sustain their entire community, they began to want other goods that they did not have nearby. Out of this need, trading was born, merchants collected goods, and trade routes were made. Through trade routes, different ways of life and ideas were spread, which starting to educate and connect the world.

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After learning all of this information, the sixth graders were assessed by taking a standard summative test that included sections that had multiple choice questions, map reading, analysis, and writing. Since each student was required to take notes during the movie, they were able to use their notes on this assessment. The other way Ms. Parks checked for student understanding was for each person to make a graphic organizer of ideas and pictures that told the story of humans moving from a nomadic life to a more community-based civilization. Please check out the pictures above that show a few great examples of their Birth of Civilization Mind Maps and enthusiastic sixth graders.


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.