The 8th grade Humanities class recently wrapped up its month-long, collaborative, map-making, research project on US cultural geography. Academically, the students were challenged to understand how the way people live affects where they live (and vice-versa). On this level, the project is about making connections from the land to the people and trying to grasp the breadth of interconnections that goes into everything.
Students must work individually, in small groups, and as a cohesive class to discover and find a way to visually represent the personality of each state in an effort to understand cultural similarities and differences in various parts of the country. They also learn how to problem-solve creatively and work efficiently in a deadline situation.
For maximum creativity on the artistic part of the project, the kids tried to employ “Think Like a Genius” methods, including looking at problems from multiple angles, making novel combinations, and using symbolism. In terms of working together, they were asked to follow a number of “Cooperation Guidelines,” including listening, asking strong questions, encouraging others with positive feedback, disagreeing in an agreeable way, and the ever-popular STAY ON TASK. They would track their progress with weekly reflections, and regular formative assessments also led to greater self-awareness and personal growth as the project proceeded.
The result is a beautiful map, a solid introduction to US cultural values, a more cohesive class, and a toolbox of powerful strategies for collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.
Since Ms. O., our Science Teacher, worked with NOAA this summer on a research vessel, she wanted to share that experience with her students! Two weeks ago, the 5th and 6th grade students joined the Marine Science Institute for a four-hour expedition of the San Francisco Bay aboard a 90-foot research vessel, the R.V. Robert G. Brownlee. The students discovered what lives in the estuary and how we are connected to it. They rotated through three stations using scientific methods and equipment to examine different types of life.
First, they went to hydrology to understand the water quality, and then performed a plankton tow to see the basis of the food chain. After, they used a mud grab to collect a benthic mud sample to look for invertebrates. And lastly, they worked together to deploy a 16-foot trawl net to bring fishes on board. In small groups, they studied the fishes using dichotomous keys. Students were inspired to observe and touch the live animals that they collected. Between sharks, crabs, halibut and sting rays, they saw a bunch of cool marine life!
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, I know they won’t forget their Yosemite trip. Here are some of the thoughts from their week away.
“Another motive of going to Yosemite, besides the educational part, is that it’s a great class bonding experience where you can hang out with people you maybe weren’t so close to and leave with them being one of your best friends! Also, it’s an awesome experience. Up close with nature you see animals and your classmates being crazy! It’s just an awesome experience!”– Elishka
“Although I didn’t have a favorite part about the trip (the whole experience was amazing), I especially enjoyed the bear cave. It was on our second day in Yosemite. I was with my trail group, and we climbed through tight spaces. We were standing in front of the cave, and our leader José led us to a small hole, and then he started going in. At first I had thought that he was just joking, because the crack looked too tiny to fit in. But soon enough, I was inside, and it wasn’t as tiny as I had expected it to be!” – Isabel S.
“My favorite memory in Yosemite was probably when Ryder, Oliver, Reese and I set the record for the most people inside of a bear box together. First went Reese, then Ryder, then Oliver and I went in. “Oh boy was it uncomfortable”- Oliver. “Worst Experience Ever”- Carson. “I was squashed against my applesauce”- Reese – Carson
“I felt connected to the rest of my class because I talked to new people and learned more about them. Specifically, I felt connected to those who were in my hiking group. We bonded over silly things and we told funny stories about our siblings. When we did the caterpillar line and the spider tunnels, we built trust for each other and learned to guide others in the right direction.”– Makenna
The Saklan School recently held an election for Student Council. The students campaigned by writing speeches and presenting them at Flag. The students voted later that day. We announced the results of the election to the middle school students on Tuesday. Here is a list of the elected officers.
Max B. (8th grade) and Harrison L. (8th grade)
Jordan D. (6th grade) Makenna C. (6th grade)
Evy A. (6th grade) and Elishka G. (6th grade)
Lauren A. (8th grade) and Phoebe K. (6th grade)
We are very proud of all the students who ran and we are excited for a great year!
The 8th grade Humanities class kicked off the school year with a dynamic, collaborative learning experience: Native American Conversations. The objectives of this weeklong project were multifold: 1) practice personal responsibility and critical-thinking skills; 2) practice cooperation/participation and teaching skills; 3) explore a wide range of Native American “fascinating facts” across 500+ years of history; 4) ask questions, make inferences, and develop a multiple-perspective understanding of Native American cultures in North America; 5) personalize and aim to put into real-world action what was learned.
The students first partnered up in four “expert” groups to critically analyze four distinct sections of information. Each section included a range of topics, from “Young People Then & Now” to “Diverse Languages” to “Native American Creativity” to “2016 Dakota Access Pipeline Water Protection Protest.” The students worked together in their expert groups to ensure individual understanding of the material by reading closely, taking notes, asking questions, sharing ideas, and making connections (i.e., “big picture” inferences). After this research period within the context of the expert groups, the students split into “jigsaw” groups, which comprised experts from each group. Here’s a visual (each letter represents a student): Expert Groups: AAAA, BBBB, CCCC, DDDD. Jigsaw Groups: ABCD, ABCD, ABCD, ABCD.
Each student then assumed the role of teacher. So all the A’s taught everyone in their jigsaw group what they learned about the “A” topics. The B’s did the same, and so on. In this way, all of the students had to take on the challenge of being both teacher and student—and everyone was responsible for engaging with every single topic.
After each teach-in, the students wrote reflections to articulate what they learned (observations/information/inferences), how they learned (self-analysis of how their brains connected the info and ideas), and what they’re now going to (try to) do in their personal lives with what they learned. These takeaways are where you can really see the impact of what you’re bringing into the classroom.
Here are some standouts: 1) “I will now be more resourceful and less wasteful with what I have to show more respect for the Earth.” 2) “I will now be more grateful for everything that I have.” 3) “I will stand up for what I believe in and vote when I’m able to.”
This project is an ideal introductory activity to get the students comfortable with the expectations and responsibilities of 8th grade Humanities. It brings them together as a class and demonstrates the power of solidarity. It’s also a perfect intro to the Cultural Geography Project, which is already challenging—and rewarding!—the kids in similar ways. Onward…
In 6th and 7th grade Humanities class, students are working on world geography. As many of you know, Americans are notoriously bad at remembering landmarks in the United States or identifying African countries. These are just a few examples of what students struggle with when answering questions about geography. I have included a link to an article that discusses students’ knowledge of geography throughout the world, but it definitely focuses on American students.
Our goal this year is that Saklan middle school students will be in that small percentage of kids that will know basic, yet important, world geography. Also, our world is becoming increasingly small due to technology. Isn’t it reasonable to expect our students to know the location of most countries in the world? As we see it, understanding world geography is a proactive step into the next frontier of learning and educating our students for a global work environment.
Currently, the 6th graders are learning all 52 of the African countries. And, the 7th graders are studying the 42 European countries. Each world region will be chosen to enhance and support our students’ knowledge in relation to their topic of study.
In 6th grade Humanities class, students have been studying the events of 9/11/01 by watching a DVD called “What We Saw.” This film was produced by CBS News. Dan Rather, a retired news anchor, narrates bits of important news coverage from 9/11 and the rescue efforts made in the following days. September 11, 2011 is the second attack on American soil, the first being Pearl Harbor. Many students know very little about the actual event because it did not happen in their lifetime. In order to understand the massive impact that 9/11 had on America and the world, students wrote questions, interviewed an adult that experienced 9/11, and typed up a one-two page response on what they learned. Below are the questions students were assigned in order to solidify the most important aspects of the project:
- What did you learn from the interview process?
- How did this particular perspective add to your knowledge or view of history or of the event?
- In what ways was your interviewee biased or not? Why?
- How do you think the world has changed since 9/11/01?
- How has the interview made you feel about the event? The United States? Other countries?
We are fortunate that Mr. Greg Ruppert, an 8th grade student’s father, was one of the lead FBI investigators on researching the financial funding of the 9/11 terrorists. He is coming to speak to Saklan’s sixth and seventh grade classes on Monday, October 1 from 12:45-1:45 pm. Parents are invited to come see Greg speak about his experience in following the technological money trail and how this helped catch some of the responsible parties. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending Greg’s presentation.
This month, Family Groups discussed collaboration: working as a team, taking turns, listening to ideas, doing your best, and encouraging others. Students read the book: The Dot, where a girl is encouraged to find out she is actually a great “dot” artist. She ends up encouraging others to find out what they are good and what they bring to the community. Students were then asked to create their own dot with something they are good at and bring to their community. Each family group worked together to build paper and sticky dot towers.
For the first two Advisory periods this year, the middle school students were challenged to a special ice-cream contest.
First, they had to think up as many different flavors as they could. These ranged from delicious sounding caramel and cookie dough or all grape skittle ice-cream to the more acquired tastes of Halibut or black olive. After this sustained creativity session, the kids had to think up three or four flavors per advisory that they wanted to make and try.
The next Advisory period consisted of making the ice cream the old-fashioned way, by hand. The middle-school students filled zip-lock bags with milk, sugar, and whatever flavoring they chose to make. They then put these sealed bags in a larger zip-lock with rock salt and ice. After ten minutes of shaking, the milk froze and ice cream was made.
Ms. Shay, Mr. Javier, and Mr. O’Connell helped judge which flavors best fit the four categories, Most Creative, Surprisingly Good, Most Surprising Overall, and Most Courageous.
The winners of ice cream creation contest were:
Most creative flavor – The judges were wowed by this amazing combination, Strawberry basil. It was made with fresh chopped strawberries, basil picked this morning from Lindsay’s garden, and a sprinkling of lemon and lime juice. C’est magnifique!
Surprisingly Good – Danny’s Whole Hog Ice Cream contained no hog whatsoever. It was inspired by a Winnipeg, Canada cater and was a combination of dragon fruit, smoothie, San Pellegrino soda ice cream, mango, and caramelized lemon made separately and then lovingly combined in the exact right percentages.
Most Surprising overall flavor – Canadian Max’s Special – This expertly mixed confection consisted of toasted eggo waffles, real Canadian syrup, and melted butter! Yum!
Most Courageous – This ice cream was the big winner and would have won 3 of the four categories. BLT ice cream made with homemade bacon, real heirloom tomatoes from Clark’s garden, and fresh lettuce. The Judges raved, “ Wow! That’s good” and “Yum!”
Honorable mention – Spicy Chocolate ice cream was artistically arranged in a Gordon Ramsay type ramekin of ice cream, gently broken cone, and soft, white marshmallow.