We all come from different homes, different families, different childhood stories, and where we come from makes us who we are! As we say goodbye to each other for the 2018-2019 school year, and as some of us say goodbye to the Dome School, we'll leave a little bit of ourselves behind in poetic form.
To begin, we studied the first "Where I'm From" poem, written by George Ella Lyon:
And then we wrote our own. The words are inserted below, yet if you get the chance, please visit our class bulletin board, as each child posted their poem with their own artistic additions:
Goodbye to our beautiful Amethyst Kids, and happy summer! It has been a joy to learn with you.
Love Always, Kaci
...these five events, which deserve some recognition!
(1) Independent Research Presentations: For the last few months of each year, the kids research something that interests them. This year we created a Peer Feedback Form so the kids could share positive comments with each other, and it was wonderful to see such empowered youngsters! On the day of their first presentations, I knew that I either needed to post photos of every single child with their presentation, or take and post none of them, to be fair. I put my camera away and decided to stay in the present moment with the kids. So, no photos this year, but so many memories.
(2) The kid-created Variety Show on May 1. They sang! They danced! They wrote and performed Murder Mysteries! They did gymnastics and magic tricks! It was truly awesome. Originally, the teachers planned for an educational performance on May 1 to conclude this year's "Oregon" theme. In our exuberant caffeine-fueled August planning sessions we had, apparently, forgotten how tired we'd all be when May rolled around, and how much the kids would just need to express themselves creatively without too much structure. So we tossed the original plan and stood back to let the kids step forward. I'm sure that parents took pictures and video, but not I, what with having too much fun and all!
(3) The Theatre Class spent the winter and spring in Shakespeare's world, watching funny cartoon synapses, rehearsing abbreviated versions of MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet, and performing for their classmates. We also played theatre games and bounced around the outdoor stage, stretching our thespian legs again after the long winter!
(4) Our weekly newsletters: Last year's blog included many weekly newsletters, and yes, we also created them this year! But we didn't post them to the blog because, unlike last year's teacher-written and typed weekly newsletters, this year the kids made the newsletters themselves. Handwritten, cut (with scissors) and pasted (with glue), drawn-upon, photocopied, and then sent home to families -- their newsletters this year were the real deal.
(5) Cardboadia: One day there were extra cardboard boxes. "Can we build something with these?" they asked. "Why not?" We said. And the next thing you know, an entire city transpired outside and they called it "Cardboardia." A dirt-path Main Street circled through the town, with children's cardboard creations on either side of the 'street.' There were only a few rules: (1) No one is in charge. No mayors, no police, nobody to boss anyone else around. (2) Everyone has the right to have the same idea. So, for example, if one child decided to turn her cardboard boxes into a Beauty Salon (it happened), that can't stop another child from starting another Beauty Salon down the way. It was fun, peaceful, inventive, and practice for how people can live together without the usual competition and hierarchies. The cardboard made its way inside too, adorned many student desks as a creative extension of their school "homes."
Every year, during the last week of April, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood hosts a nationwide "Screen-Free Week" to give us a chance to temporarily look away from our screens. This is the second year that we, the Amethyst Kids, have signed the pledge to spend a week screen-free. Last year was a relative success, mostly because (as became obvious only later) I, the teacher, was the biggest cheerleader for going screen-free at school, and also in my home, not only for Screen-Free Week, but for weeks to come. This year Screen-Free Week crept upon us so quickly that my promotional attitude was subdued, to put it mildly, and oh my did I witness what happens when the teacher can't be the role model for a challenging task. And so, we failed! In our defense, we DID learn about marketing, specifically all the marketing tricks aimed at kids, and we had a great discussion about consumerism, marketing, wants versus needs, and the hard data showing the connection between kids' screen-time and their health, emotions, and academics.
If you're curious how to go Screen-Free for next year, take a look at the guide (below), and maybe you will fare better than us!
This 20-minute video educates us about "The Story of Stuff" in such a complete, complex, and straightforward way. Where does our "stuff" come from, beginning at the beginning? How is it removed from the Earth, who brings it to the factories, how are factory workers treated, how does it get shipped to the store, how is it placed on the shelves and marketed to convince consumers that we really really NEED it, and .... importantly ... after we are finished with the stuff, where does it go? These questions are big, and the filmmaker Annie Leonard wasn't the first to ask these questions. But then Annie and her co-creators did something unusual: they didn't put the burden of fixing the problem solely onto me and you, typical consumers with a small amount of buying power. Instead, they point the finger at the larger entities at play -- multinational corporations and the governments who enable them, and then offer solutions for holding these powerful players accountable.
"The Story of Stuff" deals with grown-up issues, which made me hesitate to share it with elementary children. Would they understand? Would it scare or overwhelm them? Finally, on a rainy day, we watched "The Story of Stuff," and their reactions were real, heartfelt, comprehending, and also committed to finding another way for humans to live on our planet. Children get it. They aren't often credited for their intelligence, and sometimes we try too hard to protect them from real-world facts. Yet I have learned that when we open the real world to them, they are ready for it, and they want to help, because it's their world too.
Last year we wrote poems for Poetry Month, experimenting with different poetic forms and ways to express our voices. Our focus was inward -- what's inside of me? This year we turn our focus outwards and towards the voices that have given us so much good poetry over the years, from all cultures of this fabulous globe.
Here is who we are studying this month:
This winter we bravely faced the formal rules of Informational Writing (aka the essay). Using the Periodic Table of Elements, which have become an unexpected background song to our year, each child chose an element that caught their fancy, conducted research, and then wrote a formal Informative Piece. Yet I wanted them to experience a bit of style alongside the formula, and provided scaffolding (aka structure and guidance) through a teacher model essay, and then through a cloze (aka "fill in the blank") rough draft.
One of our students, the amazing and brave Lillianna, agreed to share her Informative Piece on the element Berylium, including her final draft, rough "cloze" draft, and outline. Thank you, Lillianna, for sharing your work! And thanks to the Oregon Writing Project at Southern Oregon University for teaching that all writing should be "writing from the heart," and even when we approach formal writing (using the three rhetorical modes of the National Writing Project, these are Informational Writing, Argumentative Writing, and Narrative Writing), we should never forget the most important reason to write: Writing is where we share our unique voice with the world.
Thursday afternoons are time for artistic choice, with children choosing Music with Chad, Theatre with Kaci, or Art with Melissa. In this glimpse into Art class, can you see where two paintings wove together into one? Take a look!
There are so many ways to make math. Ways to learn, ways to understand, ways to make sense of mathematics in our modern world. We pursue math in multiple modalities in our class, and lately we have returned to Life of Fred, which is ... weird. (In a good way!). Life of Fred books are written by a Ph.D mathematician, Stanley Schmidt, who uses storytelling via the premise that the character "Fred" is a five-year-old mathematician teaching at a fictional university in Kansas.
We read Life of Fred in the 2017-2018 school year, but last year were having too much fun with Miquon to make time for Fred. Well, this winter Fred is back! The best way to grasp Life of Fred is through direct experience, so without further ado, what follows are chapters 1-5 from Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents:
Leaping a few mountains to the east will land our legs into the waters of Crater Lake National Park, the deepest waters of the United States. Nearly 2,000 feet down would you dive to touch the floor, which, to make our story even more surprising, is the floor of a sleeping volcano who began, before Crater Lake, as Mount Mazama. The story of Mount Mazama's transition into Crater Lake can be told twofold: the geology of a volcano (the story told by science) and the lovestruck plunge of Coyote (the story told by the Klamath tribe). Both stories are true, and thankfully, more people are recognizing that we don't have to choose.
Kava's pages, below, show our path to understanding both stories, knowing that even these two stories to Mount Mazama/Crater Lake do not tell all there is to tell. Crater Lake can't make it into our field trip journeys this year, unfortunately, yet we encourage all families, if you can find the time for the three-hour drive, to visit our neighborly Cascade Mountain Range and dive yourself deep into the cold, clear, volcanic waters of our Crater Lake:
Kudos to Coop for persevering through this tricky learn-at-home challenge: unscramble the words and solve an arithmetic problem in the same swoop!
Who would have thought that “Count to 10” would reveal something about our culture? (Ethnomathematicians would think that, actually! They study how mathematics and culture interact).
When we say “Count to 10,” we are using the Base-10 numbering system, and its usage is so prevalent in our daily world that we might not notice that other cultures have developed other ways of counting.
For instance, the Mayans of Central America use a vigesimal system, aka, a Base-20 numbering system.
Counting in Mayan means cycling through the numerals after every 20 digits, instead of 10, and because the Mayan glyphs used to represent numbers look different than our numbering system, which is a melding of Hindu and Arabic numbering systems, learning to “count in Mayan” not only challenges our brains to hold quantities in groups of 20 but also to recognize Mayan numbers.
As it turns out, young people can fairly quickly wrap their flexible brains around the vigesimal Mayan glyph system of counting! (In fact, it might be their 40-something-year-old teacher who had the most struggle bending her brain in a new way).
Take a look:
We lost another poetic soul. Sigh. In honor of Mary Oliver, this week we read poetry by Mary Oliver and challenged ourselves to learn her poem, "Wild Geese." The children loved this poem, which made me wonder why I had assumed it contained words only adults could fully appreciate. Such a lesson of children - how deep they are, how much they comprehend, how fully alive they also are.
Each week we are so fortunate to find local artist and musician, Terry Davis, teaching our children the craft of clay. His constructivist, free-form style of teaching invites children to create sculptures of their own imaginations, which are then dried near our wood stove, fired in a high-tech kiln, glazed by the children, and then kiln-fired a final time.
Terry has volunteered his time at the Dome School for many years (as the hundreds of sculptures adorning local families' living rooms will attest!).
Our annual Winterfest performance integrated our Oregon theme with the coming cold, all supported by curriculum from the Dome School's past!
In the story we created, local plants and animals are gathering for the Winter Solstice when --Oh, no!-- the water animals rush onto the scene with a warning: humans are destroying the Illinois River! With song and self-reflection, the characters eventually realize that, though they may be small, they have the power to make a difference.
We capped off the performance by asking the audience, our family and friends, to sign postcards for Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, reminding him that his job includes protecting all of us, including the rivers.
How were we helped by Dome School's past curriculum? Well, years and years ago, Dome School teachers worked with the Siskiyou Project (now Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands) to develop a local science curriculum to teach local flora and fauna to children in elementary school. This Fall we found the curriculum and the children dove in!
See below for a sampling of the curriculum, "A Siskiyou Solstice" cast list, and a copy of the script.
We performed yesterday, December 12, and mailed more than 30 postcards to Senator Wyden!
Our Theatre Class took to the stage this Thursday afternoon to perform "The Clock That Was Really An Egg," adapted by a story told by the Chibcha people of Colombia. What happens when a clock arrives in a town where, until that moment, the people ate when they were hungry, worked when they need to work, rested when they needed to rest, and took the time to play? What does it mean to "take" time, anyway?
On Friday, November 16 the entire elementary class visited the oldest Catholic cemetery in Josephine County!
But first, we had to cross the East Fork Illinois River on the swinging bridge ...
...then we had to hike up a hill. "It was so hard!" exclaimed Alalana.
...until, ONE HOUR LATER (!!), our mountainous hike finally led us to the cemetery. We were hungry! We ate lunch and explored the cemetery's trails.
We learned that most of the deceased came here from Ireland in the 1850s, seeking gold in the hills (although one gravestone belonged to a woman born in Mexico!). They founded Allentown, built a church, cemetery, homes, and businesses --- yet when the gold ran out, not many years later, Allentown was abandoned.
With a camera, we took a bunch of pictures, too!