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:
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!
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!
Happy Election Day! We welcomed the morning with a video tour of Salem, Oregon's Capital City, hosted by the 2018 Oregon Kid Governor, Dom Peters, who was elected Kid Governor in the 5th grade.
See, last year Oregon's Secretary of State Office became an affiliate of the award-winning civics program Kid Governor, created by the Connecticut Democracy Center. Elementary classes across the state of Oregon critically analyze short (2-3 minute) campaign videos created by Kid Governor candidates. Every candidate chose one community issue as their "political platform," and used their campaign video to try and persuade their fellow Elementary students to vote for them:
Ballots ask students to rank the candidates on a 1-5 point scale (1 = disagree, 5 = agree) according to seven statements: the candidate has the leadership skills to be Oregon's Kid Governor; the candidate is passionate about running for Oregon's Kid Governor; the candidate chose an important issue for her/his platform; the candidate's issue is something I want to focus on in my community; the candidate's plan is realistic; the candidate sounds like he/she would represent me well; and the candidate would make a good Oregon's Kid Governor.
The candidates and their videos can be found HERE.
After completing our paper Voter Registration cards and Candidate Ballots, Kaci submitted each student's top choice online. As this blog post goes to press, we are awaiting the results of Oregon's next Kid Governor!
What follows is a few pics featuring Amethyst kids posing with their Voter Registration cards and Ballots:
On Friday mornings, Kaci skips off to the Serpentine Room with the younger elementary students while Ruth steps into the Amethyst Room for science class with the older elementary students. This year is all about biology! Take a look at Airabella's booklet, "Life Cycle of a Flowering Plant" (You might need to stand on your head, because Kaci scanned the booklet upside down!)
In our explorations of Oregon this year, the Amethyst Kids are diving deep into geography by studying 10 sets of place names, in the spirit of deepening our sense of place: (1) Illinois Valley Place Names, (2) Oregon Mountain Ranges, (3) Oregon Rivers, (4) Oregon Tribal Nations, (5) Oregon Cities, (6) Oregon Counties ... and to recognize Oregon's place within larger spaces, (7) USA State Names, (8) USA Capital Names, (9) Canadian Provinces & Territories, and (10) Mexican States.
We quiz ourselves once each week, most intent upon measuring the growth of our knowledge from week to week. Most weeks are open-ended, with children choosing which geography set they'd like their memorization minds to encounter, although sometimes we will all focus on the same place names, working together towards remembering.
Memorizing facts isn't the most important piece of learning -- far from it -- yet it's still useful, and often exciting, to learn the names ascribed to places, or at least the names we tend to use today. Memorization is also an opportunity for the children to get to know their brains a bit more: If there are many ways to learn, such as writing it down, talking it out, singing it loud, dancing as we verbally repeat, quizzing our friends, flipping through flashcards, closing our eyes to visualize, and discussing it all ... well, then, which ways work best with my brain?
It all started last spring, when I drank too much coffee after school, found an exciting Periodic Table of the Elements curriculum, and decided to print ALL 80 PAGES. No matter that our curriculum didn't plan for Chemistry last spring, nor that we'd already booked ourselves with TMTDBSES (Too Much To Do Before School Ends Syndrome). I printed those pages anyway, hole-punched them into a binder, then waited for the molecule's moment.
Months went by. The new year began, and within two weeks we'd already reached critical TMTDBSES mode. Yet in October --- suddenly!! --- we were gifted with an open morning and science to teach. Well, why not now?
First, each child chose an element:
Then we created atomic structures from clay. Inside the nucleus of each atom are protons (with a positive electrical charge) and neutrons (with no electrical charge), and the kids picked two different colors to paint their protons and neutrons:
Our atomic nuclei will stay in the classroom, yet the electrons are experiencing a very different story! For, you see, we learned through our friend Bill Nye (the Science Guy) that if electrons were actually the size of our clay balls, they would actually be 500 meters away from the nucleus! (So, even though atoms and mostly made up of EMPTY SPACE between the nucleus and electrons, they give the appearance of being solid because the electrons are moving so, so, so, so fast around the atom --kind of like a ceiling fan that behaves like a solid when it moves quickly).
And because we are realistic-minded folks, we took a walk with our meter tool:
But we reached the end of the soccer field after only 150 meters! We "planted" our electrons ...
...with promises to return to walk the entire 500 meters (which will lead us from school grounds and into the Takilma community!).
For the third year in a row, the older elementary kids are making pen-pal friendships with kids in Ghana! Thanks to the Portland-based nonprofit Yo Ghana! for fostering relationships between students in the Pacific Northwest and Ghana.
As of "press time," we have written our first letters and are awaiting a reply!