This year saw its share of poorly sharpened pencils!
Like leads that leapt from the tip, or the pencil that needed to donate half its body to the sharpener before it could create its first sharp point:
Or the pencil that Just. Would. Not. Sharpen. Ever.
Our school isn't resource-rich. We can't continue to afford buying sharpeners that break easily, or never worked properly in the first place. So when I read a positive online review of a manual pencil sharpener by Classroom Friendly Supplies, I was understandably and absolutely skeptical. The folks at Classroom Friendly Supplies have a deal, however -- they'll send a free pencil sharpener to teachers who blog, so long as we review the sharpener online. Honest reviews are essential, so an honest review I will give, of 3 Pros and 3 Cons/Concerns:
1. Pencils are nice and sharp. Our pencils are now so sharp that I annoying pull my teacher friends into the classroom just to show off. "See?? Can you see?? Look how SHARP they are!!!" Said teacher friends are intrigued, possibly planning a purchase.
2. Replaceable parts. Need a replacement blade? New shavings tray? Another clamp? It feels groundbreaking --rebellious, even, in our throwaway culture-- to have the ability to replace a broken part, rather than buy an entire new sharpener.
3. An innovative method of sharpening pencils: clamp the pencil in place, then rotate the handle to sharpen without gripping the pencil. The handle releases once the pencil is sharp. Easy.
3 CONs or Concerns
1. It's too soon to tell.
Classroom Friendly Supplies requests that teachers review their sharpeners within 30 days of receipt. This is that review. Yet how well will the sharpener function next October, or May?
2. Wall-mounted design would have been nice.
The hardware lets you clamp the sharpener to a table or bookshelf. It has already popped off a half dozen times. Are we using it incorrectly and causing this problem? Not sure. The clamp is easily reattached, so not a big deal. There is a permanent mount available for $14.99, yet only mounts horizontally, not vertically on the wall.
3. The innovative sharpening method requires a learning curve for the kids and teacher.
To sharpen a pencil, one must pop out the clamp, open the clamp and insert the pencil, rotate the handle to sharpen, then release the clamp to remove the pencil. It's not rocket science but it has taken time to learn this new method. If this method helps ensure a super-sharp point, increases the longevity of the blade, or uses less wood to sharpen the pencil (and I suspect it does all three), then learning this method works for us.
The kids love their finely sharpened pencils, and I am relieved to have a reliable sharpener, yet also cautious. In this era of planned obsolescence, can manufactured objects endure for years, or even decades, as they once did? I will post an update in 6 months, and again in one year, to let you know how it's going.
We're trying to measure everything: the temperature outside our classroom window, the rainfall that collects in front of the school office, the circumference of the hill, the area of the slab. We're also trying to measure everything about US!: our height, our weight, our digit (width of one finger), our palm (width of four closed fingers), our span (with fingers spread, the distance from our thumb to our pinky), and our cubits (with arms bent, the length from our elbow to the tip of our longest finger).
Into this discussion comes the difference between standard and nonstandard units of measurement, and why standard units of measurement are preferred (which is pretty easy to understand when we line up our cubits to each other's!). Bill Nye the Science Guy helped us out. So did NASA.
We also compared the U.S. system of using inches, feet, yards, and miles (etc.) to most of the rest of the world, who likes to divide life into meters. Did you know the length of a meter is the distance between the North Pole and the Equator, divided up 10,000 times? Scientists calculated the estimated distance from pole to equator, divided that number by 10,000, and said "Voila! Let's turn this into a meter stick!!"
And who doesn't want to measure FOOD! Today we studied cups, pints, quarts, and gallons -- and all the tricky ways to convert from one to the other, with the help of Cuisenaire Rods, a refresher on fractions, and our trusty Miquon Mathematics workbooks. Finally, we each measured 2 teaspoons of sarsaparilla root, 1 teaspoon of anise seeds, and 1/2 stick of sweet cinnamon bark into a big pot, covered it with water, and boiled our medicinal decoction! The pot and its plant-medicine contents will sit overnight. Tomorrow we'll strain out the plant debris, add carbonated water, and enjoy a homemade batch of Healthy Root Beer Tonic!
Clearly our Measurement Week will last longer than 7 days. Maybe May will become our Measurement Month??
Here's a few pics:
The Amethyst Kids hopped into cars headed for the coast last week, as we drove two hours to Wolf Creek Education Center in Redwood National Park. Our 11 kids spent three days in field studies with interpretive rangers and two nights in cozy cabins named for the Wapiti Roosevelt Elk and Marbled Murrelet Birds. We studied wetlands, prairies, and old-growth forests for a total of nine hours of outdoor learning! Wow. (Not to mention our night hike, solo hike, Banana Slug hike, impromptu theatrical performance, and playing games inside and atop ancient tree stumps!).
Many parents joined us, but some could not ... which leads to this "fly on the wall" moment. I videotaped 13 minutes during our wetlands field study, thinking of the parents who wanted to be with us, but couldn't. This video is for them:
Today we gallivanted over to Crescent City for the day to meet marine mammals at the North Coast Marine Mammal Center. Thank you to volunteer Lee, a retired 'old school' teacher who talked story for our elementary class. After we ate our sandwiches and splashed in the waves on this serendipitously sunny beach day.
Our science podcast this week ("Animal Superheroes" by NPR's Wow in the World) included the challenge to write down at least one more fact than we wrote down last week. Kava took the Super Challenge and tackled 20 facts! Congrats, Super Notetaker!
Local beekeeper and Dome School mama Joy visited this afternoon to answer our (many, many) questions about bees, assisted by her beekeeper daughters Tulsi and Sage!
A group of AMAZING Dome School children awoke before the sun on Saturday for the 90-minute mountain drive to North Medford High School. The Oregon Battle of the Books Regional Competition began at 8, and we couldn't be late!
Congratulations to our 3-5 Division Team and Supporters for inaugurating the Dome School's first-ever 3-5 Division Team! After only three days of democratic decision-making, the team named themselves the Sea Serpents.
Sweet wishes, as well, to our 6-8 Division Team and 9-12 Division Team, who rolled into town in their un-schoolbus!
The Amethyst Kids in our 3-5 Division were tasked with a 16-book reading list and remembering detailed information for the battle. Sample question: In the book I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens 1980 by Lauren Tarshis, how many cars were in the parking lot the first time the children visited the cabin? (!!!)
Our goal this year was simply to form an OBOB team, compete in the regional battle, and HAVE FUN!! We made our goal with enthusiasm! Our goal next year is that every team member reads all 16 books! The 2018-2019 OBOB list has already been published, and we are reading to go, er, rearing to go!
Here is a photo from the competition. It's quite a blurry, less-than-enthusiastic photo, but it's the only one I took because it was just as the battle commenced and I was trying to be discreet. (If you've got a more-lovely pic, please send it my way!):
Oregon lost a literary great in January, the wonderful Ursula LeGuin.
In honor of LeGuin, who spent most of her adult life in Portland, Kaci has begun reading the children's fantasy A Wizard of Earthsea to the Amethyst Kids.
As posted in The Guardian (2003):
Long before Harry Potter came along, Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea imagined what a school for wizards would be like. Ged, its hero, will become the Archmage of a world in which magic is as common as electricity, but this is a tale from before that time.
Ged, a poor smith's son, is born with a huge talent that he uses to save his village from invaders, but his gifts make him arrogant and impatient. At wizard school, he makes one friend and one enemy, and in a duel summons a monster that scares him and sends him on a deadly quest across the lonely seas full of peril. With the moral, intellectual and supernatural power to outwit dragons, resist evil, change weather and transform himself into a hawk, he is apparently defenseless against an enemy who increasingly takes on his appearance to trick or kill him. How he defeats his enemy is wholly unexpected, yet completely right because, like all great quests, it involves confronting the dark side of the hero's nature: "Only in silence the word / Only in dark the light."
Throughout my life, I have been drawn to this, particularly when suffering from depression. I think many children suffer much more from it than has been generally recognized, but if you're given a story in which you're made to see that you can only find light in the heart of darkness, you find hope and healing...
The most thrilling, wise and beautiful children's novel ever, it is written in prose as taut and clean as a ship's sail. Every word is perfect, like the spells Ged has to master. It poses the deep questions about life, death, power and responsibility that children need answering. Both story and language lie at its heart, for it contains allusions to fragmented legends about the tragedies of heroes and heroines, and the world of Earthsea itself was summoned by speech. This gives Le Guin's world the mysterious depths of Tolkien's, but without his tiresome back-stories and versifying.
Nobody has ever described the wonder and terror of dragons, dancing on the wind "like a vast black bat, thin-winged and spiny-backed", with such conviction. Although many children will identify with Ged's angry arrogance, I particularly love it, because it enacts the journey that every true artist must travel. It's not enough to be born with talent: you have to learn the craft and humility by which it can be used to create, heal and protect rather than mangle, corrupt and destroy. That's what Ged does, with great pain but to resounding triumph.
We pretzel ourselves up anxiously over math, don't we? How difficult, how esoteric it seems to be. But we forget.
Math is how we first counted the cycles of the moon, the cycles of women's blood.
Math is how music knows when the beat bites into halves, quarters, or eighths.
Math is how the hurricanes and snails secretly figured they'd swirl in the same shape.
Math is how the weaver -- in human and spider form -- knows which patterns bear repeating.
Math is the scientist's shorthand, the cookie baker's cup, the toe-tapper's beat.
Math has been made by everyone since we started time.
Math belongs to everyone.
Math lives well beyond the textbooks. In school we try to notice that math around us, within us. Yet it's true -- the math book is where we often turn to make our math. Thankfully we have found Miquon Mathematics. A few ways that we are finding Number, Pattern, Rhythm, and Shape as we work with Miquon:
Elementary Newsletter for the week of
*Melissa and Kaci went on a marathon blogging session last week! If you haven’t visited our website lately, come on by! Www.ElementsofElementary.Webbly.Com (Our blog is the “Domie Diary” tab) Math musings, time tellings, science podcasts, Dance-A-Thon $, clay creations, and more…
*Due to family travels, our Scientific Coastal Field Trip has been moved back to Tuesday, April 17. More details to come!
*Amethyst Kids sent their 2nd pen pal letters to our friends in Ghana! This year we are paired with teenagers in Muslim-majority Tamale, the fastest growing city in Western Africa!
*This Wednesday we have been invited to join a kids science live-cast, where we join other school children around the country on-line, asking scientists all sorts of questions about CAVES! Unfortunately, this real-time web-cast is streaming from the East Coast and therefore runs early. (CavesLive is this Wednesday 9am-9:45am in the Amethyst Room, if you can get to school early. If not, no worries. Join anytime before 9:45am)
*Our OBOB Team competes this Saturday in Medford! Please wish our 3-5 Division Team (Airabella, Skylar, Felix, Kailen, and Kava) the best of luck! We’ll also be joined by the Secondary Program 6-8 Division Team and the 9-12 Division Team. Here’s to an Oregon Battle of the Books OBOB-o-licious week!
*Last week the students were given an amazing opportunity with our local radio station. We recorded Station IDs for 105.7 KXCJ-LP. It was awesome! We shall do it again. Station IDs play at the beginning of each hour, so keep your ears tuned for some familiar voices!
Save the Dates
* Wednesday 3/14 9am-9:45am Amethyst Room: Caves Live Webcast
*3/26-3/30 Spring Break
*Tuesday 4/17 Scientific Coastal Field Trip to Crescent City: North Coast Marine Mammal Center and South Beach
*April TBA Spring Curriculum Night
*Wed.-Friday 4/25-27 Science Camp (3rd-5th)
*Saturday 4/28 Open House (School wide! Free!)
*Saturday 5/5 Secondary Students perform “Frida”
*5/10ish Elementary Students perform “Oceans Murder Mystery Dinner”
*This past Friday the Elementary Crew went on an incredible field trip! We had a jam packed day that started at the Oregon Vortex House of Mystery in Gold Hill, continued down south to Medford for a quick lunch and ice skating at the RRRink, to finally conclude the day with a trip back up north to Grants Pass to see “A Wrinkle In Time”!!! Phew, what a day we had. Thank you so much to all of the parents who joined us for the day! Your enthusiasm and support make our students that much more involved with their educational experience...this is the joy that drives us as teachers!
Every Monday in the Amethyst Room, we practice our listening skills while learning science. Our oceanic theme this year has (usually) focused our inquiries to the oceans, seas, and what lies beneath the depths of these. Our favorites are two science podcasts geared towards children: Brains On, by American Public Media, and Wow in the World by National Public Radio. Here's a sample of topics we have studied:
These science podcasts rely on the curious minds of young people to help shape the podcast topics, so we have been brainstorming questions, such as: How were humans created a long time ago? How smart are dogs? What was the first thing that the first animals ate? After we finish compiling our questions, we will our email science questions to Brains On!
After listening, we discuss and write what we learned. Here's what we wrote about the Great Barrier Reef and its defining animal, the coral:
(The photos were taken by the kids).
The awesome 1st and 2nd grade kids are presenting their ocean species projects this week, and it reminded me that I never quite got around to posting photos from the Amethyst kids' ocean species presentations in December (oops!). Without further ado:
We are surrounded by giving souls, and lucky we are. Each week Teacher Terry, a local sculptor and artist, gifts his time to the Elementary Class. Thursday mornings children in 1st and 2nd grade create clay from the time breakfast ends 'til lunch begins. Friday mornings it's the 3rd-5th crowd who chisel, create, and converse!
(A) To begin, what is your heart telling you to create?
(B) We hone our fine motor skills, learning precision through fingertips:
(C) With patience, persistence, and either turning to the quiet of our inner mind or the sinew of socializing, our creation completes:
Learning how to tell time can be such a daunting task. We have been taking on a multi-sensory approach in the 1st/2nd grade classroom...a large clock to practice with whole group setting, personalized clocks to add an element of ownership to each student's learning process and lastly skip counting hopscotch to give a bodily kinesthetic intelligence option. Each project has been helping the students to grasp a foundation to this critical skill.
Free flow arts on Tuesdays! We have one more class with Xoe next week. Come on out between 3-5pm and join the flow!
Books and such teach us so much, but there's nothing quite like the learning gleaned from the road. Lucy and family just returned from a two-week odyssey through the Southwest! Lucy kept a daily diary, recording her observations and opinions as the family road-tripped from place to place. She shared her diary with us today and fielded questions from her curious classmates.
The Domie Diary