Before we left for 100 Elk, each homeroom held a council around a theme we have been exploring since the beginning of school--defining and expanding our comfort zone. The practice of council comes from a number of indigenous cultures and takes place when a group or community gathers in a circle to converse about a specific topic. There are four intentions of council: “The first intention is to “speak from the heart” when you have the talking piece. This means to speak not only with your head and your ideas, but with your feelings as well. The second intention is to “listen from the heart” when another person has the talking piece. This means to listen without judgment, to listen with an open mind, even if you disagree with what the person is saying. The third intention is to “speak spontaneously.” This means that we try to wait before the talking piece comes to us before we decide what we want to say. The last intention is to “speak leanly.” Use only those words necessary to get your point or story across. We will hold weekly or bi-weekly council meetings in homeroom.
A couple of our classes met with our 1st and 2nd grade buddies for the first time this year and the others are planning to next week. One class explored the meaning of beauty and happiness and created watercolors and wishes to send to Elizabeth Hershoff. Another class explored the life and passion of Jane Goodall. We watched a short video together and jotted down or sketched what we saw, thought, and wondered. Next, the 5th/6th buddies read the first chapter of My Life with Chimpanzees to their 1st/2nd grade buddies. Inspired by the way Jane Goodall observed her chimpanzees in the wild, we made simple nature journals which we will use when we walk to the pond and observe in upcoming weeks.
We ended the week reflecting on our learning. You’ll see colorful slips of paper inside or outside some of our homerooms on which students responded to the following questions: What did you do as learner, friend, scientist, mathematician, historian, reader, writer, artist, technician, thinker, and/or contributor to a community? How did you do it? What did you learn?
The 40 Book Challenge has begun in Lynn, Lauren, and Rachel’s classrooms. Soon to come in Peter’s. Students have been challenged to develop themselves as avid readers by working toward a goal of reading 40 books during this school year. Students are reading self-selected books in homerooms. Lauren’s homeroom has begun reading My Life with Chimpanzees as a class novel in anticipation of Jane Goodall’s visit to Horizons on October 1st. Students are accessing and reading non-fiction in both social studies and science, including reading information on websites.
Writers’ are working toward publishing two pieces: a profile feature story about a classmate, and a vignette about a 100 Elk experience. Our lessons have supported working through a writer’s process of planning, writing a rough draft, revising, and editing. Author’s craft work has focused upon writing with imagery, organization, using strong leads, and using complex sentences.
Rachel’s math class began the year with a place value activity called Candy Crush. Data was collected by groups, organized into a table and then analyzed. This week we started using the EngageNY curriculum and they have been working further on place value. Other topics this week include rounding to the nearest 10 and 100, multiplying and dividing by 10, and solving word problems. Students also began math talks this week; solving problems in their heads (mental math) and then sharing different strategies for solving these familiar problems. Homework has just begun, so keep an eye out for nightly math homework.
In previous weeks, Julie and Lynn’s 5th grade math class has been working on building a math community of learners through a series of hands-on learning activities - you might have heard about the Great Marshmallow Challenge. This week we started using the EngageNY 5th Grade curriculum! Our focus is on place value and multiplying and dividing by 10 using a place value chart. We will be moving into decimal/fraction equivalents early next week with practical applications through word problems a part of our daily work. Daily homework has begun although some students are completing it (or much of it) in their academic lab class). By the way, Julie and Lynn are working hard to not distinguish in any way that one of our classes is more “advanced” than the other. We are working through the same curriculum and might find that the speed with which each class progresses through this curriculum from time to time may vary. However one’s rate of completion doesn’t necessarily equate to “advanced”. Thank you for your support in helping our 5th graders simply “be” with this curriculum with goals of mastering understanding, accuracy and efficiency. If we find that a student is performing above and beyond our expectations, we will supplement our class work with additional challenge materials to stretch those who are ready.
In Peter’s math class, we began investigations (including games) into number theory, including factors, multiples, primes, composites, prime factorization; order of operations, distributive property. Our goals are that students understand relationships among factors, multiples, divisors, and products; classify numbers as prime, composite, even, odd, or square; recognize that factors of a number occur in pairs; recognize situations that call for common factors and situations that call for common multiples; recognize situations that call for the greatest common factor and situations that call for the least common multiple; develop strategies for finding factors and multiples; and develop strategies for finding the least common multiple and the greatest common factor. We are using the Connected Mathematics Project which is a problem-centered curriculum promoting an inquiry-based teaching-learning classroom environment. Mathematical ideas are identified and embedded in a carefully sequenced set of tasks and explored in depth to allow students to develop rich mathematical understandings. Our focus during academic lab are problem solving strategies. This included: Guess and check; draw a pciture; make a list, table, or chart; find a pattern; and using logical reasoning. Students also set up Khan Academy accounts to facilitate self-paced learning in math.
Lauren’s class has been exploring divisibility rules and the reasons why they work using models, and later applying the rules to numbers and number theory. We’ve begun the 6th grade Connected Mathematics Project curriculum with a focus upon factors, multiples, primes and squares. Our investigations include much work around analyzing patterns and documenting thinking. Our 5th6th grade academic lab work has focused upon strategies for rounding numbers to accurately estimate, using divisibility rules and applying the order of operations, to support access to the 6th grade curriculum. Academic lab time includes 10-15 minutes for students to work on homework in a supported environment.
Social Studies - Explorations and Revolutions:
Our Social Studies class this year is affectionately called “Explorations and Revolutions”. So far we have looked at what it means to be an explorer of the our local environment, the world, history, science and technology. We have also been reviewing and enhancing our map reading skills, bringing to the forefront geographic knowledge of physical features, latitude and longitude. We have been making connections between our studies of ancient civilization last year and moving forward into previewing our focus areas of study this year using a variety of timeline activities. Next week, we’ll be moving into our study of Africa during the 1400s - including Ghana and Great Zimbabwe.
Earth Systems Science
Students have enjoyed a variety of experiences as we’ve launched into Earth Systems Science this year, studying how the four major spheres of the earth are interconnected. We’ve set up interactive science notebooks to record ideas, information and to house labs and activities from the classroom. Some of our learning has happened online through a self-paced, teacher-designed website, inviting kids to explore interactive websites, view videos and complete tasks linked to each media component. We visited a local site—our pond —to observe and document connections between the four spheres, interpreted a model of the water cycle in our classrooms, used teamwork and scientific thinking to rescue a gummy worm, and much more. Yesterday we visited the wastewater treatment plant for a two-hour up close and personal (and smelly) tour of the facility. Today, children began a STEM project designing water filters in teams, selecting materials, justifying designs and testing. We’ll finish testing the filters and write up a scientific reflection on Monday. On Monday, we begin a dance project with Erin Turnbridge, an artist-in-residence from Boulder Ballet. Join us for a student-choreographed version of Dancing the Spheres on Friday, Sept. 25th at 11:30 am!
The eyes are windows to the soul and certainly reflect what’s alive in each of us. Over the past two weeks, students have created self-portraits of their own eyes, working with Kara on the artistic skills or observation, scale, perspective and color mixing and theory. Our eyes will be watching you soon as we apply finishing touches in the coming week.
All 5-6th grade classes have been working with Carol in the computer lab on a variety of topics since the school year began. Students have (re)acquainted themselves with google email and drive so files can be used efficiently and effectively. We have taken a typing skills assessment to determine how our finger placement development, speed, and typing accuracy is coming along. We are also focusing on what makes a digital footprint, the impact of our digital presence, and conducting ourselves with integrity when online.
The 5th-8th grade PeaceJam Club has begun meeting during lunches on Tuesdays in Lynn’s room. PeaceJam is an international organization that has its roots in Denver and Horizons has had a chapter for over 10 years. It works to bring the the lessons of Nobel Peace Prize winners to young people through student developed service projects, curricular lessons and leadership conferences. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the first PeaceJam Nobel Laureate and we are proud to announce two upcoming events in conjunction with his visit to Boulder on October 21st.
I'm sure your son or daughter's stories are more vivid than the pictures below. So much gratitude to the parent chaperones on our trip for making this possible.