Feather Study and Bird Olympics!

During our study of birds, Whales examined the structure of a feather. We discovered that birds have many different kinds of feathers on their body, and each feather serves a specific purpose. We looked at stiff compound feathers from the tail and wing, and soft downy feathers that provide insulation close to the bird's body. With a scientist's eye, we drew illustrations of both kinds of feathers, looking closely at details like color, shape, texture and line.

Later in the day, Whales participated in Bird Olympics as they got the chance to stare like Great Horned Owls, fly like American Kestrels, flap their wings like Rufous Hummingbirds, stand on one foot like Great Blue Herons, and compare their wingspan to that of the Bald Eagle. Whales discovered first hand the amazing adaptations that birds in the Pacific Northwest use everyday to survive in their habitat. What fantastic, learning fun!

Migration Obstacle Course & Bird Adaptation with Jackson Bottom Wetlands

Whales finished up their study of migrating animals by spending some time talking about the obstacles birds sometimes face as they migrate. Our Creative Play area was filled with squawking, clicking, chirping, honking birds making their way under windows, around tall buildings, over power lines, streets, and polluted water to eventually dodge a hungry cat! We ended the lesson with a discussion about why birds are important for our earth, and ways humans can help birds migrate safely. 

To launch our study of birds, Ms. Diane from Jackson Bottom Wetlands visited the Whale classroom and shared an amazing lesson about birds. The conversation at carpet concentrated on questions like,  how are birds different from other animals? Where do they live?  What do they need in order to survive? Students then broke into small groups and engaged in hands-on activities that allowed them to imagine "eating like a bird". They discovered that the shape and size of a bird's beak was essential to their survival in a specific habitat. 

Whales Are Teachers

Whale students spent time this week sharing more about their migrating animals. We compared the distance that various animals migrate, and we discovered that all migrating animals move from North to South and back again. Whales discussed places on the globe they knew were warmer and cooler, and decided that one of the main reasons animals migrate is to stay warm!

In Whale Writing Club, we had three friends present a mini-lesson we called "Writing In A Fish Bowl". Club members thought it was fascinating (and inspiring!) to watch their friends write a sentence in their newest piece of writing. We learned that good writers share their techniques in order to grow in their craft. We are becoming amazing writers together!



Whales Study Migration

Whales began their study of migrating animals this week. Each student chose a migrating animal and completed some research at home. Students looked at their animal's path of migration on a map, and shared any other facts they discovered about breeding, diet, or physical characteristics. During an "art in" morning, Whales painted their animals, using the skills of a scientific illustrator; paying attention to small details like color size, shape and scale.

To begin our study of migration, Whales looked more closely at a bird they are familiar with, the Canada Goose. We noticed the way that geese fly, the sounds they make as they travel, and the direction they fly when the weather gets chilly. Whales went out onto the campus and practiced flying like geese (in a southerly direction) making plenty of noise and honking madly at one another. One Whale remarked that "Hibernation is much easier than migration. I'm tired!"

Later in the week Whales shared what they learned about their migrating animals. We listened to the sounds that various migrating birds make, and worked hard to replicate the sound as a class. We compared the sounds of the Humpback and Gray whale, and measured the length of both (50 feet!) discovering that it took 13 ELC Whales to equal the length of one Humpback or Gray whale! During our classroom choice time, Whales played a migration game together, using skills of measurement, counting and literacy. 

On Friday Whales got to watch a special performance given by the Otters class, all about the life cycle and migration pattern of the Chinook Salmon. It was amazing! The Otters even managed a question and answer period, fielding interesting observations and "wonderings" from the Whales. 

Hibernation With The Whales

After weeks of research and inquiry, Whales presented their hibernation sites and shared some very interesting facts with their preschool friends at the ELC! Whales shared information about four Northwest animals that hibernate: Black Bear, Northwest Painted Turtle, Little Brown Bat & Garter Snake. Whales spent time researching their animals, then worked together to create realistic habitats that captured the process of hibernation beautifully. It was a whole lot of work, but as one Whale said, "It felt awesome to share all the stuff we know!" 

Engineering Morning With The Whales

Whales flexed their engineering muscles as they worked in pairs to provide a safe and secure place for a bear to flee when being chased by a predator. Using only 40 paper cups and 12 sheets of construction paper (neither of which could be altered in any way) Whales worked together to draw a sketch of a design they believed could be built tall enough to allow the bear to escape, and strong enough to support its weight. The process was a lot of fun, and allowed students to collaborate, plan, problem-solve, create, test, evaluate and redesign.

Peace Ceremony and Author's Celebration


To commemorate our recent work in peace, Whale students and their families took a meditative walk through the university campus. On the walk, students placed their handmade Traveling Peace Stones in Trombley Square. The stones were part of the Whales' plan to help spread peace across the Pacific University campus. Each child wrote a single word that best represented peace to them. The words they chose included forgiveness, love, joy, peace, happiness and kindness. They said their word while placing their stone on the ground one at a time. Holding hands and singing songs of peace, we walked back to the ELC where Whales shared their Peace Flags. On each flag was an illustration and quote by Whale students; their own special wish they were sending out to the world. The Peace Flags are now hanging in the entryway of the ELC. We hope you'll take a moment to read them. We promise you'll be moved and inspired by Whale students' drawings and words!


Following the Peace Ceremony, Whale authors shared their newly-published works with their families. Together, we toasted the amazing accomplishments of our newest writers. We celebrated their use of detail in illustration, the elements of story (remembering to include a beginning, middle and end), the use of labels to help the reader identify parts of the illustration, and their use of phonics and sight words to begin to compose sentences on their own. Whales are WRITERS!



Baking, Sewing, Painting - Whales End 2016 Thinking Of Others

The Whales had a surprisingly abrupt (but very exciting!) finish to their final day of school for 2016. Before leaving in whirls of snow, the Whales managed to finish making their Peace Stones. They plan to leave their stones on the University campus to help inspire others to consider love, peace, kindness, joy and forgiveness (all words the Whales believed were helpful in finding peace). They also finished making their painted hands for the Youth Uplift Project Project http://studentsrebuild.org/youthuplift which helps support Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon. Their work didn't stop there! The Whales also had time to write letters to their pen pals from Mooberry Elementary School, compose Christmas letters to their families, finish sewing their family Christmas gifts, do some baking with Ms. Julie, share in some Mingle Math, read the story of the Gingerbread Man on their own together, and finish the day with a giant sight word snowball fight. We're looking forward to seeing everyone in 2017. Stay warm and safe! 


We began our day with flurries of beautiful and magical snow. There was so much excitement in the classroom that it simply could not be ignored - we needed to go outside! We enjoyed a snowball fight and made snow angels together. We came back to the classroom wet, tired and full of joy. Happy snow day!



Wintertime Fun!

The Whales classroom is filled with glittering, magical, snowy wintertime fun!

In numeracy we've been exploring the concept of addition as putting together, and subtraction as taking apart. Using glittery pieces of snow and ice, we've been looking at the number 11 and 15 this week. Whales have discovered that there are so many ways to create the numbers by adding two, three, four, even 8 numbers together! When we began to explore the concept of subtraction, we split into two groups. Ms. Ellie told a story about a blizzard, and some friends disappeared in the storm! Whales had to decide how many of their friends were gone. Whales had lots of practice in sharing their mathematical thinking with their friends.

Whales have been studying the popular holiday plant poinsettia. We have learned that the red and green foliage of the plant is actually leaves and not petals. Whales looked with a scientific eye as they painted and drew the plant, looking hard at the shapes and colors they saw. Whales will explore the history of poinsettias next week. 

On Wednesday, Whales were surprised to find that a lovely gold package had been placed on our reading couch. Ms. Ellie and Ms. Julie had no idea who had placed the package there. We all could see the glitter leading to the beautifully wrapped box, and many of the Whales were convinced it was left there by a fairy. We could hardly wait to open the package during our classroom meeting. When we opened the box, we discovered a beautiful letter from Felicity The Handwriting Fairy, along with sweet little penmanship books, nifty markers, and our own mechanical pencils! Along with the books and writing utensils, Felicity gave us some very special magic fairy dust that helps us slow our hands down and write our letters beautifully!!

Goldilocks & The Three Bears

During the past three weeks, Whales have been busy exploring the well-known story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. We have listened to various renditions of the fairytale, noting differences in story line, characters, and setting. We have performed the play with hand and stick puppets, and have re-created the fable together at our storytelling table. With such a deep understanding of the storyline, Whales were more than ready to try their hand at performing a drama production for their friends at the ELC. We had three dress rehearsals; allowing for plenty of students to try out their thespian skills. Along with actors in each production, we had students that helped with props and costuming. 

As Whales were performing the story they were busy working on the following skills:

  • receptive and expressive language skills
  • expanding their capacity for imagining
  • building their attention and engagement capacity
  • practicing problem solving skills with their peers
  • building their working vocabulary
  • understanding the concept of sequencing and the elements of a story
  • increasing their confidence when speaking in front of others.

Whales agreed that when performing the play for their friends they felt "excited, happy and proud." It was a celebratory ending to a spectacular week!

More Leaves!

Whales continued their study of leaves and trees this week. We sorted our collected leaves according to species, color, and size. We worked in groups and collectively decided how to complete our sorting task; then shared our findings with friends. We looked at leaves and mosses with our Proscope and could see the veins running through the leaves. We explored the concept of symmetry as we drew various leaf shapes. We went on a tree, leaf and seed scavenger hunt and found maple leaves, samaras, oak leaves, acorns, chestnut leaves, chestnut seeds, gingko leaves, poplar leaves, sweet gum leaves, sweet gum seeds, fir trees and their hard spiky cones. Whales are enjoying honing their skills in dendrology! 

Studying Leaves & Trees

The Whales began a study of leaves and trees this week. We started by noticing differences and similarities in trees. We looked closely at the bark, and noticed the shape and color of many different leaves. We were curious to see that some trees were still green, while others had lost all their leaves. Whales will delve more deeply into their leaf and tree inquiry next week. Be sure to ask your budding dendrologist to share their wonderings and discoveries with you!

Halloween Parade!

Halloween Monday with the Whales was rollicking good fun! We started the morning making masks and giving our Halloween characters a voice as we sounded out words to include on speech bubbles. We played a spooky counting game with flies and spiders, created our own Halloween stories at the storytelling table, acted out Five Little Pumpkins, danced to The Monster Mash, and of course ended the day with a fantastic Halloween Parade!

The Happiness of Autumn Days

Following our family trip to the pumpkin patch, Whales began exploring pumpkins together. We spent time noticing details about the outside of pumpkins.  We began by drawing a scientific illustration of the pumpkin we were examining, taking special care to draw precisely what we saw. We measured the height and circumference, and counted the lines that ran down the side of our pumpkin. We spent time estimating the weight of our pumpkin. We made predictions about how many seeds were hidden inside, and whether our pumpkin would sink or float. Our discoveries were surprising and led to plenty of wonderings and hypothesis to share.

The beautiful fall weather on Friday made the Whales want to dance! We learned to do The Twist, we did a little square dancing to Turkey In The Straw, we took a nice long walk across the campus to deliver compost and get in a quick game of "Eatakidasaurus". What tremendous fun!



Celebration of Community

What a celebration of togetherness, happiness and learning we had in the Whales classroom on Thursday evening! Whale families got cozy together, spending time reading published works by their favorite Whale authors, playing numeracy games, exploring pumpkins with Proscopes, learning about peacefulness, making Ghost Cards, and eating Whale-made pumpkin bread! We are indeed a community of learners and friends! 

Pumpkin Patch & Tie Dye Day!

Whales have been waiting all week to make their own tie-dyed masterpieces. Without hesitation, they dove right in and began squirting and blending their colors on their tees and pillowcases; transfixed by the process of watching the fabric absorb and spread the vibrant hues Mr. Mark had mixed. We can hardly wait to see our finished projects!

As if the day wasn't exciting enough, we capped it off with a trip to the Pumpkin Patch. What fun it was to celebrate this season with our entire ELC community!

The Ten Stick Cha-Cha & Kestrel Buddies

The Whales celebrated our 30th day of school with a dance around the room celebrating the magic point at which the ones pack their bags and move to the tens place! We read the book entitled Zero, did the Ten Stick Cha-Cha, and topped the celebration off with a march around Berglund Hall, counting to 100 by tens. What good numeracy fun!

The Kestrels (our big buddies at The Community School) came to visit today. We spent some time getting to know one another as we filled out Buddy Books together. The Kestrels will visit every other Wednesday throughout the remainder of the school year. We are looking forward to the chance to learn and grow together!

Whales Make Peace Puppets

Whales continued their exploration of peace this week, expanding their understanding of how peacefulness affects their body and their mind. We gathered in small groups and brainstormed ideas for what peace felt like, looked like, and sounded like. We wrote letters to one another, sharing reasons we appreciate one another. Whales experimented with ways they could find a sense of peace in their own bodies as Ms. Julie led them through a visualization story, and practiced guided meditation together. After another puppet show with Jonathon and Nicole (two friends who are trying to learn about peace), Whales decided that they would like to make their own Peace Puppets. We spent Thursday morning creating our own puppets. After becoming such experts on peacefulness, the Whales have been asked to perform some puppet shows about kindness and peace for the Sharks and Dolphins. What fun!

The More We Get Together! Whales Talk About Peace

Whales began their week playing games that encouraged collaboration and teamwork. We rolled back the blue carpet and put together many floor puzzles during classroom choice time. We worked together to sort out all the Unfix cubes by color, then worked together to create patterns with those same Unifix cubes. We wrote appreciation letters to friends, sharing those things that we love most about one another. We watched a puppet show about friends who struggled with strong feelings, and Whales helped the puppets make some new choices that encouraged peace. Whales brainstormed ideas for things that made them feel peaceful. We discovered that though not all friends find the same things to be peaceful, there are plenty of things we could all agree made our hearts happy together!