Leaves and Trees

Whales began their study of leaves and trees this week. We started with a walk around campus, collecting leaves from the following deciduous trees: Vine Maple, Oregon Maple, Japanese Maple, Oak, Chestnut, Gingko, Cherry, Poplar and Redbud. We noticed the color, shape and size of the leaves we collected and the following day we categorized and sorted our leaves into three different groups according to the characteristics of size, type (species) and color. We were surprised to see how different our groupings looked!

The next day, we had a visit from Stacey Halpern, a biology professor at Pacific. She talked to us about the differences between evergreen and deciduous trees, and we spent time looking more closely at our evergreen “needled and bristled” trees. We were amazed and delighted as we stood beneath the Giant Sequoia tree on campus. We only just fit around the trunk of the tree!

Pumpkins and more

Whales spent time investigating pumpkins with a scientific and mathematical eye this week. We measured the height, circumference, weight, and buoyancy of different pumpkin varieties. We offered hypotheses about why a pumpkin that weighed more (and was larger!) floated, while a smaller pumpkin that weighed less sunk. Whales thought it might have to do with the number of seeds, and the amount of air inside each pumpkin. We opened both pumpkins and discovered that their hypotheses proved true!

In addition to talk of pumpkins, and a classroom full of Halloween fun, the Whales talked about poverty and hunger, and the needs of children just like them living in our community and facing food insecurity. Whale and Otter families worked together to donate over 120 items to the Pacific food pantry. After putting on our costumes, Whales and Otters walked their donations to Scott Hall, feeling a sense of purpose and pride in giving back to their community.

We finished our Halloween day with a joyful and festive parade around Berglund Hall!

Whales begin work to restore a wetland

Last week, Whales and Otters joined together to complete the first phase of restoration work on a pond owned by one of our very own ELC families. The classes have been lucky enough to be given access to the site on an ongoing basis and we are thrilled to be able to assist in the reclamation of a site previously overrun with blackberries and thistle. We look forward to watching as the site gradually becomes a thriving ecosystem, filled with diverse plants and animals that will help clean our water and improve our environment.

The two classes split into small groups and rotated through stations that included cattail dissection, laying cardboard over invasive species and planting willow shoots, completing sketches for their plans for what a healthy wetland would look like, and playing a round of “Becoming a Wetland” Bingo.

With perfect fall weather to welcome us, our first field study and restoration trip could not have been any better. Whales are environmentalists!

Whales Study Wetlands

Whales have been spending the last few weeks studying the ecosystem of wetlands. We explored wetland plants and the important role they play as water cleaners, filtering debris and chemicals as water makes its way to our rivers, lakes and oceans. We looked at the important role absorbent wetland soil plays in flood prevention.

To more fully understand the process of run-off, and the impact human actions have on the health of wetlands, Whales conducted a field study in the Cedar Classroom swale. Whales made predictions about where rain water might end up as it fell on the surrounding buildings and areas of higher elevation. They noticed that the Cedar Classroom swale was the lowest point they could see and guessed that rainwater would collect there, where it would feed the plants, absorb into the soil, and prevent their outdoor play area from flooding.

To cement the idea that what we pour down our drains matters, Whales watched as Mr. Mark poured water into the drain in the gazebo in the Cedar Classroom. Where would it go? Whales watched as the water flowed into our swale. They used their ninja listening skills to hear how the flow of water was dampened by the wetland plants in the swale.

In the Otter classroom, Whales listened as Ms. Stacey (an Otter mom, and Pacific plant biologist!) talked to us about introduced plants and the negative impact they can have on an ecosystem. Whales could see the importance of removing blackberries, thistles and other weeds during our wetland restoration trip!

As we studied wetland plants, Whales also explored wetlands as home for countless birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and insects. Through an extensive picture book study, Whales discovered that the plants that help clean the water and hold the soil, also become homes for the animals that live there. Using blocks, fabric, natural materials and their own bodies, Whales became wetland creatures, bedding down in fallen logs, nesting in tall grass, and burrowing under wetland soil. Whales are becoming wetland experts!

Mingle Math with the Whales!

That’s right…mingle a little, mix a little, do some math together! Whales have been building their number recognition, addition, and social skills through games of Mingle Math. We have been quick to discover that there are many ways to add numbers together to make the number, three, four, five, six and more! Math with friends is FUN!

All About Apples!

Whales completed their third field study this week. We went outside and cut open some of the apples growing on our trees in the piazza. Whales spent time looking at tiny details in the apple, noticing color, shape, size, seed count, seed placement and any evidence of disturbance inside the apple. Whales definitely noticed that many of the apples looked like something had been living inside!

On Wednesday, Whales arrived to bushels of apples that had to be cut into pieces for apple cider. They jumped right in, and worked together to cut all the apples. They were so proud when they finished that they gave a big appley cheer! Then they worked together to crush and press the apples to make apple cider. It was delicious!

Throughout the week, Whales have been working on re-telling the story of The Apple Cake. Their oral storytelling has stretched their skills in literacy as they work to understand the elements of story (character, setting, beginning. middle and end). To celebrate our work with the story, we made apple cake with Ms. Julie. Another delicious treat!

During classroom choice, we’ve enjoyed playing graphing, counting and addition games all based on apples.

Later in the week, Whales looked more closely at the life cycle of the Apple Codling Moth. We were excited to find one of the larvae still inside an apple we were cutting and we got to look at it through the ProScope - amazing! The Whales spent time becoming the Apple Codling Moth at carpet.

In atelier, Whales spent time appreciating the work of Henri Matisse. We talked about shape, shadow and color. They completed an apple still-life in the style of Matisse. Their paintings are beautiful!

Whales are scientists, mathematicians, writers and artists!

Whales Walk For Peace

In preparation for the International Day Of Peace, Whales and Otters gathered to talk in more detail about the concept of peace. Both classes have been working to pack their “peace toolbox” with skills they can use in their own lives when things feel tough for them and they are overwhelmed, angry or frustrated. The two classes shared some amazing ideas for what they could do to find peace, and share that feeling with others.

We also talked about the importance and power of people gathering together to make change. We talked about their role as teachers of peace. They are learning and practicing skills that many adults (and world leaders!) struggle with today.

Following a quiet meditation led by Ms. Julie, Whales and Otters walked silently to the campus Peace Rally. We witnessed lots of people gathering, asking for a world without fighting or animosity or war. We sang songs and held our Peace Posters high. Whales are ambassadors of peace!

Whales Study Sunflowers, The Limbic System, Letter Sounds, Writing Club and MORE!

Whales had a week chock-full of playing, learning and growing together. We continued to examine more closely the parts of a sunflower. We discovered that a single sunflower head contains hundreds of little tiny flowers that then turn to seeds. We used our fine motor skills and numeracy brains to pull and count a total of 340 seeds from our giant sunflower! We used our classroom Proscope to explore fine details in the stalks, heads and leaves of smaller sunflowers. We told stories of summertime together at our storytelling table and we had our first real Whale Art Studio where we learned about Vincent Van Gogh and some special techniques he used when he painted his famous Vase With Sunflowers painting. Our sunflower art is beautiful!

Whales have been working hard this week on hearing the special sounds each letter in the alphabet makes. We used our alphabet museum pieces to find miniature items that start with the same letter sound. We continue to play the Guess Who? Game, learning about our shared likes and dislikes, and the special letter sounds in our name. We also had our first real Writing Club time! Whales were so excited to add tiny details to their illustrations, and include first letter sound labels. These Whales are writers!

We continue to learn about our brain and the important job of the Prefrontal Cortex (Wise Leader), Amygdala (Security Guard) and Hippocampus (Memory Saver). We have discovered that by pausing, taking deep breaths, and stilling our bodies through quiet meditation, Whales have the ability to soften the fire of our Amygdala and use our Prefrontal Cortex and Hippocampus to learn more, be happy, stay safe and have fun!

Whales ended the week with a visit from our first Mystery Reader. What a fun surprise!

We did lots of number sense work; counting, measuring, and learning all about ten frames.

It was happy and BUSY first full week of school!

Week One With Whales Was Wonderful!

The Whales' first week was chock-full of so much learning and fun, it's impossible to write it all down, but here's a sampling!

We measured, examined, drew and shared our scientific observations of sunflowers during our first field study in the piazza. We wrote, mailed and delivered letters to our friends. We told stories about sunflower gardens and happy summer days at our storytelling table. We spent time finding out about our common likes and dislikes, while celebrating our names during our Guess Who? game. We built with blue blocks, read plenty of books (we read silently for three whole minutes!) and had our very first Whale Writers Workshop session! On Friday we talked about listening, being mindful of the sounds around us and our responses to them. We danced silently to beautiful music, throwing scarves in the air and listening to the instruments we heard in the music. We took a Listening Walk and discovered we could hear things we'd never heard before, just by being silent together.