Whales Explore Motion, Force, Gravity and Friction!

Whales performed some hands-on exploration in the properties of physics this week. We took a short walk to the Pacific University gymnasium where we were able to spread out and engage in scientific inquiry using our whole body. We rotated through stations where we explored concepts like push, pull, gravity, motion, force and friction. Physics is great fun!

B Street Trail Field Study

Whales tried out their skills in ornithology, entomology and dendrology on Friday as we walked together to B Street Trail. Once there, students split into five groups and performed BioBlitz activities in open grassy areas, and in the branches of trees; tallying and identifying various arthropods. In another group, students practiced their bird watching skills; identifying a wide range of songbirds and raptors. Using their skills in dendrology; students identified, photographed and sketched various leaves and trees native to the Northwest. When we were tired and thirsty, we ate snack together in the sun. It was a day replete with good friends, gorgeous weather and scientific investigation!

Ho-Hum, Just Another Typical Day With The Whales!

To say that Whales are busy is a bit of an understatement. Whale teachers thought it might be nice to add a blog post that captured a "typical" day in the life of an ELC Whale. The photos don't show our amazing Writing Club, Calendar or Group Numeracy time, but they do capture lots of other important parts of our day!

In the morning, there were tree houses and ponds at the storytelling table, Praying Mantis nymphs to feed and examine at the nature table, Legos to build at engineering carpet, spring blossoms to examine under the Proscope at the technology table, a rousing game of Doubles Spin-O-Rama at the numeracy table, and letter writing to friends at the literacy table...and that's just the first hour!

Later in the day we took a Bird Bingo and Cloud Observation walk. We worked together and identified Black-eyed Juncos, Robins, Crows, House Sparrows, Song Sparrows and more! We saw Cumulus clouds in the sky and celebrated the sunshine.

We built an amazing obstacle course together and helped one another maneuver the extra tricky bits.

We made shapes with our bodies, read books together, enjoyed "camping" together in Creative Play and made silly monsters together in Atelier. It's awfully nice being a Whale!

More Weather With The Whales

Whales have been busy over the past two weeks, learning (and experiencing!) different types of weather. As the rain poured outside, Whales stayed inside and learned about the water cycle and the three different states of matter that water can exist in. After watching an experiment that showed the water cycle, Whales performed a play where they became water. They started by laying on the surface of the ocean, then evaporated into the sky, onto their chairs, condensing into clouds and then falling back again to the surface of the ocean. Later in the week, we completed three different experiments: the water cycle, cloud formation & precipitation, and thunder & lightning! That same week, we read Patricia Palacco's Thundercake and celebrated by making our own Thundercake to eat together.

But our study of weather didn't stop there. Whales were lucky enough to have a visit from a real climatologist who works for NASA! Ms. Elin shared amazing photos and stories about her work in Antarctica and Namibia, and her talk left the Whales utterly captivated! 

Just in time for some very hot weather, Whales studied the sun and the vital role it plays on our weather. As Whales became the earth and sun, they practiced their rotation (getting a better sense of what makes day and night) and their revolution; replicating the journey the earth takes around the sun to make our seasons and mark our years!

Our knowledge of weather doesn't stop there! Whales have been giving a daily weather report to their friends at the ELC. See their videos here:

Whales Explore Wind

What a perfect year to explore the weather! In the past two weeks, Whales have experienced sun, torrential rain, hail, thunder storms, and gale force winds! After studying weather gauging instruments and cloud formation, we have moved on to a study of wind. We talked about what causes wind to form, and what wind does for our earth. We conducted wind experiments; looking at concepts of force and motion as they relate to the movement of objects in wind. We did an experiment and found that air is always all around us, and wind is the movement of that air. We engineered sailboats, trying to come up with the shape and size of sail that kept the boat stable and helped it move quickly across the water. On Wednesday, we performed a play "The Wind Blew" for our Kestrel buddies - a madcap production that left everyone giggling and asking for more! Scroll down to see video of the play.

Poetry Slam with the Otters

After a week of writing poetry, Whales celebrated by asking the Otters to come for a visit. We called our gathering a Poetry Slam. We talked about the history of Poetry Slams and Poetry Readings. We had already discovered that our very best poetry emerged when we wrote about something we felt strongly about, but today we discovered that sharing our writing out loud was even more compelling. It was a celebration of our likes and dislikes, of listening and writing, eating and drinking together. Poetry is powerful!

Whales Explore Weather

Whales began their study of weather this week. We started by simply using our senses to notice things about the weather around us. We went outside and used our eyes to observe the wind moving the trees and flags, and the shape and color of the clouds in the sky. We used our ears to notice the sound of rain on the street and wind in the trees. We used our sense of touch to study the way the the sun felt on our bodies. Then, we practiced using the tools of a weather-watcher: an anemometer to measure wind, a thermometer to measure the temperature, and a rain gauge to measure rainfall. We took a cloud walk and named all the types of clouds that we saw. We learned that clouds carry small droplets of water that attach to dust and other particles in the air, and that different types of clouds can tell us different things about the weather. Whales are excited to learn enough about the weather that they can share their knowings with the ELC during a daily broadcast of Whale Weather Watchers - coming soon!

Whale Writing Club Author's Celebration

We are, we are WRITERS!! On Friday, Whales celebrated their amazing growth as writers with their biggest fans. Whale parents and friends gathered to listen to newly published stories by Whale Authors. Whales have continued to hone their skills in sequencing, elements of a story, character development, adding details, phonics, sight word use, editing, revision, and more! Whales were so proud to be able to read their own writing to such a supportive and happy audience. We ended our celebration with fancy fizzy drinks and cupcakes. Yay Whale Writers!

Whales Explore The Body

Whales spent the last two weeks learning more about their bodies. We were lucky enough to have visits from some parent-teachers who are true experts in human anatomy. We started our unit with a visit from Ali Shapiro, a nurse practitioner and Whale mom. Ms. Ali taught us about the skeletal system. She brought two skeletons for us to investigate, and we spent time talking about what various bones do to help support and protect our bodies.

With so many Whales losing their teeth, it made sense to look more closely at the structure of our teeth, and dental care. Dr. Mario Pedroza and Ms. Barrie paid us a visit and talked to us about how to properly brush our teeth (and gums!), what foods are good for our teeth, and how often we ought to brush. Later in the week we performed a science experiment, hypothesizing what might happen to the shells of eggs left in various liquids overnight. Whales learned that the shells of eggs are a lot like the enamel of our teeth, and we observed that eggs sitting in soda and apple juice became weaker and discolored, while the eggs sitting in water stayed strong and white. We learned about some of the differences between human and animal teeth and discovered that (just like the beaks of birds) the shape and structure of our teeth help us to eat the food we need to survive. No study of teeth would be complete without the Tooth Fairy, so Ms. Julie set up a magical storytelling table where we could tell the story of lost teeth. When our Kestrel buddies came to visit, we wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy and painted a picture of what she might look like. 

At the end of the week, we were lucky enough to tour Pacific's College of Optometry with Dr. Horn (a Whale dad who happens to be the Associate Dean of Academic Programs in the College of Optometry). Whales got to visit the lab, as well as the Sports Vision Clinic. We learned about parts of the eye (iris, pupil, cornea, lens and optic nerve). Dr. Horn talked about rods and cones; the photoreceptors in the eye that allow us to see, and the way that the optic nerve sends messages to the brain about what we see. He showed us some nifty optical illusions that played tricks on our eyes and brains. We feel like eye experts now!

To finish our unit on the body, we had Aaron Frye (a physical therapist and Whale dad) give us a lesson on the muscular system. Mr. Aaron answered our questions about how muscles work, how they are attached to our bones and how many muscles we have in our body. We learned what the biggest and smallest muscles in our body are, and we practiced some exercises to help strengthen our muscles. We are so lucky to be able to learn with the help of our larger Whale community! 

Leprechauns Visit The Whales Classroom!

Last week the Whale classroom was filled with talk of wee leprechauns and their rascally ways. Students spent Thursday and Friday morning engineering traps and writing letters to the leprechauns that included concrete directions for how to successfully gain entrance to the trap. 

After lunch the Whales entered the classroom to find it in a real state of disarray. The leprechauns had paid a visit! Chairs were tipped over, our writing station was torn apart and there was glitter everywhere (including the toilets!). As one Whale shared, "Those leprechauns may be small, but they sure know how to make a big mess!" Although no leprechauns stayed trapped long enough for us to talk with them, they did leave a pencil and a single chocolate coin for each student. What a happy St. Patrick's Day!




The Whales finished their study of birds this week (though we're noticing a continued interest in ornithology; with birdwatching happening during our outdoor learning time in the piazza, and out our classroom windows!). With research help from their Kestrel buddies at the Community School, the Whales have completed a beautiful Bird Encyclopedia. The book includes writing and scientific illustrations that inform the reader about bird habitat, diet, nest building, eggs, feet, beaks and more. 

We will unveil the finished book on Wednesday of next week when our Kestrel buddies visit our classroom for a book share. Make sure to ask your Whale student to share information about their Northwest Bird!

Whales Celebrate the 100th Day of School!

What tremendous fun we had as we marked the 100th day of learning and growing together! Whales made 100's posters and paper chains to decorate the classroom on Monday, so it looked like a real party when they arrived this morning. We baked some yummy brownies with Ms. Julie, engineered amazing structures with 100 paper cups, decorated 100's eyeglasses, created 100's art, wrote 100 words, drew a picture of what we might look like at 100, wrote about what we might be like at 100, did 100 exercises, and counted to 100 4 times as we marched up to the top of Berglund Hall! "Hooray for Hundreds Day!"

Dr. Seuss Day!

It was a simply wild and silly Suess kind of day! The Whales knew what to expect, and they reveled in the joyousness of the celebration. The Cat In The Hat brought along his special guests Thing 1 and Thing 2, and the Whale classroom was filled with puppet shows and games. What fun!

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.