Second graders have begun their informational writing unit and the focus is writing lab reports as scientists! This unit is quickly becoming the students’ favorite so far as they learn how to ask a question, design an experiment with multiple trials, and then make sense of their results. Our first experiment? Testing a car down a car ramp: will it go further on carpet or tile? Students discovered that the car goes further on tile due to the smoothness of the surface.

From this initial test, students are now changing one aspect of the experiment and recreating it on their own. The creativity and excitement in students as they design their own experiment is so amazing to watch! They are extremely resourceful and are figuring out how basic classroom items like a garbage can turned on its side or stacked dictionaries can open up a world of science inquiry!

The flurry of activity in Kindergarten has been heart filling! We are deep into Fairy Tales. This week, we have been concentrating on the retelling of the Three Billy Goats Gruff! What a success! The kindergarteners have been working on hands on learning! You see, the plan was to design a raft to cross the river and beat the troll to the other side! The children worked actively using simple materials – tongue depressors, small pieces of balsa wood, foam shapes, wine corks, pipe cleaners, and glue. Using their endless creativity, each student sketched a design plan onto paper, built their design using these materials, and then we let them dry. The next day, we made a prediction graph and attempted to float our experiments!!!!! This was an exciting day in Kindergarten. These children are amazing scientists exploring the language of hypothesis, prediction, and result.

Last week, in book club groups, the 3rd graders were engaged in debating ideas about characters across different texts. Students practiced the art of “respectful disagreement” as way to come to understand others’ perspectives. Throughout book club, students have been mindful of the guidelines for productive conversations (looking at the speaker, nodding or commenting to show you are listening, asking questions about what someone said, giving every voice a chance to speak, and letting the speaker finish before you start talking). During our debates, readers discussed questions such as: Which character is more _____ (trait)?, Which character is better at solving problems?, and Which character would make a better friend?  Each reader was given time to prepare for their debate by marking text evidence to support their claims. It was wonderful to see children engaged in a productive disagreement, supporting their reasons with text evidence while also opening their minds to other perspectives and ideas.

Fifth graders are currently working on writing memoirs. We are using mentor texts to discover that memoir authors typically write about emotional topics that give insight into who they are as a person, using a blend of reflective thoughts and small moment stories that bring their theme to life. One student is writing about how she doesn’t want others to speak for her while she remains hidden; she wants to speak for herself. Another is writing about how he often feels afraid when he thinks he shouldn’t. Several students are writing about loss…the loss of a much-loved pet, the loss of childhood friends after a move, the loss of a grandparent, and even the loss of a young friend to cancer.  One of the treasures of Seven Peaks is the way that students feel safe with each other, and take risks to write about topics that really matter. Thanks for being supportive, engaged families, and raising such reflective kids!

Art

In the art room the 5th grade has been busy finishing up their Renaissance themed buildings in the form of collagraph prints. Students started with a study of the Renaissance era and then looked at the art form of printing collagraphs. Their work is on display in the middle school hall in the display cabinet outside the art room. We hope that you will be able to stop by and check out their work. Their prints are displayed with their collagraph plates so you can see the whole process. We are now onto creating our traditional heritage ceramic heads! Students started with a homework assignment of talking to their parents and possibly grandparents about their family lineage. From there they chose a person or culture in their lineage of interest and are working on creating a bust of that person out of clay! Feel free to stop by the art room on Monday or Wednesday and have some fun with clay!

Fourth grade has been one busy classroom as of late. First, we concluded our study of the Circulatory System by dissecting a sheep’s heart. It is one thing to study the parts of the heart on paper, but when you can touch and cut into a real heart, then you can truly understand how it works. This dissection could never have occurred without seven 4th grade parent helpers and Ms. Brannon, the 7/8th grade Science teacher. This is one of the reasons why Seven Peaks is so special. Parents are always willing and able to assist in so many ways. Plus, the teachers at Seven Peaks collaborate often to create stimulating learning opportunities for our students.

Fourth grade has also been working diligently with their kindergarten buddies on designs for our new “Design Lab”. Mrs. Cauble and I have been so impressed with the creative ideas and energy the children have. They can’t wait to get the lab up and running.

Finally, we are about to depart on our overnight field trip to Camp Hancock. Camp Hancock is an OMSI field station located in Fossil, Oregon. This field trip coincides with our next Core Knowledge unit- Geology. This is always a highlight of the fourth grade year. Hands-on learning while having a ton of fun with your classmates!

Art

In the art room 4th grade has been busy finishing up their myths! Students learned about myths and why they were invented. Then they wrote their own mythological story and drew out their mythical creatures. Finally they put them all together and they are now posted in the MS wing near the art room for viewing! Come by and check them out. 4th was then busy with creating the beautiful art the was recently sold in the auction! Their birds were full of character and expression and I can’t wait to see who gets to take the wonderful piece home. Currently, students are working on marbling paper and creating a wonderful circus themed “fancy cycling” work with trick bike riders! Look for these lovely works of art in our quickly approaching Annual Art Show!

Core Knowledge is focused on The Revolutionary War this month and we have learned a lot about what it might be like if you were a colonist at that time. The kids have enjoyed immersing themselves in stories about the causes and happenings of the war including the Boston tea party, taxation without representation and the ride of Paul Revere. To help the students understand why the colonist were so upset by the King’s unfair taxes we held a day of taxation in first grade. Mrs. Adams and myself were the kings and the class had to pay all the taxes that we imposed. Armed with coin purses full of coins the class was taxed at every turn. They had to pay to do everything and anything. It was fun to see the kids learn how to ration their money and how much they sided with the colonist at the end of the day. Having the idea of taxation brought to life this way make learning so much fun and created a memory that won’t soon be forgotten!

Anniversary gala success

I’m still feeling renewed and inspired by the tremendous success of last weekend’s 20th anniversary celebration. Not only did we have an incredible turnout, we also exceeded our fundraising goal of $100,000 to support the design innovation movement we’re creating for our students. Most importantly, we shared an extraordinary sense of community centered on our belief in a school that challenges and inspires every child and creates a true sense of belonging. I want to thank our founders for being part of the celebration, our staff member Stephanie Erickson for her expertise and coordination, and also our fantastic parents, Anne Mastalir and Sarah Douglass for their leadership and passion in co-chairing this event. Take a minute to view the photos from the gala.

Let’s talk middle school

Recently, I was talking with a friend about her child’s middle school experience outside of SPS and it reminded me that middle school can be a challenging time for any student at any school. It’s a time when friendships mean more than almost everything else and those friendships can be volatile as adolescents explore their identities. As parents and educators, we work to maintain the delicate balance between encouraging independence and providing support and guidance. Our goal at SPS is to create a middle school learning environment that is safe and welcoming, but still provides a real world context. We feel fortunate to offer the only independent middle school IB program in Central Oregon to help us do that.

SPS plans for next year

We have some important work to do in growing our enrollment over the next several months, but I’m extremely confident that we can sustain and build our Seven Peaks School family. We are actively working with existing families to finalize re-enrollment for next year and reaching out to prospective families that have expressed interest in our school. We have also been enhancing our online presence with a new website and digital marketing campaign. In addition, we are engaged in public relations efforts to increase our visibility and reputation within the Central Oregon community. If you know families who might be a good fit for our school, please encourage them to get to know us. We have monthly tours, parent information nights and student visitation days and would appreciate your help in growing our unique K-8 school community. The application deadline is March 16.

Math

One of the biggest holidays in the world of mathematics takes place this week. March 14, also known as Pi Day (3/14 or 3.14) to those in the math community is a day to celebrate any and all things round. This Tuesday the students will discover how the number Pi (3.1415926…) is derived, use Pi to calculate the area and circumference of a variety of round objects, sing Pi Day carols, compete to see who can memorize and recite the most digits of pi (I have had students recite over 100 digits) and the activity that the students like best of all is eating round pie, even if r2.

Language Arts

What an incredible couple of weeks we’ve had in Language Arts! As the 8th graders get closer to spreading their wings and flying off to high school, we’ve been working on the skills and strategies that will help them be successful, most notably on-demand writing. While the students have been exposed to on-demand writing in the past at Seven Peaks, this month we’re narrowing our focus to the types of on-demand writing the kids can expect not just in their high school courses (where the turn-around time for assignments will be much more limited) but also on the PSAT, SAT, and ACT exams, about which they have a TON of questions.

My overarching goal is three-fold:

  • To ease stress and anxiety about timed-writing situations
  • To increase comfort and familiarity with the forms of writing they’ll encounter in testing

To boost confidence and scores on standardized writing testsTo that end, we’re working specifically on unpacking writing prompts; demystifying the test environment (I’ve discovered this is a big one for the class); examining scorers’ expectations; analyzing scored samples for comparison; and planning and prioritizing our time during a timed-writing task. When we’re finished, the kids will have written on-demand pieces in several genres: narrative, opinion, and literary response (including our summative Alas, Babylon piece).

It’s been a great, collegiate experience for us–a really great vibe in the classroom with a focus on empowering the 8th graders as thinkers and writers.

Humanities

The students are continuing to work on our Cold War project and realizing/making connections to our world today. Interestingly, the evening after discussing some research the students completed on McCarthyism and other topics, the nightly news had the story about President Trump tweeting about McCarthyism – what a great connection, so timely. We continue to explore current events including North Korea, the CIA and FBI, as well as wiki-leaks. I have asked students to look for and bring in any news articles they find on these subjects. Help steer them to them if you can.

Along with the facts on McCarthyism the students are writing arguments to prove their innocence against false accusations. This will lead them to a summative writing exercise of how they would defend themselves if called to testify before Joseph McCarthy based on false accusations of their involvement with communism.

The students are working in groups of two and three on their Cold War websites and they are coming along great. Take the time to ask them to pull up the site, show you what they are including and learning, and ask them questions to explain.

Thursday and Friday the students looked at actual declassified documents from the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were source analysts helping make decisions on how to approach the intelligence gathered regarding Soviet missiles being placed in Cuba. This look at primary documents was a great way to involve students in the history we are studying.

Science

8th graders are currently in the middle of our Electricity and Magnetism unit – a unit I really enjoy teaching because of all the real-world applications it provides! After building many types of circuits and exploring interactions between magnetic fields, we moved on to our first of two applications of these topics – electric motors. Students were challenged to use their knowledge of electricity and motors to deconstruct and rewire the circuitry of an electric toothbrush to create a moving robot. While I was there to help groups with problems and challenges, it was a 100% student driven activity. Every “robot” ended up looking different, working differently, and moving at different speeds and directions! While this activity largely focuses on electricity and magnetism, it also encourages students to use their prior learning from our Forces and Motion unit to create a design that minimized friction and air resistance. We ended the activity with a friendly class competition to see which robot moved the furthest in 30 seconds, and I must say, I was very impressed with their designs and success during this challenge!

We are now transitioning into a second application of electricity and magnetism, generators. We will spend the next few days exploring electromagnets, where we will have our second Criterion B and C assessment of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing how much students have grown in these two areas on this next assessment. The unit will end with a project about the benefits and consequences of electrical power generation in different areas of the world.

Art

In the art room the 8th grade class has been busy finishing their self portraits! They did an amazing job and I am anxiously awaiting wall space to display them in the middle school wing. We have since launched into a drawing unit on perspective. We are studying and practicing different aspects of perspective, learning the rules to drawing in 1 pt, 2 pt, and 3 pt perspective then getting creative with ways to break the rules of perspective and create something original to each student for their summative final!  Perspective is all around us all the time and their are so many ways to express and show it in art. Look forward to seeing how these 8th grade students explore their options with this final project!