Saturday, December 16, 2017

Seabury Strong

Each year I find myself humbled by the kindness and support of the families within the Seabury community. It's amazing to see so many people willing to give back to their teachers and school. A school can only be a strong as its community. I think I'd be hard pressed to find a place where this belief is so embodied. So to all of our students, families, and staff ...Thank you!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hour of Code

What is the Hour of Code?

The Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code", to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. Check out the tutorials and activities. This grassroots campaign is supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide.

How did you Student participate?

Each of our students spent at least one hour to work on guided coding practices on the Hour of Code website. The lessons are centered around the use of coding terminology, programming libraries, and plug and play style commands. 

The program we started with was Minecraft. It's exciting for the kids. The material is very accessible. And it allowed the kids to connect the science of coding to a subject they find interesting.

Check out more at

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving - Musical Performance

Inspired by Ada's Violin, a story about an under privileged community who grew to fame by renewing garbage into instruments, our student built their own musical tools and performed using them at gathering. 

Dice Game

The Dice Game is a math practice we turn to when we need a break from traditional book studies. The premise is simple...pick a number, roll the dice, use the numbers on the dice to create an equation to get to the number picked. Seems easy enough, but it's more difficult than it seems.

This game really gets students to stretch their minds about math. The students have to start by testing an approach. They start using the numbers to design equations. Creating their own equations requires a degree of higher level thinking than simply working on predetermined equations on a work sheet. Then they have to test, revise, and test again to see if their equations are working.

The process allows for natural differentiation as well. Each student will work at the math levels they understand most. Advanced math students will rely on squares and algebra, while students in early learning stages will rely on arithmetic and rounding.

In addition to the basic skill building, the game is fun. Students get excited for the challenge. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Presentation Practice

One important skill we practice is public presenting. Routinely we take turns presenting information related to our studies. 

In each practice setting, students are expected to summarize information they've studied into succinct 1 to 3 minute presentations. They are allowed to make notes on white boards but are encouraged to speak from memory. 

Some of the key skills we focus on are:
- Clarity of voice
- Voice projection
- Avoiding filler words
- Presentation posture 

There is a lot of value in polishing public speaking skills. Long term, comfort in this area, could serve students well in higher grades, community work, social situations, and even future job interviews. 

It's also a great time for us to review our listening skills. We talk a lot about the value of being a focused listener and how to respectfully show your attention during presentations. 

Window Painting - Leaves

With fall finally underway we decided our classroom needed some fall leaves.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Engineering starts with atoms

As we continue our learning about electricity, we are starting with the fundamentals of elements and electron structures. We are starting by completing our own versions of the periodic table. Then we'll move on to creating models of electron shells.

The goal is to first understand the basics of how to read a periodic table. Part of that includes understanding how atomic the number of neutrons is determined.

Once we have a strong understanding of basic atom and electron shell structures, we will move on to studying electron orbitals. Ultimately this will give us the foundation information necessary to understand how electricity is generated by atoms.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Numberless Math ?!

Numberless Math Word Problems

It sounds like a contradiction in words, but in fact it's a great way to get student to think about math in new ways. The basic idea is that you give students a math scenario in which none of the quantitative aspects have been defined. Then the students have the liberty to either add numbers to define those aspects, or to work entirely conceptually to create solutions.

Things this process does:

1. Allows students to think about math conceptually. This is very important for the long term development of skills in algebra and calculus. While there is no arguing that formulas and proofs are a big part of these types of math, the need for conceptualization skills in problem manipulation is pervasive.  

2. Reduced math anxiety by removing the aspect that most people fear, the numbers. Math anxiety so often comes from the fear of not being able to get the right answer. When there is simply no one right answer, just a right approach, then students can focus more on the process.

3. Allows for natural differentiation. Students will naturally work at their own skill level. By removing the numbers, you can remove the innate academic level associated with them. Doing so will allow students to work through the problem at their actual skill level. If students want to create large complex problems to show their exceptional math skills, they can. If students are new to some math concepts, you'll be able to see that in how they approach their solutions.

In addition to the practical aspects, these types of problems can be fun. In this case it was about pirates and treasure, which in itself can be more interesting than traditional numeric math problems.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Long Division...but why?



In our efforts to better understand long division, we started breaking down the divisions problems into its parts. Many of us know how to do long division using the traditional methods, but not many of us could articulate why we do it that way.

Using a combination of separating  numbers into its sets (thousands, hundreds, and ones) we tested several different methods for dividing. Each time we tested a method or strategy we talked about why it works or doesn't.

The activity first started with a refresher on what division is. It's the sectioning of a number into a series of equal sized parts. This conceptual awareness can be very important for understand why we use the steps that we do. We often take for granted the underlying reasoning so we can focus on the process.

 To help make the lesson more interesting, and memorable, we decided to use our desks as our idea boards. It's a fun way to approach a new lesson but also breaks up the routine enough to get students thinking in a new way. Simple changes to the tools, methods, or environment can have a surprising impact on creative thinking. 

We tracked our ideas about how to approach division. We used illustrations. We used diagrams. We used numbers. Really whatever we could come up with to help understand how the division steps we were taking worked.

This conceptual approach allows us to not only explore the deeper meaning of mathematics, but also inherently lets us differentiate the material for each of our skill levels. Each of us got to ask questions that helped us understand the concept at our own skill level. That could mean that if one of us had questions about method or strategy, we could focus on that. But that also means that if someone had a question about how this applies to broader concept, we could talk about those as well. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Survival Day - Revolutionary War

Reporting for duty! Revolutionary War simulation actors reporting in. The value of a simulation can be amazing for students learning about a new topic. Our simulation was geared toward being an introduction to the concepts we'll be studying for the next three weeks.

We made fortification supplies, such as lanterns. We learned about what forts looked like at the start of the American Revolutionary War. 

We calculated our costs for fortification building and living supplies using prices from the time period. It was a fun way to integrated real world math into our simulation. 

 After studying fashions from this era, we created vests and hats to be help us in our role-playing. 

We ate popcorn to refuel our minds.

 We pondered the defensive structure of our forts. 

We created some very tall hats. 

 Most of all we had fun learning about math, science, history, and engineering all at the same time.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Point Defiance Zoo's Washed Ashore Exhibit

What is the Washed Ashore exhibit? 
Here is some information from

Washed Ashore is a non-profit community art project founded by artist and educator, Angela Haseltine Pozzi in 2010. The project is based in Bandon, Oregon, where Angela first recognized the amount of plastic washing up on the beaches she loved and decided to take action. Over the past six years, Washed Ashore has processed tons of plastic pollution from Pacific beaches to create monumental art that is awakening the hearts and minds of viewers to the global marine debris crisis.

One of our goals this year is plastic reduction. But the intent of this goal is to draw attention to the impact of industry, society, and commerce on the environment. We are trying to look at these impacts through an unbiased lens. We want to understand things like... what is really happening, where the impact occurs, how this impact affects or effects the various aspects of our lives.

How does this relate to school?

Science Standards! 5-LS2-1 and 5-ESS3-1

Washington now uses Next Generation science standards. The 3-5 science standard includes an understanding of ecosystems and how they are inter-elated and co-dependent. The title of the standards reads as follows: " 5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment. " One of our approaches to meeting this standards to do evaluate systems with a global mindset, accounting for human impact, which in this case is plastic. The second Next Generation science standard we addressed with this trip is 5-ESS3-1. In this standard the goal is to:Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment. Addressing plastic waste is a very important part of analyzing and understanding the human impact on our world.

You can find out more information about Washington's new science education standard here:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Science & Tech - Sculptris

Teaching students skills that will be relevant when they are adults can be tough. As teachers we spend a lot of time theorizing what skills will make current students marketable, employable, and successful. That often means exploring uncommon areas of technological learning. 

One big aspect of our technology time is learning about tools used for 3D printing. One of the programs we have grown to love is Sculptris. It's a 3D sculpting program using computers. Sounds easy but the mechanics are complex.

Masked as an art program, Sculptris actually provides a lot of opportunities for developing tech schools. Students learn how to :  

-recognize file types associated with 3D printing
- saving and sharing documents into shared drives
- use of rendering programs for design and coloring
- visualization of objects with multiple dimensional

This type of modeling and rendering are used in various fields ranging from movies to merchandising. 

Here are a few samples of our work so far.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Paper Tower Challenge

One of our topics this year is engineering. This week we started our first engineering challenge by posing a question to our classes. How tall of a tower can you build using only paper and glue sticks. 

They met the challenge with excitement but with varied success. 

The approaches were very different as well. Some took the approach of a base with round towers, drawing on traditional architecture.

Some tried organic shapes, crushed together and then adhered in a line.

Others tried geometric shapes to work like building blocks.

But some, took an artistic approach. 

After the construction stage, we measured each free standing object. We had one clear winner. Oddly enough it was the one who had taken the more artistic approach. 

The quick second was a team using simple flat, wave shaped paper to stack.

We plan to continue this challenge. Each time changing the parameters and materials. Pairing these challenges with our in class lessons about traditional engineering discoveries should give us evidence of the student's growth in understanding how the building process works.

This process is part of our connection with the Washington Next Generation Science Standards.
Students who demonstrate understanding can:
3-5-ETS1-1.Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Evolution & Archaeology Overnight Field Study: Sun Banks Cabins

We roasted S'mores and told stories around the fire. The cabins were nice and we got great cabin mates. There was a lake that people ...