“From Under Our Big Tree” Weekly Newsletter – Redwoods Week #2

Redwoods Newsletter: 9 to 11 year old students
All Together - 9 to 11 Class
“It’s not that I’m so smart, but it’s just that I stick with the problems longer.” 
—Albert Einstein 

Redwoods Class Begins Year 2 With New Collaborators

It’s been an eventful, busy, exciting first couple of weeks in the Redwoods class! All the students have jumped back into school feet first & ready to do and think and question and learn!We’ve woven connection & curriculum together in several activities these two weeks. The fabric of our classroom becomes stronger & more more beautifully layered as the students contemplate who we are as individuals & as a group. Read on for highlights…

– Tending the Garden: Field Trip #1 is THIS FRIDAY! Please RSVP and pay your fees.
– Parent Teacher Toolbox: PT Retreat is this Saturday from 9-1pm. You must attend before you begin your PT classroom schedule.
– TKG Business: Our first fundraiser night is coming up! Earn tuition credits and raise money for TKG.
– Ed News Resource: Remind yourself that our brains are malleable and that we are architects of our development.


At the start of each day, we are hosting different studios in each of our classrooms: a Maker Lab, an art studio, a dramatic play space, & a Food Lab. Students can explore each one, engage in a mini-challenge, work in multi-age groups or individually. It’s  been wonderful to see older students teaching younger ones; in fact, some of the Redwoods are planning their personal projects around teaching their school mates.

In this photo, Zoë (age 10) is teaching Dakota (age 6) how to fold a “cootie catcher” as a part of her origami project. Dakota had come to visit the art studio & had already drawn a picture of his own when Zoë offered to show him how to do this.


One of my favorite activities this week was looking at the many concentric circles of life that surround each of us. We took class outside, & with chalk, each student took turns drawing the ever larger circles outside of our “self.” We started with the self & worked our way outwards, thinking about how we connect with people: first one-to-one, then as a family, then with those outside our family, & beyond into our school, city, state, country, world, & galaxy!

Each student had a chance to reflect on his or her own life & what each circle consists of personally. Then with the help of our wonderful drama teacher, Autumn, we launched into a tableau exercise. What is a tableau? How do you show action while frozen? How can we make a frozen picture interesting with our bodies & faces? 

Students created a tableau for each of the circles of life, discussing as a group what they wanted to show &  how they  wanted to use their bodies to show it. It was amazing to see how the students began tentatively, & with each new tableau tooknew risks & employed more strategic & dramatic ways of showing their ideas—especially in using  different levels & positions  with their bodies!


You may have been noodling the “Mysterious Math” & other brain teasers that have come home with your student. When we zoom out & look at the larger concepts behind all of MEAPPS/STEAM, the greatest quality we are hoping to cultivate is questioning. When we turn the focus away from right answers to instead asking questions, we really want to give students a chance to practice sticking with something that is difficult to figure out.

Most kids actually have what’s referred to as a “high failure tolerance.” Positive research around video gaming has actually shown that when students are playing, they are “failing” about 80% of the time—meaning that they aren’t earning points or moving up levels or making progress as they navigate the game about 80% of the time. But most kids just keep playing! They explore new passageways, click on unknown objects, & just keep going. 

I asked students what their parents said about the Mysterious Math the first night it went home with them. Here are some responses:

“My mom said, ‘I don’t get it.’”
“My dad said, “This is a waste of time.’”
“Mine said, ‘I give up.’”

We all had a good laugh, because those words express the frustration & confusion that they all felt.  But if we don’t stick with a problem, we can’t solve it.

When our school visited SpaceX last year, one of the SpaceX scientists told us that they get applicants with straight A’s, students who have had really high achievement in college. But when they get there, the first time their experiment fails, they have a hard time bouncing back. Their industry is one in which there is much more failure than success. The type of person who can succeed in an innovative industry is someone who can go back to the drawing board countless times—& who understands that THAT is the essence of science or engineering or math—or art or music—or sales!

Sticking with something despite difficulty is the essence of resilience. So what instead can we say to encourage more noodling, more time with a problem? You can try:

Oooo, these are interesting/challenging/tricky!
I’m not sure either. Let’s look some more.
Can we find any patterns?
What can you see when you look closely?
What do you see when you zoom out & look from far away?
What’s most frustrating for you?
What questions could you ask Alice & your classmates tomorrow that might help?
I’m still not sure. I guess we’ll just come back to it again next time!


Our Redwoods have individual desks this year! So far, the students have really been excited to have a personal space to organize & keep their materials. They’ve expressed lots of ideas revolving around the desk concept:

“Can we have a time very week that we clean out & organize our things?”
“I’m going to do a ‘Mary Poppins’!” (That means pulling things out of the desk as though from Mary Poppin’s carpet bag—look, more stuff!)
“Why don’t we put them in rows?”
“I like that if there’s a mess, it’s just my mess.”
“I think it’s better if the desks don’t touch each other, or else someone else’s papers might get on my desk.”
“Will we get to change where we sit?” (Yes.)

In these two pictures, the kids show off their personal “desk pets,” a little token of comfort that brings them joy & lives inside their desks.
We have already used the desk in several configurations this week: groups of four, side-by-side pairs, individually in front-facing rows, & in a U-formation.

We have also used our lab area & our conference area. Students are putting their stamp of personality all over the classroom by creating their own desk plates & museum signs, as well as co-creating our classroom signage for the “theatre,” “library,” “lab,” & “conference” spaces. It’s so colorful!

With Gratitude,

Alice Shippee, Redwoods Classroom Lead Teacher
Lena Garcia, Teacher Mentor, Head of School
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
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TKG Info

Tending the Garden

Teacher Office Hours – Thr 22 Sep: Open door opportunity to meet with Alice and ask questions, be proactive and say hello! There is child care.

Field Trip #1/Environmental Stewardship – Fri 23 Sep, 9:30am-2pm: We’ll visit Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes with Joel Robinson from Naturalist For You. The cost is *$20 per child* DUE tomorrow. PAY NOW, click here. Meet at Del Cerro Park, Park Place, Rancho Palos Verdes. Parking is limited, so *carpooling is recommended*. Parking is also available on the south side of Crenshaw. Bring:

  1. Water
  2. Enough snacks to last for you & your sprouts
  3. Weather protection

Please reference Jen Ceci’s email for complete details!

F.A.C.E Time Session #1: Begins Friday Sep 30th!

TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents support relevant learning & creativity
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY: cognitive, physical and social/emotional health is valued – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE: we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice positive learning experiences
  • CAPACITY BUILDING: nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING: small groups, low ratios, mixed ages
Parent Teacher Info

Parent Teacher Toolbox

PTs This Week (PT hours represent tuition earned!)

  • MON: Beadle, LaCharite
  • TUE: LaCour, Assadi, Kang
  • THR: L.Lee, Ceci, Watanabe, Rossfeld
  • FRI: Ceci, L.Lee
  • SAT: Watanabe, J.Lee, Minor, Schwartz

PT Retreat, Sat 24 Sep 9am-1pm @ TKG: All PTs should attend. There will be tools, dialogue, fun and games! Bring something to share (food, drink, inspiration…) If you have any questions, contact: Lena.

ECHO Parenting 6-Week Series, Wed 28 Sep @ TKG: We offer a few spots to TKG families as part of Renee Dokmanovich’s PT hours. Please inquire (with Trish or Renee) about attending – it is a great resource for parents and PTs!

PT RESOURCE: How to be good at stress
What does it mean to be “good” at stress? Does it mean you don’t get stressed out? That you stay calm under pressure and bounce back from adversity? Actually, no. Firstly, that trying to avoid it is fundamentally counterproductive. Secondly, that thinking that we can emerge from stressful circumstances unscathed and unchanged is precisely the wrong way of thinking about things. READ MORE @TED.com
Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Office Hours, Wed 21 Sep from 1 to 3pm @TKG: You are invited to come ask questions, check in, and dream up ideas with the admin team.

Handyman Day, Sat 24 Sep from 9 to 12pm: If you are on our handyman list or you need to make up work hours, please come join the fun! Contact Trish.

TKG Night Out, Thr 29 Sep: Raise tuition credit for yourself and raise funds for TKG by attending our YOGURTLAND % Night! Look for more details on the Green Monster.

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Resource Of The Week – Whole Child + Family

An Introduction to Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Therapy

We used to think our brain was what it was — unchangeable, unalterable…that we were stuck with what nature gave us. In actuality, and one of our TKG values, is that our brains are malleable. We can alter neurochemistry to change mindsets. We nuture the notion that students are the architects of their brain development.
*   *   *

It’s startling to think about how we’ve got a spaceship billions of miles away rendezvousing with Pluto, yet here on Earth there are major aspects of our own anatomy that we’re almost completely ignorant about. We’ve climbed Everest, sent men to the moon, and invented the Internet — but we still don’t know how our brains work. The positive outlook is that many health, science, and research specialists believe we’re on the precipice of some major neuroscientific breakthroughs. READ MORE @BigThink

Art Protects Mental Healthiness

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