“From Under Our Big Tree” Newsletter: Week #2 at our School (2015)

The Knowing Garden

From under our big tree…

20 September 2015
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Weekly Newsletter #2 – Community-Wide
All Together - Community
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Dear Community Member,

Home-school folders will be given to your children this week. For returning families, we called them green folders last year, except we have gone the more sustainable, environmentally friendly route this year with a biodegradable plastic folder that will last the year with your child. These folders will be filled with resources to use at home to extend your child’s classroom learning and keep you connected to the curriculum. 

Our First Field Day
What does our Field Day look like? Some of you have had the pleasure of joining us on a field day and some of you are brand new to the concept. Since we had our first Field Day of the year this week, we thought we would pull back the curtain for you to catch a glimpse of the nature-full day that greets us every Monday. See lots of amazing Field Day pics, here.

It is early morning depicted by a sweet cloud cover, warm air, slight breeze. The teachers are feeling connected and lucky, children are filtering in, saying hello and good-bye.A relaxed exploration time begins: students connect with each other, wander under canopies of leaves, run in the grass in our “meadow”, play soccer or kickball, look for interesting insects to inspect

Our time at the park is designed to enhance our classroom learning specifically in the areas of: math, engineering, art, physical education, play and science. We call it M.E.A.P.P.S.
Children proceed to M.E.A.P.P.S. time (Math, Engineering, Art, Physical Education, Play and Art) focusing on Physical Education and Play: The whole group breaks up into 2 groups- The “pine” group consists of the 5-7 class and a few 7-9 and 9-11 year olds and the “maple” group, consisting of the rest of the 7-9 and 9-11 class. The focus is physical skill building in smaller groups, leveled developmentally to maximize fun and focus. A quick moving game of “Dead Bug” is played, encouraging students to quickly form groups to act out scenarios and then fall to the ground to mimic a “dead bug”. Laughter is heard, connections are made, coordination and stamina are increased.
Choose your activity for the day!
Continue with M.E.A.P.P.S. time focusing on Engineering, Art and Science: Michelle, Lena and Yvette each lead an activity. Student names are written on sticks and as each stick is pulled the student chooses their activity for the day. See delayed gratification and flexibility develop as activities fill up with an 8 student limit and students must choose their second choice.  Teachers wonder how things will flow for students who may not have grouped with their first choice activity. They notice that all students exhibit a “go with the flow-ness” that allows them to see each activity as engaging and interesting. Notice all students participating enthusiastically in the activities!
Migration of birds!
YVETTE, the enthusiastic 7 to 9 teacher, comes in to focus as she entices students to notice the birds in the habitat, soon students are having a lively discussion. There is a mountain of materials adorning a picnic table, ready to be used to make a bird and then send it whizzing down a zip line to see how their creation “flew”. Smiles and tweaking of designs to maximize “flight” fills the time.
Pigment Painting?
This scene opens with the gathering of natural materials to “paint” with. MICHELLE, a kind and loving presence, leads several students as they discover the sounds of wonderfully round rocks hammering leaves onto watercolor paper, transferring their pigment onto a keep-able piece of art. Smashing brings concentration and experimentation as children avoid their fingers and try to transfer pigment from sticks, leaves and berries. The miracles of pigment are noticed as beautiful designs emerge.
Let’s engineer a shelter.

LENA, a thoughtful guide to students and teachers alike, leads a conversation about low and high pressure systems in our environment. LENA inserts just the right information to the discussion leading children to question the possibility of an El Niño rainy season and the impact it could have on Field days. They explore an array of materials- tarps, rope, bungee cords, fabric and sticks- along with the open ended question: How can you build a shelter to keep your team warm and dry from the rain? Knot strategies are shared and older and younger students work side-by-side to tie, knot, fling, soar and arrange their materials into effective shelters. Teamwork, encouragement and laughter is heard as shelters are formed.EXT. UNDER A CANOPY OF SHADY TREES

(tummy rumbling ensues)
Time for the 3Rs!
Bodies are cared for at a community lunch. Everyone rests on blankets for 30 minutes, doing the 3 R’s: replenishing, rehydrating and reapplying sunscreen. As students finish lunch, they transition to card games, books and building games to foster connection and rest.
Play! Experiment! Make mistakes! Children learn by doing, making new connections, making mistakes and recovering from or resolving their challenges.

The next part of the day is filled with Deep learning, an open exploration time where children choose their own activities and teachers join in their fun. We see a giant nest emerging from pine needles, an exuberant game of tag on the playground, insect and lizard discovery, a hike down into the “outback” and much more as students create connections, repair connections and grow their social intelligence skills in the midst of trees, rocks, dirt and sky.Hear the quiet of the afternoon, the wind in the trees and feel the sense of unlimited time, giving students permission to work on whatever is most present for them. It may be connecting with friends, finding a time to explore nature solo, working out social challenges with the help of an adult nearby or just gazing into the clouds. This is when nature becomes the cradle for our shared energy, encouraging us to slow down and attend to what is most important.


Good bye – thank you for sharing this day with your community.

The day ends as everyone packs up, returns to the pick-up spot at the top of the park, listens to a read aloud book to create a calming transition and then… says good-bye!Parents, care-givers and family friends greet each other, laugh out loud or exchange their challenges of the day just before they direct their attention to reconnecting and saying hello! to their students.

We love our field day and as you may have expected, everyone is hungry and tired at the end of the day.

Fade into a lazy afternoon of rest and replenishment so students can continue the week, leaving our outdoor park classroom and getting ready for our campus classroom. What a gift to learn in and out of doors!

(The sun sets on a bright blue horizon)
With gratitude,
Team TKG
Lena Garcia, School Builder, 7-9 Class Mentor and Collaborator
Michelle Goldbach-Johnson, 5-7 Lead Teacher, Founding Teacher
Yvette Fenton, 7 to 9 Lead Teacher
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
Google Calendar: Official Events
Shutterfly: Photos only
Facebook Group: Private forum for parent chatter
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube
TKG Info

Tending the Garden

  • Field Trip #1, Fri Sept 25th 9:30am – Please submit $20 per student (at the Green Monster) attending the field trip by Tuesday. Don’t forget to review the email from Jennifer Ceci for important details.
  • Emergency Kits – bring your kits by Tuesday. Please hand to your teacher so she knows you brought it!
  • Parent Support Group, Wed Sep 23 9:30am – Beginning this Wednesday, ECHO certified Parent Educator Renee Dokmanovich will be faciliating a monthly parenting support group exclusively for TKG families.
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

PT Retreat 2015 – September 26th (for all planning to work in the classroom)
Plan to attend on Saturday September 26th for the entire session (currently from 9am to 1pm).  If you won’t be able to attend the session in full, your work days will begin after a make-up session is completed. Contact Lena.

PT Schedules – If you have any outstanding questions about your schedule, please contact Trish before Thurs Sep 24th. PT schedules begin on Sept 28th.

ECHO Parenting – 6 Week Series Tuesdays beg Oct 13th– ECHO parenting helps parents & caregivers develop a framework of nonviolence and strategies that are based on empathy, connecting language and the understanding of a human’s emotional, physical and brain development. Contact Trish if you are interested in attending.

PT RESOURCE: The Cost of a Hardened Heart
Vulnerability has become a dirty word in our culture, largely because it has become synonymous with weakness. But nothing could be farther from the truth. To be vulnerable is to allow yourself to be touched, moved, impacted. Yes, this sometimes means we feel difficult feelings such as disappointment, pain, and rejection: we are susceptible to feeling “wounded” when we are vulnerable. But as most wisdom cultures teach us, “The wounds are where the gifts are.” READ MORE @EssentialParenting
Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Additional Enrollment Forms – Please return your enrollment forms (to the Green Monster) by Wednesday Sep 23rd.

Admin Office Hours, 9 to 11am Thr Sep 24 – Stop by and catch up on any pending school business, offer your compliments or work on your committee questions.

Early Pick Up – 12noon on Wed Sep 30 – please note your calendars about our early pick up day, coming up soon.

Visit Shutterfly and check out more of your class’ photos! You may need to be added, so just request permission and we will take care of it asap.

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 – Capacity Building/Social Justice

Study: Cops Tend to See Black Kids as Less Innocent Than White Kids

At what point are children responsible for their actions? What are the benefits of developing a community based on empathy and love? How can we help our children be the change we want to see in the world? These are questions that you must discuss with your family – openly and courageously – taking their developmental stage in to account but still giving them the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of catalysts.

*   *   *
by Philip Bump/The Atlantic

Asked to identify the age of a young boy that committed a felony, participants in a study routinely overestimated the age of black children far more than they did white kids. Worse: Cops did it, too.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, aimed at figuring out the extent to which black children were likely to be treated differently than their white peers solely based on race. More specifically, the authors wanted to figure out the extent to which black kids were dehumanized. “Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection,” READ MORE @TheAtlantic

Capacity Building - Developing communities based on empathy and love


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