Community Newsletter-Week #32 – Nature Growers (ages 7-9)

Community at TKG
Learning happens in so many ways!

Behind the Scenes – Portfolio Shares

“Human behavior is messy and unpredictable and unconcerned with convenient symmetries.” 

― Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed
Need some help organizing your garage this spring?  Don’t hesitate to call on your Nature Grower for help!

End of school year calls for some pretty sharp organizational skills – and NG’s are getting a good deal of practice at it.  At this point in the school year, student work folders are literally bursting at the seams with awesomeness.  Do we just send it all home and hope for the best?  NOPE.  At TKG, we don’t want to miss out on celebrating those awesome masterpieces that might otherwise get plopped in the trash.  It’s showcase time (aka Portfolio Share)…let’s let those ideas shine and be seen.

So, how do we help kids make sense of organizing this sometimes overwhelming task?  Scaffolding!  We all know what it’s like to open the garage door and think, “I just don’t know where to begin!” One of the most exciting challenges about being a teacher is finding a way to break a task that’s so overwhelming down into manageable sized pieces that students can feel successful at completing.   And, the beauty is that those pieces look different for every child.

So, how is it done?  We start with a plan that we think is pretty straightforward.  The students excitedly set out to get work done!  And then – a furrowed brow, an overwhelming stare, a distracted fidgetter – our well laid out plan wasn’t enough.  That’s our cue to go deeper and support each child where they are at.  We do this by helping students identify and create a series of systems that will help them reach the desired goal.  With consistent check-ins and cheerleading, our students get the opportunity to reach higher levels of independence, skill and ownership of their work.

It has been such a joy connecting and working with your sprout each week – if only for a few hours.

With love,

Yvette Fenton, Lead Teacher, Nature Growers
Leticia Barahona, Co-Teacher, Nature Growers
Christie Beadle. Teacher, Nature Growers
Lena Garcia, Head of Education – Teacher Mentor
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
Facebook (private group), Community Forum
Shutterfly Info Site: photos, contact information, announcements
OFFICIAL CALENDAR: subscribe and never miss an event


  • SouthBay Kids Connection Social Group, Mon (May 8) & Wed (May 10) – SBKC’s mission is to improve the quality of children’s social interactions by promoting kindness, building self-esteem and emphasizing collaboration with others. TKG is a safe-space to work on your personal “growth edges” with support and empathy.
  • Thinker Fair, Wed 10 May, 9am. Check out these Fair projects from recent years (plus a very memorable song about the scientific method):
  • Mother’s Day Hug, Fri 12 May @ Drop Off – Snuggle with your sprout for a little bit before you get your day started!


PTs This Week

(PT schedule is for TKG community only.)
  • Parent Tours & Student Visits. We have ongoing tour appointments. We welcome you to share your experience and engage new students with the TKG way.
  • Field Trip, Mon 15 May. Please reply to Jen Ceci with your confirmation and questions.
TKG Learn: Supporting students who Feeling Rejected


  • Work Day #3, Sat 17 Jun. Please mark your calendars! This has been rescheduled from May.
  • Handyperson Day, Sat 13 May. Please contact Lena to confirm your project.
  • Monthly Community Meeting (Parents and Children) – Sat 20 May 9am. This very important meeting will be a wrap-up and looking forward! Please be sure to attend.
COMMUNITY EVENT: Nurturing Gratitude in Schools, Giacomo Bono, Ph.D.


In Education News: Empowerment
TKG Focus: INNOVATION. Scientists are tinker-ers and at TKG, we believe that giving students the opportunity to tinker, explore, make mistakes and get bored, dissapointed and discouraged by the process…is important to helping us inspire scientists who will innovate in the not too distant future!

How to Raise a Scientist in the Xbox Age

*   *   *
By Robert Scherrer/Wall Street Journal

When I was 12 years old, I nearly blew myself up with my own chemistry set. A blob of sodium silicate had clogged up a test tube, so I heated it over an alcohol lamp, intending to melt it. Instead, the bottom of the test tube exploded, spraying shards of glass all over the basement. Naturally I wasn’t wearing safety goggles—I’d never even heard of them. Later, in another mishap, I almost set the basement (and myself) on fire. I tried to duplicate an experiment from my science encyclopedia, which claimed that a rag soaked in alcohol would burn with such a cool flame that the rag itself would not catch fire. Turns out that isn’t true.

What did I learn from these experiences? Not everything melts when you heat it. Alcohol can set your pants on fire. And don’t do stupid things. (The last of these remains a work in progress.) I’ve compared notes with colleagues in chemistry and nearly all of them had similar childhood near-death experiences, which they relate with various mixtures of pride and embarrassment. But it’s always with a sheepish smile, and all agree that using a chemistry set was a formative experience leading to their scientific careers.

So you can imagine my disappointment when, a decade ago, I set out to buy a chemistry set for my oldest child, only to discover that they had gone the way of the dodo and the cassette tape. Sure, there were pathetic imitations, complete with minute amounts of harmless chemicals. But I could have created a better chemistry set from the liquids in my own refrigerator. What killed the chemistry set? The relentless drive to shield our children from even a whiff of danger.

Yet there is an even more insidious problem now facing young proto-scientists. Arthur C. Clarke once said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and many of our household gadgets now lie firmly in the “magic” category. When I was younger, my grandfather, who worked for a moving company, would bring home all sorts of discarded mechanical and electronic gizmos. Armed only with a screwdriver and a hammer (and no goggles), we would dissect these marvels to see what made them work. Try taking apart a modern cellphone or a laptop computer. Assuming you can even figure out how to pry it open, the inside is as mysterious and inscrutable as the outside.

Why does this matter? Because the ability to tinker, to take things apart and understand how they function, is one of the key traits of a scientist. It’s no accident that an unusually large number of 20th-century American scientists grew up on farms or ranches, where they had to learn to fix the tractors and planters without outside help. Now most of us don’t even change our own oil.

Modern children are also deprived of another key ingredient that has powered many a young person down the road to a career in science: boredom, and lots of it. When I was growing up, summer was devoid of organized activities. We were released into the suburban wilderness at the end of May and left to our own devices until our parents gathered us up for school in the fall. So what did we do during those endless, empty summer days? We daydreamed, explored our neighborhood and invented games. Daydreaming, exploration and invention happen to be the core of what scientists do. That is largely what I still do for a living.

Yet how can we expect junior scientists to daydream, when they can be playing computer games instead? It isn’t that these games are bad, it’s that they’re far too good. I know this from personal experience: Computer games are crack cocaine for science nerds. Had I been born 30 years later, I would now be lying facedown in a ditch desperately clutching my Xbox. The only thing that saved me was the fact that Pong wasn’t that interesting.

So what should you do for your children to encourage an interest in science? Cut back on their computer games. Schedule some unscheduled time. And don’t waste your money on cookbook “science kits” from the store. Instead, give your children an old windup alarm clock and a screwdriver, and let them take it apart to see what makes it tick. Just don’t forget to make them wear safety goggles.

Mr. Scherrer is the chairman of the department of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University.

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© 2016 This information is intended for the families and students of TKG. We love our families! 2017 The Knowing Garden, All rights reserved.

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