September at GAP School
ELA with Emily
This first month of school has been loads of fun in the English Language Arts world! To honor our first unit, "We are GAP School", our K-1 Learners have focused on first and last name writing through tracing, copy work, and memorization. Fun games like name bingo have been played to emphasize letter identification, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters. Molding names in playdough has been a fun activity as we develop fine motor skills. To learn more about who we are at GAP School, we read books like Be You and I am One. Through group conversation, the Yellow Crystals added adjectives and ideas about who we are to a group poster to showcase at Community Day.
We have been exploring letters through their identification, formation, and sound. This month we covered three letters: Aa, Mm, and Tt. Identifying letters feels exciting as we sort letter tiles and while reading our weekly "silly sentence". During "silly sentence" time we become detectives, looking for the letter of the week and explaining our discoveries through how they are formed. Letter formation is practiced on laminated, lined paper. Here, we review where each letter falls on the line by going over how it is written. Letter sounds are introduced at the beginning of each week. We practice letter sounds by discussing the way our tongue, lips, and teeth look, sound, and feel through phonemic awareness. We also practice phonemic awareness with weekly games.
Nature journals have become a weekly practice for the Yellow Crystals in ELA. They practice Copy work by writing down the metadata. Our connection to place is honored by what we journal.
OT with Janelle
SEL, movement, and sensory exploration
The Yellow Crystals have explored and shared “who am I “ while strengthening our hands and arms by digging in dirt , drawing in mud, painting with acorns, making nature paint brushes out of sticks and pine needles, and sharing their favorite memories.
We’ve embarked on parachute journeys, obstacle courses, line tag, and red light green light in connection with exploring and identifying our emotions. This has helped us learn ways to communicate big feelings with each other in ways that cultivate a safe community.
We are embracing the crisp air and tumbling leaves by jumping into opportunities for leaf art and identification. In doing so, we are sparking our curiosity for our favorite trees at GAP School. The Yellow Crystals have leaned into traversing the GAP School grounds through movement, play, scavenger hunts, map making, leaf catching, and creating a collective Yellow Crystals nature mandala .
Math & Science with Noni
To kick off the year in K/1 science, we looked at homes of all kinds, for humans and animals both. These included the forest, creek, trees/nests, fairy homes, our own family homes, and our GAP School home. We also imagined how a seed is a home for a new plant or tree. Upon choosing our flock name, the Yellow Crystals, it seemed natural to study crystals a bit. That certainly brought us a lot of joy! We began our big idea theme by looking at the Blue Ridge Mountains and the relationship between the land and the water. We are excited about our upcoming project, in which we will use salt dough to build a basic 3D model of the state of Virginia. Be sure to look for it at community day on October 28th! In the coming weeks, we will study land formation, coastal erosion, rainfall erosion, runoff, and watersheds.
In math, we are intentionally revisiting each of the numbers, finding their place on the number line, looking for them in the world, and practicing writing them. We are using imaginative gnome math stories to help us solve problems with the aid of some manipulates (counting gems). We are also step counting and skip counting by 2, 5, and 10. We are learning to jump rope and will use that as a helpful aid in our automatic number recall. This will eventually support our learning of the times tables when that time comes.
Silver Warriors & Silver Stardust
ELA with Sarah & James
During ELA with Sarah, the Silver Dogwoods and Willows have been diving into the big idea of connection to place while investigating nonfiction text features. They have been working very hard at piecing together personalized books full of photos, captions, diagrams, and more. They made sure to include a table of contents, glossary, and index.
We are going through the writing process of creating our rough drafts, editing, revising, then moving on to the final. These will be on display during our Community Day! Please enjoy pointing out the text features you stumble across while reading together at home.
September was a fantastic month in ELA for the Silver Sycamores and Hickories. James and your marvelous Learners have continued to get to know each other, develop their group culture, and have lots of fun. We started the year by building excitement around reading with the hilarious Sideways Stories From Wayside School. We start each class off with a few minutes of this book and the Learners just love it. Your awesome Learner practices their reading fluency several times a week by reading to themself, to a friend, and to James (and their gains are already noticeable). We also started fun writing activities to create more excitement. The Learners received their own "squishy" to create personal character traits about. We will continue to develop our writing (including handwriting) by making individualized books about the things that connect us to GAP School.
Science with Furn
We started off our year as Silvers learning about one of nature's hardest workers- fungus! We brain dumped everything we knew about fungus in mind maps to organize our thoughts, and started thinking about how scientists categorize things- Shape? Color? Size? DNA?! As scientists, we categorized fungus samples based on the information we had available to us, their appearance. After using sampling techniques to take a fungus inventory of Water Chicken Way, we dove into our guiding question: How is fungi different from other life? Learners had a lot of fun teaching Furn what they knew about fungus and how it gets its energy (by breaking down dead things)! Learners brainstormed what the world could look like without decomposers, and this not only got us excited about decomposition, but also brought us into our first science experiment.
With gummy bears, trail mix, tortilla chips, olives, a banana, and some mushrooms, we discussed what factors influence decomposition and predicted decomposition rates of the foods that we were testing. We weighed and measured all of our fresh foods to see their pre-decomposition sizes. We then packaged up our experimental foods and set them aside to let decomposers do their jobs as we continued our fungus investigation. We’ll check back in with those guys later!
We explored how different fungus can hold different important roles for our ecosystem and can sometimes even be parasites! We identified some of our local fungus using various keys and ID tools. We wrapped up learning about fungus by updating our mind maps to reflect all the new things that we learned during our fungus investigation.
Next up was seeds! Learners brainstormed seeds’ needs and we played a population simulation game called Seed Survival to start off our discussion about how limited resources can impact seed survival. We discussed seeds' specific qualities and dissected lima beans to get an inside look at seeds’ parts. Learners used some nut-cracking tools to crack open seeds and nuts we collected outside and tried to identify their parts. We played a seed game where we thought up some silly seed dispersal methods and the rest of the Learners guessed how each silly seed invention traveled. Moving forward, we are getting serious about seed dispersal and starting a longer-term project in inventing our own seed dispersal machines that will travel by either animal, wind, water, or projection. We are starting off the year strong, and are so excited for the incredible science to come!
Math with Kyle
Working with the science theme, we measured and weighed food items before decomposition and we will be measuring them again in the future. In math, we also explored patterns and practiced making mistakes. This has helped us develop our growth mindset: it taught us that making mistakes in math is important and how we learn. We started to develop our sense of place by measuring the perimeter of the GAP School campus! Groups measured the Book Bus, Main Field, Pavilion, and Astroplex Court. We also learned the card game Set. This helped us learn how patterns work and think about how math can exist without numbers.
Emerald Alpacas with Corrie
Over this past month, we settled into our routines and began our new unit about geography, landmarks, and natural resources. New Alpaca routines include using a planner and binder to organize our work and practicing completing homework during weeknights. We begin each day with Exploration before jumping into our academic rotations (Brain Blast). During Exploration this year we have made many discoveries, like box turtle sightings and new species identifications.
In Brain Blast, we set our academic goals and dove into our new year of learning. Mathematical Mindsets is the name of the new curriculum that we launched this month. During each lesson, we use manipulatives and equations to figure out a new math idea, and then connect that learning to our local geography at school. Lately, Learners have used cubes to investigate methods to solve for the area and volume of different objects. Those methods are later applied to solve for the area and volume of things in our physical environment like benches, railroad ties, and buildings. We started making our English Language Arts notebook with a Table of Contents. Learners filled these pages with goals, free writing, reading responses, glossary words, and notes on new materials. Book Club has begun with A Tiger Rising and Call it Courage as the first two titles. We plan to use themes and writing techniques from these novels and more to inspire a personal fiction short story.
Projects with Ryan
Projects class at GAP School this year has started off with a bang! We started late August and early September with some big group projects. We worked on design challenges and collaborative art pieces to get into the maker mindset! We reviewed our GAP School Design Process: Plan, Create, Investigate, Evaluate, and Share. We prepared for our first Maker Day by learning the steps to making a project. We learned how to write a project proposal in our projects notebooks, what materials are available, the cost of those materials, and where they are stored. Using "project money", we practiced how to write a budget to purchase the materials needed. This allows the Learners to practice their math and writing skills! Once a project is approved by an Educator, Learners can purchase supplies from the Maker Mansion and begin creating their projects. We dove head first into Maker Days this September, and many Learners have already completed their first Maker Day projects of the year. Some examples of completed projects have included bug houses, a dress for a stuffy, paintings, hand sewn-pillows, popsicles for the whole class to enjoy, and many more!
Knowledge Seekers with Max
As the school year started, Learners explored the idea: "How do people learn new things?" We discussed all the different ways that we learn such as observing the world around us, learning from someone else, exploring questions through research and experimentation, and life experiences. To explore the idea of learning new things, we practiced learning to tie different knots and making cordage. As we struggled with learning new knots we discussed how learning something new requires time and patience, and how important it is to learn from our mistakes. We used books such as The Power of Yet to frame our discussion and remind ourselves how important patience is when we are learning skills. We are excited to announce that GAP School now has a knot club, "The Knotty Knot Knotters", that will exist all year. If Learners are motivated they can demonstrate proficiency with a list of knots, and after being checked off by an Educator they will be an official member of the knot club. The knot club is a challenge by choice activity, so Learner participation is based on their own intrinsic motivation.
In between exploring knots, we spent time observing the land here at GAP School. We practiced nature awareness through games, sit spots, hikes, and nature journals. We played games to establish a culture of nature explorers and to establish traditions and routines that support our outdoor adventures. When an Educator makes a crow call, Learners know that everyone should make the call back and return to the designated gathering spot. These types of traditions support our nature awareness by teaching us to listen in the woods, and they are fun things we do that makes our community special. As we established our nature culture we also explored all the resources that the woods at school have to offer. Learners have been excited to forage for PawPaw fruit, gather acorns, spread jewelweed seeds, and continually shout "Eureka!" when they find something interesting in the woods.
As the month came to a close we kicked off our second unit exploring connection to place. In Knowledge Seekers we are asking ourselves, "What is the value of a tree?" Feel free to ask your Learners what they think. We already have some really big opinions.