Job Opening -- Science Teacher

Orchard School is looking for a part-time educator (3 days per week) who is passionate about teaching science to elementary grade students in a small private school on a 14 acre campus.  We seek an educator with a demonstrated background in curriculum development and experience teaching in an elementary school setting.  


Teaching Credential or Emergency Credential Preferred

Elementary classroom teaching experience in a progressive school desired.

Experience designing and implementing hands-on science curriculum.

Ability to differentiate and adjust the curriculum for individual learning styles.


Compensation:  Based on experience and education.

To Apply:  Send or email by June 9, resume, letters of recommendation, and Orchard Employment Questionnaire to or mail to Orchard School, 2288 Trout Gulch Rd., Aptos, CA95003



April 2017 Newsletter

Meet the Teacher: Mary Ann

Mary Ann has an exceptional wealth of experiences and a wealth of science knowledge! Did you know that Mary Ann, Orchard’s science teacher of two years, enjoys zip-lining through the redwoods at Boulder Creek or that she will go whitewater rafting anywhere, anytime? Many know that she enjoys kayaking on the Monterey Bay or the Elkhorn Slough and listening to the birds sing and the wind rustle through the trees, but did you know that she also likes to knit and crochet in her spare time?

She has lived in California for 29 years, 25 of which had been spent as a middle school science teacher and garden coordinator at Stevenson School in Carmel. As the lead science teacher at Stevenson, she coordinated the integration of science curriculum from kindergarten through grade eight! Mary Ann designed the curriculum to allow the students to grow and develop at their own pace and stressed the importance of having as much hands-on experimentation as possible so the student would engage their curiosity and develop a love for learning. She was a perfect fit for Orchard.

Prior to living in California, Mary Ann traveled nationally and abroad. She’s been a zookeeper, an interpretive naturalist, a special education aide, and an elementary library technician. Be sure to ask Mary Ann about her days as a zookeeper and the big cats!

Her education includes coursework towards an MA in Science Education from California State University, Chico; Single Subject Teaching Credential – Science, Chapman College; BS in General Science, University of Iowa; Early Childhood Development Course, Monterey Peninsula College; and is a Certified California Naturalist!

Mary Ann displays a lifelong love of learning. She says, “I have continued to advance my education through courses throughout California given by my colleagues and peers in art, oceanography, and organic gardening. I have attended numerous Life Lab workshops at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Recently I became a Certified California Naturalist through the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum”

She lives in Pacific Grove and enjoys seeing her daughter, Kirsten, and son-in- law, Shon whenever possible. Likewise, they are world travelers with Shon having served as a Marine with stations in Egypt, Hawaii, and overseas conflicts. No longer in the military, they are presently living in Caracas, Venezuela, serving with the State Department at the U.S. Embassy. Kirsten is the founder of a non-profit involved in the video preservation of the arts, primarily dance, from cultures throughout the world. Mary Ann travels with them whenever she can.

“Thank you so much for allowing me to work and play with your totally amazing children. Every day is a wonderful new experience.” ~ Mary Ann

Mark Your Calendars   

APRIL 2017

3rd-7th: Spring Holiday
27th:  Capital Improvement Committee Mtg, 3:30pm

MAY 2017

3rd:  Kinder Trip Natural History Museum
6th: May Faire
9th:  4/5 Field Trip to the Tannery
9th:  Capital Improvement Committee Mtg, 3:30pm
11th:  Bike to School Day
26th:  No School (Staff Collaboration Work Day)
29th:  Memorial Day (No School)

June 2017

9th:  Performance and Graduation
14th:  Kinder Moving On Ceremony
15th:  All School Kayaking Field Trip
16th:  Last Day of School (Minimum Day)
16th-17th:  Sleepover (7pm-10am)


May Faire & Open House
May 6, 11am-4pm.

Come celebrate spring with us at our annual May Faire celebration. Enjoy live music, a Maypole dance at 1:30, puppet shows, face painting, kids' crafts & activities, local artisans, a big water slide (bring swim clothes and a towel). Tickets for food, drinks and activities will be available for purchase or you may bring your own picnic. Flyers are available in the office for posting.  Be sure to invite friends, family, and prospective students!

Alumni Corner

Ruby Nink, a 2008 graduate of Orchard School, member of the Nink Clan (6 kids), is currently studying nursing at Southern Oregon University (SOU). She is a member of the Hawaiian club, Bio Club, Outdoor Adventure club, and is on the women’s roller derby team in Ashland! Earlier in the year, Ruby played on the rugby team for OSU! She wrote that she is “super busy with school and work and is often busy from 6am to 10pm every day of the week! Ruby has helped out with aftercare and the summer camp here at Orchard School.

News Flash!
Karianna Crowder, 2007 Orchard Grad, has been accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University!  She has accepted and will be moving to Ithaca, New York this summer.

Wish List

Liana: Clip boards, Cover for larger iPad

Teacher Tidings


First Grade with Kenza:

Our leadership class has been filled with many opportunities to connect within our grade, with the other grades, and with our animal friends over the last month.  The first grades created deeper connections with each other by doing a partner activity in which they drew their partner's home, family, pets, and something they did not formerly know about them.  Once all had finished, they were asked to present their partner to the whole group.  Students were paired with students they did not usually connect with outside the classroom.  It was a great exercise and I will display their artwork in the math cabin.  I love their drawings!

First graders connected with the other grades in many ways.  On St. Patrick's Day, they joined with the rest of the school in watching Kathleen's beautiful St. Patrick's Day puppet show.  Over the next few Fridays, they connected with the 2/3 grade class, first making them fruit salad and whipped cream and hosting them in Roxaboxen.  The following class, the 2/3 hosted their younger friends by creating a treasure hunt, involving gems in eggs.  

Finally, we began to read the story of Black Beauty.  We realized that the book was originally published 130 years ago, and yet continues to capture our imagination and help us to enter the world of our animal friends.  Students loved the book about Mistakes as Opportunities for Learning and have requested that I borrow it from the library again.  The last mistakes we read about were penicillin and seeing eye dogs, fascinating stories.

Second and Third Grade with Liana:

In Leadership, the 2/3 continue with Mindfulness, Spanish games, and Responsibility.

We focused on the sense of scent to deepen our understanding of mindfulness through awareness. The children played a scent guessing game, and related scent to memory.  

Spanish Games-
We continue with Spanish vocabulary, specifically colors and animals. We practiced the conversational phrases,

“Mas despacio, por favor” (more slowly, please) & "?Como?” (Polite way to ask a speaker to repeat-What?)

We continue to support our school and look after our personal items

In addition, we enjoyed our visit to Roxaboxen with Kenza and the 1st graders. Before Easter, the 2/3 class organized a gem-filled egg hunt for the 1st graders. The picture shows Jaxson, Aoife, Finch, Coral, and Willa deciding how to fill the each egg.

Fourth and Fifth Grade with Manila:

This past month, the fourth and fifth graders practiced mindful seeing, smelling, and tasting.

In the mindful seeing activity, students were asked to more purposefully observe an object. Each group received a set of popsicle sticks, one for each person in their group. Students noticed specific details about their object and were asked to pick out their popsicle stick from the set. The kids did a great job of noticing differences and easily picked out their own stick from a group of four sticks. The goal was to strengthen their visual vocabulary and memory through mindful seeing.

The goals with mindful smelling included focusing attention on their sense of smell and on identifying thoughts and feelings triggered by various scents. I had the students smelling vanilla, coffee, chocolate, lemon, and cinnamon. It was interesting hearing all the different associations they had for the array of scents – some were reminded of specific people, others with a specific event, and many with a particular tradition or routine.

Lastly, we did mindful tasting where the students focused their attention on savoring a morsel of food (a piece of dark chocolate with quinoa). First, the students held the morsel and noticed the shape, color, size, and any markings. Next, they closed their eyes and focused on smelling the chocolate – thinking of words that described the scent or whether or not it reminded them of anything. Finally, they were guided to mindfully eat their morsel, to put it in their mouth, and not bite down. Did they notice a taste? Did their mouth water? They moved the morsel around in their mouth before slowly biting down, chewing, and swallowing. We talked about how eating food in this activity was different from the way they usually eat and about the benefits of giving attention to what you eat.

We continued to play team building games each Friday as well as feeding and caring for the animals.

Language Arts / Social Studies with Liana Gomez

Thank you to those who have helped in the rug room this school year. Your dedication is a benefit to us all.
It is wonderful to have Matt and Manila consistently support our students.
The Holmes family helps with the wash, and Mariko helps vacuum.
1st: Erin, Nicky, Cambria, Kari, Estella, Colby, and my mom, Virtudes
2/3: Katy, April, and Johannes
4/5: Janelle Bartlett

Science with Mary Ann Wilkinson

Two major events have occurred relating to the Science curriculum since early March. The fourth and fifth graders went to the Sierra Outdoor School for camp. Three days and two nights of new adventures in the mountains. So many activities to report, but some of the favorites were the high ropes course and zipline, (where everyone personally met and often surpassed their personal challenges), and the knapping of obsidian arrowheads. They also became personally introduced to a number of forest plant and animal residents including a beautiful Great Horned Owl. Of course there were lots of games, team challenges, and just plain fun.

Upon our return, attention turned to the upcoming Science Fair/Invention Convention. Scheduled the week after break, the goal was to finish as many projects as possible before break so families could enjoy their free time. Second through fifth graders could choose between doing an experiment and creating an invention. It seems the projects were divided evenly between the two choices. There were a wide variety of experiments and contraptions on display Thursday, April 13 after school. I hope you were able to enjoy this event.

The first graders did an extensive study of which objects would sink or float. After many prototypes created from a wide variety of materials, the final creations were tested and displayed at the Science Fair/Invention Convention. However, if you are a first grader’s parent or guardian you will know the coveted items to float down the playground stream are various and sundry bottle caps. I would like to thank all those who supported and encouraged the children in their chosen projects and all your positive comments to me.

It is always amazing to me what your children are capable of and their amazing thinking processes. Thank you.

Music Notes with Rolf Sandmeyer

Our beloved Rolf will be taking a medical leave from school through the month of April, and quite possibly, through the end of the year.  Our thoughts, prayers, and love are with him and his family during this time of healing.

You may send cards and well wishes for Rolf to Kiyomi (Kaia's mom) or drop them in the office for me to pass along to the family.  
Blessings ~ Manila

Kiyomi Kaneshiro
2431 Richmond Dr. #4
S.C.,  CA  95062

Drama / Circus Arts / Gardening with Rock Lerum

Focus has been largely on CircOrchard and the two shows happening last week! Future dates TBD.

Art with Valerie Phipps

We started the spring season discussing PAUL KLEE.  We critiqued his incredible art as we went over the difference between abstract art and surrealism.  The best part was sharing with the kids how Paul Klee mostly created ART on his own, creating hundreds of pieces of art without any outside views, advice or critiques. He also created on any kind of canvas he coul come up with.  We talked about how brilliant it is to create from within, from your heart and your own original visions and to always be creative as an individual.  Inspired by his masterful paintings, Senecio, and Castle and Sun, the students made beautiful portraits of animals and made their own Castles with enthusiasm.  It was a great opportunity to deepen our understanding on complimentary colors, warm/ cool colors and the importance of shapes and form.    

Before we parted ways for Spring Break, we started our next month’s exploration in eco friendly, earth conscious ART.   For the month of April, the students and I are dedicating classroom time to create Earth friendly projects using recycled items in celebration of Earth Day (everyday, right?).  So far, 1st- 5th graders made their own paint brushes using drift wood I found on the beach and other materials found on campus and in the art room.

The kindergarteners created textured collages on salvaged magnets, while the 4th/5th class made multimedia collages on handmade, cardboard canvases. First-3rd graders made handmade postcards out of recycled cardboard, recycled paper and old magazines.  We will continue with this theme until the end of April.  Another round of artwork should be coming home then.

Happy Spring and Happy Earth Day!  

“A line is a dot that went for a walk” - Paul Klee

Kindergarten with Rosy Weiser and Kathleen Avalon

Announcements — Kindergarteners have a field trip on Wednesday, May 3rd. We’ll be going to the Natural History Museum again but this time to learn about animals instead of Native Americans. We’ll leave school at 10:30, and I’m thinking to make a day of it and visit the beach across the street afterwards, so we’ll head home about 1/1:30. Let me know if you can drive and how many you can take.

Thanks to everyone who helped beautify the kinder garden today. I can’t wait to see how it looks on Monday. The extra effort you’ve all put in will hopefully give me and Kathleen the boost we needed to further beautify the space in the coming months and next year. Special thanks to Katherine for getting everyone organized and then going. You guys have all put in so much this year.

Two other upcoming events: Kinder cafe where the kindergarteners host a mini-restaurant for the 1st graders (tentatively scheduled for Thursday, 5/11) and kindergarten graduation ceremony and potluck — Wednesday 6/14 at 12:30, school day ends for kinders directly afterwards, about 2 — more details soon, please work on getting the day off.

Curriculum Update:

Language Arts:

Maxine’s grandma, Katy, finished the Sidewalk Circus activity with the children that I mentioned in the previous newsletter.  This involved letter, word and sentence matching games using the content from the collaborative story the children came up with after looking at the wordless picture book. It was a very academic endeavor, requiring maximum focus, and everyone got very involved. It was good to see how determined this group can be to finish a task and how eager they are to work hard. The key is to keep the doses small so that there is always a healthy balance between work and play, and also to make the distinctions between work and play invisible. They are one and the same in a rich classroom environment like ours.

We played letter bingo after the children created their own bingo boards and then traded with a friend. This was really good letter writing and recognition practice. We closely examined the letter E,e and it’s short and long sounds, as well as generally reviewing the different sounds the same letter can make depending on the word and its placement. We also reviewed the letter G,g, which most kinders were having trouble identifying and replicating.

Kathleen had the children make name banners using twigs for their letters.


I started reading a new chapter book, “Doctor Doolittle”. I clean it up a little as I read as it’s old fashioned and has some archaic ideas and language, but overall it’s an entertaining story, full of adventure and a central message that I can get behind — that animals have a language and a complex inner life if you only stop to listen to them.

I told a circular story called “The Rabbit and the Carrot” about kindness and giving, and then we performed the mini-play. The kids struggled mightily with cooperation and kindness during this endeavor and I’ll be refocusing on both of these things in the coming weeks — one step forward, two steps back…

Last week, I told Grimm’s The Queen Bee, also at the heart of it a story about kindness. It’s a complicated tale and I will be retelling it at least once in the next week so that eventually the kids can bring it home with them to you.

Kathleen continues to share puppet stories every week, many of them about springtime, like “The Little Brown Bulb Wakes Up” and the Greek story “The Goddess Estaria of Spring". There have been a number of birthdays and the kids have been part of her rainbow bridge birthday ritual. She performed her “Lucky Patrick” puppet show to the whole school for St. Patrick’s Day.


We took a break from structured number work this month but we are always counting, measuring, and working with numbers informally.


We’ve been working on observation skills — we went birdwatching, the kids chose a favorite tree and drew it in detail, being careful to look at the tree's actual features (bark, structure, leaves etc.) and not include ideas from one’s imagination in these “scientific drawings”. Separating the two is neither easy nor necessary at this age, but developing the ability to record what you see and to notice things is a useful skill to start working on, even in kindergarten. In this same vein, the children examined themselves in the mirror and drew self-portraits. Gary, Maxine’s grandpa and an archaeology/paleontology enthusiast brought fossils in to show and discuss with the kids. He buried fossils in the sand box and they all dug for them after his talk.


Valerie made sushi with the kids when she subbed for me. Rob came in to make Indian chapatis and hummus with us and Amy came to teach us how to make another Indian bread called paratha, gluten-free no less!


The kids finished their hand sewn pillows, stuffed with sheep wool, lavender, and ground corn. They will keep them in class until the end of the year to use at rest time. We made natural dyes and dyed eggs to put in their handmade Easter baskets that came home before break. We blew out eggs and Kathleen helped the children paint them and create an Easter tree with hanging eggs and handmade tissue blossoms. They also made felt banner stories with her, cutting out felt shapes and gluing them on to tell a story, and used an egg wash to glue tissue flowers to the classroom windows. And for St. Patrick’s Day, they wet felted gold nuggets.

Love Rosy


March 2017 Newsletter


March 2017 Newsletter

Meet the Teacher: Valerie


Valerie has been part of the Orchard community since 2012 when her daughter was in kindergarten. She began teaching art and movement electives in 2013, and in 2016, she took charge of the art program and became one of the school’s chefs.

Valerie said, “I truly resonate with Orchard School’s philosophy when it comes to mindfulness, and learning through experience.  I would love to ensure that each student explores and discovers their individual creative abilities.”

Throughout the years, Valerie has enjoyed helping on campus, volunteering in various classrooms, making costumes for our annual plays and for CircOrchard, and running the book sale at the May Faire.

She attended Montgomery College in Maryland for two years, has trained as an artist in various mediums, from watercolor to quilting, for over 20 years, and is a certified holistic chef.  She is also a certified mentor for young girls coming of age.

Valerie teaches sewing and art at the ART Factory in Aptos, along with private sewing lessons for all ages and art camps for children, in her home. She owns and operates a small business, IRIECYCLE, where she makes clothes and jewelry using recycled materials and hand-designed woodblock prints.

Valerie is truly a multi-talented individual!  However, she said, “Being a mom is probably the most rewarding experience thus far!”

In her free time, Valerie enjoys African dance, traveling the world with her family, practicing yoga, playing squash and the ukulele, sewing and lithography.

Alumni Corner

Karianna Crowder, 2007 Orchard grad, will be graduating from the Honor’s College at Oregon State University (OSU) in the spring with a B.S. degree in Zoology.  She has been accepted into the four year Veterinary program at OSU.  Karianna credits Orchard School with inspiring her passion and love for animals.  She currently works at a veterinary clinic on the weekends in Newport, Oregon, and at the animal hospital at OSU.  Last year, Karianna spent the fall quarter in Thailand working on the Highland Farm  Gibbon Sanctuary and is currently writing her thesis on the gibbons and communication, based on observations from her experiences with the primates.


First, Second, and Third Grades…………………………...…...………………………....……………………...….………...……………………...…..…………….………..Kenza Temsamani


I would like to thank all of my weekly volunteers.  In the 2/3 class:  Katey (Sascha's grandmother and Liz (Aoife's mother).  In the 1st grade:  Erin (Estella's mother), Elizabeth and Colby Smith (Juliet's mother and brother), and now Alyssa (Solomon's sister).  And of course, thank you to those of you who drop in from time to time.  



Fourth and Fifth Grades………………………...…...………………………...…………..……………...….………...……………………...….………...……………………...….………..Manila Bol


The big thrill of last week in math was making and eating fraction waffles.  In small groups, students made the batter for our waffle eating math experience.  Unfortunately, one of my waffle irons stopped working, but the students patiently waited for their waffle fifths.  

This is one of my favorite activities, not only because it is a much anticipated, fun tradition, but because it is a wonderful way to reinforce and provide a concrete experience with improper fractions and mixed numbers.

The children recorded on the class chart with tally marks after eating each waffle fifth.  The following day, we listed what each student consumed as a fraction and as a mixed number and colored a waffle diagram accordingly.

On Monday, Isis created and presented our logic problem.  The students were enthusiastic and interested as they narrowed down the possibilities, finally figuring the pattern and solution.

Science with Mary Ann Wilkinson


March has arrived and we will be focused on Science Fair/Invention Convention. Students have been working on their experimental questions or invention ideas. You should have seen a parent approval sheet by now. They have just received a timeline of expectations. My goal is to have their work done before the April break, as the Science Fair Open House will be on Thurs., April 13, with backboards  and inventions due in the science room on Tues., April 11.  This should give everyone the chance to enjoy and relax during that first week of April.

Fourth and fifth graders, in particular, will strive to understand the why and what-for of the scientific method. Second and third graders have been studying the scientific process by building and testing STEM rockets. In preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, students will be working on leprechaun traps. They will bring these home as I will be at camp with the fourth and fifth graders during the week of March 13 – 15. On my return we will alternate working on Science Fair / Invention.

First graders are fully absorbed in the idea of leprechauns. Like the second and third graders, they will be building leprechaun traps. They created rainbow chromatography and loved it. Try it at home – coffee filters, markers, droppers, and bowls to catch the water. Ask the kids for directions; they know how. A letter explaining the Science Fair/Invention Convention is in the works. We will do a float or sink STEM activity for the occasion. The Open House is Thurs., April 13th. Upon my return from camp, March 13 – 15, we will be focusing on these boats, the principles of floating, and spring-emerging insects.

Music Notes with Rolf Sandmeyer


Kindergarten:  Kinders learned to keep the “We Will Rock You” beat while reciting the words to “I Went Downtown.”  This activity built rhythm and vocabulary.  Kinders also played many singing and movement games, including the team building game “Shoo Fly”, in which students stepped forward and backward to the beat and worked together to turn the circle of their bodies inside out and right again several different ways.

First Grade:  First graders continued to learn the song “Junkanoo” on xylophones.  Students who mastered the introduction moved on the full piece, and ambidexterity with mallet technique was encouraged.  First graders also played many movement and singing games, including “All the Birds Sing Up in the Trees”, where a group of students got to be “birds” flying in and out of the circle of trees.

Second and Third Grade:  Second and third graders practiced clapping on the off beats with the fun song and game “Zodiac”.  Off-beat arm swinging was then added to reinforce this understanding of rhythm.  Second and third graders also sang “Chicken Soup with Rice”, tying vocabulary and the months of the year into their studies in Language Arts.

Fourth and Fifth Grade:  Fourth and fifth graders learned to build the four chords to the song “Renegades”, as well as identifying the notes of the melody.  This song praises “Pioneers”, and each student was encouraged to think of an important pioneer.  Fourth and fifth graders also practiced singing along to this song and began to learn its chords and melody on keyboards and guitar.

Drama / Circus Arts / Gardening with Rock Lerum


In circus classes, there is big excitement as many students are climbing higher on stilts. Some are exploring the more difficult unicycle, and the static trapeze. The classes start with an exercise or using a specific apparatus. Then it opens to free choice, which at this grade borders on free play. The goal is to be engaged with a circus related activity. Each student has selected a role/part for CircOrchard, and rehearsals will begin this week. Students are asked to include movements and expressions, give them names, and then we will use those in our circus pieces.


1st Grade

In circus, and drama classes we have been working on building CircOrchard skits. At this grade level, students still, largely, need direction in creating pieces. Line, form, sequencing, focus, storyline (if applicable) are all apart of a skit. So, they create elements, and the director makes sure they fit together. We are looking forward to CircOrchard in April.

The sun is popping and we have gone on weed patrol in the garden. The sunny days and rains have given us many weeds to battle. We have also been preparing our soil, adding compost, for planting time. Some of the students have already been planting some starts and seeds. We have filled two new planting beds with soil and compost, and covered with mulch.

Second/Third Grade

For much of the past month, we spent time working on our CircOrchard pieces, in both drama and circus classes. Each student is involved with creating choreography for the piece they want to be in. Rehearsals give us the chance to explore enhanced expressions within the framework that has been created, and to put that movement into muscle memory. They then show them to the director for tweaks and adjustments. At this level, the students are able to take on some of their own direction, giving them ownership to the piece, and the shared responsibility of a coherent presentation for an audience. Looking forward to CircOrchard performances in April.

The sun is popping and we have gone on weed patrol in the garden. The sunny days and rains have given us many weeds to battle. We have also been preparing our soil, adding compost, for planting time. Some of the students have already been planting some starts and seeds. We have filled two new planting beds with soil and compost, and covered with mulch.

Fourth/Fifth Grade

For much of the past month, we spent time in circus and drama classes, working on our CircOrchard pieces. Each student is given the choice to be in as many pieces as they would like, within reason. In each piece, students get to contribute movements or choreography. Rehearsals give us the chance to explore enhanced expressions, and to put the movement/acting into muscle memory. Looking forward to the performances in April.

In the garden, we have gone on weed patrol. The sunny days and rains have given us many weeds to battle. We have also been preparing our soil, adding compost, for planting time. Some of the students have already been planting seeds in flats for transplant in April and May. We have filled two new planting beds with soil and compost, and covered with mulch. This class has just finished their scarecrow - building unit. Each partnership of students created a scarecrow character with name and personality, and designed a look (clothing) to match their character.

Scarecrows are up and watching over the garden.

Art with Valerie Phipps

The past few weeks have been incredibly fun in the art room.  After all the auction art creation time, it was nice to focus on new elements and fun projects in all the classes. The kindergarteners and first graders studied fuzzy, baby owls and had a small chat on texture.  They made their own baby owl by collaging torn up pieces of paper.  Although each student had the same materials to use to create their owls, each owl resulted in uniqueness and extreme cuteness.  The 2/3 graders handdrew, beautiful greathorn owls and barn owls with great detail, including adornments and habitats, again with great focus on usage of lines as patterns, texture, tone  and dimension.  In the 4/5th grade class we accomplished a two-class project on winter birch trees.  This was a watercolor assignment that goes along with our present discussion on depth and shading.  We also went over a few brush stroke techniques and the usage of different types of brushes.  With a backlight of the moon, the students created shadows and used a single brushstroke to add shading on their trees.  Watching these kids create and seeing their artwork realized, has been amazing to witness!  

“ I dream of painting and then I paint my dream” —Vincent Van Gogh

Last week we welcomed spring (almost!) with Cherry Blossoms! The students used Japanese sumi ink to create a cherry blossom branch by blowing on the wet ink thru straws.  They also used bamboo skewers to make the blossoms and buds.  And to add a fun touch, the kids added their own take on a “Hanko stamp” By stacking their names or initials in red and in a red box.   Hanko Stamps are  found on Chinese and Japanese traditional paintings used as a signature seal for the artist’s name, rather than a handwritten signature.

**I was out of town for one week and missed the kids tremendously! They had the pleasure of having an art day with Kimberley.  She is an elective teacher for Orchard and spent the day with the kids creating jelly fish dream catchers and vision boards! I’m happy and proud to say that Kimberly told me the kids were helpful, supportive and had fun. ** Great job students!

I would also love to use this opportunity to give a shout out to several 4th and 5th grade students that submitted art to enter a calendar art contest for the Monterey Bay Air Resources District.  The deadline to send art in was this week! The Theme of contest was “Why we love clean air.” There are 13 winners and each winner receives $100 and to have their artwork used in the District’s 2018 Calendar.  These kids worked every free moment they had on their artwork for this contest, let’s wish them well!  


First Grade Leadership with Kenza:

In Leadership we have a few of my favorite books over the last few weeks, it seems I have many favorites:    Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling, which prompted a lot of scientific facts about snakes, and The Salamander Room, which caused our imaginations to soar.  We also read Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon, a book about understanding and resolving conflict peacefully, and baked Gluten free banana muffins, carrot raisin muffins, and made cream cheese frosting to ice them.  Thank you to Cambria and Alyssa for helping to coordinate.  I love cooking with children! I also told them the Indian story of The Rabbit in the Moon.

In Roxaboxen, we have new businesses.  Ezra had a large property and so converted part of it into a restaurant and another part into a hairdresser salon.  Other students work in the salon.  Estella has converted her store into a natural history museum.  There is also a massage parlor; Elena is the massage therapist.  I believe Sophie, Sofia, and Juliet have moved houses.  Everyone continues to beg to go to Roxaboxen on Fridays and it is a place where they let their imaginations flourish and practice conflict resolution and collaboration.  We often bring our lunch and picnic there on Fridays.  

Second and Third Grade Leadership with Liana:


Since the last leadership update, we continue to focus on mindfulness, service, responsibility, and ‘juegos en Español’.


The students continued to explore the 5 senses to practice awareness. We explored the sense of ‘sight.’ We observed colors, and noted how certain colors relate to feelings. Further, they ‘looked’ for places around campus that help elicit the feelings that the colors evoked such as calm (blue) or happy (yellow).


Also, we analyzed a read-aloud called Finding Winnie. We looked for examples of mindful actions that helped the main character, a real bear, who later inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh character.


We continue to support the Santa Cruz SPCA. We had the Education Coordinator join us 3/10, and we look forward to her return 3/17 for a final presentation on animal feelings and behavior. The students are hosting a pet food drive 3/16 to support the SPCA’s Pet Food Bank.


We continue to help care for the Orchard campus, and our own cubbies and clothing.


We have transitioned to color words, playing a tag game called ‘arco iris’  (rainbow) which includes practicing all colors in Spanish.

Fourth and Fifth Grade Leadership with Manila:

In Leadership, the fourth and fifth graders began focusing on their senses.

The Mind Up curriculum points out, “That same ability to notice important details and differentiate among all the scents, sounds, visual images, and other sensory details your brain receives can also help you respond more mindfully to people and events around you.”

We began mindful listening with the “Mystery Sounds” activity.  I would make a sound such as opening and closing scissors.  The students wrote down details they noticed, what the sound reminded them of, and their guess.  They shared their responses and then I revealed the mystery sound.  It was fun, interesting, and surprising at times.

The fourth and fifth graders didn’t know it, but they were making their neural circuits stronger as they practiced focused attention in this way.  Their data sensory filter was activated (the reticular activating system) and the pathways to the prefrontal cortex.  

The following week, I read the story, “The Other Way to Listen”, a story about hearing the corn sing or hearing wildflower seeds bursting open.  “It takes a lot of patience and you can’t be in a hurry.”

Kindergarten with Rosy Weiser and Kathleen Avalon

Curriculum News:

Math — We continue to count by 2s, 5s, and 10s, and backwards from 10 and forwards to 100. Many kids are grasping these concepts; for some children it is still just rote counting, like a song they memorize. By counting hands, fingers, feet and toes, as well as bodies, some children are really starting to understand the concept of skip counting, a faster way of counting. We are also counting gems, coins and so on. I’ve also introduced the concept of tally marks, in the context of counting by 5s. We explored the number 10, 11, and 12, and the teens. We made bead rods with ten beads and then used loose beads to build numbers so they could really see that 13 means one ten and 3 ones. Most found this very confusing. We worked on number grouping and addition combinations with a set of 10 items (in this case, a literature-based lesson using the story Ten Flashing Fireflies).

All of these concepts, including the most basic like number identification, will be revisited in 1st grade. Kindergarten just serves as an introduction, a spark, a chance to take off with these concepts if you’re ready, and just as exposure if you’re not there yet developmentally. Following procedure, and multi-step directions, using fine motor skills, learning to copy from the chalkboard — these are also at play in every lesson and are important parts of academic development for the kindergarteners, even if the specific content doesn’t yet resonate.

Language Arts — The children had practice writing their last names. Some with their long double-barreled last names (Solomon, Leif, Katha…) had extra practice writing! We will later include middle names and I’ll teach them about their initials. We visited Liana and her 2nd/3rd graders and the kids partnered with their buddies to go on an ABCs of Orchard letter hunt, so U was for unicycle, C was for compost, A was for alpaca and so on. They’ve been working hard on writing recipe names in their family cookbooks and writing numbers too, as they number the steps in the recipes. Yesterday, Maxine’s grandma, Katy, who helps me every Tuesday morning, began a unit as our resident guest teacher. She showed them a beautiful wordless book called, “Sidewalk Circus,” and had the children collaboratively put their own sentences to the text. For the next two Thursdays we’ll be running small group centers and children will be working on letter recognition, letter order within word, examining the structure of sentences and more. This will be a differentiated activity so that those who are ready will have the opportunity for more challenging tasks. We are lucky to have Katy, a veteran teacher for years in the public school system, to run these activities.

Science — The kids made water cycle posters, after I made it “rain” in the classroom in a fun demonstration involving heating up water, like the sun does, watching it condense on a plate filled with ice cubes (representing the clouds), and then seeing how it precipitated as big drops of water fell back into the cooking pot. They recreated this with hot water in lidded jars with ice cubes on top, and then they made water cycle posters. Next, we talked about volcanoes, made volcano drawings and watercolor paintings, and then they built volcanoes in the sandbox and recreated a chemical reaction using vinegar and baking soda to mimic the chemical reaction of a real volcano. They loved this! We added red watercolor paint to the mix so the “lava” was red, and put buildings and animals at the foot of the sand mountains to become the hapless victims of the explosion. Lastly, they worked with droppers to see how many water droplets they could fit on a penny — the most careful and patient children with advanced fine motor control were able to fit on close to 30 drops. They tallied these with tally marks. Another fun experiment to recreate at home.

Special events: On Valentine’s Day, the kindergarteners performed our winter circle — students and teachers were amazed at how they remembered all of the words to this long song/story. We also listened to the older students read poetry, some of it original. And we went to the gym to watch the 4/5 graders put on a shadow puppet show. Orchard kids have so much excitement and fun in their school lives — they are very lucky!

Cooking — Kathleen made bread with the children, an ambitious feat, especially considering she did it on her own without an adult helper! Other cooking projects were Riley’s Apple Muffins and Maxine’s Latkes, both of which were wildly popular.

Gardening — Kathleen helped the kids weed the garden beds and plant strawberry starts. Soon, she’ll have them planting miniature fairy gardens with wheat grass and perhaps let some wheat grass grow in the large garden for students to harvest next year. We need plants — so any donations will be put to use.

Stories — The Grimm fairy tale, Mother Holle, was featured by both me and Kathleen in several retellings and then Kathleen’s puppet show. Ask them about this story, the virtuous daughter and the lazy daughter, the old lady who makes the seasons and makes it snow by fluffing her down comforters. I finished reading them “The Night Fairy,” by Laura Schlitz, a truly beautifully written chapter book that I’m sure many would love to own and listen to again. I’m looking for our next chapter book — suggestions are welcome.