Edible Spiders

We are running with the spider theme for our Friday Fun centers! Today students made spider rocks and spider pizzas…yummy!




Can you tell which one is mine?

We started the process of making spider rocks. The students painted their rocks and made eight spider legs. Once the rocks dry, we will glue on the legs and eyes.



We played learning games for the other two activities. First, students enjoyed the game of Avalanche, where they have to collect different colored fruit using tweezers. This is a great game for building fine motor skills.


The second game we played was Candyland…with a twist! Students had to identify the colors in Spanish and repeat the color word as they moved their Candyland piece. This was a great way to reinforce Spanish in the homeroom classroom.


Engineering Video Chat

We video chatted with our Magnawall engineering partners today. Students were shown a prototype based on their original meeting and asked to give feedback.



(My apologies in advance for the video quality….)

I encouraged students to make changes, but many were already happy with the creations…those high schoolers lucked out! Now the engineering students will begin fabricating the “missing pieces” while we anxiously await!


During Swooper Citizens this week, Ms. Atkinson and I wanted to really challenge the kindergarten and first grade students with activities that would help them learn and feel perseverance (never giving up). What better way than a rock wall activity?!

But first we asked students to think about something Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.” We questioned, “What does that mean? and “What is perseverance?” and “How does that show perseverance?”We talked about activities, games, concepts, or skills that are hard and need extra time and dedication to master….

Cue the rock wall….

The task was for students to cross the rock wall using only the red pieces…you should have heard the gasps! The students lined up and readied themselves for their turns. Some were talking strategy, while others want to just hop on and get started.




As you can see, some of the read holds are REALLY far apart!!

When students fell off, they jumped right back on. EVERY one of the kindergartners fell off several times and EVERY student got right back on over and over again! Go perseverance!!

We reconvened in the classroom to enjoy a special read aloud, Rosie Revere, Engineer.


“Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal–to fly–Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fly but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose insists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.”

Time for an engineering challenge! Students were tasked to make a “ball in cup” game. First, they decorated a cup.


Then we tied a wooden ball to a piece of yarn. The yarn was then tied to the cup. We took a critical look at the length of the string, noticing that balls with a longer string were more difficult to land in the cup…and also more of a hazard! Students tried to catch the ball in the cup with only using one hand….it sounds easier than it actually is! We worked to get the length of the string right, as well as give each student a lot of game space so that there were no head or teeth knocks….

Parents, you will be handed these games in car line tomorrow and may do as you wish with them…..in hindsight, a lighter ball would be a better idea 🙂

We wrapped up the lesson with a journal entry.



Special Visitor

Just a quick peek….

As one last Five Senses activity, Dr. Shelly Lee, an ophthalmologist (and retina specialist) from New Mexico, stopped by the kindergarten classroom to share some information about our eyes. She brought this fabulous model with moving pieces that was passed around to the students. I was thrilled when students correctly identified the pupil and iris. They even got to take apart the different layers of the eye and see what is inside!



Side note: Shelly and I went to Cate School together. We were in the same advisory group. Every few years we reconnect, with the reason for this most recent visit being the memorial service or our advisors wife. What I love about Shelly is the feeling of reconnecting after long periods of little or no conversation and the feeling like we just saw each other yesterday….

Spiders and Sewing!


We had busy fingers at Friday Fun this past week. First, it was time to break out the sewing needles and sew a fall squash. Sewing is a fun and active way for students to build their fine motor skills.




These pumpkins are the first of several sewing projects the students will complete this year.

In the kitchen, students made spider sandwiches…yummy! This was the perfect opportunity for students to learn about the number of legs and eyes a spider has. They constructed their spider sandwiches using apple slices, almond butter, fruit leather, and mini chocolate chips. I love how these turned out! Better yet, the students ate almost every bite!


Here is the recipe in case you would like to try it at home. The only difference is that we added eight mini chocolate chips (eyes) as most spiders have up to eight eyes!


Creepy, Crawly Spiders

Today marks the start of our Spider and Bat unit. The addition of a spider unit is new for me…and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I am NOT a fan of spiders!

In preparing for this unit, I have been trying to look at spiders from a different point of view. In fact, just this morning, my daughter called my attention to a giant one cruising along our brick walkway. The teacher in me rushed to get a picture, while the regular person in me wanted to scream and run away.


October on our avocado ranch is spider season. The large orchard spiders are out in force….which means there are spider webs EVERYWHERE! When driving on an ATV or crossing between two trees, we must be very aware of impending spider webs. The webs are thick and large. After the rain though, they glistened with water drops and sparkled in the sun. (See I am trying to appreciate spiders!)

So today the unit began. I always enjoy hearing from the students what they already know about the topic at hand. Today was no different. Students shared many facts with me. I write down everything they tell me, even facts that may not be facts. Throughout the unit we add new learning to our Spider Wall as well as reclassify facts that are not true to the “Misconceptions” area of the wall. I love having bulletin boards that are a work in progress!


We also took a survey regarding who likes spiders. Here are the results:


We will see if anyone has a change of heart after this unit!


When Ms. Atkinson and I developed the second year of the Swooper Citizens curriculum over the summer, we had no idea how perfectly the themes would tie into Mr. Surber’s Book Club idea. The Book Club meets for the first time on Wednesday to discuss Grit. Our Swooper Citizens theme of the week is Determination. These character traits complement each other nicely!

We started the lesson on determination by asking students to describe a time when they tried to do something that felt too hard at first. What did they do? What happened next? Students described trying to master a certain sports skill. Most said they kept trying and then the skill got easier.

To further demonstrate what it means to show determination, we shared this amazing video clip:

Now that is determination.

Next I read aloud Sally Jean, Bicycle Queen, by Cari Best.


Sally Jean was born to ride. And her bicycle, Flash, is just about her best friend. But one day something terrible – and wonderful – happens. Sally Jean grows. Suddenly she finds herself too big for Flash. What’s a Bicycle Queen to do? Finally, by collecting old bicycle parts to make a new bike – and giving Flash to a young friend who longs for a bigger bike of his own – she rides again!

With exuberant art that’s just the right match for Sally Jean’s new found freedom, this joyous text celebrates growing up, learning new skills, and giving back to the community.

This was the perfect piece of literature to demonstrate determination. Sally wants a new bike so badly that she works to buy a new bike, and when she still can’t afford a new one, she collects parts from old bikes and makes herself a new one! Go Sally!

Now students needed a chance to show determination. They partnered up and tried and tried to follow this fancy footwork:

Yikes! Challenging!

So we gave it a try.

After hard work and determination…


Magnawall Challenge

The Introduction to Engineering class arrived on campus right before lunch. While the kindergartners were enjoying the last few minutes of recess, the high school students began exploring the Magnawall so that they had a true sense of what they will be creating.

Mr. Moore called the students together and introduced them to their partners. The high schoolers were directed to retrieve their sketch books and a writing utensil, and the kindergartners were encouraged to design away! Each kindergartner then described his/her concept of the piece they felt the Magnawall is missing.


This student describes his retractable suction cup.


This student describes her rainbow colored trampoline.



This student describes several missing pieces, so his high schooler created a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.

It was so much fun listening to the kindergartners’ ideas and watching how the high schoolers interpreted them. Next, Mr. Moore asked his engineering students to work with their kindergarten clients to come up with a name for their project as well decorations for the actual piece and prepare a short, one-minute presentation.

We regrouped in the kindergarten classroom where the presentations began.

Now, the engineering students will begin creating- sourcing materials, building models, and acquiring parts. We will video conference next week and the kindergartners will hopefully be shown preliminary prototypes of their designs. Of course, plans and ideas can change….and the kindergarten clients are encouraged to verbalize these changes when they develop!

Friday Fun

Last Friday we welcomed our first parent volunteers to the classroom for Friday Fun! In the kitchen students made apple sandwiches. They loved this healthy snack.



Here is the recipe:


Students also made spirit bracelets in anticipation of the pep rally. This was a great fine motor and math activity all wrapped up into one!





The kindergartners were excited to wear their spirit bracelets to the Pep Rally….there was a lot to see!

Go Owls!

Fire Safety


We had a visit from the Montecito firefighters. They parked their red engine in carline and the students sat along the curb in awe of their presence. After some initial introductions, Firefighter Rob talked about the importance of having a plan in case of a house fire and asked the students to review some important questions with their families:

-Is there a smoke detector in your house? Is there one in your bedroom?

-Where outside will you meet your family if there is a fire inside your house?

-What do you do if you see matches or a lighter?

Then he put on his firefighting gear and explained the importance of each item. Did you know that firefighters carry five types of gloves? Five?! He turned on his breathing apparatus so that the students could hear how different he sounds when he talks while wearing the mask. After all the gear was on, Firefighter Rob said he weighed at least fifty pounds more than before he donned the gear!

Students then had a chance to explore the engine. (Did you know that an engine has a water pump on it, while a fire truck does not?)



These buttons and valves are color coded to operate the different hoses and pumps.

In the middle of their presentation, the firefighters got an actual call! “Brush fire in Carpinteria.” The packed up quickly and left the school with their sirens blaring! Talk about excitement. After ten minutes, the engine returned….the call was able to be handled by the Carpinteria department! This gave us more time to explore the engine! What a memorable event.


Thank you firefighters! We loved your presentation!