For our Swooper Citizens lesson of the week, we discussed confidence. We asked students to share things that they are good at.

We then discussed the rock wall and asked students how they felt before the first time they did the rock wall.  Many students said they felt nervous. Several had not yet tried to climb the rock wall.

This gave us the perfect lead in to discussing confidence. Mrs. Vanetti beared her soul and told the students that she had NEVER done the rock wall before. Over-confident ME jumped in and said that the rock wall is super EASY. I even suggested that we go an give it a try.

I hopped on and boasted, “This is SOOOOOO easy!” (which it is not, as I slipped off the wall half a dozen times…) I started to get discouraged and said to Mrs. Vanetti, “This isn’t as easy as I thought.” That’s when Mrs. Vanetti started to cheer me on.  The students joined her!

My own cheering section! Boy, did this give me confidence!

Then Mrs. Vanetti gave it a try. She did great!

Next up were the students…..I am so proud of their grit and persistence in trying to climb the wall. For many, it was the first time they had climbed the wall.

After each student had a turn, we returned to the classroom where we discussed what words or actions help build confidence and which squash confidence.  I had been a confidence squasher. That was the moment when Mrs. Vanetti and I came clean…..she admitted that today was not her first time climbing the wall, and I told the students I was pretending to boast and act like I was a pro. Students then shared about what helped them to feel confident and climb the wall. I’m glad they recognized the importance of balancing being confident with being overly confident.

Swooper Citizens

We discussed citizenship this week. Citizenship means being a part of a community and taking pride in it. The lesson began with students brainstorming the communities to which they belong: Laguna Blanca, Santa Barbara, California, Girl Scouts, United States, and so on. Then we discussed ways in which we show pride in our communities, like by picking up trash, or saying “please” and “thank you.” This discussion was followed by a read aloud, If Everybody Did, by Jo Ann Stover. This books shows what might happen if everybody did something that was unhelpful, like if everyone picked flowers, the plants would be bare, or if everybody left their toys on the stairs, there would be a huge mess.

We took this idea of If everybody did and paired students up to create a poster depicting what would happen if everybody did something positive, like pick up trash or clean up their dishes. The students did a great job working with their partner to come up with and illustrate their idea.

We made the posters into a class book that the students can enjoy.

That reminds me….I eagerly awaiting the bright pink compassion slips to be returned. You may remember last week, each student was given a slip of paper with an act of compassion on it, and they were encouraged to complete that simple act. If your child did, please have them bring the slip of paper back to me with their name on it so we can record how we showed compassion. Thanks!


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… hindsight, a lighter ball would be a better idea 🙂

We wrapped up the lesson with a journal entry.




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…



The Swooper Citizens theme for the past two weeks has been peacefulness. Peacefulness means feeling calm and at ease. Last Wednesday, students practiced a short meditation routine. They they engaged in a mindful yoga lesson. Finally, students colored a mandala. Mandalas, a circular design that symbolizes that life is never ending, have been in existence since the beginning of time.  Coloring mandalas has presented individuals with a way to maintain healing and wellness and other positive states of being that equate to peacefulness!

Here are some examples of the mandalas students colored.


I wanted to take this state of peacefulness farther. How could I encourage students to have the feelings of calm and ease as often as possible? When do children experience the most unrest? At my house, this happens at bedtime. This got me thinking….what if the students each made a “peacefulness pillow?”

I created a mandala template for students to use to design their own mandala. Next, they were asked to draw their design on this template.




Then I traced the blank mandala design on muslin fabric. IMG_6676

Once students created their design, I taped their piece of muslin on top of their design. Then the magic began. Students traced their design in black permanent marker and added bright colors with fabric markers.







During this process, students were encouraged to create a peaceful classroom environment. After about ten minutes of quiet, the children began sweetly singing “One Day,” the perfect song to accompany this activity.

Soon, students will choose their second piece of fabric from several cozy flannel selections. I will sew them up, and students will stuff the pillow cases with poly-fill. Look for these peaceful pillows to arrive at your house by the end of next week!




Rainbow Fish Preparations


The preparations for our spring musical play are in full swing! The costume pieces have arrived.


Students will use these blank canvases to create sea stars, lobsters, purple fish, yellow fish and more! Tomorrow students will begin the process by dying their clothing items. Accents will be added once the clothes have dried. Students will have full creative control over their own costumes… far they have requested that I provide felt, glitter, rhinestones (Does anyone have a Bedazzler? 🙂 ) and more! I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

We ran through the play several times this week. It is obvious that students practiced their parts during Spring Break.  Thank you! The Rainbow Fish extravaganza is coming together nicely because of this!

This musical play does a great job incorporating our Swooper Citizen character traits. I asked students to name the traits that are included in the play, and they listed friendliness, courage, kindness, sharing, gratefulness, and generosity. Perfect! I can’t wait for you to see it!

Spreading Kindness and Holiday Cheer

The kindergarten and first grade classes accomplished our second service-learning project of the month yesterday by visiting the retirement community of Valle Verde.


As usual, the bus ride was tons of fun.

When we arrived, I had to snap a quick photo of the students wearing their reindeer hats.  Too cute!


 We quickly entered the Quail Lodge at Valle Verde, and I introduced myself and the students to the residents, who were just delighted to have us there.

We sang four holiday songs.  Here is a little video:



After our songs, students gave each resident a reindeer ornament that they made in art class. I was impressed with how comfortable the children were with the residents. Many opted to sit down next to a resident and have a conversation. It was very sweet to see.




The best part for me was introducing the students to my grandma. She was thrilled with all the extra attention she received!

Ms. Atkinson and I plan to take the students to visit Valle Verde again in February, around Valentine’s Day. We are excited to continue fostering this special relationship.



Confidence is an important character trait to possess. When Ms. Atkinson and I were planning a lesson that would teach the importance of confidence, we immediately thought of the rock climbing wall. It was decided the I would scale the wall first and then boast about how great I am and how easy it is to climb. Ms. Atkinson would comment on how she had never climbed the wall before, and she would become visibly upset by my boasting.

Here’s how the lesson worked out:


I climbed…should have worn more athletic shoes…


I boasted….just a little.


I realized how my high confidence level was off-putting to Ms. Atkinson and decided to help her, rather than unintentionally put her down.

The students then each had an opportunity to climb the wall. They were all very encouraging and positive. There was no boasting!



After the climb, we returned to the classroom to discuss the activity. I had an opportunity to clear my name when Ms. Atkinson pointed out to the students that we had planned for me to be overly confident and boastful. She even told the students that we would still be friends. 🙂  We discussed the importance of being confident and the difference between confidence and boasting. Later today students will record their thoughts in their Swooper Citizenship journals. I am excited to see what else they learned from the lesson.