JOES Weekly Newsletter -2/23

News & Events for February/March

Greetings Families,

I am excited for the upcoming opportunities for us to get together and celebrate our students' progress and our greater community.  

Please keep your eye out for our first event that will kick off the month of March with our Read Across America celebration of Dr. Suess on Thursday, March 1 in the morning.  

Following this event, in the evening from 5:30-7pm, we will be celebrating our Literacy Night. We will enjoy some food together from 5:30pm-6pm and then will begin our literacy workshops promptly at 6pm with a raffle to close out evening at 7pm. Our team has been working really hard to ensure the evening will be a hit!  

Beginning on March 5 and continuing on through March 9, we will be engaging in parent/teacher conference week. For the entire week, the academic day will end at 12:50pm. Our YMCA program will begin at 12:50pm for the entire week.  Please ensure that you and your child's teacher find a common time to meet as this is a wonderful opportunity to discuss the areas of success and areas for growth your child has been displaying at school.  

During this week, you will also have an opportunity to complete our SFUSD Parent Survey. This survey will provide us with the feedback we need to ensure that we are offering the most robust programming available. Please look for student facilitators at designated computer tables in the hallways. Should take no more than 10 minutes. ALL classes with 90% of surveys taken will earn a party!!!

Finally, I am really looking forward to our annual auction on Saturday, March 10. The organizers have been working tirelessly to ensure that this will top last years amazing experience. If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, do so soon... you will not want to miss out on this spectacular event!!!

Have a great rest of the week and a wonderful weekend!



Volunteer for Read-In Day

Ms. Wong needs 18 volunteers on Thursday, March 1 for a Cat in the Hat/Dr. Suess-themed Read-In Day. Starting with breakfast at 8am in the staff room, all readers will meet together first, then go on to classrooms at 8:30am. Mr. Ben is dressing up as The Cat in the Hat. Feel free to dress up like a Seuss character, too! If you would like to sign up, please contact Sophia Hanifah.

JOEs' Literacy Night

Thursday, March 1 at 8:30am

Join us on Thursday, March 1 from 5:30-7pm, we will be celebrating our Literacy Night. We will enjoy some food together from 5:30-6pm and then will begin our literacy workshops promptly at 6pm with a raffle to close out evening at 7pm. Our team has been working really hard to ensure the evening will be a hit!  

Join the Chinese New Year Parade!

On Saturday, February 24, from 4pm – 8pm, JOES will be participating in the Chinese New Year Parade for the 11th year. Come celebrate with the JOES community. Rehearsals are on Fridays except one on Thurs. 2/15, because school is closed on 2/16. To sign up, email More information on this flyer.

Tickets on Sale NOW for Our Spring Auction

Tickets are now on sale for our amazing 2018 Spring Auction on Saturday, March 10! Your golden ticket will include admission, drinks, food, and dessert.
Make sure to get your tickets before February 24, after that tickets will $60 each until we sell out. Please make sure you get your tickets ahead of time because we will not sell any at the door due to security procedures.
And if you're feeling extra generous, please also consider purchasing an angel ticket!

Host A Buy-In Party

Want to lend your time and/or skills to help with the Spring Auction and raise money for JOES? By "donating" a buy-in party, you can host an event or lesson for kids, families, adults and we'll "auction" off the tickets to attend. All of the proceeds will go to JOES. What can you host? Check out ideas here.
Ready to host a buy-in party? Fill out this form here.


Other Important Dates

Thursday, Mar 1
Read-In Day

Thursday, Mar 1
Literacy Night

Monday, Mar 5- Friday, Mar 9
Parent Teacher Conferences
Early Release Week - 12:50pm

Sunday, Mar 4- Friday, Mar 9
Spring Online Auction

Saturday, Mar 10
Spring Auction
5-9pm, SalesForce, 30th Floor

Science Update! Sept. 2017

First Science Update of the school year!

Ms. Paige's Update:

As an overview of our science program, we are in the middle of transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by the state of California in 2013.  These standards consist of science content standards (topics we need to cover in each grade) and science and engineering practices (skills scientists and engineers use routinely).  This year’s focus is on the science and engineering practices.  Your student will be assessed on these practices in his/her report card.  We will be incorporating the NGSS content standards during the 2018/2019 school year.

5th grade - Mr. Ellingson, Mr. Calubaquib; 4/5 Split Mr. Briggs:

We began our science year by examining how to design an experiment that will actually give us an answer to our question.  In particular, we were learning how to do controlled experiments.  We began by looking at a model system - a pendulum swinging.  A pendulum is a mass (called the bob) suspended from a pivot point and allowed to swing freely.  We brainstormed the variables (factors that might change the outcome of an experiment) that might affect the number of cycles (swing out and back) a pendulum swings in a given length of time.  Students suggested the mass of the bob, surface area of the bob, length of string, release point, material bob hangs from, humidity, and weather might all play a role in how many cycles a pendulum swings in a given length of time.  We decided that if we wanted to know if any of these variables actually played a role in determining the number of cycles/unit time, we would have to change just one at a time to see if it had an effect.  This is the definition of a controlled experiment - only one variable is allowed to change, and the outcome of the change is determined in an experiment.  The variable the scientist chooses to change is called the independent variable.  The variable the scientist measures is called the dependent variable.  The variables that the scientist does not change, or controls, are called the controlled variables.  

We then began by changing just the mass of the bob while controlling all the other variables.  We measured the number of cycles in 15 seconds.  We found our pendulum swung 12 times in 15 seconds with 1 penny.  Amazingly, our pendulum swung exactly 12 times in 15 seconds with 2 pennies, even though this was double the mass  From this, we were able to conclude that the mass of the bob does not affect the number of cycles/unit time.

Next, we changed the length of the string.  Sets of 2 students determined the number of cycles in 15 seconds for 13 different lengths of string from 13cm to 200cm.  When we hung these on the bulletin board in order of the number of cycles in 15 seconds, we saw that the pendulums made a beautiful curve.  It’s honestly an amazing moment.  We even noticed that a few pendulums seemed to not fit the curve.  We re-tested these and found that the first result had been incorrect.  When we put them in the re-tested #cycles/15 second position, they fit the curve perfectly.  We were able to say with confidence that the length of string affects the number of cycles a pendulum swings in a given length of time.  The longer the pendulum, the fewer cycles/unit time.  The shorter the pendulum, the greater cycles/unit time.

After graphing the data, we saw that we could use the graph to predict the behavior of additional pendulums that were not tested.  This is where Mr. Briggs and Mr. Calubaquib’s classes stopped last week.

Mr. Ellingson’s class has begun the science unit, “Mixtures and Solutions.”  In this module, we are trying to understand what happens when different types of matter are mixed.  In particular, when they are combined, they might form a mixture, a solution (a type of mixture in which components are homogeneously distributed), or a chemical reaction.  We will study the periodic table and understand the properties of classes of elements, as well as how to write and balance chemical equations.  It’s a tall order for 5th graders.  Frankly, I didn’t do a lot of these things until 10th grade.  Crazy!  

Because a lot of this is quite abstract, we like to give this unit a focus question related to a topic students care about.  Students a few years back proposed this question as we were studying this unit, and it has stuck.  Our topic - Why do POP Rocks pop?  Honestly, we don’t do candy and sweets every week, I promise!  But a lot of candy involves chemistry, and it ends up being a great muse for the topic.  We began our study by tasting some POP Rocks and hypothesizing about why they pop.  Students had A LOT of ideas!  Some students thought it was a chemical reaction with saliva.  Other students mentioned how they pop when they are in water.  Other students said that the popping was a gas.  It was a great start.  

After that, we introduced some other forms of matter - gravel, kosher salt and powder (diatomaceous earth).  Students observed the properties (characteristics that can be observed) of the solids.  Then they added 50mL of water to each solid and again observed what happened.  The gravel just sat on the bottom.  The kosher salt dissolved (a process when a solid appears to disappear into a liquid) to form a clear liquid.  The powder made a milky white liquid with some powder on bottom.  We said that anytime 2 or more substances are combined and can be taken back apart, then they are a mixture.  

We knew all these solids had been combined with water, but could they be taken back apart?  We experimented with how to separate our mixtures.  We found a wire mesh screen was only able to separate the gravel and water mixture.  We then found a coffee filter in a funnel was able to separate the diatomaceous earth and water mixture but not the salt and water mixture.  We learned that a salt and water mixture is a special kind of mixture called a solution.  A solution is a mixture where one material dissolves in another to form a transparent mixture that cannot be separated via filtration.  Students realized that the water could be removed from the salt using evaporation, and Mr. Ellingson set up a demonstration evaporation dish to leave in the window for the week.

4th grade - Mr. Calubaquib, Ms. Washington

Our first science module is called “Solid Earth”.  In this module, we are trying to understand the processes responsible for changing the surface of the earth over time.  In this way, we are acting as geologists, scientists who study minerals, rocks, and landforms to understand how the earth has changed and continues to change over time.

We started our studies by thinking about the structure of the earth.  We did this by making a model of the earth using Playdough.  Scientists use models for many reasons.  Students suggested models are useful for communicating and testing ideas.  We decided they were also useful since they allow us to study things too large or too small to bring into the lab.  

For our model of the earth, we started with a red ball of Playdough that represented the inner core of the earth.  The inner core is extremely hot (5000-6000°C) and a solid due to the extreme pressure it is under. It is made of iron. Thus, it is a giant metal ball!  

Next, we wrapped our red inner core with an orange layer representing the outer core. The outer core is slightly cooler (4000-5000°C), and it is a liquid.  It is iron and nickel, but as a liquid, it flows around the solid inner core.

The outer core was wrapped with yellow Playdough representing the mantle.  The mantle is the thickest layer of the Earth, and is what we refer to as magma (molten rock).

Outside the mantle, we added the earth's crust, modeled as brown Playdough.  The crust is the layer we live on, a pleasant 22°C, and the thinnest layer of the earth.  

We added green to represent the plants/trees on the continents, and blue to represent the oceans.  

Last, we used dental floss to cut our model in half and see the layers in cross-section.  We discussed what parts of our model accurately represented our system and what parts did not.  We decided that this model shows the layers and attempted to show the depth of each layer.  This model also emphasized the temperature changes using colors most of us associate with heat.  However, our model did not represent the solid/liquid attributes of the layers or the fact that many of these layers are in constant movement due to convection currents.

Next, we used a different model to test what kinds of landforms occur at tectonic plate boundaries.  We learned that the earth’s crust and outer mantle are broken into large masses called tectonic plates.  These plates float on the underlying liquid lower mantle.  Where they meet, new geologic features can form.  We simulated this using graham crackers as tectonic plates and whipped cream as magma.    We looked at what happened when plates 1.) slide past each other -> earthquakes, 2.) moved apart -> trenches, mid ocean ridges, volcanoes, or 3.) collided -> mountains, volcanoes, trenches.  This is where Mr. Calubaquib’s class is currently.

Ms. Washington’s class has done one more modeling experiment this past week.  Ms. Washington’s class is learning about the rock cycle.  There are 3 major types of rocks: igneousmetamorphic, and sedimentary.  The rock cycle describes the processes that allow one kind of rock to become another kind of rock.  For instance, sedimentary or metamorphic rock can become igneous rock if they melt completely into magma (molten rock) and then harden.  

I gave students two balls of different colored play dough.  I told them to imagine that these are 2 different igneous rocks.  How could they model the rock cycle using this playdough.  They began by trying to model sedimentary rock formation.  Some students realized that they needed sediments (small broken pieces of rocks) to form sedimentary rock.  They “weathered” our playdough by breaking off small bits of different colors of playdough.  Then they "eroded" the playdough by moving all the small bits together like rivers would move sediments to a lake or ocean.  Then they layered the different colored sediments and compacted them.  We saw that the resulting model was made of small bits of playdough that broke off easily.  

Next, they tried to use their sedimentary rock models to make metamorphic rock models.  They subjected their sedimentary rock models to heat and pressure using theirhands.  The resulting metamorphic rock models had bands of distinct color that were wavy.  

Last, they tried to model the complete melting and hardening that forms igneous rocks.  They realized that when rocks melt into magma, all of their components mix completely.  To simulate this with our playdough, they mixed their playdough until all the colors were fully mixed.   I will be putting some of these models in the display case outside the office in the coming weeks.  Stop by for a peek!

3rd grade - Ms. Song
During the second week of school, we had our first science class of the year! In that first lesson, we reviewed scientific sketching and how to observe (to study closely) objects using our 5 senses.  We then did some sketching practice in a new way - speed sketching.  We first looked at the shapes that are inherent in objects or animals.  Students practiced sketching animals from photos on their table by first drawing the large shapes they saw (e.g. oval for torso, oval for head, rectangles for legs, triangles for wings, etc). After completing a basic drawing, they added details and contours to better capture what they observed.  
Next, students were shown images of animals on the whiteboard for just 30 seconds.  They then had 2 minutes to sketch as much as they could remember. We repeated this for a sea turtle, bird, and kitten.  We compared our sketches to the images afterwards to see how we did.  
What's the point?  First, we get some practice observing again.  We also build some sustained focus.  We find sketches are more accurate when students sketch using shapes.  Last, selfishly - it speeds them up!;). They can spend an hour on a sketch.  We want our students to be careful observers, but this isn't art class.  We want to observe carefully, and then we want to do some experimenting!

We have now moved on to our first science unit, “Sun, Moon and Stars.”

The sun was not initially cooperating for this unit, so we took a week to just learn about the moon.  We started by learning about the lunar cycle and how the phase of the moon changes throughout. We saw that the lunar cycle begins with the new moon, that the moon waxes into a crescent before it reaches the first-quarter moon, then continues to wax until it is a gibbous moon, and finally waxes to a full moon. After reaching a full moon, the moon begins to wane, to a waning gibbous, to third-quarter moon, to a waning crescent, and the cycle is complete with the next new moon.  We were first identifying this phenomenon.  We will go back to it in a few weeks to model what might be causing these apparent changes in its shape over the course of the month.

Thank goodness, the sun decided to grace us again!  In order to understand why the lunar cycle happens, one really needs to know about shadows - cue the SUN!  We began our studies of the sun by charting where the sun is in the sky throughout the day.  Students learned about the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west, and we learned how to use a compass to find the directions.  We went outside at 9:30am, 12pm, and 1:45pm to chart where the sun was in the sky relative to North.  At the same time, we also drew our shadows on the ground at each of these times, keeping our feet in the same place for each data point.

This past week we analyzed our sun tracking and shadow data.  First, we noticed that the sun appears to move from East to West each day.  Second, we noticed that the shadows get smaller as it approaches noon, and then they get longer again after noon.  Last, we noticed that the shadows faced in different directions in the morning and afternoon.  We talked about how we could try to understand this data.  Since we weren’t quite having an “Aha!” moment, I did a slide lead-in about scientific models.  When I got to the slide on why they are used and came to a point about allowing scientists to experiment on systems too large or too small to bring in the classroom, one student remarked, “like our sun experiment.”  Yes!  We then talked about how we could model our experiment.  What elements would we need?  One student suggested we could use a flashlight as a light source.  Another student thought we needed something to represent our body.  Last, a student thought we needed the shadows on the ground.  Yay!  Just where we were headed!  I gave students a flashlight (sun), cork (our body), and a printout of our shadow data from the week before (shadows on ground).  I asked them to try to figure out why the shadows appear to change size and direction over the course of the day.

After a few minutes of modeling, they realized that the shadows change size because of the changing angle of the sun’s light relative to our bodies.  They also realized that shadows are always on the opposite side of the object from the light source.  Thus, since the sun rises in the East, the shadow starts on the west side.  As the sun is setting in the West, the shadow is on the East side of objects.  We discussed how light travels in a straight line and that shadows are created where light is blocked.

Last, I acknowledged that we all know the sun doesn’t actually move.  It is stationary in the center of our solar system, so why does it appear that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Again, this was a time for modeling!  I set up a single light bulb in the center of the room to represent the sun that doesn’t move.  Then I gave each pair of students a map of North/South America with the cardinal directions indicated.  One student was to hold the map, and they were to work together to figure out why the sun appears to rise in the East and set in the West.  It was great to see students trying things!!  Some students were moving the map in a vertical circle and seeing that the light didn’t change on the surface.  One set of students had one student turn around (representing the Earth rotating on its axis), but the sun was “rising” in the West and setting in the East.  We came back together discussed our findings, and saw that the Earth rotating on its axis in a counter clockwise direction produces the effect of the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.   

Ms. Caitlin's update:

Pre-K: Last week, we had our first science lesson. We learned that scientists "observe" the world around them, meaning that they look closely at it to learn about it. We can observe the world around us using our five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. We read a book called "Cold, Crunchy, Colorful: Using Our Five Senses," and we learned about how different parts of our bodies help us to observe.

This past week, we continued learning about our senses, focusing on using our sense of sight and touch to see differences in size, color, shape, and texture to help us sort seeds. Each student was given a scoop of mixed seeds on a paper plate to sort into plastic cups. Students were also given hand lenses to observe the seeds up close.

Pre-K SpEd: We began this year by shelling peas from dried pods that were harvested from the garden last year. The dried peas went into one container, and the husks into another. Once all of our peas are shelled, we can use them for our gardening activity.

Kindergarten: We began the year with an introduction to the science room. After touring the room and learning about the classroom rules and procedures, I showed the students the large poster next to the white board that is made up of words for things that "Good Scientists Do." But since the list is so long, there were three extra important words that we will be learning about, and that will be important every year. Those words are marked by red arrows to remind us. They are observe, compare, and communicate. We began by learning about what observe means. It means to learn about something in the world around you by looking at it closely. Scientists have many ways that they can observe, using their five senses. We looked at a poster showing a girl using her five senses to observe a sunflower. She used her eyes to see the flower, her hands to touch and feel the flower, her ears to listen to the seeds crack when they open, her nose to smell the flower and the seeds, and her tongue to taste the seeds. This was a good opportunity to learn about another science room rule: no tasting in the science room. Sometimes, we will use our sense of taste to make observations, but the science room is not a safe place to do that, so any tasting activities will be out on the yard, or in another classroom. Afterwards, we read a book called "Cold, Crunchy, Colorful: Using Our Five Senses."

Our first subject for kindergarten science is trees and plants. To start our unit, we took a walk up into Brooks Park to observe some trees. I modeled for the students how to touch the trees and plants respectfully, and we had a chance to observe the leaves and bark of several different trees in the park. After we got back to the classroom, I asked the students whether all the trees in the park had been the same, or whether they were different. They had observed that the trees were different, and I asked them to think about why. What made them different? Why weren't all the trees the same? Some students pointed out that there are different kinds of trees, and that the trees had different bark and different leaves. In the follow-up lesson, we continued thinking about how different kinds of trees can have different leaves and different shapes. We learned that you can sometimes identify a tree by its shape. For this activity, students worked with a a partner to put together puzzles of a variety of tree silhouettes.

During the next class, I introduced the next important science word from our list: compare. Compare means looking at two or more things, and seeing how they are the same, and how they are different. We practiced by comparing my whiteboard markers. Although students were able to spot the big difference right away (color), we saw that in fact, two markers have more things that are the same than they do things that are different. Using our observing and comparing, we would play "Memory" with a partner, using cards that had the same variety of tree silhouettes on them. 

This past week, we have been learning to identify four basic parts of a tree: roots, trunk, branche, and leaves. To help us learn and to practice our comparing, students worked in teams of threes to sort sets of tree part cards. Cards came in three sizes, big, medium, and small. The big cards had a picture of a tree with a certain part colored in black, and the name of the part written below. The medium cards had matching tree parts, but without the labels, while the small cards were the labels only. The teams played in three turns, so that each student had a turn playing each size card. First, the player with the big cards laid them out in whatever order s/he chose. The second player with the medium cards tried to match the order of the big cards, with help from their teammates as needed, and finally, the small card player tried to match the correct label to each tree part.

Vocabulary: observe, compare, tree, roots, trunk, branches, leaves

First Grade: Our first lesson this year was a reminder about the important science words from our poster: observe, compare, communicate. To help us practice using these skills, we played a game called "Mystery Cups." Students worked with a partner to try to find out what object was hidden inside their red mystery cups. Since we could not see what was inside of the cups, we had to make observations using our other senses, mostly hearing the sounds the cups made, and feeling the movement inside when the mystery cups were shaken. Clear cups containing a matching set of objects were placed around the room. By comparing how the cups sounded and how they felt, they could try to determine what their mystery cup contained. Lastly, we also used the game to practice communicating, or sharing ideas. Usually, we communicate by talking to each other, so to make the game more challenging, students were not allowed to use talking to share their ideas. To communicate with their partner, they had to use body language. To communicate their predictions about what was in their cups to me, they had to draw or write what they believed their cups contained.

After our introductory lesson, we began learning about our first big idea for first grade science: matter. We learned that matter is anything that takes up space, and that it usually comes in three forms: solid, liquid, gas. We began by observing solids. Each student was given a bag containing seven solid objects to observe and compare: a red plastic triangle, a blue square of fabric, a length of black wire, a metal screw, a wooden craft stick, a wooden cylinder, and a piece of clear plastic tubing. Removing the objects one at a time, the students were asked to make observations about each object while I listed their observations on the board. After we'd gone through each object, we met back on the rug to discuss our results. I explained that the things we had observed about our solids are called their "properties," and that there are many kinds of properties we can observe. For example, looking over our lists, we saw words like "black" for the wire, "red" for the triangle. We also so that there were words like "cylinder," "square," and "triangle." There were also words like "wood," "plastic," and "metal." So we learned that some properties of solids include things like shape, color, and material. We also learned a few new words for properties. The fabric felt scratchy, and the triangle felt smooth. How things feel is the property of texture. Also, many students observed that several objects like the wire and the tube were "bendy," which we have learned is called flexible, and the opposite is not bendy, or rigid

The following week, we practiced identifying properties by playing with a sorting circle. Working with a partner, one student would select one of the properties from a list. Without telling their partner which property they had chosen, the student would place one of the objects that had that property into the circle as a "clue" for their partner. The partner would try to guess which property they were thinking of. If their partner guessed correctly, they would switch roles. If not, the student had to place another object in the circle with the same property, continuing to give clues until their partner had correctly guessed the property. 

This past week, we were introduced to liquids. First, we began by figuring out how to tell solid matter from liquid matter. I had a bag containing a clear plastic cylinder and I asked the students to observe the shape of the solid, and to think about what happened to the solid when I opened the bag, placed the solid in my hand, and in a cube-shaped container. The solid kept its own shape. We compared that to a bag half full of water. When the bag was upright, the water looked like a rectangle. When the bag was tilted and the water in one corner, the water looked like a triangle. When I poured it into the cube container, it became a cube. I asked the students what would happen if I tried to hold the water in my hand, and they predicted that it would spill everywhere. So we concluded that unlike a solid, a liquid does not have its own shape, but gets its shape from its container, and liquids can be poured  from one container to another. The students were then given a set of bottles containing different liquids: water, colored water, cooking oil, hand soap, dish soap, fabric softener, and corn syrup. Working with a partner, they observed the liquids' properties without opening the bottles by shaking, swirling, inverting, and rolling the bottles down a low ramp.

Vocabulary: observe, compare, communicate, matter, solid, liquid, gas, properties, flexible, rigid

Second Grade: Starting second grade marks a big transition for our students. In kindergarten and first grade, all of their work is kept in a science folder. This year, they begin keeping a science notebook. The first lesson was mostly devoted to setting up our notebooks and learning about what a good science notebook should look like. After our notebooks were ready, the first entry was practice doing scientific sketching with an oyster shell, trying to incorporate the ABCDE (accurate, big, colorful, detailed, explained) of sketching that we learned about in years before, and adding observational notes with sentence starters like "I see..." "I notice..." "I wonder..." and "It reminds me of..."

Our first unit for second grade science is all about geology, the study of rocks and how they change. For our first activity, students were given a bag containing a set of six rocks and a short time to observe each rock. After the initial observation, I asked the students to look carefully at their rocks and try to sort them by kinds, whether they thought all six rocks were the same kind, or wether they had two, three different kinds, etc. Most students realized that they had three different kinds of rock in their bags (two pieces of each), although some thought there were four or five. Reminding the students of the word "properties" from last year, we saw that some students had pieces of the same kind of rock, but they appeared different because they were different colors. We made a list of the properties we'd observed, and made a list of properties we can observe about rocks, such as shape, color, pattern, size, texture, and "luster" (how shiny or dull the rock is). Many students had predicted that one of the types of rocks in their set was volcanic, and they were surprised to learn that all three types of rock were volcanic. Basalt was usually black or gray, and came from the heavy lava flow. Tuff is white or yellowish, and is made from volcanic ash. Scoria is red or dark brown and is made from the foam when gas bubbles move through the lava. 

Our next activity was to see whether the properties of rocks could be changed. We attempted to change the properties of the rocks by rubbing them together. I told the students to try all the different combinations and compare the results, and to rub the rocks over pieces of white or black paper. Students were able to observe dust forming on the paper beneath the rocks when rubbed together. They also observed that sometimes the rocks could rub their color off onto another rock. When we thought about what these things could mean, we decided that the dust was actually very small pieces of rock being broken off of the larger pieces we were rubbing together. The reason that a rock would sometimes rub off on another rock was because the harder rock was better at breaking off pieces of the softer rock. We looked at our results, and based on our observations, it seems that basalt is the hardest of the three types of rocks. I told the students that rocks rubbing together is called "weathering," and that this happens in nature. We confirmed that it can change the properties of our rocks in their size and shape.

*In addition to our geology lessons, we have taken our first step into our next unit. Each week, we will begin with very short sketches and observations in our notebooks comparing two organisms: a mealworm, and a second mystery insect (three different insects per classroom). However, we will not be learning anything about our organisms beyond our observations until the geology unit is finished

Vocabulary: geology, properties, luster, basalt, tuff, scoria, weathering

Third Grade: Continuing in our notebooks from second grade, we spent the first science lesson practicing techniques to help us with our scientific sketching, especially at being able to sketch quickly. The first technique is blind contour sketching, where a sketch is done without ever looking down at the paper, and without raising the pencil from the paper. Students practiced this technique by sketching a partner's face for 30 seconds (the students really enjoyed this technique and were very amused with the results). The second technique is shape sketching. In this technique, students look carefully to see what simple geometric shapes make up the object of their sketch. I modeled this technique with an image of a guppy, and they practiced with images of animals for 1 minute, focusing solely on the shapes, not on the details. The final technique was speed sketching. An image would appear and remain for five seconds before fading into white. Using the blind contour technique and shape sketching, students were to focus on the image until it disappeared, then quickly sketch what they had seen in 30 seconds.

Our first unit for third grade is a short unit on astronomy, the study of space, the sun, stars, moons, and planets, and other celestial objects. Because of the limitations based on weather, Room 100 and Room 101 have started on different lessons in the curriculum. Room 100 has begun with observing the sun. We knew that the sun appears to move in the sky, but we wanted to find out which way it moves.We learned that there are four cardinal directions, North, East, South, and West.  We can use a tool called a compass to find the directions. Starting in the morning, we used our compasses to find the cardinal directions and drew a compass rose on the pavement. Standing on the compass road, one partner traced the other's shadow and labelled the time (9:45 am). After the shadows were traced, I stood on a compass rose and pointed toward the sun's position in the sky, while the students filled in a figure on a worksheet showing the direction I was pointing. This was repeated at noon, and then again at 1:45 pm. In our following lesson, we analyzed our data, and we concluded that the sun appears to move from East to West across the sky. Connecting the sun tracking with the shadows was trickier. We could see that the shadow from the morning was longest, was shortest at noon, and then grew a little longer in the afternoon. One student predicted that this was because a shadow is light being blocked, and that the shadow was longer in the morning because the sun  was shining on the side of our bodies, and at noon, it was shining overhead. I asked the students if there was a way to test this prediction, which prompted a discussion of scientific models. Scientists can use models to represent things that are too large, too small, or too complex to observe or test in real life. We tried to think of what we might need to model the sun and shadows, and the students came up with: a light source (the sun), an object to block the light (our bodies), and a flat surface (the yard). Using a flashlight, a cork, and the tabletops, we were able to model what we had observed in the yard, and confirmed student's the prediction.

Room 101 had to contend with an overcast day, so we began learning about the moon. We started a KWL chart about what we Knew, what we Wanted to know, and what we Learned. Students wrote what they knew about the moon on a post it, and what they wanted to learn, and placed them in the K and W columns on the chart. Afterward, I showed the class a lunar calendar for the month of September and asked them what they observed. They could see that the moon changed its shape every night, and that it seemed to grow, then shrink, then disappear. We learned that moon goes through a lunar cycle (recalling the life cycles we learned about in 2nd grade), and that its changing shapes are called lunar phases. We learned the names for eight different phases: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent. We learned that waxing means growing, and waning means shrinking. Gibbous means swollen, and is when the moon is more than half full. To practice the new vocabulary, using the lunar calendar page, each student was asked to take their class number, find the corresponding date on the calendar, and determine which phase of the moon was on that date. Afterward, we watched a short video about the lunar cycle and its origin.

 Vocabulary: astronomy, cardinal directions, compass, lunar cycle, lunar phases, new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent

Welcome Back to JOES! Message from Principal Ben

Dear JOES Families:

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!  I hope your family is enjoying the summer break.  This is going to be a very exciting school year.  Construction on our Green Schoolyard Project has been completed and it is beautiful.  We are very excited to get it planted and bring life to space!

Please join me in welcoming our new staff members.  Ms. Angelica Chang will be teaming up with Ms. Chan to co-teach the Mandarin Immersion kindergarten class.  Ms. Chang was the founding Mandarin teacher for SFUSD’s adoption of the Mandarin Immersion Language Pathway and has taught for a number of years in SFUSD.  Joining us as our new Social Worker will be Allison Garcia.   Next year we will also have the opportunity to have our beloved Mr. Paul on campus full time supporting students and teachers.  Mr. Matthew Calderon will be leading a fully staffed after school YMCA program.  He is currently a Unit Director at the Stonestown YMCA.

On Saturday, August 19th, from 10:30am-12:30pm, the PTA will host a meet and greet for pre-k, kindergarten and new families. Come meet your teachers and get a sneak peek at your new classroom! The event will be set up outside so the kids can run around and play while you meet and mingle with fellow newcomers as well as current families. The event is a potluck so please consider bringing a healthy nut-free dish to share. All class lists will be posted in the cafeteria.  

Monday, August 21st is the first day of school.  Students must not arrive at school earlier than 7:30am and breakfast will be served in the cafeteria at this time.  Intake will take place on the main yard at 7:50am.  Class lists will be posted on the main yard and teachers will line up with signs that show room numbers. Directly following intake, the PTA is hosting a welcome breakfast! After you drop off your children, please join fellow parents for a meet and greet and tasty treats in the cafeteria!

I look forward to seeing all of you soon! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Benjamin Klaus, Principal


School uniforms are equitable for all of our students. Please make sure that your child wears his/her uniform or the blue and white dress code everyday.  LAST FRIDAY OF THE MONTH IS A FREE DRESS DAY. Teachers will be providing daily incentives for ALL children who are wearing uniforms.  We shall notify you if your child is not wearing the appropriate uniform.  Our school uniform can be purchased at Target, J.C. Penney’s, or any other store that sells standard uniforms. The JOES website

explains how you can make purchases online and benefit the school.



Navy Blue Cardigan Sweater or Sweatshirt

Navy Blue Cardigan Sweater or Sweatshirt

Navy Blue Pants/Shorts (No Jeans)

Navy Blue Pants /Shorts(No Jeans)

Navy Blue Jumper, Skirt or Skort

White, Navy or Light Blue Polo

White, Navy or Light Blue Polo/ White Blouse

White or Blue Socks

White or Blue Socks/Tights     
Closed Shoes: No Sandals

Closed Shoes: No Sandals

The Multipurpose Family Income Form

The Multipurpose Family Income Form is now the new Online School Meal Application.  In order to qualify for free meal benefits, families must submit a new application for school year 2017-2018.  EVERY household must submit a multipurpose family income form - The form is simple, secure and confidential.  If your child qualified last year, you will need to reapply this year. ALL families are required to submit an application each year. Complete HERE.  Help us achieve our goal of 100%!!!

Emergency Cards

We shall be sending an emergency card home on the first day of school. Please fill it out completely and return it to school on the next day. There must be at least THREE (3) emergency telephone numbers on the card. Please include an email address. Students will not be able to leave with any adult, unless his/her name is on the emergency card. In case of an emergency, it is critical that the school be able to reach one of the people listed on the card. Please notify the school immediately if there are any changes so that your information can be updated.


IMPORTANT:  Email Address:  As we continue our efforts to go green, we ask that you include an email address on the emergency card.  We will use this email address to send various school communications. Please include your cell phone number on both the emergency card and form.

School Hours/Drop-Off and Pick-Up

School begins at 7:50a.m. Students should participate in intake on the big yard.  Students should not arrive before 7:30am, because there is no adult supervision on the yard or in the cafeteria until 7:30am. Students that arrive at school before 7:30am will not have adult supervision and this is a safety issue. Parents will not be allowed to drop students off at school before 7:30am.

Students should report to the schoolyard unless they are eating breakfast at school in the morning. If your child is eating breakfast, s/he should go immediately to the cafeteria to eat. On very cold or rainy mornings, all students should report to the cafeteria.

MORNING DROP OFF: In order to ensure that safety of parents and students, please do not double park or jaywalk when dropping your child off to school in the morning. If you plan to join us at intake, please arrive early and find a parking place in the neighborhood. It is best that students are dropped off at the ramp near Sargent and Arch.  Students safely walk up the ramp to the schoolyard.  Parents ARE NOT ALLOWED to drive up the ramp, in order to to drop off students, in the morning. Please do not block the driveways at any time. Please be respectful towards the parents that are directing traffic in the morning.  Please, do not drive up the ramp and park in spaces reserved for teachers.

School ends at 1:50 p.m. for all grade levels.  The Stonestown Y staff will pick up students that attend the Y. Students that ride the school buses will be escorted to the buses by JOES staff members.

AFTER SCHOOL PICK UP:  For students being picked up after school, please park on the Sargent Street (west).  You may double park and students will be waiting with their teachers under the big tree near the marquee. Do not double-park on Sargent between Arch and Ramsell Streets facing east.  Dismissal is at 1:50pm and the barricades for the school buses will block off Sargent Street between Ramsell and Arch Streets from 1:45pm-2:05pm.  Safety is always our concern; therefore, teachers will wait until 2:05 pm with the children and bring them to the school office if a parent is late.  If you are going to be late, please inform the office before dismissal.

Barricades will be set up for the school buses in the front of the school.  Do not ever park in the school bus zone! Please pay attention to the traffic signs and respect our volunteers.


The PTA is composed of parents and teachers working together to improve the effectiveness of our school. The JOES PTA provides parent education and support for school programs through fundraising.  The JOES PTA helps to provide those extras that we all want for our students.  Please make a point of joining the JOES PTA!  Keep an eye out for the membership form coming home during the first week of school.  Please join us for our first PTA meeting on Thursday, August 31 at 6:00PM.  

Turbines and Solar Ovens and Windmills, Oh My!

 Ms Young with one of her students at the Engineering Expo

Ms Young with one of her students at the Engineering Expo

March 23rd marked JOES first ever Engineering Expo and what a night it was! Attendees mingled and listened to kids explain their various engineering marvels, parents representing a wide array of fields explained to rapt kids what a career in engineering can look like, fun science prizes were raffled off, and everyone munched on tasty treats.

Thanks to everyone who came and rewarded the students’ hard work, to all the teachers for going the extra mile to help these projects come to fruition, and for our wonderful science consultants Paige and Caitlin who spearheaded this wonderful event and help keep our children so excited about science each and every week.

Click here for more photos

Finally, we’re very grateful for everyone who donates to the PTA—your generosity allows us to fund this program!

Newsletter February 9, 2017

Hi JOES Community,  welcome to the very first Jose Ortega newsletter! 

We’re taking a step towards digital communication-—welcome to our first newsletter! We hope it helps you keep up with what's going at your school.

Here's what's coming up:


Parent Teacher Conferences

Reminder: Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up later this month, Feb. 27-March 3, and that means early dismissal at 12:50pm. When you come in to meet your teacher, the school will be also asking you to complete SFUSD’s Family Survey. This survey provides a great opportunity to provide feedback about your school and how it is or isn’t supporting your child. 


Black History Month

 Nelson Mandela artwork created by Jose Ortega students

Nelson Mandela artwork created by Jose Ortega students

There's a lot of neat stuff going on next week to help celebrate Black History Month:

  • Selected students will dress in costume and tour classrooms, bringing historical figures to life!  
  • Lunches will be extra special, featuring slide shows and music that will take students through the evolution of African American music in history
  • February 9 - Parent Volunteers will be read books about black history to each classroom. 
  • February 17 -  Members of SF State's Black Student Union will present a step show during Friday sing-a-long and then visit classes to talk about their journey on how they got into college.


PTA Meeting

Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6pm: This month's PTA meeting will feature guest speaker Jennifer Devine, founder of Superstar Health Education, who will be teaching our 5th graders about puberty. This is a great opportunity to hear first-hand what she’ll be teaching our kids and to ask questions about how to best handle this potentially tricky topic with all ages. (Meeting in the Cafetorium; Childcare and food for the kids will be provided in the library.)


English Language Learner Council (ELAC)

Is your child an English Language Learner?

Ms. Danielle Uttley, from the District’s Multilingual Pathways Dept., is  our Special Guest speaker and will answer questions about DELAC and multilingual programs.

When: Friday, February 10, 2017, 8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
Where: Jose Ortega Conference Room 221

A Chinese translator will be available. Please let us know if you need translation in another language, and for any other questions about ELAC, contact Ms. Watanabe at 

A light breakfast will be provided.



Saturday, Feb. 11, a group from our school will be marching in San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, named one of the top 10 parades in the world! We should be about 3/4 of the way through the parade, so come on down and cheer!! Or, if you can’t make it, you can check out the live broadcast on channel 2 or 26. Missed out this year but want to be in it next year? Contact:



Reminder: Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up later this month, Feb. 27-March 3, and that means early dismissal at 12:50pm. When you come in to meet your teacher, the school will be also asking you to complete SFUSD’s Family Survey. This survey provides a great opportunity to provide feedback about your school and how it is or isn’t supporting your child. 



Save the date! 3/23 (6-9pm) will be our school’s first ever Engineering Expo! For the next month, our science consultants and classroom teachers will be working with all grades on a special engineering challenge, which will be presented at this fun, family event!



Traffic! Rainy days make roads slippery and visibility poor. Please take extra care when dropping off your little ones, and a HUGE thank you to the parent volunteers who keep everything running smoothly. Do you have a morning to spare once or twice a month? We could sure use more help! Please contact for this or other volunteer opportunities!


Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates...we’re working on scheduling more fun community events, including a movie night and possibly a school concert & dance party! If you have any feedback or want to see anything added, we’d love to hear about it (email below)!

Ben Klaus, Principal

Melissa Unzicker, PTA president (

Science Update January 2017

Update from Caitlin:

Pre-K: Last week, we took a break from learning about how animals eat and trying to eat like they do to examine some real animals live and in-person. We watched a short video about the life cycle of a darkling beetle, and saw how it starts as a tiny egg, hatches into a larva called a "mealworm," grows and sheds its skin, turns into a pupa, and finally becomes an adult darkling beetle. After our video, and a discussion of how to safely handle the mealworms, each student was given a shallow plastic dish with a mealworm in it for them to observe, and to handle gently if they so chose. Some students were a little squeamish about touching the mealworms, but many students were brave enough to let the mealworm crawl on their hand, and felt its tiny feet tickling their palms. After our observation, we put the mealworms into their habitat. The bottom of the habitat is covered with bran meal, which is what they live in and eat. They also like to hide under the bran meal, because they don't like the light. We gave them a few apple slices to eat, which is also their source of water, and they have become a fixture in the classroom that the students check in on daily and care for.

This week, we returned to learning about interesting ways that animals eat, and we learned about a special fish called the archer fish. We watched a video about how this amazing fish catches his dinner: when it sees a bug crawling around on the plants above the water, it shoots a stream of water out of its mouth and knocks the bug into the water, where the fish can eat it. The scientist in the video told us that the archer fish is very good at being able to aim the stream of water as he spits, even at targets up to two feet away. We tried eating like an archer fish. Each student was given a small paper plate with three gummies attached to it (the gummies had been moistened with water and dried onto the plate). They were given a larger plate and a plastic pipette. The larger plate was filled half way with water, and the students had to pretend to be archer fish by sucking the water from the big plate into their pipettes, and shooting it at the "bugs" on their small plates. The rule was that students were allowed to eat the gummies, but only if they managed to get them to fall from the small plate by shooting them with water. 

Pre-K SpEd: To kick off our dinosaurs unit, we had a dino-dig. Students used their hands to dig into a tray filled with sand, where sea shells and an assortment of small plastic dinosaurs were hidden. 

Kindergarten: Continuing to think about how a material like paper is not very strong, but can be made into something strong like a box and our papier mache cups, I gave the students a challenge: using only a single half-sheet of newsprint paper and a single piece of tape, they had to build something that would be strong enough to hold a paper plate off of the table high enough for a marker to roll underneath it. If the paper could hold up a plate, the next challenge would be to hold up a small bottle full of water. They were allowed to fold, roll, or crumple their paper, but not to tear it. Students tried many different strategies, but we found that the best way to meet both challenges was to roll the paper up into a cylinder and tape the side. We have already observed that paper can be made stronger by layering it and adding glue, like the box and our papier mache, but now we had discovered something else that we could change about our paper to make it stronger: its shape! A paper cylinder was much stronger than crumpled or folded paper, and it could hold as many as 4 bottles of water before collapsing. If we added layering to our procedure by folding the paper before rolling it, it could hold as many as 8 bottles! So, now that we knew that changing the shape of a material could make it stronger, our next question was, what is the strongest shape you can make. On Thursday, we reviewed some of the three dimensional shapes that they have already learned about: cube, rectangular prism, triangular prism, triangle-based pyramid, square-based pyramid, cone, cylinder, and sphere. We decided to build a few of these shapes to test which is the strongest. Using toothpicks and play-doh, students constructed cubes, triangular prisms, and both kinds of pyramids (we realized that we couldn't build shapes that had round edges, because our toothpicks were straight lines). After building the shape, the students were asked to try testing its strength by putting pressure on its sides, its corners, and by picking it up to see whether it would hold together. We discovered that a cube was the weakest shape. It would wobble with only a little pressure on any of its corners, and if you tried to pick it up, it would fall apart. Our triangular prisms were a bit stronger. Sometimes the pushing on the corners would make it wobble, but it depended on which way the shape was oriented. It also fell apart when it was picked up. Next was our square-base pyramid. That was very strong if you were pushing on the top corner, but if you turned it on its side and pushed one of the bottom corners, it wobbled. When you tried to pick it up, it mostly stayed together. Our strongest 3-D shape was our triangle-base pyramid. No matter how you turned it, pushing on the corners didn't make it wobble. You could pick it up, roll it around, even toss it back and forth between your hands, and it would stay together. Why were some shapes so weak, while other shapes were so strong? We looked at our different shapes, and thought about the 2-D shapes that made them. A cube is made up of all squares. A triangular prism is three squares joined together in a triangle. A square-base pyramid is four triangles and a square bottom. A triangle-base pyramid is made up of only triangles. We realized that the more triangles our shapes had, the stronger they were, and we concluded that between a square and a triangle, a triangle is much stronger.

This week, we began by reviewing what we had learned about shapes and that, so far, our strongest 2-D shape is the triangle, and the strongest 3-D shape is the triangle-base pyramid. After the review, I told the students that we were going to take a short break from thinking about shapes, and think about houses. Giving each student a half-sheet of paper and 3 minutes to work, I asked everyone to draw a picture of a house. After we had drawn our houses, I shared the designs different students had drawn. We looked through many different pictures, and I asked the students to think about what shapes they observed in each house. We noticed a pattern: almost everyone had drawn a house that was made of a square bottom with a triangle on top. Even between the three classes, most students had drawn a house in the same shape. Why was this? Why does everyone draw the same shapes when they think of a house? I explained the students that here in the U.S., most houses that people live in and that we see in books, tv, and movies, are shaped that way. So it is natural for us to draw houses in shapes that we are used to seeing. We looked at a chart of the most common kinds of houses in the U.S., and we saw that many had the same shape, and that big buildings like apartment buildings and condos were also squares. We then looked at some other houses from around the world. Some other countries had similar houses (like adobe houses), but some houses had very different shapes. A teepee was shaped like a cone, and an igloo, a yurt, a hut, and a wigwam were all shaped like half-circles. I then showed the students a picture of an indigenous-style house from India, which was in the shape of a half-cylinder. We also observed that the house was made of grass, or straw. I asked the students if they had ever heard of someone building a house of straw, and indeed, they knew the story of the three little pigs. In the story, a house made of straw is not a very strong house at all. Why did the people who built this house use straw, then? Some students guessed that they hadn't heard the story, or that they weren't very good builders. I asked the students what houses in the U.S. are usually made of, and they listed wood, brick, cement, and metal. I asked whether those are strong materials, and they agreed. I then asked why the people who built the house pictured hadn't used bricks or cement, and it dawned on some of the students that the people who built the house didn't have bricks, cement, or other strong materials to build with. They built the house of straw because straw was the material they had. But even though the material wasn't very strong, the people still wanted a strong house to live in. What could they do to their material to make it stronger? After thinking and referring back to our paper challenge from last week, the students realized that by making the house into a half-cylinder shape, it was much stronger. It wasn't that the people weren't smart, or not good builders. They were using the materials they had in the best way possible. On Thursday, we took some time to look at the houses again, and think about how shape and materials both work to make something strong. We recalled that shapes with triangles were stronger than shapes with squares, but how did circles compare? We began by re-enacting the water bottle challenge, this time with paper that had been folded into a cube, into a triangular prism, and a cylinder. We saw that a paper cube could hold only 3-4 bottles of water, and a triangular prism had similar results, while our cylinder could hold 8. It seemed as though the circle in the cylinder was stronger than the triangle or the square. I showed the students an egg, and asked them whether eggs are weak or strong. Most agreed that eggs are weak and easy to break. Easy enough to break just by squeezing in my fist? Most students thought so, and were surprised to see that I couldn't break it by squeezing it. Sitting in a circle, each student was given a chance to try to break the egg by squeezing it, but try as they might, no one could. Some students suspected that the egg was fake,  or hardboiled, but once it made the round, I cracked it into a basin to show them that it wasn't a trick; the egg really was that strong. The eggshell itself was very thin, and I broke a fragment with my nails to show the students how fragile it was. So why couldn't we break it by squeezing? Because of its shape. Round shapes are very strong when there is pressure coming from all sides at the same time. To see how strong, we took a flat of 3 dozen eggs and had the students try standing on them. They were amazed and thrilled to see that the eggs did not crack. 


(There were several surprises, however.  After students in Room 2 tried standing on the eggs, they asked Ms. Griffith to try. She was able to last year, but this year, we had several cracked eggs. We also had a student crack eggs in Room 3, but that was because he rocked backwards on them. The biggest surprise, including for me, was during Room 4's science class. After the first egg had made its round through squeezing, I took one last squeeze, joking that maybe the students had weakened it for me. Perhaps they had, because, for the first time after having done this lesson at least a dozen times before, the egg burst in my hand and exploded everywhere. Luckily, I had clean-up supplies prepped and ready.)


Vocabulary: cube, rectangular prism, triangular prism, pyramid, cone, cylinder, sphere

Try this at home: Using blocks or other materials, try building some structures with your child and seeing which ones are strongest and most stable. Think about what makes one structure stronger or more stable than the other, and what you could do to strengthen a weak structure. (This will be a big part of our engineering unit, beginning next week.)

First Grade: Last week, we reviewed how an anemometer and a pinwheel work, and that they are both instruments that meteorologists use to measure wind speed. We then watched a short video about measuring the wind, and I told the students that the video would discuss three instruments, one they knew about, and two new ones. I told them to listen carefully for the names of the new instruments, and what they measured. After watching the video, students were quick to name the anemometer as the instrument we already knew about, and that it was for measuring wind speed. The two other instruments mentioned in the video were a wind vane, and a wind sock, which tell where the wind is coming from, and where is is going. The video also told us that wind direction is described in terms of compass directions: North, East, South, and West, and that when describing the direction of the wind, you always talk about where the wind is coming from, not where it is going to. For example, a wind that is blowing toward the South is a Northerly wind. I showed them a wind vane that I had built, and we observed how the arrow always pointed into the wind, showing you which direction the wind was coming from. After learning about our new weather instruments, it was time to build another weather instrument that is more commonly used as a toy: a kite. Students took their kites home.

After reviewing the wind vane and wind direction, this week, we went back to what we had learned about air back at the beginning of the unit, about how air can push and pull. I asked the students to think about the kites that they had made last week, and what we had learned about the wind scale some weeks before. You can't fly a kite in calm, or even in a gentle breeze. Why? There isn't enough wind to push the kite up. In a moderate breeze, the wind is moving fast enough to push the kite up. We know that air is pushing the kite up, but what is pulling the kite down? Gravity! If the force of gravity is stronger, the kite will sink and fall. If the force of the wind is stronger, the kite will rise and fly. To demonstrate what we would be thinking about during the lesson, I took out a model parachute made from a paper napkin, string, and a paper clip. I asked the students to think about what forces were working on the parachute. The parachute fell to the ground, but not as fast as a paperclip would have by itself. The force pulling the parachute down was gravity, and the force slowing it down was the air. I told the students that this force of air pushing against the parachute had a special name: air resistance. We then watched a short video about how parachutes work, and I asked the students to pay attention to the word that the video used to describe air resistance, because they would use a different word to talk about air pushing against things. In the video, they called air pushing against things drag. We realized that the best parachute would have a lot of air resistance, or drag. That would make it fall slower, and the best parachute is the one that falls the slowest (because it keeps the person using it safest). On our parachute worksheets, I had the students label a diagram showing a parachute with the forces moving the parachute. I then showed the students a second parachute, and before releasing them, we compared them. They were both weighted with a paper clip, attached with four pieces of string and stickers, and the size of the chute was the same. However, one chute was made of a napkin, and the other was made of newspaper. Would they work the same way? Releasing both at the same time, the newspaper parachute reached the ground before the napkin parachute. So which was the better parachute? The napkin makes a better parachute, because it creates more drag. I told the students that I had several materials for them to make their parachutes from: napkins, newspaper, plastic, and paper bags. Each student was to write the question: "I wonder what will happen if my parachute is made of ___________________?" on their worksheet under the parachute diagram, and to fill in the blank with the material of their choice. We then built the parachutes, which the students took home (we didn't have time to compare student-built parachutes, but we will be comparing the different materials next week.

Vocabulary: anemometer, meteorologist, instrument, wind vane, wind sock, North, East, South, West, gravity, air resistance

Try this at home: The parachutes we made were not built to last, and probably fell apart by the end of the day. However, it is very easy to build another parachute, and you can build a few with your child and test different materials at home to see which would make the best parachute.

Second Grade: Last week, we observed that although milkweed bugs, silk worms, and painted lady butterflies are all insects, they do not have the same stages of their life cycles. While they all begin with an egg stage and end with an adult, from which future eggs come to continue the life cycle, silk worms and painted ladies go through stages such as "larva" and "pupa," while milkweed bugs go through a "nymph" stage. We learned that all insects go through a process called "metamorphosis," but that metamorphosis has two variations: complete and incomplete metamorphosis. Since metamorphosis is a big word, we broke it down into two smaller parts: meta, meaning "beyond," and morph, meaning "shape" or "form." An organism that undergoes metamorphosis is one that goes beyond the shape or form that it is born with. Some insects are born looking nothing like their adult parents, such as the painted lady caterpillars. To reach the adult stage, they have to completely change their shape. To go through such a drastic change requires a pupa stage. This is called "complete metamorphosis." Other insects, like our milkweed bugs, emerge from the egg looking like a tiny version of the adult, called a "nymph." The nymphs grow and shed their outer skins until they are adults, but they change only a little bit, so they don't require a pupa stage for intense growth and transformation. This is "incomplete metamorphosis." We watched two short videos about other insects that undergo metamorphosis: a luna moth undergoes complete metamorphosis, going from larva to pupa to adult, whereas a mantis is born a nymph, shedding its skin as it grows, undergoing incomplete metamorphosis. 

This week, we delved deeper into variation and where variation comes from. We read a section in our book called "Environment," and we learned that every organism has "characteristics" that make it a unique individual (similar to "properties" when we were studying geology). Some of these characteristics are inherited, passed down from parents to offspring. However, others are the result of environment. An example in our book was a darkling beetle. A darkling beetle has certain inherited characteristics, such as its body plan (head, thorax, abdomen, six legs), and its color. However, some beetles have characteristics that result from the environment, such as a broken wing cover or a missing leg. Some of these characteristics will be passed onto its offspring. The beetle's offspring will have the same body plan and coloration. But its offspring will not have a broken wing cover, or a missing limb, because those characteristics are environmental. We learned that variation, especially inherited characteristics, can have a big impact. We watched a short video about the differences between artifical and natural selection. The video taught us that for as long as people have been farming, we have been selecting organisms with preferred characteristics, such as sweeter, larger fruit, or more meat. In each generation, there is some variation, and farmers choose which characteristics they like the best, and allow only those organisms to reproduce. The farmer doesn't actually create anything, only chooses. In natural selection, it is nature that chooses which animals will live and reproduce. It isn't making a conscious choice like a person does, but simply by natural processes and forces, some variations will be selected for. The video showed us that many vegetables that we eat such as kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, all came from the same weed. After watching the video, I revealed to my students that all these vegetables are brassica, just like the plants we have been observing in our classroom. The brassica we are observing is not going to turn into a vegetable, but it does come from the same plant that kale, cabbage, etc. come from. We also looked at selective breeding in two other plants. I showed the students a picture of Queen Anne's lace root, and asked them what they thought farmers might have selected it to become. They were very surprised to see that the small, tangled root of the Queen Anne's Lace was turned into carrots! They were equally surprised to learn that carrots have only been orange for about 300 years, and that farmers selectively bred the orange carrot from yellow, white and purple varieties to honor William of Orange. We also looked at how far bananas have come from the tiny, starchy fruit full of big black seeds in the wild to the large, sweet, seedless fruit we know today.

(Note: Due to the holiday for Chinese New Year, and because we will be starting the engineering project next week on Thursday, Ms. Guillen's class did not have the lessons about metamorphosis or selective breeding. This week, they had the preparatory lesson for the engineering unit that the other second grade classes will have this coming Tuesday.)

Vocabulary: larva, pupa, nymph, complete and incomplete metamorphosis, head, thorax, abdomen, variation, environment, inherit, characteristics, artificial and natural selection, selective breeding

Try this at home: Choose a favorite food and do some research into its origins. Almost every plant or animal that we eat has been selectively bred for hundreds, if not thousands of years. You may be amazed at what you learn!

Third Grade: Last week, we used the collaborative moon phase poster we completed in the previous lesson, and worked on individual moon phase charts that went into our notebooks.

This week, we completed the moon phase charts, and watched a video called "All about Stars," in preparation for our final lesson next week about stars and constellations. The students had to complete a guided worksheet for the video, filling in the blanks for different facts about the stars, such as how many they are (billions), what they are made of (hot gases, hydrogen becoming helium), the life cycle of stars (sometimes they explode in a supernova), their colors(blue, white, yellow, orange, and red, with blue being the hottest), and how telescopes work (lenses and mirrors collect light from stars, with inward curving mirrors collecting the most light).

 Vocabulary: lunar cycle, phase, new moon, waxing, waning, crescent, gibbous, full moon, stars, 

Try this at home: We will be having a guest speaker next week to share some information about the constellations. Weather permitting, take some time to examine the night sky and see which constellations you can identify. The speaker will also give a little background about the different cultural origin stories behind different constellations. If you know any of the stories behind the constellations you can spot, share them with your child, or feel free to make up your own together.

Update from Paige:

5th grade: Mr. Ellingson and Mr. Calubaquib
The most exciting experiment we have done in the new year occurred about two weeks ago. Thanks to the help of first grade parent, Susan Koo, our students had the opportunity to see a fresh pig heart, lung, and other tissues. A big "Thank You" to Susan!

We have been studying how cells get what they need to live.  It's pretty straightforward for single-celled organisms, but multicellular organisms (organisms made of many cells) have to have more elaborate systems to get resources to all of their cells. Previously, we studied how vascular plants solve this problem.  Now, we have been looking at how humans solve this problem.  In this study, we were trying to understand more about the circulatory and respiratory systems.  

We had four stations through which students rotated.
1.). The first station had laptops with pre-selected YouTube videos related to heart function.
2.). The second station had human models of the heart borrowed from Stanford and UCSF.
3.). The third station had models of the heart/lung in combination also borrowed from Stanford and UCSF.

4.).  But the truly awesome station was station 4. The fourth station had a pig heart specimen and a pig heart/lung specimen.  As an anesthesiologist involved in organ recovery, Susan was able to get access at Stanford to dissect two pigs and bring us fresh samples to examine in class.  Susan had dissected the heart, so students could see that the addition of liquid to the left ventricle caused the valve to close.  Susan had set up the pig heart/lung specimen, so the lungs could be inflated using an external hand pump.  It was incredible to see the lungs fill up with air and then deflate!  Honestly, it was an amazing experience!

4th grade: Ms. Washington, Mr. Calubaquib; 4th/5th Mr. Briggs

My favorite experiment in 4th grade this month was an experiment looking at how the distance between magnets changes the strength of the magnetic field.  We did a really cool experiment using a balance to explore this topic.  On one side of the balance, there is a magnet on a post attached to the balance base.  On the balance arm, there is a cup.  We put a second magnet in the cup that was attracted to the magnet attached to the base.  On the other arm of the balance, we put metal washers in a cup.  When the force of gravity acting on the washers exceeded the magnetic force holding the magnets together, then the balance would tip as the two magnets came apart.  We recorded how many washers it took to break the magnetic force.  We repeated this experiment, but we added small plastic discs (spacers) between the two magnets.  We recorded how many washers it took to break the force when the magnets were separated by 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, or 6 spacers.  When we graphed the number of washers vs. the number of spacers, we saw there was a relationship.  It’s actually a totally beautiful exponential curve:)  We talked about how we could predict how many washers it would take the break the force between magnets separated by 2 spacers.  After making a prediction, students tested how many washers it took, and lo, and behold, the predictions were nearly always correct.  Totally awesome.  Students talked about how the data showed that as the distance between magnets increases, the force between them gets weaker.  

3rd grade: Ms. Song
We started our unit called "Sun, Moon, and Stars" when we returned from winter break.   We began by looking at the sun.  Our first question to investigate was does the sun appear to move in the sky? We approached this question by recording where the sun was in the sky three times during the school day. In addition, students also drew their shadows on the concrete while standing in the same position each of the three times they were outside.  The next week we looked at the data. First, it was apparent that the sun does appear to move in the sky throughout the day. Moreover, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Next, we looked at the data of one student's shadow study. We saw that the size and direction of her shadow changed throughout the day.  To try to explain this phenomenon, we developed a model for what was happening. In our model, we used a flashlight to represent the sun, a cork to represent the student, and the table represented the ground. Students were challenged to try to determine why the shadow changed size and direction throughout the day. Through this study, they realized that shadows are created by objects blocking the light. They also realized that the sun moving through the sky from East to West explained both the change in size and direction of the student's shadow. When the sun is closer to the horizon, shadows are longer. When the sun is closer to overhead, shadows are shorter. When the sun is East of the student, the shadow is on the West, and vice versa.  In the end, we also looked at a model in which the earth was a globe, the light source was a flashlight, and the person was a small slip of paper on the surface of the globe. I explained, as most students already knew, that the sun doesn't move, but instead, the earth rotates on its axis, making it appear the sun is moving.

Pre K - 3rd Grade Science Update

Pre-K: After we learned about how butterflies eat with a mouth called a "proboscis" last week, this week, we took a look at how some birds eat. We learned that a bird's mouth is called a "beak," and that many birds like to eat seeds. Since birds don't have hands, they need to use their beaks to pick up seeds to eat them. We practiced eating like birds, using forceps (tweezers) as our "beaks" and a plastic cup as our bird tummies. The students were given a seed mix on a plate to practice picking up seeds with their beaks and putting them in their tummies.

Pre-K SpEd: This week, we made rain clouds with cotton balls and blue-colored water. The students were given cotton balls, a dish of blue water, and a pipette. Using the pipette, they transferred water to the "cloud" until it was saturated with "rain." Then, using their hands to squeeze the water back into the dish, we made the rainclouds rain.

Kindergarten: This Monday, Rooms 2 and 3 went on a field trip to the symphony, so only Room 4 had science that afternoon. We remembered the different kinds of wood we had observed, and talked about how wood is a very useful material. Room 4 brainstormed a long list of things that are made of wood, and I wrote each idea on the board, accompanied by a simple drawing. Afterwards, the students were given a story sheet to fill out, similar to what we had read at the beginning of our unit about wood, "The Story of a Chair." The first panel in the story read, "Wood comes from trees. Many things are made of wood." The students were told to draw a tree to illustrate the first panel. The three following panels each had a sentence to complete, "___________ is made of wood." From the list on the board, the students were allowed to select whichever wooden items they liked, wrote the name of the item in the blank, and drew a picture of the item. On Thursday, I posed a question to the students. We are learning about wood because wood is a very useful material that can be made into many things. One example is that wood can be used to build a boat. We have had a chance to observe and compare five different kinds of wood. The question was, if we were going to pick one of our five kinds of wood to build a boat out of, which wood would be the best choice? We narrowed that question down into a question that we could experiment to find the answer to: which kind of wood floats best? First, we determined that all of our five types of wood do, in fact, float in water. So the way to test which wood floats best would be by adding weight to it until it sinks to see which type of wood can hold the most weight before sinking. The students worked with a partner to test a wood sample. The sample had a rubber band around its middle, and the students took turns adding one large paperclip at a time, then testing to see whether the wood still floated with each additional paperclip. (To save time, we defined "sink" to mean when any part of the wood touched the bottom of the container, rather than being completely submerged.) To help us compare the results, after their wood sample was "sunk," the students would work together to link the paperclips into a chain. The chains were hung on the white board in columns labelled with the name of each kind of wood, and the students were asked to count the clips and to write the number on the board below the chain. Once each type of wood had been tested at least once, we met together on the rug to compare our data, and see if we could answer the question: which kind of wood floats best? Results varied by classroom, but from each classes' results, they were able to see that the wood that held the most paperclips before sinking was the best at floating, and therefore the best for building a boat. We were also able to determine which types of wood are not good for building a boat (particle board), although those types of wood can be good for building other things.

Vocabulary: observe, compare, basswood, pine, redwood, particle board, plywood, float, sink

Try this at home: Look for examples of how wood is used, and think about why. Is there a reason that the object is made of wood? Could it be made of another material instead?

First Grade: Last week, we began our investigation of gas by using a set of solid objects to observe some things that a gas (air) can do. We saw that air can push things and pull things. This week, we continued to investigate what air can do, this time using liquid. Working in groups of two or three, the students were each given a 12-dram vial, and a 1 gallon clear bin of water to share. After taking some time to do unguided exploration, the students observed that air can make bubbles. Since they had made the observation, I asked the students to consider the following question: What is a bubble? How can we describe a bubble in terms of matter? Thinking about the bubbles we had observed, and about bubbles that we play with outside, we were able to say that "A bubble is a gas inside of a liquid." After defining what a bubble is, I challenged the students to try making as many bubbles, and the biggest bubbles that they could, using the vials. Students had many different strategies: filling the vial with water and pouring the water from the vial back into the basin, holding the vial side ways when submerging it, submerging it upside down and then turning it over. After sharing our ideas, I gave the students a new challenge: given one of the small styrofoam balls from last week, which floated on top of the water, could we get the ball to touch the bottom of the basin without touching the ball? The students were told that they could use their vials to help them, but that the vial itself could not touch the ball either. Some students tried to submerge the ball by pouring water onto it with their vials, but that did not move the ball far enough down to touch the bottom. Once some students found the solution, it quickly caught on with the rest: Turning the vial upside down over the ball and lowering it into the water, the air inside the vial pushed the ball down to the bottom of the basin, without the vial or hands touching the ball.

Vocabulary: matter, gas, air, bubble

Try this at home: We observed that bubbles are usually spheres or hemispheres, but we didn't discuss why. Blow some bubbles with your child and observe their shapes. Is it possible to make a bubble that isn't round? There is also something else for them to consider: we have defined a liquid as being matter that gets its shape from its container, and a bubble as a gas inside a liquid. So how is a bubble a sphere? Where is it getting its shape from? The answers to these questions are probably too complex for most first-graders, but they are fun to contemplate.

Second Grade: With our meter tapes that were made last week, the students had a chance to practice estimating and measuring objects around the classroom. We learned that estimate means to make a good guess, trying to get as close as you can to the real value. They selected an object (anything they could find and reach in the classroom), estimated its length in centimeters, and then measured it with the meter tapes to find its actual length. They then had to compare the estimate with their actual measured length. I explained to them that their estimates might be far from the actual measurements at first, but given practice, they would get better at estimating, and their estimates would get closer to their measurements. 

Vocabulary: standard units, metric system, meters, centimeters, estimate

Try this at home: Students will be bringing their measuring tapes and worksheets home. On the reverse of the estimating worksheet is a place to compare the sizes of different body measurements. This is a fun activity that we just don't have the time to finish, and it is interesting to see how closely some body measurements align; for example, comparing your height and your arm span from fingertip to fingertip, or the length of your forearm between your wrist and elbow to the length of your foot from tips of toes to heel. 

Third Grade: We know that matter is defined as anything that has volume and mass. We investigated the concept of volume and the tools and units for measuring volume last week, so this week, we investigated mass. We know that mass is how much stuff an object is made of, and that we can tell differences in mass by observing differences in weight, i.e. things that have more "stuff" in them will feel heavier. To demonstrate this, students worked with a partner to sort a series of three objects, a metal circle, a plastic circle, and a wooden square, from greate

Help Send 5th Graders to Weeklong Science Trip!


From Mr. E: 

Do you remember your first trip to science camp? Do you remember the sense of excitement and adventure that surround your learning? I do! And I'll never forget it. That's what we are trying to provide for our 5th Graders. Help us attend Exploring New Horizons at Camp Loma Mar during the coming school year. This is an all inclusive outdoor science camp nestled in the California coastal redwood forest. While at camp, our urban students will experience science in a brand new way unavailable to them in their own city.

They will be immersed in exciting opportunities to explore and investigate the flora and fauna of redwood and oak forests, tide pools, and coastal marshlands.

Students will be lead by Exploring New Horizons's fabulous staff of expert naturalists as well as local high school counselor volunteers. They will also have a chance to learn and collaborate with students from a neighboring elementary school as well. While at camp students are housed in rustic yet comfortable cabins and provided 3 delicious meals per day.

This experience provides students with an opportunity to learn in a way that is unavailable in their daily city life. It engages them in science education in a unique way that stimulates lifelong interest and develops a sense of environmental stewardship. Beyond that, it serves as a confidence builder as they develop independence from their families while learning to collaborate with science experts and students from other schools (many of which will become their middle school classmates in 6th grade).

My students are a community of 5th graders representing one of the most diverse schools in our large urban city. We have over 8 home languages represented as well as a variety of racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Our school community also draws in families from all socioeconomic levels. This creates a unique and beautifully colorful experience for all of our students.

Our students are hardworking and academically motivated, especially in Science and Reading.

They also love writing, dancing, gardening, creating art projects, playing Four Square and Kickball. Our 5th graders are curious and engaged learners who desire hands-on and adventurous learning experiences.

Donate here, any amount is appreciated!