Welcome Back!

Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year! This year we’ll be paying attention to all kinds of patterns in the natural world around us. We’ll develop habits of mind; thinking like scientists, asking questions, and gaining insight from research and collaboration. Of course, we’ll be reading plenty, writing across the curriculum, computing, creating, dreaming, and so much more! We’re looking forward to an amazing learning journey this year!

classroom plant

A Reclaimed Ocean

completed bottlecap mural


Reclaimed Ocean

Working Together to Make a Better World

A Collaborative Project by the MAC Class at Cardiff School

Each person has a part to play in keeping our oceans…and our world clean and healthy, just like each student in the MAC class contributed to the creation of our bottle cap ocean mural. The collection of reclaimed bottle caps, visualizing the design, sketching out the plan, sorting and coloring caps, laying out the caps, and gluing them into place was a collaborative effort. We hope this mosaic of plastic helps bring awareness to the problem of ocean trash and encourages us all to do our part, individually and collectively, to contribute to the solution…for the good of our community, our oceans, and our planet.

Steps we used to complete this project:

1.  Collected bottle caps (took several weeks)

bottle cap collection

2.  Sorted caps according to color (some we added color to with Sharpie markers)

3.  Brainstormed ocean mural designs (each child in our class sketched their own ideas)

4.  Merged ideas from individual designs into one

5.  Sketched final design on chart paper

6.  Painted thin plywood board and let it dry

painted board

7.  Created outlines of ocean creatures (we used paper, but if we had more time, we would have painted them)

8.  Teams of students organized bottle cpas per creature/part of the ocean

jellyfishorange fishseastarsea turtle

9.  Glued bottle caps with tacky glue and let dry

mural in progress

Mural in progress


10.  Stood back and admired!

Students also did some writing about all they had learned about plastics and their impact on our oceans and environment.  Once they had written, they selected a sentence to contribute to a collaborative piece of writing.  Once gathered, a small committee of third grade writers took on the task of rearranging and revising to create order and cohesion from the ideas in the sentences from our 44 students.  The result: an informative text about all they have learned!  We hope you learn a lot…and take action like our students have.

We have a problem! There is so much plastic in the ocean. About 100,000 marine mammals around the world get killed each year because of plastic. Don’t you realize we’re hurting these innocent creatures just by littering? When plastics go into the ocean they don’t decompose and the toxins stay in the water.

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is like a humongous island with a bunch of floating plastic! There are about five garbage patches in our world’s ocean. Those trash patches have stored up so much debris that they’re the size of Texas! It’s hurting our world.

Rain, floods, and wind can make this problem worse. SO that is why we need to start to take care of our environment: no more littering! Sometimes there’s plastic that is floating in the ocean. Some birds think it’s some yummy food. One way people litter is they have a picnic at the beach. Sometimes they bring little plastic bags and throw them on the ground and think, “One little bag is alright.” But if thousands of people think this, it won’t be just one little plastic bag.

Some ways we can help this big plastic problem are:

  • Don’t bring plastic bags or bottles to the beach and take care of your plastic bags and trash so it doesn’t blow into the ocean.
  • When you really want a toy at the store, think again! Does it have a plastic wrapping?
  • We should ban plastic bags because they are a threat to sea animals.
  • Don’t bring soft plastic to a picnic because it is bad news for animals.
  • Use reusable containers because you probably won’t throw those away.
  • Take plastic water bottles to the recycling center and get money for them.
  • Recycle your plastic bags.
  • If you’re walking at the beach with a backpack on, make sure it’s closed so no plastic flies out of it.
  • Always, when you see trash on the beach, pick it up because it could hurt animals!

To help the environment is very important. Even when you live far away from the ocean, it’s not okay to litter. Sometimes when I see plastic in the ocean and that hurts animals and me too. Plastic is disturbing the food chain; it’s likely that we may eat an animal that has eaten plastic.

Think of others ways to save our ocean. Think about it and take action now, we have a big problem!



San Dieguito Heritage Museum

We’re grateful to the wonderful docents at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum in Encinitas for providing a wonderful learning experience! Students were fascinated with how the Kumeyaay lived off the land, the shanty and how early homesteaders had to toil to farm the land here, and a highlight was seeing Ida Noonan’s actual doll. A fire in 1893 destroyed the Noonan’s home and the doll was the only thing remaining. For more stories and fascinations from our field trip, please ask your child! You may even consider taking a family trip to the heritage museum to learn more. It’s rich with amazing Encinitas history.

Encinitas City Hall

WholeClassHow fortunate we are to have Encinitas City Hall so close to our school and an elected council member as a parent in our class! Thanks to Catherine Blakespear’s encouragement, we had an amazing field trip to city hall full of learning!

In preparation for this educational opportunity, we had discussed the most current issue on the council’s agenda that week: skateboarding helmets. We have many avid skateboarders in our class, and though the majority of the skaters at the new Encinitas community park skate without helmets, most of our students were adamant that helmets are essential for safety (whew!). We read an article in the Encinitas Advocate on ticketing helmetless skaters, as well as several letters sent to the city council addressing both sides of the issue. It was interesting to hear from both the sheriff’s department and life-long skaters. In developing and honing our own opinions, it’s important to not only have a personal feeling, but also listen with the intent to understand the issues and concerns on both sides.

Eight students were selected to be on our mock city council for our mock council meeting (the eight represented both the city council and the youth commission). The selected council’s job was to listen to both sides of the issue, while many in our class got on the microphone to express their concerns as citizens. We had many brave MAC students (and parents!) who expressed their opinions and reasons. At the end of the “public comment” section, the council members took turns saying which side of the issue he/she would be voting for and, more importantly, the reason for their vote.

We appreciate Catherine Blakespear for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us a tour around city hall and guide us through the mock meeting. Students walked away from the experience, not only excited about our local government, but with an understanding that they have a voice in the city’s decision-making process (true story: kids are allowed to speak at city council meetings).

And as if the field trip wasn’t exciting enough, we had our very own mayor, Kristen Gaspar, greet us and announce that our class won one of the categories for the Love My City Youth Video contest! How exciting! (scroll to the bottom to watch the video) Also, congratulations to Max’s sister, Stella, who won in the individual category (scroll down to watch her video as well).


Stella’s Video

Our video




44 + 2 Fans Meet Lizi Boyd on Skype

There’s no better way to celebrate Digital Learning Day than Skype-ing with a favorite author!!! Our class was over-the-moon excited to “meet” author and illustrator Lizi Boyd (and her dog Ollie). “Words…you have to hear them,” began Ms. Boyd as she shared a glimpse into her journey as a writer. From explaining what an “agent” is to sharing that she “likes making presents,” we learned quite a bit in our 30 minutes of shared time with this vivacious lady!

IMG_6475Check out the 44 inquisitive faces peering at the screen during our session!

In preparation for this event, we had brainstormed questions, then rated them to find our top 6. Student interviewers were selected to ask Ms. Boyd questions on camera (and in the end, we did have time for lots of extra questions and answers). We learned a bit about her hobbies, her inspirations as a writer, her love of Paris, SF and soup, and other books she’s written. She gave us a little tour of her lovely studio and we recognized several things from The Crooked Cottage blog post about her.

Another exciting aspect of our time with Ms. Boyd was finding out that her wonderful, wordless books, Inside Outside and Flashlight, have been published in numerous other language, including French, Chinese and Korean. Congratulations, Ms. Boyd!


One of our collective, “burning” questions was about her upcoming book, and we were THRILLED when she told us about the book and even gave us a sneak-peek of some of the artwork! What an honor! Though we’re not going to steal her thunder by sharing the title of her new book, we’ll certainly share it out as soon as it’s published!


It was fun that Ms. Boyd suggested a new art project to the class: shadow puppets! She showed us several of her puppets and we’d love to experiment with this concept.


Skype-ing with “our” Lizi Boyd was such an amazing experience that it’s hard not to start thinking about when the next time might be… We feel so fortunate to have the internet to be able to connect with an author in this way and we would encourage other classrooms to do the same!


Digital Learning Day 2015

Celebrating Digital Learning Day 2015…

We made this video as a collaborative effort to celebrate Digital Learning day and to share examples of our digital learning and why kids think it’s important to learn using digital media. We want to thank our EdTech, Mr. Grisafe, who helped us create it for DLDay! Enjoy!

Saving Water Part 2 : Student Interviews

(written collaboratively by kids in Book Clubs)

photo 1

An extreme drought is happening here in CA, the most extreme drought in the state’s history! Our state reservoirs are 60% empty and the water prices are soaring. You might know we’re in a drought, but you might not know some of the ways to help and there are so many ways…

After sharing our PSA at our school assembly, a reporter from The Coast News, Aaron Burgin, came to interview our Book Club. We decided to try our hand at reporting and interviewing some other classes at our school to see how they are saving water…


“When I start a shower, I collect the cold water in a bucket and use it to water my plants,” Ella from Mrs. Hamilton’s third grade class shared. Sean from Mrs. Payte’s second grade class said his whole family is timing their showers. Timing your shower is very important because if you take too long of a shower, extra water can be wasted. Chloe from Mrs. Hamilton’s said she doesn’t fill her bath all the way, which is very important if you don’t take showers. Simone, also from Mrs. Payte’s class, said she doesn’t leave the faucet on after she washes her hands. Similarly, Wyatt, from Mrs. Hamilton’s class, doesn’t leave the water on while he brushes his teeth. Charlie from the same class said to turn the shower off while you soap up your hair to wash it. Kids in Mr. Redding’s second grade class also had great ideas. Eve puts buckets outside to collect rainwater and Cassidy said to only fill a glass of water up as much as you’re going to drink. It’s not just older kids who have smart water-saving strategies… In Mrs. Paccione’s TK class, Kate said to use rainwater for the fish tank, and in Mrs. McNamara’s class Mila reported that she used to leave the water running, but now she turns it off! Nice work, Mila! And thank you to all the classes who helped us with these interviews!

A solution to the drought problem is to take five-minute showers, which would save 5, 500 gallons per person every year. Plants, people, and animals need water to survive. So, we invite you to be a superhero and think of more water-saving ideas to stop the drought!

photo 4 copy 2

Marble Mazes: A Collaborative Design Challenge

What better way to reestablish ourselves as a community of learners after the long winter break than to engage in teamwork that involved transferring a marble from one end of the classroom or auditorium to the other using only a series of grooved wooden ramps?

It didn’t take long for students to realize the importance of communication and teamwork…and how much harder it is to work with a large team than a small one!


This marble challenge became the perfect introduction to our upcoming design challenge–making marble mazes!

To prepare students for this physical design and engineering challenge ahead of them, we read a couple of wonderful picture books to get student thinking about the attitudes and processes they would need to successfully complete the tasks.  Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty features an intrepid little girl who aspires to be an engineer…and who is already an avid inventor.  She keeps her inventions under wraps…afraid that others will make fun of her…and when her favorite uncle laughs at one of her inventions…oh no…she wants to quit.  Lucky for her, her passions and interests keep her going.  (You’ll want to read this gem to see how the story turns out!)  We followed that book with The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires…another book about a young designer, inventor, and engineer.  These beautifully written books set the stage for the challenge to come!

And to give students just a taste of what was coming, we borrowed Ms. Parker’s magnetic marble maze, and as a class, created a maze on our white board.  In many ways this magnetic maze was simple to manipulate…it easily attached to the white board just by setting it in place.  But a more complicated challenge was coming for our students…

magnetic marble maze

After many trips to Home Depot over winter break (and some construction help from Mr. Douillard), we had all the raw materials in place for a collaborative design challenge: peg boards, pegs, PVC pipe and connectors, funnels, clothespins, grooved wood pieces, paper tubes…and some masking tape.

marble maze materials

In teams of four, students explored the possibilities for creating a marble maze machine-of-sorts for a marble to run through, staying in contact with chutes and half-pipes, making turns, going up and down hills, facing obstacles, and ultimately landing safely in the landing zone.  The goal was to keep that marble running for as long as possible before reaching the end.

marble run 6

Communication and collaboration were essential skills during the challenge as groups figured out how to use ideas from all their members and keep everyone actively participating.  They also had to put their critical thinking skills and creativity into action as they problem solved how to make ramps stay in place using only minimal amounts of masking tape.

marble run 4

Teams tinkered with their design, experimenting with slope as they changed the angle of ramps and tubes in an effort to impact the speed of the marble and change its trajectory.  With each change came another trial, testing to see if this iteration would have the desired result.  Teams watched carefully, noting where the marble strayed from the path, hit an obstacle, or missed the connection…and then they made a decision about what to do next to improve the design of the maze.

marble run 9

MAC students learned about many science concepts, as well as engineering and design as they worked through the construction of their marble mazes.  But even more importantly, they are learning to problem solve, work collaboratively and cooperatively, to communicate effectively, and best of all, persist when faced with a challenging situation.

marble run 3

And best of all, they had fun!  Joy and playfulness contribute to the learning process, increasing students’ desire to participate…some are still building mazes on their own time before school!

If all of that wasn’t enough, with Mr. Grisafe’s help, we were able to find an iPad app that also included maze-like design challenges.  Amazing Alex challenges students to set ramps, bounce balls, pop balloons, and cut strings to set off a Rube Goldberg machine-like series of events.

There is plenty of making, creating, problem solving, and learning going on with our a-maze-ing MAC students!

Why We Love Encinitas

When the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce offered the Love My City Youth Contest, the MAC class just knew it was the perfect opportunity to launch our unit on community. After brainstorming ideas about why this is a wonderful community to live in, we wrote the script collaboratively in small groups, then speakers were selected from each  to share the groups’ ideas on video. Take a look and please leave a comment! We’d love to hear what you think… Thank you!