Our Monthly Newsletters

The coming of the New Year has brought us a lot of new experiences, more snow than I imagine these children remember experiencing; a visiting artist from Peru who taught us how to make a water filter system; Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops; new instruments; and a fun field trip.

Recorder sessions have begun and the children are in the experimental stage with their new instruments.  They are having fun while also being challenged.  The children first began by learning how to properly hold the recorder and how to blow air into them just right so that they sound beautiful.  The process has been slow, but steady. 

Imagine that our community would have the opportunity to learn how to filter water to make it potable…well, that is just what happened here at Wellspring when Sharon, Denise’s sister, visited from Peru.  The children eagerly soaked up everything that Sharon shared with them throughout the entire week she was here.  

The introduction of Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop has helped jump start the children’s literacy skills.  They are starting to read with more of an eye toward the author and his/her intentions and techniques.  Then, they are given the time they need to truly explore writing, so that they can find their own unique voice. 

The children watched a Junie B. Jones play at Raritan Valley Community College that had them howling with laughter.  They love everything about field trips, from the bus rides to the activity, to the continuation that extends into the classroom.  We have some Junie B. Jones books at Wellspring so that anyone who is interested can do some reading during our daily Reader’s Workshop.

When the children are not reading and writing, they can be found building snow forts in the paddock.  “It is great packing snow, Mr. Eddie” can be heard more often than not and the smiles on their faces have been a real delight.   

Inside, the children have enjoyed decorating the classroom with their geography and science work which is on display.  Please stop in and see our solar system mobile, as well as our sequencing work and essays on How to Get from School to Home.  Be sure to sneak a peek and see if our egg experiment is still floating…  

The children have been actively participating in their Math Investigations program.  They are working hard to master their multiplication tables and busy themselves with word problems.  Last but not least, work on our class play has begun; stay tuned for more details…

Warmly, Eddie

The wintry weather and resulting snow days have been a challenge this month (at least for the adults—the kids have been thrilled!).  Despite the disruptions to our schedule, we were able to begin 2011 with some memorable activities.  We began with a visit from Alaina’s Aunt Sharon, who works to bring safe drinking water to developing villages in Peru.  With Sharon’s help, the children worked hard all morning to create our own bio-sand filter.  The process was fascinating-- who knew you could wash sand?-- and gave us an appreciation for the effort it takes for many people around the world to have clean water, which we take for granted.  The students were also surprised to learn that by the age of seven or eight, they would already be working if they lived in one of the villages in Peru.  This lead to some lively discussion about our after-lunch jobs being quite easy by comparison!  
After reading the first two books in Barbara Parks’ Junie B. Jones series, we were treated to a live Theaterworks musical performance based on Junie B.’s adventures at Raritan Valley Community College.  Adding to the excitement of this fun field trip was the fact that we were transported there by school bus!  This is a rare treat for our students, and the bus ride was almost as much fun as the performance itself.  Weeks later, the tune from “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” is still being hummed in the classroom, and quotes from the characters reduce us to fits of giggles at odd moments.  The play gave us a glimpse into Junie B.’s trials and tribulations as she moves through first grade, and we can’t wait to continue the series.
The never-ending snow has added a new level of adventure and physical challenge to our Neighborhood Adventures.  A trip to the meadow in knee-deep snow can be tiring!  We were slightly concerned, at first, when the snow made it impossible to tell where the meadow ended and the river began, but the students found their own way to carefully determine the boundaries, and quickly figured out exactly where they stood.  The countless animal tracks throughout the meadow—and some leading across the river!—led us to speculate about the unseen inhabitants, and where they might be spending the frigid nights.  Imagine our surprise when, upon opening a bluebird box to check on the stacked nests inside, we found a field mouse subletting the space!   The mouse was just as surprised to see us, and we quickly closed the door to keep the little house warm.  We are anxious to see who the next tenants will be when the seasons change!
Our “Coins for Adjectives” project has increased our use of describing words, thereby enhancing our writing.  The class met a recent challenge of “earning” $5.00 or more with their weekly Writers’ Workshop pieces.  It was close, but after the students counted their collective earnings, they found they had made it to $5.05!  The reward for this admirable effort was a Friday afternoon Popcorn Party.  After some discussion, we realized that it would probably be excruciating for our E2 friends to hear and smell the popcorn, and not participate.  However, since we had to earn it, they would too!  We gave them the $5.00 adjective challenge, and the class determined the value of each word on the list they gave us.  Everyone was thrilled when the goal was exceeded, and we all enjoyed some Whirly-Pop together.  What a great way to end the month!
Looking forward to February, (and hoping to give the shovel a rest!)

As I sit looking out at the wintery landscape it’s no wonder that our school days have been disjointed with snow cancellations.  Yet, we have leveraged this winter gift to create many learning opportunities this month.  One of my personal favorites involved a study of the water cycle and states of matter that will probably continue till the white stuff disappears.  We framed our work with a discussion on what happens to snow when it comes inside.  We also made a list of words that describes the paddock’s snow.  Then the children filled our large clear bucket with snow and estimated the volume of melted snow by marking their symbol on the outside.  It was stressed that scientists predict results and if they are not correct, they try to learn from their work and repeat their experiments with different predictions.  The children monitored the melting snow all day and returned the next day to find Theo’s estimate was almost on the money.  Since the majority was far off we reviewed our snow adjectives and discussed why so little water remained in the bucket.  Then my young scientists repeated the process starting with a list of words describing the paddock’s snow composition.  Since “icy” and “ice” were popular we talked about what makes things icy and how that might change the amount of water in the bucket.  The contents took two days to melt but the children again discussed the results.  Most children looked at the water and noticed how “gross” it was.  It is wonderful to remind the children of their observations as they consume snow in the paddock.

It is nice to come into a warm school after playing in the snow and munch on donuts.  Our very own donut bakers and sellers have enjoyed brisk business all month.  They solicit business from their neighbors working in other nooks.  Best things about this small start-up, they accept many forms of currency and even make change!  If you stop by ask for a full verbal menu and don’t accept only one or two flavors.  
The World Cultures program transported us to Peru this month and we were so fortunate to have Sharon share her life experiences with us.  The children observed many differences between Peruvian and US homes and were able to ask lots of questions.  Several children helped make a bio-sand water filter which functioned for the rest of January.  Since Sharon travels by boat for 8-10 hours to visit the villages she works in, our Wellspring children had the opportunity to make boats and test their buoyancy.  This lead to more than a week’s work exploring materials that sink and float.  Several children took the opportunity to apply their knowledge and re-design their boats. 
Lastly, the children returned from Winter Break to find their narcissus in full bloom.  Their observations of the flowers as they bloomed and faded were documented and inspired more observations.  The children planted an amaryllis bulb this week after making some predictions of height, color, and size.  It is anticipated that the amaryllis will bloom shortly before the spring bulbs emerge.  
Sending you warm thoughts of Peru and NJ in July,

January 2011
(c) wellspring community school