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March at GAP School!

Green Goblins & Yellow Snakes

English Language Arts with Emily & Julie

March was all about The Blue Ridge Mountains. We read two Biographies: Grandma Gatewood Takes a Hike and Ellies Hike. Both books are about women who completed the Appalachian Trail. Even with challenges they persevered and were successful! The Learners wanted to know more about the hike, so our friend "O Positive" came to GAP as a guest and we conducted a hiker's interview on him. The Learners came up with the interview questions and did a beautiful job taking turns asking questions. He brought in his hiking gear and even had them help put up a bear bag. After hearing about his “trail name” the kids wanted their own. This led us into learning how to describe our friends using positive words and we gave each other trail names. Be on the lookout for their very own trail name badges.

After learning all about the Blue Ridge Mountains and hiking, the Cardinals wrote and illustrated their own acrostic or sensory poems. We talked about using describing words to give our poems a beautiful sound. We were also diving into vowel sounds, first sounds, and end sounds. We ended the month with letter blends. We practiced this with games, playdough words, CVC puzzles, and ABC order activities. We have really enjoyed reading Charlotte's Web, learning about spiders, and practicing what it is to be a good friend. The Cardinals even practiced alphabetical order by organizing… themselves! To wrap up the month Cardinals loved reading one of our March Madness book bracket winners, Where the Wild Things Are, along with a nature journal scavenger hunt.

While diving into the history of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Sparrows learned about Parts of Speech. Using the word "mountain" we played a speed game, coming up with as many nouns, adjectives, and verbs related to "mountain." This led them into writing and illustrating their own acrostic or sensory poems. We talked about using describing words to give our poems a beautiful sound. The Sparrows also learned about verb tenses and how changing a verb's ending can tell you when the action took place. The Sparrows worked hard to create a short stories book that they shared at community day! Each Learner used a "somebody, wanted, but, so, then" graphic organizer to come up with characters and happenings within their story.We ended the month talking about how words are sounds put together (letter blends, vowel and letter blends, and how they are broken up at the syllables). We have really enjoyed reading Charlotte's Web, learning about spiders, and learning what it is to be a good friend. We also played fun games like "Headbands" to practice letter blends and sounds. Nature journals felt exciting as the group participated in picture walks & scavenger hunts.

The Hawks & Ravens completed their Blue Ridge Mountain project by researching Appalachian Trail Facts. We read through many facts and picked out our favorites to display on a poster. They especially loved learning about the Myths and Legends of the Blue Ridge Mountains and had fun conversations like, “ If you met Bigfoot, what would you ask him?” Throughout the month, we learned about all the different vowel teams and how many sounds are the same, but use different combinations of vowels. This was a tricky skill, but they knocked it out of the park. We also finished A Summer in the Woods and had some discussions about finding treasure, and how to stay safe in the woods.

The Ravens group played games like Headbands, Sight Word Bingo, and a nature journal scavenger hunt. As they dove into letter writing, each Learner wrote a personal letter to an educator, addressed it, and sent it to them. Cursive writing was introduced as their letters came to an end and they signed off in their fancy new cursive handwriting.

The Hawks group also completed letter writing to a person of their choice! Some learners chose to write to old friends, others decided to reach out to some idols of theirs. For example, some Learners wrote to UVA basketball players. Cursive writing became a class favorite activity as they learned how to write their names! Sight Word Bingo was an exciting success as the group worked individually to identify and write down ten exciting sight words.

All classes were able to review maps on the Blue Ridge as we practiced our concepts of print skills by reading facts. The Cardinals, Sparrows, Ravens, and Hawks collaboratively worked on a "giant nature journal" where the Learners displayed all of the fun information that they learned in all their classes. All classes participated in a poetry unit, where we learned about the different forms of poetry through read aloud poems and examples. We enhanced our understanding of poetry by reading and listening to "Take Me Home, Country Roads" sung by the one and only, John Denver! We reviewed verses, stanzas, rhyming words, repetition, themes, and emotions. The lyrics were printed off in order to follow along with as we enjoyed the country classic on a record player! This was an ELA favorite for everyone.

Math with Kyle

To start off March, we “peaked” our interest by comparing the elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a few other mountains from around the world! By looking at the heights of the mountains we were able to break the numbers down into their expanded form. This helped us to understand the scope and size of the mountains we call home. We also constructed our own “Skyline Drive” which allowed us to take some creative liberties in what we would like to see in a tourist area! This let us experiment with numbers and label our own mountain peaks with numbers over one thousand.

We learned how to play "math basketball" and "math soccer"! In both games, a Learner takes a turn rolling a die. This number corresponds to the amount of basketball shots or soccer kicks the Learner can take. Then, if they answer a math question correctly, they take those shots! The games are played in teams. The Learners used this opportunity to review important math topics and work together.

We practiced with fractions! Every rotation was instructed to follow a recipe and use measuring cups with ingredients such as dirt, onion grass, fallen leaves, and water to "cook". Then the learners got into groups and were able to make their own recipes. The recipes are below!

“Chary Pie”

½ cup of mushrooms

¼ cup of red berries

½ cup of water

⅓ cup of ashes

¼ cup of dirt

“Einstein Fat Disposer”

4 cups of clover

1 blade of grass

30 blades of onion grass

15 plantain leaves

“Clover Cakes!”

½ cup of dirt

6 clovers

1 tsp sawdust

1 bamboo piece

1 acorn

“The Girls Pie!!!!!!!”

5 Johnny Jump-up flowers

¼ cup of hickory nuts

4 cups of dirt

1 cup of water

5 plantain leaves

A sprinkle of smiles

5 clovers

“Bubbly Soup”

1 cup of dirt

2 ⅓ cup of water

¼ mushrooms

⅛ rocks

⅛ ash

“Fratip Soup”

2 cups of water

1 cup of dirt

½ cup pine needles

1 cup of onion grass

½ cup of ashes

¼ mushrooms

“Kacse Mix”

2 cups of dirt

⅓ of a cup of rocks

1 cup of water

1 cup of clovers

¼ cup of coals

1 cup of mushrooms

“Fire Pie”

1 cup of coals

1 cup of small sticks

¼ cup of rocks

¼ cup of water


1 cup of dirt

1 cup of charcoal

½ cup of onion grass

1 cup of water

For community day, we packed backpacks for the Appalachian Trail. We were able to prep the setup by practicing in math. Most of the backpacks we packed were under fifteen pounds. The Learners were able to visualize just how heavy and bulky hiking backpacks can be. To round out the month, we continued to work with fractions by comparing and visualizing them with Keva blocks. The Keva blocks allow Learners to play with their peers as well as learn important math concepts.

Science with Naomi

As we investigated the themes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, their history, and their place in our culture, Science classes centered on the characteristics of the wildlife that live there. For several weeks we heard stories of various animals told in a playful, yet realistic manner, that illuminated their respective trials and tribulations. Learners were then invited to select an animal to research, and bring in library books specific to their subjects. We utilized them to complete a study guide upon where the kids discovered their animal's habitat, predators, prey, superpowers, and threats. They wrote homage poems including acrostics, haikus, and free verses. They also spent time practicing drawing the animals in the wild. The final step in our process was to team up and construct a diorama of the animals in their habitat.

We also took the opportunity to learn about the ancient geological construction of the Blue Ridge Mountains - learning the processes of the tectonic plates and how they collide, slide, and subside as they move under the crust of the earth. A fun way to demonstrate this was found in the age-old activity of sitting back to back and applying pressure from the bottom of your feet into your back. We found that equally applied energy and force can propel you to rise up to standing. And just like that, we built a two person mountain, rather like the tectonic plates do! Lastly, the landscape of the mountains and the valleys shapes and defines the waterways that carry fresh water back to the sea, creating watersheds. Scientists and urban planners are able to trace the impact of land use choices on water quality and enable environmental professionals to utilize the data to effect positive change. To aid in the visualization of a functioning watershed, the Learners used salt dough to form their own mountain range models and used food coloring water to track the movement of water and pollution through their landscapes.

Finally, we began reading the nature-fiction tale Little Bee Sunbeam, which transports the reader into the world of the honeybees. This sweet story not only captures the child's imagination but also accurately depicts the social structures, survival mechanisms, and methods of communication of the bees. It is already becoming a fast favorite and is preparing us well for our upcoming unit on all things gardening - including our local "foodshed," soil augmentation, composting, and pollination. More details to come on these and other components of our upcoming project soon!

Silver Foxes with Corrie, Sarah, and Tara

In English Language Arts and Social Studies, the Silver Fox Learners have considered how the cultural myths, legends, and superstitions of a regional community (specifically the Blue Ridge Mountains region) reflect its struggles, beliefs, fears, hopes, and rich imaginations. Learners have been crafting their own myths and legends. In these they incorporated what they have learned about the region, and about those who have lived the hardscrabble life of the Appalachian mountains over the years. The Silver Fox Learners were happy to share their progress on these stories this past Community Day! During the process, the Silver Foxes have had lessons on the narrative elements of plot, character, conflict, theme, and setting. Ask them about the rap song that helps them remember these! They have learned about direct and indirect characterization, and we agreed that “showing” is almost always better than “telling.” Learners had a really fun lesson on tone words like “anxious,” “judgmental,” “hopeful,” and “joyful.” A fun theater game helped us to understand how important tone is, even in supporting healthy relationships, and how this applies to both written and spoken language. In addition to the juicy parts of fiction writing, like sensory details and figurative language, Learners have practiced spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure as they compose and revise.

Social Studies work during March included a lesson on George Washington. The Silvers learned many facts about his life and we discussed why he acquired the moniker “Father of Our Country.” We were interested to learn that he was a surveyor and mapmaker engaged in measuring and charting land right here in Central Virginia! We learned of George Washington’s disappointing status as a slaveholder, which invited us to talk about the importance of considering historical context and seeing the entirety of an individual’s contributions. We continue our read-aloud of Delia Ray’s Ghost Girl. This historical novel, about the families who inhabited Shenandoah National Park before it was a park, has opened up conversations about the value of education. The school that President Hoover started for mountain children in 1930 figures largely in this story. The Silver Foxes are seeing how the knowledge and understanding gained by going to school can promote self-esteem, economic opportunity, and social skills. The book has also helped us appreciate rich cultural aspects of Appalachia, like bluegrass music. As the Silver Foxes head into April, we look forward to immersing ourselves in all things springtime!

March felt like a math-splosion for the Silver Foxes. We collaborated to crochet a replica of the Blue Ridge Mountain peaks using our knowledge of geometry, measurements, conversions, and multiplication. The project began with researching a Shenandoah National Park map, focusing on the summit elevations. Each Learner selected a mountain to replicate as a crocheted triangle. Next, we created a scale for the mountains where one row of crocheting equals 100 meters. After some measurement conversions, and lots of perseverance, we created a blanket measuring in at 7 feet 6 inches long. Through this process, Learners practiced classifying triangles, quadrilaterals, and polygons, in addition to growth mindset.

Projects with Adrienne March Projects have been all about our Blue Ridge Mountain collages! The Learners worked meticulously, one tiny torn piece of paper at a time! The steps of their projects were involved and required understanding new art vocabulary words, like: foreground, middle ground, background, texture, lines, and depth.

Each Learner, in each group, seemed extremely proud and excited to learn, complete their art, and share their art! We took the time to begin talking about positive feedback and silent gallery walks. We also learned how texture can go beyond actual physical texture, and how materials can be manipulated to create "texture" in our work.

We are going to kick off our return from Spring break with mixed media, still life, and installation vocabulary with a focus on Spring!

Knowledge Seekers with Max

March Knowledge Seekers had our community diving into our curiosities about the Blue Ridge Mountains, in support of our "all school project". The first week, we spent each day exploring interesting aspects of the Blue Ridge Mountains based on Learner generated questions, such as: Why are the

Blue Ridge Mountains blue? How were the Blue Ridge Mountains formed? Where is the tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge? What is bluegrass music? We continued to explore Blue Ridge Mountain culture by learning about basket weaving. Basket weaving is a skill that has a long history amongst cultures all over the world. We looked at different styles and materials used in basket weaving, and then made small baskets of our own out of resources from our Maker Mansion.

As Learners continued to explore the ecological and cultural history in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we made connections to a growth mindset and the attitude that anyone trying to homestead in the mountains would have needed to be successful. Learners looked at different books about growth mindset and shared with their peers. We then explored the difference between a fixed and growth mindset, followed by creating our own versions of GAP school fixed mindsets and creating growth mindset solutions to those ideas. You may have seen our growth mindset posters at the last Community Day. If you want to discuss growth mindset with your Learner we would recommend asking them about "the power of yet" or supporting them to come up with growth mindset statements of their own for any challenges they may be experiencing. The big picture: we want to make good habits of how we speak to ourselves in our own minds. Growth mindset is about the language we use when we are talking to ourselves.

The end of March welcomed Spring back to Virginia and we began to see a return of a variety of bird species to this area. Learners spent the end of March learning about bird beak adaptations, completing bird sits, listening for bird calls, nature journaling about birds, looking through field guides to identify birds, and practicing with binoculars. A big takeaway is recognizing how our impact affects wildlife when we enter a space. The more we try to reduce our presence, practice being "invisible", the greater opportunity we will have to see wildlife, like birds, in a more natural state, and the more we can deepen our own connection to wilderness spaces.

Music with Rachel

We have had a super fun and exciting month in ukuleles!

The green and yellow classes have been working on the song “Baby Bumble Bee” in small groups. This has been a lot of fun for us, as it is a song we can all play to some level. This song contains the C and F chords, which we have been working on throughout the year.

We dove into learning how to read chord charts by playing a game about them. We played fun music games like Big Boss ukulele style!

In the Silver class we have continued to work on our individual songs, strumming patterns, and advanced chords like E, Em, D, Dm, and B.

They’ve been sounding great!

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