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October at GAP School!

Yellow Crystals


ELA with Emily

During the month of October, the Yellow Crystals shined brightly! Letters that we explored as a group were Ss, Ii, Cc, and Ff. In addition to having learned and reviewed letter formation, sound, and identification, the Yellow Crystals became authors and illustrators when they created a scavenger hunt for GAP School families to participate in during Community Day. After generating a word list of items and living things around GAP School, each group practiced writing each item through copy work. The Robins and Chickadees were challenged to sound out words by segmenting letters and sounds before writing.


Once assigned an item, the Robins, Bluebirds, and Chickadees got to work on their rough drafts! They first practiced by writing their words on lines and illustrating. Their second draft included a nature journal entry of their item in the wild! The Learners illustrated using color, wrote the label of their item, and produced a sentence! As we transitioned to our final draft, Learners were proud as they came together to create their final piece.


Another adventure that happened this month was exploring poetry! During our poetry week we talked about different forms of poetry, the purpose of poetry, rhyming words, verses, and stanzas. While embracing our connection to place, we of course turned to the music of John Denver. The class's excitement grew even more when they learned they would get to listen from a record player! After learning how a record player worked, Learners practiced their concepts of print skills by listening and following along to the lyrics of "Take Me Home, Country Roads".


The Yellow Crystals continue to grow together as a class as we read books, practice first and last name writing, and participate in phonemic awareness games.


Social Emotional Learning with Janelle

In October, the Yellow Crystals leaned into connecting to and reflecting more on what we love about our special place at GAP School. We practiced this through deep exploration and busy wanderings to the horse bridge, Village, playscape, Kinsers, and Water Chicken Way. We practiced using all of our senses to explore. This included time fully immersed in leaves, gluing leaves to trees with mud, and floating leaves down the water after clearing some paths. We had fun with leaf confetti, by stomping through mud and puddles, and crunching on leaves in our boots. We stayed active and curious by playing with a few community crystal shops and explored ways to support each other's emotional needs through lots of pretend play largely inspired by the nature surrounding us at Water Chicken Way.


We worked on our fine motor, visual motor, visual perceptual, spatial awareness, safety awareness, and communication skills. We grew our fire building knowledge and worked together to find and make kindling, as well as stick bundles of various sizes. Many of the Yellow Crystals also leaned into finger knitting and/or weaving with sticks as ways to recognize that busy hands help support our minds and bodies with active listening.


Creating was a theme embraced by all! The Learners made their own water colors out of old dried up markers and water, which led to some beautiful watercolor leaf art! They got elbow deep in making their own pumpkin spice playdoh. They wrapped up the month by creating bat hats, cleaning out pumpkins, and making pumpkin slime with actual pumpkin guts.


Math & Science with Noni

In the month of October, our math classes continued to focus on number identification and building number sense. The kindergarten class has written and identified each number. They are practicing simple addition and subtraction. In the first grade class, we have wrapped up our studies of the “tens friends/best buddies” (the number pairs that add up to 10). Learners were asked to imagine what their chosen buddies, personified, might do if they were students at GAP School. We drew silly comics illustrating those ideas.


All Learners are reading the story of “Farmer Brown”, whose bean farm grew in popularity, creating the need for a better bean accounting/delivery system. We brainstormed together and counted beans into groups of 10 to glue onto popsicle sticks. Next we will group popsicle sticks together into units of 100. The hope is for Learners to begin to think of numbers in terms of place value. The first grade will have a little more practice with this, as they seem to be picking it up well! As we transition into our next big idea, "changes in place and time", we will be learning about time keeping through the ages and how to read the analog clock - which gives us a great opportunity to count by fives!


In Science, we completed our studies of water and local landforms with the creation of our salt dough model of the physical geography of Virginia. Learners contributed to this project by making a mountain out of salt dough and creating a little slice of piedmont or coastal plain. We then pieced them all together and added some flair in the form of sticks (trees), moss, and animals. It was really fun!


Looking ahead, we will be having an inquiry driven discussion about what “changes in people and place over time” means to us and deciding what we would like to study. This could include studying the seasons, looking back at the history of one place, or even researching why baby animals are born with varying amounts of independence. Stay tuned to find out what our Learners are interested in!



Silver Warriors & Silver Stardust


ELA with Sarah & James

October was a fantastic month in ELA for the Silver Sycamores and Hickories. The silly shenanigans of "Wayside School" have become a loved part of our culture now that we are reading book two of the "Wayside School" series. Your awesome Learners have improved their reading fluency through the "Reading A-Z" books. We will conduct another round of assessments soon. Our "Connection to GAP School" books provided practice with writing skills, allowing them to be creative, and produced a final project that they can share with pride. Please continue to focus on making reading fun for your Learners by reading to them, using audio books, and possibly allowing them to get a subscription to a periodical.



Silver Willows and Dogwoods have been working on identifying, utilizing, and creating our own nonfiction text features in our personalized "Connection to Place" books. After becoming familiar with these tools, Learners were asked to incorporate a table of contents, glossary, and index, along with five other text features of their choice. Many chose to challenge themselves to complete more than the required criteria! When creating our individual books, we used the writing process by brainstorming ideas, writing a rough draft, and then working together to edit our writing before publishing our final masterpieces. We had fun reflecting on places that were sacred to us, whether it was at GAP School, at home, or at travel locations.


Science with Furn

Silver Science this October started with seeds! We continued to work on our seed dispersal projects, exploring big questions like: If our seed dispersal machines existed in nature, what environments would they be adapted to? What would the plants look like? These questions helped us brainstorm how structure and function is so impactful to the success of seeds. After an exciting few days of testing our inventions, we wrapped up our seeds lessons with a seed themed relay race that reviewed seed needs, seed anatomy, and seed dispersal methods.


About a month after we initially weighed and set aside our food items to decompose, it was time to revisit our decomposition experiment. We nature journaled the foods (which looked and smelled WAY different from when we first observed them) and made observations about how they’d changed. We then weighed them and discussed our findings. What was responsible for the measurements changing? What happens when something decomposes and "loses weight"? What could have led to some of our items "gaining weight"? These discussions brought us into discussing energy flow in the environment.


Though each group touched on all of the following topics, the Sycamores focused on why decomposition is necessary for all life, the Hickories studied GAP School-specific decomposer examples, the Willows focused on food chains, and the Dogwoods practiced communicating their scientific findings through script writing and making a video. In the coming couple of weeks, groups will get a chance to delve a bit deeper into the topics that they have not yet covered. After we finish up energy cycles and food webs, we're excited to move through our second quarter discussing how animals and plants have adapted to get the energy they need to survive.


Math with Kyle

Math in October was exciting! We started off the month by finding as many patterns as possible in the card game “Set”. This allowed Learners to get into the mindset that in math there can be multiple different solutions to get to the same answer. We also set our math goals! The Learners were able to self-reflect and write or draw their goals for math in their notebook.


All groups measured the “after” weight of food that decomposed from the third week of school. We graphed the data and put up the graphs for display at Community Day. The graphs turned out amazing and the Learners took a lot of pride in making them look extra special. We continued to work on place value with a “guess that number” game. They had to figure out a number represented by base ten blocks in a brown paper bag. They were able to practice adding all of the values together to make one big number. We also introduced the idea of a math challenge day, where big intimidating looking math problems are placed up on the board and we try to tackle them one by one. This shows that we can do things even if they feel hard.


This month, the math rotation groups also worked on different concepts from each other. Below are the activities that each group pursued.


Sycamores: partitioned different shapes into equal parts and investigated how to do it in multiple ways. They investigated patterns and how numbers can be displayed with shapes.

Willow and Hickory: divided crackers into equal groups to help Learners understand division. They also examined a data set of animal tongue and tail lengths on a graph, which prepared them for graphing data from the decomposing food experiment.


Dogwood: visualized numbers with patterns. The Dogwoods investigated how different numbers are displayed using different shapes or patterns. They also worked on finding factors for different numbers in a factor bingo game. The Dogwoods also investigated how some shapes can tile correctly and how some shapes cannot tile.

It was a fun math-tober! We will continue striving to do hard things and challenge ourselves every day.


Emerald Alpacas with Corrie

Throughout October, the Emerald Alpacas explored our property, learned skills, and bonded as a team. Planning and building our personal learning space near Raven’s Haven, called Casa Alpaca, is a new group priority. In order to prepare for winter, we strung cable for a tarp shelter and built a wood shelter using foraged wood and lashings. Future plans include building a standing desk, hammock chairs, and a tool rack.



In English, we continued our study of Story-mapping and began an author study on Oliver Jeffers. Inspired by Jeffers’ sophisticated approach to children’s literature, the Learners are collaborating to write and illustrate a story involving the Emerald Alpacas and a space alpaca named Norton. We researched Jeffers’ books, identified themes, brainstormed, and created drafts for our story. Although the details of the story are confidential until publishing, themes of ecological awareness, sense of place, and helping others are being shared in their drafts. We are really looking forward to publishing and sharing this story with the community once it is complete.


For mathematics, the Alpacas completed their volume project, practiced estimating fractions, and solved more challenging 24-cards. Many Learners are applying their math skills during Projects. Current projects include a trebuchet, a pottery wheel, a wooden strike-zone, square greenhouses, a rabbit enclosure, and fishing rods.


During nature journals, the Alpacas are discovering new species and deepening their relationships with their surroundings. Learners created a shared map of nature journal discoveries that include rishi mushrooms, hackberry trees, and even more box turtles. Using field guides has been helping to deepen our knowledge of local species, develop research skills, and enrich our journals.


Projects with Ryan

In October, our Learners continued to create individual or small group projects in Maker Days! They have practiced counting GAP School money, writing project proposals with budgets, and building with scissors, tape, hot glue, wood, markers, paint, and many more materials.



Looking into November, we will emphasize our learning skills that we use in Projects. We will focus more on money skills, and making a plan using the design process.


Knowledge Seekers with Max

The month of October began with hiking Kinsers and Learners brainstorming ideas to share their understanding and interest around our Knowledge Seekers driving question, "What is the Value of a Tree?" Learners began the process of selecting individual topics around the driving question and creating 'price tags' that included researched facts and visuals created by Learners that acknowledge all the different ways a tree can have value. Your Learners also worked as a flock to create the criteria we would use to self assess the work we created in Knowledge Seekers. We will use the first week of November to self assess our projects in our Knowledge Seeker notebooks.


When we weren't designing, researching and creating our tree 'price tags' our groups built mini fires to learn about the science of fire along with all the safety expectations we have at GAP school. We were playing games that reinforced skills such as being observant, using our senses and teamwork. Towards the end of the month we were treated to guest appearances from three different Virginia Department of Forestry Agents who helped us more deeply understand the forests here at GAP and continue to grow our connection to the land. Learners are also beginning to go through whittling check-offs so that they are cleared to use a whittling knife during projects or Exploration. This process will move through our oldest learners down to the youngest over the course of the next few months. We always find time at the end of some of our Knowledge Seeker sessions for learners to continue to practice their learned skills such as bow drilling, knot tying, and cordage making. To put a bow on our exploration of the value of a tree we used the fruit of one tree (apples) and the bark of another (cinnamon) along with some additional ingredients and our campfire to make some delicious applesauce to share at community day.

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