Science Fair Success!
Another year, another science fair! For the past few months, our students have been working hard on their group science fair projects, and their end results were amazing! In their groups, they collected a wealth of data and have been working diligently over the last couple weeks to analyze their data, write a report, and complete their presentations. Students also had to follow detailed criteria as they created the scientific report on their process, including inserting pictures and making graphs of their recorded results. This type of project is extremely important for our students, and provides a chance to exercise skills like leadership, teamwork, executive functioning, research and analysis, and sequence and processing. Through their studies, they discovered some awesome results; ice melts fastest in water, Zipoloc is the best for fingerprints, and people just don't really like green cupcakes! We are so proud of them and all their incredible perseverance in thinking like real scientists - congratulations you guys!
University of Tokyo Students Return!
They've returned! This month, MCS is happy to welcome back a new group of students from University of Tokyo to our Learning Lab. These students are on their way to becoming new teachers, and MCS is proud and grateful to be asked to share our teaching styles across the world with growing minds!
Through hands-on math, our visitors were able to experience learning in fashion similar to how our middle school students learn throughout the year. Each group of TSU students were given a math problem and instructed to use the Four Pillars of Learning to solve it together. Using this process, students had to build their math problems from manipulatives to show what they were thinking visually and explain it to others, all before using numbers and equations to show their work. By thinking about math this way, it helps learners who do not think using symbolic numbers, but rather in applied real world math. This process also addresses categorizing and labeling skills, which are commonly impacted areas in Executive Functioning for LD learners. Our visitors did a great job with this challenge, and even created some beautiful artwork to show their math! We're so impressed!
Thank you so much to the teachers are students at TSU! We're so happy to work with you and share our thoughts on LD learning - Can't wait to see you next year!
Hello again, everyone! We've been away for a summer, and are happy to return for the new 2019-2020 school year! This first week, we've been diving in head first by getting organized and creating personalized structures for our work throughout the year. To further strengthen our Executive Functioning skills, students worked together to build the tallest, most secure structure in their groups using only a limited supply of tools. We saw all sorts of creative thinking and teamwork; the tallest structure got to be almost 2 feet high!
We can't wait to do more building this year, and are so excited to share our progress with you! Check us out here throughout the school year to see a little bit about how we learn and grow! Happy Building!
This week at MCS...
We've had a busy week so far! Students studied outdoors at Muir Beach, improved their Executive Functioning skills in Math and Literature, and even looked at Art History at the Legion of Honor. Check out our adventures in learning below!
MCS students explore geological processes in the real work at Muir Beach for Science!
Field trip! MCS dives into History and Art with a visit to the Legion of Honor to study works from the Middle Ages.
In Math, students create strategy sheets and separate strategy cards intended to be mixed up and paired back together. This separates and supports the visual, language/verbal/symbolic and written portions of learning, which is great for working memory challenged students or for students with attention challenges.
Our wellness classes this week focused on working through situations with friends in need, and how to best communicate in a positive way with one another.
Kicking Off 2015-2016....
We kicked of the 2015-16 school year with an MCS picnic at Aquatic Park. Families and students gathered the Saturday before the first day of school to connect with new and older members of our community and to strengthen current bonds between students and the MCS families. Students played catch, cards, shared summer stories and went swimming. We usually spend these few hours together at the beginning of each school year to re-familiarize the students and dramatically reduce first day jitters.
We also spent a couple of energetic weeks on team building and exploration of student preferred learning styles at the Fulton Playground Clubhouse in the Richmond District (SF). Our Wellness class began by exploring each student’s preferred learning styles though a variety of hands on, multi – sensory activities. Our new students were surprised to learn about what their personal themes were, and motivational factors that showed up. Our returning students found themselves either diving deeper into their favorite themes or becoming interested in new topics. We also take a significant amount of time to teach students about their brain, what side of their brain they utilize most, and compared that to their past educational environments. This normalizes their past learning experiences and prepares them for a new more positive learning experience.
September and October
In art, students experienced painting landscapes in nearby Golden Gate Park, as well as spending time making observations of plant and animal adaptations. We enjoyed getting to know our new neighbors by supporting the Richmond District Neighborhood Center and volunteering in their food pantry for local seniors. As we eased into the school year, students started diving into their core subjects: math, literature, and science. They also began yoga, executive functioning, history, Brain Gym, basketball and wellness class.
September and October were full of integrated learning. In History, we focused on the American Revolution, with literature being tied in through the novel Attack of the Turtle, which centered around the making of the first submarine. Students visited the USS Pampanito, a submarine, and the Balclutha, an early 1900’s cargo ship, both docked in SF. History and Science co-mingled as students looked at their own personal and family history and dove into DNA, genetics, and evolution; including natural selection and adaptations. Adaptation exploration was further examined during an ongoing community service project with Save the Bay and their SEED program, where local shoreline bird characteristic traits were observed and the students noted what helped the birds adapt to their environment.
My City School would not be complete without multiple trips to our favorite museum, the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), where we deepen our current studies in science and history. We strive to drive curiosity and maintain motivation for learning through hands-on experience, thoughtful questioning, and reflective writing. We foster the scientific process particularly through CAS classroom kits. Students also excavated fossils and examined strata rock at the Mission Science Workshop and worked with USF science instructors for two sessions of individualized experiential leaning. Some of the critical thinking science questions students had to answer this month were:
At the start of the year, math was kept extra fun and engaging in hopes of alleviating anxieties around these subjects. We launched the math class with group activities to determine the strengths and weakness of each student and to get a clearer picture of
Where they were with their learning in terms of computation and what they could apply.
We used a combination of group games, hands on activities and individual work with our instructors. From there, we spent extensive time with students helping them understand that the math book to work from may be at a level where they are challenged but would not be overwhelming. For some students, this meant they were working a few grades below their grade level. They were assured that they would also be learning at or above their grade level during group review or independent work with the instructor. And, for students who had significant issues with math, they learned they would finally get some help and move beyond the issues and regain their confidence. One experience that is encouraged every year, is for returning students to explain how they had been working at a fourth grade level last year, but were now working at their current grade level (7th and 8th). It was so rewarding to hear our returning students assuring the new students they really would bridge the gap, have fun and stay positive in doing so.
For new students who struggle in math, MCS spends much of the first half of the year:
As a result, students are able to break down a problem and identify the parts they know, and articulate what they need help with understanding. They also discover the difference between understanding and applying what they know versus just getting the work done. The biggest payoff of all is that they learn to use their math book for support and develop a rigorous work ethic
During Language Arts, class starts, as it often does, with writing warm ups. For example, students listen to a short story, visualize it, draw their visualization, and then compare the picture they each created to the actual picture in the book. Another way class began was by building a word bank for common adjectives while tossing a ball among the group. Because picturing what one hears or is reading about is key to descriptive writing, MCS spends a significant amount of time building this strategy up at the beginning of the year. Students created a fantasy picture, wrote a descriptive essay about their art, then passed just the essay to a peer and had them draw what they imagined from the essay and compared the two pictures. Follow up discussions took place as a group to examine the differences and what words created the images. Grammar focused on sentence structure, punctuation, and adjective word building, all of which was incorporated in the descriptive writing.
Executive Functioning (managing time and skill building) always begins with helping students establish their organizational structure for the year. Building self-awareness and identifying what the student’s strategies are when they hit a road block are key stepping stones to success for the year ahead. Following the foundation work in EF, we next focused on problem solving strategies. We continue with support for each student’s organizational needs and the building of healthy homework habits, which we expect to continue throughout the school year. Students were also introduced to a tool that they will use throughout their time at MCS called a Discussion Sandbox. It serves as a guide to develop their critical thinking, analysis and discussion skills. This is pulled directly from common core and students are expected to know all elements noted on the Sandbox fluidly by 9th grade. One example to build perspective and support flexible thinking, (connecting to history), students read the Flip Book Perspective on the American Revolution and George vs. George. Discussions took place examining each side’s perspective, while utilizing the Discussion Sand Box.
The start of Yoga Class focused on introducing core strengthening exercises, posture and abdominal breathing to activate the Vagus Nerve. Each yoga class included relaxation techniques, and understanding what our bodies are telling us for a mind body/connection. Learning to identify how we feel, connecting this to our experiences and what this does to our heart rate, and chemistry, are a regular discussions in every yoga class. At My City School, we approach yoga from an individual and group experience level. Warm ups include stretching, strengthening exercises, posture and breath work. Once complete, students practice group poses which foster team building and learning to rely on each other, self advocacy and trust.