McMains Crew

McMains Crew News: December 10, 2012

What's On Our Plate Expedition...authoring our book!

Authoring a digital book is a gigantic undertaking, but crew has dug in and our room looks like a press room!

  • Chapter authors are finishing their drafts this week so editors and fact checkers can begin to review them.
  • Editors and fact checkers have been brainstorming ideas to expand the chapter information and researching to help their authors. They have also been searching for quotes to begin each chapter.
  • Photo editors have selected the best photos and video clips from fieldwork and begun taking new pictures to suit their chapters. They also began choosing title page photos.
  • Graphics committee chose a book layout.
  • Illustrators are drawing maps, diagrams, and organisms for their chapters.
  • New upcoming tasks will include embedding links to websites, bolding terms for the glossary,and creating the glossary.

We are simultaneously creating two entirely differernt products to share our expedition learning: a soil mandala and a scientific illustration, Audubon-style. Each crew member is creating a mandala that tells the story of one geologic process and how that, in turn, created a specific ecosystem in California. Mandalas are being drawn and today we began making paint for them from the soil samples we collected during fieldwork in Lassen. They are stunning works that will be displayed at Celebration of Learning next Thursday night.

MathDogs...service project!

Applying their learning of fractions, percents, least common multiples and greatest common divosors, crew worked to determine the best combinations of donated items for our Humane Society gift bags. Thanks to our community for donating so many wonderful treats, toys and supplies!

This week we hope to deliver twenty-six bags that can be given as gifts to those who adopt a dog. Each bag contains two items and a unique gift card explaining the service project.

Book Clubs...are running themselves!

Each student has a self-selected comprehension or vocabulary strategy on which to focus during independent reading throughout the week. On club days I hold individual conferences with students. They share evidence of using their strategy, read aloud to me and we discuss who they are as a reader and what steps they will take next toward their goals. Clubs continue to respond to their books in journals and add to their book wikis.

Circle of Power and planned and facilitated by crew!

Crew members are grouped in daily teams that plan and run the morning meeting. Daily crew determine the greetings, activities and debriefing questions, and prepare the reading and discussion questions associated with our design principle of the month. Wow.



McMains Crew News: November 10, 2012

Special thanks to all our Parent Crew for the love, treats, and encouragement during Bearwalk - we love you!

“What’s on Our Plate” Expedition

Crew have been exploring and applying their knowledge of California’s varied ecosystems. Using the Coastal Ecology Tour fieldwork trip to the coast’s tidepools, fens and redwood forests, they have been challenged to create mini-ecosystems representative of California’s ecology in our classroom. Projects will be on display during Celebration of Learning.

In addition, work has begun on our final product. Students have brainstormed ideas for our iBook and our production board is outlined with tasks. The month of December will be a flurry of authoring, editing, graphic designing and scientific illustrating!


We have been busier than a puppy in a roomful of squirrels!

Crew hosted Erin Ellis from the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe to share the results of our Tennies and Tails event survey data. Our Kennel Club groups shared the results of the data collected in slide presentations. Clubs were required to choose appropriate graphs to represent the data sets and incorporate the types of graphs studied in class during our statistics unit.

At the start of our school year we were given a tremendous gift of three days of team-building camp at Walton’s Grizzly Lodge. All they asked in return was that we pay $10 per student and choose a local charity to receive that money. During an all-crew brainstorming and discussion session about many worthy Truckee charities, crew chose the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe. Jackson and Sophia were nominated by crew to present our $240.00 donation from Walton’s Grizzly Lodge. They explained our math expedition and gave the check to Erin.

Going forward, McMains Crew MathDogs want to apply our learning in factors, multiples and fractions with this month's design principle of Service and Compassion in a service project for our math partner, Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe. We want to assemble gift baskets for the Humane Society to be given to families who adopt dogs as well as for the volunteers to use with the dogs who are awaiting their new homes.

We are asking for donations of new dog items -  toys, beds, leashes, collars, boxed treats, dog food ... anything a dog or new dog owner might enjoy. We could also use decorative gift bags or baskets, tissue paper and ribbon.
**If you can donate an item, please drop it off in our classroom.**

Adventure in Reading:

Book Clubs have been a rousing success with clubs participating in peer scored discussions, creating high-level discussion questions and keeping reading response journals. Readers are making connections between the text and their own experiences, the text and other reading, and the text and the world around them. Book discussion days are lively! Great questions and involvement are complimented with hot tea and cookies!

Each club is also creating a Book Word Wiki – an interactive collection of new and exciting words found in their books. Book Clubs are a rich adventure in reading!

McMains Crew News: September 26, 2012

Lassen Volcanic National Park Fieldwork

Wow, what a kick-off to our fall expedition! Our 4 fabulous days and 3 nights in Lassen Volcanic National Park were filled with wildlife, shooting stars, and intense geological encounters. (Crew photos are now on our blog as well as the link to your right....)

Students presented the lessons they had prepared prior to the trip and taught us about the different types of lava flows, how to identify 4 types of volcanoes, how to interpret hydrothermal features, and about the ecology of the park. We experienced the information first–hand as we crawled through lava tubes, hiked down into a cinder cone volcano, smelled fumeroles, listened to bubbling mudpots and felt the temperature of runoff from hot springs.

We had special encounters with a black bear, a red-tailed hawk and a doe nursing twin fawns! The night sky was alight with green shooting stars.

We even had a reading adventure when we read and text-coded two passages at a high school level in order to learn about the park’s ecology!

Best of all, every crewmember faced challenges and overcame them through perseverance – some emotional, some physical, some intellectual.

Giant thanks to every adult who pitched in to drive, cook, shop, hike, encourage, hug, share, and sleep outside! Talk about it taking a village!

Remember to check our Crew Blog for assignments and fieldwork schedules:


As your child’s first and most important teacher, you can be a powerful force in your child’s efforts to become a skillful reader. Whether your child is already a proficient reader, or is a struggling or reluctant reader, your positive encouragement can help them make continuous strides toward success.

Here are some suggestions on how you can support reading at home.

  1. Encourage your child to read for 30 minutes before going to sleep each night.
  2. Create a quiet, special place in your home for your child toread. Keep books and reading materials readily available.
  3. Help your child see that reading is important. Set a good example for your child byreading books, newspapers, and magazines. Talk about what you are reading.
  4. Be attentive to your child’s interests and developing skills. Remember to be somewhat non-judgmental about the text your child chooses: cartoons, instructions for video games, fantasy, sports, or fashion magazines can be the key to unlocking a lifetime of reading pleasure.
  5. Allow your child to subscribe to magazines based on his/her interests to encouragefrequent reading.
  6. Read and discuss newspaper and magazine articles. An article beside the breakfast bowl can provide a great alternative to the usual, routine conversations!
  7. Visit bookstores, public and school libraries regularly to find materials for pleasurereading.
  8. Turn the television off at least once a week and read as a family. Discuss whateveryone is reading.
  9. Remind your child that sometimes adults have “homework” to do as well (i.e. reading reports, doing performance appraisals, research, etc.). This will allow your child to see the connection of reading to real life.
  10. Create a family “word wall” on a bulletin board or the refrigerator. Share new words you came across in your reading and what they mean.
  11. Take reading materials with you to shared outings. Encourage your child to readwhile riding in the car, waiting at the doctor’s office, passing time between activities.
  12. If your child has an assigned reading, try to read the same book so you can havemeaningful discussions about the story. If your child is struggling to complete an assigned reading, try taking turns listening to him/her read, and reading aloud to your child, checking frequently for understanding.
  13. Ask your child about reading strategies he/she has learned at school. Have your childuse these strategies when reading at home.
  14. Encourage your child to re-read material to get a deeper understanding of itscontents. This is particularly true for non-fiction material (textbook content) andmaterial written above grade level.
  15. Discuss the importance and approach of reading for different purposes: to entertain,to inform, to persuade, etc. Reading for different purposes helps to define the speed and depth of understanding to apply to that reading.
  16. Distinguish between skimming, scanning, speed reading, and reading for deep understanding. Help your child to understand the appropriate applications of each.
  17. Encourage “engagement strategies” such as highlighting, using post-it notes, underlining, and developing questions as your child reads. These behaviors help to habitualize the process of making-meaning and to ensure your child is doing morethan reading the words on the page. Although your child should never mark in alibrary or school textbook, cutting post-it notes into smaller “flags” can serve a similarpurpose.
  18. Write notes recognizing your child’s accomplishments. A little praise can go a longway!
  19. Reward progress with a trip to the bookstore to select a special book.
  20. Consider purchasing an electronic reader (i.e. Kindle, Nook, etc.). E-readers havebecome very popular and may entice your child to read more often.
  21. Emphasize the importance of reading as a life-long habit and encourage its frequent practice.

McMains Crew News: September, 2012

Grizzly Adventure Camp

surely lived up to its title! Some of our highlights included climbing the vertical playground, celebrating Jackson’s birthday, walking the wires above a steep ravine, solving mental & physical challenges, seeing a double rainbow while an osprey flew through, surprising deer with their fawns, performing crazy campfire skits & chomping s’mores, and bonding through an amazing Sierra Norms ritual with Alaina. We are already a stronger (and tired-er) crew! All of our grand adventures were possible because of the generosity of Walton’s Grizzly Lodge and all our marvelous, patient, and kind parents. Thank you Marcie, Marcy, Tammie, Tammy, Jim, Doug, Martha, Jenn, Elizabeth, Jenny, Phebe, Alaina, and Cindy for shopping, driving, belaying, building fires, cooking meals, providing snacks, sleeping in cabins, and being present with our students.

We paid, from our expedition funds, a small donation of $20 per crew member to attend this magnificent camp. Walton’s Grizzly Lodge has asked our crew to choose a local charity to be the recipient of that token donation.


Last Saturday our cool MathDogs conducted surveys at the Humane Society's Tennies and Tails fun-run and dog-walk fundraiser. 6 of our crew showed up to distribute the demographics surveys created by the whole crew. Crew collected 40 surveys, participated in the dog walk with their own furry companions, and hung medals around the canine competitors as they crossed the finish line. Next our crew will analyze that data for our in-class math unit on statistics.

What a super start to 2013!

*Please note that the McMains Crew photos are last year's. We currently have a glitch in the Picasa photo application. I promise to post 2013 photos as soon as possible!

McMains Crew News: May 29, 2012

Worlds of Wonders Expedition

Crew finished Ancient Rome by teaching each other through their Gallery Walk Displays and participating in a reflection and review before taking the final written assessment. They are now deep in the revision stages of honing their arguments and debate techniques for the Clash Of The Titans performance at our Celebration of Learning. Ancient Rome, Greece, India and Egypt will pit their best evidence against one another in an attempt to persuade the audience that they had the greatest, most wondrous civilization of all! They will also be creating stage sets and costumes this week.

Who Am I Character Expedition

In character expedition, crew will be working to fine-tune their Who Am I poems through a poetry workshop with our resident poet expert and one-one revisions with a variety of teachers for new perspectives and revision. They are really digging deeply into self- examination and self-expression for their Passages performance.

For Your Calendars:

Wednesday, May 30 - Documentary Film, Geology of California, 6:30 at The Resort at Squaw Creek, Alpine Room A-B

Thursday, June 7 - Celebration of Learning, M1, 5:00-6:00, please be seated before 5:00.

Thursday, June 14 - Passages,12:30-3:15: Groups will be figured out by next week and families notified of their time slot.

McMains Crew News: May 25, 2012

One Crew member recently asked, “ What is the best way to improve my grades between now and the end of the year?”

GREAT question!
The 4 best ways to improve your grades now (and always!):

1. Begin by DAILY practicing every good H.O.W.( Habits of Work!) and checking yourself on your H.O.W. rubric.

2. Pay attention to every rubric (Clash of the Titans, Who Am I Passages performance, Probability Project) and REVISE REVISE REVISE until you hit the “4”column.

3. STUDY those note-catchers for Ancient Rome and really be able to meet the Learning Targets for each one - go back and read all the Rome chapters in TCI. Then pass the test next Tuesday!

4. Do a thorough job on the write-up and reflection for your math Probability Project. KNOW your math terms for probability and practice determining theoretical probability problems on Khan Academy or on IXL Math so you will pass the last test on probability.

And I’ll end with the probability-related quote :

“Chance favors the prepared mind"

Come tell me what that means and how you can apply it these next 3 weeks and I’ll give you a free "M" card of your choice!

Have a restful and enjoyable Memorial Day holiday to get ready for the last high-quality push to Celebration of Learing and Passages!

McMains Crew News: May 16, 2012

What A Month!

We are preparing two major products, for Celebration of Learning and Passages, at the same time we are exploring our last ancient civilization and preparing to share our documentary with the community - it is an intense period of new learning and self-reflection!


The McMains Crew (Blue Bear Productions) is excited to share our documentary film with the community! If you haven’t already seen the event on the SELS website, or Facebook page, please share and invite!

Geology of California, 4,500,000,000 years in the making. is making its premiere:

Wednesday, May 30

The Resort at Squaw Creek, Alpine Room A-B

Doors open at 6:30

Showtime: 7:00

The resort also made a generous offer of a 10% discount at Sandy’s for anyone who wants to eat before the show.

Hope to see you there!

In other news,

Worlds Of Wonders Expedition: Essential Question of the Week: What are the wonders of Ancient Rome?

The motto of the week is, “ Rome wasn’t built in a day but we’re going to learn it in it in a week…!”

Crew are working in 5 guilds to prepare a display of an aspect of the ancient Roman Civilization that

answers an essential question:

  • How did the Etruscans and Greeks influence Ancient Rome?
  • What caused the rise and fall of the Roman Empire?
  • How did the social structure of Rome change over time?
  • What are the lasting influences of the Roman Empire?
  • Who were some of the most important historical Roman figures?

AND teaches the rest of crew the information needed to meet these Learning Targets:

  • I can name at least 5 influential Romans and explain their contributions
  • I can recognize and list examples of Roman influences in my modern world
  • I can name the two social classes in ancient Rome under Etruscan rule and explain how they changed.
  • I can explain at least two major events that caused the change from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire
  • I can describe at least 6 ways that the Etruscans and Greeks influenced Ancient Rome.


How Likely Is It? Crew delved into the world of probability with a challenge to design a problem that can be solved using experimental probability. Every team created a different problem and the materials chosen included decks of cards, dice, and colored cubes. They are now defining and determining both experimental and theoretical probabilities, discovering how dependent and independent events affect outcomes and will soon become experts at analyzing games of chance!


May 16, 17 STAR testing

May 18 Lockin

May 28 Memorial Day

*May 30* Film Premiere! Geology of California, at the Resort at Squaw Creek , Showtime 7:00!

McMains Crew News: April 30, 2012

Worlds Of Wonders Expedition

Essential Question of the Week: What are the wonders of Ancient Greece?

Greek festival preparation is underway for Monday, May 7th. Members of each city-state, Athens and Sparta, will share their foods, music and games with our crew.

Metalworking has begun and involves in cutting and nailing sheets of tin, copper and other metals into a sculpture. Each student is creating a unique work.

Students have been involved in a variety of learning activities of their own choosing and defending their knowledge of Greece’s government, social structure, philosophers, religion, and geography through oral mastery quizzes. Wow - what experts they are becoming! We have also introduced a powerful note-taking strategy that combines the Cornell method many students have used with the SQR3 method.Students are amazed at how well they are retaining information from their reading when using this technique!


Greek mathematicians came to life as we read about 4 particularly interesting ones. The learning target increased all week and your child should be able to name at least these 4 famous Greek mathematicians. BONUS OPPORTUNITY: Send me an e-mail me if they can do it and I’ll put 1 bonus point on their Greek Menu for each – I’ll even throw in another 4 points if they can recall details of their lives!

This week we will continue STAR practice in class, not as homework so crew can also concentrate on finishing their big statistic projects. Teams of students are either recording educational videos on how to plot and read data, compiling and comparing stats of top sports figures, or conducting their own numerical and categorical surveys and graphing their results.


May 2,3,4 Mrs. McMains at E.L. National Conference

May 4 Statistics Unit due

May 7 Ancient Greece Case study completed

May 8-9-10 S.T.A.R. testing week


McMains Crew News: April 23, 2012

Worlds Of Wonders Expedition

Essential Question of the Week: What are the wonders of Ancient Greece?

In our expedition art projects, students have completed and mounted a piece of weaving and are about to embark on a metalworking project. Both processes have connections to the ancient arts in India. Weaving for clothing, like traditional saris, has been a family tradition in India for over 2000 years and was the second-most common profession after farming. Metalworking was quite common in India as evidenced through the artifacts we have uncovered. Copper swords, iron door décor, as well as iron knives, bowls, and eating utensils have been found dating back to 600 BCE—200 BCE.

We begin investigating life in ancient Greece this week. Students are preparing two Greek festivals – one in Athens and one in Sparta. They will take place at school on Friday, May 4th. Each city-state will share their foods, music and games.

Also exciting – local actress and script-writer, Sarah Poynter, has joined us as a consultant to help us create and polish our final performance! She is an experienced performer with many film, commercial and stage credits in her background and we are so fortunate to have her! Miss Sarah will be working with crew during expedition time each week and has already contributed some wonderful ideas.


Our crew mastered ratios and ratio word problems beautifully and began the statistics unit with a review of mean, median, and mode. Adding range, categorical and numerical data and outliers to their math vocabulary, students began interpreting graphs. We are also exploring the uses of new types of graphs: Coordinate graphs, and Stem and Leaf plots. Students will now begin interacting with data through a statistics project of their choosing and we are looking forward to seeing some of their interesting teaching videos! They are also warming up for STAR testing with a practice page per night until test day.


Fieldwork at the “King Tut ‘Wonderful Things’ from Pharaoh’s Tomb” at the Wilbur D. May Museum in Reno was a fantastic opportunity for crew to connect their classroom learning to the exhibit. Crew collected new information and sketches in field journals for use in their long-term ancient civilization projects. Thank you again to all our parent drivers!


May 4 Statistics Unit due

May 4 Ancient Greece Case study completed

May 8-9-10 S.T.A.R. testing week


McMains Crew News: April 9, 2012

Expedition Essential Question of The Week:

How Did Geography Affect the Early Settlement of India?

We start April with a wrap-up of the Wonders of Egyptian society. Our fieldwork day next week at the “King Tut ‘Wonderful Things’ from Pharaoh’s Tomb” exhibition will provide an opportunity to put context to the wonderful things we’ve been learning.

Then we begin a two-week study of the Wonders of Ancient India. Crew will read the on-line textbook independently as homework and use it to guide their foundation work in the interactive student notebook. In class, students will choose from a menu of learning activities to enhance their understanding of the geography, daily life, government and the arts of India. It promises to be a full and enriching two weeks!


We gear up for some real-world data collection in our study of mean, median, mode and range and begin some investigation into the mathematicians of our ancient civilizations – Egyptians, Indians, Greeks and Romans all contributed to our bank of mathematical knowledge!

In Other News...


To date, Geology of California has been entered in the following International Film Festivals:

  • Humboldt Film Festival
  • Yosemite International Film Festival
  • Santa Monica Teen Film Festival      
  • Nevada City Film Festival
  • Nevada International Film Festival,    
  • Sacramento International Film Festival,
  • Central Florida Film Festival
  • Cine Gear Expo, Los Angeles
  • Costa Rica International Film Festival, Costa Rica
  • Worldkids International Film Festival, Mambai India

Important Dates:

April 11 Minimum Day

April 18 Fieldwork: “King Tut ‘Wonderful Things’ from Pharaoh’s Tomb” at the Wilbur D. May Museum in Reno – drivers still needed!

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On top of all the teaching and learning, I'm struck by the joy in the faces of all the children as they go about their quest for knowledge. Thanks to all the courageous and energetic people who had the vision to make this school a reality. With all the challenges the world faces today and predictions of disaster, these committed teachers/staff, these engaged families, and these beautiful children are a beacon of hope.

SELS embodies everything that I feel is important in my child's education and I am so grateful that she has the opportunity to learn in such an enriching environment. Teaching our children how to think and how to treat others is critical to their future success. I am thankful every single day for all the wonderful staff at SELS.

What an amazing place. It has been everything for my son that I had hoped he could experience in school. Great teacher, stimulating learning environment, and a deeply caring and nurturing place.

I am grateful that my child is encouraged to interpret concepts and think about how they apply to his life, not just memorize and repeat material. I love that SELS asks kids to think about who they are and how they contribute to the community, locally and globally.

I greatly appreciate that SELS is a heart-centered school that teaches ethics and values along with academics. That approach makes SELS a unique and special place.

I appreciate all the teachers and staff and their responsiveness. I also appreciate all the work the staff are doing to help the kids figure out how to fill each other's buckets!

Our son is bubbling over with excitement for learning. This environment is gifting him with life long skills to succeed. We are so thankful for this school.

All the Adults and students challenge each other the THINK!

SELS is amazing in the way they teach topics hands on and allow the children to learn in practical settings. We couldn't be happier seeing our son flourish so much! Thank you.

I am very grateful to the SELS staff for offering my 5th grader their hearts, as well as their knowledge. Better yet, they make learning fun and adventurous! My youngster is THRIVING at your wonderful school!!

We are thankful for many wonderful ideals and principles at SELS, but what really brings those into reality is the caring, hard-working teachers and staff. We wouldn't have thought that someone else would care as much about the whole education of our daughter as much as we do, but there is a whole team of such people at SELS.

I am so thankful that my 5th grade daughter is a member and student of this beautiful community and school. She is receiving a fantastic education with hands on learning, caring, understanding, creative, out of the box thinking and intuitive teachers. She feels included, important, confident and is growing tons in her knowledge and place in this wonderful community. Thank you SELS for being an amazing part of my daughter's education and Life!

I truly appreciate all the staff, students, parents and families at SELS. It is these people that make SELS so wonderful.
This has become a new 'family" for us!

I am so grateful for the amazing staff; they are the most amazing guides. It is an inspiration to watch them help our children learn and grow into thoughtful, independent, productive human beings!
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