McMains Crew

McMains Crew News: March 26, 2012

Expedition Essential Question of The Week:

How did the social structure of Ancient Egypt affect daily life?

Crew began the week by creating their own rubric for scoring their Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN). Now that we know about the accomplishments of 4 key Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt (Khufu, Senusret, Hatshepsut, and Ramses II), we are using our ISNs to reconstruct the social pyramid of ancient Egypt. Crew will be taking on the roles of Egyptian people at varying levels of society in a dramatic performance later this week. Expert groups continued work on their long-term Egypt projects, focusing on high-quality products by matching their work to the rubrics. In one dramatic leap on the rubric, an expert group abandoned their simulated cardboard Egyptian tool and built a real stone, stick and rope hammer – that works!

We will leave ancient Egypt before spring break and enter ancient India when we return.


We set personal goals for mastering the learning targets for decimal operations before spring break. For some crew, that meant some extra weekend homework practice and for others, it meant extending learning on the new learning targets. In addition to decimal work, crew practiced real-world application of area, perimeter, and angle measurement while building their Marble Runs. In order to compete, each design team was required to submit a scale drawing of their marble run. We began this week's  Inquiry Friday with a mini-lesson on ratios and proportions so we could make the scale drawings – it was a practical sneak peek into the next math unit…

Book Clubs:

Discussions were lively this week as some clubs began new books. One club recorded their book review podcast while another enjoyed sharing their visual, picture summaries. Currently, clubs are reading the Wizard of Earthsea trilogy, the Life as We Knew It series, Death Mountain, and the trilogy that begins with Poison Study. Two sets of fascinating fantasy and two sets of realistic fiction!

In Other News...

* We had another beautiful day of adventure-education at Tahoe Donner cross country skiing and snowshoeing – blue skies, fresh air and sparkly snow!

*Congratulations to Camila for her academic adventure this weekend – she participated in the Sacramento Regional Science and Engineering Fair! Way to represent SELS!

Important Dates:

March 26 Geology of California documentary sneak peek for the crew, sponsors and experts. Showtime is 6:30 at the Martis Camp Theater. This showing is for the makers of the film to approve it prior to public distribution. A full community showing in April will be announced soon!

March 28 -29 Student Goal Conferences

April 1-8 Spring Break

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

McMains Crew News: March 19, 2012

Worlds Of Wonders Expedition

Essential Question of the Week: What did the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt accomplish and how did they do it?

In a flurry of excited activity, crew began their long-term expedition projects related to Ancient Egypt – maps are being drawn, stage sets and costumes are being designed, and models are being built.


We are wrapping up a month of decimal computation and crew are working independently to complete mastery of these learning targets:

  • I can solve addition and subtraction word problems involving decimals
  • I can multiply decimals.
  • I can divide decimals.
  • I can convert decimals to percentages and percentages to decimals.
  • I can calculate sales tax and determine how much to tip on a bill.

April will bring us into ratios, mean, median, and mode as well as probability – just in time for STAR testing!

Pi day on the 14th was a huge hit! Many McMains crew parents and students baked and brought cream pies, fruit pies and even a pizza pie for our celebration. Our Welch Crew buddies joined us for a Pi digit memorization contest. Four brave and brilliant contestants, Alonso, Sawyer, Taylor and Rebecca spouted off pi digits. Rebecca narrowly beat Taylor by one digit! Next, Welch buddies measured the circumference and diameter of the yummy pies so that McMains buddies could calculate the pi of their pie! Then we dug into the goodies while Mrs. Welch read the book, Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi. Now that’s a fun math day!



March 26 Geology of California Documentary sneak peek for students and sponsors only - 6:30pm at the Martis Camp Theater

March 28-29 Student Goal Conferences 11:30-3:30

April 1-8 Spring Break

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

McMains Crew Important March Dates

March 12 Cross Country Ski day Tahoe Donner

March 14 Pi day celebration (Minimum Day)

March 21 Cross Country Ski day Tahoe Donner

March 26 Documentary Sneak Peek, Martis Camp Theater, 6:30 Showtime

Students, Sponsors, Producers and Experts only (Community premiere date to be announced later this month)

March 28-29 Goal-reviewing/setting Conferences

McMains Crew News: March 7, 2012

Expedition News:

Worlds of Wonders Expedition Question of the Week: How did geography affect the early settlement of Egypt?

Learning Targets:

  • I can explain how geography affected early settlement in Egypt, Kush, and Canaan.
  • I can use the skills of craftsmanship to produce high-quality art related to our expedition.

As we are exploring the geography of Ancient Egypt, we are learning to navigate all the great resources in our online text and creating interactive student notebooks (ISN). Our ISN will serve as our own personalized expert journal on each ancient civilization.

We are also creating art that represents our own personal wonders and expressing them through the art processes of the ancient civilizations. This week we practiced the ancient art of Mehndi. In ancient India, mehndi was a temporary body decoration created by applying henna to the skin. The decorations were used in weddings, festivals and other sacred rituals. Crew created their own designs and painted them on a partner’s hand. Each artisan chose a background to showcase their hand art and photographed it. Afterward, each student completed a creative writing piece in their Who Am I? journals related to the experience. Photos will be displayed in the classroom.

Who Am I? Character Expedition: We learned about the life of Alfred Nobel and Nobel Laureate, Rigoberta Menchun Tum. Crew defined peace and designed and created their own "Peace Prizes" which are displayed on our window ledge.

Crew News:

The first cross-country skiing day is under our belt and the crew had a day of adventure! From the first-time skiers to the experienced crew, everyone took personal risks in trying new experiences – including Mrs.McMains! The whole day was possible thanks to our parent drivers and skiers – THANK YOU to Mike for teaching Mrs. McMains how to get up off the ground, to Brooke for supervising the tree-climbing, to Emily for booking it up the mountain with the experienced crew, and to Karen and Mike for organizing the race!

March is Literacy Month and SELS will be hosting a Literacy Day on Friday, March 16th following Community Meeting. Each crew will be engaging in activities – McMains Crew would like our parents and family members to be part of our book clubs! Please plan to come to our classroom and participate in book club activities and discussions for about 30 minutes.

Conferences will be held March 28 and 29 from 11:30 to 3:30 each day. Please watch for the details and sign-up document in your email this week.

Congratulations New Student Council Representatives!

Six members of the McMains Crew kicked their leadership skills into high gear and presented their qualifications for Student Council offices. Their one-minute speeches were well prepared and each student presented their best qualities and ideas. After a very close vote, we are proud to be represented by Olivia Omar and Cole Bumen!

To all the other candidates, I applaud your courage and ambition and hope you will run again next year!

Worlds Of Wonders

The spring Worlds of Wonders Expedition is well under way and we are beginning to delve into our study of 5 ancient civilizations through 4 case studies:

Worlds of Wonders Expedition: The study of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China

Long Term Learning Targets:

1.     I can explain why civilizations developed where and when they did, why they became dominant, and why they declined

2.     I can synthesize the contributions of ancient civilizations and their links to modern society.

3.     I can explain the significance of ancient civilizations’ historical figures and monuments

Case Study #1 Wonders of the World

·            I can list and describe the seven wonders of the ancient world

·            I can identify wonders of the modern world

·            I can develop criteria to evaluate a human-created wonder

·            I can analyze and evaluate seven human-created structures in California using a set of criteria for a “wonder”

Case Study #2 Where in the World? Geography

·            I can explain connections between the geography of ancient civilizations and its impact on each civilization’s development of agriculture, cities, city-states, commerce, trade routes, and political power.

·            I can locate and describe the major river systems and topographic features that supported permanent settlement of each of the early civilizations.

·            I can locate the geographic and time boundaries of each ancient civilization on a map and a timeline.

Case Study #3 Who’s the Boss? Social and Political Structures

·            I can describe and compare the various forms of political structures, including empires, dynasties, oligarchies, direct democracies and representative democracies.

·            I can describe and compare the origins of various social structures in each civilization.

·            I can identify contributions of ancient civilizations still present in contemporary societies

Case Study #4 The Bold and the Beautiful!  Engineering/Art and Architecture

·            I can identify and describe the legacies of each civilization’s art and architecture, technology and science, literature, language, and law.

·            I can identify important historical figures from each civilization and describe their enduring contributions.

·            I can identify contributions in the arts and architecture of ancient civilizations still present in contemporary societies

And our Final Product ( drum roll....)

Who was the greatest civilization of all time?

Come see ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece and Rome do battle for the coveted title!

An exciting performance piece done in theater in the round – with the audience in the round.

Each civilization will match its best and brightest; artisans, rulers, architects, and everyday citizens will share their contributions in an attempt to persuade the audience to choose their civilization!


Also, mark your calendars for exciting McMains Crew events:

- Cross-Country skiing on March 7th, 12th, and 21st from 9 to noon at Tahoe Donner

- Fieldwork day, April 11 to see King Tut: Wonderful Things from the Pharaoh’s Tomb on exhibit at the Wilbur D. May Museum in Reno.

6th Grade Documentary Film Seeking Sponsorship

Blue Bear Productions needs your help!  We are very excited that the film “Geology of California: 4,500,000,000 Years in the Making” is nearing completion. The students photographed, created the artwork and graphics, wrote the scripts, and conducted the interviews. They also directed the documentary short and partnered with for post-production.  The trailer can be seen at under "recent work" and "earthquakes and volcanoes."

The crew is planning for a March premier and is looking into film festival options. Please see the attached document for sponsorship opportunities.file icon pdf

 Documentary sponsorship.pdf

BlueBearProducitonsLogo.pdf file icon pdf

October Expert Line-up

We have the most extraordinary line-up of opportunities and experts this month. We have to be the luckiest expeditionary crew in the country thanks to our phenomenal parents!
Kevin Bumen made it possible for our crew to film the Sierra Nevada Mountains and volcanoes from the air!  With cinematographer Doug McMains aboard, Cole and Spencer shot the breathtaking landscape from Truckee to Mt Lassen and across the Sierra Buttes. What a once-in-a-lifetime trip and some spectacular footage for the crew’s film!alt

Bill Hammond, our resident geophysicist, has generously volunteered to share his love of all things earth science. We are smack dab in the middle of a case study on Mountain Formation and Earthquakes and he is the perfect person to deepen our understanding of the forces that shape our state. Bill has an impressive and extensive geologic background and we are excited!

Doug Stoup, (
will also be giving a presentation to our crew. He was originally contacted by our students (thanks, Kaya!) as an expert to interview for the documentary and generously offered to include our crew in a web teleconference with him on his next expedition to Antarctica! He is leaving in 4 weeks and we will be able to join him via technology - another wow for our crew!
In addition to all of the above, Frank DeCourten, Dean of the Sierra College – Tahoe/Truckee Center has agreed to be interviewed by our crew for the documentary. Frank has written four books (Earth Essays, Shadows of Time, Dinosaurs of Utah, and The Broken Land) and has produced 3 educational videos, so his expertise will lend another excellent dimension to our student’s knowledge and subsequent film!

Grizzly Adventure was...

G-r-r-r-reat! It began with scattered, individual excitement and ended with a successful all-crew challenge. We mastered the “Pipeline” by cooperating, staying cool-headed under pressure and taking care of each other – all things we learned in three days of team-building activities as we enjoyed ourselves at Walton’s Grizzly Lodge.  Along with the intense team problem-solving activities, we stretched our own personal physical, mental, and emotional states. Backward and blind-folded walks on the high-ropes course and climbing the “Vertical Playground” while our crew belayed us from below made for some special memories. We re-lived our successes and challenges each day in our “Who Am I” journals and again each night, singing and story-telling around the campfire. Our parents helped us create and serve delicious meals in some very creative ways!

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Truckee, CA 96161
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