Williams Crew

Expedition: Cartographers and Commanders

Students will begin by learning the basic means of navigation during the Age of Exploration: compass and map. They will learn how to operate these tools effectively, generate maps, and apply these skills in the field on an overnight camping trip to the Sierra Crest. The students will then research what motivated different countries' explorers to sail into uncharted waters and risk their lives during the Age of Exploration. Students will debate what impact famous explorers had on the world and if their impact was positive or negative. The expedition will culminate in a high quality board game that incorporates map and navigational skills, historical facts, and explores legacies all in one.

Expedition: What the Cell?!

What do we have in common with plants, animals, and bacteria?  Throughout this spring expedition, students will begin by diving deep into the world of cells:  the building blocks of life.  They will learn the form and function of plant, bacteria, and animal cells.  We will use this foundation to progress towards genetic theory.  Students will learn the basics of genetics, apply that knowledge to their own genetic background, and analyze controversial current genetic issues.  After exploring the microscopic world of cells and DNA, students will then explore the various body systems and how each cell has a specific task throughout the body.  This expedition will be highlighted by field work in the bay area at premiere genetic laboratories and Stanford Medical School.

Last crew update of the year 6-10

Crew Update 6-10

                Thank you to all of the families that came to the celebration of learning last Thursday.  I was very impressed with the final cell projects and research reports.  It was great to talk to each of you and celebrate what a great year we have had. 

                Our friends at the genetic company Counsyl (one of our stops on the South Bay fieldwork) posted an article on their blog that Rebecca wrote.  It is a great piece of writing and is an excellent description of our visit. (http://blog.counsyl.com/)

                Passages will be on Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:30-2:00.  Below is a list of what time your child will be presenting and in what classroom.  If you are able to attend, this is a great opportunity to hear your child speak about their character development here at SELS.   The final schedule is attached to this email.

                The students will be bringing most of their school stuff home on Wednesday.  Make sure they have room in their backpack or an extra bag to pack their things.  The last day of school is Thursday, and it is a half day.  Middle school students will be released at 11:45. 

                Lastly, I want to thank you for making my first year teaching at SELS such a successful year.  As the students and I look back upon the year we are amazed at what we have accomplished.  It seems like a long time ago when our crew climbed to the lookout tower to watch the sunset on our first field work.  Many of these opportunities would not have been possible without your help.  I sincerely appreciate your patience as I have navigated through a new curriculum, and your willingness to take an active role in your child’s education.  I cannot begin to explain how wonderful and inspiring it has been to be part of such an incredible community such as SELS.  I look forward to hearing about the many successes of each student from this year’s crew and wish you all the best in 8th grade!

Have a wonderful summer!


Crew Update 5-13 Fieldwork News

Williams Crew,

We are only a week away from going on field work and I think everyone is getting excited.  Last week I sent home information on the trip, a packing list, and two permission slips that need to be turned in by Thursday May 16 (I have also attached the documents to this email). 

The schedule is set and we are confirming our reservations with the various stops we will be making.  We are planning to be back at school around 12:00 on Friday, but with Bay Area traffic and potential Memorial Day traffic that may change.  I will send out an email if any part of our schedule changes drastically.

Supplies: We are in need of some supplies for the trip.  If you have any of these and are willing to loan them to our crew it would be greatly appreciated.  Please just bring the supplies to school and we will keep them here until we leave on Tuesday morning

-          Tents (enough tents to sleep our crew of 24): The two 2nd/3rd grade classes are going on field work during our trip and they are taking the school’s tents.  We are in need of tents that sleep 4 or more.  If you have one that you could loan to us please bring it into the classroom in the next couple days.

-          Coolers (2 big coolers), Please bring them in the next couple days so we can give them to the food shoppers.

-          Pop up tent- 1 – To put up over the kitchen.

Again I want to thank the parents that will be joining us: Spin, Dia, and Cristina will be coming for the entire trip, Karen, Marcie, Alissa, Crash, Kim, Darcie, and Katie will be joining us for part of the trip, and Ursula will be doing the food shopping before the trip.  We cannot thank you enough for making this trip happen.

If there are any last minute details I will let you know, and if you have any questions you can email or call.  I will have my cell phone on me at all times during the trip (541-968-9537) if you need to get in touch with your child.

Thanks again for everyone’s help, I can’t wait to go!


Crew Update 3-8

Crew update 4-9-13

                I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing spring break.  I missed our Williams’ crew and am looking forward to our last few months together.  Summer is right around the corner! 

Spring goal setting conferences:  SELS will be holding goal setting conferences on Wednesday May 17.  This year the middle school is doing the spring goal setting conferences a little differently.   Please sign up for one of the hour time slots by clicking this link.  (Link to the sign-up sheet https://docs.google.com/document/d/1msXHEbLa5HWFN_eIRVMS2okeknNwKuuX-1AsnVIF0jI/edit?usp=sharing) There will be 4 students/parents setting goals each hour. You are welcome to come any time during that hour.  During that time, you and your child will review the goals they set during the fall, and evaluate any changes that need to be made to the goals for the remainder of the school year and the summer.  The goal setting/revising should only take about 20 minutes.  I will be in the room to provide any assistance creating/modifying your goals or any other questions.  Please type your child’s name in one of the time slots on the sign-up document (if you are not able to type it in, just email me the time that you would like and I will type it in for you).  If none of these times work for you, please let me know and we can schedule a different time.

Spring fieldwork:  For fieldwork this spring the students are getting a chance to plan the fieldwork themselves.  The plan as of now is to take a three day trip (May 21-23) to the South Bay area to explore some of San Francisco’s premiere educational opportunities.  The students are in charge of all coordination of activities, lodging, food, and scheduling.  So far we have received confirmation on visits to two genetic research companies 23andMe and Councyl, and the San Jose Tech Museum(which will include a lab on genetics).  We are still waiting for a confirmation from Stanford Medical School and a few other organizations.  We will have a more concrete schedule soon but this is what we know so far.  I would like to note, that I am particularly proud of the work the students have done so far to secure these venues.  Their efforts are sure to pay off this spring. 

STAR testing:  To give everyone a heads-up, the state testing for reading and math (aka STAR testing) will be happening the weeks of May 6-10 and May 13-17.  Every student needs to take these tests.  If you know you are going to be gone during those weeks please let me know and we will work something out.

Expeditions: Our expedition “What the Cell?!” is going very well.  Right now we are currently exploring heredity, Gregor Mendel, Punnett Squares, and different types of genetic dominance patterns.  On a technical level, we have successfully bred several aliens and gummy bears to show how some of these patterns relate to the students’ and their genetic history.  So, if your child comes home asking if grandma’s earlobes are connected or if their great grandpa had curly hair, that is probably the reason. 

Math: We just started a unit called Data Distribution.  We skipped the chapter “What do you expect?” (Probability) because it will not be addressed on the state test.  We will pick that back up at the end of May.

The last thing I wanted to mention is I attached a link to our class website. (https://sites.google.com/a/truckeecharterschool.org/sels-williams-crew/) Our crew uses this site all the time, mostly for links to information and websites.  It is still a work in progress and if there is something missing that you would like on the site please let me know and I will add it.

Thank you again for your continued support of our crew.  I hope this spring brings a renewed sense of excitement for learning and we close this year out on a great note.  Enjoy the weather, and please let me know if you need anything.

Crew Update 4-29

Crew Update 4-29

With the 70 degree temperatures and the start of baseball, lacrosse, and soccer practices, it definitely feels like summer.  I’m sure everyone can’t wait to close out the year on a great note!  Here is the latest news:

First, we are still in need of parents to drive/chaperone for the South Bay fieldwork.  As of now, Spin will be coming for the entire trip; Marcie and Kim are hoping to come for half of the trip.  Thank you!  We will need a total of 6 chaperones for the entire trip.  I understand that it is a long time away from work, but if you can find a way to join us it would be truly appreciated by our crew.  If we are not able to find drivers/chaperones we will not be able to make the trip.  If you think you might be available for all or part of the trip, please contact Katie Pruski at kscharm@gmail.com.

Our expedition is going great.  The students are creating a comic about the cell cycle and mitosis (final draft is due on Friday May 3rd) and we will be taking our math test on data on Tuesday April 30th.  After the comic strip and test are completed, we will be preparing for the STAR tests (Reading will be May 7th and 8th, Math will be May 14th and 15th).  Please be sure that your children are especially well rested and fed on those mornings.  Healthy bodies equal healthy minds!  We will also be preparing for the field work during that time.

On a different note, more and more students have been making a trip to Wild Cherries, 7-11, and other stores to buy coffee and treats before school as of late.  I want to make you aware of this and let you know that the staff at SELS cannot take responsibility for what students do before school starts or after it gets out.  I also wanted to let you know that students are not allowed to bring drinks to the SELS campus other than water or juice.  I have had to take a stricter stance on this because our classroom was starting to look like a Starbucks advertisement, and I believe it was negatively affecting some student’s behavior.  I recommend that you have a conversation with your child about how they are spending those times and what your expectations are.

Lastly, cell phones have become more of a distraction lately.  I want to let you know that students need to keep their cell phones in their backpacks during school at all times.  The only exception is if they ask me for permission to call home (usually at the end of the day) or use of an academic application (calculator etc.).  If I see a phone out during the day I will take it from the student and leave it at the office.  The student’s parent then must come to the office to get the phone back. 

All that being said, the students continue to amaze me with their creative spirit and wonderful work ethic!  I challenge each of you to continue the great path we are on for the remainder of the year.  If you have any questions or concerns about any of these things, please let me know.  Have a great weekend and enjoy the sun.


Crew Update 2-7

Williams Crew, 

I wanted to inform you of what we have been doing over the past three days.  As part of the "Who am I?" expedition we are studying several Nobel Laureates and what their impact is on our world.   On Tuesday, we read about the struggles Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maquire encountered in Northern Ireland, and how they led people to end the violence and hatred that plagued their country.  The crew discussed how the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Ireland has many connections to our community and country.  Some of the topics we discussed which evolved out of this were:  religious conflict, race relations at ACMS, economic prejudice in schools, gender discrimination, and gay rights.  These topics were also framed around our design principals for January, "Diversity and Inclusion", and for February, "Empathy and Caring".

I am writing you this update as these conversations can often bring up controversial opinions from varying sides of the issues.  My goal as an educator is to remain completely neutral during these conversations and rather allow the kids to express their viewpoints in a safe and respectful arena.  One of our goals in the "Who am I?" expedition is to develop the students' values on a wide variety of subjects, including social justice and human rights.  Through these conversations, I hope to provide our students with a better understanding of themselves,  the communities we inhabit and its values, and how they fit into and become outstanding members of these communities.  If your child has come home talking about some of these subjects, that is fantastic!  I encourage you to ask them questions about what has been discussed, what the different arguments were on the issues, and how they feel about it.  These conversations in different settings help them learn more about themselves, gain their voices, and better understand the communities they live in. Should you have any concerns, as always please feel free to contact me.

I appreciate your openness as we progress throughout this lesson and the Who Am I? expedition.


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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.

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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.

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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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