Wagons, Ho! Frontier families reach the end of the trail

Wagons, Ho! is entering its seventh week. It will end the week after Spring Break, which is when Jackdaws Home Projects are due and will be presented. Please make sure to leave enough time in your favorite jackdaws’ schedule for them to work on populating their nest. A last minute rushed project can be a chore, but a well-timed one can be a lot of fun, especially given the unusual format of a jackdaw project.

Our various westward traveling families have reached the end of their respective trails and have now settled. They have kept a diary of their trip and of the hardships of daily life on the frontier. They have learned about property rights, the Gold Rush, 19th century inventions (the telegraph, photography, the stethoscope, Braille), and the transcontinental railway. They are now deciding which product to choose to synthesize what they learned.

Students are hosting a hoedown this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. As always, parents are welcome!

Wagons, Ho! theme news: Documenting life along the trail

Wagons, Ho! is entering its fifth week, or its second half. Our four families traveling along the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the California Trail have populated bulletin boards with facts, maps, interactions with native groups, encounters with wildlife, and hardships encountered along the way. This week, our four families should reach the end of their trail and settle on the frontier. Students will hear about property rights and explore the following topics in short rotations:

  • daily life with Juniper,
  • the pony express with Pam
  • the economy of Gold Rush communities with Julie, and
  • building log cabins and soddies with Casey.

They also will have a hoedown Thursday.

The current guild rotation features settlers’ crafts to support our theme. Students signed up for:

  • quilting with Sally
  • blacksmithing with Casey
  • parlor games and charades with Pam
  • paper dolls with Juniper
  • leatherwork with Julie

Week 6 will focus on 19th century inventions and the transcontinental railway.

Wagons, Ho! Students hit the trail

Our new theme, Wagons, Ho!, is already entering its third week.

Week 1 focused on the state of the country at the beginning of the 19th century, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Week 2 focused on preparation for the trail (form family groups, make packing lists, build individual covered wagons).

This week and next, students will “hit the trail." They will walk one mile around the playground. They will divide into four groups, one for each of the following trails: the Oregon Trail with Pam, the California Trail with Juniper, the Santa Fe Trail with Casey, and the Mormon Trail with Julie. Each group will map its journey west, and discuss the wildlife, hardships, and interaction with native groups.

Each group also will create a bulletin board and write journal entries to report to the other groups. Please remember to support your student in choosing a “jackdaw project” to be completed at home. Detailed information on this project has been distributed and an example of a jackdaw, created by the staff on the topic of the Louisiana Purchase, is on display on the elementary school kitchen counter for inspiration. Do holler if you still have questions!

Viva Mexico, Week 5

The Viva Mexico! theme is entering its 5th week. Recently, elementary students have learned about the Dia de la Raza, which coincides with Columbus day and celebrates Latin America’s Hispanic and multicultural heritage. The focus animal was the donkey, the focus food was beans and rice, the focus landmark was Copper Canyon, and the focus person was futbol player Javier Hernández Balcázar, a.k.a. Chicharito.

In the meantime, middle school students have looked at the role of cycles in the Maya culture. They learned how advanced the Mayan knowledge of astronomy was; recognized that, at the end of 2012, their intricate calendar was simply reaching the end of a very long cycle; and were shown the link between Mayan architecture and the sun’s seasonal cycle. They also experimented with base-20 arithmetic, Maya-style.

godseyeToday at guild time, students were offered special stations devoted to Mexican crafts: tile painting, God’s eyes, Day of the Dead craft, tissue paper flowers.


Art McConnell talked to the elementary school students on Thursday morning about his travels to Mexico. We are expecting the visit of a speaker from FSU Global Ambassador Program on January 19th.

Viva Mexico! Week Three

The Viva Mexico! theme is entering its 3rd week.

So far elementary students have been introduced to Mexico in general, Frida Kahlo, the Maya, and the Day of the Dead. The folk tales they heard were Blancaflor and Lady of Guadalupe. Students prepared corn and black beans salsa, and guacamole; the animal station featured the chihuahua and the coyote.

They were introduced to the Mexican flag, and have been practicing mola art and weaving. This week, the people station will feature the Aztecs and the animal station the quetzel; the festival station will feature the Guelaguetza; the students will cook corn tortillas and they will be introduced to the Mexican peso.

In the meantime, middle school students have familiarized themselves with a map of Mexico, they have been studying the Aztec Empire and its conquest by Cortez, and they have been watching videos of a Mayan ball game and pondering over how to adapt it for P.E.

From energy to Viva Mexico!

Thank you to all the Magnolia community members who showed up before our Thanksgiving Feast last Monday to tour our Energy Fair! Lots of human energy, excitement and good work clearly went into the projects. Our new theme, starting this week and lasting until January 22, is titled “Viva Mexico!” and will focus on the geography and culture of Mexico, with some historical strands as well. At the elementary school, it will be organized around six stations that will have a different specialty and different activities. Stations will cover animals, food, festivals, people, regions, culture, and more.

During “big circle” (1:30–2:00 p.m.), students will be exposed to new topics on Tuesdays, music on Wednesdays, and a folktale on Thursdays. We are planning on lots of craft, several speakers, and a Mexican end-of-theme dinner on Thursday, January 21.

Do come share if you have expertise in anything Mexican!

Energy theme explores electromagnetism, renewable energy

Our current theme, Endlessly Changing Energy, is entering its seventh and final week. During Theme Circle in the elementary school, the focus will be on noted African American mechanical engineer and inventor Elijah McCoy, and on renewable energies. Front room students will busy themselves dropping eggs (sic!) and making simple machines. During the last two weeks, they explored inertia by driving dolls, balls or each other around in the wheelbarrow. As the wheelbarrow was pushed in a straight line then turned to the right, they saw the objects or felt their body roll/lean to the left, thus experiencing first hand the tendency of bodies to continue straight while the wheelbarrow turns “under them.” They also experimented with marbles, magnets and electrical circuits.

Back room and middle school students will be exploring electromagnetism and renewable energies. Over the past two weeks, backroom students saw how chemical energy can be turned into light by experimenting with glow sticks. They saw how potential energy can be turned into kinetic energy by dropping objects and comparing rates of fall (which should be the same for all objects save the effect of air friction, remember the feather and hammer drop on the moon demonstration?

They also experimented with inertia using the wheelbarrow. They saw how chemical energy can be turned into electrical energy by building potato and orange juice batteries, and they played energy bingo, a game that allows them to review energy forms. Middle school students also experimented with chemical energy, using glow sticks and building apple batteries, and they continued their practice of making hypothese, taking notes, drawing diagrams and discussing conclusions.

Guest presenters include:

  • Dr. Ed Fenimore, an astrophysicist and high energy expert at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Fenimore (aka Oliver’s grandfather)  gave presentations to both the elementary and the middle school last week. These were met with such enthusiasm that students are asking for a second visit if possible. Thank you, Dr. Fenimore!
  • Sarah Ward, a.k.a. Sean and Maddie May’s mom, came to the elementary school on Thursday to show how a speaker strategically placed in a room can help people hear even if they plug their ears with cotton balls.
  • ReThink Energy Florida has kindly agreed to send its outreach team to our school on Friday, Nov. 20 at 11:00 a.m. One presenter will address grades K-4 and the other grades 5-8. The emphasis of the presentations will be on renewable energies.

Finally, remember that our end-of-theme home project is to be presented/displayed on Monday, November 23rd, the day of our Thanksgiving Feast.

After Thanksgiving, we will start a new theme, “Viva Mexico!,” that will focus on the geography and culture of Mexico, with some historical strands as well.

Endlessly Changing Energy, Week 3

Our new theme, Endlessly Changing Energy, is entering its third week. During Theme Circle, the 20 to 30 minutes front- and back-room students spend together at the beginning of their Exploration period, they ere / will be introduced to light and Thomas Edison during Week 2, heat, Robert Bunsen, Anders Celsius and Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit during Week 3 and the energy of life, Gregor Mendel and Barbara McClintock during Week 4.

Science experiments had / will have to do with radiant energy, endothermic and exothermic reactions, and biology. Last week, front room students built a model of the eye, experimented with bending light, compared the light from a candle to the light from the sun, built a kaleidoscope and observed a radiometer. Back room students explored reactions absorbing or producing heat, using baking soda, calcium chloride, vinegar and iron oxide. Students from both classrooms spent their Exploration period together on Thursday, rotating around stations demonstrating various behaviors of light.

The elementary school field trip to Simpler Solar Systems has been postponed to Thursday, October 29th.

The middle school students have been exploring similar topics, using the scientific process more systematically: predicting, observing, recording, and thinking critically about the results. Their field trip to Simpler Solar Systems will probably take place in November.

New theme debuts: Endless Changing Energy

This week marks the start on our new theme, “Endlessly Changing Energy.” The name reflects the main idea we want to convey through the seven weeks of the theme: whenever something happens, energy is used but does not disappear. Instead, there is a change of energy from one form into another. For instance, a moving vehicle involves a change of chemical energy (stored in fuel) into kinetic energy (the motion of the vehicle) and heat. We will talk about transforming light into heat, motion, and electricity; heat into motion; chemical energy into radiant energy and electricity; electrical energy into motion; and stored (potential) energy into working (kinetic) energy. Students will learn that energy makes things grow and move, and runs machines. They will observe demonstrations, perform experiments, measure various forms of energy, take notes, and practice making predictions and coming to conclusions. They will also research the biographies of famous scientists.

Week 1 will be devoted to asking and answering the question: What is energy? Do we ever “see” it? (Not really; what we see is its manifestations.) Week 2 will be devoted to light, its source, and its effects.

We are expecting our first guest speaker this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Miranda Manning will demonstrate several activities involving energy, especially light.

Music theme ends with visit to FSU Gamelan room

Thanks to all parents and friends who attended the performance ending our theme “Playing Music Together.” Playing music together they did! For those of you who could not attend, we were treated to three short plays involving a narrator, multiple characters and a musical accompaniment, as well as to several songs.

  • The Front Room students (the Sunflowers) performed a play based on the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” story, complete with puppets and a great set; they also performed a song.
  • The Back Room students (the Pioneer Pickles) performed a play based on “The Story of Chicken Little”, as well as two songs (in French!)
  • The Middle School students performed a play based on “The Boy who Cried Wolf,” and the boys sang "Gee, Officer Krupke", from the musical West Side Story.

It was very good entertainment. Thank you to all the performers and to the teachers who coached them!

On Thursday, Magnolia students were treated to a very special workshop at the FSU College of Music. The group was split into two, one attending the workshop while the other played music games and read stories on the steps of Opperman Hall, and vice versa after 35 minutes.

The students explored the Gamelan room, a large room full of exotic-looking metallophones, gongs and other bell-shaped percussion instruments. Dr. Michael Bakan, professor of Ethnomusicology and head of World Music, helped the students choose instruments and gave a brief introduction to the Balinese Gamelan, the name for the whole ensemble of percussion instruments. He then proceeded to teach the students how to play a Balinese warrior song, involving different rhythms played on different instruments, and, believe it or not, it sounded rather good in the end despite a less than perfect synchronicity.

We are extremely lucky to have in Tallahassee such a world authority on the Balinese Gamelan as Dr. Bakan, and even luckier that he has been willing to share his expertise with our students.

Visit YouTube to see how Balinese Gamelan music and the Balinese Warrior dance are performed.

Music theme culminates with performance

The last two weeks of the Playing Music Together theme are dedicated to, well, playing music together! The end of the theme will culminate with a public performance Friday, October 2 at 1:00 p.m. Come early and join us for lunch, which will start at noon that day. This week, students will rotate one more time through groups devoted respectively to glockenspiels, boom whackers, and voice, and, next week, Explorations time will be devoted to rehearsals. Featured composers are Igor Stravinsky this week and Aaron Copland next week.

Guest speakers:

Last Thursday, our very own Casey Gooding presented his brass instruments and trumpet playing talents.

Lori Gooding, from the FSU College of Music, gave a presentation last Thursday in which she reinforced the concept that sound is vibration, explained how the ear works, and taught students how to protect their ears. Each student got a pair of earplugs to take home.

John George will be talking about woodwind instruments and playing his saxophone Tuesday afternoon.

Musical performances near you:

Even though our theme is drawing to an end, there are plenty of opportunities in town to continue exposing your child to various styles of music.

The following website, from the FSU College of Music, gives a list of upcoming events. Note that a non-negligible number of events are free and take place in the afternoon, sometimes on Sundays. Check out the FSU College of Music calendar, and the Council for Culture and Arts website for things to do, see, and hear around town.