Otter Observations

Over the last couple weeks, we have been spending a lot of time making observations and investigating nature. Throughout our study of biodiversity, we have been documenting our observations in our nature journals by drawing pictures and scientifically labeling them. Most recently, we made observations of the insects in our classroom. We got to observe the praying mantises eat fruit flies, we identified clues that the cabbage butterflies were maturing, and even got to take turns holding the Luna moth! We enjoyed recording these experiences in our journals afterwards.

We have been focusing on learning more about plants and insects around our community. We have done this by exploring the biodiversity in our schoolyard and on Pacific’s campus. We have had fun going on nature walks, using nature guides to identify plants on Pacific’s campus, as well as participating in a nature scavenger hunt where we took pictures of the items we found using digital cameras. One way we have used these experiences and our observations during these activities outside as inspiration in the classroom is by building plants and insects out of Legos and pipe cleaners!

Another exciting thing we just finished is our plant investigations.  In these investigations, we explored whether or not plants need sunlight and water to grow. Many of us hypothesized that they did and we tested that hypothesis by observing 4 different tomato plants: Plant #1 got sunlight and no water, Plant #2 got water and no sunlight, Plant #3 got sunlight and water, and Plant #4 got neither sunlight or water.  Each day we measured our plants and recorded observations of their growth and appearance. Surprisingly we found that Pant #2 and Plant #3 both did fairly well, whereas many of us hypothesized that only Plant #3 would be healthy at the end of our investigation. This led us to question if water is more important than sunlight for plant growth. We also discussed how different kinds of plants have different kinds of growing needs. We celebrated the end of our plant investigation by planting our 4 tomato plants in the schoolyard and we can’t wait to taste the tomatoes that will eventually grow on them!


Biodiversity is the Spice of Life

In the last couple weeks we have begun exploring the vast variety of living things on Earth and examining how they are all interconnected through our study of biodiversity around the world and in our own community. We began this exploration by first celebrating Earth Day and reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. After watching a video about how we can take better care of our planet, we also had a whole class discussion on the role humans play in making sure we protect the Earth. We celebrated this by also participating in a collaborative expressive arts project that represented how each one of us plays an important role in taking care of the world we live in.

We also watched a really interesting video on biodiversity and began to learn more about how important the variety of life is on Earth. In the first week of our study we began by looking at the role animals play in an ecosystem and we each got to pick our own animal to research. We chose all kinds of animals to learn about, from cats and dogs to camels and gorillas. We all picked different animals so we can create an informative class book, which will focus on key facts about each animal such as what type of food it eats and where it’s natural habitat is located. While conducting our research, we read really exciting informative articles and then documented our animals by drawing pictures of them.

While most of the animals we chose to research were non-native animals to Forest Grove, we also learned about a native species found right here on Pacific’s campus: The Western Gray Squirrel! In doing this, we practiced close reading skills and annotated articles in pairs. This will really help us next week when we compare the habitat of our individual animals we chose and the squirrels’ habitat in the Cedar classroom.

We’ve not only researched animals though, we also spent time working in small groups practicing close reading of articles about what biodiversity and ecosystems are and the impact humans have on them. We did this by first reading an article with a partner and then in groups of four we shared our ideas and created a poster that highlighted the main ideas about the article. We were tasked with creating something that we could share with our peers since each group read articles about different topics. Then we presented our poster to the whole class and shared the main ideas we learned while reading.

Additionally, we welcomed the arrival of our very own praying mantis egg sacs and moth cocoons in class! As a way to prep for their hatching we have spent time learning about their life cycles and making observations. We also participated in a really fun group lesson on insects, which helped us to review the body parts and characteristics of them, in addition to learning more about the differences between moths and butterflies.

To end our second week of studying biodiversity, we got to go on a fun field study to Mr. Mark’s backyard where we explored during a BioBlitz activity in small groups. We got to decide which supplies we needed as a group and then we documented our observations by drawing and labeling pictures, as well as writing descriptive sentences about what we observed in our own handmade nature journals. It was a lot of fun!


There's No "I" in Team

Last week, we started to learn more about teamwork, friendship, and explored the value of working in collaborative groups. We started to explore this more by describing what characteristics we look for in a team mate or friend. We then played a series of Would You Rather games, practicing our active listening skills while sharing our ideas with others. We also had fun making our own Would You Rather question cards to ask our peers. Another fun group activity we played was a game called Stand Up. In this activity students were paired up with one another and had to attempt to stand up, from a sitting position on the floor, while keeping their arms locked with their partner at all times. Although this sounds simple enough, we realized how much communication played an influential role in being successful!

We also participated in multiple teamwork challenges, where we were tasked with completing a series of small group building challenges where we were given limited supplies and time to complete the task. We first started by building paper chains and then tried to tackle building a bridge out of straws that could support 100 pennies in cup. Each student thoughtfully designed their own ideas about how best to complete the tasks individually and then were challenged to decide as a group how they were going to incorporate all their ideas into one. In both challenges, we also had an opportunity to discuss successes, struggles, and different strategies as a whole group after completing the challenge once. This really helped us think about how we would tackle the challenge a second time with a different group of peers.

In addition to these challenges, we also worked on various collaborative art projects. We decorated hands and connected them to one another to represent how working together is important, we used watercolors to paint strips of paper and wove them together to create a classroom work of art, and we braided friendship bracelets to trade with our friends in class. We had a lot of fun making these expressive art projects and it was exciting to see the finished product of something we had all contributed to.    

To wrap up our exploration of teamwork and friendship, we went to the field house and played whole group team games, such as capture the flag, zombie tag, and variations of musical chairs. Through the various activities, we participated in this week we not only had a lot of fun, but we also spent a lot of time thinking about how important it is to be able to work both independently and together.

What's the Matter?

Two weeks ago, we began exploring phases of matter.  We learned that everything is made up of matter.  We took a Matter Walk to note the solids, liquids, and gasses that surround us on campus.  Inside the classroom, we moved like molecules to understand the different phases of matter.  We found that in solids the molecules are packed tightly together making movement difficult or impossible, in liquids the molecules are loosely packed so that a liquid can take the shape of its container, and in gas the molecules are very loosely packed and can move beyond their container. 

Next, we studied ways to change matter from one phase to another.  We worked in groups to experiment with methods to change a solid ice cube into a liquid form – water.  Then, we wondered if a liquid could be changed back into a solid.  We hypothesized that putting a liquid into the freezer would turn it into a solid.  When we check at the end of the day we had tasty apple juice ice cubes!

We wondered if there were other ways for matter to changes phases besides freezing and melting.  We started an experiment to investigate the possibility of reuniting sugar molecules that had been separated in water.  First, we dissolved sugar in hot water.  Next, we added a little food coloring and either lemon or peppermint flavor. After that, we dipped a toothpick into our sugar and water solution.  Finally, we rolled the toothpick into sugar and then suspended it in the jar of sugar and water.  We are currently observing the jars each day to see if the sugar molecules on the toothpick will attract the other sugar molecules that were dissolved in the water and bring them together on the toothpick to form rock candy.  So far it is taking longer than expected but we are noticing growth each day. 

To wrap up our matter explorations, we made Oobleck.  As we described the properties it exhibited we found that it was hard to firmly categorize.  Because Oobleck has properties of both a liquid and solid it is defined as a non - Newtonian fluid.


Light & Sound

In March, the Otters studied light and sound.  We learned that light and sound travel in waves.  We explored this concept in several ways throughout the unit. We began with light exploration.  We first defined the words transparent and opaque to describe the amount of light that can pass through an object.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our attempts to experiment outdoors with natural light and shadows.  Our shadow experiment was confined to our cubby area with shadow puppets that we created and a small flashlight.  We found that the shadows got bigger when our puppets were close to the light source and smaller when they were further away.  We also discovered it was fun to create stories that we could narrate as our shadow puppets acted them out.

As we moved on to sound waves, we explored vibrations as a way to feel sound.  We also examined frequency and amplitude to explain the pitch and volume that we hear when a sound is produced.  We created different ways to feel and hear sound waves including kazoos and cup phones.  On the last day of the unit Mr. Sam brought in his electric guitars and we all got a chance to play them.  We could feel the sound wave vibrations by standing near an amp (or amplifier).  Many of us have now included Rock Star on our list of things we'd like to be one day.  


Tillamook Forest Center

On Friday, the Otters and Whales loaded a big yellow school bus and rode to the Tillamook Forest Center.  At the forest center, we were treated to a 2-hour program that included a Homes and Habitat walk.  Our guides told us a story of a girl named Jackie and a shrew that led her to discover the multitude of living things in the forest.  We learned that the forest houses creatures large and small such as: grubs, beetles, earthworms, banana slugs, salmon, eagles, and woodpeckers.  We also learned fun hand motions to represent each creature – ask your student if they can remember what they are. 

When our groups were not on the trail, we were exploring the forest center exhibit hall which was packed with artifacts and history of the Tillamook forest.  The salmon tunnel was a big hit with the Otters!  We also got to walk to the top of the lookout tower and see what it was like to be a ranger keeping an eye on the forest.  Directly outside of the exhibit hall is a pond that holds 65,000 gallons of collected rainwater.  While we were busy estimating how much water was in the pond, we discovered a group of newts swimming and burrowing in the pond.  Our guide told us that they are preparing to lay eggs.  Every direction we turned was met with a new and interesting discovery. 

There is so much to uncover at the forest center.  It is FREE and open to the public.  Here is a link for more information:

We are very grateful for the parents who joined us for the day and to the forest center guides for putting on such a fun program.  (See our thank you video on the Watch & Listen tab.)


Trout Release

We had beautiful weather for our trout release at Hagg Lake last week.  We enjoyed the quick school bus ride to Scoggins Valley Recreation Area.  We found a perfect release spot with some slower moving, very cold water.  Many of Otters shared that they were sad to say goodbye to the trout but happy that they could swim free! 

Now that the trout are swimming free, we want to make sure that we have left them in a healthy stream with plenty to eat.  One way to check this is by examining the leaf pack from the stream.  After releasing the last of the trout, Mr. Mark led us in collecting leaves and explaining the leaf pack investigation.  We gathered all kinds of leaves from the area and then helped Mr. Mark bundle them into mesh bags.  The bags were then securely tied in an area of the stream where they will not be disturbed for the next few weeks.  When Mr. Mark retrieves the bags, we will examine the leaves and discover what kinds of organisms are living in the stream.  What we find inside the leaf pack will help us determine the health of the stream.

We enjoyed eating at the picnic tables and exploring the area before returning to the ELC. 


The Otters have been talking about perseverance and the idea that just because something is hard does not mean we should not try.  We decided it means that we might have to try several times in order to feel successful and more often than not we may have to ask for help from others.  Ask your student about Coyote Peterson’s rescue of a rainbow trout.  We watched him make 10 attempts until he successfully rescued and relocated a marooned trout!  Each time he tried and failed he learned something that would help him on his next attempt.

Last week Mr. Sam showed us a video about a 1st grade boy named Austin who was tasked with drawing a scientifically accurate butterfly.  The video detailed how Austin worked through 6 drafts of his drawing before he considered it complete.  He accepted suggestions called critiques from his friends and teachers in order to help him improve.  Mr. Sam then challenged us to draw a scientifically accurate rainbow trout.  We practice giving critiques as well as using the advice we were given to improve our drawings.  One of us even drew with a broken arm!  It was frustrating at times, but in the end we all persevered and produced rainbow trout drawings that made us proud.    

Social Studies

As we continue with our social studies unit we have been discussing just and unjust actions.  We sorted actions into categories of just (fair) and unjust (unfair).  We also wrote our own lists of just and unjust actions.  We read about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Bridges and discussed their roles in the civil rights movement and how their lives were impacted by laws that were unjust.  While working on informative writing, we wrote a collaborative paragraph about Martin Luther King, Jr.  Pairs of students wrote two sentences about MLK focusing on who he was, what he wanted, and what he did.  Next, we put them all together in a pocket chart and then rearranged them until we felt they had formed a well-organized paragraph.

Our next step has been to describe what it means to be a citizen or member of a community.  We defined rights (freedoms) and responsibilities (things we should do). We gave examples of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in different communities.  We have been applying what we learned to our own roles as citizen of the ELC.  We worked together to write a list of responsibilities that we each have to make our groups work smoothly together.  We wrote another collaborative paragraph about being a citizen.  Next, we will use our experience with collaborative paragraphs to write informative paragraphs on our own. 

As we wrap up our unit we will touch on the formation of government, the office of President of the United States and voting.  This week we have spent a lot of time talking about voting and practicing different ways to vote.  We have also written and got signatures on petitions for things such as more food at snack time, more time on the iPads and candy for breakfast. 


This week the Otters have been talking about peace.  We have spent time each day on activities related to peace.  We have spent time individually and as a whole group sorting actions into two categories: Peaceful or Not Peaceful.  We each shared different ideas of how some actions are both peaceful and not peaceful depending on the context or tone of voice used in speaking.  Example: most students said it is not peaceful to interrupt someone when they are talking, however, others pointed out that it could be a peaceful action if you were giving them emergency information.  Ask your student to share some of their ideas about peaceful and not peaceful actions. 

We each made posters with 4 categories about peace: what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, and why it is important.  We shared our posters with the class and found that there were some common themes such as calm and quiet. We listened to The Peace Book by Todd Parr and each wrote a page for our own peace book. We also created a collaborative piece of art with the outline of two doves on canvas and our fingerprints in different colors of paint.

After watching a video of students ages 4 to 17 at the Khabele School in Texas share their thoughts about peace, we decided to make our own video about peace.  To see the Khabele School video and the Otter video click over to the Watch & Listen tab.  Otter video is password protected.  Password: otters

On Friday, we read and talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dedication to peace.  Ms. Shelley came for music and made us songbooks.  We sang “We Shall Overcome” and loved it so much we sang it often throughout the rest of the day.  In the next few weeks we will talk about just and unjust actions before moving on to learn about rights and responsibilities. 

Salmon Release

This week with the help of several Otter parents, we took a field trip to Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro to release the salmon.  As part of our release preparations, we wrote goodbye letters to the salmon.  After watching them grow from tiny eggs into swim up sack fry we have become quite fond of them.  Many students gave them good advice such as: “watch out for bears” and “there might be bait that looks good, but DON’T take the bait”!  Others wrote hopes and wishes for them such as “I hope you will make a lot of friends” and “I hope you make it all the way to the ocean”. 

To get to Rood Bridge Park we got to ride a school bus which was a new experience for some of us!  We took the salmon down to the boat launch which is on the north bank of the Tualatin River.  One student read a poem that she had written for the salmon.  Next, we very carefully released the salmon in small groups and encouraged them to “swim free!”  Ask your student to tell you some of the ways we had to be extra careful when we were releasing the salmon.  (hints: the procedure with the cups and where we put our feet)

After releasing all 400+ salmon we explored the multiple trails at the park and completed a nature scavenger hunt.  We found things such as pinecones, a bird nest, animal tracks, animal fur, and, bushes with berries.  We felt bumpy trees and soft, moss covered stumps.  We listened to the wind in the leaves and heard many ducks calling to each other.  Several students even reported seeing evidence of bears and leprechauns!  

To complete our park adventure, we ate our lunches together and played at the playground.  When we returned to school we shared about some of the things that we saw and heard during the scavenger hunt.  Finally, we wrote and drew about our experience.  We all went home very tired that day!

Voice Visit

Ms. Kerry (aka Henry’s mom) has been coming to our classroom every week to help with our numeracy centers. Last week, the Otters went to see Ms. Kerry in her classroom upstairs for a voice visit.  First, we discussed where our voice comes from and how we can feel our voice by touching our throat when we talk or make noise.  Next, we played a game called voice or no voice.  We made different sounds and voted weather or not we were using our voices to make those sounds.  After that, Ms. Kerry showed us that clapping our hands is a lot like what our vocal cords are doing when we talk or make noise.  When we clap very hard, our hands hurt.  When we yell really loudly, our vocal cords hurt.   We learned about different ways to take care of our voice.  Ask your student to tell you about taking a voice nap.  Finally, we worked in small groups with graduate students to use our voice in different ways.  We enjoyed spending time with the “big students” and learning so much about our voice.  

Stone Soup

Last week Ms. Kailey read us a version of Stone Soup and we spent some time talking about what community means to us.  We shared about the different communities that we are each a part of besides our school and town.  We told about the activities we participate in such as Girl Scouts, swimming, gymnastics, soccer, dance and many, many more.  We discussed the ways that we build community with friends new and old within those activities as well as how we can contribute to each community in different ways.   

On Tuesday, we had our annual ELC Stone Stoup celebration.  We spent the morning cutting vegetables with our friends and adding them to the large bowl that would be poured into the community soup pot.  All the while we chanted: “Bring what you’ve got, put it in the pot! We’re making Stone Soup!”

As it neared time to enjoy the soup together we gathered in Creative Play with the Dolphins, Sharks, and Whales to listen to Mr. Mark read Stone Soup.  After the story, we joined all of our friends in the Atelier to eat together.  While not every student loved the taste of stone soup, every student enjoyed contributing to the making of stone soup and celebrating the ELC community together. Many students began referring to stone soup day as “the friendliest day of the year.”


This week we were visited by four Pacific students who taught us about sound waves and pitch.  We felt vibrations of sound waves on a drum, a guitar, and on our own neck. The students introduced us to instruments called Boomwhackers.  Each one was a different color, different length, and produced a different pitch. We hypothesized why each one made a different sound.  Many of us decided that the pitch produced by each Boomwhacker was dependent on the length or distance the sound waves had to travel.  

Each of us got to play a Boomwhacker during a group presentation of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  When we all played together we were able to hear the different pitches within the song. We ended the activity by writing why we love music and taking a group picture.  It was a very fun experience!


With the arrival of our 500 salmon eggs, we have started observing the beginning stages of the salmon life cycle.  We have discussed the many different species of salmon and seen how the mature adults differ greatly in color and size.  On Thursday, Ms. Kailey taught us about the ancient Japanese art of fish printing called Gyotaku.  She brought a real salmon so that we could make our own authentic fish prints.  We were amazed by how cold the fish was and how it was both firm and squishy at the same time.  The eyes of the fish were especially fascinating to many of us.  To see a video explaining Gyotaku, go the Watch & Listen tab above. 

Monarch Butterflies

This fall we have been studying the life cycle and migration of the monarch butterfly.  There is a group called Journey North that tracks the migration of the monarch from Canada to Mexico and back.  The Otters are currently participating in a symbolic migration.  We have created and sent a class butterfly along with individual paper butterflies that will journey to a classroom in Mexico this fall much like the monarchs do.  In the spring as the monarchs leave Mexico we will receive a package with paper butterflies that will symbolize their journey back north to Canada.  To see our class butterfly and our participation dot on the map, check out the link below.

This week as we wrapped up our monarch study, we made paper monarchs and took them on a migration walk to the park.  We discovered that we would have to walk to the park nearly 3,000 times in order to travel as far as monarchs do during their migration flights.  We were amazed that they make such a long, perilous journey every year.  Ask your student to tell you some of the dangers that monarchs face along the way. 


This week we were all about pumpkins!  We worked in groups of 3 to estimate the height, weight, and circumference of pumpkins that grew over the summer in the piazza.  We used place value to solve problems that revealed a mystery picture…which turned out to be a pumpkin.  We wrote cinquain poems about pumpkins, colored zentangle pumpkins and started our own pumpkin drawings.  On Friday, we measured and opened our pumpkins to count the seeds.  We worked with our groups to find the most efficient way to count seeds.  Most groups decided that it was best to group seeds in 10’s so that we could skip count by 10’s and not lose track of how many we were counting.  At the end, we looked back at our original estimates and compared them to the actual number of seeds to decide if our estimates were reasonable (close) or unreasonable.  Finally, we packed up our boots and headed to the pumpkin patch with our families. 

Tie Dye

Last week we spent a few days preparing for the ELC’s annual Tie Dye Day.  First, we took time to look through some examples of folding and dying.  We studied the different ways to fold our items as well as the various techniques for applying the dye.  Some of us even practiced different ways to fold with pieces of paper. We thought about the designs and colors we’d like to see on our items.  Next, we made predictions by drawing and writing about how our finished items would look.  Then, we carefully folded and tied our items.  Finally, it was Tie Dye Day!  We could barely contain our excitement.  We felt so lucky that we were the first class to dye.  We got extra help from parents, and MAT students including Ms. Kailey and Mr. Sam.

On Monday Mr. Mark brought us our completed items.  We were so happy with our results!  Most Otters agree that Tie Dye Day is one of our favorite ELC traditions

(*special note to parents: The Otters have been reading the blog together on Monday mornings.  You may notice in this blog I highlighted the sequence of events by using words the words: first, next, then, and finally.  This is something we will be focusing on in writing.  Ask your student to tell you about their day by using some sequencing words.  Other great sequencing words are: earlier, at first, before, as soon as, after that, eventually, later on, in the end, in conclusion.)

Skip Counting & Goodbyes

This week we practiced skip counting by creating our own clapping rhythms.  We also spent more time outside skip counting with whole body movements.  We counted by 5's, 10's and 100's.  Next week we will take a skip counting walk.  

On Wednesday, we said goodbye our friend who moved on to a brand-new adventure in another school.  We painted a class mural for her and made her a poster that shared all the things we love about her. 


This week we started having centers for literacy and numeracy.  We practiced different skills at each center.  During numeracy, we played games and completed activities that involved comparing numbers using place value.  We also went outside to play leap frog and skip count!

During literacy, we did a lot of writing: we wrote responses to a book called the Best Friends Club, we practiced penmanship, we created an alphabet for our classroom, and we wrote our sight words in shaving cream!