The Skeletal System & Amazing Brain

This week we started to talk about healthy bodies in the Otter class! There was a lot of interest in this topic recently and a lot of questions about our bones so we started our study by learning more about the skeletal system. We read some really interesting books and watched a couple videos about our skeletons, which included a very fun song that helped us learn some of the major bones in our bodies! We were so surprised to learn just how strong our bones are! Did you know that humans have the same number of neck bones as a giraffe? This fun fact amazed us!

We also created scientific illustrations of our skeletons and labeled the major bones in our bodies, in addition to working with a partner to measure various body parts to estimate how long certain bones in our bodies are. We then worked to organize our bones by length and tried to estimate how tall we each are by adding the length of our bones all together.  

In addition to having a lot of questions about our skeletons, we also had many wonderings about how we learn and create, store, and retrieve memories so we had a very special guest speaker, Mr. Mark, come in and help us better understand our questions about the brain! He showed us some really interesting videos that showed us how our brain works and sends and receives information from our body! It was definitely one of the highlights of our week!

Music with the Otters!

Recently the Otters have been really excited about music and we have been so lucky to get to practice using instruments, our bodies, and our voices to make music with Ms. Shelley and Ms. Julie during some of our wiggle time activities. Over the last three weeks the Otters have been working really hard to learn some beautiful songs Ms. Shelley taught us and they decided they really wanted to share them with their ELC friends! To do this the Otters decided they would like to put on a performance for the rest of the ELC classes and sing to their friends. They had so much fun and were really proud to share all their hard work and love of music with everyone who came to watch! Ask your student to share their favorite song with you at home and enjoy watching the video clips of their performance as a family!

Otters vs. Leprechauns!

This week the Otters were really excited about St. Patrick’s Day and wanted to celebrate by looking for evidence of Leprechauns in our classroom and around campus. They decided the best to do this was to practice the engineering design process that we learned earlier in the school year and engineer their own leprechaun traps!  

Students first created their own design ideas, which included coming up with a list of materials they would need, as well as steps for building their trap and a sketch of what it would look like. Students then created small groups and worked together to combine their ideas and made one collaborative trap that incorporated all their final designs! There was a lot of variety and creativity amongst the traps students created… All of them were very different! They can’t wait to see what they may catch over the weekend! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Literacy & Numeracy Practice

The last couple weeks the Otters have been working on some new literacy activities and reviewing double digit addition and subtraction in numeracy. We did this by practicing as a whole group, as well as working in small groups, and individually on a number of phonetic activities and new literacy games. We started by reviewing bossy e and r words and continued our practice by playing sight word games. We also have started using personalized book baskets for silent and partner reading in class. The Otters really enjoy having a variety of books to choose from, in addition to getting additional reading practice in small literacy groups each week!

We also practiced our numeracy skills in addition and subtraction and had a lot of fun playing a variety of games that helped us build on the strategies we learned for regrouping earlier in the year. One of the class favorites was a game called Climb the Ladder, where students worked their way up solving various addition and subtraction problems that started with single digit math problems and increased to three and even four digit math problems!  

Dr. Seuss Day

We ended this week by celebrating Dr. Seuss Day! Leading up to Friday’s festivities, the Otters participated in a variety of Dr. Seuss related activities in class! We read some of our favorite books written by Dr. Seuss and then wrote our own stories in the style of his writing! We also played a lot rhyming games and had fun thinking of real and nonsense words that Dr. Seuss could have used in his stories. We also did a fun expressive arts activity where we each drew and painted our own portraits of our class’ favorite Dr. Seuss character, the Cat in the Hat!

On Friday, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday and our love of reading, we had so much fun making our own Cat in the Hat hats, playing with oobleck, eating green eggs and ham, and many other fun activities! We ended the day by having a class read-in, where we got to snuggle up with blankets and pillows and read our favorite Dr. Seuss books with a friend! It was an AMAZING week!

Trout Release!

We had SNOWY weather for our trout release at Hagg Lake this 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 finally swim free!  

After releasing all 500+ trout we explored the surrounding area and completed a natural habitat exploration. To do this, we split into three different groups and each tried to evaluate the park through the eyes of a different animal – We had a group of Squirrels, a group of Raccoons, and a group of Birds! We also looked for evidence of our animals and found a variety of things such as egg shells, animal tracks, bird calls, and scratch marks on the tree bark. To complete our natural habitat exploration, each group drew a map of the area and shared their findings with the other groups. Following this activity, we enjoyed eating at the picnic tables (while trying to keep warm!) before returning to the ELC. 

 When we returned to school we shared about some of the things that we saw and heard during the habitat exploration.  Finally, we wrote and drew about our experience after reflecting on our trip. 

Rights & Responsibilities, Numeracy Work & World Read Aloud Day

In the last couple weeks we have spent a lot of time talking about just and unjust actions, as well as learned about rights and responsibilities. The Otters spent a lot of time discussing what those words meant to them and we talked as a whole class about our ideas. We also did some small group work where we made posters for each word where we shared what each word looks like, sounds like, feels like, and why it’s important to us. We brainstormed a list of class jobs that we felt were responsibilities we, as Otters, should be doing at school as well. We are excited to start taking responsibility for those jobs starting next week, both in our class and in the Cedar classroom!

The Otters also have done a lot of small group and partner numeracy activities recently. We have been working on double and triple digit addition and subtraction with and without regrouping. We have had a lot of fun doing some whole group practice, partner work, as well as working on building individual numeracy skills.

 We also celebrated World Read Aloud Day, which was Friday, February 1st. We did this by taking a trip to the Pacific library and exploring the collection of children’s books they had. Mr. Mark also read us an inspiring story called, The Boy Who Loved Words, during our visit. The Otters were very excited that they got to take a tour of the library and each student got to pick their own book to check out and place in our own classroom library!

Peaceful Otters

This week the Otters began to talk about peace. Each day we spent time on activities related to peace that helped us define what it is and what it means to each of us, as well as a whole class. We each shared different ideas of actions that were both peaceful and not peaceful depending on the context or tone of voice used in speaking. We also spent time reflecting on what peace meant to us individually. For some it was taking a walk in nature and for others they shared ways they described peace, such as being kind, helpful, friendly, etc. Ask you student to share with you what peace means to them.

We also listened to the book I Am Peace, by Susan Verde and each wrote two pages for our own peace book. Another way we explored peace this week was by creating two different collaborative pieces of art. We enjoyed using our hands and watercolors on one of them and brainstormed ideas for adjectives that described peace in our classroom, which we then wrote inside the shape of a dove for another.

On Friday, we read and talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dedication to peace.  We got to listen to some audio clips of this I Have a Dream speech and we talked about what we believed his dream was as a class. We also wrote down what our own dreams are for peace in the world and shared them with each other. In the next few weeks we will talk about just and unjust actions, as well as learn about rights and responsibilities. 

Welcome Back!

The first week back  following our winter break, we spent a lot of time reflecting on our 2018 year and talked about setting goals for 2019. We worked in small groups and discussed what goals were and each student worked to create personal goals for what they would like to accomplish in the next year. We also shared what we did over our holiday break and wrote a special winter break news report to share with the class.

We also started to explore why different seasons have different lengths of day and how the tilt of the Earth as it orbits the sun effects this. We began collecting data on weather and length of day before we left for break and when we compared how long our days are now to the days leading up to break, we realized they are longer now!

Another exciting thing that took place this week was the discovery of a mysterious find in the Cedar Classroom! Students observed multiple animal scat-like droppings on multiple surfaces outside, which we had never seen before and were very intrigued as to what they were and where they came from. Students collected data by counting the number of them they could find, while also documenting where they found them. They drew scientific illustrations and took pictures with digital cameras to help them document. We then looked at various animal scat reference pictures and hypothesized what we thought they were. Some students suggested that they may be raccoon or bat scat, while others thought they may be soggy wet blackberries that had been dropped by birds. By the end of the week, students voted on what they believed them to be based on our investigation and the majority of students believed them to be squirrel scat!

Salmon Release!

This week with the help of several Otter parents, we took a field trip to Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro to release our salmon fry.  As part of our release preparations, we wrote poems and 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 predators” 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 survive”!

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.  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 250+ 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 fairies!  

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!

Salmon Dissection

Following our Gyotaku activity, the Otters also got to dissect and study our classroom salmon up close! We were amazed at all of the things we noticed and observed, especially when we got to look at the inside of its head and see a close up of its brain!


With the arrival of our 250 salmon eggs, we 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.  One of our favorite activities we did during our salmon unit was a lesson about the ancient Japanese art of fish printing called Gyotaku.  We also got to make our own authentic fish prints using a real salmon as well!  Many students 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. 

Stone Soup!

“Take what you got, put it in the pot… We’re making STONE SOUP!”

 During this short week of school before our Fall break we were focused on kindness, savoring the moment, and gratitude in the Otter’s classroom.  One of the many celebrations we look forward to every year, that encompasses all those things we were focusing on this week, is Stone Soup day! The Otters did such a great job cutting all our vegetables and we are so grateful we were surrounded by so many friends and family while we did it! The soup was so tasty and we had so much fun during our lunch time feast!  

We also were so proud of the expressive arts project we completed this week, just in time for Thanksgiving! Every Otter made a gratitude tree to take home for their families for Fall break. This was a project that started weeks ago when we went on a nature walk with Ms. Julie and collected hundreds of colorful leaves on campus! We then spent a lot of time talking about being thankful and grateful for the people and things we have in our lives. Using paint pens, we then wrote those things on each of the leaves we collected on our walk. As a finishing touch, each Otter decorated a beautiful vase to display their leaves. Not only did their trees turn out beautifully, but seeing how proud each Otter was of their artwork and their excitement to give them to their families was so wonderful!

Salmon Stories

This week we continued our study of the salmon life cycle, but we also explored some of the cultural influences salmon have in Native American traditions. We listened and read folktales as well as learned more about what a Salmon Ceremony is, and it’s importance, in Native American culture. One really important tradition in Native American culture and history is storytelling and we have found that salmon have played a huge role in many of their stories. In honor of that tradition, we too started to write our own Salmon stories over the last few days.

By the end of the week we also noticed a BIG change in our fish tank: Some of our salmon eggs have started to HATCH!!! As we have learned over the last 2 weeks, the next step in their life cycle is the ALEVIN stage. Like we did with our salmon eggs and embryos, we also have begun making scientific observations and illustrations of our newly hatched alevin and will add to our mural artwork in the next couple weeks!

Salmon Life Cycle: Egg Stage

As we begin our exploration of salmon this week, we started by looking at the stages of the Salmon life cycle. We centered our focus on the egg stage since that’s what we currently have in our classroom. To do this, we watched videos of salmon embryos under a microscope and practiced making scientific observations in our notes and drawing scientific illustrations of what we saw.

We then built on this activity by actually looking at one of our own embryos under the proscope on the Smartboard. It was AMAZING! We even got to see the salmon embryo’s heartbeat and it’s body moving inside it’s egg sack! Afterwards, we used watercolors to really bring our scientific drawings to life and we will add them to our own class underwater mural, which we will add to as we study the stages of the life cycle our own classroom salmon go through.

Given our current unit of study, this week we also learned a new numeracy game that not only involved the stages of the salmon life cycle, but also data collection and analysis, addition and subtraction, and the mathematic symbols: <, >, and =

And Ms. Julie tested our “salmon” agility during wiggle time this week during a series of relays and obstacle courses. Otters attempted to brave the perils of an imaginary salmon migration – Dodging hungry bears and jumping over powerful waterfalls on their journey home! There was a lot of fun and laughter involved!


The salmon have FINALLY arrived! We have long awaited their arrival since the fish spawned nearly 3 weeks late this year. We were so excited to have the Steelheaders come and deliver our eggs to us. Our classroom is now home to 250 future salmon! We have so many fun things planned in the next few weeks and we already can’t wait for them to hatch!

Other exciting things that happened this week included the Halloween parade! We had so much fun dressing up and sharing our costumes with our friends, family, and the Berglund Hall staff and students. 

Ms. Julie also took us on our first meditative nature walk. We loved walking on campus while we got to appreciate all the beauty around us. Not only did we enjoy being outside on such a beautiful Fall day, but we also got to collect our favorite leaves on campus, which we will eventually use for a special Thanksgiving expressive arts project. It was a great week!

Cedar Classroom Exploration

began a project that we will continue to work on throughout the school year. We toured the outdoor classroom with Mr. Mark and also got to use a variety of technological tools to investigate what living things share the Cedar Classroom with us.

A huge highlight for all the Otters was the exploration of the pond and bioswale. These are spaces that we don’t get to experience as regularly and it was so fun seeing what kinds of plants, animals, and insects call these spaces home. During our exploration, we not only took notes and drew scientific illustrations of our observations, but we also got to use digital cameras, proscopes on the ipads, and macro lenses to get a view of our outdoor classroom like we’ve never seen it before!

We also collected the artifacts that we found most interesting and brought them inside to investigate them more closely. One of our class favorites was looking at the bees we found outside under a microscope! We even got to see their stingers!

Otter Engineers!

Teamwork was a key focus in the Otter classroom this week. We started the week off  by learning more about the engineering design process and put that into practice when we all participated in the Otter team bridge building challenge. Each table group was tasked with designing a bridge using a limited amount of supplies made up of straws and tape. After designing and building our bridges, each group then tested their design by assessing how much weight they could hold, using a Dixie cup and pennies. Not only did the Otters have a lot of fun during this challenge, but they also were really successful in designing bridges that were unique and functional!

Later in the week, the Otters were challenged in engineering once again when they were given a variety of random items and tasked with building something creative in a small group. Each group navigated introducing ideas and collectively came up with a design they all agreed on. They then built their creations and proudly presented them to the class in our Otter Engineers Share-Out!

Monarch Symbolic Migration & Engineering

This week we wrapped up the end of our study of Monarchs by participating in our own symbolic Monarch migration to “Mexico” (also known as Rogers Park). Each student made their own Monarch butterfly out of construction paper and then attached it to a pencil, which they used to help their butterfly fly from our classroom to the park and back. This was also the class’ first trip off campus and we had so much fun walking through the Forest Grove community on such a warm sunny day!  

We also started to talk about teamwork and engineering, which included talking about the steps of the engineering design process and working together to build things in the Cedar Classroom. Mr. Mark added some new creative building materials in the outdoor classroom and we had fun working together to build various structures during our outdoor learning time. Next week will continue to build on these concepts and practice using the engineering design process in other ways as well!