Launching Origami Rockets

Middle School students have been prototyping a standardized propulsion system for their origami rockets. Originally, students used lung power and plastic straws to launch the rockets, but they soon found there was too much variability in people’s lung capacity.

“We wanted to see if we could create a uniformly reliable way to propel the little rockets,” said Innovation Lab Manager Patrick Neary. “That way, the standardized propulsion would give us all a better idea about the aerodynamic properties of the individual origami techniques.”

To complete the project, students were given straws, recycled plastic bags, various sizes of plastic cups, masking tape, and (at a student’s suggestion) lemon juice and baking soda.

Origami Rockets

Sixth Grader Ryan Rose Grout measured and prepared baking soda and lemon juice to test a chemical propulsion for her origami rocket. “This was a great attempt to provide a more complex solution,” said Mr. Neary.

“At the outset, the students were pretty skeptical about how much they could actually accomplish with the basic materials that I provided,” said Mr. Neary. “However, just a few minutes into the class, all of the students were deeply engaged in figuring out how they could get their rockets to move. It was very gratifying to see that transformation, where the students became so completely focused on creating a solution to the challenge. Every student did successfully complete a prototype by the end of class, and some students actually created several variations following unsuccessful testing.”

Seventh Grader Cole Ramsey designed and prototyped a multi-chambered propulsion system. The chambers are intended to multiply the chemical reaction, producing a greater amount of gas than would a single, one-time mixture of baking soda and lemon juice.

Origami Rockets

Origami Rockets

Eighth Grader Jake Metz had multiple successful propulsion attempts using an inflatable plastic bag with multiple straws.

Origami Rockets

“The straws fed into a plastic cup, which concentrated the compressed air around the origami rocket contained within the cup itself,” said Mr. Neary. “A very unique and innovative solution!”

Exploring Art with No Wrong Answers

One of our Middle School Exploration courses, Abstract Painting, was featured in the Half Moon Bay Review. Read below!

For many children, middle school offers the first taste of academic freedom, as students can choose electives in addition to traditional core classes.

Sea Crest Middle School offers a variety of electives to encourage students to explore topics they might not have been exposed to previously.

In addition to computer programming and poetry, young scholars at Sea Crest can also create origami rockets or go myth-busting with a beloved science teacher.

Abstract Art is also one of these explorations. Students who didn’t consider themselves to be artistic are finding an affinity for art after taking this course.

“In the class, Abstract Art has helped me become more artistic, because, before, I wasn’t really into art,” said Kai Guevara. “Now I really like the class because it shows that I can be creative.”

Abstract art isn’t about the perfect placement of physical objects on canvas. It’s an exploration of relationships of forms as well as layers of color and texture.

“With abstract art, there’s no object and no person,” said Sea Crest seventh-grader Nataly Gijon. “It’s just random shapes in different orders as well as different colors combined together.”

Regardless of the techniques used, there are no wrong answers in this class. Students in the class experiment with pigments of color. Some try broad brush strokes across the canvas; others create circles of varying shades.

“You can draw whatever you want and it will end up being something,” said eighth-grader Rose Geller.

“Exploring Art with No Wrong Answers,” Half Moon Bay Review


Earth Day in the Bay: 2016 Events

Earth Day is this Friday, April 22nd! We’ll be celebrating on campus with fun Environmental Stewardship activities. Below are a number of local events being held this weekend in honor of Earth Day.

Friday, April 22nd

Earth Day Film Festival in San Francisco
Choose from a number of environmental film screenings at Global Consciousness Film Night.

Saturday, April 23rd

Aquarium of the Bay, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Embarcadero & Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
This aquarium’s mission is to protect, restore, and inspire conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed.

Aquatic Park Earth Day Beach Cleanup, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
499 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94109

California Academy of Sciences, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
Explore the incredible diversity of life on our planet at the California Academy of Sciences. In honor of Earth Day, check out Family Nature Crafts, a penguin feeding, 3D Earth: Rainforests, and the Coral Reef Dive.

Create-with-Nature Earth Day Celebration on Stinson Beach, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Celebrate Earth Day by creating art on the beach! Join in as community members, professional artists, and passers-by construct sculpture using sand, rocks, shells, seaweed and other beach treasures.

CuriOdyssey, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401
In honor of Earth Day, check out Backyard Science!

Earth Day Cleanup at Coyote Point, 9:00 a.m.
1701 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401

Earth Day @ Shoreway, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
This event, held in collaboration with Recology San Mateo County and South Bay Recycling, will include free compost, Tours of Shoreway, information booths, giveaways, arts and activities, a raffle, and more.

Earth Day Film Festival Screenings, 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Merchants of Reality, 285 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Earth Day of Action, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Hosted by the Pacifica Beach Coalition
For the 12th year in a row, Pacifica Beach Coalition is organizing one of the largest eco-friendly events on the Peninsula, leading beach and neighborhood cleanups from Daly City to Half Moon Bay. Last year, more than 7,150 volunteers picked up and removed 5,000 pounds of trash, 650 pounds of recycling, and 11,000 pounds of greenwaste from over 75 sites.

Portola Valley / Woodside Earth Fair, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
This event at the Portola Valley Town Center includes an Alphabet Rockers hip hop show, Chaparral Ranch Petting Zoo with a pony, an Electric Vehicle Showcase, live jazz music by Charged Particles, Indian Soul Food, barbecue, water bottle filling stations, free compost, and more.

San Francisco Earth Day Street Festival, 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Between Valencia and Mission Street on 22nd
This event brings together renowned speakers, eco-innovators, earth friendly products, green nonprofits, leading designers form the sustainable fashion industry, top brands from the electric vehicle industry, major solar and alternative energy companies, and many hands-on DIY projects for all ages.

Sunday, April 24th

Aquarium of the Bay, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Embarcadero & Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
This aquarium’s mission is to protect, restore, and inspire conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed.

California Academy of Sciences, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
Explore the incredible diversity of life on our planet at the California Academy of Sciences. In honor of Earth Day, check out the Ocean Action Project Lab and the Ssssnake Encounter!

CuriOdyssey, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401
In honor of Earth Day, check out Backyard Science!

Did we forget an Earth Day event? Email us!
For more information on local events, be sure to subscribe to our community newsletter.


First Grade Neighborhood Study

First Grade students tackled their ambitious Neighborhood Study again this year. They were highlighted for their efforts in this spring’s Half Moon Bay Magazine! Read more below.

Twenty-six rapt urban planners shout ideas for the name of a town they are constructing from scratch. They have designed the buildings, laid the roads and worried over landscaping. Now comes branding.

“Learning Town!”
“The Town of Justice!”

Stephanie Hanepen jots down all the ideas and Kristin Goodell facilitates the discussion, which sometimes means telling the planners to sit still and pay attention. That’s because they are all in the first grade. Hanepen and Goodell are teachers at Half Moon Bay’s Sea Crest School and this year they joined forces for a social studies assignment that brought their kids out of the classrooms and into a community that all involved agree is pretty darn special.

“You know how usually children will study something like China but they have no idea where China is?” Hanepen says. “We really study where we are.”

It begins for the 6- and 7-year-old children with a discussion of themselves. Then they take a good look at their school. They interview staff and learn what makes the school tick. After that, they begin to look at their neighborhood. They talk to firefighters and people at the local water department. They really look at the buildings downtown and begin to ask why City Hall is on that corner and why there isn’t a lumber yard next to that furniture store.

Then it’s time for construction. The students lay out a downtown footprint on paper that stretches across the school’s Innovation Lab, which is a sort of multidisciplinary workspace with 3-D printers, hand tools, paints and everything you would need to create a town of any size. They construct shoebox-sized businesses with names like Charlotte’s Cookies and Treats, and Perfect Pets. They paint the boxes, apply “windows” and “doors” with glue sticks. And they give a lot of thought to how it all goes together to form a town like the coastal area they all call home.

Planning consultant and Half Moon Bay resident Steve Flint has never seen anything like it.

“Really, the only programs (like this) that I’m aware of are in colleges and high schools,” he said. “They are teaching the same things they teach in Sea Crest – only with more acronyms.”

For the last three years Flint has volunteered to help guide the first-graders as they construct their town. He brings a real zoning map of Half Moon Bay and explains why, for example, residential areas are largely separated from industrial zones.

“They really understand compatibility of land uses very quickly,” Flint said. “It’s pretty impressive. And it’s fun to work with people who are really open to the concepts of good planning.”

How sophisticated is the thought behind this cardboard town? Consider the first-graders’ own description of a neighborhood that Hanepen wrote down and pinned to the classroom wall:

“A neighborhood is an area where people live, work and play. The neighborhood meets its members’ needs and wants to provide them with goods and services.”

As they construct their town, the students are cognizant of what makes their own, real neighborhood special. They made drawings of some of those special things and hung those drawings on the wall as well.

The week’s activities culminate with a special guest. City Councilwoman Marina Fraser comes to see the town students have created and then cuts a ribbon in a ceremony straight out of a real-life City Hall. By all accounts, students are proud of what they’ve accomplished from cardboard, paper, paint and their own imaginations. Not that the assignment really ends.

“We end up with this great town,” Hanepen says, “but if you look around you see we are surrounded by this amazing farmland.”

So the students visit farms. They talk to farmers. They will make their own farmers market.

“You get the idea,” Hanepen says.

“First Grade Bay,” Half Moon Bay Magazine


Mindfulness: Beginning the Day with K

Mindfulness practices are an important part of social and emotional learning at Sea Crest School. To share these different lessons with you, we’re publishing a series of Lower and Middle School blog posts, beginning with Kindergarten.

Sea Crest teachers believe in the importance of mindfulness to reduce anxiety, stress, and reactivity. Rather than operating on “autopilot,” we want our students to live deeply, understand how they’re feeling, and pay careful attention to the world around them.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of active, open awareness. It also involves acceptance: attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are “right” or “wrong” in a given moment. Studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces negative emotions, stress, and the body’s susceptibility to illness. Studies also show that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems amongst students, improves their happiness levels, and increases their ability to pay attention. Teachers trained in mindfulness show lower blood pressure, higher levels of happiness, and greater compassion and empathy.

What does mindfulness look like in Kindergarten?

“Mindfulness is about stopping to notice the present moment,” says Kindergarten Teacher Emily Travis. “In Kindergarten, it’s helpful for us to have something concrete to focus on: deep breaths with our hands on our bellies, or listening to hear the end of the song of the singing bowl. It’s all about going slowly and taking a moment to slow down.”

“We work on breathing techniques to calm our minds and bodies,” says Kindergarten Teacher Helen Ortiz. “Every morning, we gather all of the energy in the room and bring our fingertips to our foreheads. We bring all that energy down from our foreheads to our center and take two deep breaths together. It’s amazing how much that calms the students. They know it’s a tool they can use whenever they want, to find their best selves when they feel out of control. I tell them that it’s the hardest thing they’ll learn all year, and they practice at home, too. Some of them have said to their parents: ‘Mom, Dad, you need to center yourself: put your fingertips on your forehead and bring it all the way down to your center.'”

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