Fourth Graders Team Up with Wildlife Associates to Design Safer Wind Turbines

As part of their recent unit on California raptors, Fourth Grade students investigated the impact of wind farms on birds’ ability to hunt, migrate, and survive.

“Over the course of three weeks, students learned about different California habitats, the species that live there, and how to better protect birds of prey,” said Fourth Grade Teacher Tyler Elliott. “Raptors are crucial to the diversity and sustainability of many ecosystems across the country. We want our students to understand humanity’s connection to other species and how we can preserve vital ecosystems, both locally and abroad.”

Wildlife AssociatesOne exciting aspect of this unit was the classes’ collaboration with Wildlife Associates, a 120-acre animal sanctuary in Half Moon Bay. A team of wildlife specialists came to Sea Crest with live birds of prey and worked with students in small groups to help teach them about raptors, conservation, and wind turbines.

“I was so impressed with the Sea Crest Fourth Graders,” said Michele Durant, Programs Manager at Wildlife Associates. “They embraced the opportunity to help local wildlife and eagerly accepted the challenge of learning to think like biologists and engineers.”

Wildlife AssociatesFourth Graders learned how hawks help manage prey populations to keep nature in balance, and they explored the challenges facing scientists as they work to maintain both wildlife and sustainable energy solutions.

Next, our students spent two weeks designing their own solutions to help wildlife and the wind power industry to better coexist. On the final day, representatives from Wildlife Associates returned to hear the presentations.

Students shared ideas such as…

  • Placing wire cages over wind turbines to let in wind but keep out birds;
  • Using sensors or lasers to detect birds before they get too close to a turbine, causing the turbine to stop spinning;
  • Projecting images and sounds of predators to scare birds away from turbine blades.

Wildlife Associates“These students were not only highly engaged on an academic level, but their kindness and concern towards the birds clearly motivated them,” said Ms. Durant. “It was so rewarding to see their excitement about having a chance to share their presentations. They demonstrated their creativity and compassion as well as their comprehension of the facts and curriculum of this unit.”

“They have built a sense of empathy and understanding about how we coexist with our environment, and they are making connections to how our lessons relate to alternative energies,” said Mr. Elliott.

Since many of the raptors the classes studied are native to our area, students have already been able to apply what they learned to real-life situations.

Wildlife Associates“One day after school, as I was closing up my room, three students came flying down the hall yelling, ‘Mr. Elliott, Mr. Elliott, come look! There’s a red-tailed hawk outside!’ There was a line of about 25 kids along the perimeter of the field, staring at what looked like a big chicken in the middle of the grass. When I walked closer, I saw it was a beautiful male hawk standing talon-deep in a puddle, sipping and arranging feathers, looking at us as we looked at him. Suddenly, he took off with two flaps, talons out, to the top of a 50-foot tree. The Fourth Graders spent the afternoon teaching all of the other students on the field about red-tailed hawks. I know they will never forget this experience.”


Watch a video clip of the Fourth Graders’ presentations:


Coding and Computer Science at Sea Crest

Our Computer Science program extends far beyond one week of Hour of Code. In fact, we use Hour of Code as a kickoff to our second trimester Unit of Coding for the Lower School classes. In Middle School, we continue to offer a variety of Computer Science Explorations, including a full-year Computer Science class that allows students to dive deeply into Javascript.

We have been offering Computer Science opportunities for more than a decade. In the early years, Comp Sci was limited to Middle School Coding Electives, which focused on Scratch, Karel the Robot, Alice, Greenfoot, and HTML. In 2012, we expanded our program to begin in Second Grade, using online resources and Pro-Bot programmable floor robots. By the time the first Hour of Code event was held in 2013, there were many more offerings tailored for younger students, such as Kodable and other iPad-based apps that taught programming basics. We now offer Computer Science from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade and are in the process of integrating physical computing using ProBots, Makey Makeys, WeDo Robotics, OzoBots, and Arduino.

So why do we teach all students Computer Science? Does everyone need to be a programmer when they grow up? The answer is that Computer Science can apply to every field: our students learn logic, problem-solving, and design skills. They take complex ideas and break them down into smaller parts. They work collaboratively and with persistence in the face of frustration. The creative aspects of coding are also often overlooked: creating interactive stories, animations, games, and websites. Coding, in fact, is all about turning ideas into reality.

“I like the terms ‘hard fun’ or ‘healthy struggle’ to describe some of the learning processes associated with programming,” says Technology Integration Specialist Ellyn Kohrs. “One of my students in the Full Year Programming Exploration recently said, ‘It is very fun and it makes me think hard.'”


What’s New in Art Class

Art at Sea CrestOur new Art Teacher, Mr. Birdsong, brings 15 years of teaching experience to Sea Crest. He is a professional cartoonist who has taught at schools in Palo Alto, Florida, and Japan. He holds a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Howard University, and he recently published a new book called Livin’ in Japan Ain’t Easy, featuring 200 of his comic strips.

Read below for updates from Mr. Birdsong’s fall classes!

Kindergarteners are becoming comfortable with many different media, including oil pastels, watercolor, and acrylic paint. They have made abstract art and learned about primary and secondary colors.

First Graders started the year with self-portraits and have moved on to drawing oil pastel landscapes. They are learning about foreground and background and how to paint using multiple colors at the same time.

Second Graders illustrated what they might look like as animals. Using a chart of facial expressions, they worked on drawing six different portraits, coloring each one in a Pop Art style.

Third Graders are learning to draw 3D geometric shapes so that they can create realistic landscapes. They went outside to do observational drawings and are now creating fantasy landscapes from their imaginations.

Fourth Graders used mixed media to create self-portraits at the beginning of the year. They then designed their own anthropomorphic animals and drew them from different points of view. They have used this design to sculpt their characters out of clay and create color illustrations of their characters interacting with humans.

Fifth Graders drew illustrations for Coastside Land Trust seed packets, which were sold as a fundraiser during the Pumpkin Festival. For their next project, they created colorful self-portraits on transparency paper using photographs and acrylic paint.

Middle Schoolers enjoyed two Art Explorations during first trimester. In Mixed Media Painting, they painted on canvas boards and used a drip technique and small objects to create colorful textures. In order to create paintings with raised elements, they used papier-mâché and foil. In Visual Storytelling, students learned techniques for laying out a comic page and practiced how to tell stories through art. They used materials such as bristol board paper, non-photo blue pencils, Pigma Micron pens, oil pastels, and colored pencils.


Environmental Stewardship

This year at Sea Crest, our programmatic focus is Environmental Stewardship.

Our vision for the program is that…

  1. our learners will feel emotionally connected to the natural world;
  2. students will understand basic ecological concepts;
  3. their actions and habits will show that they are responsible stewards of their local and global communities.

Teachers from all grade levels are working together to help students understand that when we throw things “away,” they don’t really go away. Click here to view “Reuse,” “Recycle,” and “Landfill” signs we made for our classrooms.

More Environmental Stewardship news:

  • There is now a water bottle filling station in the Middle School in addition to the one in the gym. Everyone is encouraged to use reusable water bottles!
  • Fifth Graders prepared our garden for planting as part of their Science curriculum.
  • Environmental Stewardship Coordinator Michaela O’Connor is leading an after-school gardening club as part of Extended Day.


Fourth Grade: November Update

Dear Families,

When we told the Fourth Graders this week that Trimester 1 was ending, there were some teary eyed students and teachers. This has been an incredible year so far and we look forward to more learning, laughter, and accomplishment. You will be receiving your child’s first trimester report in early December. Please remember that on the Fourth Grade story arc, we are still just in the “rising action.” We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving break.

Lucinda and Tyler

Sharing Our Personal Narratives with Our Kinder Buddies at Lunch

Sharing Our Personal Narratives with Our Kinder Buddies at Lunch


In Reading, we…

  • are paying close attention to characters’ actions and motivations, noticing patterns that an author intentionally uses, and understanding that characters become more complicated as we read more complicated books.
  • are learning how to write longer entries in our reading notebooks.
  • are learning how to debate ideas about books and support our opinions with evidence from the text.
  • will begin our first nonfiction unit when we get back from Thanksgiving!


In Writing, we…

  • are learning strategies for coming up with ideas for writing fiction, learning how to develop believable characters, and plotting the main parts of our stories on a story arc.
  • reviewed lowercase cursive letters.
  • are learning how to type!
  • will begin our formal study of grammar, beginning with the parts of speech and the basic parts of sentences, in December.

Word Study

In Word Study, we…

  • learned that linguists have identified 441 homophones in the English language.
  • are working as a grade to identify as many homophones as we can – we have 148 pairs so far!
  • learned that word families are words that are related by meaning (scare, scared, scaring, scary).
  • began our investigation into the names of the days of the week.
  • are learning that words have a history, or an etymology.
  • watched a video by Ms. Druck’s professor, Gina Cooke, to learn about the true history of the word “true”: watch it here!

Social Studies

In Social Studies, we…

  • are researching California’s geography.
  • will work in research teams to investigate the major geographic regions of our state.
  • presented to special guest “Holly Hollywood” to help her learn about California’s valley, desert, mountains, and coast.

Character Education

  • We are learning that conflict happens and that it’s a common part of the human experience.
  • We are practicing using non-blaming/assertive language to navigate conflicts by using I-Messages. We will also brainstorm typical conflicts children have at school and at home.
  • Our exploration into Conflict Resolution has perked so much interest that we will continue the study into December. Our Fourth Graders are starting to notice how powerful certain language is, like “Just kidding” and “No offense.”
  • We have learned the power bystanders have in conflicts and that it is not mean to say what you want or need – it’s just being assertive.
  • In December, we will learn about win-win solutions and our own hidden voices. To culminate this formal study, which we aim to keep alive as conflict arises in daily life, we will design I-Message comic panels in Art class and post them around school.


We are…

    • building 2-digit multiplication problems using counting cubes to see groups of numbers in the respective place values.
    • finding the area and perimeter of different rectangles while noticing similarities and differences.
    • learning and using strategies like “double and half,” using a “box design” to solve multiplication problems.
    • continuing our investigation of area and perimeter through real world problems (fences for gardens and tarps to cover sinkholes).
    • developing strategies to find the area and perimeter of irregular shapes.


We are…

  • investigating simple and parallel circuits and how they work.
  • taking what we learned from our “scribble machine” project to create paper circuits with copper tape and L.E.D. lights.
  • heading into our next unit of energy transfer through ecosystems.
  • welcoming speakers from Wildlife Associates when we get back from break!
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