Learning and the Brain

Sea Crest’s strengthened Student Success process has increased our school’s focus on neuroscience. Each day, we are learning more about how memory, attention, and perception change over the course of a child’s development and how we might adjust our approach in order to maximize learning.

One example is “Learning and the Brain,” our new weekly core course for Sixth Grade students. Taught by Student Support Coordinator Laurie Schoeffler, the goal of this class is to help Sixth Graders better understand the way their minds work so that they can gain metacognitive abilities.

“I am passionate about the intersection of neuroscience and education,” said Ms. Schoeffler, who has been a member of the Learning and the Brain Society for ten years. “I am most interested in understanding how mindset, executive function, and social-emotional development are integral to the learning process. Understanding our children as the unique beings they are brings the joy into each day for me! Two books top my recommended reading list: Raising a Self-Disciplined Child by Brooks & Goldstein and Brain Rules by John Medina.”

Another example of our work with learning and the brain is our partnership with Dr. Melina Uncapher and Dr. Adam Gazzaley, experts in the field of applied neuroscience. Current Third, Fifth, and Seventh Grade students are piloting an innovative study for a cognitive neuroscience research lab at UCSF. With parents’ permission, students are undergoing interactive assessments and using brain/body trainers in small groups. Our school is helping to build the foundation for a large longitudinal study that could change the way educators approach neuroscience.

Watch Dr. Gazzaley’s TED Talk:


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.


Third Grade: November Update

Please read below for some examples of what we have been up to in Third Grade!

Social Studies

  • Our students have learned many interesting facts about the coastside from the women of Half Moon Bay History Association, covering topics such as the Ohlone and farm life
  • Classes are learning how to make animations using the Stop Motion app
  • Students heard from Head of School Dr. Pernambuco-Wise about the Wapishanna tribe

Reader’s Workshop

  • What is a “legend”?
  • Navigating through nonfiction texts while reading books about Native American tribes
  • Taking notes and organizing information into charts
  • Pulling out main ideas while reading and organizing them


  • Addition and subtraction fact strategies (counting on, counting back, doubles and near doubles, and making a ten)
  • Mental math and estimation
  • Analyzing and solving word problems
  • Adding and subtracting larger numbers
  • Subtraction with regrouping across zeros

Word Work

  • Daily Language Review concepts: applying conventions and long e and oi/oy sound patterns in spelling
  • Homophones

Writer’s Workshop

  • Composing topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences for each stage of our pumpkin observations
  • Revising and editing paragraphs for publication


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