News from the classrooms…

Pussywillow Pre-Kindergarten, Mrs. VanDommelen

“Wake up, wake up, all you little children!  Wake up, wake up, spring is on the way!”

 Spring has arrived and now is the time for budding!  Every day during April we would say a little verse, asking our friendly (knitted) hen to lay colored eggs for us.  And she did!  (The pussywillow papas had a special parent evening of their own where they felted sweet eggs for their little ones.) How excited we were!  And now, after Easter, we have chicks, baby bunnies and little bulbs all waking up to greet the sun.  There is much hopping, tweeting and growing going on in the Pussywillow room.
Miss Diane


Sunflower Kindergarten, Mrs. Barnes and Mr. Craig

Out of a snow cloud, cold and gray,
Something dropped on St. Valentine’s Day,
Whirling and twirling and soft and light,
Like wee little letters all dainty and white,
And I guess the sky children were sending down,
This Valentine straight to the children in town.

It is lovely to have the sun peeking in on our morning circles and to enjoy some unexpected warm weather and the challenges of staying on our feet in a slippery play yard. We have been making beautiful heart sun-catchers for our windows and gearing up for our Annual Valentine Tea Feb 12th 10-Noon. Thank you to all the parents who take up the task of making the event so special~

Miss Susan

Starflower Kindergarten, Ms.Driscall and Mr. Dolphin

Love is in the air!
If you happen to walk past the Starflower Kindergarten in the mornings you will hear little voices singing about the birdie’s wedding day (Valentine’s day) which is quickly approaching.
Starflower is getting ready for the 3rd annual Valentine’s Tea for Grandparents and special friends.  We have hung up our paper hearts and began making our Valentine’s “pockets” to hold all the lovelies that will be passed out on this festive day.
It will be a wonderful surprise to all parents when they, too, receive a little something from their favorite Valentine.
See you for Tea and brunch on February 12th at 10am!
Love and abundant hugs from Ms. Driscall and Mr. Dolphin

First Grade, Mr. Jensen

The First Graders started our last block, Nature Studies, this week. This is a chance for us to get outside, explore and observe. We’re honing all of those skills we’ll use later in grades during our science blocks. Most importantly, however, we enjoy being outside. So this week we placed some 2ft. circles of string out in the bog and will visit them and notice changes that are happening (e.g. snow melting, new growth, buds). We’re also learning about the seasons and the changes that they bring. This block can be summed up in the words of one of the first graders, “I love Nature Studies.”

Mr. Jensen

Second & Third Grade, Mrs. Mallory

The 2/3 Sun Raven class commenced a five week block on Farming and Gardening in April. Through the leadership of Master Gardener Dohnn Wood, the class planted seeds, and began working the soil of our school garden. The entire south bank of windows in our classroom is filled with freshly sprouted vegetables and ornamental flowers.T he class has several trips out into the field to see farms and gardens in the spring, and witness where some of their produce goes. We will visit the Fire Island Bakery to seehow whole grains are made into bread, and to Bell’s Nursery to see how plants are given an earlier start in our Southcentral Alaska climate. We will also spend a day atthe Alaska Pacific University Spring Creek Experimental Farm to see a larger scale farm in operation, and a day at The Learning Farm to see how domestic animals are raised. Finally, our class made the transition from pentatonic flute to baroque soprano recorder this winter. Along with an extended rhythmic piece and short  poem, the children are practicing the song Oats, Peas, Beans & Barley Grow on recorder for our final school assembly in May.

Fourth Grade, Mrs. Smith 

The Fourth Grade class is currently learning about aquatic habitat in their Animal Block.  Our study includes the wetlands, sandy beaches, rocky shores and open seas of Alaska.  We will be visiting the Seward Sea Life Center for an overnight field trip in May.  The children are giving oral reports on their favorite animal.  Each day one student presents her research and knowledge of an animal to the class.  Along with the oral report, I have been seeing beautifully made poster boards with photographs, drawings, and descriptions, crafted animals made from various materials, and poems that are personally written from each student about their animal.  The children are doing a fabulous job presenting, answering questions, and having conversation with their classmates.
Mrs. Smith


Fifth Grade, Mr. Unterberger

Mr. Unterberger and grade five have just finished a one week “mini” compost block; with AWS parent Dohnn Wood;  studying how organic matter breaks down into good soil,  which included building a new compost box for our school. They have been training hard for the Olympic Pentathlon on May 8, learning the javelin, discus, upright Greek wrestling, long jump and running. The final block of the year features  the Lewis & Clark expedition from east to west:  botany, geography and all of the challenges this expedition had to overcome in order to prevail.

Seventh Grade, Ms. Beikircher Seventh grade is  lost . . . in a good book that is! We are knee deep in our Literature and Grammar Block. Syntaxes, Suffixes, Spelling Rules, Synonyms, and of course excellent writing is all we care about at the moment (well, that and sledding). Our middle school students (5th, 6th, and 7th grade) also enjoy movement periods together, as well as our daily Middle School Choir every morning. If you walk past the great hall around 8:45 AM and press your ear against the double doors, you’ll hear our students work diligently on a small repertoire of songs.

Russian, Ms. Svetlana Burton 

Spring is here and we are learning new spring verses. Beautiful illustrations of spring can be found in ourbooks along with verses. Students learned about International Women’s Day that is popular in Russia and is celebrated on the 8th and made Easter cards with warm wishes of «Счастливой Пасхи». As it is so sunny and warm outside some grades also played “Egg Race” game with Russian theme decorated eggs that they enjoyed.We have talked about good manners in Russian. We made the list of all the KIND words we know inRussian and “built” (drew) a house that consisted of bricks with these kind words. We have read several stories in Russian teaching us to be polite, respectful, kind, generous, and helpful. In our Russian class students have been working on different topics. We have been practicing numbers. Depending on the grade level we use different tools working on counting. Younger grades use toys (Matreshkas – nesting dolls) and surrounding objects, as well as their own drawings, and using jumpropes. Older grades play BINGO and one of their favorite LOTO, and also practice some addition/subtraction/division and multiplication. Students practice words on colors, animals, body parts,classroom expressions. We have been reading short words, poems, stories, tales, and dialogues. Grades4-7 worked on prepositions and practiced using them in class and outside. The main focus for the last month was our preparation for the Specialty Assembly. We have been practicing our plays, songs and verses  to present this Friday, April 25th.

Mary Schallert, Orchestra and Strings

Orchestra News

One of the pieces students are currently working on is a piece from Robert Tornfelt, a local composer entitled “Crested Hens”.  This is proving to be very difficult for our orchestra,   but I think they are up to the challenge.   We also have a nice abridged version of Pacabel’s Canon, which is more manageable.   Last fall we worked on timing and reading and most of our pieces were marcato and staccato pieces in 4/4 time.   These two new pieces give us beautiful  tone and intonation practice.  Remember:  Practice is Homework!   Some of the students tell me they have too much to do to practice.   Parents please help your child figure out a way to incorporate practice into your daily routine.   Start small, 10-15 minutes if they are currently not practicing at all.  4-5 times a week, let the student decide which days they need off from practice.     If they are having difficulty understanding the music, find someone from the 7th grade class to mentor them if private lessons are not possible.


Strings   News

Strings class continues to work mostly on the techniques of playing, but  my plan is to bring in more pieces that will teach them how to read music and prepare them for the orchestral experience.   Strings class students are currently working on  “Allegro” by Robert Tornfelt, a local composer.  Please remember, Practice is homework,  incorporate practice into your daily routine, start with small increments of time and work up to more time as needed.      Start small, 10-15 minutes if they are currently not practicing at all.  4-5 times a week, let the student decide which days they need off from practice.     If they are having difficulty understanding the music, find someone from the 7th grade class to mentor them if private lessons are not possible.

I know this is working very well for some of the students that are being helped by  our wonderful grade 7 musicians.

Thank you for letting me teach your children.

Sincerely, Mary Schallert

Ms. Clo Giffen, Recorder Ensemble Teacher

Recorder ensemble meets every Tuesday and Thursday .  This year the recorder ensemble is composed of five middle school students , and myself, playing the soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders in harmony with one another.  We begin each class with an exercise piece to warm up our fingers and improve our recorder skills. Then we work on the three and four-part ensemble pieces we are learning for the upcoming performances.

The students started the year as beginners to reading music and playing in an ensemble and have been steadily strengthening their skills throughout the year. They continually learn the fingering for new notes and practice  more challenging rhythms.  They have strengthened their ability to sight-read music.  They have also improved their ability to keep in time and to hold their own part while playing as an ensemble.  The reward for our hard work in class is hearing the beautiful voices of the various recorders in time and in harmony with each other.

We will be performing on the following dates in May 2014:
Saturday, May 10, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., May Faire, exact time TBA
Tuesday, May 13, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., AWS Hall, Final Orchestra/Recorder/Strings

We may also have the opportunity to play at some assisted living places in Anchorage.

Please continue to encourage children to practice their music at home at least four or five times during the week and to continue to practice during the summer, sight read new songs for fun, etc.  I look forward to seeing some of the students in
recorder ensemble class next fall.

Clo Giffen

Leigh Patton, Handwork and Woodwork

Handwork and Woodworking have been amazing this year. The energy and effort the children bring is uplifting. It makes me happy to be here in this magical community and get to know these awe-inspiring children.  I am blessed that each class has their own unique quality and character.

1st   These little people bring their smiles and giggles to every class. It is neat to see them manage themselves. As you see, we are trying to conserve  my energy in order to have extra to eat lunch with them. There are cute “shhhhhhhs” to save Ms.Patton’s energy. It is a treat for all of us when we share lunch time with one another.

2nd/3rd   This class really shares their love for handwork. After class they almost always ask if they can take the basket of work back to class so they can work on it during free time. This is music to a handwork teacher’s ears! Some even ask for more  in aftercare!

4th   These guys are dramatic—but in a good way! After their infamous play, we all had a  lovely tea party as they worked on their embroidery. In addition,  the class is always in search of a good conversation, or these days, a challenging riddle.  Handwork as a productive social time is wonderful for grade 4 and they have beautiful skills that I love to watch grow.

5th This class  has done a lot this year! From making fingerless gloves, to needle felting animals to spoons, forks, and now kuksa cups, they take it all up. It is entertaining to hear them call me Professor Patton at the beginning and end of class.

7th  This class is highly conversational as well. There is a lot of talk of books, magic, war and universes as well as different dimensions of humanity. I am so impressed with where these topics take us and how these children think about the world. Again, I am reminded of the pure beauty and love that this school harbors in the souls of these magnificent children. 

This is such a rewarding part of the day. We have so many bright fun faces these days in aftercare. We have so much fun! We have lots of crafts…we have been painting a guitar, having knitting circles, and playing lots of games. We make home made ice cream in a ball outside on Wednesdays now too. (They get about three bites.) We also have been making fantastic things for our school store, especially for Valentine’s Day. Go check it out!
Ms Leigh Patton