“From Under Our Big Tree” Weekly Newsletter – Redwoods Week #2

Redwoods Newsletter: 9 to 11 year old students
All Together - 9 to 11 Class
“It’s not that I’m so smart, but it’s just that I stick with the problems longer.” 
—Albert Einstein 

Redwoods Class Begins Year 2 With New Collaborators

It’s been an eventful, busy, exciting first couple of weeks in the Redwoods class! All the students have jumped back into school feet first & ready to do and think and question and learn!We’ve woven connection & curriculum together in several activities these two weeks. The fabric of our classroom becomes stronger & more more beautifully layered as the students contemplate who we are as individuals & as a group. Read on for highlights…

– Tending the Garden: Field Trip #1 is THIS FRIDAY! Please RSVP and pay your fees.
– Parent Teacher Toolbox: PT Retreat is this Saturday from 9-1pm. You must attend before you begin your PT classroom schedule.
– TKG Business: Our first fundraiser night is coming up! Earn tuition credits and raise money for TKG.
– Ed News Resource: Remind yourself that our brains are malleable and that we are architects of our development.


At the start of each day, we are hosting different studios in each of our classrooms: a Maker Lab, an art studio, a dramatic play space, & a Food Lab. Students can explore each one, engage in a mini-challenge, work in multi-age groups or individually. It’s  been wonderful to see older students teaching younger ones; in fact, some of the Redwoods are planning their personal projects around teaching their school mates.

In this photo, Zoë (age 10) is teaching Dakota (age 6) how to fold a “cootie catcher” as a part of her origami project. Dakota had come to visit the art studio & had already drawn a picture of his own when Zoë offered to show him how to do this.


One of my favorite activities this week was looking at the many concentric circles of life that surround each of us. We took class outside, & with chalk, each student took turns drawing the ever larger circles outside of our “self.” We started with the self & worked our way outwards, thinking about how we connect with people: first one-to-one, then as a family, then with those outside our family, & beyond into our school, city, state, country, world, & galaxy!

Each student had a chance to reflect on his or her own life & what each circle consists of personally. Then with the help of our wonderful drama teacher, Autumn, we launched into a tableau exercise. What is a tableau? How do you show action while frozen? How can we make a frozen picture interesting with our bodies & faces? 

Students created a tableau for each of the circles of life, discussing as a group what they wanted to show &  how they  wanted to use their bodies to show it. It was amazing to see how the students began tentatively, & with each new tableau tooknew risks & employed more strategic & dramatic ways of showing their ideas—especially in using  different levels & positions  with their bodies!


You may have been noodling the “Mysterious Math” & other brain teasers that have come home with your student. When we zoom out & look at the larger concepts behind all of MEAPPS/STEAM, the greatest quality we are hoping to cultivate is questioning. When we turn the focus away from right answers to instead asking questions, we really want to give students a chance to practice sticking with something that is difficult to figure out.

Most kids actually have what’s referred to as a “high failure tolerance.” Positive research around video gaming has actually shown that when students are playing, they are “failing” about 80% of the time—meaning that they aren’t earning points or moving up levels or making progress as they navigate the game about 80% of the time. But most kids just keep playing! They explore new passageways, click on unknown objects, & just keep going. 

I asked students what their parents said about the Mysterious Math the first night it went home with them. Here are some responses:

“My mom said, ‘I don’t get it.’”
“My dad said, “This is a waste of time.’”
“Mine said, ‘I give up.’”

We all had a good laugh, because those words express the frustration & confusion that they all felt.  But if we don’t stick with a problem, we can’t solve it.

When our school visited SpaceX last year, one of the SpaceX scientists told us that they get applicants with straight A’s, students who have had really high achievement in college. But when they get there, the first time their experiment fails, they have a hard time bouncing back. Their industry is one in which there is much more failure than success. The type of person who can succeed in an innovative industry is someone who can go back to the drawing board countless times—& who understands that THAT is the essence of science or engineering or math—or art or music—or sales!

Sticking with something despite difficulty is the essence of resilience. So what instead can we say to encourage more noodling, more time with a problem? You can try:

Oooo, these are interesting/challenging/tricky!
I’m not sure either. Let’s look some more.
Can we find any patterns?
What can you see when you look closely?
What do you see when you zoom out & look from far away?
What’s most frustrating for you?
What questions could you ask Alice & your classmates tomorrow that might help?
I’m still not sure. I guess we’ll just come back to it again next time!


Our Redwoods have individual desks this year! So far, the students have really been excited to have a personal space to organize & keep their materials. They’ve expressed lots of ideas revolving around the desk concept:

“Can we have a time very week that we clean out & organize our things?”
“I’m going to do a ‘Mary Poppins’!” (That means pulling things out of the desk as though from Mary Poppin’s carpet bag—look, more stuff!)
“Why don’t we put them in rows?”
“I like that if there’s a mess, it’s just my mess.”
“I think it’s better if the desks don’t touch each other, or else someone else’s papers might get on my desk.”
“Will we get to change where we sit?” (Yes.)

In these two pictures, the kids show off their personal “desk pets,” a little token of comfort that brings them joy & lives inside their desks.
We have already used the desk in several configurations this week: groups of four, side-by-side pairs, individually in front-facing rows, & in a U-formation.

We have also used our lab area & our conference area. Students are putting their stamp of personality all over the classroom by creating their own desk plates & museum signs, as well as co-creating our classroom signage for the “theatre,” “library,” “lab,” & “conference” spaces. It’s so colorful!

With Gratitude,

Alice Shippee, Redwoods Classroom Lead Teacher
Lena Garcia, Teacher Mentor, Head of School
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
Google Calendar: Official Events
Shutterfly: For Photos Only
Facebook Group: Private Forum for Parent Chatter
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube
TKG Info

Tending the Garden

Teacher Office Hours – Thr 22 Sep: Open door opportunity to meet with Alice and ask questions, be proactive and say hello! There is child care.

Field Trip #1/Environmental Stewardship – Fri 23 Sep, 9:30am-2pm: We’ll visit Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes with Joel Robinson from Naturalist For You. The cost is *$20 per child* DUE tomorrow. PAY NOW, click here. Meet at Del Cerro Park, Park Place, Rancho Palos Verdes. Parking is limited, so *carpooling is recommended*. Parking is also available on the south side of Crenshaw. Bring:

  1. Water
  2. Enough snacks to last for you & your sprouts
  3. Weather protection

Please reference Jen Ceci’s email for complete details!

F.A.C.E Time Session #1: Begins Friday Sep 30th!

TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents support relevant learning & creativity
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY: cognitive, physical and social/emotional health is valued – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE: we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice positive learning experiences
  • CAPACITY BUILDING: nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING: small groups, low ratios, mixed ages
Parent Teacher Info

Parent Teacher Toolbox

PTs This Week (PT hours represent tuition earned!)

  • MON: Beadle, LaCharite
  • TUE: LaCour, Assadi, Kang
  • THR: L.Lee, Ceci, Watanabe, Rossfeld
  • FRI: Ceci, L.Lee
  • SAT: Watanabe, J.Lee, Minor, Schwartz

PT Retreat, Sat 24 Sep 9am-1pm @ TKG: All PTs should attend. There will be tools, dialogue, fun and games! Bring something to share (food, drink, inspiration…) If you have any questions, contact: Lena.

ECHO Parenting 6-Week Series, Wed 28 Sep @ TKG: We offer a few spots to TKG families as part of Renee Dokmanovich’s PT hours. Please inquire (with Trish or Renee) about attending – it is a great resource for parents and PTs!

PT RESOURCE: How to be good at stress
What does it mean to be “good” at stress? Does it mean you don’t get stressed out? That you stay calm under pressure and bounce back from adversity? Actually, no. Firstly, that trying to avoid it is fundamentally counterproductive. Secondly, that thinking that we can emerge from stressful circumstances unscathed and unchanged is precisely the wrong way of thinking about things. READ MORE @TED.com
Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Office Hours, Wed 21 Sep from 1 to 3pm @TKG: You are invited to come ask questions, check in, and dream up ideas with the admin team.

Handyman Day, Sat 24 Sep from 9 to 12pm: If you are on our handyman list or you need to make up work hours, please come join the fun! Contact Trish.

TKG Night Out, Thr 29 Sep: Raise tuition credit for yourself and raise funds for TKG by attending our YOGURTLAND % Night! Look for more details on the Green Monster.

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Resource Of The Week – Whole Child + Family

An Introduction to Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Therapy

We used to think our brain was what it was — unchangeable, unalterable…that we were stuck with what nature gave us. In actuality, and one of our TKG values, is that our brains are malleable. We can alter neurochemistry to change mindsets. We nuture the notion that students are the architects of their brain development.
*   *   *

It’s startling to think about how we’ve got a spaceship billions of miles away rendezvousing with Pluto, yet here on Earth there are major aspects of our own anatomy that we’re almost completely ignorant about. We’ve climbed Everest, sent men to the moon, and invented the Internet — but we still don’t know how our brains work. The positive outlook is that many health, science, and research specialists believe we’re on the precipice of some major neuroscientific breakthroughs. READ MORE @BigThink

Art Protects Mental Healthiness

TKG LISTEN: We Can Vastly Improve Education by Teaching This One Skill

This resource appeared in a recent newsletter to help parents continue their connection to the constructivist mode of learning.

‘A Holy Curiosity’: We Can Vastly Improve Education By Teaching This One Skill

If questions are essential for learning and discovery, why aren’t more schools deliberately teaching the skill of question formulation? At TKG, questions are actively encouraged – and our aim is to create an environment were the number of questions that children ask, increases as their brains become more developed and ready to learn.
*   *   *
Dan Rothstein/Cognoscenti
The words “Genius” and “Einstein” are forever linked. One of the keys to Einstein’s genius was his determination to never stop questioning, to “never lose a holy curiosity.”

The case for the importance of questions has just been taken up anew by author Warren Berger. In his book, “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas,” Berger highlights the catalytic power of questions across many fields. They lead directly to innovations in technology, medicine, industry and more. The evidence is so compelling that it leads to… well, a question:

If questions are essential for learning and discovery, why aren’t more schools deliberately teaching the skill of question formulation? READ MORE @Cognoscenti.

“From Under Our Big Tree” Newsletter #18: Community-Wide

Weekly Newsletter #18 – Community-Wide
All Together - Community
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” 
-Theodore Roosevelt
Please invite your friends and family to our Enrollment Open House and Maker Fair – this Saturday beginning at 9am. Registration is encouraged (share this link) and if you have a maker project you’d like to exhibit (a homemade computer? a toy hack? a better barbecue?…for a hands on opportunity in our “fair”), please contact Trish for more information.

We started the school year out on our first field trip, falling in love with ocean creatures, by getting to experience the Lunada Bay Tide Pools in Palos Verdes.

There, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of marine animals, such as the sea hag (which is a VERY large, strangely adorable ocean slug), urchin, abalone shells, limpets, and perch. Building upon this authentic connection to the Pacific Ocean, this week we ventured out to our third field trip at Bolsa Chica State Park.On this field trip, we got to sea our ocean through the lens of environmental stewardship.

We began the field trip by gathering around the front steps of the building where the Marine Debris & Recycling program is held. Elizabeth kindly welcomed us in with a warm smile, and a morning salutation.

We were immersed in the world of Trash Town! Students were invited to “pollute” this backwards town where everyone dumps oil, throws trash on the ground and never scoop up doggy poop. We saw the effects of pollution across the southern california terrain from the mountains to the oceans and learned that man-made materials like Styrofoam – can last forever! Want to know about Redondo Beach’s recycling program? Click here!

After the informative gathering, we received gloves and trash bags to begin our mission of cleaning Bolsa Chica State Beach. With all the excitement and buzz that was abound, you could assume that we were headed off to an amusement park or a birthday party. However, all of the fervor and enthusiasm simply came from being able to get out on the beach and pick up trash. We found wrappers, styrofoam, straws, bottle caps, and so much more. Every time we found trash and placed it in our bags, it seemed like we were fueled to clean more and more. From the youngest to the oldest students (parents included), we were all focused on the same goals to help clean, protect and beautify this majestic beach.

After working together and scouring our beach area, we proudly took pictures of all the trash bags we filled. Children then happily ran through the sand, some went directly towards the cool ocean water and dipped their feet, others sat on towels and grabbed a quick bite to eat. However all of us enjoyed the privilege of having a clean beach thanks to our actions as responsible environmental stewards. By spending the day reflecting, learning, cleaning — and playing — we were able to truly connect to the power and responsibility we have to care for our earth.

Thank you Jen Ceci, for coordinating another wonderful day of learning and connection. We hope to see you at Book Club on Thursday 11 Feb at 6:30pm. We’re reading “Creative Schools” by Sir Ken Robinson (a TKG favorite!). Buy it through our Amazon Smile link!

Ever so grateful for our Earth,
The TKG Team

Lena Garcia, School Builder, 9-11 Teacher, Teacher Mentor and Collaborator
Michelle Goldbach-Johnson, 5-7 Lead Teacher, Founding Teacher
Yvette Fenton, 7 to 9 Lead Teacher
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
Google Calendar: Official Events
Shutterfly: Photos only
Facebook Group: Private forum for parent chatter
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube
TKG Info

Tending the Garden

  • First Friday Dance Party – Feb 5 @ Drop Off – Join the fun! Prolong the goodbye! Move some of the good stuff. Contact your teacher with any questions.
  • Maker School Project – TKG is going to LACOE Maker Day! If you are interested in being a co-Presenter (Design and lead hands-on sessions), Exhibitor (Teachers and students will informally present their classroom maker experiences in an exhibit hall) or collaborator – please contact Trish right away!
  • Parent Social – Insane Inflatable! Mar 5 – Don’t get left out! Tickets going fast. Please join us for this awesome adventure and we’d love your feedback. Contact Michele Wilkoff (click to email) for more details.
TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents support relevant learning & creativity
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY: cognitive, physical and social/emotional health is valued – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE: we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice positive learning experiences
  • CAPACITY BUILDING: nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING: small groups, low ratios, mixed ages
Parent Teacher Info

Parent Teacher Toolbox

PTs This Week

MONDAY – Saundi, Michele, James (we could use help in the afternoon – if available contact Trish)
THURSDAY – Lori, Alice
FRIDAY – Sarah, Shannon
SATURDAY – Mike, John, Andy

Self-Care Opportunity – Monday 8 Feb All Day: Our regular nail day has been moved to next Monday! Contact Jen Ceci orEllen Cater with any questions (click link to email).

TKG Book Club – Thurs 11 Feb, 6:30pm (there will be childcare): join us for a fun discussion about “Creative Schools” by Sir Ken Robinson. He’s a TKG favorite and one of the inspirations for our school! Order the book via our Amazon Smile link and help us earn $.

PT RESOURCE: Less Reading, More Range
Try to broaden your ideas of what our students are capable of—besides math and reading—this year. And just for fun…look at this list checklist from a 1979 child-rearing series: Can your child “draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?” Of course. Can she count “eight to ten pennies correctly?” Heck, yeah, I say for parents of kindergarteners everywhere. “Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?” Isn’t that what preschool is for? “Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?” What the what?! (click to read more)
Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Admin Office Hours, this Thursday from 9 to 11am – All are welcome!

High School Committee, 9:30am Friday – join this group of parents compiling research, forming relationships with local schools and investigating high school readiness.

School Holiday, Feb 12 (and Feb 15) – we have an official holiday coming up. Please note, no school!

Visit Shutterfly and check out more of your class’ photos! You may need to be added, so just request permission and we will take care of it asap.

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Resource Of The Week – Empowerment

Is Adult Life “Nothing But High School”?
Of course not…it is more than that. And what a gift that our students are getting to know themselves, their voice and their capacities now – at this time in their lives – rather than later. Now: when their brains are blossoming, before a system labels them them ‘smart’ or ‘jock,’ and in a community that champions hard work and the development of capacities like conscientiousness and cooperation:
*   *   *
By Annie Murphy Paul/The Brilliant Blog
“When you get to be our age, you all of a sudden realize that you are being ruled by people you went to high school with,” noted the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. “You all of a sudden catch on that life is nothing but high school.”

I thought of Vonnegut’s observation this week when I read a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research—titled, simply, “Popularity.” Individuals’ social status in high school has a “sizable effect” on their earnings as adults, reports lead author Gabriella Conti of the University of Chicago: “We estimate that moving from the 20th to 80th percentile of the high-school popularity distribution yields a 10% wage premium nearly 40 years later.”

Conti’s study is part of a wave of research looking at how our social experiences in school connect to our lives after graduation. READ MORE…

Empowerment - Knowing Yourself Now


“From Under Our Big Tree” Newsletter #13: The Acorns (5 to 7 Class)

Weekly Newsletter #13 – 5 to 7 Class
All Together - 5 to 7 Class
“Play flows out of friendship and friendship flows out of play.  The relationship works both ways and equally well, but the children are not convinced that this is so, a suspicion that grows stronger as they grow older.”
Vivian Gussin Paley

All You Need is Love

I’ve been carefully watching our children at play and reflecting on what I think they are learning or working toward. Part of that reflection is trying to understand how I can support them to expand their thinking and deepen their exploration.  In order to gain practice in stretching their thinking, we began our “intentional gatherings” during Personal Project Time.  Here is a glimpse of how a provocation (my idea/scaffold) is designed to spark their interests during Project Time:
  • Tuesday: finish painting the barn – for our play!
  • Wednesday: potion experiment plan where students measured and documented their plans in a new log book
  • Thursday: hermit crab floor time where students can see the hermit crabs we are pet sitting up close and have some “play” time with them
  • Friday: challenge the book making group to add words or details to their pages…
Coming up next week, we will add a scooter board plan where students can measure how far they go, and document important information like how they work, ways to create force and what makes them stop.
But still, there is something missing…This is a something big they are all working on and it is something that WE are all working on (and I say we here because it is not just the students or the adults, but society as a whole):

Young people may call it FRIENDSHIP, adults may say INCLUSION or SOCIAL JUSTICE.  Now this is nothing new to the 5-7 class, or children in general as many teachers and child experts will tell you that being left out or leaving someone out is natural and part of navigating social life, and we can support them along the way.  Yes and yes.  I’ve been reading books, playing co-operative team building games, supporting disagreements, and encouraging ways to find the yes.

However I’m feeling empowered to do something more this year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been deeply reflecting on my personal values, our school values, and what is alive in the world today (refugees, racism, bullying, exclusion, fear, etc.) and I feel that it has to stop and it begins with our children.  We can lovingly support our young people in finding ways to include and be their kind, vibrant, loving selves with all people so they may feel empowered to create a socially just world as they move beyond the classroom walls.

Knowing that this is nothing new, and there are many resources on ways to support an inclusive classroom I chose to reread Vivian Gussin Paley’s You Can’t Say You Can’t Play this weekend and it’s resonating with me even more this time around. I am encouraged to go deeper in how I support.  Year after year Paley noticed the same social patterns and was compelled to find another way, just like me.

“We vote about nearly everything in our democratic classrooms, but we permit the children to empower bosses and reject classmates.” (p.22) and later “Thinking about unkindness always reminds me of the time-out chair.  It made the children sad and lonely to be removed from the group, which in turn made me feel inadequate and mean and – I became convinced- made everyone feel tentative and unsafe.  The emotions show up in a variety of unwholesome ways depending on whether one is a teacher or child.  We are all cut from the same cloth.  The time-out chair was my means of punishment.  “You can’t play” is the child’s way.  If it is wrong for me to exclude, then it is equally wrong for the children.  Another classroom trap has been eliminated.” (p. 95)

In TKG style, Paley does not implement this rule herself, she begins with discussions in her class as well as with the older grades and teachers.  She poses this question:
“Is it fair for children in school to keep another child out of play?  After all, this classroom belongs to all of us.  It is not a private place like our homes.” (p.16) and “Is it (the rule) fair? Will it work?” (chapter 2)

I am inspired to bring these questions to our class beginning this week and build on the student created  Bill of Rights of safety, being loved, having friends, and playing.   I look forward to this journey and supporting our people along the way.

Please join me in this research project on discovering how can we honor individual relationships while simultaneously upholding our value of inclusion? How do we, as adults, not use our power to force children to “include” but rather recognize that when there is a pattern of exclusion, children need our help?  I have some ideas:

  • connections over the break
  • inviting someone who hasn’t been over for a play date
  • a carpool ride
  • a face time call
  • supporting feelings and emotions
  • writing books and playing out scenariosI
I look forward to hearing your observations, wonderings, ideas, thoughts as we explore how we can support together.
In the end Paley is convinced her rule will help, “It will happen.  It is happening. Because the children are learning that it is far easier to open the doors than to keep people out.” (p.118)

I am convinced too.  We have the power to make the world a better place, a place where race, class, gender, age, and religious believes do not determine how you are treated…and it begins with “everyone can join.”


Michelle Goldbach-Johnson, Lead Teacher 5 to 7 Classroom/Founding Teacher
Dawn Smith, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Lena Garcia, School Builder/5-7 Class Mentor and Collaborator
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
Google Calendar: Official Events
Shutterfly: For Photos Only
Facebook Group: Private Forum for Parent Chatter
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube

TKG Info

Tending the Garden

Holiday Celebration – Fri Dec 18th 9-11 am: Join us for our latest learning presentations and then share community time at a Holiday Brunch (did you get the Sign Up Genius)! Check with James (room parent) for more information.

Parent Support Group – Wed 9:30am: Facilitated by Renee @ her studio. Take some time to reflect and restore as part of our unique school resources.

Holiday Break Meet Ups – Please post any holiday fun invites on our Private Facebook Page (contact Trish for access) and keep our TKG connections crackling!

TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents support relevant learning & creativity
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY: cognitive, physical and social/emotional health is valued – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE: we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice positive learning experiences
  • CAPACITY BUILDING: nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING: small groups, low ratios, mixed ages
Parent Teacher Info

Parent Teacher Toolbox

PTs This Week
FRIDAY – Jennifer Ceci

How to Talk to Children About LAUSD Developments: You may find some helpful tips from Ruth Beaglehole. Watch this video.

Mindful Moment – Mon 4 Jan (time tbc): Facilitated by Lori, please enjoy this time to ground yourself and breathe deeply.

NEW PARK LOCATION (when we return on Jan 4th): Our new location (until further notice) will be Ernie Howlett Park, a 35 acre park boasting: handball courts, big athletic fields, basketball court, volleyball court 3/4-mile running track and a bike path! The address is: 25851 Hawthorne Boulevard between Palos Verdes Drive North and Rolling Hills Road.

PT RESOURCE: Being a PT Helps You Practice Mindfulness
So, how can you learn to have “an awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” as mindfulness pioneerJon Kabat-Zinn explains? Should you download an app? Take a class? Perhaps. Another option: spend time at TKG. Read more @HuffingtonPost

Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Admin Office Hours, Thrs 9:00am @ TKG: We are hosting a resource workshop on Relationship Building – come join for the first 30 minutes! After that, we’ll be giving a tour of our school to prospective families!

End of Year Appeal (Tax Donations): Please count us in for your tax deductions. Appeal forms are located on the Green Monster.
$20 covers one field day MEAPS kit.
$50 will help us add ride-ons to our outdoor classroom
$200 guarantees a co-teacher for one day

December Holiday (No School): Dec 21 – Jan 1

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best
Resource Of The Week – Whole Child


Rigor and Kindergarten. At TKG, we know that those two words go together when children (or an individual child) are asking for it. We will encourage our students to engage academic rigor, as their developmental capacity (ZPD) expands. Want to see how it works? Come visit the 9 to 11 Class sometime (contact Trish to make an appointment)!

*   *   *
by KATHLEEN COSTANZA/Fred Rogers Institute
It seems every week, there’s another story about the benefits of early education or how investing in high-quality early childhood programs pays off. And President Obama’s recent 2016 budget proposal included a 10-year, $75 billion universal preschool request.

But as a recent story in Education Week explained, there’s no real consensus on what a regular day in a kindergarten classroom should look like. Teachers face increasing pressure to focus on academic content in the early elementary grades, often at the expense of art, music, and time for free play. At the same time, researchers continue to find the brains of children of this age are wired to learn through the very types of activities being pushed further to the side.

Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told Education Week that in the last 15 years, there’s been a revolution in how we understand young children’s minds. Read More @MrRogers Center

The Role of Rigor in Kindergarten

TKG KNOW: Sundance Film, MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED will screen at TKG on OCT 20th

On October 20th at 7pm, TKG will screen MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED. You will never look at education the same. Come watch and discuss with us! Following the screening, a post-screening discussion featuring voices from corporate america and educators. Get your tickets now:

“From the Beach” Summer Newsletter #3 – 9 to 11 Class

All Together - 9 to 11 Class
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”
― Rumi
 Hello Families!

We are looking forward to seeing you all very soon! Our community will once again be all together again- learning, growing, knowing.

I can’t wait to get this journey started with our 9 to 11 year old students! I have been thinking so much about who they are individually and who they are as a group. Can you even imagine the incredible-ness that is in store for us?! I can’t wait to hitch my wagon to these stars. Being with children with such creativity, heart and empowerment always expands who I am as a human. ¡Ándale!  Let’s do this!

What can you expect as this year begins?

This evening is for all parents (extended family and caregivers who are involved in supporting your student at TKG are welcome) in our adult community, both new and continuing, to come and kick off the school year. It is a night for us to connect, gather information about the school year to come and (re)establish your connection with your child’s teacher. We are stronger and more connected when the whole family is involved. This is a parent-participation event(required). 

BRING: a warm handshake or hug, a collaborative spirit and your unique self

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (parents participate – it is a short day)
It is our TKG tradition to begin each year with whole community activities that inspire connection.  The intention is to get lots of oxytocin, the pro-social neuropeptide (hormone/neurotransmitter),flowing. This boost our togetherness right from the beginning!

We will meet together as a whole group in the courtyard, have a short group meeting, then head down to fellowship hall for our opening ceremony and pillowfight. Following that, children and families will tour classrooms and establish their relationship (we will start the work of dreaming up our space!) to all the learning spaces. There will be time for nourishing our bodies with food during our time together.

BRING: regular size pillows (with covers but without zippers or embellishments) for you and your child, snack for yourself and your child/ren

1ST FULL DAY OF SCHOOL (parents do not participate)
Courtyard will be open starting at 8:45 for student and parent connection. At 9:00, when you hear the chimes, parents and children will give good-bye hugs or high-fives and students will take their backpacks with them to their designated area. Teachers and co-teachers will take the students to their rooms and begin the first official day of school, with both Open Flow and Deep Learning parts of the day. We will talk more about what the specifics are of these times at Parent Orientation but for now:

Open Flow Time
Focused learning in Math, Reading, Writing, Science…
Plentiful outside movement time and snack

Deep Learning
Personal Project time-  a.k.a. Deep Learning. This is open exploration time in which students choose their own paths of engagement. Our outside and inside spaces are available for students to engage in.
Community Project Time- focused, project based experiences in science, social studies and art

At 3:00 teachers will walk students out to the courtyard to say good-bye…and for students to reconnect with you. The play yard is closed to support your transition.

If your child is needing more support in the morning with separating in these first few days, you are welcome to stay for a bit and then transition out when it feels right. Also, if your child is needing an earlier pick-up due to being tired with the long day (all of us will be transitioning to our school day schedule after a few months of summer!), we will call to see if it’s possible for you to pick-up. If you can’t pick up, we will offer soothing alternatives and spaces for your child.

BRING: A backpack filled with these goodies…

  • a snack (packed separately from the lunch)
  • a lunch with fresh options – avoid refined sugar and heavily processed foods
  • water bottle
  • sunscreen (if not using TKG brand)

Please remember to keep our environment commercial free: no merchandise or clothing with characters, brands or sports teams.

2ND FULL DAY OF SCHOOL & DANCE PARTY (parents welcome to participate from drop-off to 9am)
Courtyard will be open starting at 8:45 for our 1st dance party. Come groove with us to get the oxytocin flowing with some free-style dancing. You can also stay from 9:00-9:15 for our organized dance experience! At 9:15, you’ll hear the chimes, all will give last squeezes and students will make their way to their designated area. Teachers and co-teachers will lead the students to their indoor spaces for a day full of connection and settling.  Pick-up will be in the courtyard at 3:00.


Lena Garcia, School Builder/9 to 11 Classroom Lead Teacher
Trish Valdez, School Business
Monica Evangelist, Board President
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube
TKG Info

Tending the Garden

Green Folders – Green folders are way to continue the learning at home.  We offer information, tools and worksheets to help students practice discreet skills.  Students will be taking them home, bringing them back to class and are welcome to add their own resources.  We hope you enjoy the offerings and remember, the work is not graded or reviewed for assessment.  Folders will be made available at Orientation night, at cost.

Weekly Newsletters – You’ll start receiving our weekly newsletter soon!  Please make time to be present when you read about learning experiences in our class, support or materials we may need and business items. You can access previous and other class newsletters, here.

Community Resources – Still a work in progress but look here for supplies list, TKG Calendar, etc.

TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents support relevant learning & creativity
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY: cognitive, physical and social/emotional health is valued – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE: we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice positive learning experiences
  • CAPACITY BUILDING: nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING: small groups, low ratios, mixed ages
Parent Teacher Info

Parent Teacher Toolbox

PT Schedules – Begin Sept 28th
You should have your classroom schedule by now – please contract Trish if you have not received your schedule or need more information.

PT Retreat 2015 – September 26th (for all planning to work in the classroom or park day)
9:00am to 1:00pm.  You must attend, the entire day, in order to start your PT schedule.  Contact Lena with questions.

Health & Safety – Background Checks/TB
Please begin the process for your background check if needed (new PTs only). You’ll need to take this application with you.   Google “live scan + your city/location” to locate where to go. Even if you have done it for another organization, TKG needs their own report. Also, please update your TB. Contact Trish with questions.

PT RESOURCE: Helping Students Transition Back To School
Are there blow-outs or big feelings happening? Don’t worry, it’s not unusual for kids to need a little extra help adjusting to the start of school. Here are some things to remember:
1. Reach out and make a special effort to connect playfully.
2. Facilitate bonding with the other kids.
3. Remind students to visit their family pictures.
4. Invite students to find calm at the peace table.
5. Encourage laughter. It will help release anxiety in a safe way (but never by tickling because it activates the brain differently and could possibly induce stress).

Read the Aha!Parenting tool that inspired this resource.

Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

OFFICIAL CALENDAR Change – the following dates are now early pick up days: Sep 30 (was Oct 1), Dec 2 (was the 4th), Jan 13 (from the 15th).

Board 2015-2016 – The process for selecting new board members to open positions will begin in September. Being on the Board means that you are willing to dedicate time and resources toward growing enrollment, raising money and making governance decisions. If you are interested in learning more, contact Monica.

September Invoices – Please check your email for September invoices at the beginning of next week.

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Resource Of The Week – Constructivism

A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.

There is an increasingly stark contrast between the regimented and demanding environment of the traditional classroom and the highly stimulating digital world. Technology is part of our world and it is up to us to help our children understand it and use it well. The vivid and exciting video world provides instant gratification making traditional school seem even more dull. This is one of the many reasons why our classrooms are hands-on: we believe an interactive classroom powered by an emerging curriculum develops students who are ready to enter the real world with relevant skills like collaboration, perseverance and adaptability.
*   *   *

ATTENTION deficit hyperactivity disorder is now the most prevalent psychiatric illness of young people in America, affecting 11 percent of them at some point between the ages of 4 and 17. The rates of both diagnosis and treatment have increased so much in the past decade that you may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease.

And for a good reason. Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Read the article @TheNewYorkTimes

Constructivism - Classrooms for the Real World

TKG LISTEN: What is Critical Thinking anyway? (Learning Theory Resource)

creative thinkingBosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That?

We talk about critical thinking and how hands-on, project-based and relevance are the keys to learning well.  We have seen the benefits and processes, carefully observing all students, especially those who have been at TKG for four years.  We see it happening right before our eyes, yet one of the challenges in describing this sort of learning is in  ‘quantifying’ the learning in a way that translates for the lens of the ‘real world.’  Are the skills we foster applicable ‘real world’? Of course but even the ‘real world’ is trying to figure it out:

Critical thinking is a critical skill for young workers these days.

What that means, though—and how to measure it—is less clear. Employers complain that colleges are not producing graduates who can solve problems and connect the dots on complex issues, but bosses stumble when pressed to describe exactly what skills make critical thinkers. That leaves job seekers wondering what employers really want and, once on the job, unsure of whether they’re supposed to follow the rules or break them.

Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009, according to an analysis by career-search site Indeed.com. The site, which combs job ads from several sources, found last week that more than 21,000 health-care and 6,700 management postings contained some reference to the skill. READ MORE…

This was featured in our newsletter as Resource Of The Week – Constructivism, week #18.

TKG KNOW: Big Hug to Moms of the World!

Some of our students wanted to say a few words about moms:

Happy Day to all our mothers, parents and teachers who nurture from our 7 to 11 year old students!  See more TKG videos and favorites at our YouTube Channel.

WEEK 17 NEWSLETTER “From Under Our Big Tree” (Focus on our growing community)

All Together - 5 to 7 Class
“We don’t have to sit at a desk.
No homework. I feel good at school.
I always rush my mom to get out of the
house to come to school.”
-Bennett Valdez
Thank you for coming to our Monthly Parent Meeting, it is always good to build community with you.  We enjoyed sharing the classroom and important details about a day at TKG. Your feedback was very helpful in honing our presentation and highlights for our upcoming Information Nights. You can share this link, to encourage your friends and family to register for the Info Night – this Thursday at 7pm.  If you have any questions on anything we covered, please come to Office Hours this Friday (1-3pm) or make an appointment that is more convenient.  Thank you for staying to help with Spring Cleaning as well, it feels so wonderful to be working in a “village.”

As a re-cap of the general board meeting on Saturday: our shared values bond us together creating a foundation on which we can grow:

The Knowing Garden offers a collaborative and interactive approach to education. Our teacher and parent community empowers individuals to love learning, cultivate relationships, embrace nature and engage with the world as innovators and catalysts.

Teachers help students construct knowledge through projects, experience and labs.

A TKG education develops multiple intelligences with attention to the social- emotional wellness of each student in partnership with each family.

Each member of a team is accountable for learning, helping teammates learn and processing together thus, creating an atmosphere of achievement.

We teach in the way that children learn best – through connection and positive experiences.

We encourage innovation, empowerment, environmental stewardship and social justice to serve our community and the communities that await our students.

Our long term objectives keep us connected and motivated:
STUDENTS – Provide a high quality education that fosters love of learning, nurtures relationships and develops critical thinking
FACULTY – Recruit, develop and support a reflective, dedicated faculty & staff
COMMUNITY – Nurture a mindful community united by empowerment and shared values
CAMPUS – Provide a safe learning environment that meets our educational needs and financial requirements
GROWTH – Enroll to full capacity to enrich the experience for our students and our entire community

These long-term objectives are accomplished, little-by-little, each school year. Of utmost importance is our aim to provide a high quality education that fosters love of learning, nurtures relationships and develops critical thinking. 

Without a doubt, is doesn’t work without you:

At TKG, we value parents and welcome participation in their child’s education. With this in mind, our objective is to nurture a mindful community united by empowerment and shared values.

Thank you to our families who support our classrooms and our family community with time, effort and love. We ar truly honored to be a part of your team. And as our recruitment season begins, it is with a full, excited heart that I look forward to even more families and children getting to experience this special place we call The Knowing Garden.

Lena & Michelle

Lena Garcia, School Builder/7 to 9 Classroom
Michelle Goldbach-Johnson, Founding Teacher/5 to 7 Classroom
Yvette Fenton, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Elle Schwarz, Co-Teacher, 7 to 9 Classroom
Dawn Smith, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Saundi Williams5 to 7 Room Parent
Erin Levin, 7 to 9 Room Parent
Shutterfly Info Site: photos, contact information, announcements
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube
TKG Info

Tending the Garden

***Parent Enrollment Information Night – Thurs Jan 29 7pm
Share this link with your friends.  Share this FACEBOOK eventwith your friends.  Post a flyer at your favorite spots (available on the Green Monster).  All of our combined efforts will help us enroll to capacity this year.  If you have time to help set up on Thursday, please contact Michelle.

***’Community Snack
ME and family are bringing Field Day snack this week!  Thank You.

***Classroom Tours
We will have guests this Tuesday and Wednesday – please say Hello!  If you have any time to help with some of our Spring Cleaning items, please contact your teacher.

TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents provide the trellis on which students will build on their existing knowledge
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY, cognitive, physical and social/emotional capacities are connected – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE,we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice new learning
  • CAPACITY BUILDING, nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING, small groups, low ratios, mixed ages and generations
Parent Teacher Info

Parent/Teacher Toolbox

PT Schedule for the week

  • MONDAY Erin, Jennifer (PM), Saundi(AM), Trish
  • TUESDAY Monica (D) (Schwartz (AM set up), Erin (PM Clean up), Alice (AM breezeway))
  • WEDNESDAY – Ellen (U), Lori (D) (Schwartz (AM set up), Erin (PM Clean up)) We need a volunteer for AM breezeway!
  • THURSDAY – Renee (U), Saundi (U) (Alice (AM set up), Erin (AM breezeway), Shannon (PM Clean up))
  • FRIDAY- Gina (U), Shannon (U) (Alice (Project), Lori (PM Clean up), Saundi (AM breezeway)) We need a volunteer for AM set up!

PRINT the most current PT Calendar, here!   Contact Trish with any changes asap.  If a sub (for a full day) is not secured, TKG will arrange for one of the co-teachers to cover and bill the family for $150 for the day.


This image represents the what and the how:
1. Protect the Flow of Learning
2. Participate in Community Experiences
3. Collaborate to Meet Needs
Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Thank you Families!  Contact Trish or Monica with any questions or to schedule meeting time.  The most updated calendar is online via our website. PRINT the latest Official Calendar, here. 

for Parents
Thursday January 29th, 7pm @ TKG

Please invite your friends to join us for our first (of two) Info Night.  Registration is available via our website: knowingGarden.org or forward this link.
In case it has been a couple of years since you went to an Info night, come see it for yourself!

Resource Of The Week – Whole Child + Family


By Stacey Loscalzo/Portland Family

Why to we have Field Day?

  1. Outdoor play is a multi-sensory activity.
  2. Playing outside brings together informal play and formal learning.
  3. Playing outdoors stimulates creativity.
  4. Playing outdoors is open-ended. There is no instruction manual for outdoor play. Children make the rules and in doing so use their imagination, creativity, intelligence and negotiation skills in a unique way.
  5. Playing in nature reduces anxiety.
  6. Outdoor play increases attention span.
  7. Outdoor play is imaginative.
  8. Being in nature develops respect for other living things.
  9. Outdoor play promotes problem solving. As children navigate a world in which they make the rules, they must learn to understand what works and what doesn’t, what lines of thinking bring success and failure, how to know when to keep trying and when to stop.
  10. Playing outside promotes leadership skills.
  11. Outdoor play widens vocabulary.
  12. Playing outside improves listening skills.
  13. Being in nature improves communication skills.
  14. Outdoor play encourages cooperative play.
  15. Time in nature helps children to notice patterns.
  16. Playing outdoors helps children to notice similarities and differences.
  17. Time spent outdoors improves children’s immune systems.
  18. Outdoor play increases children’s physical activity level.
  19. Time spent outdoors increases persistence.
  20. Outdoor play is fun.
Whole Family - Playing Outdoors Makes Kids Smarter

TKG LISTEN: Art is Vital to enabling voice and creativity

Art Is Vital

The best education enables artistic voice and creative habits of mind.
JAMES HAMBLIN/The Atlantic     JUN 28 2014

At TKG, we value art in the classroom – doing, observing, making, feeling…in order to develop multiple intelligences, we offer opportunities for physical, cognitive, and emotional experiences connected to art throughout the day.  Come visit and see it in action!  This resource is online at TheAtlantic.com

It has been three years since the spectacular video of Lil Buck dancing to Yo-Yo Ma brought jookin—which draws from hip-hop, ballet, jazz, and modern dance—into mainstream consciousness. Ma would later call Buck a genius; and, he is. According to the theory of multiple intelligences, which posits nine distinct dimensions, Buck is clearly off the charts in intelligences like spatial, musical/rhythmic, and bodily/kinesthetic.

The theory was developed in 1983 by Howard Gardner, who is now the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard. It defines intelligence expansively, as the ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture; a set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life. It’s a broader definition than many curricula address, and some of the multiple intelligences regularly go unstimulated and underdeveloped in traditional schools.

Read the article at The Atlantic.

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