Thursday, January 28, 2016

Turtle Camp at BCS

As part of BCS' Environmental Science curriculum, 4th and 5th graders hosted a "Turtle Camp" for younger students. During this unique cross-grade level learning opportunity, kindergartners visited student-run stations in different classrooms and outside to learn about Leatherback sea turtles, our Watershed, plastics in the ocean, and keeping the ocean clean.  Working across grade levels further strengthened students' sense of community and the experience was enjoyed by all!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

PBLs and FLGs Presented By BCS 5th Grader Kelly Yang

Our very own 5th grader, Kelly Yang, wrote and presented this amazing speech at the K-5 Parent Information Night earlier this week.  Kelly explains FLGs and PBLs in such a clear and understandable way that we felt we had to share!

Hi, I’m Kelly Yang, and I am in 5th grade. I have been at Bullis Charter School (BCS) since Kindergarten and I have enjoyed my experience here.This school has helped me to learn a lot, develop important skills and become a more well-rounded person. My favorite part of classwork is when we get to participate in things called PBLs, which stand for “Project Based Learning”.

Each year, we get to do several PBLs which help us to learn and remember better. For example, last year, I designed a habitat for a lemming and a vole. We used design thinking and were able to use the laser cutter and materials from the maker space to create our animal habitats. 


PBLs are very special because they cross over learning into several different subjects. For example, in 4th grade we had a Mission PBL. Students decided whether to design a Presidio, a Pueblo or a Mission . We used Lego Digital Design, a cool computer program to create the initial design. We used math skills that we were learning to figure out how large or small our buildings should be, and also used art techniques to figure out colors and the final design. However, the entire project was part of our Mission Unit in Social Studies.

PBLs are usually done in groups with other students so you need to have good teamwork and patience. I really enjoy PBLs because they are social, and I enjoy sharing ideas and collaborating with others. PBLs help me to think creatively and have an easier time remembering information.

Another cool thing that we get to have at BCS are things called FLGs or “Focused Learning Goals”. Students and teachers work together to create unique goals for each student. 

I think FLGs are important because we are not just going through the year, hoping for the best. We are actually striving for concrete and measurable accomplishments. We have a defined FLG for every subject including math, writing, reading, content and personal goals. 

This year, my FLGs include practicing to become a faster sprinter (my  content goal), writing a chapter book (my personal goal), or making less than 10% careless errors in math (my math goal). Every month, my parents, teachers and I look over my FLGs to help me make sure I am on track with my goals. This year, we are using an application called Fresh Grade to help track our goals. We use ipods to take videos or pictures and post it on Fresh Grade. We are also able to add comments to keep track of our progress. 

Some years, I have achieved all my FLGs and other years, I have not. But that’s OK! Part of the experience here is to help me understand how to achieve goals and avoid mistakes, and learn when things don’t go according to plan.

I think BCS is a great, the learning here excites me. Since my first day here, I have loved coming to this school every single day. Thank you!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Kindergarten Design Thinking Challenge: Help the Gingerbread Man Cross the River

In order to prepare BCS students for the 21st  century, Design Thinking is integrated into the core curriculum at every grade level. The Design Thinking process begins in kindergarten and even students at this young age are challenged to create solutions to real-world problems.

In December, kindergarten students were tasked with a fun holiday-themed Design Thinking challenge: Help the Gingerbread Man Cross the River.

Teachers provided students with supplies that included tinfoil, mini marshmallows, and toothpicks. Students were free to choose to work alone, with a partner, or in a group.

Most students first attempted to build a boat out of tin foil. When testing out their boats they observed whether or not the boat floated, and if the gingerbread man stayed dry. If the boat took on water the students had to decide whether to start over with a new design, or to fix the design they had already created. Some students added marshmallow floaters to their boats. They soon discovered that marshmallows, like the gingerbread man, melt in water. One innovative student suggested, “Maybe the foil can help to cover the marshmallow!”

Although in many cases the gingerbread man made it safely to the other side of the river, quite a few ended up crumbled into a wet, soggy mess. Sarah Flynn, a kindergarten teacher, said that both success and failure are important components of this lesson.

“Kindergarten students don't know how to fail,” she said. “They try an idea and if it works, great!  If not, they try another idea and they keep working at it until they finally achieve their goal. I love doing activities like this in kindergarten because the students begin to understand that making mistakes and getting the answer wrong is a part of learning.  As they continue through BCS and beyond, I want them to feel confident enough to take risks, to acknowledge failure, and to try again.”

In all, the challenge was a success and the students had a fantastic time designing, building, observing, and learning to accept both success and failure.