Laguna instructors and students kick-off the new school year with Project-Based Learning Initiatives

In preparation for the school’s new 8-day rotating schedule and the deeper learning opportunities offered by extended class periods, Laguna faculty spent time this summer developing project-based units. “It is in the spirit of collaboration that we seek to create meaningful connections across subject areas and grade levels,” explains faculty members Trish McHale and Andra Wilson. Before students returned to campus this week, faculty proudly presented the projects to their colleagues for feedback.

"Funding from the Paddle Raise at last spring’s auction enabled us to support faculty in this effort to build a more connected EK-12 learning culture," adds Rob Hereford, Head of School. "I want to encourage our teachers to share more of their work with their colleagues, and these projects that they developed this summer were a great way to encourage that process. Their presentations also underscored for all of us the extraordinary quality of our teachers!"

Below are some of the projects that students will dive into this year at Laguna.

Mini Olympics and Health Fair
Allison Armstrong (6th Grade), Mara Balak (2nd Grade), Landon Neustadt (Science), and Clara Svedlund (Science and Environmental Studies)

Health and Fitness will take center stage at the Mini Olympics and Health Fair hosted by second and sixth grade students to take place at the Lower School in mid-April. Students will learn about health-related cognitive activities from testing reflexes, measuring response time checks and heart rates to physical games such as the Marshmallow Challenge and the paper plate discus. Lectures from health and fitness specialists and field trips pertaining to the project aim to increase health awareness among students and assist them in learning the importance of healthy eating, physical activity and inspire them to take an interest in the Olympic Games. Students leap into action right after winter break and will cross the finish line at the Mini Olympics and Health Fair where they will have the opportunity to share what they have learned with their fellow EK- 6th peers, parents, and the community at large.

No Bees, No Food
Brooke Green (3rd Grade), Landon Neustadt (Science), and Clara Svedlund (Science & Environmental Studies)

The buzz is out! Two pressing environmental issues facing California today are the drought and the drastic honey bee decline of 30 percent. This fall, third and seventh grade students at Laguna Blanca will learn about the comprehensive curriculum surrounding the vital correlation of bees to our food supply, link the importance of these pollinators to the economy of California, and evaluate the reason behind the honey bee decline and the environmental repercussions. “Bees provide for at least one out of every three bites of food,” said local beekeeper Nick Wigle. Students will partake in field trips to gardens, collaborate with bee keepers in the community, create art projects, and reveal their collaborative projects on April 23, 2016 at the Lower School Earth Day Festival.

Assembly Advisory Service Learning
Advisory Leaders: Trish McHale and Andra Wilson

Laguna is a collaborative learning environment and the goal of “Assembly Advisory Service Learning” is to create more connections between the Middle and Upper Schools with assembly, advisory, and community service. Throughout the school year an underlying theme will focus on the principles of integrity, honesty, citizenship, fairness, responsibility, respect, and trustworthiness. Advisors will monitor benchmarks and present the outcomes of projects to develop distinct lines of communication between students, advisors, and the school community.

Beneath the Soil: Understanding the Relationship Between Food and Migration

Landon Neustadt (Science), Stephen Chan (History), and Blake Dorfman (English)

Building on work started in prior years of collaborative teaching, the seventh grade science, geography and English classes at Laguna will each continue to explore the common theme, “Beneath the Soil: Understanding the Relationship Between Food and Migration.” Studying agriculture and modern farming practices in science, migration and major crops mapping in geography, and reading about migrant families in English class will culminate in an experiential learning field trip to Santa Maria and tie-in with the Spring Foodbank/Fairview Gardens trip.

Character Development
Elyse Atkinson (1st Grade) and Mieke Delwiche (Kindergarten)

Character building is a staple of the progressive education students receive at Laguna Blanca. Students participating in this eye-opening curriculum will learn the importance of character building as a lifelong skill at an early age. The goal of the program is to focus on character traits commonly associated with 21st century skills such as fairness, integrity, morality, and cooperation. Beginning the first week of school through the final week of May, students will learn the basics of character education by process of a weekly theme, reading associated literature, classroom discussions supported by field trips and musical play performance in April.

Language Diversity Tech Integration Proposal
Arturo Flores (Spanish) and Maud Millard (French)

Real world language learning will be introduced to about 95 Laguna students, starting with Spanish and French 1 classes through AP classes—all in an effort to integrate multi-lingualism, diversity, and globalism. Technology in the form of will connect Laguna students to other young adults in Spanish and French speaking developing countries. This unique platform will generate online conversations with countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador and Senegal to provide Laguna students with a glimpse into the daily lives of native speakers during 30 minute conversations.

Totalitarianism in Animal Farm and North Korea: The Power of Propaganda
Stephen Chan (History) and Blake Dorfman (English)

The analysis of diverse forms of propaganda, from pro and anti-war, patriotism to advertising will allow Laguna students to gain a unique understanding of the totalitarianism and its effects in history and today in North Korea. In combination with reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm, students will comprehend how totalitarianism is able to rise and affect those who are living in the political system. In this timely and eye-opening course, students will take the role of readers, observers, researchers and artists, using Photoshop to create propaganda posters with positive or negative context.

Cooperative Writing Project
Brooke Green (3rd Grade) and Carol Nordgaarden (English)

Creating stories with a purpose, fluency, and direction utilizing universal software instills a modern approach to writing, providing students with confidence and an introduction to a deeper level of critical thinking skills. Third grade students will participate in the cooperative writing project, pair in different age groups during the cross campus collaboration, and write fiction or nonfiction narratives while utilizing GitHub. The software program allows students to review changes, make revisions, offer comments, and share projects with instructors and peers. GitHub also provides a forum for students to publish their stories or projects worldwide. In addition, students will gain experience working with a program that many engineers and computer programmers use to communicate change in coding systems.

Study Skills Module in the Middle School
Academic Services Team: Sienna Kimbell, Meghan Roarty, Rose Steeber

Habit forming practices learned from repetition in a systemized study hall with the ambition to transfer the skills towards other classes is the goal of “Study Skills Module in the Middle School.” Creating a uniform and structured place for serious scholarship will service an identified need for seventh and eighth graders in organization, time management, study guides, annotating, note taking, and outlining.

Lewis & Clark Book Publishing
Donna Brown (4th Grade), Lindsay Woodard (5th Grade)

The feeling of community that prospers at Laguna will be enhanced with a team oriented Lewis & Clark Project bringing 4th and 5th graders together to study an exciting era in United States history and westward expansion by explorers. Students will collaborate using Google Docs and Google Hangouts to write a children's book about the adventures of Lewis & Clark using an app called Book Creator. Working in mixed grade-level teams, students will create annotated maps, original art work, and audio recordings to incorporate into their children's book. This book will then be exported to iBooks to be shared online in order to provide an authentic audience.

8th Grade Quarterly Capstones
Anna Alldredge (History), Zack Moore (Science), Carol Nordgaarden (English)

Laguna students cross a transformative bridge in the eighth grade, and our new quarterly TIES program provides an opportunity to prepare them for the rigors of high school. These Thematic Interdisciplinary Explorations will deepen meaning, enhance retention, and increase content skills for our 8th graders. Collaborative field trips, located from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles, assist to reinforce the quarterly themes of quests, identity, justice and transformation. Meaningful results beyond a written assignment may include the creation of a permanent memorial, volunteerism, filmmaking, blogging, a poetry slam, and leadership work with the Lower School. The 8th graders will kickoff their yearlong TIES work with a Mission to Mars competition, linking to the first quarter's theme: Quests -- then and now.