Sciences: Much of what we choose for our main themes comes from the Sciences and Social Studies. These topics are often embedded in one another. In learning about the cultures and peoples of the world so much else comes into play. In studying about the salmon we raise yearly, we learn about the lives of the people who first populated this region. In this way, we touch on not only the biology of the life cycle but on the stories that were originally told to explain their return to their original spawning grounds. When learning about discovering the North and South Poles, we studied geography of the region and biological adaptation. We learned about basic aspects of astronomy while contrasting one century’s explorations to another. The ability to teach topics thematically across the disciplines preserves their integrity and supports the young child in making sense of a situation or construct.

The Curriculum in Action:

Force and Motion 2016: Research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) learning has a lot to say...

The following was posted on the Lake and Park’s blog, the Ampersand, on June 6th 2016.

Research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) learning has a lot to say about what makes for effective, engaging STEM education. Among the key factors: it capitalizes on students’ early interests and experiences, identifies and builds on what they know, and provides opportunities to engage in the practices of science and mathematics to sustain their interest. In other words, throughout their schooling, students should learn to investigate questions about the world that they come across in daily life, in much the same way that scientists and mathematicians do. (
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Framework goes on to emphasize that: “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K–12 science education.”

A Teacher’s Perspective


What was your favorite study this year at school?  For me it has to be the classic answer, “The one we are in right now”.  Isn’t that the truth?  As teachers there is so much to enjoy in our thematic approach at Lake and Park. It allows for creativity, collaboration, thoughtful study and personal expression.  It is important for us to embrace flexibility and be responsive to children’s needs and interests.  In many ways we never feel finished, though it is exciting to begin again and watch the momentum build as each child engages in a new topic in their own way.  I admire the courage I witness every day as children take the risk and delve into answering an open-ended exploration. “Is water alive?” or “What might happen when we roll two different size balls down the same track?”


Teachers at Lake and Park are asked to take risks also.  We delve into subjects that may not be an area of expertise and we learn alongside the children.  We are asked to try new things; we challenge ourselves and support each other.  Our study of physics and the evolution of scientific thought is an example of learning by doing for all of us.


Meaningful Professional Enrichment


In the summer of 2015 Quynh Cao and I were by the National Science Teachers Association  to participate in a weeklong training program, The National Teachers Academy.   We flew to Nw Jersey in late July and spent a week at the Liberty Science Center with teachers from forty-eight states, working through ideas about best practices in teaching science as they relate to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The focus of our week was Newton’s Laws of Force and Motion.  It was an engaging week of hands-on exploration and we knew the children at Lake and Park would learn so much during a study centered around this topic.


Laying the Groundwork


When Quynh and I sat down to begin planning the study for Lake and Park we thought about Newton in a historical context:  Newton was born in 1642. Who were the scientists that influenced him and how has scientific thought continued to develop since then?  We knew literature groups could engage in learning about the lives and contributions of scientists.  Are there any universal character traits of scientists?
As we posed these questions in our various classrooms:  What do scientists do?  How are they alike?.   Initial responses were long.   Details were added as knowledge grew.  Students began to identify when they were taking on some of these traits themselves.
Data collection 

Structure for Exploration
 Quynh took the lead running the Physics Lab.   Each day she set up different experiences and materials for students to explore.  Teacher led group discussions guided inquiry. Quynh was careful to ask questions, rather than telling the “why”,  thereby not revealing too much, making sure that the vital discovery piece, so pivotal to deeper understanding was reserved for each child. Students observed, collected data, made hypotheses, and experimented while working collaboratively in small groups. This approach was student driven, based on an individual’s curiosity and experience.  Room–time and space– was provided for student-led discoveries.
Scientific Sharing
While Quynh worked with classes throughout the school,  her homeroom students worked with me to create demonstrations that illustrated a principle or explored a law or conducted an experiment.   Projects were developed and tested in class.   As the oldest students were asked to present their work to others, the opportunities for peer teaching and  for guiding younger students brought social skills into play.
Developing Historical Context

Quynh’s class also read and discussed the evolution of scientific thinking with Camille Hayward, reading several books on Galileo, Newton and Einstein as a means of learning about the history of scientific thought. This was a wonderful opportunity for Camille to work directly with the Intermediate students.  Across the grades, students read biographies of the scientists mentioned above and  many others  The study contained many highlights as well as collective and individual “Aha” moments.



Physics on Wheels Comes to Lake and Park

As a part of this unit, The Pacific Science Center Physics on Wheels program came to school for a day.  The visit included individual classroom workshops and a lab space filled with demonstrations and experiments.

Newton’s Rainbow Made More Evident
The Hawking Family worked at home to master Newton’s rainbow, and then demonstrated the experiment they had created to small groups of children. This inspired further investigation into light and color and optics.


“Tinker Lab”

Maudie James and I developed a space for the whole student population to “tinker in”.  Equipped with tape and tubes and pulleys and hooks, marbles and velcro, The Tinker Lab remains busy most days with children creating inventions, and working on challenges involving force, motion, and velocity. Thank you to everyone for making it possible by cleaning out closets and garages and sharing your treasures and purchasing tape.  After making an invention or machine, children draw a model of it and tell a teacher about it so that ideas are written down.  Often the project is named. Those who can write, describe it in their own terms.

Gaining Background on Dr. Hawking


When we came together to share and celebrate our common learning, George told us about Hawking’s current work to which George had been introduced to this spring.  He graciously answered questions.

 Asking a Scientist
As the study was coming to a close we had one more amazing opportunity.  As each class learned about working scientist Dr.  Stephen Hawking we were invited to submit some questions to him directly for his consideration.  He will respond back to our specific queries.We will gather as a school in the fall to hear his replies to such thoughts as:  What would happen if the earth stopped spinning?  Do black holes benefit earth in anyway?  If you could explore anywhere, where would you go?
                                                     Timeline of Scientific Thinking

The Upper Primary students each researched a specific scientist, from Archimedes to Hawking, creating a timeline of scientific thinking which they presented at an All School Meeting. By this point, everyone was working as a scientist. It was exciting to take a moment to look around the room and wonder who might possibly make the next major scientific breakthrough at some point in the future.
Science Fair
On the same day as the Timeline Presentation students visited the Science Fair as presented by Quynh’s class.
Big Ball Play
The day ended with children rolling very big balls out in the grassy meadow of Mt. Baker Park and riding bikes, perhaps with a greater understanding of how that bicycle stays upright when in motion and why that ball might come to a stop.


As for this summer?  I know teachers are planning on more professional development experiences, exploration and reflection.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
T.S. Eliot from Four Quartets


Raising Salmon: One of the many benefits of teaching children for multiple years is the frequent opportunity to revisit a topic...

The following was posted on the Lake and Park’s blog, the Ampersand, on January 16, 2013.

One of the many benefits of teaching children for multiple years is the frequent opportunity to revisit a topic, or apply existing knowledge to a new situation.  We ask children to use the knowledge they have all the time.  Whenever we begin a new topic of study it is common practice to ask children what they already know about that topic.  Learning is about making connections and making an idea your own.  When we can revisit shared knowledge as a community of learners it continues to build our community and makes it stronger.  This happened in the halls of Lake and Park just last week.
Observing the salmon tank in anticipation of the eggs arrival.


It was our first week back after the New Year and we were all anticipating the arrival of the Coho salmon eggs for the big fish tank in the hallway.  The tank had been placed in the hallway and filled with water shortly after the Thanksgiving break.  During that month the water needed to be cooled and stabilized at about 48 F, and the proper PH, ammonia, nitrate and nitrate levels established for optimum fish growing conditions.  During this time our study of conifers in
December provided another way to look at the salmon habitat in the Northwest with a deeper understanding.
Learning about the harvested salmon eggs at the hatchery.
The day before we set out to the Issaquah Salmon hatchery to pick up our salmon eggs we asked the question, “what do all living things need to live on earth and how will we provide those for the salmon eggs?”  The students’ hands shot up to provide part of the answer.  As some students
remembered the requirements all habitats must provide to sustain life, they also remembered work they did researching and writing their biome projects last spring.   Students who joined this group in September were engaged in learning from their peers.
Students look for the five essentials in the natural habitat.
Learning from the experts at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.
The five essentials are: 1. Air, 2.water,, 4.shelter, and 5. space.   Many children have observed the tank both before and after the eggs were placed in it.  As we look carefully, observe and wait, we can think of our role and responsibility in helping these eggs grow into the fry
we will release in a stream this spring.  For the next couple of months students will check on the temperature and other aspects of water quality in the tank, and when the time comes we will
begin to feed the fry.  We all anticipate our trip to release the young salmon into a stream.  We plan to work on a habitat restoration project.  We will record and graph our
data about the tank.  We will observe and draw and paint what we see happening in the tank.  We will keep journals, writing down our thoughts, questions and responses to the changes in the fish tank.  The salmon project has brought a special energy to our hallway and will continue to do so for several months to come.  Please stop by and take a look.

The Garden: As I looked to bridge the long summer days spent outside in the Pacific Northwest...

The following was posted on the Lake and Park’s blog, the Ampersand, on October 19, 2011.

As I looked to bridge the long summer days spent outside in the Pacific Northwest with our annual return to the classroom in early September, I decided to create a small science corner with a display of seeds and seed pods, along with containers of fall blooming flowers. The idea was to generate conversation and begin the habits of careful observation and inquiry.  The display also gave me a chance to get to know the students in the North Room as I listened and watched them interact with the natural materials, tools to assist in observation, and with each other. It turns out that small seed, planted in late August as we prepared the classroom for students has been watered and fed and is really starting to germinate.

First day in the field with science journals.

In the weeks that followed families brought in seedpods from their gardens for students to explore. We opened them and counted and sorted seeds. We looked at the different shapes and learned about the many ways seeds travel. So far this year we have taken weekly trips to many of the local parks, including the Colman Park P-Patch. In the parks we looked closely at plants and leaves and seed pods and thought about the ways they grow. We considered their variety as we drew the many interesting shapes.

In the classroom students use both the eye and hand to help them see.

Both inside and out we have been reading books about seeds and plants. We have generated lists of questions about seeds. As we practice asking questions, we hold off on finding quick answers so we can grow more comfortable with the process of inquiry. What at first glance looks like a simple question with a quick answer, given some time, can bloom into a question that scientists have already spent hundreds of years exploring. It is exciting to join this group and feel the connection
with those who have asked these questions before us. All the while we are learning to listen to each other. One question leads to the next, a related question that is clearly following a shared path of inquiry.

Our first visit to the Colman P-Patch led us to wonder about the Lake and Park School having a garden of our own. Like the City and Country School that inspired Camille to found Lake and Park, we all felt we could learn so much if we were able to add an outdoor “classroom” in the form of a garden we can tend throughout the seasons. The P-Patch has the space available and the students are enthusiastic as we begin to plan and to prepare the beds and paths, and to learn what it takes to make a garden grow. We hope our whole school community will want to be involved.

Stephanie gives primary grade lesson in plant life cycle

Already Walter’s Aunt Stephanie, a Seattle Tilth educator and local gardener, has visited the classroom, bringing scarlet runner bean plants for exploration and dissection. This was a perfect plant to use to introduce the plant life-cycle because on a single plant we could see both the blossoms and the pods. Children picked the pods and opened them to reveal the beans/seeds. Stephanie answered children’s questions and inspired more questions such as, “where does water come from anyway?”


Making plans at the garden.

And so our curriculum grows, turning and winding as the children’s skills and understanding develop.  The prospect of tending our own garden together now exists like a seed in the good soil our inquiry has created. We all share the anticipation and excitement of helping it thrive.

A garden is a natural focus for building community. With a common purpose, everyone contributes meaningfully. As we nurture the plants in our garden, and eventually provide our own snacks and food, we also support each other as creative thinkers and doers.

Please consider ways you might participate in the Lake and Park Garden at the Colman P-Patch. we welcome comments and suggestions.

Weeding and measuring.