Orange Band: Seed, Week 3

To start, sprouting seeds

Reading, dissecting, playing, exploring

Planting sprouts at last.


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Sadie carefully takes apart the sepals and ovary at the base of one of her flowers.


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Isaac and Sadie playing dominoes with multiples of 2 scoring.


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Ramses, Gita and Emilio working on illustrations of their characters for our NaNoWriMo projects with help from MB!


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Ramses and Tesla with the plants they chose at Plant Warehouse.


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Planting our sprouts in dirt. Thank you for sending in the egg cartons!

We’re Going On a Seed Hunt

Welcome to the Red Band’s exploration of seeds. During our first week of this new arc we identified the needs of a seed: water, air, sun, and soil. We went on a neighborhood seed hunt and sorted our findings by: seeds, seed holders, and leaves and flowers. Our second quest for understanding seeds came by way of dissection.


We read From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer and learned about the life cycle of a pumpkin. Next we measured, weighed, and drew observations of our pumpkin. The time finally came for us to slice it open and find out what was inside. Once the pumpkin was split we added to our drawings and labeled what we saw: skin, flesh, pulp, seeds, and stem. We continued to dissect gourds this past week and compared a warted gourd to our pumpkin observations. Though I handled the cutting of the larger pumpkin, the kids took on the task of sawing through the tough skin and flesh of the gourd noting, “It’s hard to cut.”


We are still working at our first thoughts on what a seed needs to grow. This week we tested cut leaves to observe their relationship with water and air. We confirmed that plants need air to breathe once we saw bubbles form on a large smooth leaf. After observing a small smooth leaf for two minutes we saw no relationship. Two minutes with a small fuzzy leaf also showed no relationship but the kids observed that it felt softer after its bath.


We had the opportunity to visit Slide Ranch in Muir Beach. This lovely working farm welcomed us for a day of hands-on appreciation for people, plants, and animals. Our teacher, Reesha Rabbit, introduced us to sweet goat named Amber who let us milk her. We met turkeys and worked on our turkey calls. In the garden we learned a lesson on respect: how to show it and how to ask for it. We tasted herbs and vegetables before visiting the ducks. We quietly quacked a song for them to enjoy which we now call, “March of the Nutquacker”. Finally we met one protective rooster and many different types of hen. And we were able to hold and observe a freshly laid bumpy egg.


We have also entered National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a time for all writers to commit to working on and publishing one piece of writing. For the Red Band, we are working on our own picture books. We discussed the different forms these books may take: words and pictures, pictures only, and pictures with dialogue. We are focusing on the five elements of  story: characters, setting, theme, plot, and conflict. So far, we have chosen our characters and are placing them in a setting. If you would like to learn more about this experience or sign-up to participate at or


Yellow Band: Our Exploration into Seed is Growing and So Are Our NaNoWriMo Novels

It’s amazing to think that we have completed our first arc, are already two weeks into our exploration of Seed, and have launched into NaNoWriMo.

We began the arc by exploring the idea of seed and plant as food. The grocery store and the farmer’s market both provided perfect locations for scavenger hunts. At the grocery store they worked to find seeds you drink, seeds that are baked into something, seeds you can spread, seeds with caffeine, seeds in a can, and many more ways to consume or use seeds. The farmer’s market gave them a place to search out seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit of all kinds. Not only did we search out these plants parts, but we bought a representative of each (seeds-corn, roots-carrot, stem-celery, leaves-lettuce, flowers-squash blossoms, fruit-tomatoes), split up into groups to study and dissect them, shared our learning with each other, and then created and enjoyed a delicious salad out of them.










In the first week we also took a closer look at seeds through the dissection of corn kernels and peas. We observed the differences between the two types of seeds: monocots (one cotyledon – corn) and dicots (two cotyledons – peas). We studied and researched their various parts, learning about their functions.






Week two took us into the launch of NaNoWriMo, Slide Ranch, and self-watering planters. The creative juices have been flowing and the Yellow Band has been begging to stay in from park to continue working on their novels everyday. There are talking berries, an ant named Snail and a snail named Ant, kings and princesses, and a bunch of newts all named George. They are constantly supporting each other, helping one another brainstorm plot twists and character names. Sneaking a peak at their stories whenever I can is the highlight of my day.

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Our trip to Slide Ranch took us to a working farm where we milked a goat, saw a whale in the distance, fed chickens and learned about their egg laying, played in the “fennel forest” and ate fennel “gum,” and relaxed in the vegetable garden while listening to the book A Seed is Sleepy.

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

As a way to create an observation nursery in our band space, we built self-watering planters out of recycled plastic food containers. The planters were created by drilling holes in the bottom of a smaller container and threading yarn or string through them. The smaller container was then slowly filled with soil, as to make sure the strings or yarn were spread throughout, and then seeds were planted. The larger bottom container was filled with water before placing the smaller container and its lower dangling strings or yarn into it. The goal is for the water to travel up the yarn or string and seep out into the soil, slowly self-watering the plant. We will continue to observe and track the growth of our plants throughout the arc.

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Orange Band: Seed, Week 2

We are in the groove. I love looking through my photos from a whole week because I get to remember all the good work we did!

We started out by building some foundational knowledge about seeds, flowers and pollinators. Kiddos have expressed the most interest in the idea of symbiosis, or the mutually beneficial relationship between plants and creatures.

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Emilio and Oscar loved researching bees and butterflies together!

We kept up with routines like math and literacy skill building time. We had to reorder our number line after it got blown off our table by a lovely ocean breeze, and we started talking about symmetry. Kiddos have also jumped into NaNoWriMo work! It is so exciting to hear about their story ideas, and help them sculpt them into a finished product.

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Oscar and Tesla working on making symmetric designs using pattern blocks.


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Sadie carefully plotting out the sequence of her story.

We went on a great field trip to Slide Ranch! This beautiful working farm was a great place for us to go on a nice hike, talk about the interdependence between creatures and plants, and pretend we were bees for a bit. Thank you to our instructor, Jordan River for her patient guidance, action- and info-packed learning! It was great the way she encouraged us to get dirty and learn something new.

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Who wants a shot of fresh goat milk right into their mouth?!


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It’s so important to go with the flow of kids’ silliness! Here we are acting out a goat’s multiple-stomached digestive system. Don’t forget about those last few steps: some energy becomes milk, and the rest gets pooped out!

What a week; on to the next one!

Blue: Flower Dissection, Literature Dissection


Flower Dissection

This week has been about diving in to things, really, really deep, only to take them apart, and get a good close look at their insides.

So far in the Seed Arc, we have talked a lot about what Blue knows and doesn’t know about seeds and plants, and, to be quite honest, plant sex kept popping up.

  • How do plants reproduce?
  • Are there male and female plants?
  • How does the pollen go from plant to plant?
  • What happens when pollen reaches a new plant?

It’s one thing for us to talk about it, and it’s another thing entirely for them to just figure it out themselves.

To that end, last night’s homework was simply this: Amanda doesn’t know how to dissect a flower. Look it up, and be prepared to teach her. And that’s exactly what they did.



In an unexpected twist, we ended up getting the microscopes out to look at some plant parts up close. This was a magical moment, and I had a lot of fun teaching everyone how to work a microscope!

The photos speak for themselves:



Literature Dissection

Last week, we started reading Raisin in the Sun, and while we got off to a slow start — this week our discussion got pretty interesting!

Educator side note: I dwelled on this text for quite a few weeks before I decided that we should read it. Most of the blogs, and literature sites, and standard core curriculum suggests that this is a text meant for high school. Everyone suggests that the language is too sophisticated, the characters are too complicated, and the nuances of the story line are too subtle for folks younger than grade 9. To that I say, bring it on.

Because of the setting and time period of the text, the language is a little dated. At about halfway through, we’ve had to navigate the use of some racy language, we talked about abortion, we talked about what the word “assimilation” means, and how it relates to a persons’ race, ethnicity, and cultural identity. With middle school, these discussions have been difficult waters to navigate. There’s been confusion, furrowed eyebrows, and a lot of pausing mid-scene to unpack some of what’s been happening. Because of all that, the group reading has gone slow and we’ve had to talk about content and recap, a lot.

This has all been worth it. The close reading of a play like this, as a group, as the story unfolds in real time, is a real treat. It has given us an opportunity to connect the play to real life and really walk through it together.

My recommendation: Make your middle schoolers read this text, and take the time to unpack it with them. It is so worth the experience.


The Blue Band is so invested in these characters.

Today, they had a blast today reading through Act II, and even paused everything to beg me to have them reenact one of the scenes for the school. They want to be actors, they want to watch the movie, and they begged to continue reading when we had to pause to go to Park.


So worth it.


Violet Band: SF Gem & Mineral Society

Today we went to the SF Gem and Mineral Society (yes, it’s the seed arc at this point, but we were finally able to get into their schedule!). On Tuesdays, they open the clubhouse and work in their shops all day – from cutting stones to shaping and polishing them to making jewelry. It was a really amazing experience – each member of the Violet Band got to interact with one of the club members. And when we left, we got to take our own stone!

After the club, we went to Ocean Beach for a bit.


Mazes and Mendocino

The Red Band returned to Bernal Heights Park to explore our latest interest, mazes. It began with the provocation of magnets spurred from our first visit to the park and discovery of magnetic rocks! Could we create a magnetic maze? We are still working on this but our love for marble mazes was instantly shared throughout the band.

Upon reviewing our first trip to Bernal Heights Park, we remembered seeing a rock maze below us, so back to the park we went. We explored and examined the wonders of our community and created our own addition to the space and added to the work of our community. While at the park we had the opportunity to observe and investigate the formation of Bernal hill while chipping away with tools and finding spots of natural wear.


Back in the building we continue to experiment with different sizes and formations and collaborations with our rubber band mazes. We are currently working on three more boards to add to our collection and possibilities. The kids used our prefab pegboards as a guide to create their own. They measured the board size and peg distance while considering the size of ball bearings we have available. We are also hoping to devise a way to keep a clear barrier in place so we can use our magnets to guide ball bearings through the maze. The kids are beginning to document their work by drawing each iteration.


We spent one week in Mendocino, California at the Mendocino Woodlands Outdoor Science School. Most red banders had the opportunity to visit the camp last year while this was the first time for the rest of us. With our backpacks, sleeping bags, and cuddles we braved the windy drive and four nights away from home. In this short but immersive time the kids learned more about the world around them, how to be stewards for their environment, gain confidence in themselves, and discover friendship under the redwoods.