Architects in Schools Program

We recently began a program called Architects in Schools in which fourth graders are taught basic principles of architecture, engineering, and design. Students then use what they learn to create a final project (our class will be designing and building a model of a portion of the West Linn waterfront development).

Today we met our resident expert, Mike, a local structural engineer who has been involved in many projects in our area, including the local fire station down the street. After Mike talked to the kids about his job, the students did a lesson in which they learned what it feels like to be a structure. Hopefully this lesson on what makes a strong, dependable structure will help students make wise decisions with their future designs.

What do Fourth Graders Have in Common with Michael Jordan?

Over the break, I was listening to a podcast while working out in my yard. The podcast was a conversation between Oprah Winfrey and Phil Jackson, the former head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers who has won 11 NBA championships. During the interview, Jackson talked about how he used mindfulness with his teams to help them focus and calm themselves during practice and games. I shared this with the class today because Jackson’s teams (some of the most successful teams ever), practice the same sort of mindfulness techniques we do in our classroom. It’s pretty cool to see that we are doing the same thing to help us achieve success in our classroom as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal were doing to help them achieve success on the court.

Regions Videos

After researching, writing, prop making, recording, and editing, students finally completed their videos with information about the different regions of the United States. Click on the links in the image below to access the videos. There were two groups assigned to each of the five regions. We learned a lot along the way, not only about the regions of the US, but also about the challenges of filmmaking. We hope you enjoy the videos as the kids had a great time creating them.

Regions Videos

Students are hard at work putting together videos to explain the regions of the United States. Be on the lookout for these projects in the near future.

Phriday Photos

We had a busy Friday, planting sword ferns and hiking in White Oak Savanna, establishing teams in the World Peace Game, and reading with our first grade reading buddies. Here are a few photos of the action:

Teachers Learn Too!


As many of you know, I was absent on Monday because I was attending a seminar about emotional regulation and how to create a more positive learning environment in the classroom. I learned a lot of valuable information that will guide my teaching and help me better understand my students. Here are some of the takeaways…

– Willamette Primary is ahead of the game. Thanks to the vision of our district and amazing individuals like our school counselor, Mark Silverman, we have a common language in our school to help students regulate their emotions. Our school and district stay up to date with the latest research and teachers are regularly given time to read and discuss this research in order to put best practices to use. This seminar strengthened my already strong belief that Willamette is a leader in fostering resilient learners.
– Children learn best in the classroom when the culture is one where they feel safe, it is predictable, and it is consistent.
– When students are exhibiting certain behaviors (manipulative, dramatic, clingy, oppositional, flighty, disinterested, aggressive, etc.) they are trying to tell us something. It is most helpful to view these behaviors through a need fulfillment lens. Teachers should be looking to identify a student’s needs rather than simply reacting to their behaviors.
– Communication is key! 98% of all conflict is rooted in miscommunication.
– Educators/parents need to be mindful of whether their emotions are regulated before responding to a stressed student/child.
– A positive learning environment requires the “New 3 R’s”: Relationships (establish and maintain them), Responsibility (give clear expectations and hold everyone accountable), and Regulation (calm and focused brain that is learning-ready)
– When in doubt, shut your mouth and take a breath.
– I heard the following quote and immediately texted it to my wife as a reminder to both of us of the importance of our job as role models to our daughters: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the ONLY means.” – Albert Einstein

If you’re interested in learning more, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of the book, Fostering Resilient Learners by the presenters, Kristin Souers and Pete Hall.

Friday Fun Run!

We had a great time running for 20 minutes in the annual Fun Run today. Thanks to all the students for getting sponsors and thanks to all the parents who were able to attend the event today.

Meet with Mr. Silverman

Our incredible school counselor, Mr. Silverman, came to visit today. He lead a great discussion about being kinder than necessary.  Parents, ask your child about ways they have been kinder than necessary at school lately.