Community Creators

Community Creators (formerly known as All-School Integrated Art) is an annual event that occurs in mixed K-5 groups over two consecutive Wednesdays in the Fall. All of our students have a chance to participate in activities with all of our teachers in all of our classrooms with students from all ages.

Fifth Grade Leaders

On our most recent Wednesday, our 5th graders really stepped up in a way many staff members have never seen before. They were fantastic leaders for our little ones. They helped make this day of transitions and meeting new faces easier for everyone. We are proud of our 5th graders for shining in this leadership role, as the big, kind kiddos of Aurora

What is Community?

Each year we explore the question “What is Community?” through 6 rotations spanning a broad range of modalities and topics.

  • Room 1 ~ students made Bug Hotels and learned about beneficial bugs.
  • Room 2 ~ Aurora actors did silly vocal warm-ups, played theater games, and jumped into character voice work with Teaching Assistant and voice actor, Adrian Herrera.
  • Room 3 ~ students ventured outside to practice mindfulness through nature art inspired by artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  • Room 4 ~ students brainstormed playground rules, made signs with their rules to hang around the yard, and played and nailed down the rules of 4-square.
  • Room 5 ~ students collaborated to accomplish challenging tasks like lowering “Helium Sticks” and removing “Toxic Waste”.
  • Room 6 ~ students participated in a common tradition among communities: cooking and eating a meal together. They brought home their onigiri recipes to share with their families!

Click here to see loads of pictures of Community Creators 2015.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Learning the Power of Power – A Case Study

From the NAIS Inspiration Lab
2nd and 3rd graders explored their own power to make change as part of a year-long unit on POWER at Aurora School.

It all started with a science field trip to the San Francisco Bay shoreline. Students had a chance to run nets through the water to find living creatures. Pauline.girls.Power.PolaroidThey looked at zooplankton and phytoplankton through microscopes. They went on a 3-mile hike and learned about the plants and animals that live in the environment. They counted up all the living things they saw: snow egrets, giant egrets, pickle weed, salt grass, pygmy blue butterflies, ghost shrimp, salt marsh harvest mice, sandpipers, mallard ducks, mud crabs, vultures, mud snails, and more.

THEN . . . the students came back to school and learned that a big company, Cargill, Inc. planned to pave over similar wetlands in nearby Redwood City. What a great chance to exercise their power! Students wrote letters to the Redwood City Council, local newspapers, the Army Corp of Engineers, Save the Bay, and Cargill’s CEO, to voice their opinion.

Their letters were published in various newspapers and on Facebook. They even received a kind letter of support from Redwood City’s City Council and mayor! All of this recognition was extremely exciting and rewarding for the students. They were able to see first hand that they are able start a conversation, work toward change, and use their powers to positively affect our world.

power.of.power.collage.borderMost exciting (and surprising) to the students was that Cargill responded! A representative from Cargill came to Aurora to give a presentation about the company, the planned development site, and answer the students’ questions.
That same week, a representative from Save the Bay also came in so that the students could hear from both sides. Teachers prepared the students in a variety of ways, drafting meaningful questions and teaching how one can respectfully disagree.

In the end teachers were able to integrate nearly all areas of the curriculum into one POWERful experience for our students.

(This article was originally posted on the National Association of Independent Schools Inspiration Lab.)

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – October 2014


K/1 – We read the book Ten Little Beasties and created patterned collaged creatures with hand made painted papers. Following through with the K/1 classroom study of trees we were inspired by Gustav Klimt’s painting The Tree of Life to create our own brightly colored and patterned trees. After reading and discussing White Rabbits Coloring Book and we created pictures that experimented with cool and warm colors.

2/3 – We painted our own interpretations of cherry blossom branches and flowers while listening to traditional Japanese music and studying the art of Sumi-e/bamboo brush painting. Perspective study drawings were our next challenge, looking closing at how artists trick our eye with the use of one and two point perspective, horizon line, and vanishing point. Doodles = Zentangles. For those who are endless doodlers this was the opportunity to create wonderful patterns.

4/5 – Photography was our focus for the month. Using our digital cameras and several different lenses (fish eye + miniature) and black and white we walked around the community surrounding Aurora looking for “art photographs”.


All School Integrated Art included projects in all classrooms addressing the theme of “What Is Community?”

2/3 Integrated Art – Rocks Rock! Focusing on pebbles, sand, and silt. We looked at several artists that use sand and rocks to create their art. Art and artists included Andres Amador, Andy Goldsworthy, Japanese Zen dry gardens, and pictographs. – Kerry H.


Building our house map was SO MUCH FUN! You should have received a link to your child’s finished project in your email inbox (if not, just shoot me an email and I’ll help resend it). The 2/3s are so incredibly proud of their work and I hope they’ve had the opportunity to present it to you in more detail. They came a long way from the first Planner 5d intro lesson and each and every one of them have strengthened their skills and had TONS of fun doing it. During our last class, the 2/3s were introduced to Keyboarding Without Tears where they will learn and practice their keyboarding skills. Next month, we’ll continue our study of maps – building off our house map and creating a street map with the help of Google’s Street View. – Nikki


All classes celebrated the Book Fair this month. We toured during Library times and talked about the books we saw there. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Book Fair’s success!

K/1 – Read alouds centered on picture book authors and Halloween. Studies were about fiction vs. non-fiction books about animals and where to find them in the Aurora Library.

2/3 – Our study of folktales continued this month with The Pied Piper and The Princess and The Pea. There were nice, rich retellings in the classical version and lots of variants to study. When Halloween rolled around, we learned about creeping morning glory vines as we read The Pumpkin Man and the Crafty Creeper.

4/5 – This month we began our study of the clay tablet book form and read one of the first stories ever produced in the clay tablet format, The Epic of Gilgamesh from around 3,000 BCE. Students also completed a Reading Interview that shows them and me what genres they like to read and recent books they’ve enjoyed. – Kathy


We always begin with welcoming songs and games that incorporate rhythm, group singing, and solo singing. Through the month of October, our welcoming songs and games were on Halloween themes :). We are also all working on pieces that will become our performances for Family and Friends Day, which is Friday December 19.

K/1 – We have been working on embodying ‘steady beat’ through games and dances, and then taking our feel for steady beat to xylophones. Kids can keep a steady beat on C and G notes while singing several ‘Teddy Bear’ oriented songs.

2/3 – We have been working with reading eighth through whole notes on the treble clef. We are singing what we are reading, as well as playing the pieces on xylophone. We have begun to also learn to play what we read on recorder, learning proper fingering and blowing techniques. We have done a dance with our recorders written by English children 200 years ago!

4/5 – We have been working hard on xylophone and recorder pieces for our Family and Friends Day performance. The pieces have multiple parts and complex rhythms, which we read on the treble clef. The kids are doing great! So proud of them!

K/1 Movement – This month, many of our movement class games have had Halloween themes – jumping skeletons, rolling pumpkins, ghost tag, etc. We have also acted out animal games that require stretching our bodies into many shapes, and running games like Foxes and Rabbits, Thorn Roses, and Red Light, Green Light. – Eve


The second month of PE has been great. We continued playing many tag and cooperative games including Capture the Flag and Cone Ball. Now we are transitioning into more team sports and games. First we will play ‘Speedball’ which is a combination of Ultimate Frisbee and Soccer. After that we will begin a unit on Soccer. During these ‘traditional sports’ units the students all learn the necessary skills before we play the actual game. For example in Soccer the skill learning targets will be:

1. I can trap
2. I can dribble
3. I can Pass
4. I can shoot
5. I can avoid obstacles while dribbling

We will play different games with each skill we are learning to encourage practicing of the skill in a fun setting. This will include, ‘Person from Mars soccer’, ‘marbles’ etc… In this way students will have fun learning the skills and demonstrating what they know in a variety of settings. – Scott


This month we’ve been talking quite a bit about how wood can look, feel, smell and even weigh differently depending on the species. We’ve worked with quite a few wood species in October, including mahogany, alder, poplar and fir. Our pencil holders and wood boxes were recently built with a mix of all the above.

The drill press has been our primary tool this month, and we’ve reviewed all the basics we learned at the start of the year such as sanding, sawing, and using a ruler. However, we haven’t learned measurement yet. For now we are using the ruler as a straight edge. For example, how do we find the center of a square without measuring? Draw two straight lines connecting the opposite corners to form an X. Where the two lines meet is the center. Simple! Nice job, woodworkers! – Alex

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – September 2014


It’s been an exciting start in 2/3 Computers! We dove right in and started learning about a fun and basic type of map – a room map. Students began by creating a floor plan of their bedroom, adding furniture and rugs to replicate the exact shape of the room in proportion to its size. Once we reshaped and resized our bedrooms and furniture, added windows and doors, and rotated each piece as accurately as we could, we built on! We started adding adjoining rooms and hallways, bathrooms, and some students have even added an additional floor. Wow, these 2nd graders are quickly learning the tricks and techniques of the track pads during this super fun design activity and the 3rd graders are thrilled about their mad skills! – Nikki


What an amazing start to the school year we have had. Aurora’s students are fabulously creative artists! Our first project of the year is traditionally an all community project. This year we all created a part of a large design that when put together created a community work of art. Pattern, color, and shape all contributed to this diverse art piece. And, of course, “individual art style”. Our theme was “CELEBRATE COMMUNITY-HONOR DIVERSITY”. The final piece is hanging in the auditorium, come on by for a viewing.

K/1 – Following along with the K/1 classroom theme of trees we began looking closely at different parts of trees, leaves in particular. Our projects involved the use of various media including oil pastel and watercolor, and scratch art paper. With these materials our process lead us to explore texture, line, pattern, and color.

K/1 – Integrated Art – Working together with both K/1 classrooms our integrated art Wednesdays continued to include trees as the focus: observing and drawing trees, making tree books of the various textures that trees produce, creating “tree section” necklaces, and making our own scrolls from tree products.

2/3 – We started this month learning about an art technique that looks at reflection and symmetry called Notan. Through collage we created our own two tone symmetrical art pieces. We also explored pastels through learning about the many different shapes, colors, and types of clouds that circle our skies.

4/5 – Our artists began the year with close observation studies of birds using charcoal, pencil, and pastel. We then began a unit learning about Surrealism in which we created “dream like” collages by cutting up and arranging old engraving images.

In all of our art classrooms we set up our individual sketchbooks for working out ideas/plans and for free sketch time when we complete our main project. We also set up our artist portfolios to save our artwork in during the year. These will help us to organize, protect, and review our process/progress. They will stay safely in the Art Room until after our Art Show at the end of the year. – Kerry


K/1 – Kindergarteners jumped right into Library with checking out books and learning how to take care of them both in school and at home. Most weeks students took home a “Kathy Book” to help them explore all the areas of the library, read classic picture books and learn where specific kinds of book genres are located.

2/3 – Students began the year by focusing on the differences between Fiction and Non-Fiction books. One lesson showed a variety of both genres about “buttons” – and then we got to play with a large button collection just for fun. We also studied our first folktale of the year, The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Kids brushed up their knowledge of specific areas of the library by choosing books in multiple genres.

4/5 – We started the month with an introduction to the History of the Book unit. We studied how modern children’s books are a legacy of thousands of years of different book forms in different cultures around the world. We ended the month by celebrating National Banned Books Week. This gave us a chance to learn about how our First Amendment protects our right to free press and speech and what kinds of challenges have been made against specific children’s books and why. In last week’s lesson, everyone got a copy of The Reader’s Bill of Rights and we talked about each one together. – Kathy


September has been a great month in PE! As I teach your kids, I am constantly reminded about how great our community is and the importance of our school mission. Our early focus in the year is learning our community agreements –mutual respect, attentive listening, no putdowns, state your needs, compassion, honor the hand, honor the time, and appreciations. We are also learning how to play together cooperatively. This is why we play tag games and cooperative games during the first few months of the year.

The students are having tons of fun and getting great exercise during PE class. Our learning objectives include things like:

a. I can run safely in a game
b. I can use and put away equipment appropriately and with respect
c. I can “evade” and be aware of the space around me

There is always an emphasis on appreciating the people around us and pointing out what they contribute to the game or activity. Thanks and see you around the school! – Coach Scott


What a great start to the year in Woodshop! We’ve been spending time becoming oriented and learning our way around the shop. Safety rules have been thoroughly reviewed and we are well on the way to begin building. Students so far have had the opportunity to use hand saws, vices, 3 grades of sandpaper (60, 100, 150) and the drill press.

For those not familiar, a drill press is a drill in a vertical position with handles to pull the bit downwards. This allows for very accurate and safe drilling methods. Students did a great job working patiently and safely. It’s a fabulous group of students and I’m looking forward to a year full of building, challenges and discovery! – Alex


Music and movement classes at Aurora have been filled with joy and learning.

K/1 – Students spent the first month singing, dancing and playing games that embody steady beat, melodic range, and rhythm. Last week, we began transferring those skills to xylophone, playing a steady beat on C and G notes while we sing.

K/1 – Movement has begun with our famous scarf dancing, and movement games that include Foxes and Rabbits, Thorn Roses (acting out three parts), and parachute play.

2/3 – Students are playing games that require simultaneous mastery of beat and rhythm (marching in a parade while hands play rhythm; clapping on beat while feet dance rhythm, etc). They have been reading whole through eighth notes on the treble clef, singing in round, dancing, and playing accompaniment and melody lines on xylophone.

4/5 – Students are working on challenging beat and rhythm games, reading and playing a multiple part Japanese folk song on xylophone. They are also playing simultaneous multiple rhythms in four groups of percussion, and working on song repertoire from California history. – Eve

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – April 2014


Kids across all grade levels have been continuing with our study and experience of beginning music theory. We have been reading and writing with whole, half, quarter and eighth notes, as well as quarter rest, on all the notes on the treble clef scale (which many of the kids now have memorized, and all are on their way). Kids have also gotten good at drawing their own treble clef staffs!

We have also been learning dances and playing musical games that embody and reinforce the theory concepts; and learning song and dance repertoire that we often share as a school at assembly.

Each double grade level has also been working with xylophones on ensemble pieces. Different kids play different parts, and all the parts sound awesome when we play simultaneously. We all know which part we are playing (accompaniment, melody, or harmony) and whether we are playing beat or rhythm.

In K/1 movement we have been working with jump roping skills (everyone is getting better). Now that it is close to the end of the school year we are also creating our own tag, jumping, and imaginative games that we teach to the rest of the K/1s. The games are really fantastic; I love the ease and brilliance of kid minds. – Eve


K/1: Kindergarteners and first graders have been designing clothing for their paper dolls. They are having a good time with this project.

2/3s have been creating a dictionary. They have been learning about definite and indefinite articles. They have been playing memory cards and singing songs.

4/5s have been learning about places to go and things to do. They are practicing: Quieres is a ? (Do you want to go to_____?) Dónde está _______? (Where is _______?). They have also been making comics using these sentences. – Tania


K/1 – We began the month with several drawing projects that allowed us to use our keen sense of observation to notice details, textures, and movement. The focus of these drawing observations was owls and rain (those raining days of late March inspired us). Through sharing videos, reproductions, and our memory we carefully created our own observation drawings.

2/3 – Our concentration was silhouettes. After sharing the book The Day The Babies Crawled Away we proceeded to paint our blended watercolor backgrounds. After looking at several reproductions of silhouettes we painted our own images with Sumi-e ink of a subject that inspired us.

4/5 – We focused on acrylic painting (a perennial favorite) for several weeks in the past month. After discussing the process and responding to several styles observed in reproductions we were ready to dive in.

Integrated Art (4/5) was a unit focusing on Outsider Art. We looked at the art of Clementine Hunter, Judith Scott, and Bill Traylor. Many powerful discussions were had: Outside of what?, Who decides who is inside and who is outside?, Why is this distinction necessary, or is it?. What brilliant and inquisitive minds our students have! – Kerry H.


The beginning of April was full of woodshop “free days.” This is a special time when we put all of our woodshop studies into practice. Hammering, sawing, sanding, gluing, drawing, lots of problem solving, and of course, imagination!

More recently, we started our house project. It’s one of the more challenging projects of the year. Using only wood glue, we layer small wooden blocks (all hand crafted in the woodshop) to learn traditional brick laying techniques. The main principal is this: no two seams must ever line up with each other. This creates a strong, interwoven wall that is secure and looks great. Doors and windows can be added for a custom touch. After the walls are built, we move on to the inside of the house, crafting people, furniture, boats, staircases and beyond. It’s a really fun challenge for everyone!

We’ll be showing off our houses at the art show on Thursday, May 22nd. Be sure to drop in and see the amazing work! – Alex


K/1 and 2/3: April was folklore month for the early grades. “Old and Told” are the folklore keywords for Dewey No 398.2 at Aurora. K/1 students spent time with lots of well-known early folklore stories and rhymes. These stories are a significant part of our cultural literacy and we want to make sure all students get a chance to hear a variety of retellings of the early stories. In later grades students go deeper into rich retellings of the older stories. K/1 students read The Little Red Hen and Henny Penny. 2/3 students read The Elves and The Shoemaker and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Also this month, our school-wide voting for The California Young Reader Medal turned up a rare tie vote between Children Make Terrible Pets and Interrupting Chicken. And now we wait for the statewide winner announcement!

The 4/5 students finished the construction of their handmade books, FICTION GENRES. They are beautiful! Just before everyone headed out to Walker Creek, we began with our first genre: fantasy.

The highlight of the month was our author visit by Jennifer Holm. The younger grades enjoyed her early series books Babymouse and Squish. The older grades enjoyed her special talk with them about writing three(!) Newbery Honor awarded books. She spoke about writing historical fiction and incorporating autobiographical themes. Jenni was a hit with all the students and I thank her so much for spending time with us. – Kathy


As we are approaching the final stretch of the school year please remember to send your students to school with water bottles so that they may hydrate during PE class. It has been hot outside and staying hydrated is important!

We are currently finishing up basketball and I am pleased to say that a majority of our students are now dribbling for extended periods of time without traveling or double dribbling. There has been great improvement.

We will finalize the basketball unit with games of steal the bacon and more official games of basketball.

Next up we will play Frisbee! Kids will learn to throw, catch, and run to get open during ultimate Frisbee. We will play Frisbee golf and many other fun Frisbee games! – Coach Scott


2/3: This past month, our 2nd and 3rd graders used their computer time to research their influential person. They searched through timelines looking for big events and made hand written notes which they used to write their first paragraphs. We also scrolled through collections of images and printed out pictures that represented their influential person during those big events. The last week in April we began creating a digital replication of our influential person, using a comic strip-making program, called Pixton. The last assignment of the year for our 2nd and 3rd graders is “to use the remainder of the year (just 4 more classes, eeek!) to create a comic strip that represents a time in the life of your influential person.” Coming soon to an inbox near you!

4/5: In the 4th and 5th grades, we’ve begun talking about different programming languages. The students were introduced to Blockly, a web-based graphical programming editor, where users drag and drop certain elements into sequence to learn basic programming concepts, such as commands, conditions, or loops. Blockly is great because it doesn’t require any typing or prior knowledge of a programming language. The students found their way through a series of mazes working independently and when the mazes got more complicated, some decided to work in pairs or small groups. The focus for the last few computer classes will be “how to think about programming”, so stay tuned for the next Specialist Newsletter! – Nikki

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Jennifer Holm Visits Aurora!

We are thrilled to be hosting two special author events this spring in honor of Aurora’s 25th birthday! The celebration begins on Monday, April 21, with Jennifer L. Holm, a multiple Newbery Honors winner and New York Time bestselling children’s author.

Monday, April 21, 2014
10:00 to 10:30 am
Aurora School Auditorium

About the Author

Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm are the brother and sister team of two graphic novel series that are packed with humor and kid appeal — the popular Babymouse and the bestselling Squish series. Jennifer is also the author of several historical fiction novels for middle-grade readers, including Penny From Heaven, a 2007 Newbery Honor Book. In addition to her all-school presentation, during her visit, Jennifer will also be spending some time separately with our 4th and 5th graders. Together they will talk about writing historical fiction.


“When I was a kid, I liked to read. A lot. One of our neighbors said recently that his clearest memory of me as a child was watching me rake the lawn one-handed while I read a book with the other!” – Jennifer L. Holm

Coming Soon

Stay tuned for the date and time in May, where we’ll welcome Annie Barrows, the author of the popular Ivy + Bean series, as well as the New York Times #1 adult title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

For More Information

Please contact our school librarian, Kathy Shepler.

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – February & March 2014


We are in a music theory unit for all of the grade levels at Aurora School. Kids are learning about the staff and treble clef, and working on memorizing all of the note names in the treble clef. We’ve been doing this through stories and games, and in particular some stories featuring Freddie the Frog (who lives on the F line in the treble clef). We are also working on learning and composing with whole, half, quarter and eighth notes, as well as the quarter note rest.

K/1s spent much of February and March perfecting their play songs and choreography. Room 3 additionally took time to choose and compose musical sounds for their characters.

2/3s continue to work on recorder, which we have been using as our main tool for reading and playing music.

4/5s have been through a process to choose what they will be singing for Graduation. I always learn more about popular music from the kids during this time, as they bring in their favorite songs and we listen to and discuss lyrics and melody.

In K/1 movement we have been playing games with hula hoops and carpet squares, as well as our usual scarf and ribbon fun. We have just added bean bags to the mix which is fun – kicking, balancing, and catch and toss. – Eve


K-3: The younger grades spent some time in February looking at other award winners from the American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference such as the Geisel Award for the best beginning reader of 2013. Then we began one of the best-loved units of the year, the California Young Reader Medal competition. Together we read 5 books nominated for the CYRM picture book category and then students voted for their favorite. Each student’s vote was forwarded to Sacramento where the votes are tallied. A winner will be announced in late April. Everyone enjoys being a real judge for the winner.

4/5: In the older grades, we also spent some time on other award winners from the ALA Youth Media Awards for 2013, such as the Newbery Award for the most distinguished writing for young people. We reviewed the criteria for the award and learned all about the four books that won a medal this year. We’ve also spent a good amount of time on sharing favorite recent reading with each other and identifying titles to add to the Aurora Library. And the “behind closed doors” bookshelves are such a wonderful hit with the 4/5 students. Those books are the titles that are reserved for only the older readers getting ready for middle school and they are so popular! We’ve also added quite a few older reader graphics that are equally popular. Our “young adult” section is humming with enthusiastic readers.

During the last two months we have also completed our hand-made booklets to hold our “Fiction Genre” study coming up. Everyone created a single signature of pages, hand-sewed the pages together and attached them to the “hard cover” boards also of their making. They look beautiful and will be the perfect home for our study of six specific fiction genres coming up next month. – Kathy


Ceramics was the name of the game for the month of February in the Art Room across all grades. We delved into the skills of coiling, pinching, modeling, and slab building. During the process of learning the properties of working with the clay we then added textures, details, and our own style. Glazing and firing the kiln is always a highlight. It is sort of magical to watch students go through the process that requires a certain amount of patience, for a big reward. They are very proud of their work, sharing it with their fellow classmates.

The month of March brought our artists into exploring other media:

4/5 students began acrylic painting, a real highlight of the year. This year we focused on various methods to create a more “painterly” look (rather than our paintings looking like they were “colored in” like in a coloring book.)

2/3 students worked on a scratch paper art project, discovering ways to add pattern and texture to their drawings of animals. We studied various artists from Aboriginal art to engravings by Stephen Alcorn and discussed how these artists achieved this effect.

K/1 students continued to explore their classroom theme of oceans/water by creating multi layered ocean collages, using a variety of media to create depth and texture.

Integrated Art was focused on the 4/5 classrooms in February, studying the human skeleton. In the Art Room we talked about the wide variety of jobs that exist for artists in the fields of Bio Medical Visualization (Medical Illustration) and how it crosses over from hand drawing to computer work. For our practice we carefully observed a human skeleton and skull and practiced sketching with awareness.

Integrated Art in March was focused on the 2/3 classrooms and their study of People Who Make a Difference. In the Art Room, each week, we looked at the way artists can make a difference. From a study of the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) we took a stroll around the school discussing and noting how our school includes people of all abilities and what changes we can make to make it more accessible. This led us into designing a playground that would include everyone – a boundless playground. We also studied Rachel Carson and her contributions to environmental awareness. We made “seed balls” of indigenous wildflowers that attract birds and butterflies that we threw (planted) throughout our community. Our final week was focused on the artist Hundertwasser and his contribution to environmental activism through his posters and the way he lived his life. We created our own posters in response to issues we personally believe in and would like to see changed. – Kerry


It’s been a lot of fun in computers this month! The 2/3s continued using Storybird. Students chose artwork from a gallery of beautiful illustrations and created their own story, including characters and dialogue. After they finished them up, they shared them with you…be sure to check your email inbox This creative writing exercise has been a fun way for students to practice their typing skills and allow our writers to create a story from artwork rather than an idea of their own.

The 4/5s have been hard at work with their state project. They were introduced to Britannica for Kids the first week of March. Room 5 researched Alaska’s geography and Room 6 researched Hawaii’s geography. They gathered information and made notes in preparation for an in-class writing assignment. Each class since then has been spent gathering research for their state project, formatting their paragraphs, and typing up their author connections and bibliographies. Great work 4/5s! – Nikki


As always, we’ve been having a wonderful time in woodshop these past few months!

Our biggest project so far was the abacus. With 2 rows of 10 beads, we were able to start practicing addition and subtraction. The students worked hard to build these complex math machines, and they were then given the opportunity to brainstorm their own math problems. Not surprisingly, many creative problems appeared on the woodshop dry erase board. 10+10-2? No problem! Let’s count the beads!

In the era of smartphones and tablets, an abacus may seem archaic, even to a first grader. However, making our own tools helps to strengthen understanding and empowerment, and hopefully, enthusiasm for the task at hand!

Next up, we’ll be building wooden brick houses for the island project. This project consists of an imaginary community that we build from the ground up on a model island in the middle of the ocean. – Alex


This is Coach Scott with the PE update. Before the February break, we had a great time re-visiting Capture the Flag. This is always a favorite and is a great teamwork activity.

We had been working for a long time on lacrosse and have just recently reached the culmination of our Lacrosse unit. We played ‘steal the bacon lacrosse’ in which the students had the opportunity to show what they had learned. The ‘scoops’, ‘shots’, and ‘passing’ were done very nicely and all of the students made improvements in their hand eye coordination.

Next up we have Basketball. In this unit students will learn how to :

1. Dribble
2. Pass
3. Shoot
4. Steal
5. Defend

I truly love teaching the basketball unit and am excited to get started! – Coach Scott


K/1s have been learning about different shapes, body parts and, “La Ropa”. They are going to be designers creating their own clothing. They have been solving crosswords and playing memory cards. They know more words in Spanish, and some of them can create short silly phrases.

2/3s have been learning about “the city” and directions. They have created their own maps and added the names of different places in Spanish. In April, they will be exploring how to navigate in a city where people speak only Spanish. Students made a word-search in Spanish for Aurora. Please find the instructions to solve it in the auditorium on the Spanish bulletin board.

4/5s have been learning about professions and verbs. They had an intense month learning how to conjugate verbs in Spanish. They created a song and learned a lot. Fifth graders made a video about members of their families. It will show at an assembly in April. I will send you the date soon.

You are always welcome to be part of any Spanish class; please feel free to contact me in advance to let me know when you want to join us. – Tania

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – February 2014


It’s been a lot of fun in computers this month! Earlier in the month, the 2/3s were introduced to Storybird, a free online tool that helps you make short, art-inspired, stories and poems. Students chose artwork from a gallery of beautiful illustrations and created their own story, including characters and dialogue. This creative writing exercise has been a fun way for students to practice their typing skills and allows our writers to create a story from artwork rather than an idea of their own. The 2/3’s have also been working in Google docs and typing a couple of their poems to present at their upcoming Poetry & Photo Slam, on February 12 and 13.

Our 4th & 5th graders have started customizing their personal yearbook pages online, using Tree Ring, a yearbook design software package. They’re having lots of fun typing up dozens of their 4th and 5th grade memories and designing their pages with graphics and backgrounds! At this point in the year, it’s easy to drift away from “the home row” and develop poor typing habits. We’re taking a break from the typing apps for a bit and have spent some time in Google docs doing some free typing. Please help remind your child to come back to the home row when typing and to slow down. Speed should not be the ultimate goal, so provide reminders to float/rest over the home row and to stretch and use multiple fingers when typing. – Nikki


Kindergarteners and first graders have been learning about parts of the body, practicing the song, “Baila con tu cuerpo”, and watching MUZZY. MUZZY is the BBC language program for children. First graders also made up and recorded a song about opposites. I will send the song soon.

The 2/3s have been learning about “La ropa”. They are able to describe what are they wearing. They have also been practicing how to describe a person. They have become more and more familiar with the Spanish accent and how to read in Spanish.

The 4/5s have been learning about “la familia”, the members of the family, and the activities they are doing. Fourth graders wrote about a member of their family. You can see their work in the auditorium on the Spanish bulletin board. Fifth graders made a video that is in the editing process. It will be done in a week or so. – Tania


January in the K/1 classrooms found us using our observation skills to look very closely at various objects and draw every detail that we saw (not what we “thought” they looked like). Throughout these close observation drawings the lively conversations turned to discovery and sometimes disbelief in how things looked different when you took the time to really “see”.

The 2/3s continued to “frame” and title our photographs in preparation for our joint Poetry and Photo Slam in early February. We then needed to go through our portfolios in order to select two photos that we felt best depicted The Power of Art to hang in the show. If you attend their performance please make sure to ask them about their process.

It was also a photography month for the 4/5 classrooms as we looked through the photos we took last month and decided how we could artistically arrange, mount, and title them. – Kerry


K/1: We started the month deepening our knowledge of three animal Dewey categories where students can find books that interest them. We added Conservatorship (Zoos, Aquariums, Preserves) in section #578, to Wild Animals (#578) and Domesticated Animals (#636).

2/3: We started the month adding Noddlehead tales to our World Folklore Tale Types. Such fun read alouds. Ask you kids to share what ‘Epossumandas’ does to make him a noodlehead/numbskull/nitwit character type…….”Epossumandas, what DO you have in your hand?!”

4/5: We started the month by choosing paper for the cover of the students’ Fiction Genres hand-made books.

And then everyone spent the rest of January on the annual school-wide “Caldecott Award” book study. The Caldecott Award is given annually to the “best picture book” done in the previous year in the US. All grades spent time studying previous Caldecott Gold Medal winners. One week everybody gathered around the posters of all the Caldecott winners and shared our favorites. One week each class did a Caldecott Book Pass where each student studied 4 previous winners and completed a “ballot” of their personal favorite and why. The last week, each student got a ballot of the just-announced 2014 Caldecott medalists and we book talked their strengths without knowing which one got the “gold” medal and which got the “silver” medals. Everybody voted for his or her own personal favorite, just before I announced which one got the Caldecott from the ALA committee. Everyone loves this unit, especially me! – Kathy


We had a wonderful January here in the Aurora woodshop. One of our main projects was the angle maker. This was our first time using not only bolts, but also wing nuts! Wing nuts are awesome because they require no tools. Only our fingers are required to tighten and loosen them.

Some important questions came up during this project: what is an angle anyway? How are bolts different from nails and screws? Why is it useful to not need a tool and use only our hands? How many letters can I form with the angle maker? Many thoughtful answers surfaced in our sessions. Ask your child what he or she thinks!

What I especially love about the angle maker is that it’s somewhat abstract and doesn’t resemble anything in particular. Rather than serving as a toy or decorative object, it demonstrates an application for bolts and wing nuts and shows us how they can make a moving, functioning joint much like an elbow or knee. Also, it helps us understand how molding the angle maker onto two or even three surfaces and locking it in place can create angles.

Speaking of math, we’re making our very own abacuses this month. It’s an exciting new project, and they’re looking great so far! – Alex


K/1s in music class have been working on play songs, learning folk dances, learning about note names on the treble clef, and working on singing short solo melodic phrases (every kid can sing on pitch!).

2/3s have been working on songs for the Art and Poetry Slam, including one piece that we wrote in music class specifically for the event. We learned some Civil Rights songs and listened to music for Lunar New Year. We have been working on dances from China, France, and Spain.

4/5s are working on a complex piece called ‘Lo Yisa Goy’ that involves singing, movement, recorder and xylophone. We hope to perform it at an assembly in March; I will put a note in Friday Features when we select a date for that. We have also been singing repertoire from the Aurora Songbook and learning dances.

K/1 movement (after our first ten minutes of scarf and ribbon dancing) has included several games with hula-hoops, running and elimination games, and dramatic movement games (including circle and animal games). – Eve


We just finished Hockey and it was a blast! Now, with the Super Bowl in recent memory, we are trying out Football. As of right now we are working on these learning targets:

1. I can throw
2. I can catch
3. I can get open

Depending on how each class takes to the football “learning” games (such as ultimate football) we may or may not go on to play some real flag football games. We will continue learning about football vocabulary with ideas like:

1. complete pass
2. incomplete pass
3. interception
4. down
5. punt
6. line of scrimmage

– Coach Scott

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Power to Save the Bay

As part of their study of power, Aurora’s 2nd and 3rd graders are exploring their power to make change. After learning that a big company plans to pave over the wetlands in Redwood City, students wrote letters to Redwood City Council, the Oakland Tribune, the Montclarion, the Army Corp of Engineers, Save the Bay, and Cargill’s CEO, to use their power and voice their opinion.

Dont Pave My Bay

Their teachers have since been receiving many emails and finding the letters published in various newspapers and on Facebook. They also received a kind letter of support from Redwood City’s City Council and mayor. Sharing all of this with the students this week has been extremely exciting and rewarding. They have been able to see first hand how they can start discussions, attempt to make change, and use their powers to positively affect our world.

The most exciting part of all this is that Cargill’s CEO in Minnesota forwarded the letters to Cargill’s offices here in California, and a representative from Cargill is coming in to give a presentation about the company, the planned development site, and answer our students’ questions. A representative from Save the Bay will also be coming in that week. We feel it is important for the kids to hear from both sides. Before the visits their teachers will be preparing the students in a variety of ways, drafting meaningful questions and teaching how one can respectfully disagree.

What follows are letters published in the Monclarion.

I’m in second grade at Aurora School. We visited the Hayward shoreline. I remember all of the birds that live there and visited.

I want to tell you something about another wetland that needs to be saved in Redwood City. Cargill is a company that wants to pave over the wetlands. Please spread the news.

Zoe Kennedy
Aurora School Oakland

Don’t allow Cargill to pave wetlands

I have some facts to tell you: Cargill is trying to pave the bay, but I want to stop them.

Wetlands are important because wetlands help prevent floods by soaking up extra water like a sponge.

The Redwood City salt ponds are 1,400 acres, 24,800 birds visit the salt ponds annually.

Alden Gates
Aurora School Oakland

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – November & December 2013


PE at Aurora is a blast. Before the break, we completed a long unit on soccer. Students learned to dribble, pass, shoot, block, and dodge. We ended with a few class favorite’s: Steal the bacon and World cup soccer. The students showed great sportspersonship and mastery of the soccer skill set. Also, I was impressed with the effort that each individual gave in Steal the Bacon.

Up next we have Hockey! Being from Hockeytown, this is my personal favorite activity for PE class. Students will learn how to dribble, pass, shoot a wrist shot, shoot a slapshot, play goalie, and defend. – Scott


Kindergarteners and first graders have been learning about food! Fruits, veggies, meat and of course candies and ice cream are in the new vocabulary. They have been practicing “Cual es tu comida favorita? /mi comida favorita es ____________” They are also practicing “me gusta _______ , no me gusta___________” (I like _______, I don’t like_________). First graders brought a book home two weeks ago. I hope you enjoyed it.

The 2/3s finished the book about food and animals. I hope you got the book and had the chance to review it with them. The new unit is about la casa y la familia. They have designed their dream house from the inside and the outside. They are learning about different objects in each part of the house. ABC’s and pronunciation have been part of our Spanish class as well.

The 4/5s have been learning about the family. They learned about the names each member of the family in Spanish. We also talked about the different kinds of families that we have at Aurora. They are learning 130 new words in Spanish and how to use those words in a sentence. Last week, we talked about how to have fun in Spanish and use more Spanish during the class. I am excited to get their ideas! – Tania


The 2/3s finished their Sumo Paint unit with a fun “design your own Aurora t-shirt” lesson. This app has helped them hone in on their navigation skills by choosing from an array of tools, colors, and effects. The remainder of the month, students have been typing, typing, typing! They’ve explored a couple of different features of Google Drive and have created their first documents of the school year. Last week, the 2/3 students typed up a poem they wrote in class, found a few fun ways to format it, then shared it with Nick to be printed and sent home. Next month is a short one, and both the 2nd and 3rd graders will dive into Storybird, a free online tool that helps you make short, art-inspired, stories that you can share, read, and print. Students will choose artwork from a gallery of beautiful illustrations and create their own story, including characters and dialogue. This creative writing exercise is a fun way for students to practice their typing skills and allows our writers to create a story from artwork rather than an idea of their own.

The 4/5s spent a couple of weeks typing from a printed document, which included teacher-made spelling and grammatical errors. The content of the printed document was from their in-class read loud to give them familiarity of the characters and storyline, making it was easier to find errors and make corrections. Manipulating a document is becoming second nature for our 5th graders, which was exciting news for our 4th graders who found this type of practice a bit more difficult that typing apps. Last week I shared photo albums from the Halloween Parade and the Fall Festival, so the 4/5s can begin creating their own photo album in preparation for their yearbook. We only have a few weeks before the Winter Break, and we’ll be using them to dive into the process of making a two-classroom yearbook! – Nikki


-ABSTRACTION: We studied the art of Alma Thomas and her use of line and color to create abstract paintings. We talked about what inspires us, as artists, to create. For Alma it was her garden.

-PATTERN: The kiddos also shared the book I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow. Using pattern as our focus we traced our hands and decided what wild pattern and color to use for our designs.

-PASTEL and LINE: Using the unusual material, glue to create our lines, we then added pastel to transform black paper into a vibrant work of art.

-PHOTOGRAPHY was our focus for these two months. We began to prepare work to be hung for the upcoming 2/3 performance, Photo and Poetry Slam. Focusing our work around the questions, “I feel powerful when__________” and, “Art has the power to__________ “ we took to the streets with cameras in hand. Selection then became a big project as we “weeded through” the photos we took for the most artistic ones. We then spent the next several weeks deciding how to display/frame and alter our photos.

-GALLERY: Look for them at the 2/3 Photo and Poetry Slam in February.

-PASTEL: After a brief study of the work of Wolf Kahn our artists spent the next several weeks exploring pastel as a medium using it in both an abstract and expressionistic way.

-SUMI-E: Listening to Japanese Shakuhachi (wooden flute) music and looking at the art of Sumi –e painting (bamboo brush) we spent our art time practicing how to hold the bamboo brush (straight up and down-opposite of how we hold a pencil or paint brush) and painted our interpretations of stalks of live bamboo. It was a very meditative moment with a seriousness of intent.

-PHOTOGRAPHY: After discussing such questions as, “What makes a photograph a work of art vs a snapshot?”, and “How do you take an intentional photo?” the students headed outside looking for patterns, details, and ways to create artistic photographs.

-INTEGRATED ART: The Art Room and Rooms 5 + 6 worked together on a unit titled ENCOUNTER that explored a variety of perspectives about the encounter between Columbus and the tribes that inhabited the Caribbean. In the Art Room we concentrated on the Taino people, who had built thriving and rich communities throughout the Caribbean, We explored their arts, symbols, creation myths, and culture. Taino means “Good and Noble people”. So much to be learned by us all. – Kerry


In K/1 woodshop, we have been investigating the differences between nails and screws and where it is appropriate to use them. We began our explorations by learning how to use a screw driver. Using that knowledge we built a treasure box with great care and precision. This box has two compartments hidden inside and the only key to the box is a screwdriver. This encourages everyone to practice. If you happen to peek inside you’ll find some colored shapes like circles and stars and some tiny pieces of precious rosewood. It’s not easy to remember the direction the screw must be turned, so we spent a lot of time reviewing. Some found that reciting “righty tighty, lefty loosey,” made it easier, while others preferred their intuition, using their drawing/writing hand as a point of reference.

We are now in the midst of building Geoboards. It’s a 3×3 matrix of nails on 3/4″ finish plywood where students can suspend rubber bands across to make shapes, letters and abstract designs. Students are required to use a pattern to transfer the holes markings, drill pilots, and finally….. start nailing!

One of the main aspects of nailing that we discussed was grip. The higher you go up on the handle of the hammer (choking up), the more accuracy you have. However, there is less power in this grip. If you choke down on the handle you have more power, but less accuracy. After pondering this tradeoff one student suggested using two hands and combining both grips. Interesting! Let’s experiment! – Alex


The music class has been busy with our preparations for Family and Friends Day! This is the largest just-music performance of the school year, and we hope you can be there! It will be on Friday December 20 at 10:00 am.

While our content in recent weeks has been for Family and Friends Day (and therefor I am remaining vague in this newsletter, so you can be surprised by the performance!), we continue to work with skill building and music theory. K/1 is working on the difference between rhythm and beat (and holding steady with both); 2/3’s are the amazing fast learning recorder players; and 4/5’s are working on reading and playing challenging rhythms in the treble clef, on both recorder and xylophone.

K/1 movement is a time of joy. We continue to start our time with scarf and ribbon play, followed by all sorts of games. Lately we have been playing a game called Garden brought to us by Aubrielle in Room 2, and acting out ‘In a Winter Garden’ (a fairy tale game). Happy Holidays! – Eve


K/1: Along with reading some stories for Thanksgiving, we plan for Dec read-alouds to be about Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. This months lessons were about how to pull books from the shelves with the least impact on spines and return them properly and the all-important “paper-only-please” bookmark. Other lessons concentrated on finding the Dewey number shelves for domesticated animals (aka “pets”) and then how to find their wild cousins. We practiced identifying the Dewey category for reptiles/amphibians/mammals/birds/fish etc using little stuffies and then finding a book on that animal family.

2/3: We read aloud for Thanksgiving and continue read-alouds for Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Students started pages in their Folklore Tale Types books by studying “pourquoi” and “cumulative” and maybe we’ll have time for “knucklehead” tales by reading Hanukkah tales about the city of Chelm. Starting second grade students can begin to join the popular Newbery Book Club so we spent parts of our library learning about the award for “the most distinguished youth books”, and browsing/booktalking the book shelf that holds all these books – including this year’s potential winners called “Mock Newbery” books.

4/5: Reading about the real story of the woman that fought to establish the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ll also read about winter festivals. We have been studying how the Newbery Medal (for the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”) is judged and learned about a tool Kathy used to keep track of special examples of writing on a color coded sheet of paper. We are going to learn about How A Book Is Made showing all kinds of real book examples. Everyone will have a chance to choose 1- 2 advance reviewer copies of chapter books to take home as their own AND write in just like a reviewer might! – Kathy

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