This Week in Upper El

“Impermanence is the very essence of joy – the drop of bitterness that enables one to perceive the sweet.” -Myrtle Reed

And that’s a wrap! What an incredible year with a fantastic group of humans. Thank you for this week’s beautiful, heartfelt sentiments and generous gifts. My heart is full, and I feel very loved.

I am so blessed to have had the honor of working with these beautiful children. They are kind, responsible, and caring as individuals and as a group.

Throughout the year, this group of students has demonstrated their dedication, especially in the last month. They were determined to maximize their math lessons before summer break and, for some, before heading off to middle school. Each and every one of them should be immensely proud of their hard work and achievements.

I hope you have a wonderful summer! Please keep in touch!

With love,

This Week in Upper El

We had a fantastic three days packed with learning at Nature’s Classroom this week!

After settling into our dorm and eating lunch, we set off on our first field group hike in the woods with our group leaders, Ranger and Alan. This first hike was challenging on a trail that hadn’t been used in five years. Many of us ended up getting wet as we built and crossed a bridge to cross a swampy area. Our next class was on starting a fire with a firebow. We learned what materials to collect and what process to follow to start and keep a fire burning. After dinner, we participated in a science quest. We learned how sound, light, heat, and electric currents can transfer energy from place to place. We ended day one with quiet sing and a story read to us by Alan.

Day two was full of hikes in the woods. We were lucky to be joined by Mr. Newman for our first hike of the day! We went on four hikes, logged over nine miles, and spent a glorious time in the forest learning about animal and plant life. We learned to use a map and compass to navigate to a forest brook, where we built dams and created small pools. After dinner, we had a campfire and marshmallows and sang before going on a night hike in the woods. To end day two, Ranger read us a poem.

On our last day, we had a rainy start. After packing and cleaning our dorm, we made our own bagged lunches to eat in the woods. We hiked, built our last fire, and gathered around it to eat our lunch, toast marshmallows, and warm our bodies. We left Nature’s Classroom having formed bonds, shared experiences, and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Jill has created a Flickr album of her beautiful photos from our trip. I hope you enjoy them!

This Week in Upper El

As the year winds down and lessons wrap up, we have many end-of-year activities. This week, we squeezed in many math lessons during work cycles, prepared for the Spring Concert, and planned for next week’s trip to Nature’s Classroom.

As your children pack for our trip, please remember that they will have to carry their bags to the cabin. We went over the packing list together in class and talked about packing light. Nature’s Classroom does not allow electronics, including eBook readers, phones, smartwatches, and tablets. I will allow any children who would like to call and say goodnight to use my phone. We cannot bring food into the dorm, so please don’t pack any snacks in the suitcase. I have created a What’s App group chat for communication during the trip. I’ll send photos as often as possible and update you throughout the week.


  • water bottle
  • small backpack (to carry to all activities)
  • sleeping bag or sheets and a blanket, pillow
  • toiletries (soap, shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, comb)
  • pajamas
  • underwear
  • socks (6 pair)
  • pants for hiking and activities
  • short sleeve shirts
  • a long sleeve shirt
  • warm outer layer
  • closed-toe shoes (2 pair)
  • poncho
  • sunblock and insect repellent (no aerosols)


  • hat, sunglasses
  • flip flops or shower shoes
  • shorts for the cabin
  • book, notebook, pencils, deck of cards
  • disposable camera


This Week in Upper El

The Upper Elementary students’ determination to have as many math lessons as possible before the end of the school year is truly inspirational. We are working on a variety of lessons, including adding and subtracting fractions with different denominators, multiplying and dividing fractions, dividing decimals, squaring binomials and trinomials, and learning to find the square root of numbers. Our study of square roots began with a lesson on the history of the radical sign and Fibonacci.

In geometry, fourth graders are working on different ways to find the area of acute triangles. Fifth graders finished their study of the apothem and are now learning to find the circumference of circles. We began this study by measuring the circumference of different circles with string. Next week, we will compare a circle’s circumference with its diameter to introduce the irrational number Pi.

In geography this week, we worked with maps’ legends and learned how legends convey critical information to the map. Our work included locating the state capitol, types of highways, county boundaries, route markers, airports, campsites, and rest areas. We also located mountains, valleys, and bodies of water.

I hope you have an amazing week ahead and I look forward to seeing you at the Spring Concert and Picnic on Friday at 5:15!

This Week in Upper El

There was a lot of excitement this week as our fourth graders hosted third-grade friends for a day, and fifth graders visited the middle school. Fifth graders returned from their visit enthusiastic and looking forward to moving to middle school in the fall. They attended math class, study hall, robotics, science, Spanish, and humanities with their middle school peers. Before the visit, some students felt a bit nervous about going to middle school, but by the end of the day, all those nerves transformed into eagerness and anticipation for next year. Our two fourth graders had a busy morning hosting third graders. They were excellent hosts and enjoyed their time with next year’s classmates.

In geometry this week, fourths learned to find the area of an acute triangle, and fifths completed their study of the apothem by measuring the apothem, radius, and base of each of eight figures.

Our geography lesson focused on working with scale on shaded relief and road maps. Students learned to find the distance between two points with a ruler and with the scale provided on the maps.

In chemistry, we learned how energy is produced in the Sun and about nuclear fusion, in which atomic nuclei combine to produce energy.

Thank you for your generosity and kindness during Teacher Appreciation Week. I feel adored and appreciated and am very grateful for you and your children. I have the best job in the world!

We now have the bus company’s total for our trip to Nature’s Classroom. The total cost this year is $500, including the bus. Please send your remaining balance at your earliest convenience. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms! I hope you have a delightful day filled with love.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead,

This Week in Upper El

“Trees are poems that the Earth writes upon the sky.” –from “Sand and Foam” by Kahlil Gibran

We enjoyed an active week in Upper El. Highlights included gardening, an Arbor Day presentation, and new math, geometry, and chemistry lessons.

Students began the week moving the raised bed flowers to pots in preparation for relocating those beds during the field construction. As is typical of these students, they tackled the project with joy and enthusiasm. We are hopeful the plants will survive the move, and we can replant them in the fall when the field is complete.

We had a visit from Charlie Arrindell, who gave a captivating presentation about the benefits and anatomy of trees and Arbor Day. He gifted each of us a sapling to plant at our homes. Thank you for sharing your time, generosity, and knowledge with us, Charlie!

In geometry this week, fourth graders learned to find the area of a parallelogram and discovered they use the same formula they used to find the area of a rectangle. Fifth graders learned about the concept of the circle as the limit of regular polygons. They researched this with Montessori insets of each plane figure, three through ten sides, and a circle and learned that each “side” of a circle is a point on the curved line that forms the circle’s circumference. They identified the circle as the “ultimate polygon.” Their follow-up work was to translate the nomenclature of regular polygons into the nomenclature of the circle. Fifth graders also prepared for next week’s lesson by beginning a study of the apothem of each figure, triangle through decagon. They drew each figure and traced their apothem, radius, and base.

This week in chemistry, we learned about the sun’s nomenclature and discovered some amazing facts about its distance from Earth, temperature, size, mass, gravity, age, and core reactions.

We are still waiting to hear back from the bus company on their cost for our trip to Nature’s Classroom. I will email you your final cost as soon as they confirm.

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Karen and Deb

This Week in Upper El

After a week of spending our mornings taking standardized tests, we enjoyed spending Friday welcoming grandparents and special friends to our classroom. Upper El students enthusiastically prepared, laying out activities they wanted to do with their guests. They shared their work with joy and pride, demonstrating how they used the materials to complete their lessons. During the week, we also enjoyed baking banana bread and celebrating Olive’s birthday!

This Week in Upper El

Upper El students were very focused during this short week, working on lessons and assignments before taking a break from work cycle next week to participate in standardized testing.

In geography this week, we focused on understanding latitude and longitude. Using latitude and longitude, students learned to identify the absolute location of any point on the Earth’s surface. Our lesson focused on developing skills students need to understand location. We started our lesson by learning about the Sumerians and their star charts, which were the basis for circles having 360 degrees. We then learned how that applies to the grid system of lines we use on maps to measure distances north and south of the equator and west and east of the prime meridian.

The fourth-grade geometry lesson focused on the area of squares. Students applied the information they learned about finding the area of rectangles to squares. In fifth-grade geometry, students learned to find the area of polygons in three different ways, called cases. They learned to compare the perimeter and apothem of the polygon to the base and height of the rectangle in order to find the area.

Our lesson on the chemistry of stars was about the life cycle of stars. We looked at the sequence of stars, from nebula through black hole. Students are making charts to illustrate the sequence as follow-up work.

Finally, our grammar lessons focused on adjectives for fourth years and pronouns for fifth years. The adjectives lesson distinguished between two categories: descriptive and limiting. Limiting includes all kinds of adjectives that are not descriptive. Our pronouns lesson categorized personal pronouns as nominative, objective, or possessive. Students also looked at the first, second, and third-person and singular and plural personal pronouns.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to come in for conferences. It was truly remarkable to share that time with you and your children!