AltSchool Hub

AltSchool Dogpatch’s Gala Evening of Art

Posted by Annette Bauer

Apr 28, 2016 12:23:14 PM

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AltSchool Dogpatch celebrated the culmination of our Unit of Inquiry on art and self-expression by hosting a Gala Evening of Art with special guests of honor, our students and their families!  We showcased all of the hard work that our artists have been doing over the past two months, including pottery, paintings, portraits, watershed models, dioramas, and more.   

For the featured pieces, we asked each student to think about a “BIG IDEA” --a message, feeling, or thought -- that they would like to express through their art work. Students designed canvases and incorporated lines, colors, shapes, patterns and textures to best represent their ideas.The entire Dogpatch school family got a chance to celebrate learning and toast our students together in a magical evening of art, food, and fancy attire.

Check out photos from the event below!

 

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Topics: Dogpatch Classroom, Photos, Community

Spanish Immersion at AltSchool

Posted by Sophia Espinoza

Mar 23, 2016 9:33:01 AM

Many world language programs rely on textbooks and learning vocabulary and grammar chapter by chapter. That’s not how we do things here at AltSchool. Through engaging projects and by building social-emotional strength, our students learn to articulate themselves and the world around them through the Spanish language. Our hands-on, immersive approach makes learning Spanish fun.

Watch to learn more about our inaugural Spanish Immersion class

An immersive language environment
¡Bienvenidos a nuestra clase de español!

As you walk around our classroom, you’ll see posters, books, and the daily schedule all in Spanish. That’s because 90% of the day is in Spanish, while 10% is in English. We create a rich, immersive environment that’s not just about teaching isolated vocabulary. Through hands-on projects, children connect Spanish vocabulary to its real world application. In our school, we’re not learning Spanish, we’re learning in Spanish.


Community Meetings
Every day starts and ends with a community circle, where we share how we’re feeling, what we’ve accomplished, and what our favorite part of the day was. We also have weekly community meetings where we discuss topics such as mindfulness and empathy. These are opportunities to learn social-emotional skills and express appreciation for friends and the community. Social-emotional learning is core to our approach, and regular class reflections help students check in with their emotions and feelings, and express them to teachers and the class.

 

AltSchool Spanish Classroom

A personalized approach to language acquisition
Children have autonomy in our classes to study topics they find fascinating. This builds intrinsic motivation, as students can’t wait to learn the vocabulary of their favorite topic, whether that’s about animals, sports cars, or a particular musician.

To reinforce their independence, every Friday students have “choice time,” where they can choose a core skill they’d like to practice that is part of their personal growth plan. This could be reading a book, practicing math, or writing. Teachers have curated specific activities for each students, but it is up to students as to which they’d like to tackle first — which gives them agency in their own learning journey.

 

AltSchool Spanish Field Trip

Going into the community: project-based learning
This year, students are studying the elements of our local community. Students divided themselves into three groups based on what they wanted to study: the people, flora and fauna, and structures of Dogpatch. For the people group, students learned skills to interview local shop owners and community workers. For their final project they created videos of their conversations, as well as made models of the places where they conducted the interviews. The flora and fauna group studied the plants and animals in our parks, which include giant sequoias and lots of dogs! They interviewed dog owners to gather information on the dogs and studied the neighborhood environment with a local ecologist. For their final projects they created a museum with hands-on exhibits and infographics based on the data they collected. The structures group learned about buildings, architecture, and vehicles in our neighborhoods. They were fascinated by the different-sized wheels on vehicles and decided to measure the circumferences of 5 different vehicle wheels. For their final project they created a xylophone in which the unique bar sounds corresponded to the different-sized wheels; the bigger the wheel, the deeper the sound. They then composed songs to emulate the sounds of our neighborhood.

 

AltSchool Spanish Field Trip

Field trips and studies of cultures around the world
From the Museum of African Diaspora to Mexican bakeries and the murals in the Mission, our class explores diverse cultures and communities throughout our city. During the fall and winter months we study international “celebrations of light,” like Dia de los Muertos, Hanukkah and Diwali. We learn about unique cultures’ traditions and compare and contrast them to our own. Through these experiences, students value the diversity and arts of different vibrant cultures.

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Topics: Dogpatch Classroom, Spanish Language

A Look Inside AltSchool Dogpatch

Posted by Annette Bauer

Mar 17, 2016 3:12:19 PM

Imagine a place where joy and passion flow through every day, where children can safely explore and their interests are lovingly nurtured. Imagine a place where children’s voices are heard and they learn to articulate and own their opinions and feelings. Imagine a place where parents are true partners in their child’s learning journey.

Welcome to AltSchool Dogpatch!

We’re a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and creative bunch here at Dogpatch. Dogpatch is split across two locations, right around the corner from each other. We work together to build a strong, unified community. With our Spanish Immersion program, our Dogpatch community regularly celebrates the diverse cultures of the world. We’re also artists, scientists, tinkerers, mathematicians, explorers, and so much more.

I invite you to tour our enriching classrooms at Dogpatch, and below are highlights as you visit our space.

Dogpatch 1: Virtual Tour

Dogpatch 2: Virtual Tour

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An immersive language environment: Spanish
¡Bienvenidos a nuestra clase de español!

As you walk around Dogpatch 1, you’ll see posters, books, and the daily schedule all in Spanish. That’s because 90% of the day is in Spanish, while 10% is in English. We create a rich, immersive environment that’s not just about teaching isolated vocabulary. Through hands-on projects, children connect Spanish vocabulary to its real world application. In our school, we’re not learning Spanish, we’re learning in Spanish.

Personalizing through our space
We adapt to the needs of our students in so many ways — one of which is through our class structure. The environment is flexible, and we can move the interior design, modular tables, and sections however we need to better suit our students. Similarly, students can use the varied spaces around them in line with their learning styles, whether that’s standing, sitting in a bean bag, working on the ground, independently or in a group.

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The neighborhood is our playground
We get outside every day and experience what our neighborhood and city have to offer. Our local parks are amazing environments because students can use their imagination in so many ways. They look for snails, they create games, they move rocks, they build things — they can be themselves and be creative. Students also exercise their imaginations and connect with the world around them.

Projects that spark children’s innate curiosity
Inspired by the Reggio philosophy, our curriculum is generated by the children, and we teachers honor their interests. For example, while students were in the park one day, our teacher noticed how passionate they were about the mushrooms they found. So, we got books on mushrooms from the library; a parent came in to cook her famous mushroom soup, and a microbiologist visited the class to teach our students about the world of fungi. Students researched mushrooms, drew and labeled them to practice their fine motor skills, and even created fairytales within mushroom lands, flexing their storytelling muscles.

Part of the national standards for kindergarten and first grade include core skills involving reading, writing, research, fine motor skills, and drawing. By funneling these core skills through their interests, students are more engaged with the material because it’s relevant and fun. And also, students feel heard and empowered to speak their minds about their interests.

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Expressing oneself through the arts
Students connect art and social-emotional learning through art projects throughout each week. Recently, we reflected on artists who communicate their feelings and ideas through different techniques. They started by learning about Andy Goldsworthy and how he used found objects in nature to create his art. We also learned about Henri Matisse and how he 'drew with scissors' through cutouts. Students learn to articulate their feelings through artistic techniques like composition, color, line, sculpture and more. Once they create their art, they also learn to reflect and describe the elements, which fine-tunes their analytical skills.

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Real-world STEM experiences
Subjects come to life when they’re hands-on. This year, we used paint to learn about color spectra. We’ve built city models with legos and through maker projects. By visiting the marine mammal center and the beach, students learned about ecosystems and lifecycles. We studied reversible changes in matter through science experiments with water, balloons, and ice. Our goal is to inspire awe and curiosity. Through such enriching experiences, students can connect core academic skills with the real world around them.  

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Topics: Dogpatch Classroom, Virtual Tours

A Parent’s Perspective: Helping my son grow his confidence

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Dec 21, 2015 12:00:06 PM

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One of our parents, Sharon, shares how her 6-year old son has grown socially and emotionally, thanks to a personalized approach. Here is their story:

What have your overall experiences been like at AltSchool?

AltSchool has changed our lives. Before AltSchool, my son wouldn’t participate in a group, rarely interacted with peers, and felt bad about himself. Now he’s become a child whose loves life, his confidence is growing and he shows great compassion for others. He’s happy every single day and has lots of friends. When I come home from work, he cannot wait to tell me what happened. His face lights up when he talks about school.

Why do you think he’s changed so much?

Without a doubt, it’s due to his teachers and the personalized approach at AltSchool. The first few weeks he struggled while adjusting to the new environment. When the class went to PE, he removed himself from the group and didn’t want to participate. His teachers partnered with me to understand why. They sent me updates over Stream daily with what they tried and what worked until they found a way to help him.

He was picked on at preschool and he is acutely aware if people are judging him. With this knowledge, they worked hard to get him to realize that there’s no judgment and that he is part of the community where everyone is accepted. If he brings something to their attention, they thank him for sharing then show him that they are doing something about it. He is now interacting just as much as the other children. This is just one example of how much they individualize and care for each child. They dug and probed to understand why he didn’t want to participate and then did whatever they could to make him feel safe and valued.

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It sounds like he’s had a lot of social-emotional growth.

Yes! I’ve also seen his empathy develop for other children. Before, he didn’t like playing with younger kids because they can be unpredictable. Now when we go to a playground, if a younger child falls over he will help pick them up and say, “that’s a really good attempt for a 2-year old!” To see him re-assure a younger child is transformational.

I also notice his growth when I try to help him with things. For example, I tried helping him with a project, and when I didn’t do it right he said, “It’s OK Mom, you tried your best!” When I say, “I don’t know”, he’ll remind me that “I don’t know YET”.  

He’s also becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. He has gained the confidence to be okay with not knowing something and not getting things perfect the first time. He’s grasping the concept of “any failure is a learning to redesign or try a different approach.”

You mentioned the Parent Stream app. How do you use it?

I look at Stream every day, and I use that as a conversation starter with my son. I’ll say, “Oh, I saw your teacher post something about jellyfish!” And then he’ll talk about what he learned about jellyfish. He’s proud of his efforts, and they celebrate them in class. They celebrate each child’s progress in what each child is working on. Stream helps me connect with those successes he has in class.

How would you describe AltSchool’s use of technology?

He has a tablet, but the technology is not very prominent overall. He’ll talk about the science experiments he did or how many bugs they collected in the park. He never talks about the technology. Instead he’ll say, “I did this really cool project, and I took a picture of it using my tablet.”

How would you describe the teachers?

I don’t think I have ever met a more dedicated group of teachers. They partnered with me to find out what was going on and found a way to help him. They are 100% solutions-focused and really believed in him when he didn’t believe in himself. They are just incredible!

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Topics: School, Dogpatch Classroom, Parents

Summer Camp Highlights from Educators and Engineers

Posted by Sandy Naing

Aug 7, 2014 12:54:00 PM

What’s it like to create an imaginative experience for children to think and play like designers?

Our educators and engineers had a ton of fun guiding students in creating sensational pieces of (pretend) candy during the inaugural summer camp program, “Wonky Willard’s Candy Factory.”

The summer camp teaching team created opportunities for students to explore tastes, smells, and textures. They helped students develop working prototypes with hands-on and digital tools, like CubeTeam and 3-D printing. They also aided students in video editing and production to create commercials of their creations. 

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In addition, the camp was a great way for new educators to work alongside existing teachers and AltSchool engineers.  

Here’s what Kristin Uhlemeyer, a K-1 teacher, had to say about the experience:

“One of the best ways to get to know your teaching team is to actually teach together!  Summer camp was perfect for team building.  I also loved that students, new and old, collaborated over the summer. I think that, for the kids, having the chance to experiment with new technology, try creative ideas, and iterate on designs has become synonymous with AltSchool.”

Another engineer shared this with us:

“The summer camp gave me a chance to step out of my everyday role as an engineer to teach elementary school students about 3-D printing and computer-aided design. It was wonderful to influence so many young minds, get wrapped up in their energy, and watch them transform ideas into things.”

And, lastly, Jay Ho, mechanical engineer, said:

"I was thrilled to teach kids about what I do as a designer and builder, but I also experienced first-hand how the products we work on are used by our teachers and students. As we filmed our commercial to advertise the "candy" created, I laughed to the point of collapsing the kids."

Below are more pictures from the camp:

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Topics: AltSchool Innovation, Dogpatch Classroom, Summer

Summer Camp Week One: Introducing Wonky Willard and Candy Design

Posted by Sandy Naing

Jul 9, 2014 4:02:00 PM

WW8After months of planning, it is finally here - AltSchool’s first week of summer camp! This week is dedicated to creating extraordinary experiences for K-1 students in design thinking and engineering.

We checked in with Sarah Rothenberg, K-1 educator, to give us the scoop on what the kids have been up to so far. Their challenge is to prototype, design, build, and present their own mock-up of a virtual candy store using digital and hands-on tools.

On Monday, campers learned to think like designers. AltSchool teachers and Wonky Willard (aka Slade Maurer, AltSchool’s engineering director) probed students to consider the texture, size, shape, and sensory experience (sweet, salty, bitter) of their own candy designs.

Then, students practiced creating designs using CubeTeam.io and the 3D printer. Cubeteam.io is a painting and modeling program that students use to imagine and build their candy store before printing it out in 3D. The printer creates 3D “candy” from a one-dimensional candy design.

“It’s really exciting to watch the students go through the design process of exploring their own tastes in candy. It’s so fun to see how diverse their tastes are. Children are coming up with candy designs I never would have imagined...like chocolate covered cotton candy. This is what designers do when they are given complete freedom to be inspired. That’s how the best inventions are made,” Sarah says.

At the end of the week, students will present their project showcase to family and friends. Afterwards, students will have exclusive access to their shared virtual candy factory.

Next week (July 14-18), we will host upper elementary students in grades 2-5. The last week of our summer camp (July 21-25) is for middle school students.

***If you have a middle schooler who would like to attend the AltSchool summer camp, it’s not too late! We have just a couple spots left. Learn more details and register here.

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Topics: Dogpatch Classroom, Summer

TechCrunch Video: Inside an AltSchool Classroom

Posted by Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D.

May 2, 2014 12:56:00 PM

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TechCrunch visited our Dogpatch classroom to get an inside look into the AltSchool experience.

In the first video, journalist Leena Rao speaks with teachers Carolyn Wilson (Director of Education) and Lauren Hancock to understand the dynamics of our classroom. Leena also speaks with an upper elementary student to get a firsthand demonstration of an AltSchool personalized playlist. 

In the second video, Leena chats one-on-one with Max to understand his perspective on education as an entrepreneur and father. 

Check out the videos here.

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Topics: AltSchool in the Press, Dogpatch Classroom

The Science of Character

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Mar 20, 2014 1:06:00 PM

Today marks the global premiere of the short film, “The Science of Character.” Filmmakers from the Moxie Institute explore the neuroscience and social science behind character development. Check it out:

We find this movie incredibly inspiring. Our teaching approach is based on the research of Carol Dweck and others that shows that character development is one of the most important things we can teach our children.  

This week, for example, we’ve been cultivating environmental responsibility in our classroom.

A student recently mentioned that her father asked the family to take shorter showers because of the drought. She wanted to know more about what he meant.

So we engaged in a class discussion about all the things that we use water for. We came up with a long list - from farming to cooking, electricity, and pretty much anything that is manufactured.

“ANYTHING that is manufactured? Even jeans?” asked a student in disbelief.

“Yes, even jeans,” Carolyn (our Director of Education) replied.

The next day, teachers brought in several items, including jeans, and asked students to guess how much water was required to produce each item. Students then compared their answers with those provided in a short water documentary.

Tomorrow, students will be calculating their water footprint. We will also be studying early irrigation systems in Mesopotamia and designing our own irrigation systems to learn how water flows to our city. With this knowledge, we’ll be devising ways to save water at home and in the community.  

“Taking on the perspective of others and developing core character strengths is the whole reason why we go to school. I can teach a child math or how to read at home. But we come together in a school community to learn from each other, listen to various perspectives, and inspire citizenship,” says Carolyn.

For us, #CharacterDay is everyday.

 

 

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Topics: Dogpatch Classroom, Videos

Students as Designers of the Classroom Experience

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Jan 24, 2014 2:48:00 PM

AltSchool employs a human-centered design approach to create a classroom experience that meets the specific needs and wants of our students, parents, and teachers.

But did you know that our students also use this approach to improve their own experience?

Empowering children to do their own research, assess information, and take action for the good of the classroom is key to our culture.

Here is a picture taken today of a 5-year-old student who surveyed her classmates to find out what kinds of snacks they would like for the following week. She then used this information to place the classroom order on Instacart.

Looks like apples, carrots, and edamame are the big winners this week.

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Topics: AltSchool Innovation, Dogpatch Classroom

Healthy Eating for Better Learning: 3 Tips from Our Classroom

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Jan 16, 2014 2:59:00 PM

Screen_Shot_2014-01-12_at_11.36.52_AMRaising children with healthy eating habits is not just about keeping them physically well.

Nutrition is key for learning.

Neuroscience has unequivocally shown that nutrition affects cognitive development. What children eat affects their mental abilities.

And is vision really improved with carrot consumption? The study, “Healthy Students are Better Learners,” reveals that proper nutrition enhances vision, motor skills, language, and even social abilities in children.

In our classroom, we regularly nurture healthy eating habits for strong bodies and minds. Below, AltSchool teacher Lauren Hancock highlights ways parents can help their children make smart food choices at home:

3 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters

  • Cooking projects: Cooking with your child is an excellent way to encourage healthy eating. AltSchool students cook a nutritious meal together in the classroom every week. Next time you feel inspired, cook a brightly colored meal with your child -- kabobs, stir-fry, or homemade veggie pizza, for example -- and show them how to prepare foods using less fat and pre-packaged ingredients.

  • Fresh produce delivery: Order a produce box from a weekly delivery service to expand healthy eating possibilities. AltSchool orders sustainable, locally-sourced produce and snacks from Good Eggs. Each week, students select items for their classroom order (favorites include mandarin oranges, avocados, and apples) and open the delivery box together.

  • Healthy snacks: Anticipate your child’s hunger by placing healthy snack options in visible areas. In our classroom, we cut up fruits and veggies and place them on small plates for children to snack on throughout the day. You’ll be surprised to find your children munching on broccoli crudite or cherry tomatoes when they are readily available.

Children's Health Workshops Coming Soon

AltSchool is delighted to announce that one of our teachers, Siri Scull, will be offering a series of 4 seminars covering current topics in children's health. They will be held at AltSchool's office (1245 Folsom St in San Francisco) and are free and open to community members.

For more information, please sign up here and we'll be in touch with further details.

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Topics: Dogpatch Classroom, Parenting Tips and Workshops