Fourth grade students are entering a pivotal point in their lives - preadolescence. They are enthusiastic, curious, opinionated, and eager for more independence. They move from the lower classroom building to the upstairs classrooms, and officially become the "big kids". Fourth graders are carefully guided as they begin to take on more responsibility as community members and develop time management and organizational skills.
The theme of the WATER class is Home. With a growing sense of self and an awareness of their place in the world, they develop an understanding of where they come from, where they are, and think about how to prepare for where they're going. Through a deep exploration of the concept of Home, the WATER class investigates how we came to this time and place. We use these discoveries to honor our past, appreciate our present, and inform our future. Our four major projects are:
- Community as Home: What does home mean to us, personally and collectively? How can we support those in our community without adequate shelter and food? (identity, homes/homelessness, food insecurity, social justice)
- Habitat as Home: How do we, as environmental scientists, gauge our impact on local habitats and ensure that it is mostly positive? (life science, environmental justice, environmental engineering)
- Earth as Home: What is our evidence that we live on a changing earth? How can we design structures to reduce the impact of Earth processes on humans? (earth science: geology, geography, and earthquake engineering)
- California as Home: Why do people immigrate/emigrate and eventually settle in places – and in California, specifically? What are our family journeys? (CA history, ancestral history, immigration, literacy, social studies, social justice)
The fourth grade language arts and social studies curriculum provides opportunities for students to think critically, read primary sources, and learn the craft of writing through studying exceptional literature. Classroom discussions and group work provide opportunities for students to clarify and deepen their understanding of content, and to make connections to their own experience. The math curriculum includes complex real world problems that involve algebra, complex patterns, and geometry.
"As a teacher, I need to first, listen, and then, pose questions to get underneath my students' current understanding, so that I can provide the appropriate scaffold for each child to reach the next level. I’m interested in supporting children in understanding things with depth and breadth, in making sense of how things work and why, in learning to assess their own work and constructively critique the work of their peers." -Elisa Edwards, WATER Class lead teacher
Project-Based Learning Spotlight: Habitat as Home
In our Habitat as Home project, we begin by developing an understanding of interdependence in ecosystems, and the impact of changes to those systems, either through climate, the introduction of non-native species, or human decisions. This year, we focused our study on the important role that bees play in ecosystems, the causes of colony collapse disorder, and devising solutions to improve the outcome for bees. Working in small groups, we researched the lifecycle and anatomy of honeybees, as well as the division of labor in a honeybee colony, and the ways honeybees communicate. We learned the difference between social bees (like honeybees) and solitary bees (most native bees). Highlights included the opportunity to visit Sager Family Farm, a bee farm in Alameda, and work with students from the University of California, Berkeley, in support of getting the city of Berkeley certified as bee-friendly. We planted bee habitat gardens at school and at home and built bee hotels for native bees.