Thursday, January 4, 2018

Holiday Sing Along

We had a great school holiday sing along the last day of school before winter break. Check out the pictures below for the grade levels singing and the teachers' performance!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Carving pumpkins!

For many of our students, they've carved pumpkins their whole lives. But for some of our students who are new to America, they've never carved a pumpkin before. So recently some of our teachers set out to create this experience for these students.

This was the first Jack-O-Lantern for many of our ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) students. 

Students created designs for faces on paper and on computer. Then, they worked together to prepare the pumpkin and carve the winning face.

One of the favorite quotes from that day was:  "This is SO gross! ... Let me get my hands back in there!"

Check out their pumpkins and excitement in these photos below. 


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Math is fun in any language

Baker-Butler is an exciting and growing community of students from all around the country and the world. 

Our students frequently have the opportunity to interact with their peers who have lived in Charlottesville their whole lives and others who have lived in multiple states and countries before moving here. 

One of the many benefits of these student interactions are the connections that students make on common themes or topics when viewed from different perspectives, backgrounds, cultures, and even languages. 

Recently two of our fourth graders made common connections with math in their different languages. One of our students, who speaks German and English, made a connection with a peer who speaks Farsi and English. As the teacher shared, the student who speaks German and English "excitedly
showed me her whiteboard during morning work time when kids were assigned to play a multiplication dice game with partners. The directions were to use the dice to roll two 2-digit numbers to create a multiplication problem. They were to use the box method of multiplication, also known as the area model, to demonstrate their solutions. The two students then wrote the numbers 1-10 in Farsi along the top of their board, then completed their work with their "new numbers."

Check it out!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Our school wide morning meeting

We know that community is an integral part of our school, and we believe that creating a school in which all of our students feel connected to each other is a key foundation to our success.

One of the ways that we build community is to have our morning meetings every day in each classroom. This is part of our Responsive Classroom approach to learning, and it is the time each morning when students greet each other, share with each other, and discuss the school day.

Just like we want students to feel connected in their classrooms, we also want them to feel connected to our larger community of Baker-Butler. We develop that sense of connection through several events, including our whole school morning meetings.

Recently we had our first whole school morning meeting, and we would like to share pictures of that special morning so everyone can see what it looks like when we're all together. Each grade stood up and greeted the school, we had activities for students to share, and then we watched a video of the book The Dot, which is about students making their marks on the world. After the meeting all students received materials to make their own dots, which are now displayed throughout the school.

We look forward to our whole school gatherings, which we are planning to do about once a month for the rest of the school year.

Ms. Eckerle begins the Morning Meeting

Students and staff dressed in our school colors of blue & white

Watching the video of The Dot

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Design Thinking in action

We want our students about Baker-Butler to use creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication daily in their lives. These skills, commonly referred to as the 4 Cs (see here:, are necessary for our students not only as part of Albemarle County's strategic vision and goal, but also in order for them to be successful as lifelong learners. There are several ways to develop students' skills in the 4 Cs, but a particular focus for us this year will be working on P-Based (Problem, Project, Passion) Learning and Design Thinking (DT).

Design Thinking is people-centered problem solving, and it provides a framework for students not only to develop the 4Cs but also to develop empathy for others. At Baker-Butler we are working to infuse PBL and DT throughout the school in order to provide more authentic and engaging learning activities for all of our students. While there are several DT frameworks (see IDEO and Stanford's d.School), we have chosen to use DEEPdt (Discover, Empathize, Experiment, Produce).

As we have learned more about Design Thinking over the past year, we have received a lot of support from several groups and individuals, most notably Mary Cantwell, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation (MVIFI) in Atlanta, Georgia, and Elgin Cleckley & Jennie Chiu from the University of Virginia. We remain grateful for their enduring partnerships and support and guidance as we learn more about Design Thinking and use it at our school.

Our students last week provided a specific example of Design Thinking in action. Recently we added a new 2nd grade classroom in order to decrease our average class size. While this has been a positive experience overall, we know that moving students after the school year (and hiring a new teacher) can sometimes be a big change for students. One of our teachers, Ms. Baker, attended a professional development conference (MVIFI's fuse17) this summer in Atlanta, Georgia, that was on Design Thinking with a group of BBES teachers.

Ms. Baker recently conducted a DEEPdt (Discover, Empathize, Experiment, Produce) challenge with her students to help the transition to the new classroom. They interviewed students impacted by the move (those selected for the new classroom) and they visited the new classroom space (Discover), and then they used empathy to imagine what it would be like to be in the new space and what the new students (and teacher) would need to start a new classroom (Empathy). This led them to notice that the classroom needed a more personal touch as well as pillows for students to use during reading. They imagined what it would be like as a new student in the classroom, and what the students would want, and they created drawings and sketches of animals for pillows (Experiment). The next day they cut out and made these pillows, and then they delivered them to the new classroom (Produce). The students in the new classroom and the new teacher really appreciated the new reading pillows, but most of all they all felt supported throughout the process because others had thought of them and designed for them. The students in Ms. Baker's class used critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration (the 4 Cs) throughout this process. And it was all done largely by a group of 8 and 9 years olds over one school day.

The DEEP graphic organizer for this activity -the students wrote the Post Its

Some of the ideas of what a new classroom would need

The initial brainstorming

One of the pillow designs: a whale
Another pillow design: a shark

Sea horse design
The completed pillows (Whale, Shark, Sea Lion) in the new classroom

In short, it was a great experience for these students not only to develop their skills in the areas of the 4 Cs, but also to have a practical and realistic example of empathy in action.This is but one spotlight of a growing movement in our school to use PBL and DT as frameworks for the learning all of our students will be doing at Baker-Butler.

We are excited about this new instructional model and framework and how it will continue to be used throughout our school this year.