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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2nd graders on the nature trails

One of the unique benefits we have at Baker-Butler is our school's large piece of property (55 acres), many of it wooded and with nature trails.

Recently our 2nd grade students were able to visit the trails. Here are some pictures that show our students noticing, wondering, and thinking about what they discovered on these trails at Baker-Butler. Enjoy!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!

Dear Baker-Butler Families,                                                                           August 21, 2017

            Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!

            We are looking forward to the start of this new school year with our students and teachers. We would like to share some updates and new information with you as we get ready to begin school on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

Construction and Renovation updates
Perhaps the most noticeable change you will see this year is our construction and renovation project.

This project is funded by the Albemarle County bond referendum that passed in November, 2016, and it has two phases. The first phase, which has already been completed, was the relocation of the main office and student clinic into temporary spaces, and to turn the former office into a large flexible learning space. At this time our main office (including the Assistant Principal and Principal) and student clinic are in temporary offices near the main entrance to the school.

The second phase of construction is the addition of a controlled (or secured) entrance for our school to the right of the front doors (near where the flag pole used to be located). After the project is complete, visitors  during the school day will enter the new main office, check in with school staff, and then enter the main hallways and lobby of the school. The new main office area will house our receptionist (Lisa Beauchamp), front office associates (Carole O’Neil & Holly Carden), and our school clinic and school nurse (Lisa Moore). This phase of the project is scheduled to be completed around December. 

This year we are excited to welcome several new staff members to our school:

Cindy Sheperd:           Early Childhood Special Education   DeDe Leach:               Kindergarten
Annie Martin:              Second Grade                                     Mary Beth Farhi:        Third Grade
Sarah Miller:               Third Grade                                        Alexandra Stokes:       Fourth Grade
Hillary Bigman:          Fifth Grade                                         Gabe Gomez:              Fifth Grade
Ryan Shrader:             Physical Education                             Miles Nelson:              Counselor
Sabra Timmins:           English Second or Other Language
Arrival & Dismissal information:
In order for our school day to run smoothly, we want to share the procedures for the safe arrival and dismissal of all of our students. Here are a few important reminders about arrival to and dismissal from school:

  • School starts at 7:55 a.m.
  • Students may enter the building starting at 7:40 a.m.
  • Car riders: Student drop off begins at 7:40 a.m. when a faculty member is present.  All cars should use the drop off circle located at the front of the school. Student car riders should not be dropped off unless a faculty member is present starting at 7:40am.  
  • If you walk your child into the building in the morning, please park in the parking lot.

  • Students will begin exiting the building at 2:25 p.m.  Kindergarten, first and second grade students will dismiss at 2:25 p.m. and third, fourth, and fifth grade students will dismiss at 2:30 p.m.
  • If you are in the car circle line, your child will be called and brought to you in your car.  Please remain in your car while in the car circle. 
  • Pick up: Please park in the parking lot and meet your child in the designated area on the sidewalk.
  • If you need to make a change in your child’s afternoon dismissal, please notify the school before 2:00pm.
  • For the first three days of school (August 23rd, 24th, and 25th) we will begin dismissing our students at 2:10pm. These additional 15 minutes will allow the bus drivers to check every student on their manifest. The buses will then leave BBES around their scheduled dismissal time (after 2:35pm) to arrive as close to the advertised afternoon bus stop arrival time as possible.

Safety Drills this year:
            There is no higher priority at our school than the security and safety of our students and staff.  An important part of meeting our high standards is the various and periodic drills that prepare our school for emergencies. During the school year we will hold drills that prepare us to be safe during a fire, an earthquake, a tornado, and in the event of a lockdown. Our first lock down drill will be on August 31, 2017. During this exercise, which will take only a few minutes, we will make an announcement over the public address system for students and teachers to lock their doors and move away from doors and windows. We are confident that our students will perform these drills well this year.

Upcoming events
Here are some important dates for the start of the 2017-2018 year:
  • No school for students on Monday, September 4th (Labor Day)
  • Back to School night for grades K-2: Tuesday, September 5th  6-7:30pm
  • Back to School night for grades 3-5: Tuesday, September 12th 6-7:30pm
  • No school for students on Friday, September 22nd (professional development day)

We are looking forward to working with you and your children. This is going to be a great year.


Steve Saunders                                                           Wendy Eckerle

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Baker-Butler from the sky!

We are excited to share some great pictures of our school from the air. 

Thanks to our friends at SkyClad Aerial Photography (check them out here: for these wonderful images of Baker-Butler. 

We think that these pictures show what a beautiful school and campus we have, as well as some of the natural beauty of the Charlottesville area. 

Our construction is going well!

We are excited about the renovation and the addition to our building that have been going on all summer.

Around December the addition to the front of the school will be completed, and it will house the new main office and clinic. By the end of August the former main office and clinic will be renovated into a large flexible learning space.

We hope you enjoy the pictures below of this process!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Famous American...Puppets!

During the Month of March, our second grade students have been studying numerous Famous Americans including George Washington, Rosa Parks, Benjamin Franklin and Helen Keller.  Students chose two of the subjects from the unit to research further.  Thanks to a grant from the Edgar and Eleanor and Shannon Foundation, second graders received materials to make puppet representations of their two research subjects.  Then students wrote scripts for the puppet subjects to interview one another.  As a final step in the project, students taped their puppet interviews.  These interviews will be shared with classmates and students in other grade levels as an interesting way to review the contributions of the Famous Americans.