posted Oct 27, 2014, 7:09 PM by Laurie Becker   [ updated Oct 31, 2014, 8:22 PM by Marcy Reynolds ]
Dear Coast Redwood Middle School Families,

Thanks to all for a great start to our year together.  The kids are clearly growing more and more comfortable with each other since the campout/ropes course and the class is really starting to feel like a family.  Thanks to all the parents who have brought in water, helped to create an appealing physical environment, led classes, taken the kids up to the field during lunch.  Parents working directly with the kids each day really helps support that family feel of our school.


*Due tomorrow (Wed.):  Final printout of partner bio. (see Bios below)
*Due Thursday:  a piece of paper with your child’s Gmail address and password.
*Due next week: Research: “Are viruses living or non-living?” (see Germs below)

Dates to Remember

*Parent Meeting: Thursday, October 23, 1:45pm-2:45pm
*Individual Meetings: Sign up on clipboard next to the Lost & Found area.
*Month 2 paperwork due to the Charter Office: Friday, October 17.
*Drive for Schools tickets and $$ due: Thursday, Oct. 23

Attendance Paperwork

Thanks to all who persevered in turning in their Month 1 paperwork!   I think we’ve got the kinks worked out now.  For Month 2, lease turn in your paperwork (in the Month 2 manila envelope I gave you) to the plastic bin with my name on it in Holly’s office (Charter Office in Ben Lomond).  If you find that the office is locked, please leave the envelope in the upright file outside Holly’s office.  When printing online planner sheets at the end of the month, make sure to check the “Include Document Title” box in the print dialog box.  Also, please make sure that “All Sheets” is selected.  If you have written a lot in the cells, feel free to choose the “Fit to Page” and “Portrait” options at the bottom of the dialog box to save ink and paper.  If you haven’t stretched the cells, then please choose the “Landscape” option to make it easier to read. Thanks!

Keeping track of activities on CRMS class days

Since not all the kids are able to get in to their Gmail accounts, we have been defaulting to using the written planner sheets to keep track of in-class activities.  The kids should have these planner sheets in their binders.  You’ll just need to transfer what they wrote to your planner book or the online planner sheets at the end of the month before you turn in your paperwork to the office.  Soon, I hope the kids will transition to computer planner sheets so that you don’t have to duplicate efforts.

Students still needing Gmail access

On Wednesday we went to the middle school computer lab to complete our planner sheets and found that only four kids were able to successfully access their Gmail accounts.  Some did not have accounts yet, but most simply couldn’t remember their password.

Because of this, I’m thinking that I should keep a master list of the kids’ Gmail addresses and passwords on my computer so that I can look them up, if need be.  Please send your child to school tomorrow or Thursday with their Gmail address and password written on a slip of paper to give to me.


All the kids have their own binders now.  The binder is intended to be used to help transport work between home and school.  You can expect to see your child’s binder come home some Wednesdays and most Thursdays.  Please help your child to remember to bring the binder back to school the following Wednesday.


The kids have all received peer feedback on their biographical paragraphs.  Tomorrow we will be cutting their finished printout down to fit on a 9”x8” piece of construction paper, including a 3.5” x 5” photo.  Most of the kids will need to trim down sides of their printouts.  If they’ve drawn decorations on sides to be trimmed, this art can be cut out and glued in the space around the photo.  We will be completing this project in class tomorrow.  If possible, please have your child bring a printout of their latest edited version to class.  If printing is not possible, please email or share (on Google Drive) your child’s work so that I can print it in class.  Thanks!


We’ve been jumping into a study of microorganisms through the discussion of germs.  We looked at the differences between viruses and bacteria and I mentioned that some scientists think that viruses count as living things, and others don’t agree.  Since many of the kids had very strong opinions of their own and were happy to argue, it seemed like a great opportunity for some real debate.  Of course, real debate requires real evidence to back up arguments.  So here is the homework:  I would like the kids to do a little research into the controversy about whether viruses are alive or not and come up with three pieces of evidence, from three different reliable sources, that they can use to support their argument, either pro or con.  Next week the kids will use that to advance their perspectives in a simple, formal debate.

As part of our germ study the kids took surface samples from various spots around the room and used the samples to inoculate petri dishes.  The cultures all seem to be growing well and we’ll look at them tomorrow under magnification.  In preparation for the inoculation the kids came up with lab safety rules and biological testing practices.  The kids also worked in teams to experiment with the effectiveness of different hand-washing techniques.  Using Glo Gel, the kids tested the effectiveness of their technique under a black light then wrote up the results using a standard experimental write-up format.  I’m looking forward to all groups sharing their results tomorrow.



The kids are very sincere about making CRMS a kind, caring place.  Already I have seen the following behaviors: standing up for each other in the face of bullying;  listening to each other; sharing honestly their strengths and weaknesses; asking for help from each other, giving help to each other; articulating the value of teamwork; and emphasizing the positive.  There have been a few rocky interactions, especially in relation to some SLVMS kids during lunch. We are actively working on healing any hurts arising from unkind interactions.

During our first day together the kids came up with their own set of class norms, first writing their own lists, then discussing the lists at their tables, then prioritizing them as a group.  The list is tacked to the white board under the daily agenda if you’d like to see what they wrote.


Kids’ Ideas

It is great to see the kids stepping up and making the classroom their own.  Already we have student-designed signs up on the walls, a new CRMS coat of arms, new adaptations of PE games, older-younger student mentorships, and the beginnings of a school newspaper.  It is so much fun to support the kids’ creativity.


Middle School Library

There are many advantages to having our classroom on the middle school campus.  One of them is that the middle school has invited us to use some of their facilities, including the library.  During our first week together the kids received an orientation to the middle school library by Cheryl Morris, Librarian.  It was great to see the kids quietly wandering the stacks at the end of the orientation, getting to know the collection.  If your child checked out any books that day, then they would be due this week.  The library is open from 7:30am-3:20pm.  CRMS kids are invited to work in the library before and after class on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  If you need to drop your child off early or pick them up late and I am not in the classroom, the library is a great place to go for quiet work time.  Please remember that you child needs to come with a book to read or something to work on if they arrive early or stay late.  This year we are asking that there be no recreational use of computers in the CRMS room on class days.  Thanks!


Last Thursday we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the school cafeteria.  Your child may have told you about our time in the freezer (brrrr)!  The kids are now welcome to go down to the cafeteria to purchase lunch.  Your child may qualify for free or reduced cost school lunches.  Please let me know if you are interested and I will give you the form that outlines the qualifications and enrolls your child in the program.

Because the middle school yard duties’ have enough kids to keep track of with just the middle school, we are asked to hang out in our own space during lunch.  CRMS kids who would like to spend time with their SLVMS friends are welcome to invite them in to our space.  Thank you to all of you who have taken the kids up to the soccer field during lunch.  It is so helpful for them to have a place to play!


Thanks to Sandra for two weeks of introductory Spanish where the kids learned a lot of everyday vocabulary and had practice talking in complete sentences to introduce themselves and their interests.  Sandra has generously offered to teach an ongoing Spanish class tailored to those who want to take it.  Depending on what you and the kids want it could involve more conversation and culture or more grammar and writing.  What are your needs?  What are your schedules?  Sandra’s schedule does not allow her to teach on our usual class days, but she could offer a class on Fridays.  I have sent you a Doodle poll to get a sense of if we have enough interest to start a Friday class.  I hope we can make it happen!

Whole Group Parent Meeting

Parent meetings are a great time to connect with other homeschooling parents who are facing the fun and challenge of home-educating an early adolescent.  At parent meetings we share challenges and ideas as well as talk about class activities and decide on how to spend the money raised for the class.  Last month I sent out a Doodle poll to see which time would work best for the most parents.  It looks like afterschool on Thursday, Oct. 23 works the best for most families.  Perhaps at our next parent meeting we’ll be able to follow through on making it an evening by including a potluck dinner and games on the field.  This time we’ll simply have an hour-long meeting at the end of the school day.

Individual Meetings

It has been a few weeks since I have met with most of you one-on-one and you may feel it would benefit you and your CRMS child to have a follow-up meeting.  I have posted a meeting schedule on a clipboard next to the Lost & Found area to the left of the door as you walk in to the classroom.  Feel free to sign up for a time.  If you cannot make it to any of the times listed, please let me know so that we can find a time that will work for you.

Parent Help in Classroom

Please check the parent help list that I shared with you via Google Drive so that you know when you are signed up to bring snack and to help out in the classroom.  We’ve already had a couple parents not realize that they were signed up.  Not to worry…this is a new system and we are still working out the kinks.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Drive for Schools

The annual Drive for Schools fundraiser is now on.  We have tickets in the classroom --$5 for one, $25 for six.  Many of the kids have already signed out tickets to sell this weekend.  This is a great fundraiser for us. CRMS gets to keep 100% of the money that we raise and the prizes are really super.  One of our CRMS kids sold two winning tickets last year.  Please come and see me to sign out tickets.  Once you sell a ticket, have the buyer write their name on the stub.  You collect the stub and the money and return them in an envelope to me by 10/23.  The stubs will be used for the county-wide drawing and the ticket holder will use the remaining side of the ticket to claim their prize.  Tickets can be purchased by check our cash.  Please have your buyers make out checks to Coast Redwood Middle School.

Here are some first ideas of what we might do with fundraised monies:

*A field trip with Tim Corcoran on beach ecology in December.
*Possible overnight in San Francisco
*Possible trip to Headwaters in April
*Possible ski/sled trip to the Sembrat’s cabin
*Possibly doing 23 & Me profiles for all the kids who are interested as part of a study of genetics.
*Science equipment so that more kids can be involved in each aspect of experiments we’ll be doing
*Helping pay for yearbooks
*Helping pay for a graduation celebration
*Purchasing more high-quality, digital cameras

We can brainstorm more fundraising ideas at our parent meeting on 10/23.

Classroom Wish List

*A basket or nice-looking box to put on the counter for lost and found items
*A basket or nice-looking box for returning books to the CRMS library
*More upright file holders to help hold workbooks in the library
*Pieces of Masonite board for ceramic art projects (I can show you an example of some I already have)
*A rack to hold the Chromebook computers while charging.
*An 8-10 foot long extension cord with a power strip for computers.
*Ideas on how to make three portable hand washing stations.
*Someone who is willing to dust the blinds

Marcy Reynolds
Coast Redwood Middle School
(831) 512-9331

Update for 10/26/14:

Dear Coast Redwood Middle School Families,

Dates to Remember:

*Monday, Oct. 27: Boys Basketball and Girls Soccer tryouts.

*Tuesday, Oct. 28: Newspaper copy due to Hannah (see Newspaper below)

*Wednesday, Oct. 29: Homework (Continuation) due: We did not get to our discussion last week, so there is still time for your child to research the question of life from a scientific point of view.  What criteria do scientists use to determine whether something is alive or not?  What are your criteria for determining whether something is alive or not?

*Thursday, Nov.13, 6:30pm:  Town Hall Meeting at the Quail Hollow Campus.

*Nov. 26-28:  Thanksgiving Holiday, No Class.

Parent Meeting:

Thanks to all of you who made it to the meeting on Thursday!  It was great to connect face-to-face.  For those of you who missed it, I have included information from the meeting in this update.  Here is the Doodle Poll for scheduling the next parent meeting: http://doodle.com/w6yhh97y7bpkk534  Please vote for all times that you can attend.

Student Binders:

Please check look at the work that your child brings home in his/her binder and ask questions.  It would be great for them to practice articulating what we are doing in class themselves.  Please help your child remember to bring his/her binder back to school on Wednesday.

  Gmail addresses & passwords:

Thanks for getting these to me.  We’re almost at the point when we can start computing together!

Drive for schools:

The word from Roberta is that our final total for CRMS Drive for Schools fundraising is $920.  Kudos to CRMS students and families!  The kids had great fun thinking up ways to continue to fundraise so that we could make it to our top $1000 goal.  Given all the enthusiasm and that there are still some straggling funds that have yet to be received, I think we can say with confidence that we’ll make it to the $1000 goal.

CRMS Funds:

At this point we have about $3800 in our account.  This may seem like a lot, but it goes quickly doing really fun activities with 24 kids.  For example, if all 24 go to Headwaters Outdoor School in the spring (which still might be a possibility) then that would cost $7200, not counting transportation.  Also, if we wanted more cameras, so that more of the kids could use them at once they cost $700 each.

At the parent meeting we discussed that it is helpful if those who can pay a little more for field trips and other activities do since some of our families need scholarships in order to participate.  We will only do an activity if we have enough funds for everyone to participate. Sandy suggested that we look into the Science Camp offered by Walker Ridge as a less expensive alternative to Headwaters.

At the parent meeting Kacia offered up several ideas about fundraisers that we could do including selling first aid kits (which everyone needs), scratch off fundraisers, etc.  She suggested looking at Nature’s Vision, Mother Earth Fundraising, and Green Fundraising websites for more ideas.  Our own Cristallo family has offered to do a fundraising night at their restaurant in Ben Lomond, Casa Nostra.  A percentage of the proceeds from the evening’s sales would go to benefit CRMS.  We decided to make Nov. 21 the night.  Kacia is confirming the date with the Cristallos.


This weekend I tallied votes for the student-requested ways to celebrate.  Top vote-getters at the $400 level were: Pizza Party and Halloween Party; at the $700 level were: Movie Night, Arts and Crafts Day, and Ice Cream Day; at the $1000 level:  a Trip to the Boardwalk, a Pool Party, and a trip to the Tech Museum.  It looks to me like some of these could be combined.  Clearly, the Halloween Party should come first.  Is anyone willing to go to Costco and pick up Pizzas for class this Thursday?  Perhaps crafts could be involved, too.  We already have one project which the kids can work on, which is trimming and sanding their green ware ceramic mugs.  Would anyone else like to lead an art/craft this Thursday?  We already have the CRMS tradition of bobbing for doughnuts, which I’ve already heard that the continuing kids expect to do again.  Those of you who enjoy party planning, I’d love to have your help!  Please let me know if you’d like to help plan or participate in any way.

Class Newspaper:

Our newspaper editors are looking for articles for the next edition.    Please encourage your kids to write about any “news” they may see or hear about over the next few days.  Short book reviews would be wonderful, as would little reports on areas of interest.  For example, this week I encouraged a student who is learning about the US Constitution to write an ongoing “Constitutional Corner” column, sharing facts about what he is learning. Copy is due to Hannah (firecat126@gmail.com) by Tuesday, 10/28.   It looks like many of the kids would like to have a Karaoke night.  Look for information on this in upcoming editions of the newspaper.


It looks like we don’t have enough families able to participate in Spanish class when Sandra can offer it.  Let’s try again next year!


Rhonda has connected with the Math Department at UCSC and hopes to receive applications from potential Math students soon.  We’ll let you know as specifics become available.

Our very own Lou Larwood has offered free tutoring services in Language Arts to students in need of extra support starting in January.  Lou is a Teacher Supervisor in the Special Education Department at San Jose State University.  She will be retiring from that position at the end of the year and has generously offered to spend more time with CRMS students.

Parent Help in the Classroom:

I am so grateful to all of you who have come to help!  It has worked out really well for the kids to be able to run around at lunch time and to be able to split the group in half at other times. 


This week Bruno was with us on Thursday.  Bruno has just graduate from UCSC’s Agroecology program and led half the kids in nature observation and photography in the garden while I had the other half in the SLVHS ceramics studio for mug making.   Andrea generously offered to get us a donation for the garden project from Scarborough Lumber.  I am so glad to have Bruno and Andrea involved in the project and look forward to the transformation of that space into an even richer learning environment.

I have plenty of meeting times available in the next few weeks.  I’d love to be able to check in with you about how your homeschooling is going!  Please sign up on the sheet next to the Lost and Found basket.


Thanks to all who have contributed healthy snacks!  Let’s stick to  seasonal fresh fruit and veggies.  Each week parents have brought in apples and popcorn/crackers.  The apples look very inviting in the basket and hungry kids have relished them (they are all gone).  The popcorn/crackers seem to elicit more erratic behavior and make a mess, so I would request that you not bring them unless it is for a special event.  Thanks!

Wish List:

I’m still collecting 2oz spray bottles and 2oz squeeze bottles for an upcoming project.  Those of you who save such things, would you check to see if you have any that you’d like to contribute?  I’d like to recycle as much as possible.  I would also love to start collecting sturdy shoe boxes with lids to allow for the transport of delicate items from the ceramics studio to the classroom and back.

Camping/Ropes Course:

If you intended to contribute to the camping trip/ropes course, but you haven’t yet, now would be a good time.  Ann and I will be looking at the budget to assess how much we’ll be able to spend on field trips, etc. this year.

After School Sports:

Boy's basketball tryouts begin Monday October 27th in the middle school gym: Come dressed and ready to go.
6th grade - 2:30 - 4 pm

8th - 4:30 - 6 pm

7th - 6 - 7:30 pm

Girls soccer tryouts begin Monday Oct 27  2:30 on the soccer field.  Come dressed and ready to go.

6th/7th grade at 2:30

8th grade at 3:00pm

Summary of the Week:

We checked out our antiseptic experiments.  Some antiseptics had a clear area of inhibition surrounding the soaked paper square, others had none.  Some worked to inhibit the growth of bacteria, but not mold.  Some of them had a little bacterial colony growing right in the middle of the area of inhibition.  As we extended the experiment, I encouraged those with bacteria in the area of inhibition to reinoculate using that bacteria to see if they were culturing an antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Other kids retried their antiseptics if they felt that their antiseptic was old or if they felt that they did not inoculate their dish enough.  Each child should have a write up for their new experiment.  I encourage you to look at these write ups and use the same format for any experiments that you might do at home.

The kids started work on their project presentations.  They worked in pairs to brainstorm ideas, narrow their topic, come up with main points of interest and questions for each of those main points.  The kids are all in different places with it.  Some have already scheduled their presentation date and have begun making a timeline to determine what part of it they need to do when.  This timeline will need to be amended with you when they decide what they would like to do for a project and how long it might take.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Those who did PE with Kacia last week got to do Photography with Viviana and visa-versa.  Viviana also acted as photography mentor when the kids were investigating the garden with Bruno. 

The kids all got a chance to use pinch pot technique to hand build their own water mug out of clay.  We were so lucky that Tamera Smith let us use her ceramic studio at the high school.  The kids were very impressed with the artwork the high schoolers’ had done.

Thanks to All!

Marcy Reynolds