Friday, January 13, 2017

Sutter's Fort

Kailey is loving 3rd grade.  I think she might be enjoying 3rd grade even more than 2nd grade.  She's had such great teachers the last two years, and it makes such a big difference.  Also, she has really settled into being a student.  She takes her studies more seriously.  She cares about the quality of her work.  And she's a voracious reader.  She is one of the most advanced readers in her class -- reading books many levels above her grade.  She is frequently reading multiple books at once.  She recently finished re-reading the Harry Potter series, and now she and I are reading the series that starts with A Wrinkle in Time.  She is also reading another book called Mandy.  And, she has a couple of books she got for Christmas that she reads every few days (they are graphic novels -- and so really quick reads).  She wakes up in the morning and turns on her light and reads by herself.  No more coming in our room for morning snuggles, which is really bittersweet. 

And, of course, the level of work in school is advancing right along with Kai.  This year, they had an extensive project over the first half of the year.  They were each assigned a historical figure who lived in the 1840s and traveled from the east to California, spending time at Sutter's Fort (a historic fort located here in Sacramento).  They had to research their figure using historical texts, which we got in the California Room at the Sacramento library, and write a fairly extensive essay about their figure's life.  They also had to create a visual aid and prepare a 5 - 10 minute oral presentation, to deliver in front of the class in a period costume.  Finally, it culminated with an overnight trip to Sutter's Fort.  They rode a covered wagon from Old Town Sacramento to the Fort, arriving at 9:30 AM.  Then, they spent the day in their period costumes going to the different stations at the Fort to learn candle making, how to do laundry in the 1840s, bread and cookie making, blacksmith skills, corn husk doll creation, etc.  Parents were working the stations and Eric and I, along with Leanna's father, ran the bakery.  We spent the day cooking 12 loaves of bread, dozens of cookies and cinnamon rolls.  Everything was baked in an outdoor, adobe oven.  We had to build the fire in the oven and get it up to the right heat before clearing out all the ashes and sealing it off so we could do the baking. We had another fire going with a cauldron over it to help our bread rise (it was a cold Sacramento day -- with a high of about 40). 

Kai LOVED the Sutter's Fort project.  She learned so much about her character, Elizabeth Bayes Wimmer, who was instrumental in starting the California gold rush.  She got a near perfect score on her essay and presentation, only being marked down for not asking enough questions during her classmate's presentations and not listening respectfully (very fair deductions, as I was there in class observing, and her nervous energy after doing her presentation proved a MAJOR issue in paying attention to others while they were presenting).  For her visual aid, she worked with Nonnie to sew a apron and baked cookies for the class, since Elizabeth served as the camp cook after she arrived at Sutter's Fort. 

Kai also had a blast at the Fort.  The kids learned songs and dances and had a bit of a hoe down after the dinner.

It was freezing, but they all had a blast.  We made sure Kai had several layers to sleep in plus a hat, gloves, scarf, extra blanket and sleeping bag.  But, still, she said she was FROZEN during the night and barely slept a wink. 

She has asked repeatedly whey she can't do the Sutter's Fort assignment AGAIN and is already counting down the years until Alden is in 3rd grade so that she can return as a volunteer.  I certainly never did a school project as extensive as this one when I was in 3rd grade -- and at the start of the year when they were describing the project, it seemed crazy to me to expect these kids to be able to do that amount of work.  But, it was a good reminder for me that Kai is a big kid, now.  She's a full-fledged student, capable of this level of work.  And, she thrived with the project. 

It was a LOT of work for us getting ready for it -- both preparing to work at the bakery, buying all the supplies, helping with cookie baking the night before, writing her a letter to be delivered at the fort on parchment paper and folded like they would have been at the time (no envelopes)! and preparing an appropriate lunch -- no plastic baggies -- everything had to be wrapped in wax paper!  But, all that work made for a rich learning experience and one that Kai is not likely to forget. 

In May, her class heads to the Marin Headlands for a 2 night trip.  And, next year, she'll camp at Yosemite for an entire week with her class!  It's interactive learning at it's best. 


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