What do you know about the history of California?

We have been spending a lot of time reflecting on our learning over the course of the year.  One of the things I asked the class to reflect upon was how much they’d learned about the history of California.  In the beginning of the year, I asked the same question.  Here are some of their responses from August, 2017:

“I don’t know much about history”

“Pilgrims came on a boat called the Mayflower and in ???? the Gold Rush began.”

“California is awesome!”

“I have been to Sacramento, Tahoe, San Jose, and San Carlos.  They are all in California.”


Their responses from today were too long to type in full, but I’ll include some excerpts for you to read.  Ask your child for their own version of how California became the state it is today.  Here are some of the learners’ responses from June, 2018:

“I learned lots about struggles of justice.  I know that struggles of justice have been going on since the beginning.  There has been a struggle for justice for a very long time.  There are still struggles for justice today in 2018.  Struggles for justice have been going on since 1500-2018.  I know here are so many different things that people fight for.  I know there are many different ways you can protest, march, boycott, strike, and more.”

“I learned that Christopher Columbus was a bad guy.  He spread diseases, killed and invaded natives who were innocent.  The missions sound good but actually Native Americans were forced into slavery and if they threatened to escape they were put in jail or even killed!”

“Ranchos were for the Spanish people to own land but only for the Spanish people not the Native Americans.”

“Ranchos changed California because it was now part of Mexico so people of Mexico came and asked the alcalde if they could own a rancho.  But soon the United States wanted California and Texas and most of Mexico.  The United States offered a bajillion dollars but Mexico didn’t want it so the United States called a war.  The Mexicans were not ready so they lost and the United States got California and a couple of other states.  Then James Marshall saw gold and people came to California from all over the world.”

“In the Gold Rush people came on land or sea.  In the Gold Rush there were lots of arguments.  Not a lot of people got rich and life of a miner was very hard.  You’d get dirty and get diseases.  Then there was the railroad.  Chinese people were treated badly and didn’t get the pay they deserved.”

“In the Gold Rush, the Chinese were made fun of because of their straw hats and they were also misjudged.  Americans though that the Chinese were weak, but they fought for justice to prove that they could do things.”

“Some girls weren’t allowed to mine for gold so they dressed like a boy to be able to mine for gold.”

“Everybody would mine for hours and hours all day looking for gold.  It took months and months to find gold.  Some people would abandon their families just to find gold.”

“People came from China, Chile, New York, everywhere around the world to find gold.  I think part of that is how we have lots of mixed cultures in California.”

“After the Gold Rush there were still struggles for justice.  Harvey Milk and Cesar Chavez and lots of other people including Martin Luther King marched and protested for gay rights and black rights.  After that California is now the way California is today.”

“I think struggles for justice will always happen and will continue far into the future.  Because everyone has a different opinion of “justice.”


Field Trip to the Oakland Museum of California

We had a fun-filled trip to the Oakland Museum of California today. Our learners had a busy busy time visiting three different galleries: California History, California Natural Sciences, and California Art.

Especially the Gallery of California History was closely matched to the content we studied in Social Science/Unit Study this year. It was wonderful to see our learners highly engaged with the interactive and often hands-on exhibit pieces. They were able to connect what they experienced in the museum to their classroom learning and even expand and deepen their knowledge.

The galleries are so extensive that we were unable to explore them in their entirety, much to the dismay of some learners. You might want to consider this museum for a fun and educational family outing!

Please see below some snapshots that might help your child get jumpstarted on sharing about their learning today.

Have a wonderful weekend and happy Mother’s Day to you moms!




How Do People Struggle for Justice?

As we learn about various communities, movements, and struggles that occurred in California history, learners have begun to explore the question: How have people struggled for justice in California history? We read a couple picture books last week in order to investigate this question and we’ll read a couple more this week. One book was called Harvesting Hope; it was about the story of Cesar Chávez and the migrant farm worker’s movement. Learners recognized that the migrant farm workers organized, went on strike, started a boycott, and participated in a march. Another book we read was called Separate is Never Equal, and was about Sylvia Mendez and school integration in California. The Mendez family organized a petition, then fought for justice through the court system, in the case Mendez vs. Westminster.

These picture books, the learners’ “graffiti walls”, and our group conversations have led the learners to some new questions: Is this unfair treatment of people still happening now? Didn’t Martin Luther King fix all this? And how does King’s work in the civil rights movement tie into what we are learning about migrant farm workers and the Mendez vs. Westminster school integration case? I find it fascinating that Dr. King emerges as the sole person responsible for “ending injustice” in some of their minds when we have these discussions about equal rights. My hope is that through this unit the learners with come to recognize that a huge number of regular people across many communities have fought for justice in California, not just Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Using primary sources and listening to experts, we will ask the learners to draw conclusions as to whether injustice continues to exists in California today. During the last month of school, learners will get a chance to work towards making change in their own communities in order struggle for justice themselves and shape California for future generations.

Gold Rush Writing Celebration

I am blown away by the writing learners produced this month, and the perseverance they demonstrated to complete their Gold Rush informational books and Argonaut journals by today’s deadline. The writing celebration we had today was a beautiful way to acknowledge and honor the learners’ hard work and growth as writers. We appreciated all the parents and grandparents who were able to join us! We continued our celebration with “gold nuggets” (rolos) and goldfish, and a movie (The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, based on the book By The Great Horned Spoon).

Geometry: Polygons, Quadrilaterals, and Angles

Room 25 learners have been having a lot of fun exploring geometry. They’ve been using “power polygons” to build larger polygons and angles. They’ve been presented with challenges such as “build a quadrilateral with 4 equivalent angles and not all sides are the same length,” or “build a 120 degree angle using two or more smaller angles.” The class has been using a lot of perseverance, curiosity and problem solving to discover geometry concepts and solve problems in math.