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The Aviator

March 18, 2017

What is this “Orff” stuff anyways? You may have heard about the “Orff instruments” or heard the term at school. It’s very much a part of your child’s music education, and I’d like this chance to explain. Orff is sometimes mistakenly thought of as an acronym, but it is actually the name of German composer and educator Carl Orff, who is perhaps best known for his massive work Carmina Burana f(1937). (If you think you don’t know this piece, you probably do. It’s in spades of movies and commercials!)

Lesser-known is Orff’s approach to music education. Developed later in his career, along with his poorly credited female colleague Gunild Keetman, it is a child-centered approach to music education that draws on a young person’s natural inclinations to play, move, and explore. The Orff motto is “Sing, say, dance, play!”

What does this look like at AVS? Let’s begin with exploration. In the younger grades, each music class begins with individual students answering a simple question in their s...

December 4, 2016

In November, Alta Vista students came together to dedicate a brand new Community Seed Library at the Portola Library! Alta Vista’s second graders (now in third grade) originally built this seed library, last year with our former garden educator Miss Marissa. (She is currently studying natural building and permaculture landscape design in Costa Rica). AVS students wrote letters to local seed companies for donations and helped design, build, and decorate the seed library. The seed library is split into different plant types, such as legumes, greens, and fruiting vegetables. There is an informational booklet designed by students and even empty seed packets to return the plant seeds that are grown and harvested.

A seed library is a collection of seeds, sorted and catalogued that you can take from and plant in your own garden. The idea is to encourage growing and saving a genetically diverse stock of flower and vegetable seed, some heirloom and some adapted to your neighborhood micro-climate...

June 13, 2016

The Second grade classes have collaborated with the Portola Branch Library to design and build a community seed library for the neighborhood. A Seed Library follows the model of a book library. People can borrow seeds from a seed library, plant them, enjoy the food, and let some of the plants go to maturity. Seed borrowers harvest seed from mature plants to replenish the seed library so other people can borrow seeds.

The first seed library, BASIL, was birthed in Berkeley in 1999 and a few years later in 2003, the second seed library was created in New York at a public library. The seed library movement began as a response to promote seed diversity and food security in a time when these things are disappearing. Only 4% of the commercial vegetable varieties being grown in 1903 are still in cultivation today.  Due to

multinational agribusiness corporations like Monsanto and DuPont, the vast majority of fields are growing genetically modified corn, canola, cotton and soy....

June 12, 2016

There’s an outdoor tinker zone at AVS! Inspired by the Berkeley Adventure Playground, the new tinker area is in the AVS parking lot by the garden. Piles of wood and old parts sit beside several large, wooden tables made by…the kids and teachers, of course. The idea is that students from JK- on up to middle school can use their free time to come to the Tinker Zone and unleash their creativity. Having the zone in the parking lot allows the whole school to walk over and play, in addition to going inside to the tinker room on the third floor.

A locked cupboard contains items like: saws, nails, hammers, screws, tools, gloves and eye protection. The kids try things, like nailing bits of wood together. They fail. Oops, the nail bent. Why was that? Try again. Oops, the wood split. Try a different part of the grain. The nail wasn’t long enough to go through both pieces of wood? Try nailing from the other side. Under teacher supervision, the kids hammer, saw and assemble whatever their minds imag...

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