The Secret of the Spirit Animals

Michelle posted on the classroom blog earlier in the process. These were the reflections then.

A play written and designed by the Mystery Bay Classroom, as the final piece in our spring term!

The Mask portraits just before the enter the stage.




The masks in the making.

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What can you teach me?

I asked Lucas if I could sit and draw with him and he graciously pulled a seat out and supplied me with drawing materials. I asked him what he was going to draw and he stated “A Caterpillar!” I then asked if he could teach me the way he draws caterpillars.

“First you draw a circle like this.” He draws a circle and waits for me to copy the shape on my own paper. “Then you draw another circle right here but this time connect the ends. Its his head.” Again he waits for me to follow the directions. “Then you add his legs like this.”

For a moment we explored the wonderful world of mathematics. Using number vocabulary and other mathematic terms such as “Total” or “All Together”. Even though the consecutive counting gets mixed up towards 9 and 10, it was exciting to see his confidence in the concept of adding and sharing ideas and techniques. Thank you Lucas! That was a joy.

The learning moment I shared with Lucas inspired me to ask Liviya, who was sitting at the table with us, if she had anything she could teach me. She thought for a moment then knew very confidently what she could share.

Liviya was very confident in knowing which letters spelled familiar names, as well as how to construct and write the letters. Thank you Liviya for sharing with me your talent and interest in spelling. You are a strong communicator.

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Shake. Fold.

I am in the business of encouraging dirty hands. Inviting painted fingers and glued up palms. Children leave my room many times a day just to rinse their hands!

Here’s a wonderful video to encourage sustainability and resource consciousness.


And… a day after I posted this post Mia had something to share with me.


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I’ve been hearing lots of talk about what ideas are and why we have them. I skipped around wikipedia a bit to gather some ideas about how to speak meta-cognitively. You know how we love to think about thinking here at CSWS. Here are some ideas I gathered from our beloved “free encyclopedia”.

Plato, one of the first philosophers to discuss ideas in detail. He asserted that there is a realm of Forms or Ideas, which exist independently of anyone who may have thought of these ideas. Plato held that ideas are perfect, eternal, and immutable.








Descartes often wrote of the meaning of idea as an image or representation, often but not necessarily “in the mind”. “Some of my thoughts are like images of things, and it is to these alone that the name ‘idea’ properly belongs.”

“An idea is a concept or mental impression”, “The capacity to create and understand the meaning of ideas is considered to be an essential and defining feature of human beings.”


I’ve also asked my friends at school what they thought about it. Here are some answers to the question “Where do ideas come from?”

“Your imagination.” -Nora







“A lot of ideas come from life outside.” -Ellis







“Experiences.” Michelle

“Stories.” -Bryn






“They come from the air somewhere.” -Coho







“From my spirit animal.” -Hannah

“the Brain.” Emmett







“I don’t know.” -Lila

“Imagination.” -Fiona







“Dunno.” -Elsie

“I keep having cool ideas to make awesome stuff.” -Sami







“Thinking of them.” -Teo

“Your brain.” -Hondo








“Great ideas originate in the muscles.”
Thomas A. Edison

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Our Faces, Our Brains and Green Paint.

“Hey Jaala, Can I have a paint brush instead of this, so I can paint my face?” -Jaxon







“Sure Jaxon, I’ll go get you one.” -Jaala

“Can I paint my face too Jaala?” -Lila

“Sure Lila, I’ll go get you one.” -Jaala

“I also want to paint my face Jaala.” -Jasper

“Ok, lets wait till your friends are done, then you can use their brush.” -Jaala

What an exciting way to explore paint, our brains and our bodies!

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The Mt. Holders and the Dragon by Jake Bookwalter


The Mt. Holders and the Dragon was written Jake Bookwalter and Performed by the Mystery Bay Class. (Not all performers were photographed)



The Cast and Crew:

The Mt. Holders: Jake Bookwalter, Royal Gleaves, Izzy Blair Chalmers

The Mischievous Elves: Tim Deppe, Holden Pickard-Koorey, Salvadore Mosley

Cats with Red Eyes: Ellis Cudaback, Lily Garcia-Doyle

Mystical Fairies: Nora Janssen, Bryn Dennis Edelman, Hannah Lindell-Smith, Adah Bassok

The Dragon’s Guards: Coho Hogan, Lucas Engles-Klan, Carter Janssen

The Dragon: Atti Legry

Stage Hands: Michelle Taylor, Terry Garrido, Jen Foster

Ticket Taker and House Manager: Chase Dodson

Narrator: Jaala Smith


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Unstructured time and Self-Directed space.

When we are encouraged to self-motivate and self-direct, wonderful things can happen. Connection and empowerment becomes the foundation of learning rather than obligation or resentment. When we learn through our own initiation and inspiration the learning becomes so much more memorable. When we create time and space to self-direct we create a space for passionate growth.  Not only should we value that kind of space for young people as learners but for ourselves as adults learning.  It is in these unstructured and supportive spaces that ideas and curriculum emerge for all.

Although this video is not an example of a class wide curriculum emerging, it is a great example of a child naturally discovering the wonders of learning. Here Salvadore is investigating a letter. Its sounds, its shape, its meaning and how it connects to our lives! Because the rest of the room is self-directed and engaged Salvadore and I were able to dive head first in the world of the letter T!

Minutes before this video started Salvadore had started alliterating with the letter T.  “T-oes! T-iny Toes!” A smile plastered to his face! Spinning in his chair, his hands raised high, emphasizing the powerful “TUH” sound at the beginning of each word!  “T-ouching T-iny T-oes!” Knowing that Salvadore is akin to drawing the subjects he’s thinking about, I placed a sharpie in his hand and large paper in front of him and asked him to draw the T words he was thinking of. With a handful of playful and child-centered redirection we embraced a powerful emerging idea that would later inspire everyone around us!

Salvadore really knows how to reflect on ideas via drawing! What a useful thing to know about Salvadore! I especially adore his reflection on the size of Terry’s legs to Tim’s legs! So astute!

I mentioned Salvadore’s project to our Literacy Teacher, Jen and they happened to be discovering lower case T in the following handwriting lesson. What a wonderfully helpful coincidence. Jen invited Salvadore to teach the lesson! Check it out!

Days after our encounter with the letter T, Salvadore’s enthusiasm for the “TUH” sound was bountiful! Classmates and peers recognized his enthusiasm and proceeded to encourage his excitement! The raw passion of learning is contagious and may we always have the clarity to see the opportunities to kindle it and enable it to spread like wild fire amongst us all.


– Jaala Smith






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