Enrichment Class

Simple Machines!

We have reached the end of our first six-week session, and the kiddos did great!  Here’s a glimpse into what we covered and a sneak peek at what we have coming up in our next six-week session:

Our day was divided into four main parts: Geography, Writer’s Workshop, Simple Machine Science, and Makerspace.

In Geography we learned that maps are pictures of places as seen from above and are meant to help us find our way to different locations.  We talked about how a map of the world isn’t exactly accurate since the Earth is a sphere.  I drew continents on an orange and peeled it and had the kids try to lay it flat like a map.  This showed them the distortion that happens and how more accurate a globe is when looking at continents. For our littlest littles, the concepts of city, state, country and continent are still abstract. The book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeny is great for simplifying these concepts. After reading it together, the kids drew maps of their rooms with themselves in their favorite spot. I also love this activity which you can do at home to reinforce what was learned in class.

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For Writers’ Workshop we split into groups. While some students worked on letter writing and recognition, others worked on sight words and simple sentences, and our elder kiddos worked on writing prompts to create their own stories. . One week we all wrote our own song, set to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. For our littles that are still working on letters, I had them tell me their ideas, which I then wrote out in highlighter and had them trace. This way no one misses out on the fun of writing silly songs just because they’re at a different writing level!

Students who finished early got bonus silent reading time. Some of our most popular grabs were the Where’sWaldo books that were generously donated to our classroom library. These books are great for building reading skills, and the kids think they’re fun! I know I loved Where’s Waldo as a kid. Did you? Do you have a copy at home? If so, I love these ideas for working on specific skills and growing a kid’s appreciation for reading using these books that they already enjoy.

Our Simple Machines Science unit got the most attention. The kids created science notebooks to collect data, take notes, draw and sketch ideas, and glue in foldables and manipulatives that went along with the day’s lesson.



Each six-week session’s science unit begins with an introduction to the Scientific Method. One of my favorite ways to introduce it is with the book Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. Ada After reading it aloud we go through each of the steps of the Scientific Method to see how Ada asked questions, came up with hypotheses, conducted experiments, how she then analyzed her finding and came to a conclusion. (Though in the book she actually does not reach a conclusion, the reader is left to analyze the data and come up with a conclusion themselves. Love it!)



The following class we read We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio.  which is a fantastic book with a positive message about respecting differences, being kind, and showing empathy.  We then discussed how we can apply these qualities when working with our classmates on a project.  These qualities are especially applicable for our mixed-age groups, and I am so proud of how they all applied them beautifully the entire session long!


Another great book we shared was The Little Engine That Could  by Watty Piper.  This classic story about a little train that is delivering toys to girls and boys is always a favorite, and I loved hearing “I think I can, I think I can” throughout the weeks that followed ;-P   Our discussion of Perseverance that was so encouraging for us all, with the older students sharing stories of when they’ve been afraid or hesitant to try something new and how they overcame that, and even some of our littlest students sharing what they’ve been hesitant to try, and being encouraged by their classmates to try again! I also found that repeating the little engine’s mantra “I think I can, I think I can” to a struggling student cut down on the whiny-from-frustration “I can’t do it” moments.  Love this book!


Perseverance definitely played a big role in our Simple Machines lessons as the kids were encouraged to use simple machines to solve a problem or perform a task.  We discussed what it means to Work (move an object using force) and how sometimes giving up is simply not an option.  How can we work smarter, not harder and get more work done with less force? Simple Machines!


New to Spark this session was our Makerspace.  I was hesitant to set one up, and now I wish I’d been doing it since the beginning!  I was blown away with what the kiddos came up with!  Makerspace was a half-hour to fourty-five minutes at the end of the day for the students to build simple contraptions or crafts out of toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, food pouch caps, pipe cleaners, and bits of yarn.  I was so impressed at the toys and games they made and played with, and how well they worked together!

Woven into our day is a Money Math component.  Students can earn Spark Dollars by completing their work in a tidy and timely manner and by applying and interviewing for classroom jobs and performing their duties. Some of our more entrepreneurial kiddos used their Makerspace time to create crafts that they then sold to their classmates!  They never cease to amaze me.

rosieOur final Simple Machines lesson was an all encompassing project to build a Rube Goldberg-style contraption using each of the six simple machines we discussed throughout the session (Lever, Pulley, Inclined Plane, Wheel and axle, Wedge and Screw). We closed the unit by reading Rosie Revere, Engineer  also by Andrea Beaty, and talked about how mishaps when building or creating are not failures, but an oportunity for reinvention!

I’ve gotten several texts and videos from moms telling me their child has been collecting their household’s recyclables and creating contraptions in their room! Nothing makes my teacher-heart happier! Here’s a great site for ideas to get your little one creating at home too!

There you have it,  our first session in a nut-shell.  Of course, this doesn’t cover all the things we learned that WEREN’T on my lesson plans!  Our students have been totally rocking Show and Tell and teaching us about the latest toys, games, and shows, as well as sharing souvenirs from their travels which invariably leads us into great discussions and even more learning.  We also had some super cool critter-buddies visit us when students asked to bring their pets in for show-and-tell.  Thank you so much to the Moms and Dads that were willing to play taxi to these little critters since we couldn’t keep them in class the whole day!


Next up: Sign Language, Rocks and Minerals, Life Skills and Theater Arts! Along with a performance by all the kids!


Miss Moddy’s Buddies – Episode #002

It’s Summer!  Miss Moddy and Alexa are hanging out at the Spark learning studio working on a project to stay cool during the warm summer months.

They talk about the Bower bird and learn how decorations help this little Critter Buddy find a mate.   


Shark Week! – special episode

Hi Buddies! This week is Shark Week, so here’s a special episode all about Hammerhead Sharks.
To learn more about these cool critter buddies, you can visit National Geographics for Kids (With your parents’ permission, of course) or visit your local library and ask a librarian to show you where you can find books about sharks.

You can also check out Easy Peasy and Fun‘s blog to make your own shark puppet. Use it to teach friends and family everything you’re learning about sharks!


Happy Shark Week!


Hammerhead shark image by PhantomMiss

Miss Moddy’s Buddies

Episode #001- The Pilot Podcast!

It’s the end of the school year! Miss Moddy and Alexa come up with plans for the summer and learn about how a family of beavers works together.  This inspires them to work together on a fun project you can make at home too!


How to build a HUGE Slip N Slide. Fun for ALL AGES!


Become a Patron of the Playful Podcasting arts! (P.O.P.P.A for short) you’ll like it when we call you big P.O.P.P.A 😛



Squeeze-Pouch Cap Caterpillar


You’re reading this blog post, which means you too have found squeeze-pouch caps between couch cushions, under beds, in random drawers and when vacuuming your car. You likely have container full of colorful squeeze-pouch caps that are ready for an up-cycle.

Level up those caps with this easy caterpillar project!

Materials: IMG_0006

6 Squeeze-pouch caps (one red, five green)

1 Pipe cleaner/ Chenille stick

googly eyes (optional)

Hot glue gun (to attach googly eyes)



Step One: IMG_9303

Fold the ends of the chenille stick




Step 2:

Starting from the bottom of your caterpillar, thread the chenille stick through the 5 green squeeze-pouch caps, saving the red squeeze-pouch cap for last.


Step 3:

Leave about an inch and a half of the chenille stick poking out of the red squeeze-pouch cap and go back to the bottom of your caterpillar. (This part is tricky for little hands) Bend your chenille stick so that the other end goes through the bottom of your caterpillar and thread this end up through all the squeeze-pouch caps.



Step 4: 

You should have two “antennae” coming out of the red squeeze-pouch cap. Twist them together to hold all your squeeze-pouch caps together.

At this point your caterpillar is done!


You can use hot glue to add googly-eyes and “legs” to your caterpillar.


You can also just draw eyes on your squeeze-pouch cap caterpillar with permanent marker, or you can leave your caterpillar as is and jump right into reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” with your little one.



Sacramento Area Homeschool and Independent Study programs

There are a lot of options when it comes to homeschooling your child and it’s easy to get lost in the sea of information. We have compiled a list of the charter schools in the Sacramento area that offer homeschool and independent study programs (not  in any particular order).   You can contact the school directly for more information, or schedule a consultation with us and find the program that’s right for you, your child, and your family’s lifestyle.

Visions in Education

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Choices Charter School

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Horizon Charter Schools
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C.O.R.E. Placer Charter School


South Sutter Charter School






Exploding Watermelon!


Watch our watermelon burst


This week in Spark we shook things up and went out with a bang!


Ms. Jen took the lead in our Writer’s Workshop and introduced the kids to parts of speech focusing on Nouns with a game of “Bring me a ____”.

Then she taught the kids how to swap out tired boring words with “Juicy” synonyms, adding to our little’s vocabulary and strengthening our older boys’ writing ability.  The kids worked together to come up with new words for “happy” and “sad” to add to our list of Juicy Words.espanol


In Spanish class we reviewed our Spanish vowel sounds.  The kids then chose a Spanish name for themselves and we practiced simple introductions.  “Hola! Soy Marisol!” We also practiced conversation starters, asking “Como esta” and answering with “Bien”, “Mal” or “Mas o menos”.

img_0191Then came the moment we were all excited for!

We made predictions as to how many rubber bands it would take until the watermelon exploded, then headed outside to begin the experiment!




We all took turns adding rubber bands and 232 rubber-bands later- Kapowee!



Our first class

Our first day of SPARK was so much fun! We started the day establishing our working “Agreements” and discussed how these are different from rules. Rules are what not to do, Agreements we all agree to do. The kids decided we needed to Share, Be Kind, Help Out, Respect others and their things, and Have Fun.  agreesign

We silly-signed the agreements and even the parents joined in the fun! The kids got a kick out of that.  Some “partner-signed” while others chose to “Chicken wing” sign by putting a marker in the crook of their elbow.  The results were a bit scribbly, but still legible. And there’s no way they’ll forget that they signed!

After addressing some logistics (showing everyone where the bathroom is, where to put their lunch boxes etc.) we moved into the Spanish portion of our day with a simple greeting song “Buenos dias amigos”.

We introduced the Spanish vowel sounds. Using whole body learning, the kids stood up and belly laughed a “Ha-Ha-Ha” for the sound of an A.  The E made a “Heh-heh” laugh with limbs out in front but it quickly turned into a dab dance. Shy-giggle “I” with a hee-hee-hee, and Jolly old O with Ho-ho-ho. U didn’t laugh but was impressed by our jump rope skills instead. “oooooh!” Does a U look like a jump rope to you?

For our Writers Workshop, we made use of story starters. We took turns adding on to the story for thirty seconds each. Then the kids were split into three groups and another story starter was read. Teams had to reach a unanimous agreement on the path their story would take and work together to create a poster, which they then presented and explained. We have quite a creative crew!


After lunch we read a couple of chapters of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, and then jumped into the science portion of our day by welcoming everybody to earth.


We discussed the difference between rotation and revolution and showed our comprehension by spinning in place for rotation and walking around the room for revolution. Then we made notes in our science notebooks and watched a short clip of Bill Nye the Science guy explaining how the earth’s tilt is the reason for the seasons.

fatags     Some silent reading time, then on to the Life Skills portion of the day where we discussed basic first aid. We went over the proper way to put a band aid on someone else. The kids practiced by putting them on Alexa’s “boo-boos”. At the end of our lesson, the kids were quizzed on how to handle emergency situations and they each earned their very first Brag Tag!

What a fun group of kids we have! Manners, cooperation, eagerness to learn… We are so impressed with this bunch, and can’t wait to see what they will accomplish together in the weeks to come!