The Language of Mathematics (and a heavy dose of teamwork)

We spent the morning playing a fun math dice game called “Stuck in the Mud.” When the game was over, we recorded 15 double-digit scores – one for each student who played.

“Let’s put them all together,” Ruby (7 y/o) suggested. Then she added, “Who wants to work with me?”

Niko (7 y/o) and Abril (6 y/o) volunteered. I handed Ruby the clipboard of fifteen Stuck-In-The-Mud scores, all of which were in the double digit range. The three girls ran to the white board, picked up dry-erase markers, and began putting their heads together to add up all the scores. Applying skills learned from everyday math class, along with a heavy dose of perseverance, teamwork, and critical thinking, they worked out the final sum within an hour: 871!

Reflecting on this experience as an educator, I am not only proud of the hard work Ruby, Niko and Abril applied. I am inspired by the beauty in the way they embodied the KMS values through this experience.


Our Boat


With our Peaches’ curiosity and imagination, an empty sand table has become a boat that takes four of them off to a great adventure on the sea!

No way. The hundred is there.


Billie admires the first stanza of Loris Malaguzzi’s poem, The Hundred Languages of Children.  She knows this stanza well, as she proudly points to the word “hundred” and tells me, “This first part of the poem is my favorite.” Billie, along with her peers, has embarked on a profound journey to uncover the deep meaning of this poem, having already learned that Malaguzzi was a teacher who lived in Italy in a city called Reggio Emilia, and that he wrote this poem as he wanted the whole world to know what he thought about children.  As Billie studies words in the first stanza, she softly reads them out loud to herself:

“The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.”

Later on that day, KMS Atelierista Alden and I asked Billie and her peers, “What kind of school do you think Malaguzzi wanted to create for children?

Billie replied by drawing this picture:


She elaborated by explaining, “Malaguzzi wanted to create a nice school that kids could have fun in and enjoy the free time and also the things that they had to learn and they don’t even notice. There might be something they don’t want to do and the teachers turn it funner and they turn it different and they turn it fun so they don’t even notice they’re learning.”

Here is a link to the full poem by Loris Malaguzzi:






My Dream for the World

Pre-K have been discussing fairness, a topic that is part of their everyday routine. They were introduced to the idea of constitutional rights for all people, through developing an understanding of the diversity of our world. With the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday we discussed the awareness of social justice within the classroom as well as in the community. We investigated many influential people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Harvey Milk, and Rosa Parks. Along with reading books the Pre-K class has incorporated the art of music to correlate with the idea of peace and love. Maria Luna, director of the Spanish program, introduced the song “Barquito De Papel” by Mexican composer and singer Jose-Luis Orozco, (Little Paper Boat). This a beautiful song that speaks about spreading the hope of creating friendships across the world.

We spoke about the KMS’s core value Honoring our Relationships. We believe that building compassionate and trusting relationships is the foundation of a safe learning environment.  Strong bonds between children, teachers, administrators and parents all contribute toward creating a space where each person is valued and respected as an equal member of the community.

Dr. King was the catalyst for the changes we see today in society. Integrated classrooms, buses, restrooms, as well as the ability for people of all races to enjoy movies, church, parks, and communities together are all thanks to the efforts and leadership of Dr. King. Teaching children about these accomplishments as well as introducing them to the history of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement gives them a foundation for honoring values that will carry them into their future.

The children illustrated their concepts of civil rights, diversity, justice and equality after reading My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringgold. Dr. King’s powerful speech I Have a Dream laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. Pre-K reflected on what it means to be considerate of others and have equal opportunity to be their true self, full of hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow. Students drew pictures of a wish or dream they have for the future of our world:


“The white people getting to sit on the bus and black people can’t. My dream is for the world to be peaceful and have justice” – Mahiti, age 5


“This is Rosa Parks, on a bus and someone is telling her, “I don’t like you! Get off my bus!” That’s why I want to be a Super Hero and help people!” – Willa, Age 4

Metaphorical Thinking in Children: Seen through Projections

Metaphorical Thinking in Children:

Seen through Projections

by Loty Arteaga and Alden Fletcher, in collaboration with the KMS PreSchool Students

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In the ongoing study of the sky, Loty invited the children to observe projections of the sky in the Atelier.  Video and projections are an effective language for the children’s research.  The children were captivated with the images and created a special relationship with this new visual language, engaging in spontaneous dramatization.

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“It’s snowing there!” Navya exclaimed, when looking at the clouds. 

Navya started to “collect” the clouds in her hands and “ate” a handful.  She explained,  “I’m eating the sky.”  Other children followed her imaginative invitation.     

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The sky transformed to a colorful  sunset.  “Fire! Fire in the sky,”  Cecily exclaimed, pointing to the bright orange.

“Not fire,” reasoned Parker Simone.  Then Kiran pointed to the clouds, saying, “Look at that smoke… Fire clouds.” Torben shook his head, saying, “No, it’s not fire, it’s only the sunset.  It’s yellow and orange.” 

So Loty asked the children, “What is the sunset?” 

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Oona offered her idea, “When the sun goes down and the moon comes  up.”

Then Kiran made a beautiful compromise, combining the two descriptions, “It’s fire sunset!”

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Later, the video showed a fire pit on the beach. The children noticed and exclaimed, “Fire!” 

Lucas went up to the wall and touched it, removing his finger quickly as if burned.

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The next day, Ethan  observed, “The clouds are moving,  the wind is pushing the clouds.  Look!  The sun is burning the water.”

This was another interesting perspective, related to Kiran’s idea the day before. 

Loty noticed this and asked, “How can the sun do that?”

Ethan explained, “When the sun is almost down, it burns the water because the sun is hot.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 3.02.06 PMThrough the language of projections, the children are able to observe variations of sky in a controlled environment.  They see the colors, the clouds, the movement and the reflections more acutely.  They are also inclined to collaborate with the projections in a way that surprises the teachers, interacting with the environment they see in metaphorical ways. 

Pre-K Games: A Parent Perspective

We love having parents in to see how we learn through play. Vincent’s parents Bridget and Tommy came in to visit yesterday morning, and had this to say about their visit:

“We spent the morning with Vinnie and his classmates, playing games and learning how the kids created them. Some used color matching, some used handmade pawns, while others brought different objects from home. Everyone enjoyed using their counting and math skills while competing against each other to cross the finish line. It was action packed and everyone was very proud to share the rules of their game and to show all of their hard work!”

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Parachute Time!

Is there anything more fun than a parachute on a rainy day?

The Environment as the Third Teacher

“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be better than before.”

– Loris Malaguzzi: Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach 

This quote by Malaguzzi came to my mind as I observed the children gathering around Zara (3rd grade) to listen to the story and contemplated the ways that this scene reflects the Core Values of KMS:

The environment in the child-constructed classroom – AKA “Community Literacy Center (whose name was coined by Caroline, 2nd grade) – truly played the role of the “3rd teacher.” That is,  Zara’s personal book-basket where she keeps her favorite books conveniently lived nearby for her to take to a comfy spot; the bean bag served a warm invitation for Zara’s friends to come and enjoy her reading aloud; and the spelling rules on the walls, anchored and designed by the children earlier in the school year, hung ready to to be utilized to help figure out tricky words.

This video clip is but one reflection of our school identity: that we believe in children as competent citizens, that we view our environment as an essential partner in all facets of teaching and learning, and that we honor each other’s relationships through the journey of exploration.

Exploring Rain Clouds

Exploring Rain Clouds

Alden Fletcher, Atelierista

This stormy wintery month is a wonderful opportunity to explore the changing weather.  In pre-k, we have been dialoguing about rain and where it comes from.  The children have many theories, which I asked them to portray in a graphic form.  These quotes and images convey the varied thinking of the children, as well as their ability to use the language of drawing to articulate their ideas.   


“The world spins around and when it faces the moon on one side, some of the moon’s air comes to the earth and bumps in and goes to different parts of the world” -Ali (age 5) describing where clouds come from

Please click on this link to see more of the children’s ideas 

The Life and Art of Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera is one of the most important Mexican muralists of all time. Rivera’s style is unique. In 1940 he was commissioned to paint a large scale fresco by the organizers of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay Area. He painted the masterpiece called “Unión de la Expresión artística del Norte y Sur de este Continente,” commonly known as the “Pan American Unity” and he included himself and his wife Frida Kahlo in the mural. It is definitely one of the greatest works by Rivera in the United States.

As part of the KMS Spanish Program the Upper Elementary children have been studying, observing and admiring Rivera’s masterpiece. The students had the opportunity to see his work in person at the City College SF campus. Afterwards, all the students shared their inspiration by creating their own mural-inspired artwork and by sharing their thoughts and reflections with each other about the artist’s work.

“I think the mural is like from the future and from the old times. I think it’s so cool and inspiring.” -Rio, 3rd GradeIMG_3616

"I think that Diego's art has a lot of detail and when he paints, he paints himself, his wife or people he knows. I think he does that to make it interesting. The mural makes me feel happy." - Caroline

“I think that Diego’s art has a lot of detail and when he paints, he paints himself, his wife or people he knows. I think he does that to make it interesting. The mural makes me feel happy.” –  Caroline, 2nd Grade                                                                        

"The mural is very creative. I feel like it is a giant big family. It makes me feel very creative myself. Next time I want to draw the Feathered Serpent because when Diego Rivera painted the mural he put a lot of effort in it." -Violet

“The mural is very creative. I feel like it is a giant big family. It makes me feel very creative myself. Next time I want to draw the Feathered Serpent because when Diego Rivera painted the mural he put a lot of effort in it.” -Violet, 1st Grade                                                                                                              

"The mural is very interesting because there are a lot of different things going on at the same time. I'm amazed and I can't believe that Diego Rivera painted the mural. If he made one mistake, he had to wait until the mural dried to take out the plaster and then paint over it again." -Noah

“The mural is very interesting because there are a lot of different things going on at the same time. I’m amazed and I can’t believe that Diego Rivera painted the mural. If he made one mistake, he had to wait until the mural dried to take out the plaster and then paint over it again.” -Noah, 1st Grade                        


We finalized the field trip by visiting the Cabeza Olmeca at the CCSF courtyard.

The Beauty of Partner Reading

At every moment of the school day, one will observe that every child embodies the KMS values – The child being a competent citizen of the world; the child showing awareness of the environment; the child displaying sincere care for his/her relationships; and the child learning through hands-on exploration.

One of many ways that we incorporate academics into these values is through partner reading and story-telling. The Upper Elementary students have taken leadership in reading their “Just Right” books to the Kindergarteners. Not only does this relationship-building process foster confidence in the older students, it also reinforces the reading skills they are practicing as they aspire toward fluency. By the same token, the Kindergarteners get to build important reading skills through active listening, asking questions, and making inferences.


Tallulah reads to Hazel and Presley.


Niko proudly displays her competency as she reads to Lorenzo.


Abril explores one of Esther’s Just Right books from her book bin while Adelia listens to Esther read.


Ruby and Eva share the bean bag while Ruby reads aloud from her book.


Billie shares one of her favorite non-fiction books with Cyrus.

“A Building So High it Reaches to the Moon”

“A Building So High it

Reaches to the Moon”Kiran

Engineering, Building and Design in Pumpkin Land (Preschool)

by Carlota Arteaga and Alden Fletcher


This Summer, a group of Pumpkins (Preschoolers) were immersed in a building investigation.  It started with a simple but intentional question, “What is the tallest building in San Francisco?” That one question led them to an collaborative months-long investigation into the language of building, a process that touches on a multitude of disciplines.  The intensive documentation of this process is a nine page PDF, found here

Sharing in Peach Palace


Pallavi: “Pallavi holding Josephine’s hand” (smiles)


Pallavi: “There you go, cereal”

Josephine: “Thank you!”

Pallavi: “Pallavi sharing cereal. Give Josephine cereal.”

Pre-K Trip to La Victoria Panaderia

Last week the Pre-K Students went on a fieldtrip to make Pan de Muerto at La Victoria Panaderia in honor of Dia de los Muertos! We followed up making our delicious bread with lunch and playing in a local park. We love our neighborhood, the Mission!

Zooming in on the “Language” of Art

Alden and I have been having a lot of fun working together – with the children – to investigate how the concepts of Language Arts relate to the concepts of Visual Arts. For example, during Writer’s Workshop, I teach and encourage the children to zoom in on just one small moment from their lives and to write a story about it. Alden teaches the same group of students how the concept of zooming in can be a applied to creating self-portraits. Moreover, just as the students are given various “tools” to write stories, Alden provides tools for the children to do what many visual artists do: make a study of something that interests them. In this case, the study focuses on drawing one’s self-portrait:


In Writer’s Workshop, Billie would normally zoom in on one small moment and write about it. Below, Billie zooms in on one feature of her face – the eye – and carefully draws the details accordingly:



In Writer’s Workshop, after the young writers have spent up to an hour writing, they come together to share, comment, and reflect on each another’s stories. In the Atelier with Alden, the young artists do the same with their illustrations:



In Writer’s Workshop, we always find time to kick back and enjoy light hearted conversations about each other’s stories. In the Atelier, we love to do the same!


Why do you love San Francisco?


A beautiful discussion about our beloved city in the Pumpkins (Preschool):

Rylan: Why do you have the San Francisco map?

Torben: Why? Oh, well, because I love San Francisco so much.

Rylan: I love San Francisco too. Why do you love San Francisco?

Torben: Because we moved here with my parents.

Rylan: I live here in San Francisco. You know that KMS is also in San Francisco.

Torben: I don’t know. I need to ask my parents.

Torben: You know that I am going to special trip with my family very, very soon.

Rylan: Are you going to miss San Francisco?

Torben: YES!!!! That’s why I will be back very soon.

Rylan: I will miss you! How about let’s study, read and draw San Francisco before you go on vacation.

Torben: Okay… okay.. okay..


Peaches in Dirt Mountain


The bumpy ground of KMS’s Dirt Mountain is a great challenge for our toddlers’ gross motor skills.  They use all their bodies to balance, climb up, and slide down!

Finding Inspiration: Drawings Inspired by Nature and Family

Finding Inspiration:

Drawings Inspired by Nature and Family

by Alden Fletcher, Atelierista


“It’s an abstract drawing of a leaf and fennel.” -Mahiti

Autumn is always an inspiring time to observe leaves, even in our city’s mild climate; vibrant colors ranging from green, to yellow, to red, litter the ground and the trees overhead.  Leaves not only offer an invitation to observe the mysterious metamorphosis of color, but they expose children to the multitude of shapes and sizes that grow on earth.    IMG_0734

Please click here for a PDF with more documentation on this process.

KMS Celebrates 14,611 days!

We celebrated KMS’s 40th anniversary with a special ceremony in our beautiful backyard garden where the elementary students shared messages of care to the garden and “her sister Mother Nature.”

A few of the messages:

“Garden, garden, I love you most. Your oranges are as sweet as candy and sugar.”
“Garden, garden, I hope you grow and thank you so much for letting us know.”

Pre-K Performed a special rendition of “Mariposa” and “Dirt Made My Lunch:

The garden was honored with poems, decorations, and beautiful messages. Come see the new printmaking installation in the garden!


A Most Agreeable Teaching Tool


The upper elementary kiddos enjoy their beloved books while basking on and around this mountainous cushion of joy. While charming all bookworms who use it, this gentle giant of a bean bag serves as an artful teaching tool: inviting, inciting, and inspiring every elementary child toward a boundless love of reading.