July 1

School’s Out for Summer!

We had another quick school year. The time always seems to fly by. Now, its on to summer. But before I get there I’d like to reflect a bit.

I’m proud of what we accomplished. Yes there were some challenges, but I think we came out on top.

List of Accomplishments
-Learned more about fractions than any grade level in K-4.
-Read several books as individuals and as a class. Titles include: “Tuck Everlasting”, “Flying Solo”, “Doll Bones”, etc…
-Continued our Legacy Crop for 1st graders next year and designed experiments that should help us to develop a better garden harvest in the future.
-Tried to start FedEx programming that allowed us to learn in a way we determined. To learn what we are passionate about.

We learned a bunch. I could go on and on.

I learned quite a bit as a teacher too. For instance, kids need recess! I took some feedback from the class and most students really wanted more time to run around and play with friends. Makes sense, right?

Well, I hope everyone has a super summer and kids swing by to visit next school year.

One last thing. Again, I know my blogging needs improvement. I’ll keep working on it. I hope to make it more of a habit this summer. Maybe I can fit in some more Vlogs too. Stay tuned.

December 14

What happened to the Pumpkin Project?

I guess I should probably provide an update on the Pumpkin Project.  We harvested our pumpkins for the year.  It took some time, but we were able to collect the fruit that grew, make some simple measurements and deliver them to our school’s 1st grade classes.

Pumpkin Harvest







We harvested the pumpkins in October.  5th grade classes were responsible for harvesting their own pumpkins.  Then, we measured the circumference and weight of each.












Many of the Kandy Korn pumpkins we harvested were pretty small.  The Snowball pumpkins were larger; but, many vines didn’t produce any fruit.  We shared the data between classes and came up with something like this.

img_4250 img_4274










We continued to reflect on the different factors that might have impacted the results of our harvest.  The students determined that the small size of pumpkins and number of fruit could have been from …



-amount of water


-amount of insects/pollinators

-number of pumpkin plants

This spring we will look at making a change to the garden.  We’ll look at our list and decide how we might manipulate one variable/factor to run a controlled experiment and improve our 2017 harvest.  Wish us luck and check back for updates.










September 21

So Far, So Good!

It has begun.  First, let me say it was very nice meeting everyone for Meet Your Teacher Night at Challenger Elementary.  We had about 14 students come through the door of the classroom.  I put in a little extra time this year and provided some treats for our families.

















The next few days have been busy.  We’ve spent quite a bit of time building our classroom community.  Kids started with creating a Code of Cooperation.  The class started with a cooperative game called the Hula Hoop Challenge.

img_4179 img_4176








Afterwards, we all came together and brainstormed what we should strive for to make sure we would be able to collaborate at the highest level.  Once we had a list of ideas, we assessed…..

“To what extent can we agree to always try to follow the current Code of Cooperation.”

Here’s what we all came up with using a tool called a Consensogram that was created be David Langford.








The results seemed pretty positive.  You can see most students thought it was perfect.  They agreed at a 100% to always try and follow it.  So, we accepted the Code and signed it to symbolize our acceptance.










Next, the class developed a purpose.  This took some time.  Kids quietly reflected on what their purpose was for being at school.  They wrote a purpose statement.  Next, table groups passed the statements around their tables and read their peers.  They tried to identify the important words or phrases for each group.  Groups shared their results and here’s the list we came up with.


A student’s example statement.










Eventually we were able to build a statement as a class.

“Our purpose for school is to learn and prepare for middle school, to become educated, improve our classroom skills, and overcome challenges throughout the year.”

We tried to use as many of the student ideas as possible for the purpose.  It’s a purpose for the kids and by the kids.  As a result, the consensogram was pretty overwhelming in regards to acceptance from the class.
















Our class has started an art project as well.  Again this is an activity that will help to strengthen our classroom community.  We called it Value Art.  Students are contrasting cool and warm colors to create contrast and highlight a value, or something that’s important to them.  This piece will be posted around the room for the school year to remind us of what’s important to the class.









Another unit of study we began was Environments.  We started to discuss what an environment was.  Here’s what student’s said.

“A place where people and animals live.” -Lana

“A habitat where living things can survive.” -Juan

“A home for abiotic and biotic things.” -Jasmine

Next, we discussed what a terrarium might be.

“Maybe it’s like an aquarium.” -Yarelli

“It’s like an aquarium but just not underwater.” -Tashala

Wow! I’ve been blown away with the attitudes and contributions from our classroom.  It seems to me the students in P-7 this year are very motivated to learn.  So far, so good.


August 29


I went into school last week to check in on our pumpkin patches. Wow! We have pumpkins growing! This is great. Again, Garden 1 seems to be having the most luck. Here are a few shots showing the pumpkin growth.

A photo of Garden 1.

A photo of Garden 1.










Candy Korn pumpkins growing in Garden 1.










Snowball pumpkins growing in Garden 1.









A photo of Garden 2.

A photo of Garden 2. Notice the flowers on the plants. We need those to be pollinated before a pumpkin will grow.










A Kandy Korn pumpkin in Garden 2 growing out of a bucket.


A small Kandy Korn pumpkin growing in Garden 2.













Garden 2 has growth as well, but it’s smaller.

I shared several pictures from these gardens in this post to give you a chance to really compare the different growth responses we’re getting.  At the beginning of the school year we will be studying environments.  Also, we’ll be examining the factors that can impact an environment.  A factor is another word for variable.  I want you to think about this as anything that can affect the way organisms live grow and interact in the environment.  Think about the 2 gardens.  What factors are affecting the growth of pumpkin plants.  There’s more than 1.

Folks, there’s only 1 more week and school begins.  I hope you’re excited to see your friends and meet me.  I’m looking forward to the year.  See you soon.  Enjoy your last few days of Summer Vacation!


August 24

One Thing I Learned Recently – “A Broody Hen”

Since we’re in the learning business, I thought I’d start to share different things I learn from time-to-time in a post called “One Thing I Learned Recently….”.  I mean we’re always learning, right?  Well these are real world learnings.  These are what I try to create in the classroom as much as possible.  I really think they’re the most powerful.

At my house we have chickens.

Mr. Magill's chicken coop.

Mr. Magill’s chicken coop.








Yes.  We are city farmers.  I live in the Seattle area and we had about 5 chickens before this story started.  Well, there’s a problem.  One of our chickens, Honey, just sits in the nesting box all day.  She doesn’t want to go out and socialize with all of the other chickens.  Instead she sits in the box and doesn’t even want to eat.  The nesting box is a small space in the chicken coop, or house, that the chickens use to lay eggs.  Chickens need to lay an egg each day of their young life.  What do you think she’s doing?  You guessed it, she’s brooding.  She’s trying to hatch the eggs her friends have laid.

Chicken eggs won’t hatch unless you have a male, or rooster.  The city won’t allow us to have a rooster.  They make too much noise.  Plus they can be mean when they’re trying to protect all of their girlfriends.  Anyway, Honey doesn’t understand.  As a result, she just sits there.  So, we decided to try an experiment.  What do you think we did?  Watch the video to find out.

August 19

My Summer Vacation

Recently, I wrote a post about our National Parks.  This is a follow-up post about the big family vacation I took at a park during the month of August.

We made it to Glacier National Park on Saturday, August 13th.  We were a little worried about crowds because this is our Nation’s National Park’s 100th birthday.  But that didn’t stop us from being excited.  As we drove up to the place we were staying we, came across a family of wild turkeys.  There were 2 hens and 6 babies.  They were pretty shy and ran off before I could get many pictures.  But I was able to snap a few.








Glacier National Park is located near the upper left hand side of the state of Montana.  That’s the Northwestern side of the state.  The park is around 1 million acres of land.  That’s huge.  To give you an idea of the size think about our school.  It’s approximately 3 acres.  There are several different varieties of plants and animals in the park.  Some of the animals can be very dangerous.  They’re apex predators.  These include cougars, black bears and the most grizzly bears outside of the state of Alaska.  Glacier is known for the animals as well as it’s unique environment.  One particular environmental feature that it’s known for are glaciers.  Glaciers formed the park.  These are large bodies of ice that actually move.  Over time they have been melting.  The government surveys them every once in a while to see how many are left.  At this time there are 25 active glaciers in the park.  They say they will all be gone by 2030.  Do you know why?

With 1,000,000 acres in the park we weren’t sure what to see.  We had to plan carefully to get the most out of our vacation.  I had to consider the location of where we would go in the park and find something to do that would work for everyone in the family.  The youngest in the group was 8.  The oldest was 70.  Also, we would only be able to drive through the park a few days.  So, I made a list of things we could do based on my research of Glacier.  As a result, I made an itinerary, or planned route.

  • Monday-I decided we should start early at Avalanche Lake. This is a short hike that was not too hard on the west side of the park.  When you’re planning a hike for a group, you need to think about the length and the elevation you would gain.  Elevation gain is how much height you gain based on your starting point.  The hike is about 4.5 miles.  The elevation gain is about 700 feet.  Afterwards we would eat lunch and go to Logan Pass to check out the Visitor’s Center and hike to Hidden Lake.  While were at the Visitor’s Center we could chat with some Rangers and start the kids on the Junior Ranger Program.  The kids might even get in a Ranger talk.  This is a short class about a topic related to the park.  Going here would also give those that didn’t want to hike other options.  They could shop at the Visitor’s Center, or sit on a bench and keep an eye out for wildlife.  There are several animals that frequent the area.

My son and his cousins explore Avalanche Lake.









We catch a Ranger Talk at Logan Pass Visitor Center.


My nieces check out their Junior Ranger books.








A mountain goat cools off at the top of the Hidden Lake trail. Yes. There’s still snow at Glacier during the summer.









  • Tuesday-We were going to be very tired from our hiking Monday.  I decided to make it an easy day.  We could hangout at a local beach in Whitefish, Montana.  Later, we would head to Bowman Lake on the North Fork road on the northwest side of the park.  The road is mostly gravel.  It’s a bumpy ride, but well worth it.  This is a lake that is crystal clear and surrounded by thick forests and rugged mountains.  We could watch the evening light fade on the beach and headed to a place not too far from the lake for dinner.  It’s called Polebridge.  It’s a small town that doesn’t even have regular power.  They have to use solar power.  It’s a great place to eat dinner, play volleyball, or listen to music.














  • Wednesday-This would be the last big day in the park.  Today I thought we could should journey to the east side of the park.  We would travel to Two Medicine Lake.  At the lake we would hike along the South Shore trail for about 5 miles.  This would take us to the other end of the lake.  Afterwards we could swim in the mountain lake before packing up and heading back to base camp for the last night.  Another thing we would need on our hike was plenty of water.  We would need to pack at least 1 bottle per person.  Glacier can be pretty warm in August.
A bridge on the South Shore hike at Two Medicine.

A bridge on the South Shore hike at Two Medicine.











That’s it.  We pretty much stuck to the plan, but need to come back for another visit.  The park has several miles of trails to explore.  Also, in some cases, depending on where you are, you can take a boat to the end of some lakes and start a hike from there.  You can even rent canoes and kayaks from Two medicine.  Near the Avalanche Lake trail you can go horse back riding.  There’s just lots that you could do.  If you could, what park would you visit in the US?  What would you do?



August 6

Garden Update 7.6.16

I’m not sure if we have any pumpkins growing yet, but there are plenty of flowers blooming. Many of our pumpkin plants have blossoms now.  Remember that the female plant needs to be pollinated.  This can only happen with the help of an important organisms. Check out the video below to see how this might occur.

Sometimes these plants don’t get pollinated. If they don’t, a pumpkin will not grow. Do you know the difference between a female pumpkin flower and male flower? The female has a small ball below the flower blossom. The male is a straight stem. See the pictures below. Can you tell which one is a female and which is a male based on the pictures?

There are 2 blossoms in this photo. One is to the left of the center and the other right. Can you tell which is a male and female?

There are 2 blossoms in this photo. One is to the left of the center and the other right. Can you tell which is a male and female?









The flower in this photo hasn't opened. Is it male, or female?

The flower in this photo hasn’t opened. Is it male, or female?












This one is hard to see. Look at the upper right corner. You can see the bottom of a blossom. Is it male, or female?









Can you think of other ways these plants might get pollinated?

I’ll finish with documenting that there’s still a big difference between Garden 1 plants and Garden 2.  Can you see the differences below?  Also, what are the factors that might contribute to the difference.

Garden 1

Garden 1

Garden 2

Garden 2

August 4

Will You Be Watching The Summer Olympics?

Back in July I had the pleasure of watching the Track and Field trials for the US. It was in Eugene, Oregon.  It was at a stadium called Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.

Tickets for the Track and Field Trials

Tickets for the Track and Field Trials










Trials are the name for the competition that each sport holds to decide it’s Olympic Team. Swimming has a trials competition, gymnastics has a trials, so on and so on…. The trials for Track and Field take place over several days. We were only in Eugene one day and watched events like the women’s 400m and the men’s decathlon. The decathlon is an interesting event. It takes places over 2 days. Can you guess how many track events the athletes complete? Look at the beginning of the word for a clue. The word Deca comes from Greece and means….. 10. The men compete in 10 events. We watched the final day where the men did the 110m hurdles, discuss, pole vault, javelin and 1500m run.

The final event for the decathlon. The grueling 1500 m. The guy in front is Jeremy Taiwo. He competed at UW.

The final event for the decathlon. The grueling 1500 m. The guy in front is Jeremy Taiwo. He competed at UW.









We had a pretty good time at the trials.  USATF set it up for kids too.  They had events all around the stadium that kids could compete in like the shot put and high jump.  Nike displayed the team uniforms that the athletes will be wearing.  Pretty cool.  Ella, my daughter was impressed.


Look closely and you can see some special rubber triangles that are supposed to help the sprinters cut down on drag, or wind resistance.










We even ran into some famous people in the Track and Field World.  Dan O’Brien’s nephew was sitting in front of us.  Dan swung by to visit with him.  He’s a reporter for a television show and won the gold medal in the decathlon several years ago.  He’s a little older than me.


Dan trained for the Olympics at WSU while I was a student there. He won the Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.












The Summer Olympics in Rio are here! Will you be watching? Kids at the age of 10-11 are some of the biggest followers of the games.  So, you must be watching, right?  Don’t worry, if you haven’t been watching, they started yesterday. The US Women’s Soccer team played New Zealand. The US won 2-0. The women’s teams for the US are expected to be very dominant.  Why?  It may be because there aren’t many other countries that give women the opportunity to compete in sports. They don’t get to play.  Ask your mother, or your grandmother, if they competed in sports.  A special law, Title IX, was passed in 1972 in the US to give women more opportunities in sports. This really started the change that made us quite different than most countries around the world in regards to sports.  It does seem more countries are starting to change, but they have a long way to go to catch up to the level of play of the US.  For example, the US Women’s Soccer Team has won the Gold Medal in the last 3 Olympics.

The Opening Ceremonies are tomorrow.  Watch for Michael Phelps.  He’ll be carrying the US flag. The rest of our country’s athletes will follow him into the stadium.


July 8

Why are the pumpkin leaves changing colors?

This week I went up to Challenger Elementary to check out our pumpkins.  I found some interesting changes.  First, the irrigation seemed to be working pretty well.  The strawberries looked great.  There was even a couple of ripe berries, which my son, Riley, immediately grabbed and gobbled up.  Not fair.  When I tested the irrigation there were 4 fountains of water spraying up from the strawberries.  The sprinkler heads had blown off from all of the water pressure.  I was able to find them and screw them on a little tighter.  Hopefully, that will fix the problem.  Next, I noticed quite a few weeds popping up.  Luckily I brought Ella and Riley.  We all pitched in and began working on clearing the weeds to give the pumpkins more room to grow.  Pretty soon everything was cleared.  The last thing we did was an examination of the pumpkins in our two gardens.  Ella took some photos for me.

Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 1

Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 1








Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 2

Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 2








Some of the plants seemed to be discolored.  The leaves were changing color.  They were turning yellow.  I don’t think this is a normal growth pattern.  I guess it’s time to start thinking like a scientist.  What do you think it means?

Pumpkin Plant Pest

Pumpkin Plant Pest








I found a few plants were eaten a little and a lot.  The plant above was pretty devastated.  It looked like it had been munched on by something.  Before school ended the class was worried about a local bunny eating them, but I think that’s very unlikely.  If a rabbit was eating them they’d be gone.  A rabbit would completely destroy a young plant.  This is something different.  What kind of pest could be feasting on the pumpkins?

Most of our pumpkins did look pretty healthy, but I did continue to notice a difference between the 2 gardens and the variety of pumpkins.  Here’s the data we ended with in June.  It demonstrated a big difference in germination rates.

Germination Data for Garden 1

Germination Data for Garden 1









Germination Data for Garden 2

Germination Data for Garden 2








If you look closely at the run charts you can see that Garden 1 seeds germinated much quicker than Garden 2.  Why was that?  Well students hypothesize that it was due to the amount of sunlight.  Garden 1 received much more during the day than Garden 2.  We don’t know for sure if this is the main factor effecting growth, but it’s a pretty reasonable prediction.  Below you can see a visible difference in the size of the plants in Garden 1 versus Garden 2.

Garden 1 on July 6th

Garden 1 on July 6th








Garden 2 on July 6th

Garden 2 on July 6th








Also, I noticed that the Snowball pumpkin plants seemed larger than the Kandy Korn.  Why is this?  You can see this in the Garden 1 picture.  The Snowball pumpkins are in the 2nd and 4th rows.  Also, you’ll notice it in the Garden 2 photo.  The Snowball plants are in rows 1 and 3 (counting from right to left).  They’re more developed.

Stay tuned for more garden news.  Send a comment if you think you have ideas or feedback worth sharing.

June 3

Planning for the Garden

Kids have been actively working on the garden at Challenger Elementary.  We know a few things about plants, and pumpkins in particular.  They are organisms and have some specific needs.  I asked kids,

“What are the things that pumpkins need to live and grow, or germinate?”

Pumpkin Seed Germination

Adapted from curriculum visions.








Here’s what they said.





One factor we can control is water.  As a result, students decided to begin working on answering the following question:

“How will the plants get water?”

Some students thought we could water them with gardening canisters that hold water.  Others thought we should use a hose and spray the water on the garden.  A few students said that we could use a sprinkler.  All of these methods could work just fine.  However, I suggested we could use drip irrigation because we wouldn’t be here to monitor is over the summer.  Drip irrigation could be setup with a timer so that the water would come on automatically.  In the end, we began planning for irrigation and kids picked the design that seemed to fit our needs best.


Sandra, Yareli, Jason and Tim work through the irrigation packet.


The Orange Group begins designing the irrigation layout for Garden 1.

Once kids finished their designs, they determined the materials list they needed and came up with a total cost.  This took some time.  Many students in our class were unsure how many inches were in a foot.  This was important because we had to know how much tubing to order.  It was measured by the foot.


Sofia, Jade and Navi figure the total cost for their plan.

Meanwhile, we planted the pumpkins to get our crop started.  Hopefully the irrigation plan will come together soon.