Orca Splash -- Principal Newsletter

Fall Leaves

November 24, 2020


Dear K-4 Families:  Greetings to one and all!  First and foremost - I want to wish all of you a peace filled holiday break.  While many of us will not be able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our extended families, we know this is a sacrifice we are making that will hopefully allow us to all be together in the near future.  


Gratitude:  As I think about all that I am grateful for - I think of all of you, our families.  My own children are grown and I truly can't imagine the challenges you are all facing - trying to balance supporting your child's learning, work, family responsibilities . . . it's so much!  We are grateful for your partnership during these challenging times - your follow through, your creativity and care as you support your child's learning. 


I am also incredibly grateful for our teachers and staff.  I have the opportunity to attend Zoom meetings, visit our special education and kindergarten in person programs and our hybrid program.  I am honored and humbled to work with educators who care so much and give so much day in and day out - in circumstances that we have never before experienced. 


Seattle Times Article on South Whidbey School Farm / Outdoor Learning: In case you missed seeing it in the Sunday Seattle Times, here is a link to the article written on our school farm and outdoor learning programs.  We were thrilled to have the work that the one and only Cary Peterson has led be highlighted regionally: https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/how-a-whidbey-island-school-district-is-using-its-beloved-farm-to-bring-students-back-to-in-person-learning/


Environmental Education Updates: We are so excited to see our K-6 NOAA Watershed Education Grant projects begin to take shape!  In partnership with the NW Maritime Center out of Port Townsend - we are engaging in watershed education focused projects at each grade level.  Projects will include:

  • Kindergarten will be focusing on water and our farm
  • 1st grade will be studying  owls and the eco-system they need 
  • 2nd grade will be embarking on a study of soil and erosion
  • 3rd grade will be focusing on the essential question "Why are gray whale populations thriving in the Salish Sea while South Resident Orcas are endangered?"
  • 4th grade will be engaging in their Washington State focus and look at the essential question "How can people in Washington help protect our natural environments?"  
  • SWA - Our K-6 SWA program will be looking at energy and the impact our use of energy has on our watersheds and environment.  

We will be using a project based learning model (https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl) and our teachers are receiving extensive professional development  on how to implement project based learning and other topics to support this work.  This grant is enabling us to develop a strong foundation for our outdoor / place based / nature based learning programs.  We are looking towards development of a school wide focus / thematic approach on "Farm, Forest and Sea" - developing project based learning units at each grade level to focus on these areas by season - with the study of the farm in the fall, the forest in the winter and the sea (our Salish Sea!) in the spring.  More soon on this exciting work! 


Equity Work:  Our school district continues our focus on equity - through professional development with equity educator Erin Jones - as well as development of equity teams at each school.  We have 10 members of our K-4 staff on our equity team - and our focus currently is how to effectively use children's literature as a tool for equity work in the classroom.  More soon on this important work! 


Reminder on Pick-Up of student resources / materials at School:  Items waiting for pick-up in front of the school will be available through Wednesday at 2:00pm. The main office will be closed on Wednesday but we will have a Food Drive bin, library books that have been requested, and items that your teacher has communicated are here for you until 2pm.


Update on Potential Return To School: Hopefully you all had the opportunity to read Dr. Moccia's e-mail that went out on 11/23, providing an overview of decisions that were made at our 11/17 school board meeting.  Our current plan (but of course all plans depend on current Covid numbers) will entail a potential late January / early February hybrid return.  All families will have the option for their children to remain learning remotely, or to return two-days per week for in person learning / 3 days a week of at home remote learning.  A survey will be sent out to all families in January to gather that information. 


Digital Citizenship/Safety: As our children are spending more time online at this time, we felt it would be good to send a link to a great resource on what it means to be a responsible "digital citizen."  Common Sense Media has overview information for families and lessons and activities that students can engage in:   https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship


Mobile Turkey Unit:  If your family is facing a difficult Thanksgiving and need help to provide a holiday meal to your family - reach out to the amazing folks at the Mobile Turkey Unit: https://www.mobileturkeyunit.com/contact-us/


Holiday Food Drive:   Many thanks to Ellen Wallace, who is once again organizing our K-4 Holiday Food Drive to benefit Good Cheer.  You will see barrels placed outside of our main doors for you to drop off food donations when you are here picking up your children's books / learning resources.  We know that many families are accessing the food bank this year - so if you are able to help, it is much appreciated.  As we like to say, as members of a community, sometimes it is our time to give and sometimes it is our time to receive.  Please see further information below!  


We will also be engaging in a Holiday House "drive by / drop off"  at SWES K-4 in early December - providing families an opportunity to donate toys, gift wrap, tape and decorations to support our wonderful local Holiday House.  More information coming soon on that project!  You can learn more about the Readiness to Learn Holiday House program here: https://www.readinesstolearn.org/holiday-house




I could not be more grateful to live and serve on South Whidbey Island!  Thank you to one and all!




Susie Richards


South Whidbey Elementary School K-4

(pronouns: she/her)

srichards@sw.wednet.edu / (360) 221-4600



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