Classroom Spotlight

Nicole Dickson and Hannah Lesser

Connecting with the California That We Know and Love

Nicole Dickson and Hannah Lesser, 4th Grade General Studies Teachers
4th graders all over California spend the school year learning about the beloved state in which they reside. Some may have been born in California, have multi-generational Californian families, or have moved here from another place that they once called home. Though these students all have different connections to California, most recognize that this is a place that they know and love. Throughout the school year 4th graders examine what makes California a desirable place to live, how California became the powerhouse state that it is today, and dive deeply into its multilayered history. This is no different for our students at Brandeis!
Brandeis 4th graders began the school year learning all about where California is in relation to the rest of the world. They zoomed in from the largest pieces of land on Planet Earth, the continents, and our state, to the tiny peninsula of San Francisco. Along the way they learned about the geographical features of California, how these affect the population of cities and the daily lives of their residents. One student wrote, “The largest cities in California are found by the coast because oceans and rivers offer an easy way to move people and goods. This helps businesses and settlements grow.” Another student stated, “Population density is different from place to place because the terrain affects how many people want to live there and the size the city can be. In small places like Bridgeport people can live in houses that are spread out but in cities like San Francisco it is very crowded and many people live in apartment buildings” Students also determined that the location of different cities can put their populations at risk of falling victim to Natural Disasters!
In Reader’s Workshop, 4th graders used their research skills to identify the different types of Natural Disasters that people in California could be negatively affected by. These included Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Wildfires, Drought, Blizzards, Floods, and Erosion. They determined who might be most at-risk, based on where they lived in California, and created infographic posters to warn those people, while also demonstrating their learning. Students used common infographic features to present information, utilizing tools such as subheadings to give readers a quick overview of what could be found below and photographs and charts to capture their readers attention. 
Lastly, students put on their engineering hats and thought about how they could prevent Natural Hazards from becoming Natural Disasters. They channeled what they learned about geographical features, Natural Hazards and population density to save the cities of Merryville and Bliss Town from potential destruction! Their placement of Disaster Prevention Devices such as Tsunami Buoys, Seismometers, Water Gauges, and Volcano Monitors saved those cities and kept the people of Unawaria safe and comfortable in their homes!
This project segues nicely into the next portion of our unit, in which we discuss the people, culture, economy and government of the great state of California. Be on the lookout for the 4th Grade California Museum coming to Brandeis in early March!