My next site visit in California was a second stop in Santa Ana, where I visited Jessica Lostaunau’s 4/5 combo class at Taft Elementary. Ms. Lostaunau is wrapping up her second year implementing The Walking Classroom. She received her class set in August of 2015. At the time, she was teaching fourth grade.
Finding my Way
After my earlier visit to Wilson Elementary was complete, I took a brief but nonetheless leisurely drive to Taft Elementary, arriving fifteen minutes before my 11:00 a.m. walk. The sprawling school building was set back from the road in a neighborhood. I signed in and a smiling staff member guided me to Ms. Lostaunau’s classroom, where I waited for Ms. Lostaunau and the students. Ms. Lostaunau arrived shortly and shared that the students would be listening to “Deborah Sampson” (4-#56, Combined-#67) for a second time. She explained what they would be doing post-walk … which you’ll read about soon enough. No spoilers from me!
Time to Walk, Listen, and Learn!
The class of 26 students came into the classroom, got a reminder of the podcast number, briefly previewed the lesson, gathered their WalkKits and earbuds, and headed outside.
Ms. Lostaunau’s class normally walks first thing in morning (when it’s likely to be cooler!). They walk on school grounds, primarily around the sides and rear of the building. Although there was a prescribed “route” developed early in the year, the students were free to follow a path of their own choosing within that area and were cued to meet at a prominent location (under a shade tree) once they had finished the podcast. There they engaged in preliminary discussion.
Follow Up Fun!
Once we were all gathered under the tree, we headed back to classroom, where students found their paper quiz on their desks along with their laptops. They could reference the paper quiz, which they had completed after their first listen, as they participated in a Kahoot quiz. Students completed the activity individually, making up names. Hi Natalie and Natalieiscool were among my favorites, of course! Others included other novelties like kobe, papyrus, Roblox, and more!
The Kahoot activity was a win-win! The students were actively engaged and Ms. Lostaunau gained instant feedback on their understanding of vocabulary and concepts from the podcast. With several questions, brief discussion ensued.
Ms. Lostaunau followed up the Kahoot with an additional activity that she uses on occasion. She focused on Deborah Sampson’s choice to stand up for what she believed in even though she was breaking the rules in the process, and asked the students whether or not they would do the same.
Those who would took one side of the room and those who would not took the other. The students positioned themselves and the split was fairly even … at first! As a member of one side shared his or her views, the students could change sides if they were swayed. The students were earnest and thoughtful in their responses, and the sides did do some shifting, with more left on the side not willing to break the rules. This activity was well suited to a deeper discussion, and allowed students to share individual thoughts and opinions.
The School’s Story
Part of the Santa Ana Unified School District, Taft Elementary is led by principal Steven Longacre. The school has a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.). In addition, Taft serves deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students from eight local school districts throughout Orange County. All combined, the school has over 700 students from kindergarten through sixth grade.
Taft Elementary has a partnership with a local performing arts center to provide its students with regular access to the arts. In addition to its S.T.E.A.M. focus, Taft emphasizes the importance of health and wellness along with academics. The school has a Fun Fitness Friday Program and a Fit to Read Lab, which includes 40 stationary bicycles for student and staff use! And … because of the presence of the DHH program at Taft, sign language instruction is provided to all students and families!
. . . Time to Hit the Trail!
After the thought-provoking discussion, I closed my visit to Taft Elementary by answering some questions from the students (who, by the way, were awesome interviewers!). Then I took some group photos and recorded a video message (incorporating sign language!) from Ms. Lostaunau and her students for The Walking Classroom’s creator Laura Fenn.
After distributing some swag from The Walking Classroom, I hit the road. I did have to save some energy (and my walking feet!) for the next day’s visits!