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“From the Tidepool to the Stars”: Student Naturalists Study Seawater Habitats
Judith Worrall, middle school writing teacher & communications team member

John Steinbeck wrote in The Log from the Sea of Cortez that we should “look from the tidepool to the stars and then back to the tidepool." 

Anjali M.’s digital interpretation of a tidepool.

Sixth-grade students, with the help of science teacher Cristina Veresan, did just that—investigating the wonders of the underwater world and the effect of the moon on the ocean in their elective, Between the Tides.

Cristina began each class with “Creature Feature,” a look at the interesting creatures she has found tidepooling. Students were amazed by the animals, including the shape-shifting octopus, colorful nudibranchs (sea slugs), and the largest chiton species in the world. As the class couldn’t visit the seashore, Cristina went rockpooling as often as possible so that she could share these experiences with them.

“Tidepooling is like a living treasure hunt at a slow pace; it encourages paying close attention,” Cristina explained.

The class focused on the ecosystem “between the tides”—the area covered with water during high tide and exposed at low tide. To do this, they read Pacific Intertidal Life then took part in an interactive virtual lab on why Earth’s oceans experience tides. Cristina showed them how to interpret a tide chart and to identify the Bay Area species that have adapted to intertidal changes. A critical piece they learned was how to take care of the environment around them. 

Cristina explained, “Students have found that there is incredible color and diversity of life in our tidepools. However, we need to be good guests, not unnecessarily stress the animals or disturb communities. The sixth-grade students really got that!”

The students showed understanding and empathy by developing an infographic for Pillar Point, which gave science-based tidepooling guidelines. They recorded their work for this and other projects in an interactive notebook (click here to see a sample notebook, and click here to see a field guide). 

“Probably the best project for me was doing the Bay Area Intertidal guide,” said Anjali M. “I chose anemones and we spent three weeks creating it.” 

Haviland S. designed and tie-dyed this sea urchin shirt.

Students crafted imaginary social media posts on “Invertagram,” having fun making up creative captions and hashtags about invertebrates. 

Annabel Y. said, “My goal throughout this course was to learn more about tide pool animals—especially sea cucumbers—and I met my goal on Invertagram!”

A small group of students put their learning in action. Natasha M., Anjali M., and Hawon S. used a tide chart to plan a tidepooling outing. They impressed their families, and the class, by identifying the creatures they found in a slideshow.

“Tide charts are really helpful because you can pick the best date to go tidepooling for you,” Natasha explained. 

Students used their imaginations in their studies. There were sketches, algae imprints, felt nudibranchs, and a sea star-shaped cake. Haviland S. made a tie-dyed T-shirt featuring her purple urchin art, and Nikhil S. coded a moving octopus! 

”I was excited to come to each class, because I always learned something new and I could get creative!” Anjali M. said.

“Tide pools show us about the amazing diversity of life—and are really fun to explore,” added Hunter S. “Tide pools are awesome!”

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Starting from Scratch: Nueva Computer Science Program Builds Confidence and Creativity

From fourth grade through eighth grade, every student takes classes in the Hillsborough campus I-Lab, where they practice hands-on prototyping, use tools and machinery, and learn coding and computer science—all within the framework of design thinking.

“Our guiding principle,” said I-Lab Director Angi Chau, “is that the core computer science curriculum is meant to be accessible to everybody, whether or not they have done a lot of coding before.” 

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Stepping into Tim Varga’s middle school biogeochemistry class feels like entering into a graduate-level course. For months, these middle school students have been working to quantify the carbon cycle for the Hillsborough campus, with different students responsible for different parts of the project to help create the whole picture.

Catching Up with . . . Cliff Burke

Cliff Burke joined Nueva at the start of the 2020–2021 school year and teaches writing in the middle school. We sat down with Cliff to discuss his teaching practice, collaboration with his teammates, and the experience of joining the community at such a unique and challenging time to be a student and educator.

Catching Up with . . . Molly Hasegawa

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