Ms. Surber’s 2003–2004 Class
4th Grade, Barron Park School


2003-2004 Class Statistics


Interesting Facts

On September 11, 2003, we recorded interesting facts about our class that were displayed in 72 bar graphs and Venn diagrams in our room.


The Arrival of Our Families in California

When Who From Where Journey Why
1852 Shawn Scotland (via Missouri) ship & wagon train, 6 months new life & land
49 Years Later
1901 Maggie Kansas train, 3 days tired of farming
25 Years Later
1926 Ms. Surber West Brook, Texas (via Colorado) truck, 3 years good farmland
1927 Richie Highland Park, Illinois train, 3 days real estate
36 Years Later
1963 Isaiah Louisiana train, 3 days to join husband
11 Years Later
1974 Fiona
Ireland (via New York)
boat, 2 weeks
to change jobs
Sierra Oxford, England (via Italy) train/boat/car/plane, 2 years work
2 Years Later
1976 Leslie North Miami Beach, Florida car, 5 days work
1977 Sergio Michoacan, México bus, 5 days better life
6 Years Later
1983 Atticus
Evansville, Indiana
bus, 57 hours
to live in San Francisco
Meagan Singapore (via Iowa & Texas) plane, 2 1/2 years school & marriage
1984 Nikolai Netherlands plane, 23 hours sun!
2 Years Later
1986 Brandon Honolulu, Hawaii plane, 5 hours  
3 Years Later
1989 Asako
Tokyo, Japan
plane, 10 hours
Noemi Durango, México plane, 2 days jobs
1990 Andrea Guadalajara, México plane, 4 hours children born in California
1991 Enzo France plane, 14 hours try something new
7 Years Later
1998 Misael
México (via Colorado)
plane, 1 month
Ria Maryland plane, 7 hours computer work & nice weather
1999 Kosuke Japan plane, 10 hours new job
2000 Karen Cocula, Jalisco, México plane, 6 hours to study
2 Years Later
2002 Michaela
Flagstaff, Arizona
car, 5 days
more time with family
Roy Peru plane, 15 hours better life



Pairs of students in our class created portraits of Polygonoids (creatures composed of polygons) and wrote descriptions of the Polygonoids. Students in our partner class at Escondido attempted to re-create our Polygonoids after reading our descriptions while we did the same for theirs. Then we compared the original Polygonoids portraits with the recreations and evaluated our descriptions. Visit our Polygonoids webpages to see the results!


The Tulip Project

Tulip Map

We joined classrooms all across the Northern Hemisphere in a telecommunication project to track the progress of spring by observing the emergence of tulips. Our class served as one of the 13 Official Journey North Tulip Gardens. Our first activity was predicting what order the 13 Official Tulip Gardens would bloom. Students used three main strategies for deciding which locations would experience spring first: spring would come later to latitudes closer to the North Pole, for locations at the same latitude those nearer an ocean would bloom first, and personal experience with climate in locations close to the official gardens. Our class prediction:

  1. Kingwood, Texas
  2. Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  3. Palo Alto, California
  4. Salt Lake City, Utah
  5. Boston, Massachusetts
  6. Bowie, Maryland
  7. Toronto, Ontario
  8. Pequot Lakes, Minnesota
  9. Hood River, Oregon
  10. Newport-on-Tay, Scotland
  11. Dainville, France
  12. Sterling, Alaska
  13. Utsjoki, Finland

Each student measured the circumference of a tulip bulb, weighed it, and then predicted when that bulb would emerge and bloom in relation to the rest of the class bulbs. The range of the circumference of our bulbs was from 110 to 140 mm; most of our bulbs were between 120 and 135 mm. The range of the weight of our bulbs was from 20 to 41 grams; most of our bulbs weighed 30 grams or less. We made sketches of our bulbs and learned about the parts of the bulb. We dug six inch holes and planted our bulbs on November 26th. The weather was sunny and the temperature was 63° F. (Here is our data form at the Journey North website.) Since the squirrels think our tulips bulbs make tasty snacks, we protect our planter box with a squirrel guard. We cut the extra bulbs in half and sketched the internal structure of the tulip bulbs. We discovered that the tulip bulbs are made of many layers surrounding the bloom bud. On January 5th, we observed that one of our tulips had emerged; here is our data report. By February 5th, almost all of our tulips had emerged. You can track the progress of spring (measured by the blooming tulips) by looking at the weekly maps. Our first tulips bloomed on March 8th; here is our data report. By the end of the week our entire tulip bed was in bloom.


Matadero Creek Data

We started collecting data about Matadero Creek in March. You can learn more by visiting our Matadera Creek Data page.


Social Studies

Passport to California and Suitcase Presentations: We enjoyed hearing the stories of how our families came to California. Data about the arrival of our families in California can be found in the 2003–2004 Class Statistics .

California Relief Maps: Geography was our first unit in Social Studies. We sketched the major geographical features on large boards and modeled the mountains and valleys. After the “goop” dries, we painted the elevations and the surrounding states. Finally we located five important cities and made a key. We agreed that this was a fun and messy project! The finished maps were quite impressive. Here are two examples and two more.

Investigating Artifacts: In the first section of this unit we walked to Bol Park to collect natural materials which we sorted and classified. We used our natural materials for a math lesson on Venn Diagrams. It was fun trying to figure out the Secret Sorting Rule of each Venn Diagram: Venn Diagram #1, Venn Diagram #2, Venn Diagram #3. Most were very hard to guess! Then we made masks (more masks). In the second section we listened to myths, wrote our own myths, created posters (more posters) to illustrate the myths, and shared our myths around a “campfire” in our classroom. In the final section of the unit we excavated “middens” by carefully sieving the soil, cleaning and polishing the artifacts, and recording the spot where each artifact was discovered with a sketch. The completed midden maps and museums helped us draw inferences about the culture from the artifacts we found.

California Explorers: Each group chose an explorer who was important in the history of California. Students made timelines of California and placed their explorers in time, made maps to show where the explorers traveled, drew portraits of what the explorers might have looked like, and wrote essays about the goals and accomplishments of the explorers. Then each group created a poster and made a presentation to the rest of the class. Explorers we learned about: Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Hernán Cortés, Sir Francis Drake, Sebastián Vizcaíno.

Mission Period: Each student chose one of the 21 California Missions as the topic of a research report. We learned how the Spanish changed the lives of the Native Californians and wrote letters from the perspective of a Native American who had joined a mission. Our final project was creating a HyperStudio stack to publish our reports.

Gold Rush: The Room 17 Gold Rush was a great success! Our miners struck it rich at the Bol Park Gold fields and then spent most of their money in our gold rush town. The PostIt Assay Office was efficient and well organized. The Golden Bank did a booming business buying gold from the miners for $16.00 an ounce. Our hungry and thirsty miners didn’t mind the high prices at The Golden Café, there was a good selection of goods at the Room 17 General Store, and the show performed by The Golden Quints 5 Entertainment Company was hilarious.



All About Us: Our first math unit was an introductory statistics and graphing unit. We started by collecting some information about our class. We learned all sorts of interesting things about our class and organized our data with bar graphs and Venn diagrams.

Mathematical Thinking in 4th Grade: We finished our second math unit by creating symmetrical designs. We began by reviewing Mirror Symmetry. Then we created designs that had both Mirror and Rotational Symmetry. The hardest was creating designs that had Rotational Symmetry but NOT Mirror Symmetry (two more examples and two more).

Arrays and Shares: In our third math unit we practiced our multiplication facts through 12 x 12 and worked on multiplication and division problems.

Landmarks in the Thousands: In our fourth math unit we are investigating our number system by working with problems in the 100s and 1000s. The final activity for this unit was making a 10,000 chart, which was huge!

Equal Shares, Different Pieces: We explored fractions in this unit. While looking at fractions as equal area divisions, we made Quilts of Fourths (more examples). We also used the area model to divide Squares and Rectangles into fractional parts.

Money, Miles, and Large Numbers: We worked with decimal numbers in this unit. The final project for this unit was to figure out how to measure a tenth of a mile from our classroom door.

Area and Perimeter: In this unit we began by figuring the area and perimeter of our feet. Then we investigated the different perimeters possible for one area and the different areas possible for one perimeter. Our final activity is to create a Zoo Habitat and figure the area and perimeter. Here are some example habitats: Macaw Habitat, Zebra Habitat, Penguin Habitat, Hyena Habitat.

The Shape of the Data: In this unit we collected and organized data and learned about statistics. We collected data about our families, compared the heights of 1st and 4th graders, and investigated sleep patterns. The range of our school night sleep was 7.5 to 10.5 hours and 6.5 to 12 hours on weekends. Here is our cavity data:. Our range is 0-11. Our mode is 0 and our median is 2-3.


    X X X

  0     1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10   11 
Number of Cavities Each Student Has

Packages and Groups: In this unit we practiced multiplication and division with two and three digit numbers.

Sunken Ships and Grid Patterns: We learnied how to do coordinate graphing in all four quadrants and how to program the computer using LOGO commands to make geometric shapes and patterns.



Appearances: Our first book had two stories linked by the theme of not judging by appearances: “Brother to the Wind” and “The Cat Who Thought She Was a Dog and the Dog Who Thought He Was a Cat.”

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, helped us understand the life of the Chumash. We illustrated our favorite parts of the book captioned with a quote from the novel . We wrote poems using similes (a favorite literary device of Scott O’Dell) and created crayon and water color art projects featuring organisms from the book (four watercolors and four more watercolors). For our final activity we watched the movie adaptation of the book and discussed the similarities and differences.

Babe, the Gallant Pig, by Dick King-Smith, was fun to read even though the dialect was often difficult to understand. We learned many new vocabulary words about sheep herding and discovered how being brave and polite can lead to success. The final activity for this book was to create ribbons (three examples & three more & a final two examples) summarizing how each character helped Babe achieve his goal.

Literature Circles: In Literature Circles we practice and refine the skills needed to participate in book discussions: choosing discussion questions, leading a discussion, making connections between literature and real life, learning new vocabulary words, identifying and appreciating literary elements. Here are the books we have read with some culminating activities.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord, helped us to understand what is was like to immigrate to the United States from China in 1947.

By the Great Horn Spoon!, by Sid Fleishman, is a funny historical fiction about a boy and his butler who travel to the gold fields in California from Boston around Cape Horn.



Water: Our first science unit was the study of water. We observed several properties of water: surface tension, rate of flow, and expansion/contraction with changes in temperature. We observed that hot water (tinted red) floats in a glass of room temperature water while ice cold water (tinted blue) is so dense that it remains in the small vial at the bottom of the cup. (picture of experiment) We also investigated how location and surface area influence the rate of evaporation and explored condensation. Using a chemical indicator, we tested to see if water samples were hard or soft. We investigated what happens when water flows over different Earth materials and tested water from home. Nikolai’s father set up an experiment to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by running an electrical current through a glass of water. You can see that the test tube on the left is floating since it is about half full of hydrogen. The final activity of our study of Water was a Water Taste Test comparing five different types of water.

Magnetism & Electricity: In this unit we will experiment with magnetism, conductivity, series and parallel circuits, and electromagnets. The final activity of our study of Magnetism & Electricity was to build a telegraph and send messages in code. Then we shared what we had learned about Magnetism & Electricity with the rest of the class by building Quiz Boards with aluminum foil circuits, using salt water as a conductor, doing magic tricks with magnets, creating a play with moving clay figures powered by magnets, and creating a dancing magnetic duck!

Frog Animal Studies: In this life science unit we observed and cared for Dwarf African Frogs, Fiddler Crabs, and Land Snails. We learned many interesting things by watching our animals and taking accurate observational notes. The final activity was for each group to choose a question that could be answered by observation. Each group then presented the results of their observations to the rest of the class. The investigation questions were:


Rouault Art

Creatures: Three students worked together to make different sections of imaginary creatures. Here are two examples and two more.

Quilts: Each student made a Crazy Quilt with a different design in each quilt piece. The finished individual quilts are displayed together in a class quilt which symbolizes all of the different personalities that are joined together into one whole classroom community. Here are four example quilts, and four more.

Symmetrical Butterflies: After studying mirror symmetry we made butterflies with cut paper. Here are two examples, another two, and two more

Island of the Blue Dolphins: After reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, we created crayon and watercolor pieces depicting symbols from the book. Here are four examples and four more.

Native American Symbols: After studying Native Americans we created works featuring symbols like the thunderbird, the rattlesnake, the bird, the sun, the kachina, the cloud people, and another sun.

Explorer Portraits: We learned to make portraits while studying explorers. Here are portraits of Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Hernán Cortés, Sir Frances Drake, and Sebastián Vizcaíno.

Mission Prints: We sketched our missions, used carbon paper to reverse our sketches, traced the carbon paper onto foam board, and then printed. This was a long and messy project, but the prints are amazing! Here are four examples and four more.

Claymation Movies: On April 20, 2004 our class took a field trip to the Palo Alto Art Center to see the exhibits—Jim Campbell: Seeing Digital and Narrating Time. After learning about the art on display, each child constructed creature from animation clay and then made a digital movie of their creatures. Watch our movies!

Rouault Court: We painted self portraits in the style of Georges Rouault, who was a stained glass artist before becoming a painter.


Theme Days

Bee Day: November 26th was Bee Day. There were Teacher Bees, Bees on Yard Duty, and Bees on Feet!

Pocket Day: December 18th was Pocket Day. Room 17 had the most pockets in a single room—246. Enzo and Maggie had the most pockets on a single person—23. It was fun (and challenging!) to figure out the total number of pockets in the school on Pocket Day—1,483.

Crazy Hat or Hair Day: On January 15th, Barron Park School was full of students and adults showing their school spirit by appearing in a crazy hat or with crazy hair!

100th Day of School: On February 6th we did lots of activities with 100 to celebrate the 100th Day of School. All of our math problems featured the number 100. Lots of people wore 100 things: stripes (Michaela, Isaiah, Ria, and Nikolai), flowers (Fiona and Asako), bees (Sierra), circles (Sergio), stitches (Maggie and Meagan), dots (Roy), blobs (Andrea), letters (Brandon), beads (Atticus), nail polish dots (Shawn), cowboy boots (Ms. Surber). Many of us brought 100 things to eat: rice (Meagan and Asako), chips (Isaiah, Roy, and Brandon), Rice Crispies (Andrea), Chex (Fiona), poppy seeds (Ria), chocolate chips (Sergio), gummy bears (Noemi), Cheerios (Shawn), strings of string cheese (Maggie), sprinkles (Sierra), pistachio nuts (Ms. Surber). At recess we did 100 activities: hula hoops, jump ropes, jumping jacks, baskets, and ball toss.

Read Across America & Pajama Day: On March 2nd we celebrated reading by reading to ourselves and each other for most of the day while lounging comfortably in our pajamas!

Jump Rope for Heart: On March 9th we Jumped Rope for Heart with our Constellation Groups.

Stuffed Animal Day: Thursday, April 2nd was Stuffed Animal Day. There were 66 stuffed animals visiting Room 17.





  0     1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10 
Number of Animals Each Person Brought

Here are some pictures of our stuffed animals: Beach Day: As usual, it was a bit cold and windy at the “beach,” but we had a great time celebrating the end of STAR testing by playing with beach balls and eating popsicles on May 10th.


Website for Ms. Surber’s Current Class