Authentic Learning

Rigorous and real world curriculum is the cornerstone of The Presentation School.  Teachers create meaningful learning experiences that allow students to apply learning to real world situations and problems.

When “being there” isn’t an option, simulated learning is a valuable tool. These simulations allow students to take on real world perspectives in math, science, language arts, history, government & economics, global education, and geography. These innovative and creative hands-on units are particularly successful at engaging boys and girls physically and mentally with "being there" experiences.

Each grade has hands on experiential learning.  Below are samplings of the exciting learning experiences your child/ren will look forward to.


Throughout the school year students simulate world travelers. Each month we visit a new country with our passports and learn the culture, customs, holidays, language, food, and music of that specific region. Students explore what is it like to be at an authentic Mexican fiesta, collect research in an Antarctic sub station, explore animals in the rainforest, and study great works of art from ancient china.

1st Grade:

First graders are encouraged to explore the wonder of the world above their heads. In an effort to expose students to an ongoing understanding of the diversity of species, they learn about a variety of winged creatures including dragonflies, bats, and birds. This study includes the acquisition of binocular skills for bird watching and an introduction to the language associated with making meaningful observations. The theme continues as they learn about clouds and weather and then comes full circle with their study of airplanes and the forces of flight. The greatest discovery through this course of study is the understanding that humans can find the greatest inspiration in the natural world. 1st graders also participate in two citizen science projects. This allows them to share valid data with NASA and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and makes the world of science seem a bit smaller and more accessible to them.

2nd Grade:

The second grade spends the first month of school studying the ecosystem of the California Oak meadows and forest. First, the class with hand lens and field samples of local flora and fauna begin by learning to identify what kinds of life make up the oak forests and meadows. They learn about the animals with samples of taxidermied wildlife from the Deer Rescue Society. Our final experience is a field trip to Montini Reserve where with binoculars and a clip board the students explore and record their observations. This helps them make practical what they learn in class.

The second grade is also introduced to the concept of magnetism. This activity is capped off by each child making their own compass and a lesson in orienteering.

One of our cultural experience is a study of the symphony and sound. We work with our music class to look at the grand sound of the symphony. We explore what sound is and how we hear. We do experiments about how we hear. We listen and think about different types of music.Our class collaborates with their music classes to bring a deeper under understanding of the music of the symphony. To bring a wonderful closure to this experience we take a trip to the San Francisco Symphony. In this way we combine science, math and the wonder of music.

Our second grade has also been fortunate to participate in a cultural exchange with artisans from Japan. We have been able to use our relationship with the Sonoma Art Museum and have Japanese artist come and teach us in the classroom. We have learned the ancient art of the bamboo weaving and this year will experience the art of Japanese puppetry.

One field experience is close to home! We plant daffodils and other types of plants that enhance our campus, provide for pollinators and bring pleasure to all.

In second grade we look closely at our close to home world and then begin to travel or the next horizon to begin to see the interconnections between our smaller and larger worlds.

3rd Grade:

Third graders started the year learning about matter (solids, liquids, and gases) and how heating/freezing affect various types of matter. Students carefully mix cornstarch and water to create a polymer (oobleck) that is neither a solid or a liquid. Several students needed to alter their oobleck to create the perfect polymer

Later in the year we study optics and the parts of the eye. As a culminating activity students dissect a cow’s eye and identify the various parts.

5th Grade:

In fifth grade, students participate in two simulations. The first is Explorers, the students study Native Americans and specific explorers to see that the Age of Discovery needs to be looked at from both points of view. First, students are experts regarding specific Native American groups. Next, students become experts on the explorers who came to the Americas. For their final project the fifth graders take on the roles of either a native or explorer, write a script, and present their Grand Encounter to the class, showcasing both sides of The Age of Discovery. 

The second simulation is Discovery 3, a simulation of early American colonization. This unit is divided into two phases. First, the students develop the skills that they will need to be colonists. The focus is on geography, natural resources, maps, and the reasons that people wanted to explore and colonize.  During the next phase, the students become colonists, they trade class points for supplies and ships they will need to come to the new world. They set sail and hopefully make it to the new land and establish thriving colonies. Their fate is determined by how they use their resources and randomly drawn 'fate' cards that simulate the successes and failures of early colonists.  

6th Grade:

Become an archaeologist and join us in a hands on dig.  After studying the Stone Ages, students work as archeologists in their own dig sites turning up artifacts from a past civilization.  After completing the dig they write a findings report and present their civilization as Paleolithic, Mesolithic, or Neolithic, supported by scientific findings.

The class’ simulation of “Ancient Egyptian Civilizations” is divided into six phases called cataracts. The students “sail” the Nile from its source in Africa to where it flows into the Mediterranean. Each cataract focuses on different aspects of Egyptian history, culture, or geography. To navigate these divisions, students complete a series of requirements while traveling as citizens of one of five ancient cities. Sample tasks included making a 3-D map of the Nile valley; using Egyptian numbers and hieroglyphs; constructing masks to wear in the afterworld; studying Ancient Egyptian myths, religion, art, and architecture; creating costumes; and participating in a festival and living museum.

In the simulation of the “History and Culture of Ancient Greece,” students role-play as citizens of five city-states to actively learn about the history and culture of Greece. In the nine phases of this involving, two-volume simulation, players earn points by completing exercises that explore democracy, geography, religion, art and drama, math and science, and the lasting impact of Greek civilization. Teams build their own temples, produce mini-dramas and participate in athletic events.

7th Grade:

As students study the Rise and Spread of Islam, they will come to understand how important and scare water is in the middle east. Students will participate in a mock town hall meeting (taking place in the ancient middle east). They will take on specific roles with goals and motives, and create arguments for why they should have access to the water. Their peers will sit on the council and judge who “wins” based on their argument. In our Medieval Europe unit simulation, “Christendom,” students study feudal structure, swear an oath of fealty, are dubbed a knight, study architecture, everyday life and the plague. The Jousting Tournament (dressed as knights on tricycles!) is a much-anticipated culminating experience for the unit.

In seventh grade, students connect learning about biology to community service through a healthy living campaign. Students identify ways to help Sonoma become more healthy. Then, they use their methods for increasing health to drive their learning about life science (cells, human body systems, nutrition, etc). Then, students use their knowledge to complete community outreach, which will help to make Sonoma healthier.

8th Grade:

Another major part of the  8th grade year is the year-long service project. The students first choose a type of service project that interests them. From there and throughout the year, the students write a letter of intent, design a display poster, develop a research paper, complete 10 hours of service, create a portfolio, and finally, present their completed project to a panel in May.

In 8th grade science, students have the opportunity to work in teams to engage in project based learning to drive their acquisition of physical science concepts.  Students learn about Newton’s three laws, aerodynamics, and rocketry to design and build a rocket.  Then, students launch their rockets in the back field, collect data on their rocket’s filght, and refine their design.  Finally, student teams create an executive report to share their findings.