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Great Minds Monthly Newsletter

Connecting Curriculum with Experiences

Chartwell faculty continue to bring relevant performers and educators into the classroom to enhance the curriculum they are teaching. 

Recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month, Mrs. Phillips’ class looked at the discovery of America, colonization, and the impact of the arrival of the Spanish in Latin and Central America. Roslin Garcia, a traditional Hispanic 

dancer, came to campus and taught the class how to dance the toro pinto. The toro pinto is danced all over the former Spanish colonies and originated in Spain as a reflection of the bullfighting culture. 

Mrs. Chavez’s and Ms. Chase’s classes are currently engaged in a unit on Japan. Having just finished a lesson on the roots of Japanese music, the teachers reached out to Ikuyo Conant and Watsonville Taiko to involve the students in a drum circle and experience the harmony and powerful rhythms of taiko.

The Japanese word "Taiko" means "big drum". It refers to drums of a simple and elegant design that has remained unchanged throughout the ages. As long ago as the 5th Century, taiko drums have been played during festivals, religious rituals, the theater, and orchestras of the Imperial Palace.

Both experiences provided insight and perspective into the students’ studies and helped create a broader understanding of and respect for international cultures and art. 

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Middle School Ecosystem Project

Authentic assessment is a method used in education, oftentimes with project- or portfolio-based learning, when learners can show their understanding by demonstrating it to either an audience of experts or by educating a community. It's a powerful strategy that is used frequently at Chartwell. 

For the fall term in middle school STEAM, student teams were tasked with creating informational websites about an animal (fauna) or plant (flora) that lives in Chartwell’s coastal chaparral ecosystem. Their choices included mule deer, turkey vulture, bobcat, pampas grass, lace lichen, and many more. After they learned how to create QR codes, laser-etched signs were created to hang around campus and educate everyone about the biological diversity here at and around Chartwell. 

Next time you're on campus, use the camera on your mobile device to scan one of these signs. You can find them on light posts on the sidewalks from the old Fort Ord buildings on our property (the upper parking lot) all the way to McMahan Hall. You should be asked for permission to open the link or URL. Thanks for participating, as students are watching and tracking how many visits their website receives! 


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CFN Beautifies Campus Entrance

As you turn off Numa Watson Road and drive up Bulldog Way, you may have noticed a small apple and pear orchard on the side of the road. This orchard was a generous donation from the Paul Newman Foundation in 2006 when the new campus was built. The trees continue to provide fruit and are in a protected gated area.

The Chartwell Family Network decided they wanted to add some color and vibrancy to this highly visible historic area of the campus. This past weekend, a crew of families - Dawn Alva, Rebecca Flores, Chad Miller and their daughter Clover, Kristen Jordan, and Brianne Fitzgerald - spent the morning planting native plants, grasses, and a new avocado tree in the orchard area. 

The CFN will continue to care for the plants with support from John Langrill, Chartwell’s director of campus management. Thank you to our parent group for enhancing our campus and donating your time and energy. 



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Class Spotlight: American Sign Language

Director of Student Support Billy Swift teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at Chartwell which is offered as a language class for the last two years. Mr. Swift shared some insight into the class and why it is so beneficial for our students. 

Why does Chartwell offer ASL?

When students sign up for a language class, it is important for them to have options. ASL, although not as widely used as other languages, can often be a welcoming choice for students. Some are simply interested in the language and the culture. Others find the non-verbal component easier to pick up and the symbolic and kinesthetic manner helps with remembering the words; both receiving and expressing the signs. 

Although communication happens visually, the language has its own structure; such as grammar rules and syntax. The language is alive, constantly expanding, and learning about deaf culture is an incredibly important component of learning the language.

ASL meets graduation requirements and fulfills requirements for college admissions. 

What are the outcomes for students? 

The main outcomes for students in ASL classes are to feel comfortable enough with the language where they hold a conversation, no matter the topic, and to understand deaf life. First-year ASL classes typically start with deaf culture, learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, and common everyday phrases and interactions. Students then learn various nouns, verbs, and adjectives to be able to create sentences, learn about syntax, and partake in compare and contrast activities or play games. At the end of ASL, most students are able to have "voice off" conversations, albeit part of a lesson and structured. Second-year students review and build on what was learned the previous year. Currently, ASL 2 students have decided to structure the year by learning the language to help them in four different environments that they believe would be most beneficial to them. We brainstorm words as a class, learn the words, place them in sentences, and take a weekly assessment. We just started a unit on "college life." At this moment, most of the ASL 2 students can, unprompted, casually express and communicate themselves in ASL by combining their knowledge and confidence.

What students say:

“I wanted to learn ASL because I babysat for a family that had multiple deaf people and signed only. I often had interactions with them and I wanted to learn how to communicate in ways other than asking the kids to sign something for me. I hope that when I have completed the course at Chartwell I can have a proper conversation with them.” - Tilly Garcia


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Halloween Fun Day

Halloween at Chartwell is always a festive event - and this year was no different. Activities included escape rooms, caramel apple making, pumpkin carving contests, board games, relay races, class parties, a classroom door decoration contest, and more. The entire campus was alive with activity and creativity. Costumes once again reflected the ingenuity, humor, and passions of our students and faculty. Thank you to Katherine Kanaski, Sandie Reddy, Nena Prakash, and our amazing room parents for your hard work and organization in making this day a celebration of our entire community. 

Enjoy a photo album from the day here.



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MS Soccer Team Develops as Season Progresses

The Chartwell middle school soccer team began the season with many of the players new to the sport. Under the leadership of Parent and Coach Chad Miller, the players started with conditioning and skill development and have since worked their way up to small scrimmages and position development. 

Due to the school’s size versus those we play against, Chartwell players are often on the field the entire game, without the luxury of substitutes. This gives them the opportunity of a lot of playing time to understand the game, learn strategy and build strength, but also can be challenging for our young athletes. 

“When we had our first game against another school, it didn't take long for the player's nerves to settle and get used to competitive play,” shared Coach Miller. “Now the team is more comfortable and improving with each game. It's been amazing to see their progress and determination on the field. The team is having fun and gaining confidence. Go Bulldogs!”



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Robotics Program Grows Across All Grades

This year we've seen tremendous growth in the Chartwell Robotics programs. Our traditional Challenge program (aka FIRST Lego League) has 25 students on five teams that practice after school on Mondays and Thursdays, with optional practices on Saturdays. They are working diligently on their robot game and their game table is set up in McMahan Hall. 

They are also working on their project. This year they need to identify a real-world problem around Cargo - specifically, how products move from supplier to customer. One team is already working on a way for ships to track and recover cargo that has fallen off the ship! This is, surprisingly, a huge global problem for the shipping industry. We can't wait to see what solutions our other teams come up with.

All teams will compete at a qualifying competition early next year. We're not sure yet if it will be live or virtual, but either way it's a fun way to meet teams from across Northern California and present to panels of judges. Last year, one of our teams won the prestigious Core Values award and also qualified to compete in the Championships.

Even more exciting - we've expanded! We have partnered with the local community team Plus Ultra Robotics ( so that our youngest and oldest students can join robotics too.

The Explore program caters to our Lower School students and shares the same theme of Cargo. This team practices at Chartwell on Saturdays and will present at an expo at the end of their season, using our new Lego Spike Essentials kits that were granted to Chartwell through Apple and FIRST.

The First Robotics Competition program is already underway for High School students, and two students from Chartwell have already joined. While they help our younger teams, they are practicing strategies in preparation for a busy build season that begins in January. They also meet on Saturdays at Chartwell, and students are attending information sessions about it this week.

If you have questions about these programs, or have a high school student that would like to join FRC, please contact Topher Mueller,

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