Engaging Our Senses

Kids and teachers, alike, love field trips! At Almond Acres, we get students out into our community and natural world as often as possible, not only because it’s fun, but because it enhances our learning. 

Why might a lesson experienced on a field trip be so much more effective than one in the isolation of a classroom? Believe it or not, our five senses have something to do with it. 

In the classroom, we might use our sense of sight and sound to learn a new concept; hearing a story read to us, or reading a story to ourselves. In our natural environment, we use many more senses. Field studies provide the sight, sound, smells, feelings, and actions that make up an entire concept.
For example, a trip to the tidepools to study animal habitats engages your sense of smell with the fresh ocean air. You hear the seagulls and the crashing waves, You taste the salt in the air. You feel the gentle breeze on your skin. You see an anemone clinging to a rock. Each part of you is taking in and processing the experience, working in concert to create a memory of lasting learning.

An Almond Acres student smiles while holding a sea creature in her hand. She is standing in front of the rocks and water while on a school science trip.

Even a trip to California Pizza Kitchen can help children turn the abstract concept of fractions into concrete learning. They will never forget the sights, sounds and smells of cutting a pizza into equal parts. Smell is particularly effective at evoking memories–businesses engage your sense of smell often to entice you to return (can you follow your nose to Starbucks or Burger King?).

We use multiple senses and integrate more areas of the brain to remember knowledge or skills. Gathering data through all the senses is a powerful way to incorporate ideas and skills with any lesson. Those in multisensory environments always do better than those in unisensory environments that rely on technology only for learning. They have more recall, with better resolution, that lasts longer–evident even 20 years later. Try as they might, the digital world cannot authentically replicate a multi-sensory experience. 

Students from Almond Acres Charter Academy watch a museum docent use historical tools.

When teaching your child something new, make it a conscious exercise by identifying as many sensations as possible. Go beyond the visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. Ask questions about sight, sound, smell, taste, visual space/perspective. Be a sensational thinking coach. A sensational thinker has fifty percent more creative solutions when solving a problem

Our senses work together so it is important to stimulate them! Your head crackles with the perceptions of the whole world, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch–as energetic as a pool party. 

How are you engaging your senses daily? Getting outside is a great place to start! 

Learning Links

Gathering Data with Senses

Learning is Multi-sensory: How to Engage All Senses

Brain Rules #9 – Stimulate More of the Senses

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Don’t wait for your ship to come, swim out to it.

Cathy Hopkins

Habit 1 of Almond Acres Charter Academy’s study of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Be Proactive. The premise of this habit is that we have the power to tell our brains what to do! It is such a simple concept and frankly, simple to do. Feeding our thoughts with positive and productive ideas nourishes our lives with happiness and success. Thinking about doing something is the first step. Taking the next step and telling our brains to do it, is the action. Actions lead to habits, habits lead to character, and character leads to destiny.

Students who practice proactive behavior are able to ignore distractions, prioritize tasks, complete class assignments, and plan ahead. Academic, athletic, artistic, or any other intelligence will grow by focusing on the circle of influence and minimizing time and effort on areas of concern or distraction.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student wearing a green uniform polo puts the final cup on a pyramid he made out of paper cups. He is very focused on the task.

Trying v. Doing

There are so many occasions in life when the word “try” is incomplete and only reactive. I think that “try” is a half-baked idea. Most of the time trying is short sighted–doing is what gets it done! 
The next time you congratulate your child for an accomplishment and he tells you, “Thank you, I tried my best,” remind him that he didn’t just try – HE DID IT! If he says, “I’ll try,” instead encourage “I will”. Trying insinuates that we may have given our best effort, when in fact, when we accomplish things, we did give our best effort. Proactively telling ourselves to do it is power and causes great actions.

Reactive language v. Proactive language

  • I’ll try    vs.     I’ll do it!
  • That’s just the way I am.   vs.    I can do Better than that!
  • There’s nothing I can do.    vs.   There is something I can do!
  • I have to.    vs.    I get to!
  • I can’t.     vs.    There’s got to be a way!
  • You ruined my day.    vs.    I’m not going to let your bad mood rub off on me.
Almond Acres students work together to put playground equipment into a mesh bag.

Being proactive also helps us to take responsibility for our actions and to accept responsibility for our choices. Proactive citizens don’t blame others, they challenge them and step up and as change agents in families, schools, and community. Encourage this habit this week with the following efforts:

  • 🔵 Heart – reach out to a family member or friend who may need some encouragement
  • 🟡 Mind – search for an answer to an unanswered question
  • 🔴 Body – shop for foods that will support a healthy brain
  • 🟢 Soul – take 5 minutes to enter the classroom of silence

Being proactive is stepping up to life instead of letting it step on you. Like every habit, it takes 3-20 times to turn it into a habit. At Almond Acres, we teach our students to be patient, persistent, and positively proactive. We think it pays dividends.

“Have a can-do-titude.”

Mr. B

Learning Links

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Time management is a misnomer. We manage what we do, we don’t manage our time. Time is what it is; seconds, minutes, hours… there is no stopping it. Our success and happiness are dependent on what we do with our time. Making choices about what we do with each hour is what we really have control over. 

Putting first things first is a conscious choice to have a proactive approach to our day. There are a multitude of things we can do each minute of the day. Without thinking too much, we might find ourselves entrenched in something that may not align with our personal or professional well-being. Successful people recognize how they are spending their time and they mind their business. In other words, they put their energy into what is important and push away the distractions that may not be important or urgent.


The Leader In Me system of thinking that we use at Almond Acres illustrates this idea nicely with Quadrant Thinking. The matrix below identifies and organizes how we spend our time based on how productive we can be.

Looking closely at this matrix, you can see that Quadrant 1 is made up of tasks of the utmost necessity. We attend to these daily, and as needed, throughout our lives. Quadrants 3 & 4 can swallow up much of our time, allowing us to neglect not just what is important and urgent, but also what is important, but not urgent. It is in these two quadrants that most of us spend our time—it’s the path of least resistance. 

It’s interesting that we use the words “spend our time”. When we look at our day as an opportunity to invest ourselves in life, it becomes clear that we would rather spend wisely. 

Spending our time wisely is Q2 Thinking. Like fire prevention, we put our attention to the things that will benefit us now and in the future. As a parent, putting my time and energy into growing great kids should suppress many problems in the future. It’s about being proactive.

When we spend most of our time on things that are important but not urgent, we are putting first things first. Parents realize that the urgent and important are also critical and must be attended to, but minding our Quadrant 2 business is powerful. It forces the mindless tasks to the bottom of our list and makes the best use of our limited time.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student in red polo shirt uniform uses her time wisely by helping load cereal into the back of a car to take to a local homeless shelter.

One of my favorite lessons in the Middle School Pathways program is the rocks and sand exercise that is illustrated in this video, The Pickle Jar. It is a clear metaphor for getting our priorities straight and finding ways to be more intentional about our life and likely, being able to achieve more than we may have thought possible. 

Happy and successful people are great at spending their time and talent on what is most important to them; heart, mind, body, and soul. You can help your children examine their priorities by asking them about each of the AACA colors:

  • 🔵 Heart  – Who are the most important people in your life?
  • 🟡 Mind  – What topics do you enjoy learning about most?
  • 🔴 Body – How do you like to spend time physically? (favorite sports, hobbies… )
  • 🟢 Soul – Why are you so special?

The other important message tied to this week’s habit is knowing what is important and urgent, and what is important but not urgent. Sorting the tasks and activities in our lives between these two ideas helps to keep our plates from feeling too heavy. I have attached a simple guide that may support our families in organizing our week/month and helping us to be intentional about our time and talents. I encourage you to print it, talk about it, and decide as a family how you can best use the precious asset of your time.

Further Reading on Putting First Things First

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Speaking with Clarity and Precision

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.

Mark Twain

Yup, ya, nope, uh huh, like, um, er, ya know, uh, … Sound familiar? When we feel confused or are searching for the right word, we may use place holders such as these. But this type of language may leave a listener confused, searching for meaning and more information. 

At Almond Acres, we believe communication skills are just as essential as phonics and multiplication tables. Our tuition-free public school explicitly teaches students how to be powerful and effective communicators. It’s just one of the ways we grow great kids

An Almond Acres student holds up a book to show an image. There is another student in the background also holding a book.  Both students are wearing green Almond Acres uniforms.

One of the first steps to effective communication is a wide vocabulary. Diverse vocabulary gives our brains the ability to describe what we really want to say. With the right word, we can be precise and clear. We can help expand childrens’ vocabularies by exposing them to a variety of literature, ideas and languages. 

When your child uses unclear universal phrases such as always, never, all, or everybody, you can ask a question that will probe for specifics. This can help develop self-awareness in their own speech patterns and help them clarify vague statements. We can also help children speak with precision by modeling clear language and asking our children to say “yes” instead of “ya.”

Language and thinking are closely intertwined; when we use precise words we also minimize cloudy and fuzzy thinking. Clear, precise language builds effective thinking skills and helps children to be stronger decision makers, problem solvers, and investigators. 

Here are a few practices we can develop to help our thinking be more clear: 

  • Practice before game time. When we front load our brains with what we ought to do before we run into an issue, we are much more likely to do the next right thing. 
  • Chill. Developing a physically calming behavior such as deep breathing, counting, snapping fingers, praying, meditating, or remembering the sensations from a special moment will slow down our emotions and allow us to think more clearly. 
  • Seek first to understand, then be understood. Listen intently to the real message/issue and then use clear language to voice your concern.
  • Discipline – Speak with Good Purpose! We have the power to choose our thoughts. Redirecting our children’s language from negative to positive can be accomplished with this simple phrase, “speak with good purpose”. 
Two Almond Acres students work together on a project at a table in a classroom.  One student is wearing a green uniform and the other is wearing a yellow uniform.

The next time you want to know how your child’s day went and you want a response other than, “fine,” ask questions related to productive intellectual and personal habits. You can question their heart, mind, body, and soul:

  • 🔵 Heart – Who did you eat lunch with? Who did you act kind to? What was an example of you thinking win-win today?
  • 🟡 Mind – What book did you read today? What is the habit of the week? How did you practice math?
  • 🔴 Body – Where did you play at recess? In what way were you proactive? What was the most delicious part of your lunch?
  • 🟢 Soul – Why are you happy today? What was the best moment of the day?

Communicating directly, honestly, clearly, and with positive purpose will transmit truth, kindness, and love. When words build someone up instead of putting them down, our relationships become stronger and we are happier and healthier. Just because we might have negative thoughts, it doesn’t mean we have to speak them. If what we want to say isn’t going to produce a positive or productive result, it’s probably not worth saying. Restraining our impulsivity and using our wisdom to turn on the “pause-itivity” button will often turn a bad situation into a good one. Speaking with good purpose is the cornerstone of healthy relationships. It fosters a positive emotional environment where people are happier, more productive, and more likely to succeed.

Interested in learning a little more about positive communication in your life and parenting? We’ve attached a few links below to take your learning further. We also have lots of examples of our K-8 teaching practices on our blog. Check us out! 

Learning Links

How to Think and Communicate with Clarity and Precision

20 Embarrassing Phrases Even Smart People Misuse

How to Speak so that People Want to Listen

Seven Tips for Practicing Positive Discipline

5 Steps to Putting the Brakes on Back-Talk

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Choose Your Own Weather

“If you can’t see the bright side of life, polish the dull side.” – Nathan, Mr. B’s son

Did you know that it’s possible to choose your own weather? No, you can’t control what falls from the sky, or when spring will arrive, but you can control your own personal weather forecast each and every day. 

Our choice to smile or grumble is controlled by our personal choice power. It’s true that “stuff” happens every day, but how we respond to that stuff is entirely in our circle of control. We are influenced by the people and circumstances in our life and our response to them is a choice. Believing that we have a choice and control is the first step toward personal efficacy and empowerment.

Almond Acres Charter Academy 4th graders play in the mud during a field trip

Mess or Fun? Almond Acres 4th graders prove that mud is just a matter of perspective.

One of my jobs as a parent is to get myself out of the job before my child is an adult. I expect that he or she will have the personal strength to handle what life dishes out each day. Teaching our children to think positively and proactively when it comes to life events, academics, sports, hobbies, or relationships, etc. can help them to recognize the power they have over their circumstances. 

When you achieve success in school and life, it’s clear how important it is to prioritize and organize studies, work, play, and relationships. Here are some examples of how this proactive philosophy works in conjunction with our Almond Acres mission to develop the heart, mind, body and soul of each child: 

🔵 Heart – Assume the best in people.
🟡 Mind – Organize a study schedule that gets things done before they are due.
🔴 Body – Make lunch the night before so that it’s ready and right for a healthy lifestyle.
🟢 Soul – Spend time in the classroom of silence to reflect on the day and consider ways to make tomorrow terrific.

A positive and powerful approach to life is infectious. If someone calls me a knucklehead and I respond with, “you are brilliant and beautiful”, I can stop them in their tracks and help them to realize that their negativity is pointless in the face of positivity. It doesn’t mean to always be Pollyanna about things, but adding a negative to a negative only leads to more negative. Adding a positive to a negative reverses things in a positive direction. It’s fascinating to see a grouch put on a smile when someone with a positive disposition gets in their way.

There is a neurological term for eliciting a response from someone with a smile or a frown. The response is called “mirroring”. Mirror neurons exist in our brain and can cause us to smile when someone smiles at us, or frown when we frown. A proactive decision to make someone think positively because we are acting or speaking positively has powerful results.

The See – Do – Get Model

The See – Do – Get model of thinking helps us to remember that how we SEE things (whether it be our perspective, feelings, or thoughts) will lead us to action (DO) and our actions achieve results (GET). When we don’t achieve the results we hope for it is often a result of an error in how we are seeing things or in the actions we hoped would achieve the result. Use this model to help your child recognize that his or her proactive response to life can have dramatic positive results on their future.

A graphic of the See Do Get Model with arrows. In the center of the model, the principles of responsibility, choice, accountability, initiative, and resourcefulness are illustrated.

Interested in taking your learning on Choosing Your Own Weather a bit further? You can watch an interesting video here and take a deep dive on career coaching here. How do you make your own weather forecast everyday? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!