Learning To Love Our Local Place

We have a wetland right in our backyard! This week, we became our very own forest school and walked over to the Bissett Wetlands for a morning of environmental education.

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We began by actively listening to the sounds and drawing them in our journals.

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We heard ducks, black birds, water rushing and insects.IMG_6284

Students could spread out to find their place to listen to our surroundings. IMG_6285

Mme Jenifer taught us the difference between bugs and beetles. We made an x for bugs and stood tall for beetles because there is a line down their back where their wings join.

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Then we scooped water with our nets to identify the pond life that we found.

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We were lucky to have many parents who came to share this experience with us and guide the students in their explorations.

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Is there any better way to spend a school morning other than lying on a dock looking at the water?IMG_6301

We talked about being visitors to the wetlands. We needed to respect the place and the creatures we found there. Noah wrote pas toucher in his journal as a reminder to not touch the bugs.IMG_6302

We worked together in small groups and took turns with the magnifying glasses and nets.IMG_6307

We listened to the rushing water and looked for pond life. Students concluded that the creatures preferred to live where the water was quiet and not rushing.IMG_6308

We ended our morning with a choice between representing Andy Goldsworthy’s environmental art in place or painting their sketches. IMG_6310

Inviting the students to choose their activity to wrap up the morning was empowering and calming at the same time. IMG_6317

Look at this nest. It is just waiting for a bird!IMG_6318

We love this teepee too.IMG_6319

What a peaceful morning! We would love to come back.

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Garden Tales

We have been slowly figuring out how we garden as a community together. We have a box at the community garden across our field. We ran over one day to look at our box.

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The rhubarb plants were big and beautiful. We picked rhubarb and I showed them how to rip the leaves to compost them.

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As we ran back across the field shouting “La rhubarb” and waving the rhubarb like flags, we decided to bake a cake the next day.

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We baked together during activity time.

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While we waited for it to cool, we drew and painted beautiful work about rhubarb. Sienna added beautiful colours to her interpretation.

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Ellie planned out, traced and measured the different stalks.

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Anna captured the leaves.

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Sela used shape to draw the rhubarb in the cake.

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(Although I have always loved eating rhubarb, I had never really taken the time to appreciate the beauty and wonder of rhubarb until it rose out of this experience!)

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Imagine a sunny morning when you have played with your friends, baked a cake, painted in the garden and are waiting for the cake to cool. I think that a short nap while the quiet buzz is going on all around is the perfect thing to do!

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Our next step was to visit the garden with 3/4 students in Mme Karen’s class. We ran over together and looked at the box. Then we had an interesting discussion about what plants we wanted to grow.

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Jacob in our class suggested that we should plant a salad, so students then suggested vegetables that we could eat in a salad together. As a design problem, we talked about the size of the box and what would happen if we planted too many seeds.
“The plants wouldn’t grow because they would squish each other.”

Students drew what that might look like in cross-grade groupings. You can see here that we found an alternative use for the skate park! It became a learning amphitheatre!

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For the next few weeks, we will run over as often as we can to plant and tend to our garden.

Building Upon Parent Engagement

Imagine a different type of learning in our classrooms, where students and teachers work with experts to actively question and create as they develop knowledge. Working with community gives other stakeholders a chance to be involved in guiding our young generation towards a mindset that is thoughtful, empathetic, and inquiring. Our relationship has evolved towards parent and community engagement rather than involvement, demonstrating the benefit of the expert knowledge and support that is offered, and the opportunity for students to vet their knowledge in a real context. My Kindergarten program is a living example of slowing down and learning about ourselves as a community of unique individuals who work together.

We have had the good fortune of having many parents share their expertise with our class. These experiences always enhance student learning and our sense of community. The last few experiences have all been linked to art, creativity and nature. These are the cornerstones of my Kindergarten program. I have three short stories that describe our most recent experiences of learning enhanced by parent engagement.

Noah’s dad, Matt, visited us last week. He works for Agrium and we had met a few times to design an experience for the students supporting their gardening inquiry. He shared a presentation that involved students in a thoughtful discussion about what kind of food we grow in Alberta and where food comes from. Students then planted sunflowers, talking all the while about the needs of the plant and the life cycle.

 

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Angus’ mom, Mary, came again to guide us through our second experience with clay. She showed the students how to make a pot by creating a base and coiling the clay. We are excited to glaze them this week!

 

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Sebastien’s mom, Jen, met with us a couple of months ago to introduce us to the concept of environmental art in place. The most amazing development happened last week. We recalled the work we had done, inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy. We revisited the slides of his work. Students looked in wonder we remembered that the art was intended to be created in place without disrupting nature.I gave students the design challenge  of creating their own work using natural materials around the room. I was astounded again by the depth of their work and engagement levels. On Tuesday, we will create environmental art in place when we visit the wetland near our school.

 

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Throughout the last month of school, we are excited to share our gardening experiences with the group of parents who have offered to share their time and knowledge so that we can tend to our garden together.

A heartfelt thank you to all contributions to our classroom community, both large and small. Each contribution has huge impact on our children and our learning.

A Curriculum of Listening

I try to listen often to my students as they play during activity time. It informs new ideas from the students, and also where they are at in their own skill development. Through this listening, I record my reflections for formative assessment and I make many decisions about next steps in my teaching and also in social relationships.

I was spellbound last Thursday morning as I listened to the rich evidence of curriculum that was evident as students played with their friends.

“Madame, I thought we were planning the calendar. I painted this so that we could cut out shapes.” I explained that as much as I loved the patterns they had cut last month, I wanted the white rectangles so that we could write messages on the calendar. I had missed having the white space for us to record our events.  If he could cut out smaller shapes, that would be great. Perhaps rouge and blanc like the Canadian flag?

Within seconds, a work party was organized. Max appeared with a red circle. We measured and talked about how it needed to be small enough to fit. A group of three was tracing, cutting and talking about cirlces. Noah arrived with a tiny circle and a very large grin. We decided that we could create a pattern of grand et petit cercles.

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Step out of the experience for a moment and here is some the curriculum matter that they were demonstrating:  Fine motor, shape, collaboration, problem solving…

Then I overheard, “grand, petit, grand, petit…” as the pattern was laid out by the group.IMG_6215

Meanwhile, there was another group playing at the light table. “You sort the colours. I will help you. I see shapes.”

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“Here is the ordering of the animals.” “We have a music room” (music was played nearby in our coloured glasses, showing the deep connection to sound and music that we still have.)

Curriculum: sorting, shape, collaboration, problem solving, language development, friendship…

I am fascinated by two types of block play that have evolved in recent weeks. Students are moving far beyond creating towers and ramps. They are now using the blocks to create a house. Here, imaginative play has evolved from the house centre and the doll house to incorporate design. Students now design and build their space with rooms, incorporating role play as they build. Then they play house.

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Curriculum: dramatic play, literacy, design thinking, shape, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration…

Moving over to our small Kapla blocks, many students are inspired by these blocks. They build intricate animal homes, with rooms for each.

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Curriculum: visual spatial planning, shape, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, language…

The curriculum suggestions that I have brought forth show the wide range of outcomes that are covered through play. In a combination of building skills through time and practicing through play, students have shown impressive learning throughout the year.

Rethinking the Calendar

Calendar time is a wonderful time of day when rich discussions unfold about relationships, different numeracy and literacy skills and other topics of interest. My goal in our classroom community is to develop a rich sense of knowledge about our calendar and how it relates to us.  Instead of having a factory-made calendar this year, I have been cutting rectangles and we have practiced math and language while adding important events to each day. In April, students traced and cut out their own rectangles and we created our calendar together.

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For May, we went a step deeper and created the calendar in the form of a challenge:

There are 31 days. We decided to use three colours to create a pattern. We talked about three different shapes (circle, triangle and rectangle) and voted whether or not we wanted all rectangles or to use the three shapes. Some argued that we could still create a pattern using different colours and all the same shape. The vote was 16 to 3 in favour of different shapes. We then decided to create yellow rectangles, blue triangles and green circles.

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The task was also about collaboration, sharing and problem solving. I didn’t give everyone their own sheet of paper and template. I gave each group a couple of large pieces of paper and we talked about the appropriate size shape for a calendar marker.

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Students worked in their small groups to trace and cut out shapes.

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Then, they needed to create the calendar with the pattern that we had chosen. The discussion between them all was incredible as they placed and rearranged shapes to create the correct pattern and grid for the calendar. They helped each other attach the shapes and could be heard speaking French spontaneously as they worked together. “J’ai un triangle bleu.” “That one needs to be un rectangle jaune.”

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The last step was to write the numbers. This gave us a chance to talk about number formation as I carefully observed how students were writing their numbers. In a quick guided lesson afterwards, we reviewed the formation of a few different numbers. In group activities, I expect that there are some students who are not as interested in a certain activity as the others, depending on their interests. I was impressed by the complete level of engagement of all students during each stage of this challenge.

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Environmental Art Meets Music

We had the pleasure of welcoming Mme Jenifer, Sebastien’s mom, into our classroom. She shared her passion of environmental art with us and we linked it with our growing knowledge of high and low notes in music and patterning.

The task:

We shared and reviewed different kinds of patterns, linking the concept of ABAB, AABBAABB or AABAABAAB  with how to position them as high or low notes on a sheet of music.  Mme Jenifer showed the students a selection of natural materials. No strangers to natural materials, the students were intrigued by this new challenge.

Students were asked to choose two types of materials and create a pattern of their choice.

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They were encouraged to play their pattern on the xylophone, using the highest and lowest keys.

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Students happily explored, broke branches, cut pine cones and glued.

Afterwards, Mme Jenifer showed us beautiful pictures of environmental art in place. The artists had taken natural materials to create spellbinding installations.

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Knowledge transfer occurred during activity time when Isaac created this piece of art with shredded copper and aluminum.

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 We will continue to use this technique of creating art with natural materials both inside and outside the classroom as a way of integrating math, environmental education and creativity.

Sound Exploration: Final Prototyping

Imagine you are the parent volunteer for the day and you are greeted with “Good morning. Please go inside the room and take a look at the piles of recycled objects that the students have sorted. Familiarize yourself with the materials and the tools that you see and decide where you are most comfortable working. The most important thing today is that you are an assistant. The students will guide you and tell you what they need. Please help them, but don’t do the work. We’ll give you a few minutes and then come inside to meet you.”

Students had already grouped themselves into string, wind or percussion instruments based on interest. They had also drawn their design plans and materials lists in their journals.

The task today: use the recycled objects to create an instrument of your choice that makes sound. Perhaps it might be a combination of 2 or more different types of instrument, perhaps just one.

Students worked in their instrument groups and the work began.

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We measured. We counted.

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We consulted design plans.

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We tested.

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We stretched balloons for skins over cans and tested the sound.

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We decorated.

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We drilled, tested and drilled again.

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We played!

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Documenting our Learning:

Yesterday, we drew conceptual plans. Today, we were scientists drawing our finished product, showing shape, the science of sound and also phonetic writing to label the drawings. These spirals represent the sound.IMG_5726IMG_5725

See how carefully students are consulting their work?

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The Percussion Group:

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Wind Instruments:

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String Instruments:

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Our Performance:

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Learning through play and creativity:

Students and parents were highly engaged as they worked their way through design problems. Next, we will talk about how music brings communities together and we will create our own interactive sound sculpture to show the school and Chris Sandvoss!