a little house for the pumpkin

IMG_0390We have been talking about many ways we can be responsible both at home and at school. Back in October, the students were interested in seeing if the seeds from our pumpkins would grow. They placed seeds in plastic bags with paper towel and water. As the seeds sprouted, they decided we needed to plant them in soil because they were becoming too big for the plastic bags. We planted a few of the seedlings and it wasn’t long before we noticed a stem had snapped. An impromptu conversation about caring for the plants responsibility, led to a discussion about planting a garden. Because it was November, the students knew that planting a garden at this time of year would result in the plant dying.

I: “We should make a garden shed. You make it with wood. You get a big piece of wood and cut it. Then get some screws and screw the wood. Then when you’re done doing the nails you have to lift up the wood and screw them together and put a door.”

R: “We could make a little house for the pumpkin.”

I: “And put a rain cloud in the house.”

Mr. P.: “That’s interesting. Some plants are grown in a house called a greenhouse.”

R: “We could make a greenhouse! A little one for the classroom.”

And so, construction of the greenhouse began. The students brainstormed materials they would need.

greenhouse 1

Once materials were collected, they began to construct the greenhouse. Structures, choice of materials and stability were major concepts that were discussed as the students experimented and problem-solved. Tape seemed to be the binder of choice. Regardless of the amount of tape they used, they began to realize that tape wouldn’t give the greenhouse the stability it required. When asked what other materials they might use, “S” suggested they try string.

greenhouse 2

Stability also came into play when constructing the roof for the greenhouse. I found it interesting that despite the conversation about the problems with using masking tape, the students continued to use tape until they realized that it would not make the roof stable. “M” said it needed something underneath it to make it strong.

greenhouse 4

Finally, the students needed to plan how many pots would fit in the greenhouse and how much plastic they needed to cover it.

greenhouse 5

After days of construction, our greenhouse was ready to house a few plants. We are now wondering if a pumpkin will grow.

greenhouse 6

 

an update as we settle in

CT72D0dWsAAG6zd[1]Since the last post, there have been a few events which have made this year a little more unique than previous years, so I thought I would post an update. In my last post, I mentioned how excited I was to have the opportunity to teach with Liz Ugolini. It was wonderful to support and learn with children together. At the end of October, Liz became our new Early Years Co-ordinator. While we were sad to see her go, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to team teach with her. I’m even more excited about things to come as she continues to advocate for children and the importance of learning through play.

We were at a holding school for our first couple of months. A few weeks ago, we moved into our brand new school! It feels strange to be co-constructing our learning environment at this point in the year, but it’s important that the children feel that this is their learning space. I’m very excited to be part of the Castle Oaks community!

creating bonds

IMG_2099 (1)Another school year is on the horizon and after a lengthy hiatus, I’m excited to be blogging again! September brings not only a new year, but also the opportunity to collaborate in the opening of a new school! This year, I’m thrilled to be co-teaching Grade 1 with Liz Ugolini. We’ve known each other for years and have engaged in several conversations about play, inquiry, and creativity. We are looking forward to supporting each other as we continue to reflect on our practice and moving our own thinking forward. As we enjoy our final weeks of summer, we are beginning to think about welcoming our new friends.

Years ago, I read Regie Routman’s Reading Essentials. A message that has stayed with me is the importance of bonding with kids. As I re-read the quote, it also reinforced the importance of authentic learning and the fact that we teach children, not curriculum.

Reading EssentialsCurriculum and standards must first connect with the lives and spirits of our children if we’re to have any lasting success. Unless we reach into our students’ hearts, we have no entry into their minds. Through drill and memorization, we can get students to complete assignments and pass tests. But there is a price to pay for such short-term accomplishment. We will never inspire our students to learn for their own sake and to love coming to school. Bonding with our students is the “human essential,” the intimately personal connection that is the core of responsive, excellent teaching. http://www.regieroutman.org/publications/books/

I’ve watched this TED Talk by the late Rita Pierson many times. I always find inspiration in it. If you haven’t had the pleasure, take a couple of minutes to listen to “Every Kid Needs a Champion” where she explains that “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

Rita Pierson

http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion?language=en

In the past, both Liz and I sent our students postcards to welcome them to school. As a first step in our process of bonding with our children and their families, we decided to create our own postcard complete with a hand-written message that we will send out soon. postcard2 2015 For those of you who have started a new year, I hope it has begun with joy and excitement. For those of us who are preparing to welcome a new group of children, I wish you and your students many adventures filled with possibilities!

cleaning water

water inquiryYou just never know where a child’s questions can lead. Recently, I was demonstrating a watercolour technique for the students. When I asked them what they could do when the water became too dirty, they logically said they should pour it down the drain. I thought that would have been the end of that. It wasn’t. Two burning questions arose:  “But where does the water go?” and “How does the water get clean and come back out of the tap?”

I left them with a piece of chart paper for them to record their brainstorming. A few days later, I presented them with a coffee filter, paper towel, rocks, sand, oil, paper confetti, and containers. It didn’t take long for them to experiment. I gave no direction other than to watch and listen. A couple of students made quite the concoction. Water, sand, confetti, oil and rocks all went into a container and they stirred. Then, in went the coffee filter, paper towel and cotton – and they stirred some more. As tempting as it was to step in, I held back.

water experiment

They agreed that some of the water was cleaned with the materials. They were right. I asked them to bring their discovery to our sharing debrief where we could get some ideas from other classmates. At first, they weren’t sure. Everyone agreed that the cotton and paper towel collected some of the “dirt” from the water, but they needed more time to experiment.

Clean materials were put out for a couple of days for further exploration. Much of the same happened. Since the results were the same, I decided it was time to bring the clean materials and the used “dirty” materials to a sharing meeting for the students to take a closer look. We agreed that putting everything into the container of water did not work, so we needed to look more closely at the materials. “O” suggested, “Put the coffee filter in the top of the bottle and pour in the rest of the water.”

water test

A couple of students went back to experiment further, but decided to test some more of their own theories. “H” suggested putting the water in the coffee filter. They soon discovered that wouldn’t work, so they poured the water back into the container.

 

filtering water

Eventually they tried “O’s” suggestion and the cry of victory attracted everyone over to their station. “It’s working! It’s working!” Everyone was eager to try it. The water filtration area continues to be quite popular and the students are relating their learning to water treatment and our interrelationship with the environment.

uncovering curriculum with help from the food truck

food truckAn interest in the amusement park inspired the students to research things they might find there. As mentioned in the last post, they became very intrigued by food trucks. We googled images of food trucks and the students decided which pictures they wanted to print to use as a reference. A group of students was very interested in finding the proper wheels needed for the truck.  Once they chose an image from which to model their wheel, they decided they needed something round to use as a basic template.  They compared a few different materials and quickly decided that the tree cookie was best.

food truck wheels

Another group of students researched other elements needed for the food truck. They discussed the need for a “sign” to show the foods they could sell. This need for a “sign” led to discussions about a menu board and how they are the same or different from restaurant menus. Our Early Literacy Teacher, Mrs. Pierre, supported the students as they researched and organized their menu board.

researching menu

A problem arose when it came time to prop open the serving window. The cardboard was too thick for the students to cut, so they asked me to cut two strips which they would use to hold up the window. They soon discovered that the cardboard began to bend and would not support the cardboard flap. This provided an authentic opportunity for problem-solving while experimenting with different materials. After trying more cardboard, pipe cleaners, thin popsicle sticks and thick popsicle sticks, they decided on pieces of dowel and string because the dowel was “…long and the popsicle sticks were too short.”

food truck problem solving

constructing food truck

The food truck is now open for business. While engaging in dramatic play, the students have been developing their literacy skills as they refer to the menu and write food orders and receipts. They are counting and adding amounts of money and they are reflecting on the need to revise their play.

food truck purchase “O” decided they needed a copy of the menu behind the counter so they could also refer to the prices as their classmates ordered. She also noticed that “… at the food truck we don’t have any cents. Just dollars. We need cents because I wanted the snow cone and I needed 3 cents, but “S” said we didn’t have any cents.”

“M” decided to work on food orders. He found images on the iPad and decided to use one as a model. Based on the picture, he wrote “010” on all of his copies. This led to an interesting conversation:

Mr. P.: How do you use this order?

M: You give it to the chef and he will know what to make.

Mr. P.: Why do you have “010” on all of them?

“M” looked at the number and read them as the number one. I asked him to look closely at the number and covered the first zero.  He realized it was the number 10.

Mr. P.: “Why do you think it says ‘Your Order Number’ and the number 10?

M: It’s for the customer.  Customer #1, Customer #2, Customer #3 (counted to 10).

Mr. P.: What will happen if they all have the same number?

M: You will get all mixed up! You won’t know who is first, second, third…                            I need to change them.

food order

As the students engage in play at the food truck, I’m noticing that they are not only reflective, but that they can and do evaluate what is working and what changes need to be made to further their play (and their learning). It’s also a reminder for me to be present. If we see the child as capable and as protagonists in their learning, and we see ourselves as researchers, then we will be able to recognize curriculum expectations being uncovered as students and teachers engage in the research together.

igniting a new spark

RoyThompsonHallIt has been quite a while since my last post and a lot has been happening in Grade 1. We have been looking at different materials and how they are used to build structures. Last month, the students enjoyed listening to the symphony at Roy Thompson Hall. They were intrigued by the surrounding buildings but especially by the shape of Roy Thompson Hall and of course, the CN Tower. The next day, we had some interesting discussion about what they noticed about the buildings. The students talked about the glass and the shapes they saw.  We had also begun to discuss different materials that objects are made from. So how did all this lead to a food truck? One of the ways children were invited to create a structure was at the studio using strips of paper.

amusement park sculptures

During our debrief, student after student shared that they created an amusement park. They were excited to describe their structures – waterslides, rollercoasters, and bumper cars were the most popular. In response to their interest, they were encouraged to research what else they could find at an amusement park. Take a close look at the picture.

researching amusement park

food truck

During the next sharing circle, students shared what they found out about amusement parks.  “O” shared the food truck. Co-incidentally, the students were in the process of co-constructing a restaurant for the dramatic play area. Several of them asked if they could make a food truck instead.  We took a survey and it was unanimous. And so begun the planning and construction of the food truck which I post in a subsequent entry.

the “changes” project

brainstorming changesIt has been a particularly busy couple of months. During that time, “planning” for inquiry has continued to evolve.  When I looked at the big ideas in the curriculum, one that I saw repeated in different subject areas was the notion of change. We began November discussing what we know about change…and the Grade 1s know a lot. Through their brainstorming they shared that leaves change colours, caterpillars change into butterflies, the weather changes, clouds change, years change, seasons change, and the sun and the moon change. We went on a “changes” walk to see what changes we could find. One of the things the students noticed was that their shadows changed. Based on this observation, we went outside one day to trace and measure our shadows. We decided to use our feet as our unit of measurement. The students discovered that in the morning, their shadows were one size, in the afternoon, they were shorter, and by the end of the day, they were very long.

measuring shadows

During our second visit outside, “J” compared his shadows and had a theory about why they were different and what he might find on the third visit:

“The sun was at the top, then at the middle, then after it’s going to be lower at the bottom.  Then our shadow at the bottom will get shorter, but when it’s (the sun) high in the middle, it’s (the shadow) getting a little bit smaller and when the sun is getting lower it’s (the shadow) going to be small.”

In order to allow the students to continue their investigations of light and shadow, I put some flashlights out for them to explore and make connections to their experiences the previous day.

exploring shadows

They soon discovered that the size of the shadow had to do with the distance at which they held the flashlight:

H:  When we do it higher, it looks different.

S:  Look.  If you do this (raises hand) it grows big.  If you do this (lowers hand), it goes small.

H:  You can make any shadows with light. Look! The shadow comes on the wall!

Mr. P.: Why do you think that is?

H:  I don’t know. Maybe because there’s no light and this is like the sun because the sun glows and a flashlight glows just like the sun.

The investigations of light and shadow also led the students to explore colour and light. They were fascinated at how the light changed colour and projected onto objects.

flashlight and colour

They also began “mixing” colours by laying different coloured tiles on top of one another to make new colours.  This reinforced their Kindergarten experiences when they mixed primary colours to make secondary colours using paint. This was an opportunity to make connections to their prior learning while exploring colour using a different medium.  We will no doubt continue with colour exploration in the new year.  Our “changes” project will also continue to evolve.