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


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.

happy valentine’s day!

valentine play dough This morning the children were invited to a Valentine’s Day party.  What makes this party so special is that it was organized and run by the Grade 5 students in Mrs. Knapp’s class.  With Mrs. Knapp’s support and guidance, they organized, set-up and led the activities for the Kindergarten children.  We took some pictures on our iPad and did some shared writing when we returned to our classroom.  We would like to extend a big THANK YOU to Mrs. Knapp and her students.  You made today very special for our youngest learners and you were wonderful leaders and role-models.  There is something so powerful about students leading students.  The children had a lot of fun!  We now have a new book written by the children.  I’m sure they will read it often to remember this special day.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentine's daycupid sayscomputer labvalentine playdoughvalentine's craftsIMG_0177singingvalentine's cookies

art-inspired word wall

Over the summer, I attended the Powerful Play sessions at Havergal College. It was very inspiring to share ideas with other educators and have the opportunity to learn from the teachers at Havergal. Thanks to them for this art-inspired word wall idea!  We had the children experiment with paint and colour. Other than teaching the technique of dipping the brush in the water before choosing a colour and rinsing it before choosing another, the children had carte blanche (literally) in how they wanted to fill the space. We used watercolour paper which really brought out the intensity of the tempera pucks. Once the pieces dried, the alphabet was added along with each of our names (names and faces have been removed to respect the children’s privacy.)  The children visit the wall often and are learning each others’ names.  As we learn new words we’ll add them to the wall throughout the school year.

observing sunflowers

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been settling into new routines and getting to know each other.  Since this is our first official blog post for the school year, I’d like to take a moment to welcome all of our new families.  I hope you find the blog enjoyable and that you visit often!

I love this time of year.  The air is becoming crisp and the leaves are beginning to show some of their vibrant colours.  Sunflowers are abundant and add bursts of colour in local grocery stores,  flower shops and farmers’ markets.  Why not add some of these beautiful blooms to the classroom?  A bouquet was placed in the Discovery Centre as a provocation.  Several of the children were interested in the flowers.  Here are a few of their early observations:

Bumblebees come to sunflowers.    

Right in there is the nectar.

There’s water inside.  The sunflowers are moving.

Seeds! (pointing to the middle.)

Sunflowers make seeds.  When it rains, seeds come out.

The other flowers are not ok.  These ones are broken.  The petals.  Just a few of them.

Some of the flowers didn’t have lots of sunshine.

They are drooping.

Too much water, they get sick.

Some children drew their observations.  I was puzzled as to why one of the children drew her hand, so I asked her to tell me about her picture.  She said, “I touch sunflowers.”  Of course!  Her picture makes perfect sense.  Everyday, I learn a new lesson.  What we “read” from a child’s picture is not necessarily the message they are trying to convey.  We need to continually ask questions to help them communicate their thinking.


plasticine art

Spring is alive with changes and the children have been representing their interpretations of a few of the changes they have been noticing:  flowers blooming, pussy willows growing, buds on trees, changing weather, seeds sprouting, and people playing.  I cut up some plasticine to inspire the children to represent their thinking using different media.  Other than showing them the techniques of warming the plasticine between their fingers and rolling it out, the rest was up to them.  They rolled, they curled, they pressed, they stacked, they shaped, and they even mixed colours.  These little masterpieces were inspired by Barbara Reid’s beautiful book, Picture a Tree.