Today We Went On A Treasure Hunt.

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 Could it be the droid I am looking for? photo credit: Nukamari via photopin cc

This morning as I was putting the schedule on the board, I stopped next to the science label and simply wrote: C,H & O activity. When students started coming in and seeing what the roadmap for today said, they all asked “What is C,H & O activity”. It stumped them. It perplexed them. It thrilled them. They couldn’t wait until 2:40pm when it was finally time to explain what we were doing. I was bombarded with questions all day but simply replied “You’ll see when we get there. It’s going to be fun!”.

One student did figure it out 5 minutes before science, and was given the job of proudly announcing to the class that it was called the: “Carnivore, Herbivore and Omnivore Activity”. Questioning eyes landed on me as I finished my sentence. What was this activity? How would it be fun?

The idea was simple. We have been studying habitats for a while and have just started our exploration of food chains this week. It was time to explore what the different types of consumers were.The students were given a table with three columns and were challenged to search through the science literature for multiple examples of all three types of consumers. (I am blessed that the school librarian put together an amazing collection of together for us for this unit).  Once they had completed their lists, they could pick their favourite three and sketch them in their science thinking books.

Our pre-discussion resulted in amazing questions: Is a penguin an omnivore or is it carnivore? Are bees herbivores? What about vampire bats??. Armed with the books, a reminder to have a critical eye when reviewing information and eagerness that only a treasure hunt could inspire the students were off! The buzz in the room was amazing! Discussions and gasps of delight as they figured out what different animals eat filled the room. “DId you know that a frog is carnivore?”, “Do you know what the three types of mammals who lay eggs are?” When students were stumped they could use the laptops to check their information.

Oh what fun it was! There were groans as I asked them to clean up. What fun scientific treasure hunts are! Nobody can take away the treasure of knowledge.

Learning Spaces and Places: How Do You Build for Community?

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Untitled photo credit: jotaemephoto via photopin cc

It seems I am inspired on my two-year blogaversary (?) to finally hammer out a post I have pondering for a while. That is the thing about blogging. Sometimes I will go weeks and in this case two months without posting anything to doing a number of posts in the same evening. Since mid-July when I was preparing to set up my new classroom home I started thinking about learning spaces and how they foster a sense of community.

One thing I immediately noticed when I entered my new school is the thoughtful design that has been given to all the spaces in the school. There are ample amounts of windows allowing natural light to stream in at all times of the day. Although this is a simple thing it is something that was missing in my last school. The effect that light has on our moods and learning is truly amazing. Another thing that I noticed was that throughout the school there are gathering spaces. These spaces are comfortable places that invite people to take a seat and relax. Gathering spaces naturally help build community. When we gather, we can’t help but talk and connect with others. Something as simple as the assembly room strikes me as a place that builds school community. It is a beautiful room filled with windows that is designed that when the school gathered it really helps everyone feel proud of the place they are in.

When I think about my classroom ( and in fact what I hope that you see when you walk in my room) is a space that promotes learning and community. Although my students each have an old school desk (an honoured and important rite of passage for everyone) their desks are arranged in groups of four. These little groups as all teachers know grow and form a little community as time passes. In a group formation of desks the students can chat and share but still have their own personal space that is solely their own to inhabit. About once a month I change things up and we move our desks into new groups. At the beginning of the year I choose the formation of the groups. As the year progresses the students begin to decide how they want their seating arrangement to look. This often yields interesting formations. Yes, some students really want to be an island for a  short while and others simply love sitting with others.

Our room also has 2 large tables where students can move if they find their group is being too chatty or they simply want another space to work in. The option is there and as long as they are on task, they are welcome to use it. When I set up my room, I made sure to leave some open spaces on the floor (I could have easily filled them up with our desks). These open floor spaces serve as a place for us to gather as a group and as spots for students to work if they so choose. I had to chuckle during our first silent reading time when all my students sat down at their desks to read. At first I was a bit puzzled but then I said “This is your room. You can read anywhere you like.” Something so simple seemed to make them very happy which in turn has makes me happy. There is nothing better than seeing two students stretched out reading side by side with blissful smiles on their faces.

Our classroom walls were quite bare at the start of the year. I see our walls as a space for us to fill with our learning and the work created during our adventures. It has been marvellous to see bits and pieces go up the past few days. I hope in the next while to had the bulletin boards over to the students, for them to choose what we should put up there.

I understand much of school design comes down to economics but I was truly surprised when I immigrated to Canada and saw some of the schools were designed. Many seemed to lack imagination or seemed to be places where optimal learning environments didn’t seem to have entered the school design process. I will say I was blessed to have gone to a beautiful school growing up where it seemed every space had a thoughtful purpose to help students learn. (I will blog about it soon but if you want to see a preview here’s a link to their website: www.Epworth.co.za)

How has your school been built for community?

How do you build for community in your classroom?

A trip to the bookstore: 3 books to help teach citizenship skills.

I thought I’d share three books that I picked up from a local bookstore yesterday.  The first two are books that I would use with almost any age group (K – 4) to help teach those ever important citizenship skills. The third is more inspirational than about citizenship but it fits well with the theme of never giving up and dreaming big, which we all need if we want to change the world.

 “I Have the Right to Be a Child” By Aurelia Fronty

I could not pass up the opportunity to buy this book! In the beautifully illustrated pages a young child tells of the universal human rights all children have regardless of race, age, gender or socio-economic status. The words are simple but provide a powerful introduction to any discussion to human rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“I  have the right to play, to create, to imagine, to make faces and to leap around…. and also to have friends because dancing alone isn’t very much fun.”

10 things I can do to help my world by Melanie Walsh

The second book that I purchased fits in nicely with my love for teaching children to respect the earth. With great illustrations and pop up pages the book shares 10 simple things everyone can do to help the world!


An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton

‘An Awesome Book!’ is one of my favourite FREE books online so I just had to support the author and buy a print copy. What I love about this book is the message to not be afraid to dream big and follow your dreams! I have used this book as an intro for a poetry lesson to get the fear of ‘being wrong’ out of students minds! This is a fabulous addition to any classroom library! Check out his site at: http://veryawesomeworld.com/

“To dream a dream as big as big could ever dream to be!”

Poetry: Words that Give Food for Thought

On my Monday task list was to finally complete the online  sustainability education concepts and methods course I am registered in, a mammoth task but one well worth the effort! While making my way through one of the units there was a whole section on connecting science with the arts. The unit is quite fascinating as a whole and something that has a natural appeal to myself as an early years educator. I thought I would just share one of the videos from the course as I think it speaks volumes about the potential impact and connection that can exist between the arts and sciences.

Below is a spoken word poem entitled: Hieroglypic Staircase By Drew Dellinger.