New Year, Renewed Commitment

Long time no blog.

Life gets busy – new school, new house, new dog, an inquiry project, new reporting practices, new curricula, and another new classroom. All this has meant that blogging has fallen by the wayside.

The sharing and learning has continued in other ways, of course. I have a network of amazing colleagues and we support each other in expanding our practice. Yesterday many of us met up at the BC Association of Math Teachers Reggio Fall Institute: Place-Based Mathematics. It was a day of sharing, hosted by teachers at Archibald Blair Elementary, in Richmond.

We explored the following big ideas:

How does place inform questions and inquiries?

How does place inspire mathematical thinking?

Place, as defined in the current BC Science Curriculum, is “any environment, locality, or context, with which people interact to learn, create memory, reflect on history, connect with culture, and establish identity.” Sense of Place is also addressed in the First Nations Principals of Learning: “Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focusing on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and on a sense of place.)”

I came away armed with practical resources and activities, and an eye to asking the bigger questions with students as we work, learn, and play outdoors. As always when meeting and sharing ideas with other passionate educators, I left fully inspired.

For young learners, exploring the natural spaces around them is essential to helping them develop connectedness and a sense of place. I thus start my year with a renewed sense of purpose and a determination to weave outdoor learning experiences into the everyday of the classroom. I will continue to share my experiences here.

Stay tuned, I have my gumboots at the ready… Here we go…

 

 

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Hanami

When the cherry trees bloom, my heart sings. It is a sure sign that spring has arrived. This year in Vancouver and the surrounding area, many of the trees have blossomed very early. Luckily, throughout the city there are many different varieties of cherry trees and we can enjoy the blossoms for an extended period of time.

IMG_3457IMG_3571My six years in Japan taught me to appreciate cherry blossom season for more than just its beauty. The flowers bloom in early spring, when they are assaulted by wind, rain, and sharp drops in temperature. The trees are hardy, but the flowers so delicate. A heavy rain can sweep all the blossoms from the tree. In Japan, the cherry blossoms represent fleeting beauty and the impermanence of life. It is a time to pause, give thanks, and appreciate the gifts we have before they are gone. One of the ways people celebrate cherry blossom season is with Hanami (literally, flower viewing). Hanami is the custom of co-workers, friends, and families, gathering together for picnics and evening parties under the cherry blossoms.

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In class, we have been learning about cherry blossoms as part of our study of spring and seasonal change. We observed them both inside and outside the classroom; we drew them and made art. Since we have also been focusing on kindness and friendship, what better way to wrap up our studies than with a Hanami picnic. Parents and community members kindly obliged by bringing healthy lunch foods, including mini-sandwiches, fruits and veggies, cheese, crackers, and meats, and sushi. We finished off our picnic with some sweet treats, of course. It was such a fun and happy event.

It’s not too late in this area to celebrate spring with an impromptu Hanami with your class or your children. If you can’t organize a formal picnic, why not grab your lunches and a picnic blanket and eat outside under the blossoms? They may soon be gone… until next year.

Spring Flowers

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A spate of milder weather brings out the spring blossoms. Time to get out and draw! First we talk about some of the flower parts: stem, leaves, and petals. The students went out over two days to draw flowers in the garden. The same flowers were also brought into the classroom for closer observation and comparison.

It was incredible how engaged the students were during this activity, and the care they took in drawing their flowers. The students are working on their “kid-writing” – sounding out words in their writing. (Sometimes the teacher helps by transcribing some of the students’ thoughts.)

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The students did their writing in small groups with a teacher present. This facilitated vocabulary development and direct comparison of the flowers.

What the students are learning:

  • the names and features of local plants
  • how to observe closely
  • to share our observations orally and in writing
  • language used for describing and comparing

 

Spring is Coming…

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The crocuses are once again blooming; snow drops are drooping. Today I went for a walk with just a hoodie and vest (no toque, no rain boots…) I saw a quartet of fat robins digging in the dirt. These are the signs. Spring is on its way.

At the beginning of the school year, I returned to work with a renewed connection with the natural world, and a determination to keep outdoor education at the forefront. Though my commitment has not lessened, it just seems that my energies have been drawn elsewhere these past few months (such as, writing a new class blog to share learning with families). Posting to the Create Discover blog fell by the wayside. A de facto hiatus.

Well. With spring comes new energy. Create Discover Kindergarten will continue to highlight the importance of outdoor education in early learning, and may also broach some new topics. I hope you enjoy reading upcoming posts, and will share your own experiences and connections.

Warm Regards,

Ms. RainOrShine

C is for Crocus

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I eagerly await three signs of approaching spring: snowdrops, robins, and crocus. In the week before spring break, I kept asking the students if they had seen these signs of spring. We are lucky have some flower beds at the front of the school that mysteriously blossom through spring, summer, and fall. (I think there are some “garden ninjas” in the community who stealthily tend to these beds.) In the last week, during a sudden sunny break in a week of grey, we squeezed in some time with our magnifying glasses and clipboards to get a look at the crocus up close.

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The last few days of Spring Break have been beautifully sunny and the good weather should continue into our first week back at school. More outdoor learning – here we come!

Happy Spring to everyone!

Pinecones

In February, we read a lovely book, Penguin and Pinecone: a friendship story. The story was the perfect launch for a month long focus on friendship and kindness.

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After reading the story, we went out to the school yard to collect some pinecone friends of our own. The sun had come out for the last few minutes of the day, and the students were delighted.

Since then, we have done a number of activities with the pinecones we collected.

Pinecone Printing

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Pinecone and Tree Block Play

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Pinecone Buddies

We each picked our own Pinecone Buddy, made scarves for them, and took them home.

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The students did a lot with their pinecones – visited Grandparents, went to the park, played hockey, and went for drives, to name a few.

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We took our Pinecone Buddies home. As in the story, however, we talked about bringing the pinecones back to where they belonged – a final act of friendship. So this week we brought our class basket of pinecones back to the school yard.

The students wanted to build a nest for the pinecones, just like in the story.

Goodbye, Pinecone Buddies!

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The Puddle

We had a few particularly wet fall storms last year, the kind that light up the darkening sky and send thunder rumbles across the Lower Mainland. These are followed by wet west coast winter weather. From scary storms and long grey days, however, wonderful opportunities emerge – like puddles! Our playground sometimes develops a particularly large one at the back end, and the children find many good uses for it during our extend outdoor play. They like to scoop water out of it, and swish sticks through it, but I think they mostly enjoy the feel of wading through it.

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One incident from our puddle play sticks in my mind. Some class parents had kindly donated some rain gear, including boots, for communal use by anyone who had forgotten to bring his or her own. One day, a student had no boots and hadn’t taken one of the spares, and before I could grab a pair  for her, her feet were already quite wet. The student – we’ll call her Alice – decided not to join her friends in the puddle any longer, but another girl poured bowlfuls of water onto a dry corner of the playground so Alice could still play in the “puddle” and not get wet. Wonderful inclusion and problem solving at work!

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The  the students’ joy while playing in puddles is a strong argument for including natural features, such as logs, boulders, stumps, and water, into our school playgrounds, and I hope that planning councils will take this into consideration more often. Besides, as one savvy adult pointed out, the teacher (that’s me) was probably just as happy as the children to be wading through the puddle in gumboots. There’s nothing like a good mud puddle to bring out the kid in us.