Friday, May 3, 2019

May: Mexico, Mystery Trees...

Students have been busy reading Mexican folktales and desert animal books as well as choosing an animal to write about. This was their first research project where they had to read and take notes about how their animal adapts to the desert. 
After their research...everyone wrote a poem about the desert!

Hot chocolate comes from Mexico!
Our Mexico 
        Travel Day- 
 Music, Craft/ Culture, Folktale, Food, Museum, Library and Spanish Counting Books.
Making nachos in our Cactus cafe
Maps, artifacts, toys and craft items in our museum
Filling egg with birdseed
Flour, water and newspaper cover the cascarones

Using the blown out egg

The eggs became mini-pinatas to be used to break outside ... against our Mystery Tree...rather than filled with confetti as is the true Mexican custom. This way the birds will get to celebrate with us! 

"Uno, dos, tres.."
Making postcards

None of this would be possible without parent volunteers !
Locating special spots and animals on the map

         Many folks have said "Why do all of this?" My answer is that it exposes students to customs, cultures, animals and habitats that are often unfamiliar to them...and by spending a few weeks reading facts about a given area, they begin to think more like a global citizen. 


Here you will see pictures of the students cracking their mini-pinatas on their "mystery trees". Each student has a partner and chose a tree together (wrapped in orange tape). They have been observing this same tree for months and now they break the egg to spread bird seed- as well as have the egg shell fertilize the tree a bit. Last week they took bark sample cards out to see if they could get more information about their tree. And in two weeks- when the trees finally show full leaves- they will match the leaf samples we have here in class to determine exactly what kind of tree they have been observing the last two months!
   Students are more willing to take a chance and delve into more complex informational books when we attempt these units of study; and this leads them to write factual text with more confidence and detail- as well as share what they are learning about with each other!  I have been doing this for 37 years now and it is not unusual for kids in my class to make connections -or actually exclaim out loud when they read something that contains an animal or habitat they have been exposed to months ago. They love adding to what they already know! Kids will email me or contact me years afterward and they always remember these travel days or project based studies. Very often they will send me a new fun fact or memory in middle school or beyond!   And so...THAT is why I have continued to do this each and every year. These young global citizens will hopefully become life-long learners; keeping their minds open, questioning and seeing the connections between all people, animals and places- rather than see everything as"stand alone" subject matter.

Which brings me to my own journey as a global citizen of our planet Earth... 

As a third grade student myself- back in the 1950's- I wrote a report about the platypus and other Australian animals. This small assignment sparked a life long desire to learn more about animals and their habitats! A camping trip across the country with my dad and mom made me fall in love with travel and the amazing National Parks we have here in America; it gave me a deep love for my country.  My fourth grade teacher brought in a different taxidermy sea creature for every desk in the room; as a Michigan girl sitting there who had never seen the ocean, I became determined to get there one day myself and eagerly read the story she gave me about a girl who lived on the Maine coast. During my teen years I was fortunate enough to join a study group and travel through Europe where I was exposed to many different ways to live, as well as develop appreciation of the music, art and culture of folks that were much different than myself. 

As educators we have to make that extra connection while students are young... and have that sense of wonder that Rachel Carson wrote about with such eloquence " ...a sense of wonder to last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial- which is an alienation from the sources of our true strength." And, like those educators and parents I spoke of above, your extra efforts may not be known to you- but it can truly influence the capacity to wonder, explore, read and reflect as a habit of mind- in addition to a way of living a life.

At the age of 62 I have been teaching more than half of my life.  I am ready to move into another aspect of my global citizenship: volunteering, saving to travel to see that platypus in the wild, finish off my list of National Parks and spend time reading by the ocean next to family and dear friends. 

It is a bittersweet feeling, but nevertheless the time to pass the torch to other teachers of young children; may they be as blessed as I am to end my career with such an understanding principal and kind staff. A school truly filled with strength, humor and grace. My heartfelt gratitude to you all!   -Michelle

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Spring has sprung ! First Grade Field Scientists are out and about too!

Drawing muskrat and its' parts that help it survive
Nature walk to find returning birds

A sunny field trip to Audubon proved to us that spring has finally started; we saw many birds that wintered elsewhere and they are now back and singing! We even saw a woodcock! Moving through various stations, students learned about adaptations using a field scientist approach. The entire morning they were observing, collecting samples and recording details about woodland and pond animals. Staff placed several skins of animals in holes and fallen tree trunks so kids could experience "finding them" among their true backgrounds- then kids were encouraged to look, think and guess what animal parts helped them stay safe or find food.
Feeling a beaver pelt- asking what do you notice?

Speaking of animals- several reading groups also participated in Readers Theater by reading aloud folktales from Mexico and other countries. Animals are depicted as various characters and trickery is common. Here are some pictures of a group reading/ performing "Puss in Boots"

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Investigations, Observations and Inferences

Looking for clues, studying something closely and putting clues together to make informed predictions are all science skills...but they are also reading comprehension skills as well!  As a class we are constantly practicing our observation and recording skills. Feathers were our first chance to look at something closer and record our observations.
Many shared they found that there were two types of feathers- one was more stiff and the other was fluffy.

After observing feathers, it was time to move on to investigating and researching information about Arctic animals. We were VERY surprised to learn about a bird that can change the color of its' feathers to a winter white when the season grows cold!  We also studied the polar bear and read how it adapts using its' clear fur, black skin and blubber to stay warm. Every child stuck his /her
finger coated with blubber (Crisco) into ice water and recorded
what they felt. Students then made a prediction of what they knew about blubber and polar expressing what they thought about seals and how they adapt to the Arctic waters. Working with our partners in Ms. Kein's class, we researched seals as well as our Polar Animal of choice to create Polar Pop Up Fact Books.


Ms. Lesperance and Ms. Kein are handing out paper mouth, nose and eyes to add to Arctic Sculptures in Great Falls Garden

All students were paired up with a study buddy from a different classroom- and then they had to decide between Arctic Animals we read about in class: narwhal whales, seals, polar bear or walrus. Last- they were to construct a snow sculpture complete with body parts it make use to survive. 

It was a great way to end a unit of study! We hope to do some more cooperative science projects in the near future!