Monday, November 29, 2010

more PC

A favorite activity is humming to lure the periwinkle snails out of their shells.  Here's a primate at work...and by the way, this is a brief excerpt--he was at this for awhile!  Love the perseverance!

Here are a few pics from the day...which made me pause to remember that the real world is a wonderful place to learn, discover, and wonder!

                                                              inside an empty mussel
            I think this guy is called a scud...we have to look it up.  Great way to introduce field guides!
                                                                          low tide
a staring contest with a periwinkle

We headed straight to lunch after the cove visit, so when we returned from recess, the primates revisited their sketches and shared with the whole group.  Every entry was unique, personal, and followed the established journaling routine of including the date/time/tide/weather conditions.  Here are a few:

                                                         rock                          glass
                     I drew a seaweed.  it smelled bad.  we saw a fox when we arrived.  it looked sick.
This entry depicts a sewer drain the primates discovered, thanks to the low tide.  It was covered in barnacles and periwinkles.  I questioned this primate about writing, "very hot today"--since it was in the low 50s! She said the sun felt hot on her face.  good observation and I love the heat radiating from the sun in those two swirls.

looking forward to our next trip!

Palmer Cove

We finally made it back to Palmer Cove for some nature journaling, and as with our last trip, Mother Nature was kind to us!  Despite frost on the cars early this morning, there was no wind and the sun was shining and kept us warm as we explored the cove for something interesting to draw.  We also lucked out with a really low tide, exposing lots of tide pools and tons of periwinkles.  No crabs today--where have they gone?

As we approached the beach, one of the primates called out, "There's a dog on the beach!"  We quickly realized the scraggly, skinny creature sadly scratching his ears on the shore was no dog--it was a wild fox.  What a sighting!  Not something we expected to see at the beach!  It was sad to see the little guy slink off as we waited and watched--clearly he was not in the best of health, but the fox was subject for many primates' journal entries, and we definitely felt lucky to see him.  Check it out:

aquarium visit

We were very lucky to be visited by the local aquarium last week.  They focused on tide pool creatures and proper exploration techniques at the beach.  Perfect connection to our big project this year!  The primates were exposed to familiar vocabulary that we've been using in class & on our trips to Palmer Cove--tidepool talk!  And we learned a lot of new words too.  They got to touch and observe the animals and practiced taking turns, sharing, listening to and following directions.  They did a great job and I was a proud teacher.  Some highlights:
                                                           moon snail
                                                         hermit crab
                                   mussels, quahogs, scallops, barnacles, an oyster, periwinkles

horseshoe crab

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

where we're at

Time is moving along at lightening speed as usual.  We are rehearsing for our annual tradition of performing the story 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving at Stew Day--our whole school celebration the day before Turkey day...also my favorite day of the school year (maybe tied with the last day of school?haha)  It's a wonderful celebration of our school community filled with performances, crafts, fun activities of all sorts, and of course, stew.  Last year, we interpreted the story through movement and dance to the theme from "Superman".  This year we are taking the more traditional route and acting out the story as I narrate.  The primates are ecstatic, and every year I find this is a wonderful unifying project for our class.  It's also wonderful to know that my primates from years past will watch and remember what fun they had when they performed the story, which is a reminder to honor the turkeys we'll gobble up the next day!

Trips to Palmer Cove have been on hold for a variety of reasons, and I am bummed out about that as I had high hopes of making weekly trips.  Many things this year seem to be taking much longer than usual--goal setting, opening new choice centers, establishing reading groups, and just getting things off the ground in general, but every group is different and presents different challenges and experiences.  So I'm taking it as it comes, slowing myself down, and really just focusing on what each day brings and allows us to accomplish.  Not easy for a "full steam ahead" multi-tasker with big plans, but I am nothing if not flexible, so, this year is what it is...and so far, there have been a lot of wonderful moments.

Upcoming events include another annual tradition--our dog biscuit fundraiser for the local animal shelter.  We will advertise, collect & tally orders, and then spend many days baking dog biscuits and creating cat toys for people to purchase for the pets in their lives.  Always a big success!  Last year was the first year I did not do this project....even when on maternity leave I came in to do this project with little Chloe snuggled in the baby Bjorn!  Since having my own kiddos, I have been forced to scale down here and there in order to keep my sanity, but this year I really want to do it and it will augment our economics study very nicely.  The primates noticed the "pet sale" bin I took out this morning to assess what we'll need, and everyone was freaking out that I had plans to sell our class pet turtle...who do they think they're dealing with here?!  NEVER!!!!  I want to tell them about it, but I think we are overloaded with excitement as it is, so I'm trying to keep my big mouth shut for now!  more to come......

One thing I really want to write about is drumming.  This is quite a rambunctious group, and we struggled tremendously with settling down for morning meeting in September.  So I pulled out my "gathering drum" and one day just sat on the rug and began drumming.  Suddenly, every primate was on the rug, clapping along with the pattern I was drumming.  WOW--I expected this would grab their attention, but I never thought they would actually gather and start drumming along with me.

I just love when the primates lead me, so I took inspiration from this impromptu activity.  Each day, morning and afternoon meeting begins with my drumming a "sound pattern" and everyone gathers (although a bit slower now!) and for about 2-3 minutes each time, our whole group is moving in unison, sharing the moment together as one noise making unit.  I LOVE IT!!!!  I am not by nature musical in any sense of the word.  Music brings more of a linguistic pleasure to me--I love song lyrics, and the memories some songs this old Irish tune we first heard in a pub in Killarney, which brings me right back there every time I hear it.  And, I am terribly tone deaf--just ask my poor children who have to listen to grossly off-key lullabies nightly!  So here is an area of definite challenge for me, and a goal this year is to really try to incorporate activities that require the use of musical intelligence.  I'm NOT talking about singing the habitat song (more of a mnemonic device than use of an intelligence).  I am talking about things like the drumming.

First, it is a non-verbal signal that meeting time is beginning.  Second, everyone has to join in the pattern which fluctuates--dum-dum-DUM, dum-dum-DUM, then da dada da, da dada da, etc., and follow it.  I'm starting to get a little stale with my limited repertoire, so I plan to utilize the musical intelligences in the group by asking different primates to drum.  This will exercise creativity in creating a pattern and require attention and concentration to follow it.  THAT is using one's musical intelligence.  We solve the problem of getting everyone gathered on the rug and create the product of a group moving to and following a rhythm.  It's really quite magical when it happens just right.

I pointed this out to the primates a few days ago, as I noticed the vigor dwindling in the group.  It has since been restored, and I look forward to the many days ahead, beginning and ending with this beautiful group experience.

Now I need to figure out how to use a fat separator to make gravy before next Thursday.  Wish me luck and any & all advice welcome!

Monday, November 1, 2010

read with caution

It's been quite awhile for me and while I had great expectations of catching up with all things work related this past week off (our extended school year gives us a blessed break in Oct!), I found myself blissfully focused on all things mommy.  And it was a WONDERFUL week!

I think part of my reluctance to blog is the craziness that is happening in education right now.  And all the national lunacy, shameful politicizing, and inexcusable neglect that is all over this country is really hitting home--to all of us.  I read several teacher-authored blogs, and have teacher friends from all over the US, and no matter where the location is, the story is the same.  And the problems are systemic--starting at the very top, yet all the blame I hear is placed on the ONLY people actually taking any action--the teachers.  Bad, bad, bad things are happening and for the first time in my career, I truly feel utterly hopeless about education.

Thank goodness for the primates, who despite all this ridiculous adult crap, still enter the classroom eager and excited and willing to learn and laugh and share their lives.  And that is what I want to focus my blogging on--the good.  Last year the weaving project and the blog were a great escape for me, a chance to focus on all the GOOD that happens in my classroom vs just venting about all the crap from above that is constantly piled on top of everything I try to do as a teacher.  I need to have a place where I can reflect and focus on the real matters at hand--teaching and learning, and I'll save my venting for comments on the blogs of the other frustrated, worn down teachers who are brave enough to speak out.

But please, read with caution.  Please keep in mind that with every valuable teaching and learning moment I may write about, there is a whole other world of education outside our classroom that is crumbling and taking many good and great teachers down--not to mention the effect all of this has on our students.  It's not enough to say "we value teachers" (not that anyone is saying that these days), our society needs to take action against using the education and well-being of American students as political tools or news stories.  I'm sure every now and then my frustration will spill into a post, but my goal is to talk about the GOOD, and I hope that this focus will sustain me as a teacher this year and show an alternative, realistic view of what does happen in a classroom.

I don't want to leave this post all gloom and doom, so here's a start of concentrating on the brighter side:

blind contour drawing
Here's one of our first lessons in sketching, specifically "blind contour drawing", which requires sketching something without looking at what you are drawing.  We used "shields" to help us "not look". I heard many cries of "this is too hard!"...but no one quit.

Our subject matter was gourds to align with the current season, autumn.

Some chose to concentrate more time on one gourd and others chose to make several attempts using different gourds.

 Many primates felt frustration with this task and frustration is an unavoidable--maybe even a necessary--step in the process of learning something new.  And everyone experienced frustration with blind contour drawings.  The learners were frustrated, yet motivated, and that's a successful learning experience.  So we'll continue with this task a few more times, and it will be interesting to see how frustration/motivation unfolds in the individual primates in other areas: reading, writing, math, science, socially.

Ahhhhh, feels GOOD!