Garden Project // Planting Season 2017

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This spring our class had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with a local community garden.   It is important to me that the students have the opportunity for land based learning; therefore this project has been near & dear to me && I am excited to share how our class was involved this year.

 

The community garden is conveniently located on the next block over from our school, which was great as we could walk there in about 5 minutes.  Through the months of May and June we would visit on a weekly basis.    During our visits we were able to participate in some great learning opportunities, such as planting and caring for our garden, creating bird feeders, rock painting, and a variety of outdoor play and food experiences.

 

At the garden, there is a cluster of tables for seated and whole group activities, as well as a dramatic play mud kitchen, and many plots for growing.  The garden plots were lined with paths which helped guide the children carefully through the garden.

Early in the year I met with the garden coordinator to plan our visits and align our vision of what the garden would be for the children in my class.  We accomplished what we set out to do and collaborated to make a safe outdoor space, rich in learning and that promoted a sense of exploration and a connection to mother nature.

Gardening developed each child’s capacity to care and connect with mother nature, but it also nurtured their empathy and connections to the community, especially through the planting and education surrounding our heart garden.

 

In our community we have a history of residential schools, and the heart garden {combined with stories and conversations} was a way to introduce the children to Indian Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation.

“Heart gardens honour residential school survivors and their families, as well as the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Each heart represents the memory of a child lost to the residential school system, and the act of planting represents that individual’s commitment to finding their place in reconciliation.

 From the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society:
Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams. 

As the school year ended, I continued to care for and harvest our garden with the help of students from our schools summer program.  && with the garden season now complete, I have been able to reflect on this rich learning experience: the conversations, questions, the stories and connections prompted by our time in the garden.  I appreciate the partnership we were able to create with the community garden and their patient, planned, and thoughtful staff.  There are many benefits to gardening with children & I am already looking forward to next years growing season.

 

@mstinyteacher

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Treaty Education in Kindergarten

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Today I am sharing a UBD plan, that was co-created with a friend && former colleague of mine, Kayla Schaefer.  At the time she was teaching Kindergarten and I was teaching Grade 1-2 and we developed this plan to be multi-grade and multidisciplinary introduction to an Indigenous worldview and Treaty Education for our young learners.

As we co-taught this unit we noticed our K-2 students were very engaged, learning cooperatively, and able to represent their learning and insights in a variety of ways. Interest from teachers from within our school division led to the modelling of lessons and sharing of this resource.  As a treaty catalyst, and an educator who is passionate about incorporating Indigenous content and contexts into our classrooms I am very excited to share with you our UBD Plan K-2TreatyEdUnit which also includes examples of student learning && instructional resources.  AND here is the link to the OTC Treaty Teacher Wikispace SMARTboard Activities, which includes technological resources relevant to the unit.

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This year, I chose to revisit this unit in my Kindergarten class.  This unit is a great starting point for Treaty Education in primary classrooms, and I was able to use it as a guide then adapt it to more specifically address the Kindergarten Treaty Education outcomes and indicators;; particularly

SIK2: Express personal connectedness to nature and one another (e.g., Circle of Life, seasons, elements, weather, families, and relatives).

HCK3: Explore the connection all people have to the land as expressed through stories, traditions, and ceremonies.

TPPK4: Examine the intent of different kinds of promises.

These are some of the highlights of our learning, shared on my Twitter (@mstinyteacher)– follow me && stay tuned as we continue to learn about PROMISES!

 

@mstinyteacher

Reflecting on Inspiring Spaces for Young Children

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I was provided the book Inspiring Spaces for Young Children from the Early Learning Consultant in my school division.  I love that it’s picture heavy && full of inspiring quotes and useful information.  I was able to reflect on our current space and put into effect many of the ideas for authentication of each space within our room.

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I am excited to share our inspiring space with you!  This is the general layout of our classroom.

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Block Play Area (&& Whole Group)

Our block play area is also our “whole group” area, which provides a lot of space for building and constructing.  This area of the classroom is the focal point and first view as you enter the classroom- lit by windows and strings of light, it is a warm and welcoming space.  The stairs at the front of the room make the SMARTboard accessible for students, but also provides an interesting area for block play.  The EXTREMELY large alphabet rug in neutral colours creates a soft place for construction & muffles the sounds of falling structures.  The colours in the rug are reflected throughout the classroom.

 

Home Living (&& Library Area)

Our home centre is located in the classroom loft.  It contains authentic furniture & I love that the built in cabinets are at the perfect height for the books.  Students love to sit at the kitchen table or on the couch to enjoy the books.  Our home centre has family photos, lamp lighting, and genuine items for cooking and taking care of the babies.

 

Cozy Retreat

Tucked away under our loft is a place for quiet reflection.  With soft pillows && low lighting children are encouraged to use this area when they need a place to chill.  Positioned away from main traffic areas this is the perfect calming space.  As a Bonus: it also provides some storage underneath the stairs and inside the cabinets.  This area used to be used entirely for storage, however once organized more efficiently it become a usable student space.

 

Science Area

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In front of our window we have a nature inquiry area.  We have student collections sorted and on display, as well as some tools such as plastic pipettes and magnifying glasses. Students can appreciate && explore a variety of plants and natural objects.

 

Art Area

The art areas of our classroom consist of individual arts, collaborative arts, & modelling clay.  All of these areas are conveniently located by our classroom sink.  With materials placed at “child-level”, students are able to independently access what they need and develop responsibility and self-determination.

By using the easels or standing at counter-height, students are able to use a variety of materials such as pastels, paints, crayons (this is where I house my broken crayons, to develop fine motor grasps), pencil crayons, a variety of papers & canvases.  Our current collaborative arts area is a beading invitation set up next to the easel.

Communication Area20170313_160207

The communication area contains a variety of writing tools, letter stamps && tiles, wikki sticks, markers, pencils, pens, etc.  It is located near the shelf where we house our writing books, duotangs, as well as shared “teacher” items (such as staplers, hole punches, etc).

 

Setting Up My Kindergarten Classroom [Trapezoid Tables]

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My classroom comes with 8 trapezoid tables.

My goal was to have 2 tables to use at chair height for small group instruction, and then 6 tables to seat 30+ students at floor/kneeling level for whole group “table” activities && eating [snacks and lunch].

  1.  I initially put 3 tables in 2 rows on each side of the SMARTboard.
  2. A large trapezoid with a diamond in the middle.
  3. 2 large triangles.
  4. Now we have 3 small hexagons.

 

With the lower half of the table legs removed and tennis balls on the remaining table leg, the floors are protected && it is very easy to move the tables when needed.  We slide them apart when we need more seating space and can slide them together for more floor space and for ease of cleaning.  The lower tables enable students to quickly & easily collaborate at table activities and have also provided a platform for block play.  Sometimes we use small step-stools at the floor tables, but many students are comfortable sitting or kneeling around these tables.

When students feel like sitting at chair height, we have a small group/teacher table with chairs.  && There is a table with chairs at the art centre as well.

There is a growing body of research that reflects the important benefits of alternative seating in classrooms.  Giving the students choice to move, lay down, sit or stand when playing and learning creates a comfortable space for all students.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on setting up tables/desks/seating please feel welcome to share in the comments section!

@mstinyteacher

Long Range Planning in Play-Based Kindergarten

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This is my first time long range planning for Kindergarten and it has been a learning process!

There is a challenge in maintaining the integrity of a child-centred, play-based classroom while exploring authentic “inquiries” && staying accountable to planning responsibilities and the curricular outcomes.

Teachers in effective Kindergarten classrooms regularly observe, document, and interpret. Through this process, teachers gather information to guide scaffolding and to plan inquiries.

Saskatchewan Kindergarten Curriculum

I began by going through my curriculum outcomes across all subject areas.

From there I grouped outcomes by potential topics or inquiry questions.

For example, the following Health, Science, Social Studies and Arts Education outcomes could be combined to develop an inquiry about Plants or Animals; it can involve but is not limited to – how Indigenous artists represent plants and/or animals, outdoor classroom, stewardship, recycling, gardening, farmers markets, farming, habitats, flowers, trees, life cycles, composting, Mother Nature…  If students demonstrate an interest in any of these topics; then we could start to ask questions to address these outcomes, such as, How can we take care of Mother Earth?  How does a seed become a plant? Why do dogs have fur?

USCK.1 Develop basic habits to establish healthy relationships with self, others, and the environment.
LTK.1 Examine observable characteristics of plants, animals, and people in their local environment.
RWK.2 Develop and demonstrate stewardship of the environment in daily actions, in an effort to promote balance and harmony.
CHK.2 Recognize a wide variety of arts expressions as creations of First Nations and Métis peoples. 

Once exploring and organizing outcomes into potential topics; I searched for read alouds and looked for other resources- like printable mini books && ideas for invitations that compliment these topics.  Then I also created a sample inquiry plan for each topic containing these resources.  These inquiry plans can be easily adapted as needed and will be a great starting point for planning throughout the year.

Here is a sample inquiry plan I created for the mentioned outcomes.

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I put the inquiry topics into a tentative order; however, these long range plans are meant to be a “living” arrangement that reflect the students interests, interpretations and curiosities – so although I see the topic of “traditions and celebrations” fitting well in December when we discuss a variety of winter celebrations, if my students are drawn to study Thanksgiving and Halloween celebrations in October, if they are pretending “birthday parties” in the home centre, or if they are sharing experiences about Powwows in the summer – then I may need to demonstrate flexibility and creativity!  However, if they aren’t yet asking those questions or sharing their insights about “traditions and celebrations” then I will be prepared to guide them into those areas of learning in December as outlined.

@mstinyteacher

 

 

 

CHANGE;; a timely topic

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I have been enthusiastically reflecting  on CHANGE- the newest topic of the #saskedchat Summer Blogging Challenge.

When I think of change I equate it with opportunity.

This has been a year of great opportunity for me. I entered this year as a grade 1-2 teacher in a local community school, which wasn’t a different assignment for me, but I believe one of the many things I appreciate about our profession is that there is always opportunity and change with each new class of students, and really each new day.  We create routines, consistency, structure && safety in our classrooms yet encounter infinite possibilities for choice, change, and of course learning.

As role models of life long learning we must continue to stretch ourselves in our personal lives, and in our practice and pedagogy.

This year, I made a shift, or change, as I decided to focus more on inquiry and extending play-based learning from Kindergarten to Grades 1 && 2.  Implementing “Discovery Time”- scheduling large blocks of time for student-centred investigations, cooperative play and projects, && community excursions- meant changes for my classroom environment, planning && in some ways my perspective on learning and assessment.

From very early in the year my students were able to demonstrate interdependence in their play-based learning, which allowed me to focus on small group instruction- an area of balanced instruction that I was able to develop.

This year I was also presented the opportunity to become our schools Math Coach && to participate in different mentoring roles within my school division.  In turn, the majority of my professional growth has been in the area of math instruction and assessment && as a collaborator and catalyst.

Then enormous changes happened for me at the end of this school year…

I applied for a Kindergarten position!

At a new school!

&& I got it!

So it has been a summer of changing schools & classrooms, exploring a new curriculum, and all the other experiences that come with;
And these changes will mean an autumn of acquainting myself with a new staff, new school community, new students, and all the other experiences that come with…

I am excited.

Change can mean many things- mixed emotions, stress, work, challenges, experiences, it can mean altering roles and relationships, and it impacts all areas of life-
It can be different, a shift, it can lead to learning and growth- && opportunity.

@mstinyteacher

BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLf

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This morning I created my own avatar for this blog using Build Your Wild Self from New York Zoos and Aquarium & the Wildlife Conservation Society.

It is a website where you can create your own character using different human/animal body parts.  Then you can send these creations in an email or print them.

mstinyteacher-buildyourwildself

The website also provides a name and description of the Wild-You you just created, telling facts about the animals parts you selected.

I am thinking that this would be a fun activity to use when learning All About Me to create unique digital self portraits.  Also, when studying animals, there is the opportunity for generating great questions about various adaptations. 

Let me know if you have used this before with your students, or if you have any other ideas for how you might use this in the classroom.

@mstinyteacher