Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Last Child In The Woods for Kids...Connecting Children with Nature

In honor of Earth Day this month, I am going to step up on my soapbox for a bit and tell you that I believe in order to take care of our planet we need to reach out and touch our planet.

If there is one thing I am passionate about in education it is getting kids outside.  That's one reason for my tag line....where everyone is dancing their merry kinder kapers.  Movement....Excitement....Curiosity.  Hopefully you can catch the vision and see those little ones "dancing" about outside having a wonderfully educational time.

Richard Louv  affirms all that I believe to be true about children and getting them outside. He is the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  He reminds us that,

"Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.  If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature."

Can we take time from our school day to explore?  Of course!!  Is it common core??  YES!!

Does it need to be work?  No!

"If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection or the chore defeats the joy.  It's a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it's even better if the adult and child learn about nature together.  And it's a lot more fun"

Try a scavenger hunt...what interesting things can you find in your schoolyard?

Can you collect things (perhaps with a camera)?  Can you sort them?  Can you count them?  Is there more of one thing...or perhaps you could compare colors?  What about Kindergarten conversations.....what are your students excited about...are they asking questions?  Are they taking turns, and carrying the conversations on through multiple exchanges?  What did they find...can you help them take their learning in another direction?  Did your students record their findings (in a journal, chart, graph, table)?

Can I do it if I live in the city?  Yes again.

Learn to use the tools of a scientist or naturalist.  Above we were learning to read a thermometer, so we could test which color was the warmest to wear.

Try growing some seeds.  Clear cups are the best for seeing those roots go down.
We planted sunflower seeds for St. Patrick's Day.  My kinders were so so excited the day they sprouted.  We left them untouched for a few days as they grew taller and taller.  They watched the seed coats fall off and were fascinated!  When we picked up the cups to look closer, my kinders discovered the roots down the sides of the cups and across the bottom.  They discovered those things.  Now we are learning the science words and writing our own nonfiction book about plants.  Common Core...yes!

It won't be long and we will be ordering our butterflies.  I order a classroom set because everyone gets a turn to work with the caterpillars, everyone gets their own to examine closely, and I don't have to worry if a few don't make it (there are plenty of extras).

When the butterflies finally emerge I set up this tent and we take turns getting up close and personal with those butterflies.

Do you need research to help back up the importance of spending time outside?  Check out the Children and Nature Network.  There is a wealth of information, from research to workshops to ideas to use.

Whenever we go outside, we do have to have some rules.  It is school after all.  The rules are simple.
1.  It is not recess, so we do not get to run around or yell.
2.  Students must stay close to me or within the boundaries set for the day and activity.
3.  Students must not harm (pick, break, or squash) living things.
4.  Students must follow the directions given.  Sometimes it will be okay to collect many things, most days we collect only 1 specimen (especially if we are collecting living things like leaves or seeds).  
Pears from the trees at school (last September)
Do I need special equipment?  No...You can get outside with none at all.  There are a few things that might make it more fun.
1.  magnifying glass
2.  digital camera of some sort
3.  container for specimens
4.  paper, pencils, and a hard surface to write on (I use our whiteboards and binder clips)
"Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).

What do I use to help me plan our time outside?  Along with the common core standards and our state guidelines, I love using Project Wild and Project Learning Tree.  I also use the books by Joseph CornellSharing Nature With Children is my favorite.  There are so many resources available, many unique to your location.  Each National Park and many state parks have Junior Ranger programs.  The activities are adaptable for most grade levels.  The Forest Service and BLM have lots of free resources as well. For unique picture books I turn to Dawn Publications.  If you go to their website, not only will you find books, but free activities to go with them.  It is a treasure trove of ideas!!

But what do I really need?  Time, natural curiosity, and a no worry attitude about dirt and bugs.

"We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this earth, and to tell our stories.  These are the moments when the world is made whole.  In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist."
~Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Five for Friday....SDE conference fun!

I have spent all this week in Las Vegas learning and growing as an educator.  I have been inspired by some amazing teachers and I have stepped out of my comfort zone just a little bit and it has WONDERFUL!!

I wanted to share what I have learned so I am hooking up with Doddle Bugs Teaching and Five For Friday to share my fun.

First, I came to the SDE I Teach conferences to connect with teachers I have admired through their blogs, TpT stores, and following them on social media.  I loved giving hugs and getting hugs and I want you to know that these amazing teachers are real people.  They are the kindest and sweetest and smartest people I know.  I learn so much!!

 Second, I came to learn.  I attended so many classes.  I loved every one and learned something new each time.  It will take me all summer to really process everything that is swirling through my brain...but I know we will be doing more stem challenges (I attended two STEM workshops, one by Brooke Brown and one by Sandi Reyes).  I have some GREAT ideas for fitting it all in and engage my students.  We will be singing more (Thanks Debbie Clement) and making rekenreks (Thanks Deedee Wills).

Third, I came to share my passion....outdoor learning!  This was my first time presenting on such a large "stage".  I was scared, nervous, petrified, and excited beyond words!!  I loved it.  I loved sharing something so close to my heart.  I pitched my butterfly tent and we made pressed flower bookmarks (directions are here).  I promised my Kinder participants I would post the blackline master for the food chain activity.  You can find it here.

Fourth, I came to spend some time with my best friend.  I am lucky to have such a wonderful husband who loves me and supports me through all my crazy ideas.

Lastly, I sat by the pool and started to reflect over all the things I had learned over these last five days and this quote from Dave Burgess jumped out at me.  If you have never heard of him, you need to pick up his book Teach Like a PIRATE.  It is inspiring!!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bookmark This!

Are your students bringing you flowers??  Beautiful Leaves??

Teach them how to press the flowers and then create bookmarks.
For a more detailed look at how to dry flowers check out this tutorial here from Greetings of Grace

I am linking up with 4th Grade  Frolics and Monday Made it

....because this is what we are making in my session Monday (and Tuesday)!!  Now you can make your own if you don't get to come see me at I Teach K or I Teach 2nd in Las Vegas.  Have some summertime fun!!

Monday, July 4, 2016

It's a GLORIOUS Fourth

Happy Summer!!  Happy July!  I hope you are enjoying some warm weather and time off. 

In the United States July 4th is fireworks and picnics, families and flags.  That's what I wanted to share with you today....fostering patriotism in little ones through a love of history.

How can we get our little ones excited about ideas that are so abstract?

We can start with a flag....flags being a symbol of the country we live in.   Flags where colors are identifiable and easy for kids to see and remember.  Flags that kids like to create and wave.  Flags that tell stories.
This flag was drawn by the wonderful Melonheadz Illustrating.

The first American flag was officially adopted on June 14, 1777.  Of course there were flags before and there were even several different versions after.  But on June 14th, Continental Congress adopted the following: Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.
Without specifics not all flags looked exactly the same.  Some stars had 5 points, some had six or eight.  The stars were also on the blue field in a variety of arrangements.

 Probably the most recognizable is the circle version, known as the Betsy Ross flag.

Did Betsy Ross sew the 1st American flag?  We do not know that for certain....but we do know that she and George Washington were friends (their family pews were next to each other in Christ's Church in Philadelphia).  We do know she was an excellent seamstress and we know that she did design and sew flags (among other things).   And we know that her grandchildren told of her recounting the family story of George Washington coming and asking her to make him a flag from a sketch that he had drawn.  Whether it be all true or part fiction, children remember things better when there is a story.
Don't forget Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, we know he designed the 1777 flag (he sent a bill to congress for his work).
Flags were mostly used for navy ships and battlefields.  Having a national flag was not a common practice at the time.  Many of our early flags were just loosely based on the resolution of 1777. 

There were several different ways to place the stars and until 1912 it was up to the flag-maker to decide exactly what that would be.

Originally it was thought that there would be a new star and a new stripe for every new state.  The flag that flew over Fort McHenry when our national anthem was written had 15 stars and 15 stripes.

Later it was realized that to continue to add stripes would create a flag whose proportions were all off.  It would be too cumbersome, so the flag code was changed in 1818.  We went back to 13 stripes for the 13 original colonies, and only stars were to be added for each new state.   The new flags would become official on July 4th of the year after the state was added.

Most kids love a parade.  They love real things, so I like to get a small flag for each student, put on some great patriotic marching music and have a parade.  You can do this for the 4th of July, in school or around the block.  You can also celebrate Flag Day, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, President's Day, or here in Nevada our statehood day, October 31st.

It is fun to have your students make their own flags too (counting practice, following directions, being observant, beginning to make the abstract concepts of patriotism and country more concrete).

If you use 9x12 white paper you need to cut these parts:
  *red stripes 1/2 or 3/4 inches wide
  *blue canton 6x5 inches
If you use 12x18 white paper you need to cut these parts:
  *red stripes 1 inch wide
  *blue canton 8x6 1/2 inches

1.  cut the red stripes and blue field.
2.  Glue 7 red stripes all the way across the flag (spacing won't be exact, but it will be close).

3.  glue the blue field in the upper left corner (gluing on top tof the stripes is so much easier than figuring out what needs to be short and exactly where they need to be).
4.  Stars....you will need 13.  There are several ways to do that.  You could use stickers, but there are also die cuts, painting, stamping, or just a white crayon or chalk.

If you don't want to make a flag, but you want something that flies in the wind, try this windsock.

You will need:
   *one piece of construction paper or cardstock. (I like the 12x18 size)
   *party streamers
   *decorations (stars, paints, flags, markers, and crayons)
   *a spinner/swivel (from the fishing isle at Wal~Mart)
   *clear fishing line (or any string)

Making a windsock is so easy!  Start by decorating your piece of paper.

Then, tape or glue streamers to the bottom inside of your paper.  I also added a strip of tape to the top for reinforcement. 

Next,  staple your paper into a cylinder.

Finally, punch 3 or 4 holes into the top and string the fishing line through the holes.  Tie the spinner to the center of the strings

TaDa!!!  You have a windsock that spins in the breeze.
Don't forget to add some music and books to your celebration/learning.  This one, from the fabulous  Debbie Clement is so good.  You can read more about it here and you can buy it for your own here.

Another favorite of mine is this book by Peter Spier

I love the inside covers...they are filled with flags!  The words are the words to our National Anthem

We are celebrating with our own little flag parade!  

We park ourselves, family, and friends at the city park and spend the day eating, visiting, and just having a GRAND time.  You can always find us because of our flag collection.  What are you doing to celebrate??