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What we’ve been up to for the past four months.
Our architecture project has kept us so busy for the last few months. We just kept finding so many things to do and see. We read, drew, painted, wrote, measured, built and worked on geometry. We went to see the Space Needle, EMP, Smith Tower and Columbia Tower.
We had four excellent visitors: Tim Rhodes, a local architect, came in and talked to us about his experiences, we told him what we have learned and then we got to use his tools for about two hours. Then we had Ella’s mom, Anja, who is an Engineer talk to us about how they work with the Architects and about foundation. Then Adah’s dad, Alon came in and talked to us about city planning, our role in our city and how they work with Engineers to help build the city. Then we had Cameron’s dad, Ryan come in and talk about being a Contractor. The kids really wanted everyone to come back and be there on the same day, so they could talk to each other. Everyone was so engaging and the kids were so interested.
The kids each chose a structure to study. We created stories about the structures we chose and built our chosen structures with small wooden pieces. We also added our learned facts to the structures. The finale for our project came in the form of a gallery walk to show off all our work and to wrap up this project.
As a part of our project Lisa’s group spent a good deal of time studing about goemetric shapes, estimation and measurement. My group also worked on measurement and estimation as well as focusing on the tools we use to measure and what these tools represent. We also worked with the base ten blocks and workied very hard on our base ten system of numbers as well as place value. I think it has been difficult and rewarding for everyone.
We made this project to be so experiencial. I’m so glad we were able to see so many buildings up close and personal. Being in the Columbia Tower really allowed for us to see so much of our city. I know we all learned so much about how the city works and how much goes into every aspect of building.
After the New Year and after all of our sickness, we have continued our architectural study. The kids have all chosen a structure they are interested in, learned facts about it and have been writing stories (fiction and non-fiction) based on their structure. Josephine and Coho chose the EMP and the Space Needle respectively and we are going to take a field trip to the Seattle Center.
We have been focusing on measurement and geometry to add to our architecture project. It’s been an active and fun part of our project. Learning new ways of exploring the world and the structures in our world and how to explain them with the tools we have on hand. You will be seeing some of the work we’ve been doing come home. We’ve been talking about terms and symbols such as feet = ‘, inches = “, yard, cm etc. This perfectly lends itself to addition and multiplication including finding square footage.
We have also begun a study into the Bunnicula Series. The kids are so excited about this series. They webbed the story on their own and have begun story boarding, which includes the study of character, story line, set up, conflict, conclusion, comedy, drama. The vocabulary is pretty complex and they are wanting to know the definition of everything. Some of the kids are also able to read to the class from the series. There is a play/movie also in the works. Ah, the second half of the year is such a spring-board into more complex thinking and study and reading, reading, reading.
In the last few weeks we have had the great pleasure of having Lukas’ baby sister come in weekly/bi-weekly as part of Roots of Empathy. Through this model of experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a catalyst, helping children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. Lukas’ mom is phenominal at this social and emotional work and the kids are so gentle and mesmerized. They are touching,observing, asking questions, comparing her growth and development from visit to visit, forming hypothosis about what developments will happen next. Siitting down with the kids and puting this all in context is so helpful for the kids to actually slow down and take note. We have done this in the past and it always gives me that fimiliar feeling of just how gentle and nurturing we all can be given the tools and information along with the ability to observe so closely. Thank you Lukas and family for sharing your girl with us! We so appreciate it.
Some information from the Roots of Empathy Site:
- Teachers reported a significant decrease in aggressive behavior by students in Roots of Empathy programs, in contrast to an increase in such behavior by members of the control group over the same period.
- Children who completed Roots of Empathy were much more likely to report prosocial behavior in their classroom peers, recognizing acts of kindness such as sharing, helping and understanding.
- Roots of Empathy participants significantly improved in their ability to understand the baby’s emotions, independently generating possible causes for the baby’s crying.
We have also been working on big yard skills and what is okay and what is not okay. Not everyone is too pleased about it but through conversation, practice and working on different ways of large motor play, we are working it out. We have had a time of no bodily contact and the kids are really wanting to add back some sort of contact play, so today at circle we worked on trust building activities such as falling back into each others arms. They thought it was so fun. Finding alternatives to direct tackling, no matter now fun it may be, takes our entire class to figure out. And we are doing it with all seriousness and with open minds. It’ so awesome to see them doing this type of work as a group and really wanting to figure it out so that eveyone feels comfortable.
Below are some of the trust activities we are working on:
|Mine Field||Objects are scattered in an indoor or outdoor place. In pairs, one person verbally guides his/her partner, a blindfolded person, through the minefield.|
|Willow in the Wind||In groups of ~8, a person in the middle closes his/her eyes, does a “trust lean” and is “passed around” the group. Requires good facilitation and fairly mature group.|
|Trust Lean||In pairs of similar size, one becomes a Faller and one the Catcher. Teach methods for spotting, falling and catching. Start small and build to bigger falls, then swap. Debrief – what made you feel more or less trusting?|
|Running Free||In pairs, one person is blindfolded. Holding hands, the blindfolded person is lead gradually from a slow walk up to fast running. Swap.|
|Slice ‘N Dice||A dramatic trust activity for a large group. Group forms a gauntlet, arms out in front. As a person walks down the gauntlet, people raise their arms. Build up to people down running the gauntlet through a sea of chopping arms!|
|Hug-A-Tree||In a forested area, pairs take turns being blindfolded, lead to a tree (for touch and feel) and then lead away. After removing the blindfold, the tree hugger tries to locate his/her tree.|
|Eye Contact||Illustrate the importance of eye contact by having people in pairs stand facing each other and staring into each other’s eyes for ~60 secs. Remove sunglasses.|
|Eye Contact with Touch||Illustrate the importance of both eye contact and physical touch by having people in pairs stand facing each other, holding hands, and staring into each other’s eyes for ~60 secs.|
|Proximity||Illustrate the importance of physical proximity by having people in pairs stand facing each a comfortable distance apart. Then ask people to move a little closer and feel what its like. Then ask people to increase the distance apart and notice how it changes one’s feelings.|
Every year we:
Go Trippin’ downtown
Return to Makin’ back at the ranch…
Thanks Ashley for the extra help.
(One day in our last week before winter break, I jotted down all the things we did that day. I usually add the translation to what makes it “academic” but this time, I’ll let you assign them yourselves.)
Architecture – Gingerbread House Designs
Light table translucent block building
Easy Reader Books
Johnny & June Cash Appreciation
Etching Board Work
Cards – Crazy Eights, Top-it, Go Fish
Legos – making a chess board out of Legos
Outside – Baseball/Lunch
Creating Signs for our food/clothing drive
Creating a giant circle out of linking pieces. It is AMAZING!
We have been having great fun braving the weather and the frequent occurrence of buses breaking down. Pacific Publishing was interesting, fun and the tour guide was spot on with this age group. We learned about how papers are made from ideas to collating. The printing part was action packed and we feel privileged to get to see real printing in action. “Best Field Trip EVER” was heard throughout the day, although I think this was just due to going into the bus tunnel).
I love showing the kids things that aren’t digitized (although we have talked about online “papers” as well). I’m such a Luddite sometimes. Speaking of…we would love some more type writers and ribbons – this process of typing straight onto the paper is fascinating to the kids and they will stand in line to try a turn at the type writer for a seriously long time.
Our trip to the Central Library was also a blast. We waiting out the weather, zipped down on the bus, it stormed while we were inside taking our tour and reading books and then the sun came out for us on the bus ride back.
We have been making representational drawings of the places we have visited. We have also been talking about the architects and their ideas for building. This has been a great exercise for memory, collaboration, artistic expression, revisiting, reworking and is also just enjoyable time to work together.
Math has taken a game focus as of late. Monopoly obsession is an understatement. Last week we were missing quite a few families, so our days looked a bit different. Some kids played Monopoly for six hours! Amazing! We have Catopoly and Earthopoly, so there was reading, math, science, strategy, cooperation and negotiation. Games are a great way to incorporate subjects that the kids don’t even realize they are working on.
We have started a Book Club. In the Big Yard, Adah, Hannah and Izzy were talking about the books they are reading right now and I happen to mention something about a Book Club and of course, they were off. While they were outside, I organized our books that we have multiple copies of into piles. When the class came in, I didn’t even say anything and they started getting books together, finding groups and reading in their groups. It’s so nice when we are a few months into the school year, we have hit our stride and the kids know how the culture of the classroom works and they just go to town. Ahhh.
This has been a great year so far and we just love the kids, their ideas, their passion and we are so proud of all of their accomplishments and growth.
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
– John Cotton Dana
Whew! What a crazy few weeks it has been. We finished the Newspaper and I hear that kids are taking the Mystery Bay Times to bed for story time. Yeah! I think we will do this again in the winter, make it a quarterly project. It was a ton of work but well worth it.
We also were captivated by the election. Very exciting stuff happening in our state. The kids just exploded into the classroom the day after the election and we just had a spontaneous dance party! It was so fun!
We have been busy writing, editing, illustrating, studying, investigating and assembling our newspaper. Wow, it is a ton of work. There has been so much baseball talk that we are trying to get our paper out before the end of the World Series. We are also wrapping up our Greek Mythology Project with it being our leading story. Don’t be disappointed if our news is a bit behind the recent headlines.
It’s been fun to introduce new vocabulary. Today someone used the phrase “above the fold” in a conversation and I was so proud. We’ve been talking about news stands and how papers are made. Tomorrow we are planning on going to Barnes and Noble to see their Newspaper/Magazine “stand”. We are missing the traditional newspaper stands but we all realize the way our news has become digitized. Tricky business being a person who read the paper before this Internet thing exploded.
On the political front. We seem to be a class of liberals, go figure! There has been much talk in the classroom and the kids are as informed as 5-8 year-old can be regarding the issues at hand. It’s been fun to hear them discuss what they know and talk to each other and try to get me to express my opinions. I’ve tried to play neutral but they are either too smart or I am terrible at being neutral. It’s been interesting to say the least.