Monthly Archives: January 2015

Clarity and Confusion

I have had clarity in my plans for my Masters since almost day one. There was a hiccup after Stacia spoke to us last fall where I thought my focus on nature and young students was perhaps not my passion. I had concerns, until a fellow classmate talked me off of the ledge of confusion and back onto solid ground. Since that hiccup, I have been clear. I have taken my students outdoors, reflected on their activities, recorded conversations and discussed my ideas with fellow teachers and administrators. My goal has been to create a guide to help urban/inner city teachers of Kindergarten/Grade 1 students get outdoors and utilize the nature found in their communities. I focussed my bibliography last summer on technology with young children with a plan to link technology to the outdoor play activities that every child should have. I wrote my original research folder with my outdoor focus and I had my plan in mind with every step I took.

Last night, we had our break out room time in 515, and I had this shocking realization from the nowhere, that I had written it up wrong. That my thought process was not where it should be and my research topic was written from the wrong perspective.

My original idea for a guide is not the problem. I did however look at my topic of Environmental Education, and I realized that getting kids in urban centers out into nature wasn’t Environmental Education, but Self-Regulation. I am not talking about Self-Regulated Learning, but behaviours. The simple fact I realized is: my students are practicing their self-regulation when we are outside in nature. I know that play and nature are integral to the development of children. I know that teachers are concerned about taking children outside during instructional hours. I know that I get asked questions on how I cover curriculum while taking kids outside. I know that I still want to help teachers get outdoors with their students.But I also know, it is not about Environmental Education or Stewardship.


Today, however,  I spent an hour sitting in front of the UVic Library site pondering search terms and coming up blank. It feels almost like starting anew. I know I don’t have to begin completely again, but I have to find some time to sit down and really think about where I am going. It almost feels like a period of letting go.I am not a person who can switch gears from a plan quickly; I need to think, and let it all come.  I know the members of my fabulous cohort will have advice and I welcome it. I realize that I need to talk again with Valerie, organize a meeting with the librarians, and take down the big chart in the hallway where I have mapped out my plan. I’m back to my previous mantra of “Breathe. It will all be okay.”

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Muddy Buddy

Today when I walked into my classroom, I noticed a large Home Depot box. I was a little confused, as I didn’t remember ordering anything from the home renovation place, so imagine my surprise when I found out our Muddy Buddies were inside!

For those of you unaware of what a Muddy Buddy is, imagine a waterproof onesie with one zipper from the left kneecap to the neck. It has Velcro adjustments for the cuffs and the ankles. When this outfit is on and done up with boots, the little person inside can go outdoors and run, jump, splash, roll, dig and basically be in nature without worrying about getting wet, dirty or scuffed. Some people may wonder why I wanted these so badly for my kindergarten classroom. Easy answer: 20 kids with wet clothing all needing to change or call home. The Muddy Buddy lets us go and get dirty without worrying and being uncomfortable.

Muddy Buddy

The kids all tried one on and were given one for their hooks. After lunch, it was time to take them out for a trial run. People may not realize this, but part of Kindergarten is learning simply how to dress oneself. The first 15 minutes for Muddy Buddy time was simply figuring out where ones legs go, how to zip up an industrial strength zipper, and what to do with the Velcro. This lesson will need to be repeated many times before we all know how to get into the suit, but once they are in it, we are ready to roll (literally).

We started off out outdoor exploration today by finding our tulips and daffodils that we planted back in October. Unbelievably enough, they are coming up. The observations included:

  • I planted mine over here and there is nothing there. Why not?
  • Look at how there is one stem here and 3 over here.
  • This one has paper peeling off it.
  • Why isn’t the pumpkin we planted growing?
  • It looks like a water plant.

There was so much comparative language going on over height, number, and even colour of the sprouts. I only pray that we do not get a sudden freeze and kill all of them.

Is it Spring?

Is it Spring?

We ventured down to the lower field where we do most of our explorations, and today I had set the intention of our outside time. Our big question: What can you do in the Muddy Buddy?

Interestingly, there was actually quite a difference in their behaviour today. The kids seemed more willing to take some chances and weren’t as concerned when they toppled over, climbed a tree or were wrestling with a friend. Some ELL boys who have never attempted a tree climb decided to give it a go today, and ended up discovering a “dragon cave” in one of the big evergreens. It developed into a game of “Don’t Wake the Dragon”. Some of my girls were finding large rocks that reminded them of eggs, and started to create nest like hollows in the dirt where they could hatch the eggs. They were sitting in the dirt and leaning on the trees without concern. My little G stumbled at one point. He picked himself up, brushed himself off and claimed, “I’m okay. The Muddy Buddy is tough and it doesn’t hurt.” Another little one told me that falling doesn’t hurt as much in a Muddy Buddy. Who knew these articles of clothing had such power?

Exploring

IMG_3747 (2)

Finally we all lay down in the damp grass, and gazed at the clouds to discuss what we saw. I think they were hungry, as I heard “Cupcakes! Cotton candy! Ice Cream! Marshmallows! A donut! Bacon!” Yes, bacon. It was an experience to remember and treasure.

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Figuring It Out

My great intention of being on track this semester has been seriously derailed with the my current status of “the walking germ”. However, I seem to be on the road to recovery and can once again look at a computer screen without pain. So here I go, my first blog post for the new semester.

I had a very difficult time looking through the course syllabus for EDCI 569 because it offered so many choices that were appealing and challenging. I will admit, the amount of blogging had me extremely concerned for my already lacking FItBit numbers, but thankfully our illustrious professor alleviated my concerns. The idea of a “Personal Learning Inquiry” as a final project had me incredibley intrigued, confused and frustrated. There are so many things I want to learn and try, but I know how limited my time is as I am already starting down the path to better physical and emotional health (see my other blog) and am in year 2 of rethinking my teaching styles to a more open, facilitation role based on the ideas of Reggio Emilia, Hawkins and Dewey. Trying to fit in another learning path seemed time consuming and, yes, a lot stressful. I toyed with using one of those aforementioned learning journeys, trying to teach myself Klingon or Elvish (Yes, I really do want to learn those one day) and even thought I might try to conquer my piano nemesis: the Mozart Piano Sonatas.

A wonderful friend and classmate mentioned, in a chat, that she was enrolling in a MOOC. MOOCs scare me. The idea of online open learning with people I have never met worried me. I know, I’m in an online course with people I have never met (Except of course the Three Amigos), but to me tiegrad is different. It’s a safe enclosed group of people. I “knew” some of them from their online interactions. A MOOC just seems so…unknown and scary. Well, the Doctor says, “Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger” (Doctor Who, Series 8, Listen), so I decided to look for a MOOC to join.

Minecraft for Educators is the MOOC through Canvas Network that I decided to join. I admit, I feel a little lost already as this is my first MOOC and my Minecraft experience is limited. I thought of a way I can incorporate the game into my “Nature Integration” project and I need to learn the ins and outs. I am really hoping this will address my learning needs. I will keep you posted and will most likely be looking to the Minecraft experts in this course for some help.

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Searching The Evergreens

Please excuse the lack of photos in this post. They are currently trapped in my classroom, as I forgot to upload them before I left today. This post wouldn’t stop rolling about in my head, so I needed to get it down. Pics to come later.

Evergreens is a non-fiction book I picked up through the Scholastic Canada November order. I wasn’t going to purchase any more books for my ridiculously large library, but I desperately wanted some new, non-fiction pieces to inspire us to look closer at the everyday objects around us. The book is not a long piece of writing, but the photographs are beautiful and showcase a type of tree which my students see around them every day. I shall, in all honesty, admit that I wasn’t going to read the story before our planned Monday “Outdoor Exploration” time. I simply saw that the students were finishing their lunches, and what better way to finish eating an apple, than having a story read to you. I won’t go into the details of our discussion concerning pine cones, needles and resin here. Connections were made between bark and skin. A deep discussion over the differences and similarities between resin, sap and blood occurred. Questions were asked that will require further research and exploring. One student exclaimed, “we have an evergreen at home!” Well, the floodgates opened with comments about the trees at school, and it was decided by the kids and myself, that a scavenger hunt was in order.

We grabbed our jackets and boots, and headed out. Shock erupted when we saw the school pruners cutting up the trees at the front. There was deep concern and much reassuring that the workers were not going to cut down the trees, especially “our tree”. (Our tree is a tree we adopted and have been looking at since October.) One of the munchkins asked, “Does it hurt the trees when they are cut like that?” There was such deep concern for the trees from this little one, that we had to stop and discuss whether trees have feelings. Finally a decision was made that being pruned, may be like getting a haircut. It doesn’t hurt, but you miss your long hair.

Eventually we made our way over to our big messy field where the evergreens grow. Right away, the searching began. They had a short list of things to find: an evergreen tree, pine cones, needles and resin. What a treat it was to watch the excitement over the discovery of a pine cone, of a branch that had fallen but was still covered with green needles. A tree was found with some bark ripped off and the brilliant red from the cedar tree drew much attention. Comparisons occurred of pine cones: is yours smaller, mine is bigger, I have one that is open and yours is shut, look how tall yours is, and on it went. Then we hit the mother-lode: resin. The shouting began when we found resin drops from the tree bark and a large, crusty gathering of the stuff was investigated with magnifying glasses.

We were out there for maybe 30 minutes today. Not once was there a child acting up or behaving like a turkey. The students were engaged. At one point, I pulled my ancient iPod out and gave it to a student so she could take a picture of her resin discovery. Well, the kids all wanted a turn, not at taking photos, but at pointing out discoveries for her to document. I cannot wait to take the iPads outside for them to document their play and their discoveries.

You may think that these students of mine are outside all the time in their home hours. You may think they are used to being outside in the rain and mud. They aren’t. These are indoor city kids. At recess and lunch, they are on a concrete playground, and not in the mud and dirt as they should be. Getting them used to being outside and being aware of their boundaries outside took time, trust and even a few phone calls to the office. But it is worth it. Each child, on their own today, decided to bring back a treasure. A stick, a pine cone, a branch, some bark were the treasures they wanted to take home, How could I say no?

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