Category Archives: EnviroEd

Cameras and Kindergartens

IMG_0036Today I learned a valuable lesson: if you want to see what your students see, give them a camera. Today we went outside and took the school iPads with us to photograph what we see. I am truly awed by the images some of my students took, and I am laughing at some of the videos they filmed. I can’t post the videos on here, but let me tell you, I have some funny kids in this class. I didn’t help them with the images and none of them are edited. These are simply the things my students saw through the lens today. It has inspired me. Enjoy.

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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

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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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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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