Category Archives: Research

Lit Review Ramblings

Quick post tonight on the status of the lit review. The binder of articles is sitting in front of me and I can almost hear it whispering, “Read us. Read us” to me in a creepy, sinister voice. I almost feel guilty now if I lay on the couch for a bit without a research paper in one hand and a highlighter pen in the other.  I have learned a lesson that I will share with future Masters students: Don’t change your plan 3 months before the first draft of the lit review is due. I mentioned this to a friend who did her Masters a couple of years ago, and her response was, “No. Don’t change your plan mid year.” But I did, and, boy, it was a challenge to find articles with the terms I was using. Thankfully, over Spring Break, I got some sleep, cleared the murkiness of my mind and was able to finagle some keywords and search terms that actually made sense to me. For example, while searching for information on the increasing use of devices and screen time, don’t just search for “Increasing Screen Time Usage”. Nay, nay, You must be specific! How about “Screen Time and Young Children”, “Student Time On Screen” or the real bonanza “Increasing Screen Time Use on Young Children” in the psychology database? Yay!

Oh, and then let’s just talk about the word NATURE. Adding that word to any search brings up a LOT of information on the “Nature of this” or the “Nature of that”, but not usually on actual trees, dirt, insects and you know…Nature. So, the jiggery pokery of search terms began again! Eventually, “Outdoor Learning and Young Children” came up with the best results.

This process has really shown me that the choice of words is key. That one has to look at the term or the subject from many different views before you find the keywords that just hit that perfect “zing” moment. The problem with defining those perfect terms for me though? I got distracted. Something shiny popped up in the search and I had to quickly scan that and see if I could use it to defend a classroom practice, or I found an article that a friend could use, or there was this book that someone else mentioned and I wonder if they have it at the UVIc library? I better go and …. SQUIRREL! (by this point in the process I was starting to wonder how I ever got my undergraduate degree.)

It’s the end of March, classes end on Thursday, and I have admitted to myself that I won’t have the first draft of this Lit Review completed. If I had another week off, maybe. But not at this point. I’m still plugging away, in the hopes that I can get some sort of information slapped together in the roughest form possible. Can a lit review be done as interpretive dance?

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Long Overdue

I’ve been avoiding this blog post for a while now. I need to give an “update” on my lit review, and I kept hoping that inspiration would strike in the late hours of the evening. Alas, that did not occur, and as term comes to an end, I know I have to write this.

My lit review took a major stall in January, when I caught the cold/flu virus from Hades. I had to take almost 2 weeks off of school, and getting back into the swing of things was difficult. I then decided I wasn’t far enough behind, and had a moment of utter doubt in my topic, followed by what I thought was a moment of “Clarity”. It wasn’t as clear as I thought.

In February, I dawdled. I knew I had to meet up with people in the know and ask for help, but that is something I find very hard to do. I have become better at seeking help, but I tend to have a small group of people I will go to for help. I reached out to my cohort and they really tried to talk me off of the ledge. I was able to touch base with Valerie, and had a really great chat with her about my ideas and where I thought I was going. I had focus again, and I was ready to start researching at warp speed. But life, frustrating, wonderful life, once again stalled me. Report cards had to be written, a new system had to be learned, and I once again was distracted by something shiny. I skipped my February update figuring, I could get to it tomorrow. Well, my tomorrows have caught up to me.

Spring Break was around the corner and I thought I could get a significant amount of researching done online while I sat and listened to the riveting pension statements, guest speakers and campaign speeches of the AGM. I tried, but my attempts at accessing the articles were blocked by really bad hotel WiFi. There went another week.  When I returned home, I knew there was going to be a problem if I didn’t get busy.

I’m on day 4 of my marathon research search. I finally found a decent selection of articles on Place Based Learning, another good selection on Outdoor Learning, and today I begin the search for Screen Time statistics. I have a feeling that this will not be done by the deadline. It’s my own fault. But I’ll be working hard to get something ready. It will be far from ideal, but it’ll be a start.

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The Wonders of a Plan

Today I tried something new. We usually get all dressed to go outside and play in the field, but today, I tried something new. It wasn’t a big change. It wasn’t awe inspiring or even all that brilliant.  However, I tried this new thing, and it had results. You may think these results are not huge, but in my mind, they are BIG.

You see, we get dressed into our wellies and slickers, or our winter coats and our mitts (depending on the weather, and we go outside. We try to stop at “our” tree and look to see what it’s doing to get ready for winter (I’ll talk about those observations later). But today, we started at the carpet in our classroom and I asked a very basic question to these 4 and 5 year olds. I asked, “What’s your plan for outside?”

Instantly, hands shot up. (Yes, they have figured that out on their own) “I’m going to look for bugs and see if they are underground!” C said. “Ooh, lets see if they are getting ready to hibernate!”  O mentioned. (Guess what we are exploring about for science).  “Leaves! I want to find more leaves!” Y remarked excitedly.

Some of the munchkins just wanted to roll down the hills and that was just fine. That was their plan. Roll and run and see how rolling works. One wanted to hunt for earthworms, because he loves earthworms and wants to show his friends. A rallying cry of “Freeze Tag!” was called by a gaggle of boys.

I realized in that moment that I had underestimated these small geniuses again.  We hadn’t ever verbalized our ideas for outside explorations, yet they were teeming with ideas of what to do and look for. They were thinking. Really thinking and figuring it out in their heads with their prior knowledge of our outdoor space. Imagine if I asked that before “centers” time or when they came inside every day. Oh, the possibilities in the planning mind of a 4 or 5 year old.

For the first time since we started going outside, these people didn’t wrestle and rough house. They could have. It’s the time they are allowed to. But today, they searched. We found dry sap on a tree, discovered a tree had been cut down and looked at the rings in the trunk. We used the trunk as a stage to sing our new favourite song, Oh Canada. Icy chunks of dirt were discovered by an area we have never explored before, and we looked at the layers in these “mudsicles”. Geese flying overhead had us looking at the shapes they created and the circles they flew in while they started to land. Spiders were disturbed in their nooks and crannies as we hunted for bugs and earthworms. Grass stains were numerous and muddy hands became the norm during our time. R even climbed the highest she ever had in the fork tree.  The leaves on our tree have all fallen off and there was great concern that it had died, until NMR remembered the word “dormant” and convinced others the tree was just getting ready for a long winter sleep.

I learned today that these kids of mine have plans. Plans that I can help them with if I simply ask.  I need to ask. I need to put the day plan aside more often and just ask these kids, “what’s your plan?”

As an aside, you may be wondering how this relates to my Technology Project. I am focusing on helping other teachers in urban areas access nature in the concrete jungle. This will tie in when we start using our iPads and Cameras to document what we are observing, doing some scavenger hunts while online and more. It will all tie together.

Trust me. I have a plan.

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