Tag Archives: edci515

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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Failure Is Not An Option

Kranz at his Console

ConsoleKranz” by NASA Licensed under Public Domain

“Failure is NOT an option” is a phrase I remember from my teen years. The movie Apollo 13 came out in 1995, two years before I would graduate from high school. Hearing Gene Kranz, played brilliantly by Ed Harris, utter those words stuck with me. (To be fair, the phrase was written for the move; Kranz admits he never said it.)  At the time, I was preparing for entrance into University, I was determined and I had been conditioned to believe that failure was a shameful thing. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I still struggle with the idea of failure. I love the new acronyms being posted online for the word FAIL; First Attempt At Learning is probably my favourite one. I, however, haven’t managed to master that mindset.

In the middle of February, Tiegrad classmate, Jake Main did something I found incredibly brave. He admitted that he was overwhelmed. He put into words, the feelings that I have been struggling with since the end of January.  I had decided to take up a MOOC this semester as a learning project for EDCI 569. The MOOC itself is one about MInecraft for Educators. What I have found time to read and learn about MIneccraft has been interesting and educational, but I realized by the end of week 2, that all of my time was going into MInecraft. That is not my focus right now. I was spending the time allotted for 569 and 515 (my courses for the term) reading Minecraft, watching videos on Minecraft and trying to keep up with the conversations and community on the MOOC. When I got sick in January, I realized something fundamentally important. I simply cannot do all of this.

I ran away instead of facing my overwhelming feelings that I was a failure. I started watching Star Trek: TNG during my illness, and I continued to escape into that for at least an hour every evening. I started to play my absolute favourite computer game, SIMS 3, again. I escaped the overwhelming reality by running away into “happy places” and then had pangs of guilt later for not dealing with my reality. I even considered dropping out of the MEd program so that I could go back to a reality where I didn’t feel confused, lost and overwhelmed. My classroom became, for those 2 weeks in February, the only place I felt in control. Then I had THE day. As a Type 1 Diabetic, everything exploded. My blood sugars had a 24 hour period fo rampant 20’s. They should be between 4-10. I had high ketones, a condition called ketoacidosis was close to occurring. I “woke” up when my endocrinologist called with real concern for my readings.  My body was telling me something: Get It Together!

I’ve taken a week to really think about what I am doing and where I am at. I am not willing to drop out. I have worked too hard, made too many sacrifices and am enjoying the learning and camaraderie of my tiegrad cohort. But I am, despite the online presence of friends and the supportive words of my IRL friends, doing this on my own. I have no family to support me in my efforts, and I have to take care of myself first. SO I am dropping the MOOC, and I am releasing the guilt I feel and the sense of failure. I hope to take it again, when I have time to really investigate Minecraft and what can be done with it in a educational setting. I made a commitment to myself on August 20, 2014 and I’ve decided to recommit myself here. My Personal Learning Journey had begun before EDCI 569 started, but I was too scared to share it here with the people who I know will treat me gently. I know now that I need to share it here. I need to let my cohort into this part of my life see the other side of who I am. It’s not a FItbit journey, nor a meditative one, and it isn’t one about healthy eating. It’s my life journey.  My skill I’m learning isn’t just for 569, it’s for my life. So my new tag and my new category will be #Liane’sLife. I suppose the title could be: How Failure Became a Search for Balance. I hope you can help on my journey.

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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?


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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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Shiny Somethings….

How do I begin? It seems to be a large question in my world these days. The bizarre way that school started had me standing in a room of chaos less than 2 weeks ago wondering where to start prepping for a new class. I’ve looked at my house and wondered where to start the “de-picket line” process of ironing decent outfits, making lunches and writing a shopping list with treats I can once again afford. There are no more excuses. I have to focus and decide what it is I actually want to explore in this Masters journey I am on.

But how? I have a mind of clutter. Something shiny comes along, and my interest is piqued in a new direction. A conversation occurs, and I am ready to learn all about a new way of eating, teaching, organizing, and then Doctor Who comes on, and I lose all focus again. I hear my cohort mates talk about these PLANS and IDEAS and I get panicky, thinking my thoughts are too big, too wide, too chaotic. And then I get distracted by the new episode of Big Bang Theory. “FOCUS,” I hear my mom’s voice say. I need a plan. Which then leads me to thinking about Calvin and Hobbes and how he managed to create all those snowmen in his front yard……..

I brought home a big piece of roll paper from school. Pretty and green, I hung it in my front hallway. I thought maybe I could map out what I want to learn and explore. It stayed there for days with nothing on it. I knew though, deep down in my soul, I knew what I wanted to do, but the fear of actually writing it down and publishing it made me a coward.  I spent a year talking about my plan, thinking about my plan and I even made alerts on Google Scholar to help me read more about my ideas. But even there, something shiny lurked. Emergent curriculum, inquiry based learning, Hawkins, Reggio articles, all tempted me with their fabulous ideas and intriguing purpose. I wavered. I faltered. I stood at that scary fork in the road that is horribly overused in pop culture, and I knew. Decision time.

I took a pen today, and I wrote 3 words. Their sizing grows from short to long: play, nature, technology. It is big, and it is wide, and it is vast. But there is my focus. I look at my students past and present and I see my simple truths:

  • Kids need to play. They need to move, laugh, talk, cry and experience through the basic form of play. Maria Montessori said, “Play is the work of the child”. I see it every day in my class.
  • Kids need to be connected to the natural world. The feel of grass under a cheek, wind in the hair, the crispness of a fall morning, and the understanding we are connected to this world is lacking in the cement covered playgrounds of my school community.
  • Kids need to understand that technology is not a babysitter. It is a part of our world. We have to understand the part it plays in the world of a child, but not let it control a child’s world. Technology needs to be seen as a tool in the hands of a student and not as a virtual worksheet or quiet time activity.

There it is. Path chosen and recorded. Engage.

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