Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Inspiration Projects

Years ago I worked with a teacher who gave me this idea for an end-of-year project. We discuss the word "inspire" and the students think about what inspires them at school. They take a photo of this and then create a project from that photo. First, creating a watercolor painting and then a collage. Finally, they write why they chose that as inspiration. My favorite part of the project is watching the students do all this independently-we have created enough art throughout the year that they know exactly what to do. 

Here are a few from this year:

Thursday, May 26, 2022

I Wish You More

We read one of my favorite end-of-the-year reads:

So we read the story which talks about having more umbrella than rain and more bubbles than bath. I asked the students to add their own page to the story.

I think she meant: I wish you pizza more than scary things.

I wish you more loving than sadness

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

I Will Choose the Kittens

So we were out at recess recently and I saw a bunch of students crowded around a shed on the playground. Of course, I go to investigate. There are 3 kittens probably a few months old, they look pretty healthy. I chase the kiddos away because I don't want them to accidently hurt or scare the babies. It seems like there is a mama cat taking care of them, I feel like they will be alright. Well, that afternoon at dismissal I see a dead mama cat with exactly the same coloring as one of the kittens (we have lots of stray dogs in the area and we have some huge hawks). So now I'm worried about them.

I was talking to one of the administrators and she said if I can catch them, she will find them homes. So I took the whole class outside. Talked to the kiddos beforehand about how we have to be quiet and still and wait patiently for them to come out. Anyone who did not want to help could sit on the bench and watch. The students talked about how the babies must be scared without their mom and how they are glad we are able to help them. With food we lured 3 hungry kittens out and followed the mews to one other that got separated from its siblings on the other side of the building. Bad storms moved in later that day and I was so glad we were able to rescue them because I don't think they would have survived on their own very long.

Later that day I am in the office and overhear one of my teammates criticizing me. She says "well, some teachers focus on teaching curriculum and some teachers focus on kittens". *sigh* I have actually heard that she says things like this about me to people all the time-that I don't follow the curriculum. First of all, that is just false-the curriculum is absolutely my guide. But I am also 100% the teacher that will take a class outside to help the kittens! I believe there are so many skills outside of the written curriculum that will benefit students from learning-that we have to teach the whole child. What did they learn that morning:

1) How to be still and patient in waiting for what we want

2) How to care for animals.

3) How to think about others.

4) How to solve a problem. Many people just walk past situations like this. We did something.

5) They learned empathy and thinking from another perspective.

I am also reminded of a time it snowed (in Texas that does not happen very often) and I took the class outside so they could catch snowflakes with their tongues-that class is now graduating from high school and I still remember that moment. Was it in my lesson plan? No. Was it a learning experience? Absolutely. Students learn more if it is something they are interested in. If I know a student loves lions, we design a unit around that subject. Informational text about lions to teach text features. Problem solving in math using zoo animals. Classifying mammals in science. All objectives but they are learning them in a way that taps into their interests.

Parents are out there declaring "just teach the curriculum" as they rail against social-emotional programs and diversity days. This year in my class we practiced conflict resolution and anger management skills. We learned how to debate, how to make a polite, cohesive argument. We read tons of diverse stories. Had many discussions on how it's ok to be unique or different. We learned how to present publicly. We learned how to create, how to think critically. None of those skills are specifically listed in any of our curriculum materials-but are they important? Of course they are. 

I will ALWAYS choose the kittens and I do not apologize for that. You want to know who I am as a teacher-that is who I am.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Our Environmentally Themed Wax Museum

My class this year is very concerned about the environment. We would talk about what is happening with our Earth and they would ask "why isn't anyone doing anything?" Well, we read a number of stories about people who did do something.

And because I want my students' interests to lead our lessons, we decided to do a presentation with that theme-One Person Can Make a Difference.

The students chose a story and made a collage of it for their backdrop. They dressed up as their person and recited a speech we wrote together using research. Then we set up like a museum and invited parents and classes to come hear their speeches. I was so proud of them and the way everything turned out.

Did you know George Washington Carver had a passion for gardening. He would travel teaching farmers how to rotate their crops, etc. I never knew that.

Books we used for inspiration:

Charles Henry Turner struggled to be taken seriously as a scientist because he was African American. He studied insects and did a variety of experiments where he learned a great deal about insect behavior. He discovered insects can actually hear.

Another bug-lover-Evelyn collected rare species of insects even from the rainforest.

Jane Goodall has been an inspiration to many. I actually just finished reading her book Hope. Her passion for animals and conservationism is really something amazing.

June had a passion for photography and developed a method of photographing viruses in an effort to better identify them. She actually discovered the first coronavirus. Unfortunately she died before this pandemic-I think her expertise would have been very valuable.

Ladybird Johnson had millions of wildflowers planted. She also helped write bills to get rid of billboards on the side of the road.

Margaret Lowman invented hot air balloons and walkways so she could access the highest reaches of the canopies of the rainforest. She even slept there. She was the first to discover plants and animals that live to high for us to interact with.

Julia Butterfly Hill lived in a redwood tree for 2 years in order to save it from being chopped down by loggers. The tree she named Luna is still standing.

Tyree Guyton was an artist in Detroit Michigan . He found it difficult to find beauty in the city so he used trash to make art. His designs are still standing today.

Jacques Cousteau invented an underwater camera and brought the depths of the ocean to everyone through movies. He also developed foundations to help curb pollution in the oceans.

Mario Molina discovered the hole in the ozone layer and even though people ignored his research for decades, finally he was able to make them listen and ban harmful chlorine producing CFC's.  He literally saved our planet. 

I have to admit I had never heard of Rachel Carson. Her research helped us figure out how harmful pesticided like DDT we to all living creatures. Her book Silent Spring inspired Al Gore and his efforts in the environment. Ripples from people just keep going and going.

Eugenie Clark loved sharks! She discovered that sharks actually do sleep, she has fought for the rights of these majestic creatures.

Kate Sessions moved to San Diego California and was disappointed in the landscape there. It was nothing but desert. So she started planting trees-she planted over 1,000 trees and now there is vibrant foliage that helps their tourist industry not to mention cleaning the air.

I was so proud of my kiddos and the difference they want to make in the world. Hopefully we inspired some future Jane Goodalls and Ladybird Johnsons.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Digital Stories for Mother's Day

It's important to me that students know there are multiple ways for them to publish their work. So to honor our moms we wrote digital stories. I used Pear Deck-just gave them 6 slides and asked them to write text and draw a picture on each one. We played videos of their slides for their moms. It was a really special activity.