These last two weeks since March break have been full ones! To start, we welcomed Miss Fisher, a student teacher from Queen’s, who led us into a new Inquiry mini-unit about trees and Spring. Last week, while walking to one of our current favourite play spots down by the "Thicket Steps", some of us noticed a patch of snow that had melted right down to reveal the soggy bed of leaves below. This (happy!) discovery led the K-pals to start hunting for more signs of Spring. Miss Fisher capitalized on this interest and invited the students to look closely at buds. We noticed buds of different shapes, and that some buds grow alone while others grow in little groups. Some K-pals also found evidence of other phases in a tree's life - seeds and dead leaves - that have somehow survived this brutal winter, so Miss Fisher then had the K-pals act out the life cycle of a tree. The students also began an experiment to see what will happen to buds clipped from trees outside and set in water by the classroom window.
Looking closely at the buds on the trees seems to have set off a wave of "looking closely" at all sorts of things. I noticed many K-pals on their bellies this week, noses nearly pressed to tree trunks or ice, for example, and one afternoon during D.E.A.R. time, I left the room to go get a drink of water and came back to find the entire class crowded tight around our Amarylis plants (one in full bloom, the other has just finished blooming) closely examining them while Miss K. read Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed!
It feels so uplifting to focus on signs of Spring and new growth after such a long winter. It also ties in really nicely with the Square of Life project we started the year with (and hope to end with, as well) and leads in perfectly to our next inquiry theme: birds and flight. I'm happy about this because this year I've been really trying to think about "successive integration" or the order in which inquiry themes are pursued, in order to better facilitate connections between subject matter, and the idea that you can always learn more about something, that finishing a unit doesn't mean you're "done" learning about that topic! This was an idea introduced to me during my M.A. and I think I might just be getting the hang of it, four years later!
Since returning to school after the March break we've also started the Baby M. Project. The Baby M. project is really Miss K.'s brainchild, so head on over to her blog to find out more details. Essentially, Baby M. is 3 months old, and will be visiting our class regularly until the end of the school year. The hope is that the K-pals will develop awareness of and sensitivity about their own and their peers' strengths and weaknesses as they witness and document Baby M.'s development, and that this will deepen the sense of community among us, and the trust and compassion we show each other. Documenting Baby M.'s development also lends itself really authentically to data management, one of the math "streams" mandated by the Ontario government. Miss K. led the K-pals in creating their first graphs this week, which we will use to track the growth of Baby M.'s hands and feet, and the length of her body. This was another moment where I was out of the classroom (this time playing with the pre-K's, which may just get its own entire post one of these days!) and when I popped back in to grab my camera, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the room as the JK's and SK's had launched into measuring each other's hands, feet, and body-lengths after graphing Baby M'.s!
We also made two other graphs this week, both about the number of TVs we have in our homes. The backstory: inspired by a wonderful colleague of mine, every morning in K-pal we have "announcements". "I liked when my mom let me have a treat and watch a movie" is a typical announcement! One announcement this week was, "My Papa bought a new TV and was just going to get rid of it but instead is going to give it to us and we don't know if we will keep our TV and have two TVs or if we will get rid of our TV and only keep the new one." This announcement presented an opportunity for graphing that we just couldn't pass up! Miss Fisher quickly drew and photocopied a TV, and the K-pals each stuck a TV (their "data point"!) above the number of TVs they have in their house. We talked about axes, being honest so as to have an accurate graph, and reading the information presented in the graph. We also talked about what the graph didn't tell us, and decided to make another graph representing that information that had been missing in the first graph. Maybe, just maybe, we planted some seeds for future critical thinking...
These last couple of weeks we've also been busy in the kitchen (Red Room!) with some wonderful parent volunteers who helped us make cinnamon buns and showed us how to make fresh, exciting, and tasty fruit and vegetable juice mixtures! "Mix-up Juice", anyone? What about "Rainbow Juice?"
Have a great weekend!