Archive for the ‘looking closely’ Category

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 5

Posted on: May 13th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On April 12, our study group met on the dyke of the middle arm of the Fraser River. We were joined by “Indigenous Plant Diva” and current storyteller in residence for the Vancouver Public Library, Cease Wyss. A short video about Cease can be found HERE.

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As we walked along the river, Cease pointed out different plants to us and shared knowledge and stories about the plants. Paying attention to a plant’s colour, shapes and texture can indicate part of the body or ailment it can provide medicine for. For example, red berries often support blood, muscles and organs.

Cease explained the importance of cattails to cleanse the water along the river as well as providing food and nesting materials for birds. We learned how some plants like dead nettle and chickweed can be used as salves to treat skin ailments and how other plants such as stinging nettle or salmonberry leaves can be infused in hot water to create teas to address different ailments.

We learned to identify plantain (frog’s leaf), dead nettle, chickweed, Nootka rose, sheep sorrel and horsetail, the oldest plant on the planet.

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Teachers left with so much new knowledge about local plant species. This knowledge building is an important part of our study group and was something that was requested by teachers to enhance they work they are doing with their students around storytelling outdoors. We can find ways to share this new knowledge with our students and weave this in to our storytelling experiences.

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 4

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On March 1, the primary teachers study group met at the Richmond Nature Park. We shared resources for learning about local living things and discussed the different services the Nature Park provides to schools and the community. The Nature Park is situated on a bog which is a very unique ecosystem.

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We visited different areas of the park, watching the birds come and go from the feeders, walking along the trails and boardwalk area.

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How does looking closely at a found object help you think about its story? What is the story of this (skeleton) leaf?

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There was still snow on the ground in some of the more shaded areas of the park and we used the snow as a story context. How could we use the snow as a background for map-making? We used found natural materials to create a map of a special place to inspire memories and story.

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The Nature House has lots of interactive displays. living things (including a functioning bee hive), and lots of information about species of plants and animals living in Richmond. Brochures are available listing local plants, birds and insects as well as brochures with self-guided tours of the park. We were all keen to continue to build our own knowledge of local species to be able to weave this knowledge into the outdoor learning experiences we are creating for our students.

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The Nature Park Society’s website can be found here: Richmond Nature Park Society

The City of Richmond’s Nature Park web page can be found here: City of Richmond – Nature Park

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 2

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On December 7, Anne-Marie Fenn hosted our primary teachers study group at Woodward Elementary. We went outside and Anne-Marie shared the vision and plans for their new outdoor learning space.

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As the sun was going down, we played with the elements of light and shadow and considered ways we could include these ideas into our outdoor (or indoor) storytelling experiences, thinking about how these ideas might enhance or add new problems to students’ stories.

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After coming back in to Anne-Marie’s classroom as it started to get dark, teachers shared different outdoor storytelling experiences they had tried with their students.

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Thanks for hosting us Anne-Marie!

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 1

Posted on: October 4th, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

On September 21, our primary teachers study group came together for our first session of this school year, hosted by Anna Nachbar at McNeely Elementary. Our focus this year, as chosen by participants, is outdoor storytelling experiences, connecting multiple areas of the curricula. This collaborative professional inquiry draws upon the work we did last year as a group around outdoor learning in general and also draws upon our district’s three year Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project. Some ideas from that project were compiled and shared with the group and can be downloaded here: SD38_Playful_Storytelling_FPPL_Ideas

Books that we will be working with together this fall include teacher resources and children’s books:

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We will be compiling ideas that are inspired by these books to share with others.

After coming together in a circle and introducing ourselves, we shared ideas about working with groups of children at the beginning of the year with regards to learning outdoors. We then ventured out to the “McNeely forest” and spent time in the space noticing how the space might inspire storytelling. How do small spaces and big spaces allow for different storytelling experiences? What natural materials could students gather to contribute to their stories? How might a connection to place and knowledge of local plants and animals enhance their stories?

I brought out a bag of materials as a way to extend the experience – a collection of fabrics and some wooden and plastic animals. How do these materials extend or inhibit the storytelling experience?  Teachers came together in small groups to create and share stories and new ideas for storytelling that emerged through being outside and talking together.

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One area of discussion was what to do in schools that don’t have a wooded area such as the one McNeely does.  Some schools are using a garden bed and using it as a story garden. Another idea is to create small worlds using pots, planters or window boxes – plants can be created and pieces of wood, rocks and shells can be used to landscape a setting. How might the difference heights in a tree (base, trunk, branches) be used to create multi-level stories? Most schools have a few garden beds near their entrances – could one be used for storytelling? What characters might visit that space?

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Although registration filled up very quickly for this group, we will continue to share our thinking and experiences through twitter and this blog. We will be coming together in November at Woodward Elementary in their new outdoor learning space.

~Janice

looking for math outdoors

Posted on: January 4th, 2017 by jnovakowski

During my last visit of the year to the Kindergarten classes at General Currie Elementary, it was a snowy and icy day so we decided to venture outdoors with some iPads to capture images of things that inspired our mathematical thinking. We had a quick talk with the students about how to look for math outdoors – looking up, looking down, looking all around. We talked about what math might look like outdoors – the counting of items, the shape of things, patterns in the environment, as well as sources of inspiration for thinking about math.

One of the first mathematical ideas we played with was shadows – how does your position affect your shadow? what determines the height of your shadow? what do we need to think about if we wanted to put our shadows in height order?

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As with the case of all our school sites…there is a story that lives there. General Currie was one of the first one room school houses on what was originally called Lulu Island. We stopped briefly at the historic building that is still on the new school’s site and talked about the time elapsed – what school might have been like, what the neighbourhood might have looked like, etc.

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We ventured on to the field and took photos as we walking along noticing nests in trees, tracks in the snow, all sorts of ice and frozen leaves.

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The ice was a source of fascination and many questions for the students. They were also very interested in some footprints they found and wondered about the size of different footprints or tracks.

We came back into the classroom and the students used the app Skitch with one of the photographs they took. They labelled, circled or used arrows to show where they noticed math or what inspired a mathematical problem or question.

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Classroom teacher Kelly Shuto then showed some of the students “skitches” to the class to inspire further questions.

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The following week Kelly tweeted out about the class photo book they had created, based on the idea “What math lives here?”

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In this crisp wintery weather, what will your students notice outdoors? What math lives in the frozen puddles and tracks through the snow? How far do animals need to travel to find food? What might your students wonder about?

~Janice

primary teachers study group: second session

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by jnovakowski

A summary of our first primary teachers study group session and goals for the year can be found HERE.

For our second session of the school year, the primary teachers study group met at the Richmond Nature Park. We read and discussed the story of this place and learned about the formation of the bog environment and the uniqueness of this ecosystem. We connected this to the video of the formation of the delta from the online Musqueam teachers resource developed by the MOA and the Musqueam Nation which can be found HERE.

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We visited different parts of the Nature Park, thinking about how we could engage students in different spaces. The Nature Park has a covered area with picnic benches for eating or journalling as well as other seating areas.

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Another favourite spot is the bird watching area where there are many bird feeders set up that are visited by a variety of birds and squirrels. Makes for excellent observing and a chance look closely at animal behaviour! I like to take video to share with students after a trip to “re-live” and discuss what they noticed.

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We walked through along the board walk and took a short trail loop to notice and talk about the variety of trees and plants in the park and ways to engage students. We also bounced on the bog!

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One of the plants we looked closely at was Labrador Tea, a common local bog plant, turning the leaves over to help identify it. Traditional local indigenous uses for this plant include making a tea infusion to treat colds and sore throats.

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We looked at the variety of bat and bird houses and discussed these as a great ADST project for students to consider and design based on the needs of their local environment. “Bug hotels” or pollinator houses are another design option as well for school garden spaces.

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As it got dark, we visited the Nature House where one of the staff members shared some interesting information about local snakes with us.

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Teachers who have brought classes to the Nature Park shared some of their experiences and the Blair team shared how they were doing a self-guided trip with three classes the following week and were doing three different inquiry-based stations during their trip.

We will be meeting again in January, registration is still open on the Richmond Professional Learning Events site.

I am curious what sort of questions our students are having about the impact of the snow and cold on the living things around their schools?

~Janice

primary teachers study group: intro to environmental inquiry

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

Last week, Richmond’s primary teachers study group began its fourteenth year of coming together as a group of teachers to investigate an area of interest through sharing, discussion and collaborative inquiry. After a year of looking at inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning in three specific curricular areas last year, the group voted to look at a more interdisciplinary approach to inquiry this year, choosing environmental inquiry. Teachers also wanted to examine different ways to document and make student learning visible during inquiry.

For our first session of the year, we met in Anna Nachbar’s and Deanna Mayotte’s classroom spaces at McNeely. Anna and Deanna have been teaching grades 2&3 together for several years but this year have been able to move to a shared space of two rooms and a co-teaching model. Anna shared their thinking and process and how they have focused on the learning environment and noticing how students are responding to is and making adjustments. They have a variety of choices for flexible seating and spaces for students to collaborate. The students and teachers have also been spending a lot of time outside, gathering from their school garden and spending time in their wooded area at the school. The class has been spending time looking closely and using different art materials as they do observational drawing.

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Several different professional resources and children’s books were displayed for teachers to look at and then we came together in a circle to discuss the format of the study group for some of our new members and for teachers to share some of the things they have been trying regarding outdoor learning.

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The Outdoor Learning book list can be downloaded here: ptsg-outdoor-learning-resources-book-list

The group of us then walked outside and through the school’s wooded area, stopping and looking closely, considering and sharing different ways to engage students in observing aspects of the outdoors. A first step to engaging in environmental inquiry is nurturing a connectedness to the natural world. Students need to feel connected in order to care about the environment and take action to protect it.

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We noticed such a variety of trees, plants and fungi growing in this small area as well as traces of human activity – cleared paths, clearing of some areas, garbage. What might our students notice? What might they wonder about?

Teachers left with ideas for different ways for their students to interact and connect to the environment and thoughts about ways to find natural spaces and living things in their school area for their students to begin to see as learning spaces. When we meet again in November, we will share what we have been trying and ways we are beginning to document our learning experiences outside.

~Janice

how materials inspire inquiry

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Building on our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series, there will be several professional learning opportunities in our district this year that focus on specific aspects of playful inquiry. On the professional development day on September 25, Marie Thom and I hosted an afternoon at Thompson Elementary focused on how materials inspire inquiry.

A variety of art materials were presented alongside natural materials found in our area to inspire attendees to think about the changing of the seasons, what stories live in fall and to consider a connection to place and the cycles that autumn brings.

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Some of the teachers attending mentioned that they had never used charcoal pencils or watercolour pencils themselves and this was part of the intent of the session. We wanted teachers to consider the affordances of different materials and what they each offer so that they can make intentional decisions about which art materials they may provide to students. We emphasized the notion that students need to also learn how to use the materials, take care of them and to consider what materials might be more suitable for different projects. Just like with tech “apps”, we want students eventually to be able to have a repertoire of materials that they can choose from to use to help them think about an idea or to represent their thinking.

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By looking closely and observing leaves, nuts, branches and other objects outside or brought into the classroom, inquiry naturally emerges and students wonder aloud, creating an opportunity for teachers to seize the moment and create ways for students to investigate their question, to look even more closely or test their ideas. Working with art materials may uncover new ways of thinking about the object or their questions.

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If this is an area of interest for you, two professional books we recommend are: The Language of Art by Ann Pelo and In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia by Leila Gandini and Louise Cadwell.

~Janice

looking closely: the power of observation in early science experiences

Posted on: October 24th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Friday afternoon, as part of BC’s PSA day, I presented a session at the BCScTA conference at Cambie Secondary here in Richmond. I shared some inquiry projects we have been working on in Richmond primary classes focusing on “looking closely” and investigating science outdoors.

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The following is the handout shared at the session:

Looking Closely BCSCTA 2014

-Janice

observing and wondering about worms

Posted on: May 25th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Friday, I joined Karen Sato’s and Marisa Quan’s grade 1 classes at Blair for a morning of investigating worms. My morning at Blair was part of an ongoing collaborative inquiry with the primary teachers, considering ways for students to represent and share their science learning through note booking, with a focus of connecting to the outdoor environment.

In each class we began with some wonder questions…having the students think about what they were curious about. We talked about what questions we could find out answers to by observing the worms and how we might need to consult a worm expert to find answers to some of their questions.

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It was a rainy day and the students at Blair are usually easily able to find many many worms on a rainy day. But Friday, they were nowhere to be found. The students speculated that they were hiding or at school or maybe on vacation ;)

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We were persistent (like scientists sometimes have to be) and dug down deep in the garden and found some worms! The students looked closely at the worms in small groups, using magnifying glasses if they wanted to.

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The students tried to find the worms’ eyes and mouths and were captivated by the way the worms moved and how they felt.

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One student, who seemed perplexed by all of our talk of how the worms felt asked me if worms had feelings. I told him that was such a big question and that scientists are always trying to investigate what other animals are able to feel and think. He really wanted to know though and so I explained that I didn’t think that worms had feelings of sadness and happiness like we do but they could feel things that were soft or rough or dark or light and maybe sense if danger was coming, like when they come up from underground when it is raining so they don’t drown.

The students recorded their observations, where they searched for the worm and further questions they had. We also read a short article on worms from the Kids versions of worldbookonline. This answered some of the students’ questions and raised more questions for them!

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The following link takes you to a short Animoto video of the students’ observations of worms.

http://animoto.com/play/wEfDK24ZUQG2E0eqt9J0uw

~Janice