Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session six

Posted on: June 6th, 2018 by jnovakowski

For our sixth and final primary teachers study group session of this school year, Megan Zeni hosted us at the outdoor classroom at Homma. Megan shared the story of the space and how it has developed over time as well as shared the logistics of her “prep teaching” position in the outdoor classroom.

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We explored the different spaces in Homma’s outdoor classroom to consider opportunities for storytelling and play.

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We had lots of great conversation about risky play and the gross motor and social-emotional learning that happens when students engage with large materials, building and play in outdoor spaces.

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As we left the Homma school grounds and walked towards the south arm of the Fraser River, we considered the story of this place. The boardwalk and buildings along the river help to uncover the story of the people of this place and how the river has been used over time.

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It has been a great year of primary teachers coming together in different places and spaces to think about how outdoor learning experiences can inspire different types of stories and curricular connections.

Looking forward to another year of learning together.

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 5

Posted on: May 13th, 2018 by jnovakowski

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

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 3

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski

On January 18, Cori and Jen hosted the primary teachers study group at Diefenbaker Elementary. Teachers shared the different storytelling experiences they have been engaging in with their students.

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We went outside to a small stand of trees near the school and used natural clay from Deserres to create story trees with found, natural materials.

How might the shape, texture, crevices, branches or bark of a tree inspire a story?

What different parts of a tree could be the site for a story setting?

How can we transform clay to create characters for our stories? What can we add to clay? How can we spread and mold the clay? How might water transform the clay and our stories?

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One of our young guests created a dinosaur and was happily telling stories while the adults also played!

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As we left the traces of our stories behind, we wondered what families would think and wonder as they encountered them on their walk to school the next morning and what new stories might be inspired.

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 2

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski

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

summer professional reading: The Beach Book

Posted on: July 23rd, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

IMG_6293The Beach Book: loads to do at lakes, rivers and the seaside

by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

published by Frances Lincoln Limited, 2015

related website – www.goingwild.net

 

This little book packed with inspiration is part of a broader Going Wild series of books of which I have many (yes, I have a book problem). I also have The Stick Book, The Wild Weather Book, The Wild City Book, Nature’s Playground, Go Wild! and Make It Wild! All of these books are full of inspiring photographs of children experiencing and learning outdoors.

The Beach Book is divided into seven sections – bookended with an overview of things to think about before heading to the beach and a final section on important safety reminders. The seven sections are: beach adventures, beach wildlife, beach games, beach art, beach imagination, beach at night and beach rubbish. Some of the explorations in each section are very open while others are more structured. They all make use of the natural environment, the materials the beach offers, and what is available to see and do at a beach. There are lots of curricular connections – big ideas, core competencies, place, story, mathematics, science, visual arts and more.

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The authors define beach as “where water meets land” – and make a case for visiting beaches all year round so that we understand that these are special places worth taking care of.

spiral with driftwood at Garry Point, Steveston, BC

spiral with driftwood at Garry Point, Steveston, BC

I know this is a book that I will pull out again and again for ideas and inspiration. Am looking forward to finally digging into the other books in this series as well.

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: April 2017

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our third session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series, Richmond educators came together at Grauer Elementary to share and learn together. This year at our sessions we have focused on broad themes or big ideas that cut across curriculum areas and grade levels, beginning with community, then identity and for our third time together this year, we chose to focus on place. Those that attended our Lower Mainland study tour to  the Opal School in Portland created panels reflecting on their experience. Many of our playful inquiry mentors set up either pedagogical provocations or shared provocations they developed to engage their students.

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Four teachers shared their experiences visiting Opal for the first or second time – what had an impact on them and how it is affecting their practice. Thank you to April, Louesa, Laurie and Karen for your thoughtful and passionate presentations!

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Based on feedback from the mentor groups during our January session, Michelle Hikida and I did a short professional learning presentation on playful mathematical inquiry and how we plan around a big idea, use provocations and projects based on students’ interests and curiosities and how we extend and sustain a math inquiry.

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After dinner together, we spent time in our mentor groups, zooming in on an area of interest and sharing and learning from each other.

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We are looking forward to continuing working together next year to support professional learning and building a playful inquiry community across our district.

~Janice

primary teachers study group: sixth session

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our sixth and final session of the year, the primary teachers study group met at Blair Elementary. Thank you to Karen, Robyn and Tanyia for hosting us!

We broke into small groups and worked on our environmental inquiry visual – still a work in progress! Lots of great feedback from the group.

We then toured the outdoor learning spaces at Blair. I was the teacher-librarian at Blair for three years when I introduced Spuds in Tubs to the school – since then the school has embraced school gardens and many of the teachers have made outdoor learning and integral part of their programs. April and Karen shared how they use some of the typical suburban school spaces around the school for outdoor learning and also shared how they involved the district Works Yard employees in creating an outdoor classroom space and storage.

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There was much talk about school gardening as a way to get students outdoors and feeling connected. We left thinking about ways to continue our work around environmental inquiry and creating opportunities for students to take action and take care of the outdoor spaces at their schools.

Next year, our primary teachers study group will be entering its fifteenth year as a professional learning structure in our school district!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: fifth session

Posted on: May 27th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our after spring break session, we met at Steves Elementary, hosted by Kathleen Paiger. After sharing some of the outdoor learning experiences we were engaging in, we began to co-construct a visual of sorts to show the process of environmental inquiry that we have been working towards together this school year. For many teachers in the group – the first stages have been the focus: getting outside, noticing and naming local plants and animals, being curious and connecting. Drawing upon the work of David Suzuki, Ann Pelo and many others, we know these initial stages are essential if children are to care about the environment.

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What we discussed, and connecting to last year’s Natural Curiosity seminar that some of us attended, was that getting outdoors and gardening, although important, is not the overall goal of environmental inquiry. We want to find opportunities for students to take action, to take up a concern or issue that emerges or that they are noticing in their environment.

Kathleen regularly takes her kindergarten students for walks in their neighbourhood which includes the west dyke. We ventured out together and learned about some of the story of this place – the farmland, the coyotes and the birds that frequent the wetland areas.

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And as the weather eventually warms up, we know there will be lots of opportunities for our classes to get outside, to notice and wonder. We are using these three picture books this spring to inspire us.

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~Janice