Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

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

primary teachers study group: fourth session

Posted on: March 10th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our fourth session together this year, we gathered after school at Errington Elementary to share what outdoor inquiry experiences we had engaged in with students. There were many attempts at freezing bubbles, tracking different animals’ movements in the snow, looking closely at ice, snow and their affects on the environment, investigating melting of ice and snow and creating new experiences for students to experience the outdoors in winter.

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Our discussions took several turns…self-regulations, navigating how much we share about our personal choices such as vegetarianism with our students, the benefits of risky play. Here is a link to the UBC research that study group member Megan Zeni referred to as we discussed the benefits of outdoor risky play.

We ended our session discussing the upcoming forecast for more snow and the eventual arrival of spring!

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Thank you to Stephanie (Merrick) Rubio for hosting us in her lovely classroom!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: third session

Posted on: January 17th, 2017 by jnovakowski

The Primary Teachers Study Group had their third session of the year at Woodward Elementary, hosted by Anne-Marie Fenn. Anne-Marie shared the school’s plan for an outdoor learning space and then we went outside to imagine how the current garden space will be transformed.

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Teachers were able to purchase pictures books that are intended to inspire students’ wondering about winter. Sizing Up Winter is a book that inspires mathematical inquiry around measurement, In The Snow: Who’s Been Here? has students consider ways to know whether an animal has visited different parts of the environment and Curious About Snow shares factual information and photographs of snow – sure to inspire lots of questions, particularly with the very wintery weather we have had this year.

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Teachers shared ways that had been engaging their students in inquiry about the outdoors and winter – freezing bubbles, looking for tracks, creating icy sun catchers, learning about animal behaviour in winter.

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Jenn Lin from Maple Lane shared how she had guest speakers in from the Institute for Urban Ecology atDouglas College to teach her class about the important role bees play in the environment and then the students made bee containers/nests.

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What are your students wondering about this winter? Where do the bees go? Where do the raccoons and birds find food? What do the snow geese eat when the ground is frozen and covered with snow? Do trees freeze? Are your students making connections between how the weather and seasons are affecting other living things around them?

~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

primary teachers study group: inquiry in science

Posted on: April 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In its thirteenth year, the Richmond Primary Teachers Study Group chooses a focus each year to guide their professional collaborative inquiry. This year, building on the focus on inquiry in BC’s redesigned curriculum, teachers wanted to investigate inquiry across curriculum areas and we’ve chosen one curriculum area as a focus for each term, with the second term focusing on science.

We did an overview of the science curriculum framework on the BC curriculum website, paying particular attention to the curricular competencies.

Anticipating (or hoping for) some winter weather, we shared some “winter books” that might inspire students to ask questions about the season, particularly during time outside.

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This term we have four picture books to inspire inquiry in science – The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino, Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, and Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay. The whole Stella series of books is excellent for modelling curiosity and asking questions, as Stella’s little brother is full of questions!

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One of the articles we referred to that outlines a grade 3 teacher’s yearlong journey with inquiry is the following article from the NSTA journal Science and Children:

Inquiry Takes Time

The teacher/author describes three inquiry projects moving from structured to guided to open inquiry.

As a group, we co-constructed some inquiry-based experiences for our students and then shared how these went with our students at the next session. Unfortunately, we only had one very light dusting of snow this winter so teachers will be saving the snow books for next year!

Many teachers used the Flashlight book to use the structure “what do you notice? what do you wonder?” and to inspire students to play with and investigate the properties of light, darkness and shadows.

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Our second session of the term was hosted in Louesa’ K classroom at Thompson as she usually has a science/nature provocation table…

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Louesa shared some science inquiry projects she had been doing with her Kindergarten students, including looking closely at frost and noticing trees in their local environment.  Students also chose areas of interest to them and some of them engaged together in inquiries into rainbows or dinosaurs.

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As the weather warmed up, students have found worms and snails outside and have had lots of questions – Sharon and Stephanie have started inquiries with their students beginning with their questions about worms and snails. Louesa and her K students have been discussing “How are living things in our community connected to one another?” beginning with considering how to bring “life” into their classroom and what that living thing might need.

Many of the teachers’ science inquiries are very much focused on connecting to place, which will overlap nicely with our group’s third term focus on inquiry in social studies.

~Janice