Archive for the ‘looking closely’ Category

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 4

Posted on: March 11th, 2019 by jnovakowski No Comments

Our fourth session was held at Blair Elementary, hosted by Karen and Tanyia. They shared the development of their outdoor learning space and how it and the gardens are being used by teachers and students in the school.

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We walked around the school grounds, looking for inspiration for mathematical thinking. At this time of year, you can really see the structure of the deciduous trees and it is an opportunity to notice lines, shapes and angles. With moss and lichen growing on some trees and on fences, there are lots of math-inspired questions that can be investigated around the life cycle, size and growth of these unique living things.

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We noticed many trees with some interesting growth patterns and markings (some caused by pruning according to our master gardener Megan). What stories live in these trees? What might a timeline of a tree’s life look like? Seasons, years, decades – such an interesting lens to explore concepts of time through.

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Sarah Regan and Megan Zeni were awarded this year’s June Chiba Sabbatical and used their release time to visit several outdoor/nature focused schools across southern BC. We were happy to host them and have them share some of their experiences.

IMG_8871Our next study group book is the Canadian children’s book Flow Spin Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature. It connects really well with our focus this year of finding and investigating mathematics outdoors. After sharing our focus on twitter, the author shared his website where he has curated some resources to complement the book HERE.

IMG_8882 I know my eyes will be open for all sorts of patterns – branching, spiralling, spinning – as spring emerges around us.

Have a lovely spring break!

~Janice

 

 

 

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 3

Posted on: March 11th, 2019 by jnovakowski No Comments

Our third session was hosted by Jessica, Lisa, Laura and Sasha at Anderson Elementary. A couple of the teachers are particularly knowledgable about mushrooms and shared information about the fungi in the neighbourhood.

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We walked through Garden City Park and the Anderson teachers shared how they use the space over the school year to observe and document seasonal changes. The students were also very observant of how the windstorms this fall/winter affected the park and the changes created by the storms. The City of Richmond has created an arboretum area on the west side of the park, with plaques identifying and describing the trees. There is also the opportunity to observe birds and other urban wildlife in the park.

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A focus of some of the teachers has been on the human impact on the local environment. Some questions for teachers and students to consider:

How can mathematics help us to understand this issue?

What data/information could be collected and how could it be shared?

What information could be collected?

How might different ways of sharing information have an impact on understanding of the issue?

What actions could we take?

 

Looking forward to seeing how different schools and classes make connections between mathematics and their outdoor environment.

~Janice

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 2

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Our second session of this year’s primary teachers study group was hosted by Anna and Shannon at McNeely Elementary. Anna shared the book about mushrooms that her students researched and wrote after finding and investigating the mushrooms they found in their mini-forest near the school.

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 The class was also inspired by one of our study group books, Anywhere Artist, and went out into their mini-forest to create art with found materials.

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The land art of UK artist James Brunt (on twitter at @RFJamesUK) also inspired us to take on the #100LeavesChallenge.

Anna and Shannon toured us through McNeely’s new outdoor learning space and through their mini-forest, adjacent to the school.

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Together we shared ideas for how different plants, trees and animals could inspire mathematical thinking or questions to investigate.

Thank you to Anna and Shannon for hosting us!

~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 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

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