Archive for the ‘science’ Category

outdoor classroom day: November 1 2018 and May 23 2019

Posted on: July 3rd, 2019 by jnovakowski

Outdoor Classroom Day is an international initiative to promote the importance of children experiencing the outdoors. The event began in London, England in 2012, grew internationally in 2015 and became a global project in 2016 with the support of educators, environmentalists, play experts, NGOs, Project Dirt and Unilever. The organization supports and shares research around the benefits of playing and learning outdoors. More information can be found on the website HERE.

We participated in our first Outdoor Classroom Day on November 1 with three classes at Grauer. Each class began with some time in The Studio where we shared ideas about where and how we might see and experience mathematics outdoors. I shared a different book of images with each class to inspire their mathematical thinking.

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It was pouring rain most of the day, but being the day after Hallowe’en it was actually a good day to be outside and moving.

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Each class took on different tasks with the grades 1&2 classes looking for and thinking about estimating, counting, size (measuring) and shape.

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The grades 3&4 class worked in small groups with a task card prompting them to search for things outside involving mathematical ideas such as symmetry, fractions and measurement.IMG_4370 IMG_4377

As we were coming inside, one of the grade 2 students said, “This was the best math day ever!”

The next Outdoor Classroom Day for this school year was May 23. The grades 3 and older classes at Grauer were at the district track meet, so the three K-2 classes spent the day outside together. We took our new Outdoor Studio Wagon with us outside and it was filled with materials, tools and resources to support and inspire our mathematical thinking.

IMG_2784 We began our morning by finding out own counting collections outdoors and then recorded our counts in different ways. Some students gathered leaves, twigs or pieces of park to group and count while others found multiples in plants such as buttercups (counting the flowers by 1s and the petals by 5s) and clover (counting the leaves by groups of 3s).

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After recess, we considered different types of branding and growing patterns that we noticed in the growth of trees, plants, leaves, flowers and roots and captured these patterns with clay prints and plant prints using rubber mallets.

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Here are the contents in the Outdoor Studio Wagon:

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The next Outdoor Classroom Day is November 7 2019. You can sign up HERE.

~Janice

 

 

 

 

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 4

Posted on: March 11th, 2019 by jnovakowski

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

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

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

summer professional reading: Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms

Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski

Sharing some of my summer reading here on the blog.

First professional read of the summer -

IMG_6149Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy by Eric Brunsell and Michelle A. Fleming. Published in 2014 by the ASCD.

This book is a follow-up to Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The Surprising Power of Joy by Michael F. Opitz and Michael P. Ford. These two original authors edited this volume. They define joyful learning as “acquiring knowledge or skills in ways that cause pleasure or happiness.” They surmise that when students are engaged learners, joy emanates from the learning process. Their joyful learning framework is the foundation for this follow-up book.

This book has four short chapters -

1) Understanding Joyful Learning in Science and Math

Drawing upon current research, the authors outline the joyful learning framework and answer the question Why joyful learning? with:

  • it capitalizes on what we know and how to best motivate students.
  • it enables us to build upon what we currently know about engagement
  • it enables us to focus on the whole child
  • it acknowledges that the learner is influenced by the contexts in which learning takes place

2) Evaluating and Assessing Joyful Learning

This chapter outlines frameworks to evaluate learners, ourselves as teachers, texts and materials, assessments and school-wide configurations. The frameworks for evaluating learners parallels the one for evaluating teachers and both provide some thoughtful questions for consideration.

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3) Implementing Joyful Learning in Science and Math

Strategies, structures and examples of ways to implement joyful learning are provide for several contexts: school community, classroom environment, whole-group instruction, small-group instruction and individual instruction.

4) Using Joyful Learning to Support Education Initiatives

The final chapters makes connections to standards, accountability and assessment, RTI, achievement gaps and professional development, drawing upon research studies to support the importance of engagement and interest in learning to standardized test results.

The book ends with a reminder to teachers to assess their own joyful learning and to look for joy in unexpected places and a quote from author Henri Nouwen:

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

The ideas of identity, student self-efficacy, challenge, choice, creativity and goal orientation resonate throughout the book. This speaks to me about students’ understanding of what it means to be a learner and what their role in that is – not as a passive, compliant recipient, but as a fully engaged, curious learner.

One issue that the authors return through out the book is that for students to be engaged in joyful learning, they need to focus themselves on “mastery” goals (learning that focuses on learning content) versus performance goals (learning for the purpose of getting a grade or being compared to others). After hearing Megan Franke’s keynote presentation at the CGI Conference in Seattle this year, I bristle at the term “mastery” and would rather consider these goals as just learning goals.

Another area of interest that reading this book re-ignited for me was the concept of engagement. I have thought about this a lot over the years and read quite a bit in this area during my doctoral studies. The authors look at the relationship between motivation and engagement but don’t tease apart what they mean by engagement very thoroughly even though they come back to and use this term throughout the book. They describe engagement as “being attentive, committed, persistent, and seeking meaning.” There are many types of engagement – physical, emotional, cognitive etc and sometimes I think compliance can actually be perceived as engagement which is a concern.

As I zipped through this quick read, I made many connections to both of the books Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day by Dean Shareski. I highly recommend both of these books!

~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

upcoming professional learning opportunities – fall 2016

Posted on: August 1st, 2016 by jnovakowski

As we come into August and (maybe) start thinking about “back to school” I thought I would share some upcoming professional learning opportunities in the Lower Mainland.

TedX West Van – September 24

Registration and Information HERE

 

Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Fall Institute

Saturday, October 1, Blair Elementary, Richmond

Registration info to come – will be posted HERE

 

Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable  - STEVE JENKINS!

Saturday, October 15, Vancouver, BC

Registration and Information HERE

 

Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks – October 19, 4-7pm, Richmond

Save the Date & Time – More information to be sent out soon!

 

Taking the Leap: Values and Practices for Planning an Emergent Curriculum (with educators from Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle)

Evening talk Thursday, October 20

Full day event Friday, October 21

sponsored by the Vancouver Reggio Consortium Society

Registration and information HERE

 

BC PSA Day  - October 21 2016

BCAMT Annual Conference: Gladstone Secondary, Vancouver

Registration and Information HERE

BCScTA Annual Catalyst Conference: Cambie Secondary, Richmond

Registration and Information HERE

 

FNESC Annual Aboriginal Education Conference

November 24-26, Vancouver, BC

Registration and Information HERE

 

I will be at all of these events, except for the multi-event day on October 21st when I will be at the BCAMT conference in Vancouver!

~Janice

reflections and highlights from 2015-2016

Posted on: June 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski

The end of June always brings lots of good-byes. We are losing about half of our curriculum department for Learning Services in Richmond – it has been an emotional month and change is always hard. We’ve been through a lot together as a team over the last three years and this year was particularly full with the addition of the two Curriculum Implementation days in our district. Through planning and hosting those two days, we have dug deep into understanding the aspects and layers of BC’s redesigned curriculum.

We have spent much of June “populating” the Curriculum page on Scholantis and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities in Richmond.

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Next year will be an exciting year for our district as we embrace and enact BC’s redesigned curriculum. My portfolio is shifting from a focus on both K-12 Mathematics and Science to mostly focusing on K-12 Mathematics. Although I will continue to work on interdisciplinary projects the responsibility of curriculum “implementation” in science will be shifted to another teacher consultant’s portfolio (position to be filled soon).

As I look back on this past year, some professional highlights for me include:

  • the Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series – this large group of K-7 teachers came together to engage in provocations and think about playful inquiry across the curriculum; it was exciting to see this embraced beyond the early years and to see a large group of teachers in our district begin the ripple effect in their schools
  • sharing work from our district at the Northwest Math Conference in Whistler in October
  • the Provincial Numeracy Project – as a pilot project this year, three school teams took part in this project modelled after Changing Results for Young Readers
  • Science Jam was back for its thirteenth year at Aberdeen Centre – this year there was greater evidence of students’ personal inquiry questions being reflected in their projects
  • attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference in San Francisco in April (thanks to the RTA for Major Conference Funding)
  • attending the Opal School Summer Symposium with a team of 17 educators from our School District
  • helping to support Inclusive Learning Communities projects at Cook and Boyd and thinking more deeply about inclusive practices in mathematics
  • continuing to the develop a working relationship with the Musqueam community as we think about storytelling, plants and mathematics
  • the number of mathematics and curriculum evenings I helped facilitate for parents this year
  • being a part of the BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics collaborative professional inquiry project – this project has grown in unexpected ways and it is so inspiring to work alongside teachers interested in making mathematics engaging for their students

And both a personal and professional highlight this year was celebrating 25 years of service to the Richmond School District – such a special event celebrated with colleagues.

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Thank you to my CNC colleagues for an amazing year together – best wishes as you move on to new adventures – Brooke, Sarah, Diane, Kevin, Gordon and Lorraine! And a special thank you and good-bye to our administrative assistant Lisa Buemann for all she has done to support me!

Have a wonderful summer!

~Janice