Saturday, March 31, 2012

Our Garden

Our class participates in a weekly program called Global Gardens:  In this program, students plan and work in their own garden.  Students learn about science, nutrition, and a lot about peacefully cooperating as a team.  Global Gardens is a non-profit organization here in town that works in schools during the day and also does after-school programs for students.  My class loves our gardening teacher, Ms. Maggie.  If your school cannot get involved in a program like this, I suggest you ask your supervisor for a spot outside and do it yourself!   It is easy to build a raised bed and seeds are cheap.  You could even apply for a grant or seek outside business partnerships (QuikTrip built our beds!)

The important thing to know is that the students are in charge of the garden in all aspects.  They plan what to plant, what shapes to plant it in, how to make the signs, how to paint the bed, and what projects to take on.  All ideas are accepted and celebrated.  Students take ownership and responsibility for tending to their garden and this leads to wonderful things!  Our garden is the Peace Garden and students have chosen plants that will grow peacefully together.  In past years, my classes have selected plants from different cultures to show that the world can thrive even through our differences.  Students become insightful and inquisitive in our garden.  It has also become a favorite reading location and yoga spot.  We've built birdhouses, sunclocks, and compost piles.  We've built confidence and a whole lot of learning in our outdoor classroom! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Classroom Economy

Students in my class learn about economics, budgeting, and responsibility through a hands on Classroom Economy.  Since the beginning of the year, students have been earning money to spend in our class store.  I hold class stores at the end of each 9 weeks.   I received many donations from my principal, purchased a few things at the dollar store, and created passes for desirable opportunities.  On shopping day, I auction off the most valued items to the highest bidder (this also flushes out a lot of their money, rather than just having set prices).  I then call a few students up at a time to shop the remaining items at set price (students who are being the most responsible get to shop first!)

Students apply for classroom jobs each quarter.  I tried to create jobs around real-world job options to make the experience as authentic as possible.  The jobs earn varying salaries depending on difficulty and frequency/amount of time "on the job." 

The picture below gives more detail on how the classroom economy works in my classroom.  This is posted in the room for students to reference.  Notice that they have to pay bills each month ($50)!  Today was the day to pay bills and many students accounts became overdrawn as they had spent all their money at our class store two weeks ago, and had forgotten to budget for bills.  They were really upset, but I was secretly happy because what a learning experience!! 

Students keep track of their money on a Bank Account Ledger.  I do not actually hand out classroom currency or physical checks each week (as I have done in the past) because it is simply too much work.  Students keep a ledger of their money and every entry must be signed by one of our trustworthy (and mathematically accurate) student economists. 

On Tuesday students received pizza for lunch because one student spent all of their hard-earned money to buy pizza for the class.  Such a selfless act for a student who normally causes difficulty in the classroom.  And today I got to take four students that had purchased passes to Cherry Berry for a treat!  It was so much fun and a great way to bond with the kids in a different setting.  This classroom economy set-up teaches the kids so much valuable information and is fun for all!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Today a student came to me and said "Happy Anniversary!" She explained more after she saw my confusion. "It is March 28th. Happy 1 year anniversary. One year ago today was my first day in your class!" I pretty much turned to mush right then and there and demanded a hug. She then went further with a little humor in her voice this time, "Yeah, it was the best day of my life."

It is moments like this, folks... <3

Monday, March 12, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg

Welcome to Colonial Williamsburg!  Today we simulated life in Williamsburg, Virginia during the colonial times.  Students rotated through stations where they experienced life as a citizen who went to work, school, church, and more!  History came alive today.  It was crazy, but also lots of fun!

The first station was the school.  Girls attended the Dame School where they learned how to sew.

Boys attended the College of William and Mary where they learned to write with ink and a quill (toothpick).

Students then moved to the Church where they drew role cards and had to find their assigned seat based on their status in society.  They also had to create church bulletin postings based on their role card.  

The next station was The Governor's Palace.  Students took turns being Governor and had to decide whether or not to pass bills that came across their desk.  One example scenario was: Black men and women are not allowed to vote.  

Next stop: Shoemaker's shop.  Students went to work as shoemakers, tracing each others' feet to create custom-fit shoes.  (Lots of stinky feet comments coming from this corner of the room)!

Citizens of Colonial Williamsburg also visited the town Tavern, where they ordered a meal and played a game with their friend to relax.  

The last station was the Slave's Quarters.  Students learned a slave song and dance, and how these were often used to send secret messages to each other.  

Our time in Colonial Williamsburg was brief, but well spent.  Students were able to take a mock field trip back in time to learn though hands-on activities.  We'll do another field trip like this soon when we get to the Civil War.  My prediction for next time: army crawls, campfires, and bandaging wounds!  So long for now, from Colonial Williamsburg! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Space Unit

We've just completed our science unit on space.  Its a combination of the study of Measuring Time & Earth, Moon, and Stars.  We start off by having the students make predictions on the order of the moon phases.  Then, each night the students look in the sky and record a picture of the moon on a calendar.  The following morning students posted the correct moon phase on these strips of paper.  Soon they could see the pattern and were able to predict the rest correctly.  This was a great way for the students to learn about the moon phases through inquiry-based learning.

We also talked about the way people explained the way the Sun and Moon worked in Ancient times.  I showed examples to the students and then they worked in groups to create their own Ancient World Models.
Students got up and moving to explore the difference between rotate and revolve as we learned how the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon orbits the Earth.  In the picture below, the boy is spinning in circles (rotating) while using his finger to model the moon orbiting his head.  At the same time he is revolving around the the laughing girl.  It was a lot of fun -- we got very giggly and dizzy. 
We used foam balls to model the moon phases.  This activity was the most beneficial to helping the students see why the moon phases work the way they do.  We pretended our heads were the Earth, our foam ball was the Moon, and the sun was ...the sun from our window!  We rotated around with our moons to see how the moon is always half lit, even if the amount we see changes. 
We made Moon Phase flipbooks too to help us study!
 We learned a lot about stars from a SMART board lesson I'd created.  They were so engaged during this lesson because they had no clue that our Sun is really just a star.  And an average star at that!  They were fascinated with how outer space works.  We also studied constellations.  We made constellation telescopes by creating black construction paper tubes with a black face on one end of the cylinder and taping a picture of a constellation to that same end.  We used push-pins to puncture the stars in the constellation and voila! When pointed to the light we can see a miniature constellation in our telescopes!


We learned how to use star maps too!  Star Maps are specific to the time of the year and your hemisphere, so I found one for February and taped un-labeled pictures of the constellations to my ceiling.  Students were given 5 minutes to try to figure out how to use the maps on their own to locate constellations in the "sky" and then were sent on a hunt for specific stars! 
These are just some of the fun lessons we did to learn about Space.  We also made our own sun-clocks and watched several Bill-Nye videos!  Is it too cheesy to say that our study on space was Out of This World?!  I think not!