Wednesday, 25 March 2015

I Can Be A Scientist!

What a wonderful morning the JK and SK classes had the other day!  

We began in a group circle time as we were introduced to the different types of science experiences that we would be involved with during the morning.  Scientist Karen had a bag with a very curious monkey on the front......who was this monkey?  We learned that scientists are very curious and want to experiment and discover things.  We are also curious and want to discover more about God's world and the order that He has created in it.

We used hot water and icy water to watch the red liquid go up and down the tube like a real thermometer works!

We can be Meteorologists.......
How does a thermometer work?

We got to see an anemometer (wind vane) and blew air at it to see how wind is measured.

Looking through rainbow glasses!

We had a chance to be chemists and experimented with dissolving chemicals in water.  Some things dissolve and some didn't.   We recorded our predictions and findings on a chart. We wore lab coats and safety glasses!

We were also marine biologists and had the opportunity to use magnifying glasses to look at different sea creatures.

We got to see a real fish and touch it's fins and get a close up look at it.   It was quite smelly!

We made fish prints that we brought home with us....they were really cool! 

We were also palaeontologists  and got to make fossils......
We took closer looks at dinosaurs, made fossil rubbings and match dinosaur skeletons to dinosaur figures.

At the astronomy tent, we learned about a compass, constellations and the number of stars that make the Big Dipper.  We listened to a story, used flashlights to look at constellations and made our own constellations as well.

Making our own constellations!

We are thankful to our awesome God for creating such a wonderful world for us to enjoy and discover!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

What DO Teachers do on PD Days?

What DO teachers do on PD Days? Go to school! It's great to be able to take some time throughout
the year to join other teachers and develop our thinking and craft of teaching. We are always striving to learn best practices. Here is an article written by Justin Cook of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools about our last PD day in February.

Growth Mindsets for Learning by Justin Cook of the OACS
Just before 6 PM on April 4th, 1968–a Thursday–Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out onto the balcony of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, to address his colleagues from the Christian Leadership Conference in the parking lot below. The group was preparing for another non-violent protest march, this time in support of the striking Memphis sanitation workers. Suddenly, a single shot is fired. Dr. King falls with blood on his face. People rush to support King and get him to the hospital. He’s pronounced dead an hour later. Violence erupts in cities across America; forty more lives are lost. Four days later, still in Memphis, King’s widow Coretta marches with thousands to honour King, to carry on his work, and to support the sanitation workers who are still striking.

The day after King is shot to death, in a small Iowan town 700 miles directly north of Memphis, a grade three class comes to school confused, as PBS Frontline describes in their documentary of the class:

“On the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in April 1968, Jane Elliott’s third graders from the small, all-white town of Riceville, Iowa, came to class confused and upset. They recently had made King their “Hero of the Month,” and they couldn't understand why someone would kill him. So Elliott decided to teach her class a daring lesson in the meaning of discrimination. She wanted to show her pupils what discrimination feels like, and what it can do to people.”

Skip forward another forty seven years. A group of 100 Christian school teachers gather in a gym in
Hamilton, Ontario, to explore what Carol Dweck has outlined as the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. As an entry event to the day, we watch a three minute clip of Jane Elliott leading her students in the “daring lesson” where the kids experience discrimination–based on their eye colour–first hand. They don’t question her when she states frankly that brown-eyed kids are better than blue-eyed kids. The body language reveals the confusion and anxiety of those who are deemed less valuable. The privileged group reveals a sense of excitement and pride in their superior position.

After the clip, we discussed together its implications. As teachers, we realized that our power in the classroom is shocking: what we tell children about themselves is often accepted as fact. And what children believe about themselves will have a significant impact on their capacity to learn. How do we create environments in our classes that encourage all students to believe they can grow? How do we help students develop social-emotional learning–a deep understanding of their own identity and a deep commitment to understanding others through healthy relationships? The tragedy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and Jane Elliot’s classroom reveal that social-emotional learning has both global and local implications. As the SCLC bumper sticker pictured above states: how do we create environments where we “turn TO each other, not ON each other”? In an age of “radicalization,” this seems more pressing than ever.

Our day was then spent diving into these key questions through three sessions:
Session 1: Social-Emotional Learning: Ethos and Learning Go Hand in Hand. In the first session we explored the relationship between ethos (the environment and culture of our classrooms and schools) and learning. How do we create healthy spaces for students to understand themselves and their classmates together? How do we do this both proactively and reactively? How might programs like Restorative Practices, TRIBES, orThe Leader in Me help us to accomplish this? As an embodiment of this pursuit, each grade table brainstormed and created their table’s “Group Norms”–statements that help name how a group wants to “be” together–commitments that the group agrees to in order to make the community excited to spend time together collaborating in their work and play, in their pursuit of meaningful learning. Each table wrote their own norms, displaying them on their tables and in our work gallery for the day. Examples of the norms for the tables included the following:
“We give space and time for each voice.”
“Our group is a safe place for honesty, courage, passion, and awe.”
“We celebrate individual giftedness.”
“We will pursue feedback that is both constructive and supporting.”
“We listen attentively and actively.”
“We want original and creative ‘out of the box’ thinking.”

Session 2: Growth in Action! Creating Growth Mindset Critique Sessions for Learning. After establishing what a growth mindset is, we moved into experiencing growth in action. This session borrowed extensively from a session we were offered at High Tech Elementary Chula Vista, led by two teachers there–Trisha Magoon (gr. 1) and Paul North (gr. 3). Huge thanks to them for being willing to share their presentation materials freely with me.  This session also took on a bit of a risk–I asked teachers to think about a time in which they or one of their students had experienced a significant learning moment that impacted their character and then write about it in a paragraph. It’s not easy to share our stories with each other, especially at a table with colleagues we may not know well. (I love the way my friend Owen has urged us to consider the power of sharing each other’s stories–both teachers and students–as a way to pursue meaningful learning. You can read his brief article here.) After exploring a powerful mentor text as a model written by one of my former grade 12 students, the group chose the learning targets that they wanted to focus on in their writing and worked on their first drafts. Then, using the categories of warm and cool feedback we tried to offer each other kind, specific, helpful feedback to sharpen our writing and the experiences we were sharing. Finally we incorporated this feedback into a second draft.

Warm Feedback (I like…)                                    Cool Feedback (I wonder… I suggest…)

I was really struck by how you _____________. Can you explain why ____________________?
__________ stands out because ___________.    I’d like to see more of ____________________.
I like how you used __________ to _________.  Perhaps you could try_____________________.
I understand ________ because you ________.    I have trouble understanding ____ because _____.

In our debrief of the activity, we used the following discussion questions to frame our experience:
Are there themes we can identify in our deep learning experiences?
How did it feel to decide the learning targets and peer-assess each others work?
Was the mentor text–the model–important in helping you do high quality work?
How did critique help you and/or challenge you?
Can you see yourself using critique and co-assessment (assessment FOR Learning) in your class? (Or do you already?)

We discussed that it was difficult to provide suggestions for improvement, given the fact that our stories were quite personal. Understandably, we didn't want to seem critical of experiences that were quite profound or difficult. I’m considering changing the writing activity in the future to provide more opportunity for both “I like” and “I wonder” or “I suggest” feedback. I’ve had great conversations with participants that have really helped me in this reflection. (The first draft’s the worst draft… Growth mindset!)

Session 3: Pursuing Professional Growth Together. In last year’s spring PD days we pondered a key quote from Ron Berger that urges us to move students off of the treadmill of mediocrity:

“Most students, I believe, are caught on school treadmills that focus on quantity of work rather than quality of work. Students crank out endless final products every day and night. Teachers correct volumes of such low-quality work; it’s returned to the students and often tossed in the wastebasket. Little in it is memorable or significant, and little in it engenders personal or community pride. I feel that schools need to get off this treadmill approach and shift their focus from quantity to quality” (p. 8-9).

I’m a firm believer that often “the answer is in the room.” We know that often the most powerful learning occurs in engaging collaborative tasks with peers. So, in this last session, we opened up the space for each grade table to reflect on two major questions to help us deepen our desire to create learning for students to pursue deep learning with growth mindsets. The questions were quite simple: first, for the sake of our students’ and our own health, what should we stop doing? And second, what should we be doing more of? I was inspired by both lists.

As much as these lists are exciting (and they are extremely exciting to me!) what has inspired me most is the stories of teachers sharing with me what they’re doing in their classrooms.

Grade 2 teacher Lisa Vanderkuip from Beacon shared this story with me:

“This week, I’ve jumped in with my students with some of this to lay the framework for the project we are starting in a few weeks. Tuesday we brainstormed on how our brains grow. Wednesday we thought about “stop” thoughts and actions that can stop our brains from growing and learning and matched them with “start” thoughts and actions. Once we’d written it down, I gave them the words Fixed and Growth Mindset. Never to young to give them the vocabulary! I was amazed at what they came up with! Yesterday I taught an art lesson using Austin’s butterfly and introduced critique. I was excited by what I saw my students doing and saw them increasingly amazed at their own improvement in drawing a butterfly . It was also great to have discussed mindsets earlier in the week so when they started groaning about having to do multiple drafts, we could label the groan for what it was!”

Grade 8 teacher Rodney Kooy from Laurentian Hills shared with me the way he’s been using critique feedback through his Google classroom. He and some of his students were happy to share this sample of his students using a persuasive essay group feedback form that I think is fantastic.

My colleague Laura has written about Halton Hills kindergarten teacherAmanda Vandervinne also using multiple drafts and classroom critique to help students foster a growth mindset. From the same school, another teacher has shared that the word mindset is popping up in their staff “lexicon.” One colleague said, “I’ve got a mindset to go for a donut!”

I love that playful banter. I think it isn’t just fun, it’s a sign of mental health and joy (and perhaps our Tim Horton’s addictions?) in our daily work. We also finished the PD day with a reminder to us all that we have to take care of our own mental health–our own sense of joy and balance might be the most important factor in helping our students to experience joy and growth too. So we finished with an activity that celebrated both our success and failure–a whole group “Rock-Paper-Scissors” tournament! 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Order Discovering AND a Request From Grade One

Today we began looking at the throughline Order Discovering
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of  the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the

ons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7

We were reminded that Order Discovering means:
  • Discovering ORDER in God’s creation
  • Understanding that creation is NOT random, but full of ORDER and PATTERNS
  • Seeing God’s fingerprints all over creation!
We marveled at some of God's fingerprints while watching this:

We will continue digging into this continuing into March!

We also heard about Habitat for Humanity and the work that they do in our community. Grade 1 thought about the fact that not everyone has a home in Niagara and they thought, "That's Not Fair!" They thought and thought about ways to help. 

First we learned about the organization:

And then we were challenged by Grade 1 to raise some money for nails. Watch this awesome video from our Grade 1 class:

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Learning Through Play in JK/SK

Ocean Exploration

Ocean scenes...

Great teamwork....


Deep sea fishing...

A basketball and a lot of tape shows us how much of the earth's surface is actually covered in water....Thanks Bill Nye.

Background shows the world with its 4 major oceans labeled.

Sorting animals into two groups....ocean animals or other....

Going underwater for a dive...happy exploring!

An octopus...count the legs...there are 8!

Shells and sea horses....


Sea turtle eggs are the size and colour of ping pong balls....did you know that?

The snow turned into a swordfish....very creative!

"Ocean, ocean what do you see?  I see a ..........looking at me."

Our ocean in the hallway....fantastic work boys and girls. We had a great two weeks of underwater exploration!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Justice Seeking

He has shown you, O people, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

What is justice seeking? We have been digging into this question during the month of February.

Justice Seeking starts with us noticing injustice. We need to see things around us that aren't fair. 

Mr. Kok and Mrs. Dykstra began our month by having us think of times we've been in situations that weren't fair and how we and others reacted. 
This may be unfamiliar to parents but is very familiar on our playground:
(and we can change out snow for leaves or sticks depending on the season)

 They then used words that escalate the situation

  • You always.....!
  • You never.....!
  • Don't do that!
  • That's mine!
They also reminded us that our body language can escalate too. With each action that escalates, they put a brick up. Pretty soon there was a brick wall between them!

Then we were reminded of words that de-escalate:

  •  I feel.... when you....
  • I think that.....
  • I don't understand....
  • I understand......

Our Grade 8 students shared a play with us to get us thinking.... 

We then were reminded of our restorative justice questions that we have learned over the years. 
What happened?
What were you thinking at the time?
What have you been thinking about since?
Who has been affected by what has happened?
What can be done to help make the situation right?

In our GIFT groups, students practiced scenarios and resolutions. 

This past week, we again thought about things in the world that aren't fair:

People without enough food
Religious persecution
People without water
Lack of health care in some countries
Babies dying because of lack of care. 

Each GIFT group posted on of their ideas on the wall. Then in GIFT groups, students looked for articles in the newspapers that showed injustice. A few students also chose to draw pictures showing injustice as well. We displayed these on a poster board and covered them with scripture. 

We pray for God's nearness in all the situations of injustice in our schools, homes, playgrounds and in the world around us.