It was early morning on one of the first beautiful days of spring and a wonderful time for the fifth grade students’ field experience to the Birdcraft Museum in Fairfield. Each year prior to this experience, I tell the students we are going to see how birds are banded and find out the many reasons why birds are banded in the first place. And each year this announcement is met with little enthusiasm, not knowing what to expect, but as is usually the case, this changed very quickly when we arrived at the center. The volunteer banders explained that this is usually a very busy time of year for them. Birds from as far as Arctic tundras and southernmost parts of South America, view this grassy area in the midst of a concrete jungle and seek refuge. The students had the opportunity to observe different bird species being banded; a robin with a pronounced brood patch, two cat birds, one already banded, an American Redstart and the shy and somewhat elusive Yellow Rumped Warbler and the Red Eyed Vireo! The creatures were banded, weighed and checked to see how old they might be, among other things. They had so many questions and answered just as many! After we watched these birds banded and released by students, we walked the picturesque grounds of the center making observations using binoculars, of other birds and reptiles. We also were shown the nets that are hung between trees where the birds are caught for banding. During our short hike we observed turtles, a pair of mallards and a goose sitting on her nest of eggs. It was a great day and a wonderful opportunity for the students to get an up close view of these creatures!
For the fourth Earth Day in a row the Upper School focused on a theme related to one of the greatest challenges facing our planet. This year the focus was on Global Warming and specifically the impact of rising CO2 on the world’s oceans. Students traveled to Stratford, CT to explore and plant sawgrass at Stratford Point. This exploration had robust science and ecological activities, raised social awareness, and is part of the science curriculum. We worked in concert with Sacred Heart University and Dr. Jennifer Mattei in the Living Shorelines Project to plant sawgrass next to geodesic domes to help combat erosion due to rising sea level.
After lunch the Upper Schoolers led their Lower School partners in afternoon activities demonstrating the effects of Global Warming. For instance 2nd and 3rd graders learned about melting glaciers with their 6th and 7th grade partners.
The fifth graders have been working on a weaving project that uses corrugated cardboard as a loom. They took small blocks of cardboard and created a pattern that involved planning interesting shapes. After painting and constructing the loom, they used thread to create the warp and then used brightly colored yarn to weave with. Finally, they designed a background for their projects by weaving two pieces of painted paper together. It was a wonderfully mindful introduction to complex weaving patterns and a great lesson in the importance of planning and following procedures.
Fifth grade recently explored what it takes to create an animation out of single images. In order to have a deeper appreciation of the end result of our work, we first explored cartoons that were created by hand, with single images put together and played at a speed where the images came to life. This project took time and patience as it required many copies of images, sometimes as many as 25 in order to get the image to move and tell a story. The students enjoyed the project and will be exploring more ways of creating animations in the future!
Fifth graders are in the midst of learning about Los Voladores de Papantla, a group of men that perform an indigenous dance in Mexico. We have learned that there is a lot of symbolism built into this ritual. In fact, we did the math and there are four participants that fly around a very high post a collective total of 52 times to represent the weeks in a year. The footage of these flyers evoked a lot of emotion in us! So much in fact, that we took this as an opportunity to broaden our understanding and ability to express our emotions in the target language. We discussed how we would feel before, during and after participating in such a high stakes activity. We then examined our emotions surrounding other life scenarios: the taking of a test, for example, or the watching of our favorite movie. As a follow-up activity, student actors mimed many different emotions and sensations as their classmates guessed how they were feeling. I captured the raw emotion in photographs and students were then gifted a complete set of photos from the activity. Next, they were charged with creating a collaborative poster. The finished product helps us to tune into our emotions everyday and to be honest, the photos make us laugh too!
I still can’t believe how excited grade 3 through grade 6 students are about making dumplings for the Chinese New Year assembly day lunch. One of the third grade students even told me,” I am so happy we can make dumplings. I don’t want to just sit there eating. Making dumplings is more fun!”
Here you go! From all of the photos, I am sure you feel what students have felt. Or maybe more, if you would like to talk to them and let them describe what they have just experienced. Learning by doing. It all works here!