Continuing our studies of mammals and how they adapt to survive winter, we began to explore the concept of insulation. With Mr. Ross-MacCormack we went outside and looked at several materials that are meant to keep us warm. We touched the items first, examining the different textures and thicknesses. Volunteers were chosen to be wrapped in different materials to see if they helped keep them warm. We compared the items and identified what characteristics they had in common.
One budding engineer remarked, “I was warm except for the part where the hole let the air in!” Air… We felt all the best types of insulation and realized they had air trapped inside! Once we returned to the makerspace we investigated trapping air and realized that the warmth wasn’t coming from the material it was coming from our bodies!
In kindergarten today we learned a new song called “Snow Day”! The students played many different rhythms in this song! We used quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes! Students listened to the rhythm patters and were able to successfully play them back using the drums. After playing these rhythm patterns kindergarten discussed how they were the same and different from one another! Students are beginning their journey to be great rhythm players and readers!
Down in Kindergarten we spend quite a bit of time on the most diverse animal group, mammals. Call us biased but we think the group deserves it. We studied mammal adaptations from living in trees, to living underground, to living in pouches! Talk about a wide range, mammals can be as small as a pygmy lemur that could fit in your hand to the largest animal that ever lived, a blue whale.
A blue whale is approximately 90 feet long, but exactly what does that look like? In a cross curricular activity, we honed our measuring skills by measuring a blue whale with a non-standard unit of measure, our arm spans. Next, we talked about mammal intelligence, learning how mammals use the environment around them to help them survive. During our next Makerspace activity we took to the parking lot and dug caves into the snow, feeling for ourselves how much warmer we felt when protected from the wind. With weather like this, sleeping in a cave for the next few weeks doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Finally we focused on the primate group, learning how lemurs, monkeys and apes have many human traits. To really appreciate our opposable thumbs we spent some time trying to do everyday tasks without them. After trying to write, cut and button without using these digits we all agree … thumbs up for opposable thumbs!
As part of our year long quest to be the kindest Kindergarten in town, the Unquowa youngsters set out on a cold blustery day to leave a note of kindness on every car in the parking lot. The kids loved the challenge of writing so many notes. Notes contained phrases like, You are beautiful. You are a superhero. You are loved. Who wouldn’t want to find such reassuring words on their car? My favorite part of this activity is hearing the teachers tell us about finding their note and how it brightened their day. Do not let the kindness stop here, put a smile on someone’s face today!
At the beginning of October, the fifth graders began collaborating with kindergarten “buddies” to craft not-so-spooky stories. In our first meeting together, we listened to the short story, “The Pink Jellybean,” to get a sense for what kind of mood we wanted to create in our tales. Then, the students rolled dice to select the setting, character, and problem for each of their stories using a specialized game board. The kindergarteners loved having a part in the process, and the fifth graders excitedly began work on crafting their stories.
In our next work session, the students shared their first drafts with their kindergarten partners and modeled a peer editing session. The kindergarteners gave them feedback – what they liked about their story, what they were confused by, what they’d like to see added, and more. The fifth graders got busy revising and editing their pieces, while the kindergartners worked hard at illustrating their collaborative stories.
All of this hard work culminated in a wonderful autumnal event! The fifth grade and kindergarten classes, along with their families, came together around a campfire on the evening of October 27th right here on campus. The students got to share their creative and kooky stories, complete with illustrations by their kindergarten buddy, while sipping on cider and enjoying the beautiful fall night.
This summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to Denmark through to the Virginia Birdsall Grant. I spent a week visiting 6 different “Forest Kindergartens.” Although the settings were vastly different, the concept was the same – children learn best through play. To us, it might seem like these children are dangerously playing in the woods all day – and to some degree that is true – but they are also developing gross and fine motor skills, learning to cooperate and problem solve and maybe most importantly developing confidence by not avoiding tasks they may not succeed at. Upon my return to America and my classroom at Unquowa, I set the goal to spend at least one hour a day outside with my students. Some of that time purely for enjoyment and another block for an academic subject taught in nature. So far this year we have spent time building, climbing and swinging – things that may look like just playing but are also helping build spatial skills, develop motor skills and learn how to navigate the complexities of social interactions. We have also been observing, writing and working together, laying the groundwork for future scientists. authors and engineers while deepening students’ respect for the natural world.