Sunday, May 28, 2017

Caring for Homeless Animals: A Caring Project

Our school was doing a school wide focus on caring for the community.  We had decided to focus on supporting our local pet shelter SICSA and a local service dog trainer.  Our driving question was "How can we help SICSA and the service dog trainer help animals?"  I read this true story about a dog named Nigel to the kids and it had a powerful impact on them.

It is about a dog who was not loved or taken care of very well by his owner.  They don't go into a lot of detail about this part of this dog's life, but the picture is powerful. It shows a dog who is skin and bones chained up in a yard full of trash. Someone sees him and calls the local shelter.  It goes on to show how the local shelter helped him heal physically, took care of him and then found him a forever family.  The dog is well loved and taken care of by his new family but gets stressed when the children leave for school.  They solve the problem by taking him to the local library for kids to read to him.  It is based on a true story and really hit home in a child-appropriate way how a shelter works and even introduced them to what a service dog can do.

We were doing a school wide fundraiser for SICSA and a local service dog trainer.  The class who won the most money was going to have a dog from SICSA come visit their class. After reading that book, the kids brought in money every single day.  I was blown away by the generosity of them and their families. We brought in the most money by far and you could tell it was more about helping the shelter and the service dog trainer than getting to see the dog.  I was so proud of them!

We had talked about other things that we could do to help the local shelter and decided on creating cat toys for the homeless cats to play with.  We went online and picked out a few that they felt they could create and that I knew we had materials for. They made toys that would exercise their bodies and brains. Here are some of their homemade cat toys.

TP tubes decorated with treats inside.  The cats have to use their brains to figure out how to get them out and they have to exercise as they try to get them out. 
These are to give the cats exercise as they bat them around and they roll and bounce so that they have to chase them.
Wine corks with feathers duck taped to them for cats to play with for exercise.
TP tubes in a tissue box with treats in some of them.  The cat has to figure out how to get the treats out.
Bottles with treats in them. Take the caps off and as the cats roll them around, treats randomly fall out.
Fishing poles for the workers to play and interact with the cats to give them exercise.

Here are all of the cat toys they made.

The day SICSA came,  we gathered everything including some soft, comfy blankets that one of our families also donated for the animals beds and took them to the gym to present them along with everything the other classes made for them. Some made thank you cards for the volunteers and posters showing new families how to take care of their new pet.

Unfortunately, I was not here the day that SICSA and the service dog came so a substitute got to have all the fun of seeing their joy so I do not have any pictures of that day, but here is a picture from Mrs. Addington of the puppy that SICSA brought for the kids to pet!  What a cutie!  I hope he finds a forever family soon!

This was such a wonderful way to give the kids a chance to show empathy for those who cannot care for themselves.  This right here is true project based learning.  Projects with a purpose!  Projects that actually solve a problem or helps the community.  Because of that purpose, the kids were very invested in it.  They desired to help these animals out and did it through helping SICSA and a local service dog trainer.  If I would have started this sooner, I would have spent more time with them learning about service dogs and what they can do.  We had some discussions, but didn't have time to dig deeper. After we finished, the kids were still interested in pets and their needs. It was showing in their discussions and play, so we decided to dig a little deeper and learn more about what pets need to survive, be healthy and happy. That will be in the next post!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Skies: Using Art for Science

During our Sky Inquiry, we decided to create a collaborative art piece that showed the color of the sky for each day of April.  I love using art and science together! The kids would take turns looking at the sky, mixing paint to match the color of the sky that day, then add it to our canvas.

The kids loved this!  Here is our finished canvas.  Of course, we named it "April Skies."

We looked at the canvas to see what this piece of art they created told us about the sky in April and recorded what we noticed. Here is how we displayed it in the hallway outside of our room.

Art and Science are two of my favorite things so if I have a chance to use them together, I will!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Waiting Game: Trying To Figure Out Student's Interests.

After we had finished our Sky Inquiry, I was at a loss as too what the kids would want to investigate next so I started setting out things for them to explore to see if there was anything they would want to dig deeper into.  I tried plants and seeds.  I had observed a few checking out the flowers and seeds that they were finding outside.  I set up an area for them to explore the parts of a plant,

their favorite flower, the dandelion,

and let them plant either marigold or sunflower seeds.

None of this really interested them.  The stations were not visited and their was minimal interest shown when I read books about this subject. After giving it some time, I decided to move on.  Our caterpillars came in so I thought we would try butterflies.  What five or six year old isn't curious about butterflies? I set up an area for them to observe the caterpillars and explore butterflies through literature and art.

I couldn't believe it when only about 3 kids showed any interest in these caterpillars and butterfly books.  Most have had these same butterfly kits at home so this was all old news for many of them! The caterpillars were mostly ignored until they became chrysalises. They didn't even want to paint butterflies! After the butterflies emerged, the kids were very excited about them and observed them... for about 5 minutes and then they too were ignored...

Our school is doing a school wide Caring for the Community Rally and the focus is on caring for pets and pets without homes in the local shelters, so I as we started talking about this I noticed a buzz starting to happen.  They all started talking about their pets and asking questions about each others pets.  They started getting very animated as they talked with big giant smiles.  I remembered the Vet office they created earlier in the year as a side project and how much they loved that... so I asked if they would be interested in exploring pets further and I got a very excited reaction from them!  Pets it will be!  Stay tuned as we wonder and find out all that we can about pets!

But what about the time spent on these other things? Was that time wasted? Absolutely not!  I don't set up the whole room when I am testing an interest.  Just one or two areas.  The kids were still introduced to the concepts and some great discussions happened and we enjoyed some good books about these subjects. The very small groups who were interested enjoyed spending time in these areas.  It was still time well spent. The kids will have many other opportunities in their lives to learn more about any of these subjects.  Not everything will turn into a large scale inquiry or project. Some will turn into small group inquiries, some will be explored through play, and some will just not happen at all... and that's okay.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Rainbows, Prisms and Clouds: A Kindergarten Sky Inquiry

The kids had been showing interest in clouds so I asked them if they wanted to investigate the sky. They did so I found out what they knew and wondered so that I could see what direction this inquiry could go.  For the past two years, our sky inquiries led to the sun, moon, stars and planets, but this year the kids went in a different direction.

Most of our initial discussion seemed to revolve around the colors of the sky, clouds and rainbows. I started out by putting out invitations to explore sky colors in our art area.  We read "Sky Colors" by Peter Reynolds and I put out pictures of the sky around them for inspiration.  They created some beautiful Sky Colored art!

Each day, one of the kids gets to look at the sky and mix paint to try to match it. They then paint a stripe on our canvas to show the color of the sky that day.  This art piece will be titled "April Sky."  At the end of the month, we will use it to figure out which color the sky was the most during the month of April. This is a perfect mix of art, science and math.

The kids started talking about how rainbows were made, but were not satisfied with the answer of rain and sun.  Some started wondering how rain and sun created rainbows.  We watched a video on youtube that told us the sun's white light is made up of all the colors mixed together.  When they all mix they look like white light.  A prism will bend the light and separate it into its separate colors.  The kids thought this was pretty cool, but I could tell they wanted to explore this further. I set out a prism, box, CD, and flashlight for them to explore and see what they noticed.  They loved exploring with these materials.  They were fascinated and made the connection about the raindrop being a prism and bending the light!

We also saw an experiment where if you painted all the colors on a circle and then spun it really fast the colors would blend into white to show that all the colors mixed together make white.

We created one, but could not get it to work.  This was a good lesson to show us that not all experiments go as planned!

Of course they wanted to paint rainbows so some friends helped set out all the colors and we invited friends to come paint.  Our room became a very colorful place!

After we learned all that we could about how rainbows were made, I took them outside to see what they noticed about the clouds.  We laid down and discussed what we saw and noticed.  Some kids from other classes playing outside laid down with us and joined in on our discussion.

Through the week, we observed the sky and the clouds and learned that there are three main types of clouds: Cirrus, Cumulus, and Stratus.  We did an activity where each child created each of the three types of clouds and showed which were the highest and which were the lowest.  We started to discus the project for this inquiry and came up with a teaching mural in the hallway to show what they had learned.

Part of our group wanted to show the order of the colors in all rainbows.

We found material from a cloud a previous class made and used that for the our raincloud. A couple friends decided to paint raindrops directly on our mural while others wanted to make some that were more three dimensional so they strung blue beads onto yarn and hung them to our cloud along with some blue fabric and ribbon we found in our fabric drawer.

Some wanted to show the raindrop acting as prism and bending the white light into the colors of the rainbow.

The kids were noticing the different types of clouds as we watched the sky each day. We explored them through some books and the internet and showed what we learned by making the three main types of clouds.

Some kids wanted to show the three main kinds of clouds on our mural so we found some materials and they got to work!

We made some and added them to the top. Here is the finished teaching mural!

I wonder what they will explore next?