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Prairie Creek
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On Friday, my plan was to write a post about our theme and how's it's wrapping up. I will still do that, but first I need to go in a different (but related) direction. Yesterday, I spent my Saturday at the MN-NAME conference. (That stands for Minnesota chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education. It's a mouthful for sure.) I have been going to this conference for the past three or four years, and I always walk away from the day with my head full of great new questions, ideas, books to buy, and things to think about. This... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Robin's Egg Blue
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Making (and tasting) shrubs with Margit. Fourth and fifth graders are able to be two places at one time. Developmentally, they are just now able to pretend...and know they are pretending. They haven't lost the skills of creative play but they have gained the skills of analysis. Because of this, role play is an incredibly rich tool to use when learning about history. (Cathy's written beautifully about the Robin's Voyageur role play here and here. Two weeks ago, the Herons began to learn some background information about the British colonies in North America. They were politely interested about the Northern,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Rookery
Our day took an unexpected turn today when I heard a murmur about teasing on the bus. It seemed that there was a fair amount of drama about who had a crush on whom. I brought it up to the Herons in our class meeting and yes, it was going on and yes, a lot of kids were involved. It was the perfect opportunity to talk about crushes and friendships and, mostly, the importance of respecting others. "The crush game" is a perennial issue in elementary school. Kids who have friends who aren't the same gender as them or are... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Rookery
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There’s a child-created sign in the hallway at school that gives the following directive: “Be kind to those you don’t know.” It has been there for a while. I’ve probably walked past it hundreds of times. Hmm….Be kind to those you don’t know. Really? We’re supposed to do that? My... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at News from the Director
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Our Minnesota history theme continues. Our first round of role play centered on the life and work of the voyageurs. Now, in our second round, we are trying to bring to life the fur trading post and the lives of the Indians (Dakota and Ojibwe) who would have hunted, prepared, and traded the beaver pelts that were sought after in Europe for making hats. We have done a lot of reading and learning about these people, especially the Ojibwe. One of our best and most interesting sources is the historical fiction book The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. This has... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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We are in the midst of a geometry rotation right now and I am teaching about angles and triangles. Geometry is a branch of mathematics that has a lot of vocabulary in it -- and it can be tempting to start there: acute, obtuse, perpendicular. But students need understanding on which to hang all of these new words...otherwise they are simply "words, words, words" with no matter in them (apologies to Hamlet.) To begin with, the concept of an angle is pretty abstract. Measurement for most kids still relates to lines. I can draw two identical angles (degree wise) but... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2018 at The Rookery
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Last weekend, I was invited over to a friend’s house to join in a “chainsaw clean-up” party. Who would turn down that invitation? My buddy was one of the many Northfield resident’s who suffered significant property damage during the recent tornado-spawning storm. I joined a crew of volunteers who cheerfully... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2018 at News from the Director
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Counting our line plot data to determine mode. Working with real data and analyzing what it's telling us is an on-going project in fourth and fifth grade. I have come to believe that it's one of the most important skills citizens in a democracy need. We are bombarded with studies and averages and graphs -- unless we have a strong foundation in data handling, we are at the mercy of the people who are interpreting the data for us. Civic Center Data This past week, we crunched the data we collected about the Northfield Civic Center. First of all, we... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2018 at The Rookery
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Yesterday, the Robins managed to get outside during a lull in the storm and do our voyageur role play. It was important to get outside for this, because voyageurs were a rough and rowdy bunch, so there was much yelling, cheering, off-key singing, and teasing going on. The day before our role play, students were assigned a character to bring to life. Most are voyageurs, but we have some others who are along on our journey: an Ojibwe wife of one of us, a priest, a doctor, a trading post clerk, a wealthy trading company partner. As students found costume... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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We sing a lot here at Prairie Creek. Singing has always been an important part of the school culture. I noticed this first when I joined the school as a fourth and fifth grade teacher back in 2002. Singing was everywhere. Children were singing in classrooms, making musicals and filling... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2018 at News from the Director
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It seemed we couldn't go more than a few feet without encountering another wonder. On Friday, naturalist John Latimer came to talk with the Herons and take a walk with us. We headed out the green doors and showed him the fruiting magnolia tree we'd been watching. He was amazed - and soon showed us so many more things to be amazed by -- we opened the fruit to inspect it, we examined a bud that would be opening next spring, we learned about the magnolia's range (John had never seen one this far North). We turned around and headed... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2018 at The Rookery
This week we had a great discussion about our Internet and computer use contract. It began, of course, with a conversation about always understanding everything in a contract before you signed it! That imperative led to a rich, lively and, I hope, meaningful exchange. I've shared parts of our contract and the conversation it engendered below. To make the post a little easier to read, I've highlighted the bits of the contract in blue and our conversation about each bit follows. This is a great time to review/revise your family's computer use expectations, too! It's much easier to put guidelines... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2018 at The Rookery
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The first weeks of school are full. As a teacher, I continue to learn how to balance my talking with student voices in these early weeks as we are building routines and coming together as a classroom community. Each class of Robins has its own group personality; it's own "vibe", something ineffable that's hard to describe but easy to "feel", especially after so many years of teaching. This class's "vibe" so far is feeling relaxed, cooperative, and welcoming. Does your Robin agree? I'd be truly interested to know. There are many ways that we work to build a sense of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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Just one of the many joys of leading in a small school is the likelihood of bumping (often literally!) into children as I move through the building. Still, with 180 children around I've learned that I need a few strategic moves to increase the likelihood that I will connect with... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2018 at News from the Director
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In much of the world, students don't learn "math" they learn "maths" -- I think it's an apt way to think about mathematics, especially at Prairie Creek. We don't learn math in a single way at a single time but instead weave instruction into a variety of blocks during our day. In the coming week we'll begin our regular math routine and I wanted to share its elements with you. Foundation Math In foundation math, students develop fluency with computational approaches. Once students understand the underlying concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, they are ready to move to more... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2018 at The Rookery
As I was preparing for curriculum night, I decided that in addition to including this part in my handout, I also wanted to put it on the blog. I hope you will read and it and bring me any questions it raises for you. I offer you this brief overview about some of the ways that I am thinking about social justice, diversity, and equity issues, and about how I am weaving those issues throughout our curriculum. Please feel free to approach me for discussion on any of this. This is a journey for me—for years, I’ve been trying to... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
Our new year is off to a great start! The Robins are coming together to form a classroom community. We have already dipped our toes into our first theme. We will study the fur trade in Minnesota: the historical period, the events, and the people involved. We'll learn about the voyageurs and the Native people with whom they traded. We will focus primarily on the Ojibwe people, but we'll also learn about the Dakota. We are listening to Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House as our first read aloud. We have already done a know and wonder chart as a class,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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There is nothing like the first day of school. We are nervous and excited. Eager to meet new classmates and a little sad about friends who have moved on to new schools. Ready to do new things and ready to return to old stories and routines. We began the day with reading "just right" books. We had a great discussion about our book diet. Do we read all different kinds of books or is our diet a little bland? We identified the genre of the book we are currently reading and recorded it in our Blue Books (more on those... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2018 at The Rookery
This summer I am taking a class in number theory. Number theory is defined as the study of integers (whole numbers) but is also a lot about how numbers work. It's something I knew of and had played with a little but it didn't go much deeper than that. As adults, most of us very rarely do something that is completely new to us. We spend our lives in the comfort of competence. And yet, our children are asked to spend large swaths of their day learning brand new things. It's hard, hard work. (A few years ago, some of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2018 at The Rookery
Hello Robin parents! I hope you are enjoying these last sweet days of summer! In my online reading, I have come across this article that I want to share with you. It is written by a teacher, and it addresses many of the issues that we teachers at Prairie Creek talk about regarding the term "bullying". This is a powerful term with a very specific meaning, and it can be harmful when the term is applied too often or too quickly. I encourage you to read this article, and I welcome your thoughts and reactions. You can post them in... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
Happy Summer! I often find that August is a good time to reboot my summer intentions -- the basement is still not cleaned out, ditto that back corner of the yard. It's also a good time to set up routines that will flow into the school year. I don't mean chore routines (although those are great, too) but routines that will set the stage for successful learning. "Curiosity" is a thread that's run through my summer reading and listening. So often, we hear about how important it is for folks to have a "passion" or to be "passionate learners." It's... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2018 at The Rookery
Prairie Creek Community School is hosting an all-day conference on November 5, 2018 for educators, pre-service teachers, and administrators who are seeking innovative child-centered practices for their classrooms and schools. Do you ever get back from a conference and feel that no one gets what it means to be truly... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2018 at Imagine: Starting with the Child
I don't think I would ever go back to teaching children for just a year...but it does make the last day of school very hard. These kids have been a part of my daily life for the past two years - we've joked and laughed and learned and sometimes just sat in silent, sad wonder at some meanness in the world. Students always come back to visit but it's never quite the same. The ease we have today will never completely return. So, to help with the leave taking, we have a lot of traditions (I had a chance to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2018 at The Rookery
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Tomorrow will be our last phenology pod-cast of the year. Sharing our observations with folks in the Northland has become part of our routine. Seeing and noticing the world around us has also become part of our routine - in ways I had not fully anticipated when I agreed to be a part of the project this past summer. Phenology is derived from the latin phainein (to show) and ology (to study). Phenologists study when different things occur (or show) in nature. Humans have been collecting phenological data for hundreds of years (longer if you count things like recording floods... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2018 at The Rookery
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One of the hardest things to capture about life in a progressive classroom - but one of its most crucial elements - is the sense that learning is everywhere and we have but to uncover it. The adventure of learning together instead of the teacher setting the course along a well trodden path is a vital part of progressive education. But being ready and open to those serendipitous opportunities to learn together isn't easy. As the teacher, I need to be comfortable with a large map of learning, not just a linear way through material. I also have to have... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2018 at The Rookery