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Prairie Creek
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The Robins have completed our chemical testing of the creek water. We sampled three different spots: by the big field, near the culvert; behind the fort area known to students as "Dragon Pearl" (a center-ish location in our woods), and behind the new white shed. We collected water temperature data at each spot, too. Then students worked in three groups to run three different tests on their sample. We tested for pH, nitrates, and phosphates. (You can see the chart of our results among the photos). The results were the same for all three samples, except for the temperature--one was... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Robin's Egg Blue
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Our explorations of the creek continue. The diversity of macro invertebrates we are finding suggests that the water quality is good. Macro invertebrates we think we have found include: caddisfly larva, scud, snails (right- and left-handed, who knew?), riffle beetles, aquatic worms, and crayfish. We have also found fish and frogs. One student managed to catch an enormous bullfrog that was in the creek, too (see the picture below). We began our water quality testing by measuring the pH of creek water samples we collected. The pH is near 7--neutral! That's a good sign. We have decided on a design... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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If you ever want to make a group of 9-11 year olds happy, let them stomp in a creek. There is so much joy in exploration, in sinking your boots into the mud, in catching fish and other critters. There is also so much value in those things. I will layer some more formal science learning over these adventures: we are gathering data each day (air and water temperatures, depth of the creek), we are learning about macro invertebrates and what they tell us about water quality, we will collect water samples and test them for pH level and nitrate... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
Yesterday afternoon, the Herons took advantage of a sunny few minutes at the end of the day to play "Alaskan Baseball." It's a silly game and we were pressed for time so I didn't explain it very carefully, figuring we would get it as we went. Because of this confusion and lack of clarity, the first group up to bat scored ten points in the first moments of the game. The other group hadn't been sure how to get the runner out. I didn't make a big deal of it - figuring we just had time for a few more... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2017 at The Rookery
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Whole school brush hauling. A different kind of education. A hallmark of progressive education is the education of the whole child. We strive to nurture a child's academic, physical, emotional, and creative growth. Our honoring week is a celebration of this growth, the high point of our year. And then, every year, we exit our honoring week and enter our MCA testing; the juxtaposition can be jarring for us as educators. In many schools, the weeks (or, in some cases, months) leading up to MCAs are filled with practice tests and drills. Everything falls away except for the focus on... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2017 at The Rookery
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Here's some updates on our goings-on. Projects are complete! Honoring night was beautiful last night. I love to hear the mentors talk about their experiences with our fifth graders. Thank you to everyone who supported our process! The Robins also wrapped up our photography theme this week! We have an exhibit in the 4/5 library and hallways. Please come by when you are in the school sometime to see their work. Our next theme (mini-theme, really) will be nature. We will spend lots of time outside. We kicked off our theme today by going out into the lovely spring weather.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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Our project check list. Today was our first day of presentations and the sigh of relief was almost audible. It was so exciting to see the long months of project time come to fruition. The Herons (and all of the 4/5s) have been working so hard to wrap everything up. On the wall of our meeting area, we have a giant check list. Looking at it helps me reflect just how much independent work the students have done. Managing one's time and breaking down a huge task into smaller pieces is key learning in fourth and fifth grade. Very few... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at The Rookery
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Many thanks to Mr. Roehl, J.R.'s grandpa, who came by the Wednesday before break to help us tap the maple tree out in front of the school. We learned a lot about how to safely tap a tree and got to share some of our tree knowledge with him! Over break, W.J. and I checked the sap in the bucket and collected about four gallons. Today the Herons did the math and discovered that if we boil down our sap, we'll get about a pint of syrup. We also each got to try a dixie cup full of sap that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2017 at The Rookery
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Today we took a bit of time out of our regular math routine to celebrate the wonder of math. It was Pi Day (3/14) and we gathered together to wonder at the number that is pi -- it may be an irrational way to spend the morning, but hey. We began in the art room where there's a round carpet. A student measured his steps across the carpet and I "magically" determined the number of steps it would take for him to get around the carpet. And I nailed it (and although I wanted to take all of the credit,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at The Rookery
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One of the challenges (and joys) of teaching Forest School has been creating curriculum on the fly (no pun intended) to match the weather. Two weeks ago, I had planned to have the Herons sketch the square foot patches they had chosen last fall - the popsicle stick markers were newly emerged from the melted snow...then we got two inches of snow between one and four in the morning, scratching that plan. Last week, luckily, I had a good twenty four hours notice that it was going to be very windy. On Wednesday morning, we learned about the Beaufort scale,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at The Rookery
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On Friday, our fifth graders each took a turn giving a very short speech about one aspect of their experience at Wolf Ridge. These speeches serve a couple of important purposes: they give our younger children a glimpse at the Wolf Ridge experience (to which most students look forward for YEARS!), and they give our fifth graders a chance to share and a chance to practice those important public speaking skills. The fifth graders crafted and practiced their speeches, which were supposed to last between 30 and 60 seconds. They revised, they considered the best lead, they infused humor, they... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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"It's useful...actually." these were the words of a fifth grader when talking about our puberty education talks. Someone had erased that part of the day from the schedule and I took that as an opportunity for the class to talk about how challenging it can be to talk about puberty. Everyone (including the teachers) feels some apprehension about talking (for an hour!) about a topic which in our culture is often taboo. I asked the fifth graders to share their opinion about the previous year's discussion. They were very positive. "It was helpful to know about things." "It's not so... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2017 at The Rookery
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It’s auction time. I understand that you are being inundated with messages about the importance of supporting our little school with your financial contributions. I have to be honest and say that all these requests have put me in mind of the NPR member drives. I LOVE NPR, but I always get grumpy during their member drives. I don’t like listening to the incessant requests for money. I’m already a sustaining member! I think. I pay already—don’t ask me for more! But, sadly, the reality is that public radio relies on people’s generosity. And even more sadly, what we do... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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Heading Home - The Herons, Fall 2016 Our yearly auction is coming up and I know you are inundated right now with reminders and raffle tickets and invitations. Please know, we wouldn't have an auction unless we needed to. We are a public school. Public schools should be truly free. I wish we were funded so well that our class's every need and dream could be met without the support of our families and community. But that goal is not attainable right now - indeed, it seems a little farther away. So I am so glad to be a part... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2017 at The Rookery
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The Herons were at the ropes course, looking up at all of the events before we tried them out. Some were excited; some were nervous. Our leader, Emma, asked what we would need. One child volunteered, "Courage!" Emma pressed a little, "What do you mean?" Another Heron, who I knew was worried, yelled, "Pizza!" Before I could step in with a re-direction, Emma went with it. She laughed and said, "I am definitely going to en-pizza you when you are up there on the ropes course." For a few beats, I was puzzled, "En-pizza?" Then it hit me, "En-courage" Somehow,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2017 at The Rookery
Another wonderful day (funny how any day after a first afternoon of rain is a "wonderful day"). Tomorrow night we'll have our closing campfire so we won't be posting a video. We can't share our adventures with you upon our return on Friday. Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2017 at The Rookery
Day two dawned sunny and dry. We had too many highlights to list, but here are thirty: Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at The Rookery
We had a great first day. Yes, it rained. But the kids were in high spirits. They persevered and even had fun. It even looks like we're going to get to cross country ski! Best of all, they've upgraded the internet so I was able to upload the video in record time -- ten minutes! The sun'll come out tomorrow - and we'll continue the adventure a little less damp. Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2017 at The Rookery
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Wolf Ridge and Fourth Grade Week are central in our calendar - often it feels like we are doing a lot "before Wolf Ridge" and a lot "after Wolf Ridge." Fourth grade week and Wolf Ridge stand alone - busy, to be sure, but a different kind of busy. It's lovely to have a single focus for a while. The lead up to this week has been very busy. Cities We began a new theme - Engineering Cities. Students brainstormed a giant list of what made a city a city. We then "reverse engineered" the list, uncovering the human needs... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2017 at The Rookery
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The Robins have been fortunate to have two visitors this week who have come to help us extend our understanding of photography. The first was a retired St. Olaf professor named Gerry. He looked at some of the photos that the Robins have taken and helped them to think about them and talk about them with a critical eye. He also showed us some of his photos. He was a music professor, but he has a passion for photography, and he has done some professional photography work. He really helped us to extend our vocabulary and our understanding of how... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
Some recent conversations with students have gotten me thinking. One shared that a video they'd watched in spanish was 2 1/2 minutes long. "So I started doing the math and figured out that 8.3% of our class was the video...I think," she said. Another shared that he'd been bored on a car drive the past weekend and had been trying to figure out how many ounces were in a gallon. I shared with the students that I often pass time when I'm at stop lights behind people with 26.2 or 13.1 stickers (the lengths marathons and half marathons, respectively). What's... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2017 at The Rookery
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Our new theme is photography, and the Robins are loving it! It is really fun. I am using this MCV article as inspiration. We read it together and are taking the author's suggestion to set ourselves a daily challenge. After reading this article, looking at and discussing some professional photographs, and learning to use the iPad camera and move photos to Google Drive, we are now shooting photos. Our first day of shooting was experimenting with the camera, and students set their own challenge. The second day, we voted on "bird's eye view" as our challenge. Each session, students shoot... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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In their recently published book, Students at the Center, Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda explore the concept of student-centered learning through the lens of the Habits of Mind. When describing what a child-centered learning environment looks like, on a day-to-day basis, the authors attest that it manifests itself as "...... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at News from the Director
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Our whole school is deep in an opera residency with St. Olaf college. We are working with one of their J-Term classes to create an entirely original opera (story, songs, movement) that includes 180 students from K-5 in about three weeks. When I stop to think about that, I am always in awe of this school, and our collaborators, and our children. We have done this once before. This time, our story centers on the theme of immigration. We are working in bird buddy class groups, and each group is creating one act. Some of the grades 3-5 students auditioned... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue