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Prairie Creek
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We had a great conversation this afternoon about a phenomena that Simon observed while out on a hike. He saw that there were places where a leaf had sunk into the snow in a perfectly leaf shaped hole. I took the Herons out to take a look at this and then we had a great conversation about what might have caused this to happen. One of the things that we've been looking at in professional development is how important it is to identify what kids are currently thinking about science. Kids (well, humans in general) are constantly making observations and... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Rookery
Pi Champion, 2018 Our annual Pi Day was a lot of fun. Students got to discover pi for themselves and learn about the history of pi as well as have fun with a variety of pi activities. It's a chance for students to have fun with numbers and experience awe in math. They won't use pi for calculations "officially" for a year or two -- but the sense of a wider world of math that is full of wonder is an important thing for us to impart. Our pi recitation celebration was a big success. My favorite moment was when... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2018 at The Rookery
I was proud of the students who left classes today to honor the seventeen Florida students who were killed a month ago. These kids are using their voice to affect change - something I hope that our students are learning to do in their own way during their time at Prairie Creek. We need kids who speak up and speak out when they see an injustice. I was struck by a grim Fermi problem when I heard about this protest. How long would they have to walk out to honor everyone who had been killed in a school since Columbine... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2018 at The Rookery
It's fundraising season again at Prairie Creek. Our annual auction is this Friday. As always, I am bowled over by the work that our community puts in to plan and carry out this major event (this year, led by Robin parent Jodi Doeden). It is an amazing gift to work at a school that is so well supported by its parent community. I wish we lived in a country that made educating its children a top priority. I wish that parents and teachers didn't need to put all that time and energy into planning auctions. But given that schools are... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
It seems hard to believe that I've been at Prairie Creek for fifteen years - and harder to believe that, in many ways, not much has changed in that time. Why do so many teachers stay (and stay and stay?) Simply put, we are so supported by our leadership, our board, and our families. When I was at the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies conference on Monday, I got a chance to meet a lot of other teachers and was, once again, reminded of how Prairie Creek is different. So many of the teachers I met lamented that they... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2018 at The Rookery
Night - The Herons wrapped up their night theme by creating constellation blackboards for the rest of the school to enjoy. When we reflected on the theme we were surprised by how much had done but we also decided we were ready to move on to a new theme. It's the first time that we've used the panels as part of a theme culmination and we were excited about their potential. Constellation Panels Fire and Ice Forest school has been a lot of fun these past two weeks. Special thanks to Tom who came in and made fire starters with... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2018 at The Rookery
STEM day was last week. We were so lucky to have so many scientists, mathematicians, and engineers visit our school and teach our children. Not only were they willing to do that, but they also taught our children in multi-age groups. Each group had children from ages 5-11 in it. Imagine the challenge of engaging that range of children in learning about science! Our presenters did that beautifully, and in doing so, they helped us to reinforce the power of multi-age learning. If you think about it, separating people out by their age is a pretty unusual thing to do,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
"What does music sound like to a fish?" Children gathered in gym early on Thursday to launch STEM Day 2018. Organizers Sarah Sword and Michelle Martin set the scene for a morning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities led by a cohort of local professors, doctors, mathematician and community... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2018 at News from the Director
A trip to Menards always means mischief for me and this weekend was no exception. I found squarish plastics pails like Tidy Cat cat litter containers. I was reminded of some ice blocks I'd seen made for a winter celebration by Leondardo's Basement. I'd always meant to make some for school but getting a cat and buying it Tidy Cat litter seemed like a lot of work to make ice blocks. $2.50 per bucket however seemed I grabbed them. The Herons asked about the new green buckets right away and I shared my plan. Off they went to fill... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2018 at The Rookery
Wolf Ridge isn't easy. It isn't easy physically for the kids. It isn't easy for the chaperones to take a week away from work and family. It isn't easy to raise money for the bus and scholarships. It isn't easy for families to get gear and save money for the tuition. It isn't easy emotionally for many kids to be away from home for a week. It isn't easy emotionally for many parents to watch their kids take this leap toward independence. It isn't easy as a teacher to be on twenty-four-seven - taking care of teaching as well as... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2018 at The Rookery
Here's what we think the fourth graders will love next year: Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at The Rookery
Another fantastic day! Frozen lake study and winter survival --- spoiler alert: we all survived. Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2018 at The Rookery
We had a tremendous day. We had birds this afternoon and we saw pine grosbeaks on the bird feeders. We tracked a ruffed grouse and found its frozen scat. The chickadees flocked to our heads and hands at chickadee landing - it was amazing. I've never seen them so eager. Every kid had multiple chickadees land on them. We got to band a chickadee, too. From there, we saw a presentation on raptors, and split into our night groups where some of us rock climbed, others dissected owl pellets and some went on a night hike. (That was my group... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2018 at The Rookery
Our latest arts residency has focused on poetry and book making, and it has been a rich experience for our students. The residency was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Let's hear it for Minnesota voters! We got to work with a professional poet named Rachel. The Robins have each written poems and chosen one to include in their book. We took a field trip to the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, where we got to do paper... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
All 20 Herons sledding together! The Herons have fully embraced our snowy January during Forest School (and during PE, too!) We began with a rousing bucket brigade to make wood piles in sub-zero temperatures (thanks, Roehls, for the wood!) We also got all of the cross country ski stuff organized for the season and were rewarded by being the first on the slopes to the North of school (thanks, Mr. Dilly, for permission to use your field!) We've been trying to find mink tracks in the creek - but no luck! The creek is iced completely over and the drifts... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2018 at The Rookery
Herons preparing for night vision experiment. Amidst the conference prep, the poetry, the personal projects and the snow days, our night theme has continued. We had a fascinating visit from Jay Demas who taught us about the eye and the body and brain's response to light. At one point, we covered up one of our eyes for about twenty minutes and then went into our kitchen. When the lights went out - it seemed pitch black. Until we lifted up the patch on our other eye which could see well by the exit sign lights - a kind of grainy... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2018 at The Rookery
“I think we are all poets at heart.” Rachel Moritz (Prairie Creek’s Poet-in-Residence) During conferences, fifth grader Maggie stopped by my office. She wanted to interview me for an article she was working on about the Beyond Words arts’ residency. Maggie piece is going to be published in the student... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2018 at News from the Director
Quite a few years ago now, I blogged about a professional development session with local counselor Nancy Gregerson that really made an impression on me. I continue to use her powerful ideas to guide my social skills lessons with the Robins. The Robins have begun working with these ideas together. I begin by putting up a poster with the ideas listed. We talk through them, clarifying, asking questions, and sharing experiences that connect to these skills (or lack thereof). Every year, I am reminded of how hungry children are for these conversations. At that professional development session, Nancy argued that... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
Night Moves We began a new "Night" theme before break. I read excerpts from The Complete Book of the Night and we brainstormed topics it would be cool to know more about. (A side note - sometimes a traditional "know and wonder" chart in which we formulate questions about a topic can be too limiting. Identifying areas we are curious about (or bundling questions under "umbrellas" can be helpful to open up the exploration.) Our list was very long: constellations, the solstice, night celebrations, nocturnal animals (and plants), sleep, dreams, space, northern lights, lightning bugs, phosphorescence and bioluminescence, night vision,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2017 at The Rookery
In June of 2007, the first iphone was released. My son Jordan was 15. My youngest son, Miles, was 13. My children lived their teen years in the midst of a very rapid explosion of screen availability. Looking back, I’m not sure I felt equipped to guide my kids through... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2017 at News from the Director
Wrapping Up Remy and I had a great time at the Herons' "Into the Unknown" event, roaming around the school and watching the Herons strut their stuff. As a teacher, you live for the moments when the class is humming -- focussed on their work, independently driven to do their best. Remy and I were completely superfluous (besides making some extra copies or getting a few more markers.) The Herons were poised and professional. They greeted our guests and taught with confidence and enthusiasm. There was something for everyone - whether you were hoping to avoid scurvy or interested in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2017 at The Rookery
This is a period in the school year when many classes are wrapping up a thematic study. Typically, this involves something we generally refer to as a culminating event. So, what is a culminating event, and why is it such a staple of the progressive education experience for children? Concluding... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at News from the Director
This will be a quick post with lots of photos. Our field trip to Como last week was amazing. We had a class called "Keepers of the Zoo and Gardens", the highlight of which was a behind-the-scenes tour of the conservatory gardens and a talk with one of their horticulturists. The other part of our day was spent in small groups (thanks to plenty of chaperones!) exploring the gardens with these questions in mind: Which plants from our play can we find? Where can we see evidence of plant adaptations? Where can we see examples of symbiotic (and other, less... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
Como Park We had a great field trip on Tuesday to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. It is one of my favorite places to go with classes - we always find something amazing to marvel at. It is never crowded and its smaller scale invites discovery...and its admission is a suggested donation so it is truly a zoo for all. We began the morning with a class with a zoo keeper that took us behind the scenes. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to go back into the green houses and talk with the arborist who cares for the Japanese garden.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2017 at The Rookery
Michelle allowing me to try my darnedest to not only fill in for her the past two weeks, but work towards coming into my own as a teacher has been nothing but a wonderful opportunity. I however, don’t think you’re here to read my story, so let’s talk about what your kids have been up to. We wrapped up Lewis and Clark and are working towards the culmination of our Explorers theme so allow me give you a quick summary of what the two weeks of being immersed in the Lewis and Clark expedition looked like for the Herons. This... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2017 at The Rookery