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Prairie Creek
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On Monday, I was out. Susan was the Robins' sub, and her morning message sign-in was: What is something I should know about the Robins? The majority of their answers had something to do with being loud. When I returned on Tuesday morning and saw the children's responses, I was struck (and a bit stricken). Is this how they see our class? Is this how they define themselves? I have been feeling really positive about the progress we have made as a class--we identified the problem, we sought solutions, we tried different things, and we are not nearly so loud... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Robin's Egg Blue
Last week I attended, along with five PCCS teachers, a conference in Boston. During a taxi ride from our lodgings to the conference center, I had a chance to chat with our driver. He wondered what had brought a team of Minnesotan educators all the Visiting Mission Hill, a Boston... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at News from the Director
As Remy and I reflected on the week, we were struck by just how busy the Herons have been. This is one of the sweet spots of the year when students thrill to see just how much they can accomplish: Explorers Ibn Battuta's cartoon notes On Monday, we learned about Ibn Battuta, an explorer from Tangiers who traveled throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. We've been working on note taking skills and the Herons really enjoyed creating visual notes (aka cartoon notes) of Battuta's life. The class used what they had learned about early exploration to create an... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2017 at The Rookery
Our mapping theme continues. We have learned a lot about maps so far, including reading maps and their parts, scale, and locating places using latitude and longitude. Each Robin has chosen a country, and we are in the midst of research in preparation for creating posters. We created sound maps, and we played around with Google Maps (did you know that you can visit the International Space Station via Google Maps? I didn't!). Our read aloud, The City of Ember, includes a map in the front, and we have enjoyed locating the action in the story on the map and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
Work by a younger student who was inspired by the Herons' ads We wrapped up our first mini unit on advertising this past week in which we had a lot of fun dissecting the ads they brought in to better understand the elements that go into creating an enticing advertisement. I picked up on the student's desire to talk about and understand false advertising throughout the first half of this unit. They showed me their passion for the topic as they clamored for fairness from the advertising we were viewing. I believe these feelings carry over from the social curriculum... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2017 at The Rookery
The first six weeks are busy ones in the 4/5s. We jump right into our academic curriculum (we just finished our first theme!). The teachers work hard to develop an understanding of each learners needs through a series of formative assessments. We work to establish our routines and, most importantly, we come together as a community of learners. That work has several parts: We the Herons... We began with a process to determine our class beliefs. Partnerships made of a fourth and fifth grader brainstormed the things they felt were most important for us to remember as we learn together... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at The Rookery
A week ago, the Herons had a fantastic trip to Valley Grove. We spent the morning in a rotation -- learning about Prairie plants with Greg and Liz, practicing knife safety and knots with me, exploring the history of the cemetery with Tom and using a compass to survey the hilltop with Remy. We were very busy! In the afternoon, Tricia and Tom joined us for an adventure in the creek. We started at the water fall -- which is very impressive in the spring but more of a water trickle right now -- and made our way about a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2017 at The Rookery
The Robins have been busy building classroom community, setting shared expectations for our work together, and beginning our academic work. Some highlights: Our STEM station writing assignment is coming along. Every Robin is designing a display for the STEM station in our classroom. These will be displayed throughout the year on a rotating basis. You are always welcome to come in and take a peek at them. One student is finished, so his may go up in time for conferences next week. We have enjoyed some informal science learning thanks to CG, who brought in his butterfly habitat. The Robins... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
Prairie Creek is a community school Parents, teachers, staff, and students cooperate with one another and with others outside the school to create a joyful and challenging climate for learning. (from the PCCS mission statement) “Very busy, but good!” That is my default response when I’m asked how the year... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2017 at News from the Director
Over twenty admiral butterflies were on the sedum we observed during forest school! Wednesday (the second day of school!) was our first day of Forest School. Every Wednesday, the Herons will spend a large part of the day outside. When we plan the day, we think of three different kinds of work. The first is "education outdoors" where we are doing something similar to what we'd be doing indoors but just in an outdoor setting. We spend the first half hour of Forest School reading. On beautiful days like this Wednesday, we take our books out and Remy and I... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2017 at The Rookery
Chronicles of the Cranes NEWSLETTER September 8, 2017 Standing on the Shoulders of our Predecessors At my mother’s memorial service this summer, we ended by lighting candles for all the people in our family that have passed in our time. This remembrance was a way to acknowledge that we are... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2017 at Chronicles of the Cranes
Whew! Week one was a busy and happy (and very loud) one in the Robins! We are getting to know each other and setting norms and routines in the classroom. We began our math learning with some data collection and graphing. You'll see the results of that at curriculum night. Our first theme is mapping. We had only one session of theme work this week, but it was really engaging. We put out all of the maps we brought to share and worked with a partner to explore the maps. Some pairs looked at lots of different maps, and other... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
The Herons had a great day getting to know each other. All summer, it's hard to imagine the class without the graduating fifth graders. Then, suddenly, the new Herons walk through the door and it quickly becomes hard to imagine the class any other way. I'm so excited to be a part of this new community. Today we created survey questions to ask the rest of the class. We'll take the data we collect to make pictographs, bar graphs and circle graphs to include in a book of infographics about the Herons. We talked about "forced choice" surveys in which... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2017 at The Rookery
It may seem strange to reflect on the closing of our year back in June when our momentum at this point in the summer is urging us toward September (why do the stores put "Back to School" things up in July?!) But the end of the year is closely linked to its beginning. The final days of school hold many traditions - serious and silly - that mark the end of our time together as a class. It's no small thing to leave each other and rituals can help us mark the passing of our class. The configuration of personalities... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2017 at The Rookery
This is a great article! It's full of excellent advice and information for raising readers from birth. The article makes the argument that many people think that middle grade books (for ages 8-12) are the best, and I am certainly one of those people. The books for kids in grades 4 and 5 are wonderful. I love having time in the summer to read a new pile of them. I hope that you and your child(ren) are having a fun summer full of lots of great books! Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
The end of the school year always moves so quickly -- I often return to the blog and realize how much has happened that I didn't have the chance to share with you. With all three of my kids off to the same camp (summer Village) and them not needing volunteers to teach Peep University classes just yet, I've found myself with the chance to share some of the Herons' goings-on in the last month of school. I'll start with Forest School. On the day before May Day and the start of Village, we went to the Cannon River Wilderness... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2017 at The Rookery
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 Apr 26, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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
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
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
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
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
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
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