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Prairie Creek
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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 7 days ago at Robin's Egg Blue
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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There is so much to say about our current plant theme that I really don't know where to begin. The Robins are deeply engaged in learning about plants and in planning our culminating event. We have done many different types of activities: discussions, experiments, simulations, observations, writing, drawing, measuring, data collection. We are looking forward to a field trip to the Como Zoo and Conservatory next week. The themes that are most engaging are usually the ones that are the most interdisciplinary. They are also the ones where a teacher can find just the right balance between teacher-driven and student-led.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
Hello parents, grandparents, friends, and others who read this little blog. It's the time of year when we ask you for money. I always dread it, sort of the way I dread the MPR member drive. I know that you are already supporting us, and I wish we didn't have to ask. I wish that our society valued education enough to fund schools adequately; I wish we could raise levies like Northfield just did. But it doesn't, and we can't. So we rely on our community, and we are grateful every day for this special little school and the amazing... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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Windbreak vers. 1.0 This past week at Forest School, things didn't go as planned. Greg has brought an awesome camp stove that he had and his child had made together - an ingenious device made from the ends of two aluminum cans. He'd used it before to cook lunch! The students were excited to learn about the stove and how it worked. They were especially excited about the hot water they could make into tea, cocoa or soup at the end of the lesson. Greg gathered them around to light it and...nothing. It wouldn't catch. Together the students brainstormed what... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2017 at The Rookery
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A field trip to Valley Grove Years ago, a Heron (well, he was an Elm, a precursor to the Herons) was considering the Habits of Mind and decided that we should have an extra one. "I think we should try to go Above and Beyond what is expected," he said. He thought it was important enough that it should be its own Habit of Mind and we agreed. It's been on our wall ever since. I feel so lucky to teach in a school community that supports us to go "Above and Beyond". The state's per pupil allowance would allow... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2017 at The Rookery
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Naturalist John Latimer visits the Herons. There is a deep irony about writing this blog -- the more excited I am about what is going on in the classroom, the more I want to share it thoughtfully and the more likely I am to put it off until I can "find the time to do it justice." So it's best I just begin. Forest School Greg Allen has volunteered to join us most Wednesdays (you are very welcome to join us, too!) and that has enabled us to try a new structure at Forest School. We split our time into... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2017 at The Rookery
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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 Oct 18, 2017 at Robin's Egg Blue
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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 Oct 17, 2017 at News from the Director
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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 journey...in 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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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