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Prairie Creek
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This afternoon, I jettisoned word work (and most of conference prep time) and took the Robins outside to help me ponder a scientific mystery. I happen to have spent a lot of time on our big field at recess this week, and I've grown increasingly curious about what's happening with the ice out there. In warm weather, it's a big grassy field. But lately, it's covered very unevenly with ice. Some of that ice is smooth, and some is bumpy. Some areas of the field have a lot of ice, and some are almost bare of ice. (The football game... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Robin's Egg Blue
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The circus has given us the myth of a world within the world -Linda Simon What is it about the circus that captures a child's imagination? Our fifth grade honors project kids would be quick to tell me that this is a "star" question - sufficiently open-ended to require some... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at News from the Director
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A formidable group...about to launch snowballs at me! We ended December a special Forest School lesson. Brandon came in and taught the Herons about the perfect cooking fire and we put together hobo packets of potatoes, butter and seasoning salt. They were delicious (and perfectly browned...thanks, Brandon!) The Herons were excited to try more outdoor cooking in the new year. We also had our first snow ball fight of the year on Wednesday. "Snow ball fight? How is that curriculum?" you might be thinking. Learning how to gauge others' reactions and monitor your own reactions is a crucial part of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2018 at The Rookery
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Fractions. Even for adults, the word can bring on a shudder. Often, we were taught mnemonics to help us remember things that weren't supposed to make sense: “If the bottom is bigger, the number is smaller,” “The big number goes on the bottom” or “Ours is not to wonder why, just invert and multiply.” These are counter intuitive at best and, at worst, incorrect. Often fractions were taught almost as a different subject – as though the rules of math didn’t apply. No wonder we shudder. But fractional thinking is crucial in problem solving and comfort with fractions enables students... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2018 at The Rookery
If you've ever said "I'm not a math person", I encourage you to read this article. Research continues to support the fact that a person's attitude towards math affects their success in math instruction, and now research is also suggesting that parents' attitudes toward math affect their children's math learning. At Prairie Creek, we teachers have been working hard for quite a few years now to learn about the best ways to support children in math, and one of the most important things we've learned is that we need to foster a growth mindset ("I can do this if I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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One of our visitors to Special Person's Day remarked, "This is my last Special Person's Day! I'm really sad." I was sad, too. This was a family I've known for years. She'd watched her granddaughter perform as a kindergartener -- so excited to be on "the big stage" but a little lost in that way of kindergarteners. She'd gotten a (very) extensive tour two years ago when her grand daughter was a greeter as a 2/3 and now, this final year, she was able to see an confident kid up on stage (who had earlier very ably served coffee and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2018 at The Rookery
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Perhaps because we just enjoyed Special Persons' Day, I’ve been reflecting on the power and importance of community. Special Person's Day is a PCCS tradition when grandparents and special guests are invited into our building. Community is one of the four pillars of our mission. In the language that supports... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2018 at News from the Director
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We had such an amazing week in the Herons. On Tuesday, we were able to teach the rest of the school what we had learned during our pre-Revolutionary America theme. And then, on Wednesday and Thursday, we were able to learn from new teachers. Susan Percy joined us for Forest School on Wednesday. She is a naturalist from Arizona and joined us on our ramble. We practiced our "dear ears" and our "owl eyes" and then we went for a walk where we practiced our forensic skills - puzzling out the tracks we were finding everywhere in the snow. We... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2018 at The Rookery
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The energy leading up to a culminating event is palpable and consuming. One of the ironies of documenting the work of a classroom is that our very busiest moments when the most is going on are the hardest to capture. In the lead up to a culminating event, every child is independently moving through their work -- and I am relegated to the busy gofer: finding the hole punch for someone, OKing the spelling for another, crafting a search string for a third. To culminate, according to Webster, is to reach a point of highest development especially after a long... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2018 at The Rookery
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“Prairie Creek students know that learning something new always involves a period of confusion and struggle. No one is born knowing - we all come to new understanding through work and mistakes. Our math activities are structured to support this belief. Students’ errors are not reasons for shame - they... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2018 at News from the Director
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Our health and disease theme keeps rolling along. The Robins are working in small groups to put together a video to share as our culminating event. Today, I invited an old friend of the Robins back to lead us through an epidemiology simulation. Jean Porterfield is a St. Olaf biology professor and a former Robin parent. She graciously agreed to come in and lead a very exciting hour in which we simulated a disease starting with one infected person and then spreading through the population. We tracked who traded germs with whom and who got sick, then we used logic... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
As we enter the Thanksgiving break, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. In part, this is because we just completed the first phase of our annual development work. Our community of parents, alumni and friends gave so generously to help us meet our fundraising goal on Give to the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2018 at News from the Director
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The open mic at our coffee house. On Friday, the Herons celebrated the publication of our literary magazine, The Heron. Every student Would you want to share a park bench with this bear? successfully published a piece of writing. This is quite an accomplishment. Students selected a piece and revised it based on their peers' feedback. Then they edited the piece, considering paragraphing, punctuation, capitalization and spelling. Students (and adult typists -- thank you volunteers!) type the work in and edit one more time. I then provided a teacher edit. I use Google Drive's tools to do this, often supplying... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2018 at The Rookery
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“Free of charge, it (the library) offers us the weight of starlight, the light of the moon and the music of uninterrupted imagination.” — Diana Abu-Jaber, “Life Without a Recipe” The other day, I had a few minutes to listen to a few of our fifth graders read from their... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2018 at News from the Director
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Today, the Herons were asked to brainstorm how we might teach our families and the rest of the school about our theme. In the picture above, you can see what the conversation grew in to. In about an hour, every single student added to the plans (a partial speaker's list is on the side of the board -- I started it when I couldn't keep up.): We could dress up and build a town (or a model of a town). We could be in a tavern where our guests could move from table to table to discuss things. There should... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2018 at The Rookery
This week is Give to the Max, the season for your inbox to fill up with creative, heartfelt pleas for money to support our little school (and many other worthy places). In my version of that plea, I try to highlight something specific that your money makes possible. Last year, I wrote about how our teacher-led professional development program at Prairie Creek feeds my soul as an educator. (We won an innovation award for that professional development program! Your financial support allowed that to happen!) This year, I want to highlight theme. As you know, students at Prairie Creek get... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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Close Reading This week we read the last newspaper in our Pre-Revolutionary America theme. The Battle of Lexington and Concord shifted the debate in the colonies and the rag-tag underground Sons of Liberty made way for Washington's Continental army and open rebellion. Together, we read the first part of the Declaration of Independence. The language is challenging and the syntax is dense so I modeled close reading, a technique in which you move word by word through a text and parse the meaning piece by piece. On the overhead projector (yes, an overhead projector) I marked up my original and... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2018 at The Rookery
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Our current theme focuses on health and disease. This interest grew, in part, from our last theme about Minnesota history, when we learned about how Europeans brought smallpox to the Americas, and about the ways that the Ojibwe people used herbs and other things found in nature for healing. We began the theme by learning about our bodies and how they work when they are healthy. This was fun (anytime you get to listen to a podcast about farting, that's pretty great), but the Robins are most interested in learning about diseases. What causes us to get sick? Where do... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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The Herons' newest PE unit is cross country running. We have a set course that we return to every day and each day we share techniques that help us be stronger runners. Students have suggested such things as "when you feel like stopping, pick a nearby goal and run to that," "if you feel like you need to stop, jog or walk fast instead," "run with a friend who has a similar pace and encourage each other," "don't sprint at the start - try to run at the same pace," "use friendly competition to motivate you," "I try to run... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at The Rookery
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The Robins are close to publishing a piece of writing! It has been an exciting journey that began back in writing circles. After several rounds of writing circles, students were asked to choose a draft that they wanted to finish and take through the writing process. Students finished their first drafts, then moved into revision, then editing, then publishing. I have provided mini-lessons along the way. Fourth and fifth graders are at an exciting point in their writing development. It is at this age that most children become able to consider revisions to their written work. Some students are not... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
Today for social skills practice, I put the Robins in groups of three and asked them to rotate the roles of aggressor, target, and bystander/upstander. We talked about the powerful role that bystanders can play in difficult social situations if they make the choice to move from bystander to upstander--from someone who watches silently to someone who steps in to act as an ally to the targeted person. One Robin raised their hand to ask if the targeted person could also respond to the aggressor in the role play scenarios. We talked about how it can be really hard, if... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue
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In March of 1770, five colonists were killed by a group of nine British soldiers outside the custom house. Some of the papers at the time reported it as the "Boston Massacre"...others called it the "Incident on King Street." About six months after it happened, the soldiers were put on trial (Governor Hutchenson decided it would be a good idea to let tempers cool down before the trial and sent the British regiment involved out of town for a while.) On Friday, the Herons re-inacted a transcript of the trial. Simon played the part of Captain Thomas Preston, the commander... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2018 at The Rookery
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The Herons have settled into our Forest School routine. Two weeks ago, we graphed a data set from the first junco sighting of the fall from 1952 to 1990 as recorded by Orwin Rustad, a naturalist in Rice County. We found the latest, earliest and mode of our the set (and learned how to turn month/day formats into numerical day of the year from 1 to 365...no small feat.) It's hard to see here, but the Herons spontaneously inverted themselves on the plaza. Using the plaza as a graph helps students visualize the data. Last week, we played with the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2018 at The Rookery
Looking back over this year's communication, I realized that I've written often about math and theme but haven't yet shared much about our work in reading. Reading is woven into our daily routine in a way that is not as flashy as some of the other work in the Herons but it is foundational and interesting and worth talking about. So here we go: Independent Reading We start the year talking about reading stamina and picking "Just Right" books. This isn't a new concept to students (or you.) A just right book is one that has some new words and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2018 at The Rookery
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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 Oct 14, 2018 at Robin's Egg Blue