Mrs. Sisul Brought Us a Snowman Challenge!

Remember when I wrote about Catch of the Days?  I should have updated you LONG ago, but our class is ROCKING AND ROLLING with these and already have almost 50!  Along the way, there have been rewards (for example, at 10 is an extra recess, 20 was pajama day and 30 was game board day) and we’ve enjoyed every one of them.  Once we hit 40 it was an even BIGGER deal because the prize was “admin’s choice!”

We emailed Mrs. Sisul and Dr. Wilson and asked them to come visit us.  Today was the day, and Mrs. Sisul came with two of our favorite things: a book and a design challenge!

We read lots of snow/snowflake books on Friday (which was early dismissal day for weather!), but she picked one we hadn’t read yet (and yes, that is a feat in itself–GREAT job, Mrs. Sisul!).

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She read the book to us (which we enjoyed!) and then she gave us our challenge: just like the mice the story, build the TALLEST snowman you can….with one piece of paper. 🙂

We went back and forth on how much info we’d give them about how to do this challenge, but eventually decided we would give them idea that they could make paper chains (which reminds me of the comment Kate left the other day about how creativity abounds within parameters–thanks for that reminder, friend!).  Otherwise, they may have spent all of their time just figuring out what to do and not actually building anything.

As we set off to work, I could tell kiddos were thinking about our last challenge (when we read the book Going Places last week), and they quickly began to find groups to work with, both so they could share their resources and so they could share ideas.

At the 10 minute mark, we had kiddos stop and do a gallery walk to look for ideas being done by other engineers that might help them in their own work.

Kiddos got back to work and we noticed that instead of several groups of 3, we now only had 3 groups altogether!  I decided to see what they were all up to…

Interesting, right?  This was the part that really reminded me of the work that happened with our other challenge–kiddos making decisions that they thought would help them, even though they weren’t explicitly stated in the directions.  “They didn’t say we couldn’t….” was their rationale. 🙂

We finished our work (about another 5 minutes or so, and then work time was up.  We laid our snowmen out on the rug to see who had made the tallest snowman.

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Now…of course when you do a design challenge, the process is as important as the final product, so Mrs. Sisul then led us in a reflection conversation.

I loved watching their faces as they thought about what had happened and worked to decide what they would take away for next time.

I also really liked their answers to the questions and also how honest they were when they thought things weren’t fair or didn’t make sense.  We just might try this same challenge again soon and see what happens differently!

And lastly, just for the record, Elena wins for cutest snowman. 🙂  She’s very proud!

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THANKS FOR COMING, MRS. SISUL!!  We love how much you love books, learning and coming to work with us!  🙂

Do you have any stories about design challenges you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!

The OLC is 20!

We are so lucky at our school to have some amazing outside spaces in which to play and learn.  We have a dedicated group of parents (both past and present) who know the importance of kids being outside, and how being in nature helps them want to work to preserve that nature for the students that will follow them.  Well, and of course, it’s just really fun. 🙂

One of our most-loved spaces is the Outdoor Learning Center, that sits just to the south of our building, out in the front where everyone can see it!  Kids have classes out there, read with their friends, play and get dirty, as well as learn about and apply lessons about planting and nature.  Well, recently, that OLC had a birthday–its 20th birthday!

Our very own 1st grade teacher-friend Mrs. Marks began work on a celebration (inspired on a 100 degree day this past summer), which included some pretty amazing things.  Perhaps the best (well at least to me and my first graders!) was the idea of putting lots of little rock fish in the dry river bed that had been recently added.

It started as every class in our school read the book Only One You by Linda Kranz.

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Then, each kiddo chose a rock, designed and then painted their very own fish!

On the day of the celebration this week, we began the ceremony with every kiddo placing their fish in the river.  Before that, we had only seen the riverbed dry and empty.  Once we got there to the party, it looked much different!

(Someday I will consistently remember to turn my phone for videos.  Sorry!!).

Here’s an even better view of the finished river.  Besides being beautiful, it’s so amazing to think of how those fish will be there for future Robinson kiddos to see and enjoy.  And for these kiddos to come back to visit with their own kiddos some day in the future!

After the rock-placing, there are many adult speakers who told the story of how the OLC first began, and the original set of parents who came up with the idea were there to wave at us.  Even our own Mrs. Frierdich (in the office) was one of those people! Her own grown children were Robinson students when the dream began and she’s still here to enjoy it!  Then each grade pledged to take care of a part of the OLC, so that the recent work that has been done to upgrade the space can continue to shine.  First grade is in charge of Berm 1 and there will be much weeding, planting and care-taking in our future to share with you.

Lastly, ALL of Robinson committed to care for our space with a pledge written by the 5th grade:

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Way to go, Robinson kids and parents, for making the 20th birthday of the OLC super great, and helping us look excitedly to the next 20 years!!

Exploring Light and Sound!

We have been working on exploring light and sound in science right now, within the context of a story about three friends who get lost in the woods while on a hike.

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In small groups in our room,  kiddos rotated through several stations where they explored light in a variety of ways: mirrors, shadows, spectrascopes, and colored tiles.  Kiddos used flashlights in each station to see what they could discover about how light looks, how it travels,  how colors work and how to create shadows.  I love their faces in the pictures and how you can tell just what they are thinking in each picture, exactly what question they are trying to answer or what they are trying to do.  They applied this exploration to what they knew already and also what we had read in our story.   Kids worked in Rm. 112 on sound in addition to their discovery stations in Rm. 111.

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We’re excited to finish up this unit with a novel engineering challenge based on our Global Read Aloud book, as well as with an interview where kiddos can apply and  demonstrate their light and sound learning.  Can’t wait to see how it goes!

#FDOFG2017–Nature Hunt!

During our first days together, we do many things that allow us to work together, get to know each other, learn and practice routines and procedures, and also just have fun.  One thing we did that was a big hit was a nature scavenger hunt!  We are lucky to have an amazing naturescape in our backyard (which was recently made over to allow us even more natural places to play and learn!), and so it was the perfect place to go!

Kiddos were put in small groups of 4, and then we gave them a job to do and a bag in which to collect their finds.

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We were blessed to have 4 adults with us during this time, and so we had lots of eyes on each group as we explored.  It was pretty much up to each team where they went and they could fulfill the categories of the hunt in whatever way they chose.  It was fun to see how many different leaves they found, how many “circles” there were in the woods and also what teams considered “treasures!”

Perhaps the  best part of the hunt, though, was when we found something we weren’t even looking for:

IMG_0675-minCan you see it?  There’s a friend in there….

Here, look again.  With some help from some first grade fingers:

Yes!  We found a turtle!  He was walking right there across the path, and thanks to the eagle eyes of Jeremiah we got to see him!  It was really hard not to touch and prod and want to pick him up (we didn’t–we left him in his home there), but we did the right thing and just watched as he walked and enjoyed the surprise visit! 🙂

What a fantastic morning outside!

ECLIPSE DAY 2017!!

OH my goodness–today was a TOTALITY amazing day.  hee hee  Yes I know, it’s a bit much.  But really, what a once-in-a-lifetime day to enjoy and experience with our Robinson community.  I am sure many other KSD teachers and families have said it, but KUDOS to Joe Bartin for all of his hard work to get us ready for the big day.  There were websites just for the day, y’all, that had videos and info galore!  If you haven’t seen them, check this out:

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We did some preteaching on eclipses so kiddos would know what was going on and what to expect, using videos and books.  On Friday, we got together with Ms. Turken’s Rm. 112 friends to do some work.  First we watched a BrainPop Jr video on eclipses and learned a little from Annie and Moby.

After the video, we read a book together called Eddie’s Eclipse.  It was written by two St. Louis librarians just for this special day!  We enjoyed it and listened for facts/details we had also heard in the video.

While Ms. Turken read and kiddos listened, I kept record of the important facts that students thought we should remember.  We made a chart of what was essential:

Also on this day, we put the finishing touches on the glow-in-the-dark bracelets Ms. Maldonado helped us make for the big event,

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and tried on the new eclipse glasses that were gifted to us by the Kirkwood School District Foundation:

Today, on the actual day of the eclipse, we did some more reading and shared another book, called Eclipse: Darkness in the Daytime together with our Rm. 112 friends again.

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For the rest of our amazing day, we watched another video, practiced with our glasses, spent the TOTALITY of the eclipse outside with our amazing Robinson friends and family, and commemorated the day with some artwork and an eclipse snack (Capri SUN, SUN chips, STARbursts and MILKY WAYs).  It was pretty intense and fabulous and I can’t really put it into words.  So I’ll just use pictures. 🙂  Enjoy!

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If you haven’t had a chance to check out Robinson’s Facebook page, be sure to see it–there are loads of other fun pics to see and even a LIVE video from when we were in TOTALITY.  Cool, right?

Ok, one more thing…if you’re reading this and you were in the path of totality, please comment and let us know what you experienced today!  We’d LOVE to hear from others about how they celebrated the day and what they thought of the experience.  I know for me it’ll be something I will NEVER forget!

Hour of Code: Our Favorite Part of the Week!

Remember when I showed this picture from my last post?

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Remember that kiddos wanted to code?  Well if we had asked them that a week before, many of them would not have had any idea of what that even meant.  But thanks to friends in our school like Ms. Turken (our Rm. 203 neighbor) and Mrs. Sisul (our AMAZING principal), we are now ROCKSTAR coders and LOVE to spend any minute we have creating with code.org and our Scratch Jr. app on our iPads.

In response to that question I asked in our teacher group, Mrs. Sisul suggested that she come spend some Hour of Code time with my class. OF COURSE I said yes!

She started by explaining to Rm. 202 kids how they are all smarter than computers.  Some of them weren’t so sure about this, but then she explained that everything a computer does has to be entered by a human, who writes in a special language telling the machine what it should do.

Then we watched in intro movie about people who code and how and why they do that.  Next she explained about how there are two languages that computers understand, BLOCK and JAVA SCRIPT.  We were going to start with the block kind of coding, using a really popular movie as our topic–STAR WARS!!

We got started and indeed were able to spend an HOUR OF CODE before we went home that day.  In fact, we probably could have spent DAYS and DAYS of CODE if we were able to.  Rm. 202 coders are so excited by what happens when they put the right blocks in the right places and the game works the way they want it to!  Many of them got all the way to level 8 and were able to CREAT THEIR OWN GAME by using blocks.  Amazing, right?  Many kiddos have been using Scratch Jr. to do some pretty great things, too!  I’m excited by their excitement and by how well this fits into the creativity, curiosity and wonder that is a foundation of our classroom culture.  Thanks for teaching us this new language, Mrs. Sisul–we’re excited to become fluent in using it!  Hope to be able to share more soon! 🙂

Patterns in the Sky

I just went back to link back to some work we did with shadows and realized I NEVER WROTE ABOUT IT!  What??  Well goodness gracious, Mrs. Bearden, it’s about time!

We spent much of this last quarter working on learning about Patterns in the Sky–discovering new things about the sun, moon, stars and planets.  During our study we read lots of books on the topic (many whole group, but also lots that kiddos read individually or with a partner);

had lots of conversations and discussions about what we noticed happening each day (with the sun) and at night (when we saw the moon at home); created videos and art pieces; went outside to explore how the apparent movement of the sun affects our shadows;

had the KSD planetarium visit us along with Mr. Bartin, and then we created a class poster to both help show our learning, as well as remind us of what we had discovered.  Students worked with their partner to create an image to represent the big ideas we’d worked on during our unit.  Turned out pretty great, and kiddos did super work!

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Close-ups of each one are here (plus what they represent):

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What do you know about patterns in the sky that you could teach us about?  What do you wonder?

The Planetarium Came to US!

I’ve posted before about the amazing things we’re able to do because of the many great people and resources we have in our district, and here’s another example of those resources at work. 🙂

Mr. Bartin brought the KSD Planetarium to our school!  First grade classes each scheduled a time with him to visit and it was set up in our library!  We walked in and really had a hard time containing ourselves (which is a little bad since it was a library. LOL).

We took a minute to chat with us and connect to what we’d already been learning about the sun, moon and stars, and then explained the guidelines for how to act inside the dome.

Then we headed inside. 🙂

While inside, Mr. Bartin was able to show us lots of things about sunrise, moonrise and set, how the stars seem to move, what constellations look like–and we even went back in time!! (Ask your kiddo about this one!!).  It was dark in there, and so it was kind of a useless task, but I did try to capture something so you could see what we did.  Here’s a picture and a video (which pretty much just looks like a black screen but you’ll get the idea–you can definitely HEAR the excitement. 🙂 ).

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Marshmallow Challenge 2016

In 2012, Mrs. Hong brought the Marshmallow Challenge to Robinson.  Since then I’ve done it with almost every grade I’ve taught (5th then 2nd and now 1st graders!).  It’s been interesting to see what each group of kiddos excels with and which parts of the challenge are hardest for each group.

Just as a reminder, the rules are as such:

 

We used these same guidelines, except that kiddos had 25 sticks of spaghetti and we only had 15 minutes.  Otherwise, the challenge was the same.

We worked in our Crews, which are small groups we use throughout the year in different situations, but that stay the same all year long.   It should be noted that we hadn’t worked with this group for a while….

Anyway, groups got started and were off to the races.  For the record, I noticed that only 1 group decided to draw a plan before they got started.

Kids had a variety of ways to tackle the challenge, with many groups thinking about squares as the base of the tower, but not quite figuring out how to connect that idea to the final product.  Many groups seemed to be working individually at the same table, rather than together on the final tower.

And at the end of the 15 minutes, we had these towers:

The only tower that was standing belonged to Crew 6.  And as you can see, there are not squares to be found, but many towers with lots of legs sticking out of the bottom of the marshmallow.

The next morning we debriefed this experience, thinking about things we’d keep the same (plusses) and things that we would change (deltas).  Perhaps it was because of how I asked them to think about the question (or perhaps just because we had a really hard time!), but there were not many plusses, just a team or two that said that Crew 6’s design was a good one.  No one mentioned anything that kiddos had done or how we had worked together that worked to make us successful.  We did, however, have many things to say about what we’d change.  Many kiddos from all the crews gave ideas, but basically the class agreed that we didn’t do a very good job of telling our groups what we were doing.  We didn’t share out ideas with our friends and pretty much were only concerned with our own ideas.  And so as you can guess, it didn’t go so well.

BUT, because we know that FAIL means First Attempt In Learning and because–since we are Roadrunners– we have grit and a growth mindset, we knew we could try again, change somethings and see how what happened differently.

The second go-round I had kids start with a 3-minute talk about what they would specifically do differently.  Most teams decided to draw a plan this time, too.

After 3 minutes, teams got busy building.

This try brought up a really interesting problem.  About 5 minutes in, I started to hear rumblings of teams who were “copying.”  Shortly I had heard from all the crews individually that someone from another team had “copied” their idea and stolen their plan for their tower.

We had to stop the clock and have a quick conference on the rug.  I had kiddos voice their concerns about what was happening and why they were upset.  Someone complained that another group was doing the same thing as they were. “So what?” was my response.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t sure what to say, so I pressed harder.  “Why does that bother you? Say more about why it’s a big deal that another team “stole” your idea.”  We had to then get to an understanding of the challenge, and that everyone could “win,” based on the way the challenge was laid out.  The idea was not for some team to be better than another one, but that it was possible for everyone to have an idea that was successful, resulting in a tower that stood up tall.  We talked about the idea of that old adage: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and how when someone uses an idea you have, you should be proud (rather than mad) because it means they thought it was a good one.  Ms. Mimlitz and I gave honest examples of how many of our best ideas were inspired by things others had done or said.

I wonder if the angst was really because of a mental-model they all have (even at 6 years old) that “copying” is “cheating” and this is inherently BAD.  I would rather them learn that in many cases sharing so that others can be successful is a GREAT thing; when someone else succeeds, it doesn’t mean you have failed.  It actually doesn’t say anything about you at all!

After this little pow-wow, we got back to work, with teams asking each other about what they were doing, and visiting others’ workspaces to see another crew’s plans.  In the end, I believe that everyone had the same design (we’ll work on innovation and differences later, the big lesson this time was about sharing!), but I believe that most tables had a tower that was standing!  For sure we all ended this challenge with smiles on our faces, new understandings about success and excitement about solving our next problem!

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Crew 1 and their tower

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Crew 2 (I promise it was standing just before this!)

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Crew 3 and their marshmallow tower

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Crew 4–all smiles about their tower!

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Crew 5 is pretty proud!

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Crew 6 with smiles and a standing tower!

Outdoor Adventures!: Light and Sound

Today was a half-day at our school (because of teacher professional development in the afternoon), and so first grade took advantage of an awkward schedule to have an outdoor adventure!  We have been outside with Rm. 202 friends before, but today were had ALL OF FIRST GRADE outside in the Robinson Naturescape learning and exploring together!

The teachers planned a STEM day focused on our current PLTW unit on Light and Sound, adding in the component of the AMAZING outdoor spaces we have in the back of our school.  We took out a tub with a variety of tools, like binoculars, magnifying glasses, color tiles, flashlights, mirrors and spectroscopes.  Kiddos had the job of exploring outside and discovering something new about light.  Eventually we will have to represent that learning (using iPads, drawing or building tools), but for now we were just out and about and having fun with wondering!!

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As you watch the slideshow with your kiddo (if you’re a parent!), ask them these things:

  1. What was your favorite part of being outside today?
  2. What was your favorite tool to use as a scientist?  How did you use it?
  3. What did you find outside while you were exploring?
  4. What did you learn about light?
  5. What do you still wonder?

We came in and as a quick way to debrief, I had kiddos share what they were thinking about after their adventure.  While you can tell that they were thinking of many things other than light (like dead animals–we found a DEAD RACCOON back there today!!), it was obvious that kiddos were thinking and having fun, and that they  LOVE BEING OUTSIDE!  I think at least half of my kiddos asked me when we’re going out again. 🙂  I’m excited to see how we can use this chart of great ideas in other parts of our learning soon, like for reading and writing ideas, topics for math and even further thingsto study for STEM or Genius Hour (which we’ll get to later on this year!).

fullsizerender-minWhat a great day we had! 🙂