#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!

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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Pumpkin Jack and Rotten Lanterns

Remember when we made Literary Lanterns and Mrs. Meihaus let us display them in the library for all of Robinson to see?  And then we had everyone vote on their favorite one??

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Well…the voting window has closed, and the winner is….

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Yay! and Congrats to Aadish and Keira!

The vote was very close, so I feel like I should mention that 2nd place was a tie between I Yam a Donkey and Mustache Baby.   Yippee for Allie, Penny and Tanner!

But, of course, the real winners were all of us because we have read LOADS of great books, got to use our creativity to create something amazing, and all of our school (plus our blog readers!) got to share in that fun!

Well, then what happened to all of those fabulous lanterns once we were finished with them (and they were starting to get a little soft and moldy)?  We thought about taking them home, but wasn’t sure that kiddos (or parents!) would want to lug them all home again.  I have to admit that a couple of them had to be tossed because they were wet inside–sorry, friends!–but we ended up with most of them that needed a new home.

So enter Mrs. Meihaus again (she seems to be the solver of all of our problems lately!) who had a SUPER suggestion that we put them somewhere outside.  And she even had a book to help us with this idea: Pumpkin Jack.

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The story is about a boy who had a jack-o-lantern that was rotting and his mom made him put it out in the garden.  He was able to watch it run the course of the cycle and see it return to the ground and then grow again as a new pumpkin!  This then became his new Jack the next fall.

We decided we would do just that same thing. 🙂

First we travelled to the library to pick up our pumpkin babies.  It was funny how sad kiddos were that we were finished with these.  I didn’t realize Keira’s face on her Octicorn until I uploaded them.  Super sweet! (Well and sad, too, I guess!).

Then we headed outside to the woods to find a place to “plant” our pumpkins.

We are excited to come back and visit over the next months of the school year to see what happens!  Hope to share some good news and maybe even see some new pumpkins growing that we can turn into Literary Lanterns next year!!

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: PLTW Design Challenge!

Hopefully you’ve read about how we’re learning about light and sound and how great PLTW is going in our classroom.  (If not, feel free to check it out before you go on with this post–LOL).  On Friday we got to the point where we were ready for the design challenge.

We had learned about the design process earlier on in the unit, and also were then reminded of the problem from the story about Angelina, Mylo and Suzi.

Since we had learned and explored about light and sound already, we were ready to answer that question from the end of our book:

If you were Angelina, Mylo and Suzi, how would you help them communicate over a distance to get help?

Luckily for us, we have a fabulous woods and Naturescape in our backyard in which to actually try out this challenge!  We will do that on Monday, but first we had to figure out how to answer the question.  We got into groups and had a limited list of supplies (which we happened to be carrying in our backpack):

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Kiddos had time to design and build their devices and then will test their creations in the woods on Monday.

Callahan and Lucas figured out how to make their device reach higher and shared their thinking:

We also had an unexpected problem-solving situation come up after I talked with my first grade teacher-friend, Ms. Turken.  I asked her how the challenge went with her class, and she told me they had these issues:

  • It was day time, and bright outside, so the light part of the devices didn’t really work
  • It was during recess and so the “outside sounds” made it hard to hear the sound coming from the lost kiddos and their devices.  Also, since our woods are right next to a neighborhood, lawnmowers also made it hard to hear.
  • There were too many groups–her class had 7 groups to “lose” and then “find”
  • Only 2 adults were available during the time of their challenge

We decided to take on this problem and see if we could figure out how to use this knowledge (and their struggles!) to make the challenge work the best for us when we took our turn to try it out.  We headed out to the woods to have a chat, because I figured it might be easier to think about it in the actual setting.

We gathered on the stage (built by the amazing Riggs Construction!) and talked about our options.  I was excited to hear how kiddos were thinking through the problems I presented, thinking about how we could address them with what we know.  We had many great suggestions:

  • Allie thought that we should be sure to focus on the sound part of our devices instead of just the light parts.  She said their group had made sure to put both light and sound on their device. 🙂
  • Many kiddos took the number of groups problem, and thought of ways we could fix it–split our class in half, send one group then another then another to find the “lost” ones, and so one.
  • We noticed that the time of day we were outside (which was later than when Ms. Turken’s class was outside) was not so loud.  There were no kids at recess, no one was mowing and all we heard was the wind in the trees.
  • Aadish suggested that everyone’s groups all go out into the woods to get “lost” at the same time.  We could then try to use our devices to communicate with others, and as we saw each other, groups would join together to look for others.  He suggested that the person who knew the woods the best could be the leader of each group.
  • Keira asked, “But what if everyone wants to be the leader?”
  • Aadish and the class agreed that maybe we could do the challenge more than once, giving more than one kiddo a turn to be in charge.
  • We even thought that we could do our evaluation and redesign right there in the woods before our next try to see if we could make our devices communicate even better.

WHEW!  WOW!  I was tired after all that smart thinking and was super impressed with how they were considering ways to make our experience the best it could be.  I know we’re ALL excited to see how it goes when we’re actually in the woods tomorrow!  Stay tuned and we’ll tell you all about it!

PLTW: Light and Sound

We are super lucky to have loads of new resources for science this year from Project Lead the Way, courtesy of a grant from the Kirkwood School District Foundation.   It means we are able to add in so much more hands-on learning, and focus more deeply on engineering, design and coding in STEM this year, which is GREAT!!

Our first STEM unit this year is light and sound and we have been doing some really fun things already.

Before we even got into the unit, we did some things to expose kiddos to the big ideas, and to get them interested.  One of those was to invite a Kirkwood Scientist, Mr. Bartin, to our classroom. Ok, well really Ms. Turken invited him to Rm. 203 and we tagged along, but he was here to share some interesting ideas about sounds with first grade.

Then we had some time to explore in non-fiction books from the library that we explored with a partner.  Kiddos were responsible to read a light book and a sound book (or one that had both topics together) and then create a representation of something they learned or something that was important from their reading out of play-doh (and somehow I don’t any pictures of their creations!  Boo.  Believe me–they were great. 🙂 ).

Then once the unit started, it was with a story to help set the stage.  This one is about three friends who have a problem: they get lost in the woods while on a walk with their class. 😦

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As we work through the rest of the unit, we will learn and explore with light and sound and eventually be presented with a design challenge much like our friends in the story.

We began with some exploring with some everyday objects (that someone might have in their backpack on a hike!):

We are keeping track of our learning in a Launch Log and will be able to go back and review it throughout the unit.  We’ve just begun light explorations and will even spend the whole morning tomorrow outside as scientists with common objects like flashlights, magnifying glasses, and more!  Can’t wait to share what we learn!

Outside Adventures!

On Tuesday we spent the morning outside.  Shortly after our morning announcements, the pledge, Morning Meeting, and a quick Pinkalicious story shared by Rachel and read by Ms. Mimlitz , we headed across the street with our iPads in hand with some important work to do.

Once we get settled under a grove of really big, shady trees, we read a couple of books together (which is part of our regular routine, especially now that we’re keeping track of our books with #classroombookaday), and played a rousing game of Simon Says.

Next, I gave some directions for collecting some important information.  Kids had been a bit distracted by all the nature around them anyway, so their next job was to “collect” the most interesting things as pictures on their iPads.  After walking a big circle around the area to show kids their limits, I set them loose.  They were given about 15 minutes to check out all they could find and WOW was there a lot to look at!  There were even some kind horticulturalists working nearby that pointed out some things for us to see!

During this time we had an emergency drill (which was handy since we were in our emergency drill spot anyway), and since it was probably already 90 degrees and we were HOT, we headed back inside shortly thereafter.

But we weren’t finished!  The next step was for kiddos to crop their pictures, zooming in on the MOST INTERESTING part of the photo.  I wanted them to really think about why they had taken the picture, as well as what the story was about that image.

These were the next directions.  And let me tell you (and I’ll elaborate about this later on, too) that it is a little UNBELIEVABLE that kiddos know how to do this already at this point in first grade!

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Kiddos did some great work, and we will build on this as we work together this year.

Check out our Outside Adventure WRITING!!  Like I said (and I’m sure I’ll continue saying it!), what these kiddos can do with their devices already is nothing short of amazing!

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