Ever present in the Early Childhood classroom at PCS is play. Whether it be climbing, jumping, or running out on the playground or building, drawing, or creating in the classroom, children are constantly learning through play. They are learning about how their bodies move, how to balance, and how to work with others. They are learning problem solving skills, how to compromise, and how to be compassionate. Play engages the whole child. This week, Early Childhood students were immersed in a game of “Animal Hospital” which spanned over several days. Children delighted in taking on different roles while caring for the animals in our animal basket. Bandaids were created with paper, markers, and tape. The light table was transformed into an operating table. Marbles became medicine. The big trucks morphed into ambulances and medical delivery trucks. And thin shape sorting blocks turned into credit cards. As they happily played their minds worked to form solutions to issues that arose and their bodies worked to manipulate their materials.
Also this week, Early Childhood students began to learn about ladybugs. By reading various non-fiction books, students learned how many legs ladybugs have, why they have two sets of wings, and how ladybugs help our garden by eating aphids which can harm plants. Later, Early Childhood artists began creating representations of ladybugs using rocks. By layering pieces of red tissue paper onto rocks using glue, the rocks were transformed. After the red was dried, paint was used to create a ladybug head and a ladybug’s quintessential black dots.
Back in September, you heard us talk quite a bit about the “first six weeks” which is a deliberate practice that gives a community time to establish routines, introduce values, and come together as a community before academic learning begins. Meanwhile -- the last six weeks of school can often seem quite the opposite and more like an avalanche. It most classrooms the end-of-year pace seems to increase as teachers feel compelled to rush through the remaining curriculum and teach to the last second while simultaneously preparing for culminating events. And yet, it is just as important to end the school year slowly, with intention and care and to honor the community you have become.
At PCS, we are conscious of the end-of-year climate and make conscious decisions several times throughout the day, and the week that help us remember what we are here for and to remember what is important.
In kindergarten, we have been slowly spiraling back to September and revisiting our favorite songs, chants, stories and recess games. We are looking at the hundreds of photographs taken all year and remembering visitors, field trips, projects and more. And, each child has been meeting with me one by one to peek back at their writing or numeracy skills when they walked in the kindergarten door for the first time and comparing it to what they are doing now. We are slowly and deliberately celebrating how far each child has come, rather than racing to the end. Showing children how to reflect like this and self-assess is empowering, builds self-confidence, and brings us back together as a community in a new and exciting way as we celebrate all the learning.
Through this reflective process, Kindergarteners have also realized the power of voicing your Hopes and Dreams. Most of their September Hopes and Dreams have come true. We have gone on field trips, celebrated birthdays together, done some cool science experiments and even played football. Beautiful things happen in Kindergarten when you learn to be quiet and still and let the children do what children do best. And just this week, many kindergarteners, without prompting, started talking about, drawing, painting and writing out a new hope and dream for the school year – even though there are only 18 school days left! They have learned that a hope and dream is like a little seed that, when voiced and shared with others can grow into a reality.
Next, Kindergarteners will reflect on all their social learning and think back to the day we created our class agreement -- something that was put in place so that our Hopes and Dreams could become realities. We will ask ourselves how we did, and think of ways we can continue or even do better going forward. After all, the lessons learned this year, whether academic, social, or emotional don’t get left at the door when school ends, rather we want our PCS children to carry everything outside our walls and keep going.
Some of the things kindergarteners said they learned to do better:
- We learned to clean up better and quicker so that we can go outside for more fresh air.
- We got better at sitting on the rug without rolling all over the floor – or each other.
- We learned to make apologies of action. "I'm sorry, is there anything I can do to make it better."
- We learned that it feels great to be included, and we should look for our friends who might feel excluded. -- But also remember that sometimes people just need a little time to themselves.
- We figured out how to use glass jars, beakers, and test tubes and not break them. (well we did break some but not too many - and not recently)
- We love the way our cubby area feels when we line up our boots neatly and wipe everything out once in awhile.
- We don't have to ask a grown up help all the time. If we think about it for a minute, we can usually figure out how to do something ourselves.
- We learned that simply smiling at someone or using their name can make them feel so great.
We started the school year with hopes and dreams and are ending it with hope and pride. In between all the reflecting we have been coming together to enjoy some of our favorite playful times, block building, running in the grass, free draw, and clay and been out for the children to enjoy.
Finally, THANK YOU so so much for the beautiful birthday surprises. The kids were so excited to celebrate my birthday in school. We made an apple pie and had a dance party – two of my favorite things Making memories. Building a community.
This week Lower Primary expanded on their knowledge of weathering and erosion and learned about deposition. After experimenting with weathering and erosion, Lower Primary questioned where the eroded rock went after being carried away by wind, water, or ice. As they explored deposition, they entered into discussions on how the moved soil, sand or rock could have an impact on our earth. As we reflected on the constant changing of the earth, students in Lower Primary charted the benefits of deposition, as well as the harmful effects it could have on our earth. Then, to demonstrate an understanding, students created a visual representation of weathering, erosion and deposition using natural materials. Working in groups, students began by creating a rough sketch of how weathering, erosion and deposition could link together and be presented. Next week they will continue creating their visual representations!
Through poetry, writing, art, and hands on experiments, Lower Primary has been immersed in weathering, erosion and deposition. By expanding their learning to all areas of study, students are able to gain a rich, more meaningful learning experience. Children learn in a variety of ways. While some need hands on experiences, others learn best from reading information. By exposing children to a subject in a variety of ways, they are able to better instill the information and obtain a more clear understanding. It is exciting to witness children come back from their weekends and explain to others that they saw erosion and deposition at a sand dune! Taking their newly learned knowledge outside of the classroom and applying it to their everyday lives is what we strive to achieve.
The science fair was a great success. Lower Primary enjoyed learning from their peers as they observed each display. Many students were instantly inspired and wanted to try out the projects on their own. Great job to those Lower Primary students who participated! I was blown away with the amount of time and effort spent on their experiments.
This week we had the first ever PCS Science Fair. For about six weeks students brainstormed, planned, and executed a project of their choosing. During this process each student learned something new. Upon the culmination of the project, I believe the greatest enlightening the students received was what they learned about themselves. When the projects came into school they were excited to share the information they found and the displays they created. As a community we came together and formulated questions that would help us learn more about what our friends had done. After sharing their own project with the group, students were asked to provide constructive feedback on both their peers’ projects and their own. Students respectfully spent time at each project, carefully reading and reacting. This was done in such a mindful and thoughtful manner. They took this responsibility very seriously. After rotating through each display, students shared one thing they really liked about each project, including their own, and made a suggestion about how to improve it. Later, we sat together and shared our personal reflections about the process of the Science Fair. It was beautiful to hear students empathize with one another as friends shared the struggles endured and elation felt while doing their projects.
As members of the PCS community, Upper Primary students are well versed in the inquiry based type learning that is promoted by participating in a Science Fair. For homework and during class time, students were asked to further reflect on the process of the Science Fair. Their answers showed that while there was scientific knowledge gained, the biggest take away from the whole process for many was what they learned about themselves as learners. The maturity and self-awareness of my students continues to amaze me. Perhaps the best way to capture what the students learned is to read in their own words their responses to the following questions:
Why do you think it is important for students to do projects like this one?
“I think it is important because you are not only learning, but you even get to pick what you are learning about. I also think it is fun to make predictions and see if you are right.”
“To understand organization and time limits. It also helped with creativity and responsibility.”
“To try something that is challenging, then you feel so proud when you do it.”
What was the best part of the Science Fair project process?
“The best part for me was when I had all of the information and was just laying the data out. It was not only fun, but when I laid my data out, it inspired me to think of new ideas.”
“Taking my time to think of a project that really interested me, because then I was very excited to get started. It is good to be excited about what you want to learn.”
“When I was just finished and I looked at my whole project for the first time and realized how hard I had worked on it.”
What community values came up in the process of the project? When?
“A value that came up a lot was perseverance. When my data was too similar, I did not give up. Instead, I tried again at double the speed and my results came out better.”
“Responsibility, perseverance, collaboration, and patience.”
“I used responsibility to remember to do the project and I used perseverance to get through the project”.
“I used honesty and respect while sharing and talking about the projects with our class.”
What did you learn about yourself as a learner through the process of doing your project?
“I learned that I work better when I know I have a lot of time to finish something. I started at a reasonable time, and I was less stressed. Also, since I had so much time, I was able to put my best effort into my project.”
“I learned that I can focus under stress and that I am really understanding of people's comments. Listening to my friend’s advice can help me on my next project.”
- “I learned that I am good at explaining new ideas that I am excited about to people.”