Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Last Days of School: Saying Goodbye

The last week is always hard.  Grades are in so we spent this last week enjoying our last moments together.  All of these kids will be split among four different elementary schools so they will not all be in the same school again until Jr. High, so I wanted to make sure they had time to just enjoy each other as a community before they all left to go their separate ways.

We spent a lot more time outside as the weather was beautiful!  A group of kids noticed that there was a cool bug on the ground! I took a picture so they could share it with the class.

Later they all came running back to me saying I had to come back and see what this bug did!  If they did not show me where it was, I would have never seen it!  It was so perfectly camouflaged! Can you see it?

Here is a close up!  We talked about why it needed to do this and had such a wonderful authentic lesson on camouflage! We took more pictures and they presented what they learned to the class. Here is a close up to help you see it!

We continued to tend to our garden. We were getting frustrated because as soon as we felt the lettuce was really taking off and growing, we would come back to find it so small!  We thought maybe the grass was taking away all of the nutrients?  We weren't sure but continued to weed and water and hope we would be able to pick it and taste it!

These kids loved being outside! They are natural explorers!

I brought my pet tortoise, Steven, in to school for them to play with!  We let it walk around as they asked me all kinds of questions about him!

We wanted to see what food he liked best, but he was not hungry!  He sniffed the lettuce and that was about it!

They created things for Steven to play on.  They liked making tunnels for him to crawl through.

On our last day of school, we had Field Day all day long!  It is such a fun way to end the year!  Each class tie dyed t-shirts for a team color and we played all day!

My daughter visited and stayed with us for the morning. They were so excited to hang with her!

The kids loved cheering us teachers as we played "Sponge Basketball."  It was a good excuse to get wet!  It was so hot outside!

We went to the garden to pick a piece of the baby lettuces and try them.  We just could not get them to grow!! I found out the next day, after the kids were gone, why they would not grow.  I CAUGHT A MOMMY AND BABY GROUNDHOG MUNCHING AWAY HAPPILY AT OUR LETTUCE!!  That explains why they would seem so big one day, and smaller the next! Well, at least someone got to enjoy our lettuce!

Then came the time we were all dreading.  It was almost time to say goodbye!  This part is extra hard for me.  We are an early childhood center so we do not get to see them grow through grade school.  For us teachers here, this is goodbye for good.  It is heartbreaking and I try so hard not to cry, but I can't. We took a last class picture together!  Of course we had to do a goofy one too! You can see on the white board some of their advice to next year's class.

Then, I gave them their gift.  I gave them a magnifying glass and a notebook, and took a graduation picture for them. I added a note explaining my choice of gifts and saying what is on my heart at the end of every year.

I read the note to them and told them how incredibly proud I was of them.  I congratulated them on the accomplishment of becoming first graders! They have all accomplished amazing things this year.  I gave them a chance to hug each other and say goodbye and then we lined up.


As you can tell by their faces, they were not ready to say goodbye.  There were lots of tears.  As we walked to the busses, I reminded them that this is a happy time.  They are going to be starting a new chapter in their lives and will make so many more new memories and new friends...but they were not having any of that in this moment.

I gave them one last hug as they got on their busses.  We have a tradition where all the teachers stand by the first bus and wave as all the busses roll pass honking their horns!

It was such a wonderful class!  I truly love them all and will miss them.  I will cherish all of the memories that we have made together and I wish them and all of you families a very wonderful summer full of play, exploration and fun!

Working as a Team to Create a Great Learning Environment for Next Year

There were some things about the arrangement of our room that had been bugging me for a while.  toward the end of each year, I start thinking about how the room could be better for next year!  I decided to have the kids help out this time and see what thought they had about it.

We looked at our room critically and figured out what areas needed improvement.  Some problems we noticed were: 1) They needed more room for building in the block area and a way for them to share their creations so everyone could see them.  2)The Dramatic Play area was too small and crowded. 3) I wanted a table in the art studio corner.  4) We needed a place to put our larger "works in progress."

We brainstormed some solutions and got to work!  I put everything into the middle of the room while they were at specials. I went ahead and made the math area as those shelves are too heavy for them to help with. Here is what they came back too.  They were very excited to get started!

The kids came in and emptied everything off of the block shelves and in the home living furniture,

and then we got to work.

Here is our new room arrangement!  A gift for next year's kindergartners from this year's class.
We put our Math Area in the smaller space where Dramatic Play used to be.  They take the trays off the shelves and take them to the nearest table or our meeting area so this area did not need to be large.  Our space under the table is our quiet area where kids go voluntarily to regulate their emotions or talk and problem solve with a friend.  It is also a space to go when they just want some quiet time or time alone.  It is more private here in this area now.

Our Reading Area which consists of our library and literacy stations flows together better than it did before.  The library and station area before were divided into two areas. Now they can use both areas together.  The small cabinet that was in art will now be a small table for literacy invitations.

We added the coffee table that used to be in the literacy to our Art Studio Corner.  It was here before and I moved it, but regretted it.  A nice sized area for Art Invitations or Observational Drawings/paintings was desperately needed here!

Our Dramatic Play Area has much more space!  They came up to me asking me if they could have the magnetic hooks.  I asked what for and they wanted them to hang up the costumes used in this area!  How brilliant!  I would never have thought of that! The Blocks are nearby and could also be used creatively in this space!

Our building and engineering area is always a very popular area.  We moved it right next to our meeting area so that when they want to share their structures or show how their machines work, we can all see from where we are naturally gathered.

We did not solve the problem of where to put "works in progress!"  This has been a problem I have been trying to solve for years!  Other than that, I love the flow of the room. It is more open and everything is easily accessible.  They played in our new environment to test it out and decided that it was a success and worked very well!!

This is the first time that I have involved the kids in getting the environment ready for next years kids.  They had such great insight as to what to do!  I may do this at the end of every year!

A Kindergarten Sky Inquiry

In the last couple weeks of school, we decided to do an inquiry about the sky.  Our Driving Questions were, "What do we see in the daytime sky? What do we see in the nighttime sky?" The sun, moon and stars are in Ohio's science standards, but the students always end up being fascinated. The things they said they see were the pretty colors of the sky, clouds, rainbows, the sun, stars and moon. After we listed these, they started telling me things they noticed that happens in the sky, and then the wonders started.  I love how much more complex their wonders get as the year goes on!  "Is the earth still, or is it moving?" "Where does the sun go at night?" "Does the sun move around the earth like  the moon does?" "If the sun is a star, why is it so much bigger than the other stars?" "How do the sun and moon move?"

I started out with rainbows and sky colors. I found that most of them already knew the order of the colors and how rainbows are made.  They loved creating rainbows though so I set out an area for them to create with art materials and prisms with flashlights.

They were fascinated with the colors that the sky can be so we read "Sky Colors" and I set out opportunities for the kids to create their own "sky colors."

They turned out beautiful!!

We read many books about clouds, both informational and fictional.  They learned that there are three main kinds of clouds.  They showed their learning by creating a mural of the daytime sky. Here are some working on the different kinds of clouds.

Next we learned about the sun.  Here they are making the sun for our mural.

We had noticed that you could also see the moon in the daytime sky but it was lighter. We made a moon out of vellum paper and added it to our mural along with facts that we had learned. Here is the finished Daytime Sky Mural!

They were amazed that the sun was not moving around the earth, but that the earth was spinning instead.  As we were exploring this concept further, they started wondering about the earth.  "Is the earth in the sky, because, you know, it is in space and space is the sky?" How does the earth spin but we don't feel like we are moving?"  "What is inside the earth?" We took a little break from what we saw in the sky to address these wonders.  They created spin art of the earth and wrote one fact they thought was interesting that they had learned about the earth. We also made diagrams showing the inside of the earth.

Next we started learning about the moon and the stars.  I set out some invitations for them to research, explore, and show what they notice.

I put out a picture of Van Gogh's Starry Night for inspiration at the easel.

 They started on our night sky mural.  We started with the stars.  Some created their own constellations! They made them all white, but then later added other colors as they found out that stars can be red, blue, yellow and brown.

We added the phases of the moon:

Here is a picture of our night sky!

I wish that we had more time for this inquiry!  They discovered galaxies and wanted to explore those further.  This happens at the end of every year!  They get so excited about exploring and inquiring as they are introduced to new and unfamiliar things because they are in that mindset!  Everything they see, they want to learn more about! Seeing them like this at the end of the year, I would love to see them in an inquiry based classroom with this mindset in first grade! I think their excitement for learning and things they would want to explore would almost be hard to keep up with!  If they did inquiry and interest based learning in first grade (or any grade!), the learning would be unstoppable and amazing!!