## Sunday, April 22, 2018

### Happy Earth Day!

On this fine sunny Earth Day, I give you a tribute to our favorite material at play time: sticks.  The poem comes from a book titled, A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play.

A Stick is an Excellent Thing

A stick is an excellent thing.
If you find the perfect one,
It’s a scepter for a king.
A stick is an excellent thing.

It’s a magic wand. It’s yours to fling,
To strum a fence, to draw the sun.
A stick is an excellent thing
if you find the perfect one.

## Saturday, April 21, 2018

### This Week in Review - April 16 - 20

This information is also found in Walter's weekly email:

It was a busy and very productive week! In math class, we continued our exploration with probability, using coin tosses. We also did some fun activities with the probability of someone picking a number, and the frequency of certain letters in the alphabet. Of course, work in the Singapore Math books continues - each child working at their own pace, with lots of help from a very dedicated group of parent helpers.

Children finished their pen pal letters, and proudly sent them off on Friday morning. They were very excited to get their first letters waiting for them when they came in from lunch recess! Now that they have their pen pals, we will spend some fun weeks writing back and forth.

Look at the amazing mailbox Grace made! She also snapped these adorable pictures of the children mailing their first pen pal letters - the joy is real!

Lexi and Dillon did a wonderful job, as usual, when it was their turn for special readers. We also took turns reciting a poem from our anthology, and then each picked one poem they thought they did an especially good job on. This “best work” went into the children’s portfolios. This type of self reflection is really important, and encourages students to do an even better job next time.

Earth Day is Sunday, so we spent some time reading about taking care of our planet.

We read the book Green City as a way to tie sustainability into our current theme. Students in K-4 decorated Trader Joe’s grocery bags with earth friendly messages and people who shop there on Sunday may even get their food packed up in a beautiful bag. On Friday afternoon, we went birding with our naturalist Kelsey at County Farm Park. Using her eBird app, she recorded what we found through our binoculars so that ornithologists can use the information. This is also an important way to help out the environment for Earth Day.

## Thursday, April 19, 2018

### Earth Day is Sunday - Shop at Trader Joe's

This year, the K-2 classes, as well as the 3-4 French classes, participated in the Earth Day Groceries Project. This is the 25th year of this online project, and a way for schools all over the globe to participate in raising awareness of environmental issues. Click HERE to learn more about Earth Day Groceries Project.

Trader Joe's was our partner again this year. They are always so great - a real neighborhood collaborator. They loaned us a lot of bags and all students in the K - 4th grades decorated them with great messages - about recycling, picking up litter, loving our earth.

If you shop at Trader Joe's on Sunday, Earth Day, you may get your groceries bagged up in one of these beautiful bags! Wouldn't that be so lucky?

This project is also our Environmental Super Hero project for April. We have done some incredible things this year!

### Update on City Project - What PBL Looks Like In Early Elementary

Summers-Knoll describes its philosophy as project-based and theme-based, where students are taught to collaborate in a community of learners. But what does that mean with our youngest students?

Project Based Learning (PBL) is loosely defined as

"a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem. Students learn both thinking strategies and domain knowledge."

This type of authentic learning opportunity looks different in middle school than it does in the 4th grade, and different still in the early childhood classroom. Here, teachers often have to facilitate more, and actively instill curiosity and wonder about a topic. We tend to do more whole-group projects towards a common goal, rather than everyone doing their own thing. Using academic jargon for a moment, we teachers are scaffolding - leading children closer to the next step, which will be more individual work, setting up their own rubrics for assessment, and so on.

For the past several weeks, the children in 1st and 2nd grade have been fully immersed as City Planners. We have read about and thought about what types of buildings and structures cities need to make them viable and livable. This week, we read a book about a city, Greensburg, Kansas, that rebuilt itself after a tornado to make itself a much greener and environmental sustainably way - Green City. In Science Class with Shan, Children have learned about animals that live in cities and have adapted very well to urban landscapes - and then they created their own urban landscapes where animals could get food, water, and shelter. In the classroom, we've used various materials to make our ideal city parks. We've put deep thought into how cities should be designed so that everyone and everything can live in harmony.

All this hard work is paying off, and the children are very excited. Here is an update on our city project as it stands today:

We are still working on our maps. This gives children practice with mapping terms, and also with thoughtful city planning. For instance, it is probably not a good idea to put a nature preserve next to a noisy airport.

Our cardboard city buildings are nearly done. Once they are completed, the same thought put into our maps will then go into planning our city. We will need to add roads and bridges and signs. Each child got to make the building of their choice, after careful consideration of all the buildings they thought should go into a medium-sized city. This took several days of discussion.

Each child then got to make a puppet. This is someone who works or resides in the building they created. They created a whole persona for their puppet - name, age, what they are like on the inside and the outside. I'll bet you can guess what this person does for a living.

Grace and I have been reading a lot of books with letters in them. Luckily, there are so many picture books that use letters as a way to push the narrative along! We've also done lessons on how to set up a personal letter, and what to add to a letter to make it interesting.

Now the characters in the city are going to be pen pals! We are writing to unknown "friends" and will soon be sharing letters with other characters. This has been a source of extreme excitement, and our writers have been very inspired. Friday is the day where we will have our first exchange.

And that's the beauty of teacher-led, student-driven projects - they are real-life, and they have intrinsic motivation to learn tied in. The "teacher talk" word for this is authentic.

Quoting from a blog post from the Buck Institute for Education:

“Fully authentic” means students are doing work that is real to them—it is authentic to their lives— or the work has a direct impact on or use in the real world. The “real world,” by the way, could still be school, which is a very real place for students.

A project can be authentic in four ways, some of which may be combined in one project:
1. It meets a real need in the world beyond the classroom or the products students create are used by real people.
2. It focuses on a problem or an issue or topic that is relevant to students’ lives—the more directly, the better—or on a problem or issue that is actually being faced by adults in the world students will soon enter.
3. It sets up a scenario or simulation that is realistic, even if it is fictitious.
4. It involves tools, tasks, standards, or processes used by adults in real settings and by professionals in the workplace.
I can't wait for our students to read their first letters, to be motivated to write even longer letters, to put their buildings together to make the best city ever, to use engineering skills to design bridges, and to celebrate being part of group project that is coming together beautifully after weeks and weeks of sustained and satisfying work.