Category Archives: classroom culture

A Culture Of​ Learning: Global Goals

As a kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working each day with young children who are eager to learn and connect with their learning environment. I look forward to being inspired by our busy days together.

In the beginning days of school, I began to build a learning culture with my students through a big idea. This year our big idea was sustainability. We began by asking what we could do to help sustain and keep the world healthy. As we began to explore this idea I introduced the Global Goals for Sustainability because these goals were at the center of our learning. We put a poster of the Global Goals in our classroom and it became an easy way to weave the goals into our daily learning explorations. I explained to my students that these goals are promises we can make to make a difference in the world. I shared that if we make a promise to help, we are pledging our help to save the world. My students immediately become excited about this idea and wanted to know what they could do to help. I began by asking a simple question, “What do you do if you are cold?” The children responded with: I get a jacket, snuggle with a blanket and put a coat on.  I used their examples as an opportunity to connect the goals. I asked my students to imagine that the goals were a large blanket that wraps itself around the world.  The blanket represents the goals. The goals are around so we can all help sustain the world for everyone to enjoy.

Why does this matter?

The world needs everybody’s help. The Global Goals provide endless opportunities to build awareness and create a plan of action. The goals also translate to my local community as I began thinking of possible needs and opportunities we have and ways my students could engage in a positive manner to build an awareness for change. Children want to be a part of solution-based problem solving, and this can begin in kindergarten. A good place to start is with teaching how our actions of kindness can help create people who care and have empathy for others.  

Getting Started:

There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, and I chose to begin with Goal #16 because it is about being kind, advocating for others who may need help and promoting fairness. A good place to learn more about the goals on the #TeachSDGs site, there is also a Twitter conversation around this hashtag.

This goal sets a positive tone for risk-taking, support, and encouragement.  Young children need experiences and opportunities to feel what it is like to support others and be kind.  Through establishing these ideas in the beginning of Kindergarten we all begin to understand that it is about what we can do together, not as individuals that offer invitations for everyone to participate.

Creating a Culture of Learning

We created a culture of learning, by noticing and sharing our actions of kindness towards each other. Through our actions of kindness, patience, and collaboration my students felt connected to Kindergarten and each other. As we built trust, took risks and learned from each other we created a culture where all students feel safe, valued and inspired. Once my students felt connected to a classroom, we painted a map of the world as a way to show that other people live outside of Vermont and this Kindergarten class. I also began connecting with other educators and people around the world using Padlet, Skype, Google Hangout, and Twitter.  As we connected with people I took photos so my students were able to see where people are from globally, but also how we were having conversations with them.

Connections with Content:

As I began exploring how to teach about the SDGs, I looked towards the content I was teaching to determine where the goals and the content meshed. I first looked at the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), these standards are a wonderful way to begin to think about where you want to start and what goals you will explore. As we explored Goal #13 Climate Action and Goal #15 Life On Land, my students were able to connect that through our ability not to be wasteful, we can have a positive impact on land and climate. Since the goals are displayed on my wall, the students make connections about being responsible for waste every time we recycle, compost, and reuse. This helps my students make a connection with an authentic action. I found a good place to start is by simply putting up a Global Goal in your classroom where your students can make a connection. Just by adding Goal #6 to our sink area my students are being more responsible for not wasting water. These visual reminders are helping to build their awareness.

Another idea is to ask your students to make a pledge or promise to the world.  I have found this to be very impactful in my Kindergarten class, as students highlight the goal and what their action will be. I then ask my students to read their promises aloud, as if to the world, and they all feel proud. We created a board outside our classroom as a way to highlight our promises.

In my class, we are currently exploring forest life, and this offers opportunities to explore and expand on two Global Goals: #13 Climate Action and #15 Life On Land.

Through our weekly nature walks and explorations outside, my students are beginning to develop an awareness of the outdoors and why we need to take care of it.  Through Padlet we were able to share what a tree/forest looks like in Vermont as well as what trees look like and need in other countries. To get started with this activity, we first shared our Padlet on Twitter, and I also asked families to share with family members and on their Facebook pages. I also shared on my Facebook pages with other teachers. We received responses from Hong Kong, Egypt, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, London and Australia. My students were so excited to see that people from 5 continents added to our Padlet! I printed the photos off from each country and we made observations about the trees and forests, then we put the images on our map of the world.  This allowed my students to see where the trees grew globally.

Through our forest exploration, my students were able to reflect on what things trees need to grow and survive no matter where they are in the world.

This is what they came up with:

  1. All trees need a seed.
  2. All trees need water.
  3. All trees need soil.
  4. All trees need sunlight.
  5. Trees need people to care

My favorite response was #5 because when we take care of things we are modeling and demonstrating how we care.  This idea comes back to no matter what the content. These ideas turned into a belief statement for my Kindergarten students. We now connect all of our learning explorations to the global goals.  

As an extension to this project, we made a connection with a Kindergarten class in Hong Kong because my sister is a teacher there and she put me in touch with other teachers who are interested in connecting globally with another class.  Now we connect monthly using Padlet and/or Twitter to share what we are exploring. Twitter and Facebook teacher groups are also great places to post projects and ask if others are interested in joining my class explore a specific learning idea.

Now What?

The goals can be woven in and out of all content, standards, and learning. Regardless of the age you teach, the world needs everyone to care, now! What are some themes of study you are exploring? Ask your students how they can make a difference. What is important to them? Think about a global goal that would connect with their learning. Then take it a step further and think about a community need or school need you have.  How can you build an awareness alongside your students and their families?  

To help you get started here are some resources with great ideas: Participate, World’s Largest Lesson, and the Global Goals.

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Exploring the Global Goals

I have the privilege of being a Kindergarten teacher.  I work in a public school where I am completely supported with my own learning and the learning of my students.  I mention this because as an educator when I am supported by my school, students and their families a very magical synergy begins in a seamless way. This synergy is what supports many different parts connecting and collaborating together to make a difference.

A couple of months ago I became aware of the Global Goals for Sustainability.  This really inspired me and challenged my thinking about how I could bring these ideas to Kindergarten in Vermont.  So I made a large copy of the goals and shared them with my students. I told them that in Kindergarten we all have goals.  One of my goals for each of my students was to teach everyone to read.  This was an example of an individual goal.  When I asked my students about what do you think global goals might be, I was surprised and inspired by their ideas…

“It is when you share your idea with the world.”

“It’s like everyone wants to be kind.’

“I think it is working together.”

“Maybe it is sharing and helping people.”

Then I was able to build on their ideas.  My explanation was simple..  I said; “The world needs our help. Together if we share our ideas we can make a difference.” So we began exploring Life Below Water, then Life On Land and Peace & Justice.  Through our work and exploration of these goals all my students were able to learn new content and also begin thinking about how life on land and life under water is important for everyone.  We created murals, collages, shared our ideas on Twitter and even created a passport where we are collecting stamps of the global goals we explore.

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I now have an opportunity to connect and collaborate with my talented ELL teacher, Patti Tursi, who has a unique perspective and insight.  She offers her time and expertise to have small discussions with the students around the goals we have explored.  Through these small discussions we are now able to create smaller dyad groups where the children can turn and talk about what these goals are and why everyone in the world needs to know about them. Now we have another opportunity to create a movie about these goals and why they matter.

How do I know if these ideas are making a difference?

One of my students was on vacation with her family.  She and her family looked at the global goals and decided that picking up trash in a park was part of goal #15 Life On Land. Children are naturally curious and want to be a part of solutions where they can make a difference.  I share this with my students and they are all now even more interested in making connections with what we are exploring.

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I am grateful for the flexibility and support I have as a public educator.  Through my relationships with my students, families and colleagues I have many opportunities to collaborate and connect.  It is when we work alongside each other, that we are able to make a difference.  It’s not about what we’ve done, but how are we inviting others to learn with us.  Relationships develop, inspiration appears and all ideas are valued and challenged.

Just by having a poster up in my classroom of the global goals I am able to reference them throughout the day.  Giving my students opportunities to make connections and talk about what they understand.  This is an opportunity for me to model ways to care in a global way about the world.  Through our ideas and experiences we are able to share and hopefully others will be inspired by our actions and create their own plan. I think about what the possibilities are to make the world a better place when we all work together.  Endless….

Exploring the Global Goals

Some Reflections About Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a magical place where dreams come true, celebrations are everywhere and children learn “how to” learn through their ideas and what they are curious about. Young children have a natural ability to help, support, care and ask questions.  They innately want to be a part of things and offer encouragement through their exploration of ideas they are engaged in.

As an educator I have a responsibility to make every effort to support my students and their families. Being a teacher is a privilege and an honor. My presence online and face to face needs to be professional, supportive and kind.  The heart of my work is with my students.

Thinking about the fall I am exploring more opportunities that I can offer my students and their families to not only engage in what we are exploring, but ways I can continue to offer hope and invitations to learn alongside each other.  These ideas are vital for our success and the success of my students.

So how does this happen?….

  1. I open my classroom globally.  I use social media, Kidblog, blogging, Seesaw and Skype as platforms to connect my students with familiar and new faces globally who are interested in our learning.  Modeling “how to” have conversations is important because we all learn about perspective and how we can all benefit from others ideas.
  2. Reading stories that highlight kindness and empathy are important.  Through stories children make connections and want to share their ideas and have conversations with each other about what matters.  Again, this is another opportunity to widen perspective and experience how we can all benefit from others ideas. Click here for a great book list that promote kindness.
  3. Offer invitations for your families and their children to celebrate together about what their child is learning.  I try to have 4-5 celebrations of learning a year.  I do this because it is an easy way for parents to visit the classroom and also meet other families and have conversations with each other and their child about what they are exploring in Kindergarten.
  4. Take time to meet and have conversations with your students families.  They are important stakeholders and want to be involved.  It is important to offer hope and to be positive and share solutions for needs that arise.  Seek to get resources that your families need to support their child’s success in school.
  5. When exploring the Next Generation Science Standards find ways to invite families to be involved in solution based needs that impact the communities you teach in.  Click here to read about what I explored last year. When you offer opportunities for parents to engage in new learning, you are modeling “how to” collaborate and learn alongside each other.  Rich, engaging and meaningful conversations develop strong relationships.  We all matter.
  6. Take time to notice what is around you and highlight your students in ways that empower them.  Saying: “You did a nice job” is one way, but if you elaborate why they did a nice job you empower and recognize their thinking.
  7. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to help children take time to breathe and get clarity when they need it.  This way we all learn strategies that help us recognize what we need to relax, rethink and redo when we are confronted with problems. Click here to see a video I share with my students throughout the year.
  8. Find ways to collaborate with each other. Through collaboration you and your students experience “how to” connect and engage in conversations that inspire and challenge thinking. We all have much to learn from each other.
  9. Explore identity and learn where your students are from, the languages they speak and where they have traveled.  This offers opportunities to learn about different cultures and perspectives.  Celebrate each of your students identities through a project about their unique culture.
  10. Explore the natural world often and look for patterns.  Using inquiry as a way to learn about what you notice inspires deep thinking and promotes questioning.

Why?

These are just some ideas I have been reflecting on.  I think about the importance of modeling alongside my students and how to solve conflicts in meaningful ways.  I think this  offers us opportunities to learn from others perspective as well as the value of sharing our ideas to solutions with a global audience so we can all benefit from each others thoughts.

Making a difference is a theme I weave in/out of my interactions with my students.  I try to find moments when we can all shine and share our voice because we all matter, our students matter and their families.  Through positive, solution based problem solving and a smile we can all make contributions that benefit each other and the world.

Looking forward to another wonderful year in Kindergarten.  This is where I get another opportunity to open my classroom globally, to meet and learn alongside others who are also interested in making a difference. I am a teacher, an educator, a learner, an innovator, a learner, a creator and a friend. I believe in offering hope because it lets my students know that I care, I care about them. I want all of my students to be successful…  I believe in them…

Student Voice: @vermontkkids123

Earlier this week I had the pleasure and privilege of bringing 7 of my Kindergarten students to Dynamic Landscapes to present why coding is important and how we use Bee Bots to teach us about code.  It was an amazing experience. I have been thinking about the value also of student voice and how my students were able to share theirs in a very authentic way.

My students collaborated, answered questions, reflected on their thinking as they shared, demonstrated “how to” operate a Bee Bot as well as show how they support our exploration of coding.  Some things really struck me…..

  1. All of my students were confident when they shared throughout the audience.  All of my students displayed confidence and were great supporting each other.
  2. My students spoke up clearly and confidently.
  3. They added their own ideas and thoughts throughout my presentation about coding without my prompting them.
  4. They really understood what coding is and why it is important.
  5. They all worked in small collaborative groups with adults demonstrating “how to” use Bee Bots as well as answered the questions that came up.
  6. They introduced themselves with confidence and were genuinely excited and so proud to be alongside me sharing the love of coding.
  7. This was a great example of student voice.  I am so proud of my students.  They did a wonderful job using their voice to inspire others as well as opportunities for people to think about coding.
  8. My students remembered and understood the importance of covering their name when photographed because this is how we are safe when we share ourselves and our ideas online.

These are just some of the things I noticed.  I am also thinking about how seamless this was for them.  They were not nervous, but confident in their knowledge and thinking about what we were sharing and why.  This has me thinking deeply about how important it is to have our students voices heard.  Our students have so much to say and I am thinking about the opportunities that I have as an educator on a daily basis for student voice.  Creating opportunities for our students to use there voice to share, reflect and design what they are exploring and learning creates a very rich culture for learning.

Thinking about next year and how I will begin to have student voice present in all of our learning offers me opportunities to be reflective and also begin to think about what I will be designing, why it is important and how will it look and sound?  Lots of platforms and digital tools “out there” to think about incorporating…

My students are at the heart of my work.  Their families are important stakeholders and need to be a part of our busy days together.  I am thinking also about when my students are invited to share their voice, it becomes confident, inspiring and helps us all think deeply about the what of our work.

 

Why Play?

As a Kindergarten teacher I have read and been involved with lots of professional opportunities about why play matters and why it is important.  Play really gives us all an opportunity to engage in what we are curious about with others.  Through our play we are able to have fun, engage in conversation with others and enrich our thinking because we are thinking deeply about what is important.

So why is this important?

Children are naturally curious and want to learn.  They see patterns and make connections easily with their surroundings. I have noticed how my students draw from their own personal experiences and then add new knowledge/ experiences to help them make sense of an idea. This matters because children are engaged with what they want to know.  They learn by doing and having conversations about their ideas.  This is where children think critically and solve problems.

Play builds confidence and self esteem.  It offers all children an opportunity to pursue their ideas.  This matters because when we are curious, we work hard to find out about our idea.  Through their curiosity children begin to develop their own creativity because they are invested in their ideas. This is learning.

In Kindergarten we have play throughout the day.  Play can look and sound differently on any given day in Kindergarten.  One of the many reasons why I enjoy being in Kindergarten.

Recently we created Machu Picchu as a collaborative experience because we are exploring South America.  My students did an amazing job exploring the history behind this amazing place as well as learning about why it was created and who lived there.  After we completed the construction of Machu Picchu. My students began playing around it.  Some of my students created special fire engines and machines that could be used to reach a fire as well as provide water for the people who lived there.  As I watched and listened one afternoon I heard so much rich language and also what my students had learned and how they were applying it to their play.

Some of the conversation was about “how to” make wheels that would work so the fire truck could get to the mountain to help the people.  They were collaborating about what ways they could get water to people who were unable to get their own as well as talking about making sure to get all the plants planted and watered before the sun went away.  Just with these few ideas is an amazing amount of knowledge about what we learned, but also about “how to” create opportunities to make a difference with the tools/toys we had available in Kindergarten.

We are also exploring Spanish as well.  By using GoogleHangout as a platform we are connecting with middle school students who are teaching us some Spanish words.  We created a wall for our new vocabulary.  My students use this throughout the day as well.  When exploring Machu Picchu one of my students was counting, in Spanish the steps up the stairs. Again, this was authentic and came from the children.  I am thinking a lot about the value of play and how important it is that we give our students opportunities to play with a variety of materials in a variety of ways.

Thinking about next year and how will I continue to offer rich opportunities for play.  Thinking also about when I am engaged in the things I enjoy most, I am happy and learning lots…..

Bee Bots @vermontkkids123

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A Passion

One of my passions is knitting.  Knitting is an opportunity for me to create, design and think critically about patterns and “how to” make things I have never created.  Knitting is always new learning for me and it also provides a great sense of reflection and rejuvenation as well. When I knit I am often challenged by the patterns and code that I have to figure out.  I have been thinking a lot about how knitting and coding connect and also why it is important to explore code with our students.

This year I have been exploring coding using Kodable and Bee Bots.  Both of these explorations have revealed some amazing insights into the why behind coding.  When my students use Bee Bots they are collaborating and having face to face conversations about what they are trying to get their bees to do.  In a very authentic way they are beginning to create learning experiences with a bee that they design and create. The excitement around these bright yellow bees is contagious and all of my students are willing to take risks when engaged with creating their own code for their bee.

Why is this important?

Coding challenges our thinking.  It provides all of us to think deeply about an idea, a code and how is it created.  When I am challenged with my knitting I engage deeply with the challenge presented because I am passionate about what I want to create.  Students are naturally curious and excited about learning and creating what they explore.  Coding is an easy and fun way for this to happen.

Coding provides opportunities for even young children to use oral language to have conversations about what they are doing.  This is an important part of development for children as they become independent and passionate readers.  Through opportunities to interact and solve problems even our youngest learners find ways to create new ideas that inspire further exploration.  One day while we were reading our feed on Twitter we noticed another Kindergarten class in Hawaii using a Bee Bot to draw with colors.  My students were excited to try this.  While we were exploring this idea some of my students decided to put paper on the floor and build a maze using a variety of blocks.  They were trying to get the Bee Bots to travel through the maze.  This exploration began from an idea that originated outside of our walls.  We tried the idea and then it inspired my students to go further in their own thinking.  Here is what I saw and what I listened to; So much rich vocabulary and conversation. “We are like programming, we programed our bees, let’s figure out how to make them turn and go right, Hey Mrs. D. we are using math language when we do this, We are thinking mathematically and so much more.”

Later I begin to think about other opportunities to offer in regards to coding.  During math time Bee Bots is now a station with task cards I created for the children to use with the mats we have.  I have a former student who is now in 2nd grade who comes to Kindergarten weekly to facilitate this station.  Using Paint as a way to create our own Bee Bots offers my students another opportunity to create and design what they understand, why also strengthening their computer skills.

So many possibilities in regards to learning to code.  Little did I know that I have been coding for a very long time……..