Tag Archives: science

Postcards: An Opportunity to Build Relationships & Learn About the World

In June of each year, I send a welcome letter, a postcard from Vermont with Vermont animals on it, and a map of the United States to each of my students that I will have in kindergarten in the fall. I ask my students to examine the animals and to share with someone at home if they recognize any of the animals and share where they think they may live. I am beginning to help model and create opportunities for my students to become explorers and to think and experience ways they can interact with the natural world.

I do this for many reasons.

Why does this matter?

One important reason is that I want to begin to establish a relationship with all of my students and their families. Kindergarten is an important year and it goes by quickly so I want to take every opportunity I can to connect. Through making personal connections early on I find that both families and their children feel welcomed and a part of their learning experiences.

Through sharing our personal stories of our travels, experiences, and ideas not only to we begin to connect, but I am sharing information about myself as well. This is always helpful when establishing new relationships.

The postcards invite conversations for families to think about why are things where they are? They begin to think about land and water. This helps me explore how all my students will become geographers because they will have opportunities to ask why things are where they are in the world.

Through this postcard exchange, I am helping me to promote conversations about where places are in the world as well as opening up perspectives about what is possible and where you can go and what you might find there/learn.

I am intentional about the cards I send because I am also trying to promote the idea of inquiry. For example; In the cards I sent from Chicago I visited a museum and the artist produced lots of visual art by creating patterns. One of the cards I sent had patterns in it so I am able to pose the following questions on the card giving all my students opportunities to think and share their ideas with a family member. What do you notice? Do you see any patterns? How do you know they are patterns? Look at the postcard I sent you from Wisconsin, do you see any similarities?

The postcards have land, water, trees, art, animals, and other amazing things that give a glimpse of where I have traveled. The variety of photos invites conversations about why is water here along the shore in Chicago? etc. This helps my students think a bit about the geography of the land. This is important because in kindergarten as explorers my students will be investigating Global Goal #15 Life On Land and these experiences help establish some familiarity with the world.

Through these types of questions, I am opening up dialogue for the family to look at the cards and to discuss their observations with their child, while also modeling open-ended questions that promote thinking and curiosity. I am modeling how writing can be used as a tool to communicate and invite my students to send and create cards as well.

What I notice:

In one of the photos, you see a young boy using his holding hand while his other hand guides him to color in the state I am currently visiting(his mom shares he is mentioning my name and where I am while coloring). He is coloring carefully and has a natural grip to help guide him. These are skills that we explore in kindergarten and this helps me get to know a bit about this child. Through an authentic opportunity to connect, I am learning many things about my new kindergartners.

The family shares that he states: “I need to color in Michigan because that is where Mrs. D. is.” The child uses his oral language to talk about the map and have conversations with his family about my travels. Each place I visit I send a postcard to all of my students. This experience invites opportunities to make predictions about where is Mrs. D. going next. In some ways, I am promoting curiosity and deep thinking so this child and others can make predictions and use their imagination about what it might be like there, where I am.

You will notice in the photos that many of my students sent me postcards of how they were using their postcards and maps I sent them. You notice that many of my students mailed me postcards and one of my students found a map on an airplane and used that to mark his travels and mine. What an amazing, authentic connection with how maps can be used to give information and share a story.

Once kindergarten started, many of my students brought me postcards of places they traveled as well. I created a place in kindergarten to display these cards because we are connecting and developing relationships from our experiences and are inspiring each other through our stories.

In the photos, you see the different ways families have used the maps. Some children taped on a wall, others kept on a table. One family added Canada to their map because that was where they were from.

Looking at photos of my new kindergarten students this year I am reminded about the impact visual information can offer and how much I can learn about my students and what they are exploring as they receive the many postcards I mail them throughout my summer travel.

As a National Geographic Certified Educator, I have been very excited about The Learning Framework that National Geographic created. The framework has 3 components; Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge. I have experienced how these pieces when woven together through inquiry offer endless opportunities for students to begin to think like a geographer and an explorer.

The postcard exchange I create each year begins to create a culture and model how we can all learn from each other when we share our experiences and our stories. This is a wonderful example of how the Learning Framework can be a part of learning. I am inviting opportunities to be curious, promote inquiry, and to connect with others who have a different perspective.

I am a very passionate educator who believes in opening up my classroom globally to help build bridges between people and cultures. I believe that this matters because even young children can think and learn about the world through sharing. I choose postcards because they helped to tell my story of my summer travel and to give authentic images of real things in the world. This inspired my students to do the same.

How We Explore The Global Goals: @vermontkkids123

Sharing Our Story…..

Sharing Our Story:@vermontkkids123

My Story….

Recently I had the opportunity as a former Ignite award winner to work with an amazing storyteller, Sue Schmidt. I, along with 3 other talented educators was able to share our stories at a recent Vita-Learn conference.  For me, this was really hard at first! As I practiced my story, wrote it down and then shared with a live audience I was struck by the ease at which my words and passion came through. I learned that when we share a personal story, it has such deep meaning because it represents a journey, a beginning and a place where we end up but still evolving.

The other thought I have about this process is how reflective it was. My reflection was both backward and forward about my experience. I thought a lot about my inward reflections as well about my journey and what I thought others might be thinking about what I was sharing, my story. As reflective and challenging as this process was, I felt very inspired and confident in my story and hope that it inspired others too.

Telling our story….

Back in Kindergarten, I started to think about when and how my Kindergarten students have opportunities to share their stories and when. One of the opportunities in our class is to create an iMovie about the Global Goals for Sustainability. One of my colleagues and awesome ELL teacher, Patti Tursi offers her expertise in being a director for our movie. She shares how we are going to talk about why we want people to know about the goals and why. As we begin this work collaboratively we meet and come up with a plan of action. The plan provides us a way to organize our thoughts and ideas but is also flexible if we need to change things. We use Google Docs because we can both add and change things anytime, anywhere. If we have questions we can post and support each other in our thinking. So we begin…

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Our plan….

  • introduction
  • What are the goals?
  • Individual photos with words
  • Voice over photos
  1. How are we learning about the goals?
  2. Service-learning connection/experiences
  3. Think: goal(s)
  4. Create photo/illustration
  • individual/small group
  • Background of the world with our identity(color, collaborative)
  • Exploration of the filming” studio”/stage we created with the children
  • Explore microphones
  1. Rehearsal/Filming: Practice using student voice to tell their story and connection with the goal they choose
  1. Filming Cutaways:
  2. A small group of students works with Patti to edit and make decisions about what we want to keep and/or retakes

The children learned so much from Ms. Tursi. She has special expertise in creating movies and as our director, we all learned how to create a movie and what was involved. Through this process, the children were collaborative and very respectful and supportive of each other. They learned how to use technology in an authentic way with a strong purpose to inspire others. Thinking reflectively about what they thought of themselves as storytellers about what they are passionate about, helping the world. As an educator this really is amazing and how wonderful that we can all learn alongside each other to create a story/message about why others need to engage in the goals.

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Reflecting further…

Through the use of a microphone, iPad, iMovie, Google Docs, Ms. Tursi’s time, energy and expertise, and flexible space we were able to collaborate with each other to create something wonderful. The process is easy to think about: a plan, design, create/produce and publish.

So because of this experience, one of my students thought it would be a great idea to tell the school about the goals and ask for others to help us collect food one more time before school ends and then walk and deliver the food before school ends. So we did! Small groups of Kindergarten students are visiting interested classes to speak about their goals and why they are important. They share our work around Global Goal #2 Zero Hunger as a way to share how collecting food connects. Then something wonderful happens. Another Kindergarten teacher reads the story; “On Market Street to her students and shares that her students decided to do something kind for others and that they also wanted to collect food for the food shelf. Awesome! So now students from both classrooms are making a morning announcement at our school to explain what we are doing and why we need everyone’s help.

 

 

When we share and invite others to help we create a positive culture of learning and a culture that encourages kindness and builds empathy. I am proud to be an ambassador for the global goals and feel privileged to work and learn alongside so many inspiring educators, students, and their families globally.

Check out one of my kindergarten students’ writing she created during a playtime.. What if we all felt this way? How can we all make this happen?

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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. 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 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 at 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 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 to 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 to 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.

Continue reading

The Global Goals: @vermontkkids123

Collaborative efforts bring awareness, engagement, and advocacy from even young children in helping develop an appreciation for the natural world.  It starts through an exploration of what the goals are, why we have them and why it might be important for others to know about them. Then we create a plan of action.

This is our journey…

We created awareness and listed our goals, talking about why we thought they were important and what they meant to us.  What was interesting is that while we explored them and hung a poster in our classroom, they became part of our classroom culture.  By doing this it was easy for me to connect conversations that we were having with a specific goal.  Through our authentic and genuine curiosity about the global goals, we have all become more aware of not only what they are but why they are important. “The why” is most important because it helped drive deeper thinking and the children then had an opportunity to be reflective.

We have been exploring all year ways that we make a difference for ourselves, our school, our family and community. We started with an essential question…  Where does waste go? So we created an awareness of what we thought and then created a padlet that we could share globally to find out what others in the world are doing.  This was easy to tie into the global goals because as we created our own awareness, we also were able to think about how our actions could impact the climate and life on land.  Yup!  There just happens to be two global goals, Climate Action #13 and Life on Land #15.

Another way we helped make a difference for others was to build awareness of hunger.  We were curious if people were hungry, Did children have enough food?  What happens if people need food?  Who helps them?  Again, this is another opportunity to refer to the global goals, goal #2 zero hunger. My students collect food twice a year.  Then we walk to our local food shelf and make a delivery.  This is always exciting for children.  They have direct experience with what it means to help others and have empathy.  This is easy to do.  Think of a need that your community has, build awareness and then create a plan of action that includes your students, families, and communities.  Together, everyone begins to connect and weave a thread of caring because it directly impacts a need.  

Now the Global Goals are a part of my classroom culture.  They remind us all of what the world needs.  My students understand why they are important and are creative in their ideas to find ways to make the world a better place. Even in Kindergarten, these ideas have an impact.  My students are really genuinely invested in making the world a better place.  I think about the impact this could have if more and more young children were familiar with making goals.  Just by building awareness, through the content I explore, we are finding ways to connect to the goals.  It raises awareness of the world and really, my students love learning about the world!  Kindergarten seems like the perfect place to begin thinking about how we can collaborate globally to make the world a better place.  We all need each other.  The world needs all of us to care and make wishes come true for everyone. Why not start collaborating with your students today!

My ELL teacher, Patti Tursi collaborated with me around the goals.  As an ELL teacher, she has special expertise and perspective about students who are from places other than the US.  She becomes a director of our 1st documentary on the Global Goals.  She sets up a filming studio in my classroom with the children and then the children begin to explore the filming equipment and play so they experience what it can be used for.  Later when we film, Patti teaches us about being quiet on the set and other languages used for creating a film. This experience is real life and offers my students an opportunity to learn a new language with a new expert.

Here is our 1st documentary!

The Global Goals

I paint a map of the world each year with my students.  We add places we visit and people we connect with.  We share how we are having conversations with others and what we are learning about.  Now that I am aware of the Global Goals I can add the goals to our map, as well as when we explore them.  This is another way we can build awareness, inspire others and think deeply about what we are doing and how.  The why of our ideas is through our own reflection and how we share our voices.

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As our year comes to an end I ask my students to think about why we connect globally?  Why is it important? Do you think others need to connect globally too?

Here are some of their reasons…

  1. When we connect we show we care.
  2. We learn from others.
  3. We solve problems and learn new things.
  4. We like global goals because the whole world cares about everyone.
  5. I love the world.
  6. We help the world. We love the world. We connect globally because we care.
  7. I love to learn about the world.
  8. It is fun.

I believe in people and have a passion for learning.  I have hope that through our collaborative efforts we will be able to make a difference globally.  This means we all can begin taking 1 step at a time, building an awareness of what we can do.  I am inspired by my Kindergarten students.  They give me hope that we can all learn from each other and work together to keep the world healthy.

@SKYPEClassroom: Inviting Perspective To Enrich and Engage!

Yesterday was one of those amazing experiences that I had using a synchronous tool with my Kindergarten students that really had a positive impact on what we were exploring inside and outside of our classroom.  As a Kindergarten teacher I have lots of opportunities for my students to create and design their understanding of the topics we explore. We use our imagination and interest, but also our hands!
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Yesterday morning we had an opportunity to use SKYPE to connect and learn from a forest ranger in Yellowstone National Park!  Wow!  My students were so captivated and interested in this session.  Our forest ranger was engaging, shared photographs and real artifacts of animals and other real things that are part of forest life.  Through this experience my students learned about forest life in the west.  We were able to make connections with ideas that we were familiar with in Vermont too.  My students learned about special adaptations of animals and how these adaptations impact their life.  As I watched and listened to the conversation between the forester, in Colorado and my classroom I was struck at how comfortable my students were in using Skype as a way to share and the great questions they had. My students were engaged and enriched with this experience.  They were able to experience again the value of making connections with others who have a special expertise and a different perspective about what we are exploring.
unnamed-7I look forward to using @SKYPEClassroom again to enrich my students learning.  This is a wonderful, easy and fun way to connect real learning opportunities in authentic ways.

As we began to explore the forests of Vermont my students were very interested in the trees that grew in the forests and the animal live.  So we began to create our own forest inside of our classroom.  We constructed trees using paper, paint and cardboard.  We even collected real tree growth from the natural world and found ways to display and share inside our classroom.  Later we created non fiction books, created posts on our Kidblogs about our favorite forest animal, the rabbit!  Later we were also able to create our own rabbit too!unnamed

As an educator I have opportunities to use a variety of technologies to support and enrich learning for my students.  I continue to share and try new ideas that offer inspiration and challenge my thinking.  It is vital that I think in a transparent way when teaching.  It is an opportunity for me to offer my students and their families to learn alongside me, with me and feel like they are a part of their child’s education.  This is how I am able to make a difference, engage and connect.  I would not do it differently.  Technology is definitely changing education, but it is creating an opportunity for all of us to connect and engage in meaningful ways that supports learning inside and outside of our classrooms.  How are you making this happen?

Scientific Drawings Reflect What We Understand-iPads!

    

Last week I had one of those ah ha moments in kindergarten during our writer’s workshop time.  We have been exploring life cycles.  My students have been creating books, podcasts and scientific drawings about many living things found in nature.  My students were creating a scientific drawing of some of the insects we found outside our classroom using pencils and paper.  I also had lots of informational text, along with some real examples as well as some photographs.  I was feeling great about the materials available and thought every student will be successful.  I soon discovered that for many this writing task seemed very overwhelming.  I then made iPads available and asked my students to go to Doodle Buddy and try designing their insect first before drawing on the paper.  Wow!  Immediately my students became engaged and so excited.  I heard laughing and lots of conversation like;”look what I did, I made an ant, I can help you, see, you can make the lines skinny and fat, look we can shade the background in, yeah Mrs. D. I made a connection, it’s like Gail Gibbons”.  This continued for the next 45 minutes.  Every child was able to create an insect and highlight the features they felt were important.Then my students created their insect on paper using pencils, colored pencils and crayons.

I have thought a lot about this experience and what it reveals about the importance of having attainable, successful and meaningful tasks for my students.  Many of my students were frustrated by using pencils and felt the need to erase.  The iPads provided a way for all my students to create and design over and over until their idea/scientific drawing was the way they wanted it.  The value of having an iPad made it easy to share their drawings.  I was able to email to parents and share electronically.  The benefits of recreating the insect on paper was a great fine motor activity and a way for my students to have experienced a process approach in creating a special type of drawing, a scientific drawing with labels, etc.

If I had my own iPads in my classroom everyday my students would be able to save this work and reflect, refer to throughout our study.  Emailing makes sharing easy and very powerful.

In conclusion my students were able to share that scientific drawings have labels, use lines and arrows to point out what the parts are(one of my students came up with this one!), colorful, show body parts and are real things.

I am also thinking about how important it is to scaffold learning experiences for my students too.  The purpose and reasons behind the why and what we do is very important.  As a teacher I want to make sure that the tasks I am modeling are meaningful, have explicit meaning and are attainable for all of my students.  The iPads have really been helpful in ensuring not only that all my students are successful, but that they all have equal access to the learning content we explore together.