Monday, December 26, 2011

Without Leaving the Classroom

You don't need to be an environmental educator, you don't have to stray from traditional norms, or be on the cutting edge to incorporate place-based education into your daily practice as a teacher. The goal is to create connections, connections to what the learners already know about the world around them. Activate their prior knowledge.

One of my most effective teachers was in college. In fact for most of the courses we never left the dark art history classroom, where a huge screen usually displayed two slides at a time. All of his lectures and courses were about art created during the Baroque period or before. What Professor Grillo did do was make correlations to what was happening in the world during the time the art work was created with what was going on in the world as we sat in our chairs and took notes. He compared and contrasted the socioeconomics of the times, the technology, the relationships between the artists and the commissioners. We, the students, had a deeper understanding of history because we could use ourselves and our place in history as a reference point.

Using the creek that runs behind the school yard is a wonderful opportunity to teach so many things, but a teacher does not need to start there. Simply comparing your latitude on a map in relationship to the country you are studying is a way to make a simple connection and a reference point from which you can compare and contrast.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lessons from Professor Snowman

Inquiry learning focuses on the idea that the learner generates their own questions about the world and the teacher guides them in the search to find the answers. Being keen to listening for these questions (a.k.a. learning opportunities) is part of a teacher, mentor or parents' job.

My son has really wanted to build a snowman ever since the first snowfall in early November. The problem was it was too cold. Not too cold for us to be outside, but too cold for the snow to stick together. He wanted to know why.

Now my son is just shy of 3 years old. We aren't going to go really deep with this, but there are some ways we can work to develop an understanding of the concepts which answer this question. Inquiry is about the learner discovering, not about the teacher telling. The solution to this problem won't be found in a day, in fact, for this particular inquiry he won't know the real root of the answer for years. Knowledge builds and spirals on itself.

We start off by simply applying a very basic scientific method approach. Each day we look at the thermometer and I read the temperature to him. I ask him how cold it feels outside. Warm, chilly, cold, really cold or freezing? Then we try to make a snowball and discuss the texture and weight of the snow. Is it light and fluffy or heavy and clumpy. Does it stick together or fall apart? I wait to see if he draws any conclusions... it is a pretty sophisticated concept for a toddler to correlate temperature with snow conditions, but we're building the blocks for better understanding later.

With my 6th grade students we would start at a very different place. They will be able to read the thermometer themselves, for starters, but they quickly, if they haven't already in their lives, correlated temperature with snow conditions, especially if they are into skiing which many kids in this region are. Though with my particular group skiing is a luxury their families can't afford. They do however have prior knowledge to draw from, having years of snowball fighting and snowman building experience. They should also have some understanding of states of matter. Now we can start to deepen their comprehension of the concepts at play here. Having really worked with my students on how to use references they can start research in the library and the internet. They can also start to conduct experiments: recording data and observations. Date, time, temperature, snow quality. Eventually between research, experimentation, and a little guidance they are able to conclude that there exist subtleties between states of matter. You don't just go directly from ice to water. There are shades of grey in between. Some of the kids have discovered through their research how the molecular structure of water changes. This is when I see if I could get a local expert in. The University of Alaska, Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University are right here - a wealth of resources for any educator. I seek out a glaciologist and bring her in to help us put all the pieces together.

There are many extensions and culminating ways you can use to put this new found understanding to use and allow the students to apply their knowledge and for teachers and parents to assess the accuracy of the information gained:
  • Have students keep a journal recording their daily investigations, research or experiments. Journals are a great way to tap into many different intelligences, as Howard Gardner would say. Students who are visual can draw and map out their findings while students who are very literal can do more writing. 
  • A great cumulative way to prove their understanding of their path to discovery is to create a flow chart, mapping their way from their starting point - the question to their conclusion.
  • The best test of what a student has learned is if they are able to explain the concept acquired in their own words - a wonderful way to do this is to explain the process to a younger audience. I often have my 6th grade students write stories or lead experiments for their 2nd grade reading buddies.
As we all know everyone learns differently, not everyone of my students is going to understand the true molecular differnces between snow at -20 degrees and snow at 31 degrees, but their understanding will be deeper and broader than it was before. Their understanding will stick with them and translate into many other realms because they led the inquiry and were not told the answer. They will have the tools to seek answers and solutions when teachers or parents are no longer in constant eye sight.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reading about Place

I've always been drawn to reading books set in or about places I've been or lived. I like being able to imagine the landscape, buildings or people. I suppose they also helped me develop from being a struggling reader to a prolific one. I was able to tackle harder to read words by having a context in which to put them.

Here are some of my favorite books about Alaska, my home for the last decade. Some are children's books and some are novels meant for a more mature audience (though they are not graphic or lude in anyway).
  • Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie Miller, and illustrated by Jon Van Zyle
  • My Lead Dog Was A Lesbian: Mushing Across Alaska in the Iditarod--the World's Most Grueling Race by Brian Patrick O'Donoghue
  • Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Aillaud
  • The Accidental Adventurer by Barbara Washburn, the first woman to Climb Denali
  • Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness by Anne Purdy & Robert Specht
  • Two in the Far North by Margaret E. Murie
  • Up on Denali by Shelly Gill, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright
  • Winterdance by Gary Paulsen
  • All books written by Debbie Miller
  • All books illustrated by Shannon Cartwright

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Love Story about Place

This is a grown up novel, not a story book, but I thought I would still share. I love all of Vreeland's books as they are mostly about the lives of artists, and with my background in art history, well they are just perfect light reading, but the The Forest Lover is an absolute favorite. Having such a strong passion for place and creating connections, this piece of historical fiction plays at everyone of my heartstrings!

I happened to stumble upon this book in the bargain section of a book store looking for something to read on the plane as I went to fly to Victoria, British Columbia, where my mom was living at the time, to visit for Christmas. I honestly just liked the cover and quickly glanced at the blurb on the back. As luck would have it it was about the artist, Emily Car, who lived in Victoria, her deep passion for the place and her love of the native culture.  At the time I was single and living in a dry cabin with no running water in Fairbanks, finishing grad school and in my third year of teaching full time. I myself had fallen in love with Alaska Native culture and how place means something very different in Alaska than anywhere else I had lived. Talk about making connections!

While in Victoria my mother and I were able to go to the Emily Carr house and many of the places mentioned in the book, that I hadn't been to on previous trips, but now was curious about. At her house, now a historical landmark and museum we were greeted by an docent who explained typical Christmas traditions in Victoria at the time when Carr lived. It was so special and so poignant to make such immediate connections to a book I picked up by happenstance.

I have read all but two of Vreeland's novels. Currently I am devouring Clara and Mr. Tiffany.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Solstice Lesson Planning

In a little over a month we will officially begin Winter, though it feels like we've been fully engulfed in it already here in Anchorage, Alaska. Solstices and Equinoxes are important markers this far north, where we notice the drastic differences from the midnight sun of June to the long dark & cold days in December. The winter solstice is our hub of reference and the peak at which we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You don't have to be at an extreme latitude to notice the differences and compare them to other parts of the world.

A local author, Debbie Miller and illustrator, Jon Van Zyle teamed up to create the fantastic book Arctic Nights, Arctic Lights. Each page illustrates the average day for each month, a short description about what a typical day in interior Alaska looks like, the average temp and the sunrise and sunset times. The border on each page is cleaverly a chart of the amount of daylight and darkness for each day. There is also a brief informational introduction about Alaska and the characteristics of life at this latitude and a great glossary of terms specific to this locale.

This book & topic provide so much fodder for all kinds of learning opportunities and integrated cross-curricular lessons. Math, science and social studies completely intertwined! No matter what level you teach there exist so many ways to extend from this simple & beautiful picture book.

Math -
  • Figure out the length of the day using the sunrise and sunset times from the book. 
  • Chart the daylight and darkness. You can do this together as a class, in groups or as individuals depending on your child, or classes developmental stage. I found my 6th grade students had some rather ingenious algorithms for correctly calculating the daylight and darkness. 
  • Compare the daylight & darkness charts or overlapping them is a power visual.
  • Then choose your locale (if you are in interior Alaska find the information for somewhere else in the world, perhaps closer to the Equator) and get your local sunrise/sunset info using the weather section of your local newspaper or the internet. Create the same kind of graph of the daylight and darkness in your neck of the woods.
  • Compare graphs.
  • Another extension for this lesson is to do this as an ongoing project - once a week get the local sunrise/sunset times for your local paper. Add a new bar or plot to your graph every week over the course of the school year
  • Have the students/class create a book using Arctic Nights, Arctic Lights as a template and tailoring it to your place.
  • I loved doing projects like this with older kids and then having them share/apply their knowledge by reading their books to a younger audience, for instance reading buddies.
  • Through comparison look at interior Alaska as an ecosystem and analyze how the drastic changes in daylight and darkness effect the biology of the organisms that live there. Compare that to a different latitude and how more balanced daylight might affect the ecology there.
Social Studies:
  • Again through comparison look at how the daylight & darkness effect the traditions, daily rituals & life patterns of people at northern latitudes vs your own latitude or one completely different.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    My All Time, Hands Down, Favorite Read Aloud

    From Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the Fantastic Mr. Fox, all of Roald Dahl's books make for fantastic read alouds! His playful use of language does such a wonderful job illustrating for the imagination his other worlds and alternate realities. The broken, uneven, yet profound, poetic and silly bumblings of the BFG are so much fun to read aloud, it is a shame to read them only in your head. They literally seem to tickle the tongue.

    “A whizzpopper!" cried the BFG, beaming at her. "Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music in our ears! You surely is not telling me that a little whizzpopping if forbidden among human beans?”  from the BFG.

    The Witches, however, is by far, hands down, my favorite read aloud book of all time! The way Dahl captures  the Grand High Witch's Bavarian accent through spelling phonetically & tweaking the words make for the ultimate story telling experience. Even for me a rather conservative, self conscious reader I am easily able to loose myself in the characters. It is clear this author intended it to be shared this way. His clever description of how to detect a witch has the students on the edges of their seat and you can feel them start to closely observe you, the reader, for signs that you may be one. A master at bringing the reader and audience into the fold, Dahl makes the two dimensional text pop out at you.

    What is your favorite read aloud?

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    The Power of the Read Aloud Goes Way Beyond the Primary Grades

    During the 2004/2005 school year I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet and hear the world renowned illustrator Wendell Minor speak to the 6th graders I was teaching. A dear friend and colleague organized his presentation at the school. Having a passion for and deep roots in the arts I am always drawn to beautifully illustrated books, but this was the first time I was to hear in person, from the primary source, what the process was like to bring words to life. What I took from this experience was nothing short of an epiphany.

    Like many teachers, I came to the profession with a desire to smooth out the bumps I felt as a student. I have learned through my own academic challenges, that one of my strengths in life is having some insight into how people acquire knowledge. Having struggled to learn to read myself, and figuring out how to harness my own hyperactive idiosyncrasies, I have found it easy to empathize with others. When I heard Wendell speak he seemed to be speaking to me as a learner not an educator. Ironically, that year  and this experience happened when I was home in Rhode Island, teaching in the same middle school I went to as a 6th grader. I was miserable as a student there, but found myself as a whole person there while I taught. Things do really come around full circle.

    Wendell Minor's message to the students was persevere. He overcame a learning disability to become the successful man he is today. A boy who grappled with dyslexia made his mark on the literary world as an adult. His message to the teachers - Wendell credited his teachers who read aloud to the class. He related that by listening to the stories, he knew that even though he didn't feel confident he could read those books on his own yet, that other worlds, adventures and knowledge awaited him when he could.

    Reading aloud is profoundly beneficial to kids of all ages, even in high school and beyond. It takes the pressure of performing off  for a little while and allows them to fully enjoy a great story. The conversations that will ensue will bond you, deepen your understanding of the literature and each other.

    One of my proudest moments of teaching was having a bunch of rough and tough 6th graders, already jaded by hard lives, cry and laugh with me through reading Old Yeller. They broke out into round of applause when I turned the last page. I know only a few of them had ever finished a novel before that.

    Thank you Mr. Minor and Donna Berg for facilitating and deepening my love of the read aloud!

    A Different Lesson from the Lorax

    "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
    Spoken by the Once-ler in the Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

    These are words I live by and every time I read the book aloud choke me up. Our society as a whole today promotes individuals to complain, but doesn't encourage them enough to be the change they seek. It is frustrating sometimes to feel as though you are looked at as a radical for simply stepping up and speaking out. It is a fundamental value I hope to instill in my children. That being said I noticed something the other night when my toddler son pulled the book of the shelf and asked me to read it. Like all good Dr. Seuss books, I read the story with an animated voice rolling with the cadence of the playful rhymes and poetic licence that only he could produce, BUT I found that I did not thoroughly go through the pictures on the pages discussing and labeling the characters and scenes as we do in other books. I realized, the reason I didn't was I knew the pictures would drastically change from a happy Utopia to a wasteland of sorrow and regret. This content is too heavy for a little boy. I wanted the book to remain as light hearted and silly as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish or Hop on Pop. I do not want to put the weight of the world on his still developing shoulders. He's not ready for that and neither am I.

    We need to allow our children to be children. Preserve their innocence. I thought we were doing that in our house by not owning a tv and sheltering him from the graphic displays and candor on the evening news. I was surprised to find that weight in a book that has such a powerful and positive intent.

    Like the Loony Tunes cartoons, many picture books aren't intended for younger audiences. This is the perfect kind of story for an early teen, who's horizons are broadening and is searching for a little meaning in life and is developing a greater conscience.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    School Choice: A Bittersweet Dilemma

    Having worked in Title 1 (low-income population) schools all but 2 years of my teaching career, I've seen first hand amazing teachers move to other schools to leave the stress of the abused test scores, the anguish of loosing sleep night after night trying to solve a problem for a child that isn't even school related. I've seen classrooms inspected to make sure the right posters for the reading program are up on the walls. I've seen teachers have to parent first before they can teach. I've seen them stripped of the autonomy and tools that work for their students because the school isn't making AYP. I've seen phenomenal teachers quit teaching all together because they can't handle the feeling of never being able to do enough. I've seen schools where the Parent Teacher Association was only comprised of the teachers. I've seen schools have test week pep rallies to "promote" success on the assessments only to add more weight and stress on the students. I've seen canned reading programs where sixth graders never open a real novel, schools trying so hard to scramble to meet the "mark" in SBAs that they don't teach social studies or science. I've seen and been responsible for students test scores who have been in 4 or 5 different schools before my classroom. I've seen students who have only been in English speaking schools for 3 years forced to take the same test as the rest of the kids and held accountable for it. I've seen kids withheld services because the SPED department is the category "bringing the school" down from making AYP. I've seen gifted students held from gifted schools because they lifted the test score average of a school. When I started teaching and NCLB was being put in place I thought these were just dooms day predictions conjured up by those at the extremes. Today it is pure reality.

    While people often blame the left for being bleeding hearts and the right for corporate ambition, the bottom line is if you believe in the American Dream, if you believe in Capitalism and the idea that if you work hard your reap the benefits... then the education for ALL students should be equal. Education however is not a capitalist's market. The economic growth model that NCLB is based on does not fit, with all the variables that exist in this realm. The irony is that if you want Capitalism to work you need a little socialism. Like a good education you can't be taught in only one way to have a comprehensive understanding with which to go out and be fully successful in the world. If you are only taught reading through phonics you miss the meaning. There's a balance. We need to find it.

    Charter Schools is a hot topic in Congress today, as is the voucher system. A love/hate relationship is what I have with Charter schools. Here are some of the pros and cons about the system as it exists today:

    Charter School Cons:
    • On one hand they are seen as public funded private schools for the students of typically educated, and usually middle-class families and up. 
    • Very few charter schools cater to underpriveledged populations. 
    • Usually they require parents provide transportation, or students to take the city bus as opposed to the school bus (kind of an imposing idea for a kindergartner). 
    • Another stipulation that many charter schools have is mandatory parent involvement. This sounds great but rather difficult for parents who work 2 jobs each and may not speak English. 
    • Simply knowing these charter schools and choices exist is an obstacle for many parents. School districts don't tend to want to divert students away from their neighborhood schools for fear of the added costs.
    Charter School Pros:
    • Parent Choice
    • Ability to choose the right program for your child's learning style and family's belief system.
    • Fostering innovative thinking in teaching staff
    • Providing testing grounds for best practices
    The Voucher Option - is a hot topic as well. This is where the government provides financial assistance for parents to send their children to private, non-government schools. All of the same pros and cons that deal with charter schools apply here.
      My personal dilema - already the toddler parents I see on a regular basis are starting to chatter (our kids don't even start preschool until next year) about where they want their kids to go. They are packing up their houses and moving to neighborhoods with better schools, they are sharing info they've heard about charter schools. The anxiety over getting their kid in through the lottery system is already giving them goosebumps. I want my kid to go to my neighborhood school, even though it is a Title 1 school, serving both my neighborhood and the trailer park near by. I want my child to understand diversity in not just race, but economic status. I grew up a "poor" kid in a wealthy ocean side New England town. BUT I want choice too. I don't want him to be taught through the canned Houghton Mifflin Reading Program the district mandates teachers in Title 1 schools teach with "fidelity." I want to know that there are great teachers that come back to the same school every year and that it isn't just a constantly new crop of rookies because once the teachers get their foot into the district they move on from that school. I want my child to be part of a school with a clear and vibrant vision.

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      Project Wild & Project Learning Tree

      These are two of the finest environmental education programs around. Trainers are located all over the country that can help you tailor the lessons to your neck of the woods. I had the pleasure of participating in the training for both Project Wild and Project Learning Tree (PLT) 10 years ago when I was completing my internship and the program has only gotten better since then. One of the things I love about this programs is the user friendly materials they provide educators and the activities they have designed full engage all of the multiple intelligences. These aren't just lessons, they are games and hands on experiments to fully engage students from kindergarten through high school. Here in Alaska the program is sponsored by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the .

      PLT even offers trained teachers grant opportunities for up to $1000 to plan service projects!

      Project Learning Tree Environmental Education Activity Guide Pre K-8 (2004)Project WILD K-12 Curriculum and Activity GuideProject Wild Aquatic: K - 12 Curriculum & Activity Guide

      Sunday, August 28, 2011

      Blueberry Buddies and Lessons from the Land

      Lia (from Skedaddle) and I packed up our boys this morning and made a trip to a favorite top secret blueberry location. Like hunting grounds, fishing holes and gold claims, favorite berry crops are kept between close friends in Alaska. The boys did all the hiking on their own. After the adventure, in both houses, pie became the fate of the wild grown alpine fruit. Out of ALL the blueberry recipes in my cookbook, The Joy of Blueberries: Natures Little Blue Powerhouse, pie always seems to win... well it ties with the blueberry coffee cake.

      Some concepts that can be taught through berry picking and the requisite baking after:
      • Estimating - estimate how many berrys are in your container then count them.
      • Volume - pour berries from a smaller container into a larger one
      • Ecology - food chain, paying attention to where the berries are found on the mountain side - are they near streams? high in the rocky areas? low in the boggy areas? Is this habitat to other creatures?
      • Topography & Geography  - bring a compass or a gps device to record your coordinates, pay attention to the terrain and elevation gain as you hike.
      • Measurement & Fractions- baking
      • Democracy - let the students or members of your family vote on the fate of the berries... pies, smoothies, muffins etc...
      • History - in my family's case blueberries are an important part of our history, my great-grandmother owned a blueberry farm in New Hampshire, as did many other 1st generation Finnish Americans. Berry's are also a part of the subsistence culture of Alaska from it's Native peoples to the gold miners fighting off scurvy in the long winter months.
      • Literary connections - as I mention in an earlier post Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey is a favorite in our house. Blueberry Shoe, by Ann Dixon, a local author is another.
      • Nutrition - There are many benefits to eating berries - antioxidants and fiber are just the beginning.


      Friday, August 26, 2011

      Nature Walks and Journaling with Toddlers - Start Young

      While I am a strong believer of free play, both my son and I are needing some structured activities during the day. I have this fabulous book I just found in all my teaching materials collecting dust in the garage: 365 Days of Creative Play: for children 2 yrs. and up. It is full of simple things to do each day. Most are pretty straight forward and some are easily modified for your own family's needs or the materials you happen to have on hand.


      While I've always planned on creating a nature journal with my little guy it was the extra boost I needed to get going. The prompt was simple - collect things outside and glue them to a piece of cardboard. The teacher in me took it a little further. Journaling and scientific observation require a few mandatory steps:
      1. Date, time, location
      2. Drawings, glued in specimens, photos or written observations
      3. Labels
      We collected our specimens on our 10 am amble down the Chester Creek Trail near our home. I initiated collecting the first few items and modeled putting them in our collection container (aka bucket). Soon the bucket was full. We stopped to watch a Stellar Blue Jay swoop through the under brush of the forest. A squirrel chattering high in a tree had us scanning the canopy until we spotted it. Many stops along the creek were made, but no fish were spotted. Some trees were rushing ahead of the rest to change color.

      When arriving back home we took a break for a well earned snack and then went to work making our first entry into our ecology journal. We looked at the calendar to find the date and the clock for the time. I wrote that in. The little bear glued in his specimens and we labeled them. I wrote down a bunch of labels and he got the hang of it and started scribbling his labels next to his specimens. While labeling things we took a closer look at many of the leaves, the patterns of the veins and the holes where some sort of creature must have had a good lunch. We hypothesized about what type of animal might make such wholes and concluded it must have been a caterpillar like in Eric Carl's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

      I think we may begin trying to collect a few specimens from each Taiga Trek. It would be interesting to see the variety that comes from different locations and various seasons.

      1. We used thick pieces of water color paper. Card stock would work to. I chose a more rigid paper so it doesn't bend and bow when holding it up under the weight of the specimens.
      2. Elmer's Glue
      3. Nature specimens collected from our walk
      4. Pencil to label the specimens and record other pertinent info.
      5. Since each page is rather bulky with many 3-d objects glue to them we are using a box or an old rubbermaid tote to chronologically organize our entries. This way we aren't squishing everything every time the book is closed.
      Very Hungry Caterpillar365 Days of Creative Play, 4E

      Monday, August 22, 2011


      If you happen to live in New England their is a phenomenal partnership happening between fisherman and classrooms - the Adopt-a-Boat program. Through this relationships students are able to experience science and technology first hand, in a real life setting through collaborating with a fishing vessel's crew. Not only are the scientific principles such as sampling, data collection, they see first hand what professional collaboration looks like. The benefits don't stop there. Students also see how interconnected the world is: how the number of fish you catch has an effect, not only on the ecosystem, but on the sustainability of a food source and the larger economy.

      When teaching back home in Rhode Island for a year, I had the honor of meeting the director of the program. His enthusiasm for the partnership was contagious and the excitement the students, teachers and most of all the fisherman was electric. The fishermen were empowered by sharing their knowledge and being seen as experts. The teachers were thrilled to have such a rich opportunity to teach their students in an integrated context and the students were engaged because they were making real life connections.

      This is the description of the program taken from the Adopt-a-Boat's website,

      "A collaborative effort between the fishing industry and educators, the Adopt-a-Boat program draws on the expertise and experience of commercial fishermen to help educate K-12 students. By partnering with classrooms, fishermen help educate students about marine ecology, the complexities of marine resource utilization, and the daily life of fishermen. Conceptualized and organized by New England fishermen, the MIT Sea Grant College Program and other cooperating organizations, Adopt-a-Boat works to present a balanced picture of commercial fishing, thereby building a citizenry enlightened about marine resources and the importance of coastal communities.

      Adopt-a-Boat focuses on partnering fishermen with individual classrooms/teachers. Thus far, teachers from Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have participated in the program. Fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with a variety of vessel types, have also participated. Each boat is linked with a partnering classroom that may be in the same geographic region as the vessel's homeport or may be hundreds of miles away! The choice is yours."

      Saturday, August 20, 2011

      Art & Nature

      Andy Goldsworthy is a world renowned artist, who's trademark is natural installations. These are some of the gorgeous books of photographs depicting his work. There is also a great documentary where he discusses his creations and you can watch him manipulate the natural world till he creates a final product. Creating natural installations after studying the remarkable artist is an amazing activity for students at any age. It is also a great lesson to do multiple times with a class over the seasons.

      Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with NatureTimeWoodEnclosure

      Tuesday, August 16, 2011

      Project CRISS

      The ultimate goal of an educator is to teach the learner how to effectively learn on their own. Project CRISS is a program that teaches skills that can be applied in any content area. The focus is on metacognition, the idea of awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes, through providing strategies for organizing and processing information. Graphic organizers, reading strategies, mnemonic devices etc. Students need to have a tool box full of all kinds of strategies. More importantly they should possess  the ability to be able to choose the appropriate one for the task at hand.

      Number Notes used to analyze & process info from the book Flat Stanley

      Moon Journals

      Moon Journals: Writing, Art, and Inquiry Through Focused Nature Study

      Looking for something new and exciting to do this school year? Creating Moon Journals is the ultimate way to integrate science with art, writing, content reading... well just about every content area. I used this book as a spring board to get me started. I found some of the activities a bit too phoofy so I modified it as I went. Every year was different. When teaching multi-age I didn't want to do the exact same thing the next year so we took the premise and adapted to our plant study and made Tree Journals. The process of journaling helps fine tune observation skills along with the life skill of following through on a long term project. The result is a master-piece every child can be proud of. One of the keys to shaping this into a successful endeavor for all is modeling the process. Keep your own journal and share it daily with your students.