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wonder and spark


DO WE NEED TO TAKE THIS OUTSIDE? Discover how taking work outside helps your students.

Welcome Spring! What can we learn from you today? Take your students outside to discover the wonders of nature and spark learning that is unparalleled After a long snowy winter and layers of outwear, it’s rejuvenating to see bright green buds blossom and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Our renewed world seems to have a mysterious pull to linger a few extra minutes outside at recess. Instead of blowing that whistle to go inside for instruction, why not bring the instruction outside? Nature is chalked full of learning opportunities, ones that will truly stay with the children; personally experiencing them, as oppose to just reading about them.

april - may - june


In Jennifer Ward’s book, ‘I Love Dirt!”, Richard Louv reveals that “in 2005 the California Department of Education found that students in schools with nature immersion programs performed 27 percent better in science testing than kids in traditional class settings. Similarly, children who attended outdoor classrooms showed substantially improved test scores, particularly in science.” Now you may be thinking, that’s great, but I don’t have the time or funding to create a ‘nature immersion program’. Luckily for you, this won’t cost a penny and the ramifications are powerful! Simply take a lesson you have already planned and move the children outside. Changing locations not only stimulates the brain, it also introduces how we can absorb

lessons from Mother Nature. Children that are gifted or intellectually more mature (continued on page 2)

more: Technology Tip Earth Day The Grouchy Kindergartner It’s So Hard to Say Good-bye

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“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look at what happens with a love like that - it lights up the entire sky.” - Hafiz “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” - Einstein

Spring Books:

OBSERVATIONS: learning about a turtle in it’s natural habitat

So many books, so little time! Here are a few of our favorites! 1. Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller See all the creatures of the animal kingdom who lay eggs! 2. Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose A little boy realizes why it’s so important to treat others with care. 3. A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long Through beautiful illustrations, timelines and dialog, children witness the wide variety of seeds our world as to offer. 4. A Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle This classic inspires one grouchy project! (see page 3) 5. It’s Spring! by Linda Glaser Through rhyme and lovely cut-paper illustrations, Glaser reveals the many signs of spring.

Technology Tip: Never have enough time to blog? Have your students do it! By allowing students to write/type blog posts, thinking, writing and typing skills are boosted! On top of that, students are actively engaged!

(Welcome Spring! continued) especially need to learn how to be in nature. As our technologically-driven world changes at a mind-boggling pace and as the stresses of our everyday life increase, one thing is always there for us is nature. Children can find peace and relaxation in this constant companion. If you are seeking ways to immerse your students into the great outdoors, begin your lesson planning with yourself and your state/district objectives. When you go outside, what do you notice? What captures your attention so much that you want your students to witness it, too? (Of course, this would require your to pull away from those parent emails and record keeping long enough to step outdoors. But wouldn’t that be beneficial for your mental state and blood pressure?! It’s amazing how those tensed-up neck muscles relax with a few deep breathes of fresh air and the afternoon sun shining on your pale skin - so go for it!) Once you have something, (let’s say it’s that fresh ant pile that has erupted on the playground that the children can’t seem to keep away from), you must set your expectations. (This will help you and the students stay focused once they are emerged in the exciting world of anywhere-but-in-their-desk.) Inform the children that they will be performing some scientific investigations outside today, but everyone must be focused and work together to be successful. Tell the children what they should be looking for/at, remind them how scientists record their findings and think/discuss what they have discovered. A few great ways to manage behavior during outside learning: 1. Set physical boundaries (the soccer field and swing set are closed right now, we will only be making observations on the lawn between the two oak trees) 2. Review body language (Me: “What will I see you doing?” Kids: Looking for insects. Me: “Will I see children playing tag or swinging? Kids: No.) 3. Review discussion topics (Me: “What will this job sound like?” Kids: Quietly listening for bird sounds. Me: “Will I hear children talking about Sponge Bob?” Kids: No) Another helpful tip is to have a class set of clipboards. If you don’t have enough clipboards, have the children tape a piece of paper to a dry erase board. Just like the first time you introduce an activity in class, you’ll need to invest a little time setting boundaries and routines. But, you will be pleasantly surprised with how engaged your students are and with the amount of knowledge they retain. Be bold enough to also let them free-explore. Ask students questions about what they observe and notice. Model how to look at something and wonder aloud, “I wonder why grass is so many different shades of green. Where could I go to learn more about that? How is a butterfly like a bird? Where are worms going when the burrow underground?” Students will begin posing questions to you and now you are their ultimate guide in this new learning process! (continued on page 3)

(Welcome Spring! continued) BEWARE! The teacher side of your brain will want to do a lot of interacting and talking during this time. This is great for initial discoveries and ensuring students are focused, but once it’s time to write, let them be! We need to give children some uninterrupted time to marinate their thoughts on what they have just unearthed. The real thinking and connecting of ideas will only come into fruition if we allow children to digest and wonder about what they have seen. Making students stop what they are doing to go inside can really put a stop their thought process! So leave those cold desks inside and step into light, spring air with your students. You will be rewarded with deep thinkers and exciting discoveries!

Journal Topics: Whether writing in a journal or science notebook, the children can start observing and recording with these prompts: •What can the wind blow? •Spring: I hear ____. (I see, feel, smell) •How is spring different from winter? •List living/non-living things you see. •What seeds would you plant in a garden? •What do plants need to grow? •What plants are yummy/yucky to eat? •Draw a plant/flower, label it’s parts.

Discovery Box In the spring, gather materials for a Discovery Box. This will be something that is taken out to recess each day and available to all young scientists to aide in discovering and recording findings. Suggested items: - hand lenses - microscope - paper, crayons, colored pencils (place these in a covered container so items do not blow away!) - small containers for collecting specimen (be sure to teach ‘catch, observe and release’!)

Top 5 Things to Do Outside 1. Read - put down a picnic blanket and have read aloud time under a canopy of white fluffy clouds. Students can bring their favorite books outside and buddy-read with a friend. 2. Write - let the spring air energize imaginations and pose the questions like ‘What can the wind blow?’ 3. Measure, Collect and Compare - go on a hunt and analyze your findings. Read street signs, measure how many steps across the playground compared to the sidewalk, research what types of trees are on your campus, list objects you see outside as living or non-living 4. Cooperate - organize group activities where children are required to take turns, depend on one another, communicate and encourage. 5. Be an artist - carry those paints outside and channel your inner Audubon! Watch birds (and other animals) and record their beauty with a set of watercolors.

Earth Day 2010 This year, use materials that are already in your classroom (or house) to teach the concept of reusing! As Earth Day draws near, collect snack boxes and cut them into 4x6 inch rectangles. With an address label and a stamp, you have the perfect postcard to send to a loved one! Activities like these also foster flexible thinking. If a cereal box can be made into a postcard, what else can we do with a box? This creative thinking is just the tool your students will need as they problem solve across the disciplines.

Grouchy Ladybug: Thank you to Ms. Horton for donating this grumpy little project! Discussing emotions is a crucial element to fostering a healthy selfesteem; especially feeling angry or grouchy. Often children are surprised to hear an adult say, “It’s O.K. to be angry” or “I was feeling grouchy last night when...” This is the moment when anger and how we deal with anger can be seen as two very different things. To engage students, read the story ‘The Grouchy Ladybug’ by Eric Carle. Then, take a picture of each child making a grumpy face.

Students create a ladybug and attach their own picture as a the face of a grumpy ladybug. Students then reflect on a time they felt angry or grumpy, then write a speech bubble for their ladybug reflecting this. When it’s time to share with the group, have discussions about how their anger manifested and brainstorm proper ways to handle anger and solve problems.

dates grab a few ideas







Secretary’s Day Make a card from your class and throw in a little chocolate

Mother’s Day Make a coupon book for mom

Flag Day Learn how to properly handle, hang and fold the flag




Earth Day Take your lunch outside for a class picnic, then work together to clean up the playground

Armed Forces Day Listen to patriotic songs during journal time.

Father’s Day Paint a a paperweight rock and label it “Dad Rocks” as a gift.



Memorial Day Teach how to have moment of silence for our fallen soldiers

First Day of Summer

Memory Books

Postcards in the Summer

Often teachers spend countless hours creating memory books for students. This year, make individualized and meaningful memory keepers, while cutting all the prep, stress and work load! Start with a blank book. Bare Books makes a hard-cover, 28 page blank book for only $1.75. Perfect for this project! If funding is tight, simply bind a few blank pages with a construction-paper cover. Give each child his/her book and explain how memory books are a place where reminders of our most treasured memories are kept. Begin by dedicating each page to a specific memory. After the title page, students will draw and write about their favorite field trip. Page 3 is about their favorite center in the classroom. Page 4 can be about what friends they love to play with at recess. Give prompts, but also allow children to choose their own topics, too. Some students may have enjoyed a grandparent visiting the classroom, while another wants to write about how he conquered the monkey bars this year! Before the children take their books home, be sure to write a note to each child, stating how honored you feel to have been their teacher and an acknowledgement of what makes him/her unique. Glue in a few photos, if you’d like and send the children off with something they love, while you hold the memories of the time spent making the books together, in your heart.

Everyone loves getting a letter in the mail! It’s especially exciting if that piece of mail comes from your teacher! This summer when you are traveling, pick up a book of postcards from a souvenir shop. Write each child a quick note, “I hope you’re enjoying your summer. I’m in Boston this week. Can you find Boston on a map? Keep reading! Love, Mrs. Keith” This motivates children beyond measure to read the postcard themselves, pick up a few map-reading skills and write their teacher back! (Thank you Mrs. Keith for this fabulous idea!)

It’s O.K....relax! As spring draws to an end and we close the chapter on this school year, teachers are free to spend their days however they wish! But as the days pass by, many teachers find themselves looking for some extra professional development hours and mentally rearranging their classroom floor-plan. While this is a great time to restock and reevaluate, it’s also time to discover more about yourself. Take time to relax and think deeply about your life, set personal goals and try something new. Congratulate yourself on a successful school year and then turn to your loved ones and interests for inspiration. Remember, if you are continuing to grow, so will your students!

I love you, Mommy! Teach students to serenade their mother with a song as a gift for Mother’s Day. ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is a sweet song and by switching the word “dear” to “Mom” it turns into the loveliest little gift a mother can receive.

For more information and ideas, go to:

Wonder and Spark Spring 2010  

Use the season of spring to inspire your children into the wonderful world of art, science and literacy!

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