The Next Generation Science Standards are still in the works but I have rolled with them as is. The State of Massachusetts has yet to adopt them formally. I am excited to be teaching a science based curriculum. The other subjects integrate beautifully.
The past couple of weeks, we have looked at Simple Machines and the children have enjoyed the “play” aspects. We worked specifically with inclined planes, wedges, and levers. The play involved moving furniture, building inventions and structures and lifting heavy things. It was a delight hearing the children use the vocabulary during their Choice time.
Bringing the learning to the next step engaged students in the engineering and technology piece of the NGSS. Here is a class book of the simple machine inventions that students created.
One of the items on our “standards based report cards” addresses the asking of questions. It actually shows up in the area of science. For me, this one is a biggie. There is so much more work required of kids now in order to work collaboratively and at the same time develop higher level thinking skills.
Hands on activities like the experience we shared yesterday with Gini Traub, highlight the pre-teaching, teaching, and more importantly, exploration of learning that bring the most success. We are a community of learners. Yes, we find time to play with each other, but the work we do as learners and team members provides good opportunity for developing questioning minds.
I am looking for more all the time. “Why do you suppose? Where did the animals go? How can we help solve this problem?” are all questions I model and I watch them puzzle a bit over it, posit a response, and expand on the thinking. You can see it happen in their faces. Sometimes they will simply make something up but we have many Aha! moments as well.
As for answers, well I think they are all very nice to have. Yes, we can tie things up with answers. What I am striving for is a bigger bank of questions. I want to see students wonder more about the things that matter, and in particular, matter to them.
During our visit with Gini, we explored a few natural artifacts. We studied them closely using our senses. I also pulled some kids to the side to have them explain what they were seeing. Watch their faces as they speak. You can see the kids who are puzzling and wondering. Children have wonderful and fertile minds ripe for learning. They will long remember opening up pine cones and discovering seeds which will feed animals into the winter months.
Computer Science Education Week is well under way and our kindergarten class has jumped right in. Here are a few of the tools we have been working with. Please note that this week, all of our exploration and effort is focused on whole class use of the IWB. The school’s laptops are being used for an important week long project under way in grade 6.
I previewed a few of the programs and found some interesting results. You can check out many more options by paying a visit to these tutorials.
Light-Bot is a pretty straight forward tool and I found an hour flew by while I was engaged in the challenges. The problem is that while I signed up to have my class join in some friendly programming competition, I never heard back from the registration and the program itself stopped my play after an hour. I would need to buy the app to play more outside of the competitions. I think you could start it up at home and with a bit of help, your child can have an hour of fun with you.
Coding teaches us to think and organize in a pretty complex way. Most of the tools we are looking at for younger children are pretty forgiving and kids can go back and make changes – reprogram – for success.
By far, the class favorite was ArtBot, another cool tool that uses arrows, grabs, and jumps. The kids begged for a chance to play the game and some even chose it for free time. It comes to us from TVO Kids and it is web based. By the time these independent learners reached the higher levels, the kids worked in groups two or three. This is very highly recommended as they all get a chance to contribute and learn along with their buddies.
We wrapped up the mid-week session with Angry Birds but in this case, they don’t go flying through the air. Instead, you program their moves using some Blockly commands. Those may be familiar to you from Scratch and look like this.
So, while we have been introduced to the new tools in class, every child is at a different place in their learning and understanding so adults or older siblings will be well advised to stick close by for assistance with reading and resetting after errors, particularly with the Angry Birds game as there are some words to read and recognize repeatedly.
Adults will learn a lot as well so don’t be shy. Try it out yourself for a few minutes. It’s fun!
I thought it would be a neat use of technology to engage our class and other kindergarten classes in a Twitter project around giving thanks. The hashtag #Kinder… is used in a number of ways. It started with #Kinderchat, an ongoing conversation on Twitter for kindergarten teachers around the world. I have seen many other posts using the prefix of #Kinder so it seemed appropriate to tag our project with #KinderThanks.
Next, I took the feed produced thus far with the #KinderThanks hashtag and created a Storify story. I love the digital story we created in just a few minutes as a class. The children spoke and watched as their tweets were created on the IWB. I have removed the Storify as permissions have changed.
That was amazing!! We arranged a Skype call with a Ranger from Yellowstone and it was a blast. I suspect that I am the one who enjoyed it the most of all. We found the connection on Skype For Education and the arrangements for our call were made quickly with little hassle. There are a few Rangers who speak with classes so be sure you have made a connection a few days earlier.
Our experience was with Ranger Tom. He greeted us from Mammoth Hot Springs, one of many sections in Yellowstone. We had focused our conversation in advance so we could all be on the same page. Our unit on Animals All Around Us brought us many conversations about how animals adapt to meet their changing needs throughout the year.
A group of children worked with me during interactive writing at the easel so we could craft a number of questions the morning of the call.
Where are bears hibernating?
Does a bear get cold?
What do bunnies eat in the winter?
Ranger Tom showed us few pictures. First a giant grizzly bear which weighs as much as all of the children combined. He has a double coat of fur to keep him warm. He sleeps most of the winter as there is little food to eat.
We also saw a white snowshoe hare picture set against a field of snow. We knew the word for that was camouflage and that it kept the hare safe from predators. In the warmer weather, it’s coat changes to brown and again it can blend in with the landscape.
This call was so much fun that many of the children didn’t want to stop. They loved the attention they received while I was dreaming of the terraces at the hot springs that I recall from an earlier visit there.
I highly recommend that classrooms take advantage of this service provided by the National Park System. We learned a great deal and fueled an interest to learn more about nature and wildlife. The above are screen shots. Below are some from our side of the camera. Images were removed as permissions have changed.