10 December, 2011


For the last few weeks it has been raining . . .

and raining . . .

and raining some more.

Our city has had a record amount of rain this year so far, 66.62 inches!  That's the most rain recorded in this city in over 100 years!  Yikes!

Normally, our playground looks out on a mildly sloping hill, that goes quite a ways down and then ends up at the edge of a small creek.  I would say it is usually about 10 - 15 feet across.  But with all this rain, it had flooded  - and in a big way!  Now we can see water from our playground, and though it is not quite up to the jungle gym yet, it has been creeping closer and closer each day!

Of course, our class had to go down to check out the creek and see how different it looked from the last time we visited - about a month ago.

Yikes!  Look at all this water, and this is just a small channel off of the main creek!

Of course, the children explored the water with sticks, poking them into the water to see its depth.

And we did some other exploring while we were in the forest.

One little guy made his own tent

while some other children tested the strength of various branches.

The we brought the flood indoors, to our classroom water table.

Here the children used sand, rocks (big and small), water, and toy animals to shape and channel their own waterways, and then flood them!  They also made animal homes which they moved to higher ground when the floods arrived!  

What did the children learn through these two experiences?

  • measuring water levels - with sticks
  • testing strength and thickness of sticks
  • adding water to existing amounts of water and discovering how much more water it took to "flood" the water table
  • weight of dry versus wet sand
  • testing height of branches versus height of legs (Can you climb over a branch or will you have to go under instead?)
  • how to maneuver up and down various sizes of hills (degree of grade)
  • speed of flowing water
  • learning where the flowing creek water goes (heads to the Ohio River)
  • "big sticks make a big 'plonk' while smaller ones make a little 'plink,' when you throw them into the water"
  • evergreen versus deciduous trees (leaves that had previously been on trees now cover the ground)
  • area of flood plain
  • how animals seek higher ground in a flood
  • floating and sinking (sticks and rocks)
  • how to tell if bare branches are alive while"resting" through the Winter (breaking open a small stick to see if it is green inside)
  • judging best routes to take to get past or around water - how to get around obstacles and which areas seem to be the most clear
  • listening to sounds created by sticks banging on different tree trunks, bark, and on the ground
  • shapes created by bare branches
  • reflections created in muddy and still water
  • textures visible in bare bark
  • ripples created when throwing stones or sticks in the water
  • envisioning groups of sticks as "houses"
Language (vocabulary terms)
  • flood plain
  • flood
  • higher ground
  • murky
  • beaver lodge and beaver dam
  • crawfish
  • nocturnal and diurnal
  • channels
  • slope
Not to mention the gross motor skills required to maneuver their way through the forest (without a path), cooperation skills (working and keeping track of buddies), and who knows what else I have forgotten to mention! 

My point here is rich learning experiences such as these bring learning not only closer to the children's homes, but also closer to their hearts - as they experience the joy of learning! 

04 December, 2011

Fostering Communication: Newsletters for Parents

Parents and Teachers . . .
Teachers and Parents . . .

We are partners in the education of children.  Research shows children learn more and understand more of what they learn at school if they are able to discuss with their parents, at home.

Knowing that, how should we as teachers communicate most effectively with parents?

My students are dropped off and picked up in the classroom each day, by their parents.  I try to use those few moments to share any momentous events that may have occurred throughout the day, but clearly I cannot speak with every parent every day.  I therefore frequently communicate with parents through e-mail, and I also use a weekly newsletter.

I have written weekly newsletters for almost every class I have ever taught, and truly I cannot imagine how I would manage without doing so.  True, if you ask me every Friday afternoon what I am going to do that evening, I might grumble a bit about having to write my newsletter, but after it is written, I am always so glad to have done it.  I feel it is an invaluable way for children to recall the events of the previous week, and share with their families.  My hope is that families can read the newsletter together in order to hear and discuss . . .

news about friends
new learning

and on and on.

I write my newsletter every Friday afternoon or evening, and e-mail it to the parents of each child in my class, and the head of our school.  I include photographs of the children at work and at play, photographs of their work and artwork, and other news about our week.  From time to time, I also include links to external web sites that relate to a topic our class might be studying or news about local events I think parents and children might enjoy.

So without further ado, here is a sample.  I hope  by reading this (my most recent newsletter) you will see how I try to communicate with parents, and make it possible for them to share as fully as is possible, in their children's education at school.

How do you communicate with parents?