EXPLORERS - May 2019

May has been a whirlwind! With the return of warmth and sunshine, the Explorers have taken to the outdoors for reading, writing, math, art, and science. We are often asked how we keep students focused and engaged while outdoors. In a nutshell, the only time that being engaged is a problem is when they have not had enough time to work out their own thoughts, ideas, and questions. Our students are highly engaged, active learners. They see letters and numbers, symmetry and geometry on every venture outdoors. Walking around, sitting, climbing, or standing quietly - they are constantly learning, telling what they have learned, taking the "lesson" one step further than we expected!

They gathered horsetail ferns, measured them, and placed them on a graph drawn in chalk. They discussed rounding and why they would choose one number over the other number (since we only had whole numbers on our graph). They are six to nine-year-olds, but they figured out that they needed to round a number! One first grade student was counting the "little lines" between the whole numbers to compare how close the fern was to each number. They cooperated by holding things still when some ferns required moving the yardstick. Every student had multiple opportunities to practice how to line up a ruler at the end when measuring. When the data was in, they were able to talk about what they had predicted! The data was then gathered to take inside for another day's lesson on averages.

Another afternoon, they sat around a field with journals and drew their favorite plant after wandering around, finding a snake, a frog, and several spiders. We haul pencils, colored pencils, rulers, books, paper, hand lenses and often snacks on our outings. There are rarely groans when it's time to do an activity. The buy-in comes because they have input and choices. We often marvel at how much they want to learn and how dedicated they are to finding answers. Going outdoors, listening quietly, looking closely, and touching gently creates minds that see math and science everywhere. It opens up the dialogue about things they are interested in pursuing. That dialogue creates a hunger to read and to write. As they want to learn more about a topic, they gain a desire to be able to read field guides and non-fiction books. They want to answer their questions and then share their information with the class and others.

Erin Kenny says it best: "Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take the walls away."

~ Teacher Rhonda


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