A soft, quiet, winter morning with snow covering Tillamook County gives teacher and student a snow day. A perfect time for me to spend a day doing what I love best - planning, reading, and reflecting. I've jotted down plans to compare annual, perennial, and biennial plants, contrast seed starts to bulb starts in spring flowers like daffodils, and take a challenge to cut open an Artist's Conk to see the tubes inside. The students are reading, writing, and reasoning well, so we have been taking time to focus on using those skills with projects.
We incorporate decimals, rounding, number sense, skip counting, reading, and discussions of fact or opinion while looking up prices in our local advertisements. How many items can you get for $20.00? How close can you get to $10.00 with three times?
We've been studying tribes in Oregon's History. After researching, writing, designing, and planning we built Plank Houses using real tools. Many found out that they didn't adequately design the foundation and either added planks or started over. This gave a real-life example of why our first try can always be improved on. We have continued to spark conversations on building and design.
We played with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Math) to answer a school-wide challenge to build a flying device that could travel the farthest. Again we start with research, then moving to design, gathering tools, testing, rebuilding, writing changes down, and trying again. This time there were upwards of 15 prototypes per student. One child found his design in a book in our classroom non-fiction section, remembering that he had read about it earlier in the year. He was proud that he didn't have to look up his design on the computers. We used a process called RERUN to think about our work. Recall, Explain, Results, Uncertainties, and New. They were able to think about what their intentions were, explain what steps they took and the results. Next, they discussed the flight problems that they found. Some students had solved various issues and shared their knowledge. Then they thought forward to if they were to do the challenge again, what new thing would they do to improve their process and design. I wish I had a hidden microphone to record their conversations. They really showed me their curiosity and desire to create.
We gathered with Margot, the Explorers, and the Navigators to explore our forest and discover newly emerged fungi. Many samples were taken to study and identify indoors. Their interest was targeted on the many conks in our forest which led me today to create a research study on them. I've never cut one open to observe, have you? During this walk we were challenged to practice silence for five minutes. How glorious to hear the birds start to sing, see flickers of movement high in trees, and hear the melody of the little river rushing to join Slab Creek.
We've learned to identify forest plants in winter, investigated the worm's role in soil creation, learned about organs by building a life-sized body, recorded our observations in our nature journals, are keeping lists of the books we've read in our reading journals, chosen to read or create writing clubs during free time and recess, and we're navigating friendships and how to be an individual yet still a part of a group. We can reflect on other's lives in Art Literature while studying Edgar Degas and learn to recreate his style of acrylic painting.
I'm often asked about Neskowin Valley School culture, or how do I like my job, or what do we teach? We teach about life. I have a daily goal to see each student advance in their ability to configure numbers, read, write, spell, communicate, rest, and play. Some days they are each a separate class - English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, History, Art - on other days and weeks, like those above, they are all melded together. I love being a guide to these curious exploring students and I am glad to be able to work at a school that allows students to create, explore, and discover every day.