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Spokane Valley Montessori School November 5, 2017

23167903_10210495617410259_5693371300634601430_n23316555_10210495617490261_756158605853610551_nAs a Montessori Teacher, it is a great joy to be invited into another Montessori environment.  Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to spend a day at Spokane Valley Montessori School.  I was presenting a training for Montessori Assistant Teachers, sponsored by the International Association for Montessori Education, a new Teacher Education Program forming in Spokane, Washington.  Gwen, the owner of Spokane Valley Montessori School, graciously allowed us the use of her fabulous school for the day!  Wow!  What a perfect setting for assistant teachers to practice and see the importance of the prepared environment.  The school is gorgeous, spotlessly clean, filled with beauty and light, and everything is in its place and ready for use by the children.  Gwen has been involved in Montessori education for forty years, and Montessori education is her passion!

The building was purpose built for a Montessori School, so sinks, toilets, etc., are all just the right size for the children.  The rooms are filled with natural light from the big picture windows.  On the day I visited, snow was falling.  I could just imagine the excitement of the children gathered at the windows watching the first snow of this winter.  Magical!  I could imagine the children watching the birds flock to the feeder.  How lovely for children to be so connected to the outdoors, even when inside.  I also loved the direct access to the outdoors from the classroom.

I really loved the seasonal work offered to the children.  You could see the colors and shapes of the season all through the environment – napkins for folding in greens, oranges, reds and browns, napkin rings shaped like leaves, pumpkin work, corn work, fall colors on offer at the easel, seasonal books . . .

 

The rooms were really spacious, with lots of floor space for big works.  All of the classrooms had lots of practical life tools ready for the children to use, and lots of lovely cozy spaces, too!

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I enjoyed the day so much!  We had teachers from five different schools – Spokane Valley Montessori, Spokane Falls Montessori, Spokane Montessori North, Children’s Montessori, Inc., and the Montessori School of Pullman.

 

We learned a lot from each other, and shared a delicious soup we cooked together, in a retelling of the story, ‘Stone Soup.’  Thanks once again, International Association for Montessori Education, and Spokane Valley Montessori School, for inviting me.  I send a special big thanks to Gwen, the owner, for sharing her beautiful school with the larger Montessori community.  Your school is an absolute gem!

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Out and about – all day field trips September 15, 2017

Filed under: community,learning,Montessori education,nature,outdoor education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 12:33 am

21728092_10155648271556774_2217321659195399235_nThis is an experiment.  I am wondering if I can link a facebook blast of photos to my blog, so that family and friends and parents not on facebook can get a glimpse into the wonderful days of our students at school ~ or not at school, as in this case.  Today we spent an amazing day walking 4.75 miles through Pullman, almost completely along the river.  Our focus was on:

  • tree identification.  Our classrooms are named after trees.  We wanted to identify an oak, aspen, willow, maple and spruce tree.  Mission accomplished!
  • botany.  How do seeds disperse?
  • history – local and recent.  Why is Pullman here?  Water, railroad, university.
  • history – ancient.  If we had lived long, long ago in this area, how would we have met our fundamental needs for water, food, shelter, clothing, transportation, defense, etc.
  • community building – spending a fun day out together builds shared memories.
  • Sense of competence – I can hike, cross rivers, spend a day outdoors, handle public transportation

If you would like to see a photo diary of our day out, please go to https://www.facebook.com/TheMontessoriSchoolofPullman/posts/10155648272366774

 

 

 

 

Big, real practical life work! June 7, 2017

At this time of year, when the weather is good and the children are full of energy, what a gift it is to come across an opportunity for real effort, and really big practical life work!  Scrubbing furniture is one such opportunity, and helps the children to prepare for the end of the school year.  “We are washing everything before the end of the school year, so we will leave our classroom clean and ready for the start of next school year.”  This big work can be done within the classroom, or out on the playground.

 

Practical life that is real and necessary is so much more meaningful than works on trays on shelves that practice skills, but don’t have any real-life purpose.

Today, due to having to reschedule three times (don’t ask!), we finally had a big delivery of bark for our playground.  This bark was needed for under the swings to ensure safety in case of a fall.  Our old bark had just become too compressed and worn out.  After rescheduling three times, our parent volunteers were thin on the ground, and the bark pile seemed enormous,  (Three truck loads!)  What could we do?  One of the teachers suggested that some of the children might like to help.  We had a handy supply of child-sized rakes, shovels and buckets, after all!  Thanks, teacher, for reminding me of how competent and capable and eager to help children can be.  What started off as a few children ended up as a school wide effort, with everyone involved except the two year olds.  (They were napping, by this time).  During an hour long effort in the morning, followed by an hour long effort in the afternoon, the children, with the help of a few teachers and a handful of parent volunteers, moved and spread three truck loads of bark.  What an amazing effort.

What was especially sweet was that as we were working this morning, children from the other school that shares our play area sat down to watch the effort.  After our children had gone inside to get cleaned up and rehydrated, they came up to me and asked if they could help, too.  I was already very hot and pooped out, but I couldn’t resist, so I filled one big bucket for every child.  They were so happy to join in the effort.

One of our kids told me, “I just love helping my school.”  This fits in 100% with some of our values – child-centered, dignity (of work), and community.  I hope parents involve their own children in the real life of their homes, including yard work!

 

 

Outdoor Science School ~ day four. Inquiry projects May 26, 2017

Today we returned to Sunnyside Park for our final day of our outdoor science school, and focused on inquiry projects.  The children divided into two groups the day before, and thought about what they were most interested in studying.  One group chose birds, and the other group chose more hunting for aquatic macro invertebrates ~ remember them from day one?  Next they chose a question to which they did not already know the answer, and designed a project, using the scientific method, to find the answer.  They learned and used new words like hypothesis (best guess), data (numbers), location, materials, conclusion . . .


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The first group wanted to know whether there were more land birds or water birds at Sunnyside Park.  Five of the group shared the hypothesis that there would be more land birds, and two members of the group thought there would be more water birds.  To find the answer, they chose two locations – one on a hill, surrounded by trees, and then down on the edge of the pond.  At each location they decided to spend five minutes watching for birds, and using tally marks and columns to keep check of how many were water birds and how many were land birds.  They spent two five-minute bird watching sessions at each location.  After each five- minute session, the children spent time discussing what they saw and adding up their tally marks.

The second group wanted to know whether there were more macro invertebrates in the pond or in the stream.  Their hypothesis was that there would be more in the pond.  To find the answer, they decided to sample four tubs of water at each location.  They worked in pairs, as hunters and recorders.  The hunters used spoons and a baster to catch the macro invertebrates in the tub of water and to transfer what they caught to the sample tray – an ice cube tray.  The recorders used lenses to view each sample and a field guide to try to identify each organism.

The groups then used their best team-working skills to prepare a poster to communicate their inquiry project to the other group and parents who would be attending a presentation.  I loved watching the children work together as writers, illustrators and data managers to present their projects.

After a picnic lunch with parents, the children presented their projects and answered questions.  And what did they discover?  There were more land birds than water birds in Sunnyside Park.  The second group rejected their hypothesis, because they found about the same number of macro invertebrates in the stream as in the pond.

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Next we sang two songs that the children had learned and one that they spontaneously composed.  The children’s songs were about habitat, eco-systems and perspective.

Finally, parents and children had time together to look through field journals, take a closer look at the project posters and try out some of the scientific tools we used during the week.

After a few group photos, we said goodbye to Ms. Audry and Ms. Rachel, our educators.  As a wonderful surprise, Audry and Rachel had prepared an individual note for each child, mentioning their strengths and skills.

This week went by so fast.  I watched the children grow not only in their science skills and knowledge but in their sense of community, their resilience and their independence.  One of our children said, while bird-watching, I could keep doing this forever!  We will definitely be interested in another Montessori Outdoor Science School next year.

Thanks once again to our sponsors ~ Schweitzer Engineering Lab in Pullman, and one of our students’ Grandfather.

 

Outdoor Science School ~Day Two. It’s all about the water! May 23, 2017

Today we had another beautiful day for our outdoor science school ~ blue skies, sunshine, high around 80, but a wonderful breeze!  We walked along the South Fork of the Palouse for a day focused on water.  IMG_3953Our morning base was under our favorite willow tree.  This tree provided us with much needed shade for snack, and our first activity, getting close to something we found in nature ~ a piece of bark, a leaf, a rock, a bug . . . We shared with a friend what we noticed, and what we wondered.  “I noticed this piece of bark has some moss growing on it.  And I wonder where the bark came from?  Did it fall off the willow tree?”

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Someone noticed some very strange fungi growing on the tree, and then we all got up close and personal with our favorite tree.  We found more fungi, spiders and their webs, ants, holes that might be homes for living things . . .

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Next wIMG_3984e worked on a water cycle game.  We imagined we were a droplet of water, and we followed this water droplet through a journey.  There were various stations representing clouds, ocean, rivers, ground water, animals, plants.  We spread out around the various stations.  At each station there was a bag of colored beads and a dice.  We took a bead at our station (e.g. white bead for clouds, blue bead for rivers) and then rolled a dice to tell us where to go next on our water droplet journey.  The dice were loaded in favor of the real water cycle, so we found ourselves spending a lot of time at the cloud and the ocean station.  That makes sense!  There is a lot more water stored in the oceans, than in plants and animals, for example.  This was a fun way to explore the water cycle.( Check out https://www.facebook.com/TheMontessoriSchoolofPullman/ to see a video of  the journey of a couple of droplets of water. We then spent time building miniature water sheds.  We used backpacks, water bottles and rocks, and a black trash sack to build mountains, valleys and lowlands.  Then we used spray bottles to represent rain to see how water would gather and flow, as in lakes and rivers.  We added ‘stuff’ to represent pollutants, and then let it ‘rain’ some more to see what would happen.  The pollutants spread throughout the watershed.  We thought about where we might build a house on our watershed, where we might farm, how we would provide spIMG_3985ace for wildlife . . . We drew our watersheds.

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What a special place for lunch!  We sat on the riverbank, surrounded by the sound of rushing water, and ‘snow in spring!’  The cottonwoods were releasing their seeds, and it looked like snow!

Our afternoon was spent checking out whether the Palouse River was ideal habitat for salmon.  We used tools to measure the temperature of the water, the acidity and the turbidity (How cloudy) of the water.  From a song, we learned that salmon like clear, cold water and fast flowing water.  We also observed to see if there was food (aquatic macro invertebrates like caddis fly) and shelter, like rocks and snags.  Our conclusion was that the habitat would not be ideal – water too warm, for example – but might be possible, but the fish would be stressed.

On our walk home, we noticed that some of our students were really dragging towards the end.  Our last stretch was uphill in the heat of the day.  However, at the end of a full day like this is a strong sense of, “I did it!”

Roll on tomorrow, and another full day of outdoor science learning!

 

Outdoor Science School ~ day one May 22, 2017

Filed under: community,Community Building,nature,Observation,outdoor education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:18 pm

I am very excited to share each day of our first ever four-day outdoor science school.  We are very thankful to our sponsors ~ Schweitzer Engineering Lab in Pullman for a donation of $500, and to one of our grandpas who donated the other $500.  We are also thankful to Sawyer’s family for housing our environmental scientists, and to our families for feeding them during their stay.  Our science educators joined us for four days of outdoor learning from the McCall Outdoor Science School in Idaho.

Each day I will share some of the highlights of the day.  Today, on a gorgeous spring day, with highs near 80, lots of sun and blue skies, we walked to Sunnyside Park.  We enjoyed walking with friends and a picnic lunch, a chance to play on the playground (a game of freeze tag) and also an opportunity to participate in three key learning activities:

Magic Circle

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For this activity, each child chose an area of ground that seemed interesting, and used a rope to circle off the area.  Then they drew and labelled and counted what they saw.  Our educators encouraged the children to keep looking closer and adding details  because these are skills of scientists ~ careful and deep observation.  Next the children were encouraged to classify their findings.  The children found different ways to classify, including in the image shown above – things that are living (bugs), things that once were living but no longer are living (dried pine needles), things that never were living (rocks). I think this activity might be repeated at different locations, with the results being compared.

Web of Life

For this activity, students were invited to draw an element or organism of the ecosystem they were observing.  It could be an organism – a bird, bug, mammal, plant, or an element such as the dirt, the air, the pond.  The children were encouraged to label their drawings.  Then the children formed connections between what they had drawn and someone else’s drawing.  “I drew a bird.  I’m connected to the drawing of the tree because the tree provides me shelter and a place to perch and build a nest.”  “I drew a tree and I am connected to the pond because I need water to grow and I am on the banks of the pond, so that’s where I get my water.”  A child held hands with another child once they had made a connection.  Soon there was an interconnected web of life forming.  Once we had formed a very interconnected web, we then considered what would happen if we removed one element of the web.  “What would happen if we drained the pond to build a new home?”  “What would happen if we removed the bugs?”  “What would happen if we cut down all of the trees for wood?”  This was a great lesson in learning about ecosystems and balance.

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Aquatic Macro Invertebrate Hunt

Vocabulary we learned.  Macro = able to be seen with the eye, micro needs to be seen with a microscope, aquatic = lives in the water, invertebrate = without a backbone.

We got a tub of pond water and divided into two groups ~ the hunters and the observers. The hunters used spoons and a baster to catch aquatic macro invertebrates.  These were transferred to the specimen collection area – an ice cube tray.  The observers used lenses and a field guide to identify the specimens.  Identification was based on questions ~ does it have a shell, does it have wings, does it have legs?  We drew what we saw and identified when we could.  Then the kids swapped roles, and the hunters became the observers and vice-versa.  For the group I was with, our most elusive, difficult to catch and favorite aquatic macro invertebrate was the predacious diving beetle!  We imagined this critter as the bad guy in a comic strip!  Who knew there could be so much life in even a tub of pond water?

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I loved today.  This is hands on learning and community building, memory making at its best.  This experience has made me committed to having at least a monthly out-of-doors learning activity, and to repeating this opportunity in future years.

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Being outdoors and with friends and learning in so many ways ~ science, writing, vocabulary, data collecting, observational drawing, social learning, independence – is the absolute best!

I am so excited for day two!

 

Building Community May 13, 2017

Filed under: community,Community Building,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:24 pm

The values of our school are: child-centered, love of learning, diversity, dignity and community.  I try to keep these values in mind when I am considering everything from planning the calendar to fundraisers to hiring to . . .

One of my favorite fundraisers of the school year (we do three each year) is our annual rummage sale.  I love the fact that it allows so many of our families to participate ~ donating rummage sale items, organizing the sale, working the sale, cleaning up after the sale, baking items for the accompanying bake sale, shopping, spreading word about the sale through social media and in person invitations.  When so many people are working together for the common good, community is enhanced.  And together we raised over $1500 for our school.  We also benefited the larger community, as so many people shopped our Rummage Sale and bought new clothes, new toys, household goods for their families.