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Learning about the Brain October 19, 2018

Filed under: learning,mistakes,science,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 8:22 pm

Our school is so lucky to be in a small college town.  Many of our parents work at the university, and are involved in research.  This allows us to have very interesting presentations by experts to enrich the curriculum.

So far this year we have had a presentation by a Mom who worked at NASA on developing food for the space program.  Then we had a dad share his knowledge of native edible plants that tied in very nicely with a study of the fundamental needs of humans, the need for food, and hunter-gatherers!  Yesterday we also had a parent working on neuroscience present information about the brain.

We used a KWL model to structure the presentation, starting with what we already KNOW, followed by listing WHAT we wanted to know, and ending with what we LEARNED.  When we combined our knowledge, we already knew a lot!  Take a look at this list!44293509_10156723426386774_2539760139473256448_nWe wanted to learn:

  • What does our brain look like?  What color is it?
  • What makes us laugh?
  • How does our brain grow?
  • How do scientists learn about the brain?
  • How do we think and learn?

We soon found out what our brains looked like as our visiting scientist brought three brains for us to look at and contrast and compare.  We looked at a half of a brain of a human, a sheep and a rat.  Of course that led to lots of other questions about how she had the brains, and what happened to the person and animals that owned the brains.  Our scientist explained that the person and animals had died before the brains were removed, and in the case of the person, the person had said before dying that he or she wanted to donate his or her brain to science, for students to learn.

We noticed that the human brain was much larger and heavier than the other brains, and had a lot more curves and coils on the outside.  The rat brain was almost smooth on the outside.  We saw that all three brains had a brain stem.  We decided that the bigger size and the more curves were needed by humans because we store more information and memories in our brains than sheep or rats.

We looked at pictures showing details of the brain seen up close through a microscope.  We also tried out a few tests to show that when we practice a skill, our brains learn and grow better at the skill.  As an example, a student volunteer used a pencil to draw a route through a maze, and was timed from start to finish.  Each time the student repeated the activity, he got faster and more accurate.

By the end of the presentation, we had all learned so much, including the classroom teachers.  Our visiting scientist gave each student a gift of a brain-shaped eraser as a reminder that mistakes are important because the brain learns by trying new things, making mistakes and then correcting the mistake.  If we only do things we already know how to do, we might not make many mistakes, but we won’t learn new things and help our brains grow.

Our scientist ended by saying that there still needs to be much research done on the brain so we can learn and understand more.  She told us that one of our questions – “Why do people laugh, and how does the brain find things funny?” – is one of the questions researchers are working on, because right now we don’t know for sure!  Perhaps one of our students will find out through research!

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Montessori Outdoor Science School Day Four ~ Presenting our inquiry projects May 4, 2018

Yesterday afternoon each group chose a topic they wanted to explore more and designed an inquiry project to answer a question.  This morning, each group worked hard to find ways to communicate their project and findings to the other groups and their parents.  The three groups of first-third graders incorporated the scientific method, and used vocabulary words such as question, hypothesis, method, data, conclusion.  The children incorporated drawings, charts, bar graphs, and maps into their display.  They also worked as a group to decide who would explain what part of the project to the audience, and practiced making the presentation.

That’s a whole lot of learning ~science, vocabulary, visual communication, math, graphing, teamwork, cooperation, making choices, making a presentation . . .

So what did the groups choose to focus on?

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Bird song, water quality, insects, beaver habitat!  The variety of topics reflects the different aspects of the four-day experience that caught the attention of the different groups.  Student-choice, student-led inquiry, teamwork!

Above – a few details from the kindergarten research project.

A few more details!

Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without some time for the kids to do what they do so well – enjoy being kids in nature!

 

As educators, we saw so much intense growth this week! The children certainly deepened their understanding of eco-systems, the major theme of the four-day outdoor experience, and of processes such as decomposition and the life cycle, and of habitats, and of scientific vocabulary and the scientific method.  However, we saw a lot of growth outside of science learning, too!  Leaders emerged, friendships deepened, children grew in their resilience and ability to be responsible for all of their belongings for a whole day.  The children developed good teamwork, too.

Several of the children were really sad, and some even moved to tears as our experience together came to an end.  But as one child said, “I’m really sad, but never mind, there’s always next year to look forward to!

Many thanks to the McCall Outdoor Science School outreach program, and our four, fabulous outdoor educators! IMG_5468 (1)Cheers, from all of us at MOSS!

 

 

Montessori Outdoor Science School Day Three ~aquatic ecosystems, plus the scientific method May 3, 2018

Welcome to our outdoor classroom, day three!

This morning we were all about the river!  I love it when children make connections.  When one of our educators mentioned aquatic ecosystems, one of our kindergarteners piped up, “Oh, like our aquatic center, where we swim.  It’s water!”

Activities this morning included testing water quality using technology (water temperature, PH of water, amount of dissolved oxygen in water), learning about water sheds, hunting for macro invertebrates (macro – opposite of micro, meaning big enough to be seen without a microscope, and invertebrates – without a backbone) and using either an app that asks questions (How many legs? How many tails? Does it have a shell? etc.) or a classification chart to identify the macro-invertebrates we caught in the creek, and learning about aquatic habitats for animals.  We searched for evidence of beaver activity.  The kindergarteners also drew pictures of animals that lived near this creek in their habitats.  The habitat needs to supply food, water and shelter.  We drew beavers, quail, fish, swallows, deer . . . and more.  The KG kids also got to feel a beautiful beaver pelt!

A plus of being close to the river was we had another beautiful location for morning snack and lunch, and a perfect day to enjoy our picnic!  We love our favorite, enormous willow tree!

After lunch and recess, each group worked on an inquiry project, thinking about what they wanted to learn more about and choosing a question they could answer through nature.  The older students followed the scientific method – asking a question, coming up with a hypothesis, thinking about how they could answer the question, what data they needed to collect, and how they would present their project.  For the kindergarteners we kept it simple.  What did we want to learn more about?  What did we want to find out?  How could we find out the answer to our question?

Now, I can’t tell you what each of the four groups decided to study because that would spoil the surprise for the presentations of our research tomorrow!  But I will leave you with these photos of the kg kids collecting data!  What are they trying to find out, I wonder?  Presentation of research is at 11:00 tomorrow at the Sunnyside Picnic Pavilion.  Picnic to follow.

 

Montessori Outdoor Science School Day 2 ~ Ecosystem day at Kamiak Butte State Park May 2, 2018

Filed under: learning,Montessori education,nature,Observation,outdoor education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:00 pm

 

Welcome to our outdoor classroom, day two!  We hiked the Pine Ridge Trail at Kamiak Butte County Park, and focused on comparing ecosystems.

 

The south facing slope of Kamiak Butte is sunny, open, and at this time of year covered with wildflowers.  I chaperoned the kindergarten group today, and we learned to identify arrowleaf balsamroot (part of the sunflower family), yarrow, indian paintbrush, and vanilla smelling ponderosa pines.

 

We also enjoyed listening to a book written by scientists, members of the National Forest Service.  The book asked us to consider, “Why do we cut down a tree?”  At first the kindergarteners were appalled, “Cut down a tree?  Never!  Trees give us oxygen.”  The book gave us insights into why trees might need to be cut down – damaged and dangerous, diseased, overcrowding and causing a fire danger, or to supply us with wood for products we use.    We decided to use our senses on the rest of the hike to observe the ecosystem, and also to spot trees that might not be healthy.  We found hollow trees, trees that were damaged and broken, and even trees that were lying on the ground and decomposing.  I heard that word a lot!  “This tree is decomposing.  It’s turning back to dirt!”

The kindergarten group hiked to the very top, and ate lunch with an amazing view.  We also got to feel the pelt of a coyote, an animal that lives at Kamiak Butte.  We saw chipmunks, lots of butterflies and bugs, smelt the warm dirt and the Ponderosa pines, felt soft leaves, and heard birdsong.

 

Meanwhile, the groups of older children were sampling the ecosystems, and collecting data.  How many rocks, pine cones, flowers, sticks, bugs, etc. were contained within a circled off part of the ground?  This activity was carried out on the south side and the north side, and the children made comparisons and drew bar graphs in their nature journals to report what they noticed.  They also used hand lenses to get an even closer look!

 

The kindergarten group just verbally reported the differences they saw – one side was sunny, the other side was gloomy and dark, one side had lots of flowers, the other side had moss, fungus and ferns and not as many flowers, one side had only a few trees, the other side was the forest.  Because kindergarteners are filled with curiosity, and a sense of wonder and awe, we spent four hours on the trail!  We stopped to look at so many things, and the children called out to one another, “Good observation!” and “Good eye!”  The loop we hiked was 3 and a half miles.

 

Were we tired when we finished our hike?  Nope, we then spent thirty minutes of free play on the climbing structures, but also building nests for chipmunks and squirrels, collecting pine cones, finding worms . . . just being kids out in nature!

We used some technology tools today – hand lenses, binoculars, a gadget to measure wind speed, probes to sample dirt, and measure soil temperature and moisture levels, and the highlight for the KG kids, an app that recorded and identified and played bird songs.  When we played the chickadee’s song, we were surprised to hear two chickadees call back to us!31632031_10156298995276774_4545326570385965056_n

We ended our day with a hike to find a Douglas fir tree and collect the cones.  We listened to a legend about the cones, involving how the mice sheltered in the cones during a big forest fire.  Can you see the rear legs and tails of the mice hanging out of the cone?

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We also learned that a Douglas Fir, unlike a spruce tree, is friendly, not prickly.  Its needles are soft.  So we all got close to our Douglas fir tree, and that’s another plant we learned to identify today!

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Tomorrow we will explore another ecosystem during a river walk!  I can’t wait!

 

Montessori Outdoor Science School 2018 Day One ~ Decomposition! May 1, 2018

First of all, many thanks to all of our family members, friends, neighbors, former families, current families and community members for supporting our Montessori Outdoor Science School this year.  Your donations helped to pay for four science educators from the McCall Outdoor Science School to visit our school for five days and lead small group, hands-on inquiry based science lessons for our Maple Room students.  Thanks from the bottom of our hearts!

So here are some photos of our classroom for today!

Today’s focus was on ecosystems, living and non-living, the cycle of life, and mostly, DECOMPOSITION!  How does something go from living to non-living to part of the very dirt?  This is what we wanted to find out.   We collected piles of similar items – pine needles, leaves, pine cones, sticks – and arranged our collections from the freshest/most recently living to the oldest/most dead looking.  What did we notice?  As the items aged, they became more broken up, smaller, drier . . and more like dirt!

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How did this happen?  The items got smashed up from being stepped on, and drying out.  We also went on the search for decomposers, the FBI of the natural world!  Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates!

 

We also played some small group and large group games to explore decomposition and the life cycle process.  In one game of chase, the catcher was the wolf.  Most of the rest of the children were the herd of deer, and a few children were mushrooms, the decomposers.  When a deer was caught by the wolf, and went down to the ground, the mushrooms swept in and began the work of decomposition, returning the deer to the earth, and providing a source of new life!

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So today we learned by observing closely, by asking questions and discussing answers, by using magnifying glasses, by drawing what we saw, by playing games, by getting close to the dirt and even making art!

Outdoor science vocabulary I heard the children using today ~ decomposition, fungus, bacteria, invertebrate, process, ecosystem!

 

“Sticks and Stones may Break My Bones, But Words Can Never Hurt Me!” November 18, 2017

How many of us learned the above rhyme as a child, and how many of us still believe it is true?  For many of us, it is the names we were called that have caused us long-lasting hurt.

In the Children’s House, we focus on simple lessons of grace and courtesy and a safe place to practice these skills~ how to say please, thank you, sorry, accept an apology, accept or decline an invitation, offer to help, accept or decline help, how to invite a friend to play, how to ask to join a game, how to introduce yourself, introduce someone else, shake hands, greet someone, welcome someone . . ..

While the above lessons are still important in the elementary community, the focus of grace and courtesy extends to include the elementary child’s mission to discover for himself what is right or wrong, what are the rules of society, and how to develop a just and caring community, and find his or her place within it.  The children are developing their moral compass.

At the school where I work, the teachers and I are planning a series of lessons to help children develop their own inner moral compass.  The lessons offer opportunities to contribute to the well being of others, such as sewing and stuffing stockings for the local foodbank, to be distributed to other children in need.  The lessons will offer opportunities to participate in a Martin Luther King Junior project.  Students will be invited to participate individually or in groups to write or design a poster that shows how we can welcome someone into our classroom community.  The lessons will celebrate friendship, with a focus during February on celebrating random acts of kindness.  Lessons will include classroom meetings which offer opportunities to group problem solve, without blaming or shaming.  Other opportunities will include sorting actions into different categories, such as rude behavior, mean behavior and bullying behavior.

We introduced this focus on grace and courtesy with a discussion of the common saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.”  At first the discussion was around who had broken a bone and how the bone was fixed, until someone in the group said, “Well, I’ve never broken a bone, or been hit with a stick or a stone, but I’ve had my feelings hurt with words.”

Another child added that hearing very mean words left her feeling damaged.

This was the perfect opportunity to introduce our activity – bullying an apple!  I demonstrated then invited children to take turns coming up to an apple and saying something mean to the apple.  Here are some of the words used:

“I don’t like your color.”

“I just don’t like apples.”

“I don’t like your shape.”

“You are too small.”

“You are a wimp.”

“Grapes are better than apples.”

“Apples are no good.”

“I hate apples.”

There were a few giggles, but then the conversation turned serious as we realized everything that we had said to the apple, we had heard said to people.

Next we turned our attention to another apple, and this time said something nice about the apple.

“You are beautiful.”

“Apples are so good for you.”

“You are just right.”

“I like apples.”

We all agreed that we felt better ourselves saying nice things, so we talked about how when we say mean things it can make us feel mean inside, but when we use friendly words, we feel kind inside.

Lastly, we cut the apples in half.  I had secretly dropped the apple we bullied several times on a hard wood floor, so when we cut the apple in half, it looked bruised on the inside.  The other apple was unharmed.  Of course, after the kids response of, “WOW!”, I explained what I had done, and that this was a demonstration, to make a point, not an experiment to see if we could damage an apple with our words.  The kids were still impressed and got the point.  Words can hurt someone inside, even if they don’t leave an obvious bruise on the outside.

There were immediate requests to “Do it again, please,” but it was time for lunch!

This lesson, to me, is similar to toddlers practicing gentle touches on a flower.  It is a reminder, and an experience we can refer back to.  In the future, when children use mean words to one another, we can ask, “Do you remember when we bullied the apple with our words, and how we discussed how words can hurt us inside?”

I would love to hear from others on ideas they have used to help elementary children develop these important social skills.

I got this idea from a facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/newsnercom/videos/924570201043625/

 

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