Why so slow?

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The end of the year is quickly approaching, and this is a time I find when teachers are definitely trying to speed things up.  We want to get all of the content in before the students go to their next great, before they try to get things presentable to parents, and before we rush off to our summer vacations.

At our school at least half of the grade levels I work with are finishing the year with sharing the planet, so I’m pushing for a go slow movement for the next six or seven weeks.  We need time to fully experience what it’s like outside in order to actually make those connections (something I feel I talk about all the time).   I now have four classes I take outside every week.  It’s a start (one class is trying to move to everyday next year), but we are moving forward which is great!

We are taking the time to wonder and think, something that is difficult for some teachers.  We have to talk about connections and thinking deeply about how things work together (which is the central idea for most of our units, but never really adressed this way).

All in all, in just one week I’ve seen more excitement about the unit. Students are actively engaged and posing good questions.  This week we are trying to “look closely” to see how things work and what things look like.

Going slow is great for us right now, hopefully I can convince some teachers to keep it up after these seven weeks.

Back at it

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We just returned from break, a wonderful time but before we left I didn’t have time to write about our excursion week. 
I was really worried before we went about the quality of environmental education that we would be receiving. We had outsourced the week so a company would be working on the activities and preparing our kids for learning about Malaysia.  
It turned out way better than I thought it would.  We had lots of time to just sit and be present in nature. Some, but not many of the students went out to the ocean and played in tide-pools, so this is where I spent most of my time. 
We were just looking at life, observing, documenting with technology and then researching later on about what we were seeing and thinking and wondering. 
Now, back in the building. Things are alright, winding down.  
Been reading a lot about different interview techniques and styles.  I’m trying to support some teachers for their bid to apply for new jobs next year. Talking about redesigning infographic style resumes, how to make sure their websites are up and running and looking good.  Exciting times for sure. 

Place based learning in an unknown place

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I have been thinking about this a lot and it played a role in my thesis work a couple of years ago.  I wonder how as international we can teach about a place without fully knowing it.  This year we’ve been working hard with our outdoor discovery centre trying to connect teachers to where we live.  By looking at local plants, and seeing the wildlife that lives around our area we are hoping that people are more connected. 

Sadly though this last week we had a plant catastrophe for some of the kindergarten students.  The teachers had some plants they had been growing with the students inside, and they transplanted a week or so after they sprouted.  We had the weekend off and when we came back the plants were gone.  The teachers were worried that something had eaten them, but I don’t think that was the case.  Not really sure what happened but we need to make sure that everyone in the community has the same goals.  But we need to look closely in order to figure things out.

Virtual field trips

There has been heaps going on these last couple of weeks, maybe not an excuse for not posting so much, but it seems legitimate.  
We’ve been working with google on their google expeditions program.  It seems really great, teachers can lead virtual field trips around the world (well wherever google has taken the photos), information pops up on the screen and it is just very engaging.  
From the students reaction I mean, it’s been overwhelming so far, they are so excited, and many of the excursions easily fit into our curriculum, which is also great.  Also very fun for leading inquiry. 
It does make me wonder a lot, about where we are headed as a society, how will this really change the way we interact? Should we be worried about lack of connections to place, or will this help us become more rooted into our place? 
Anyway, it’s been an incredibly fun day so far.  It’s great to see how different teachers/learners react to new situations, and just wonderful to see students so happy in this last week of school. 

Environmental Leadership

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This week was pretty exciting.  One of my teachers has asked me to do an environmental leadership class which was great. Now every Tuesday I have dedicated environmental time in a class. 

It’s been a year, but it’s a huge first step for me. 
Our first adventure will be in our garden, and then we’re going to sit outside and find our sit spots.  We’re going to start developing a sense of place and a better understanding of our environment in order to be real leaders and work with our community to enhance our place. 
I’m really excited.

Sit Spots into Nature Journals

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Over the summer break I read Coyote’s Guide.  I want to get better at mentoring people who go outside.  I used to call them Magic Spots, but in the book they are called sit spots.  Sit spots help build empathy, understanding and systems thinking in students.  By sitting outside in your specific place you can watch change, and see how nature “works”. 

Last year, I tried to develop a sense of place in students by taking photos then making a time lapse to see change, and then share that change with others.  I think it worked alright, but I want to incorporate a nature journal this year. 
I had a bit of time this summer, so also read To Look Closely.  The idea of the nature journal and sit spots are tied together pretty tightly here.  It adds another level to the sit spot.  I used to sit in a circle and discuss what we saw and felt but there was no other form of documentation.  I think that by using a sit spot with a nature journal I can help develop a sense of place in students. 
I’m not quite sure what the nature journal is going to look like just yet, but I’m going to start with notebooks, hopefully with blank pages, no lines to inspire a whole no boundaries approach. 
Here’s hoping.