With the colder temperatures, there is also snow and a chance to get out and play in the winter weather. Our large playground and outdoor spaces give our students plenty of opportunities to find activities that they really enjoy.
From using the play structures, to playing organized games, to creating their own activities McGuffey students always enjoy the chance to play in the snow!
The Primary Unit is off and running with our year-long study of animals. After discussions last semester of living/non-living things, we branched out to living things with a backbone, vertebrates like us, and living things without a backbone, invertebrates. Next we studied insects, a group of invertebrates that have 6 legs and 3 main body parts. It was exciting to see pictures of many different types of insects and learn that some scientists guess there are 30 million types of insects on our planet. At any given time, scientist think there may be 10 quintillion individual insects alive on Earth!
We have had many hands on works to help explore and understand vertebrates, invertebrates, and insects. Kindergarteners explored how Octopi can squeeze through tiny spaces by experimenting with paper plates and baggies of colored water. All Primary students used photographs and corresponding x-rays to see which are vertebrates and and which are invertebrates. Photographs were used to sort invertebrates and vertebrate. With lucite cubes, students could see insects from every angle. Relief plates were available to make crayon art rubbings. Model insects were used for counting in math and we even had a tool to simulate what an insect sees through compound eyes. Puzzles and stuffed animal puppets are always a great way to explore as well.
In Biology, we have been learning about the structures, organization, and reproduction of cells using a variety of hands-on experiences. Students prepared their own slides from living cells, and even took their own photos!
With age comes new privileges, and students are often looking ahead to the freedoms they will experience when they grow into the older, mentor students in a classroom. Though we spend most of our time together, the third graders love having the privilege of breaking off into their own separate group for their special biomes curriculum. Third grade biomes becomes a coveted experience that students look forward to, and students soak it up when their time finally comes.
We just finished studying the wetlands biome by diving our work into different aspects of life on the bayou of Louisiana—lifestyle, practices, traditions, geography, history, and plant/animal life. Students were excited to learn about Mardi Gras, how the French influence brought this holiday to the area, and how it has grown into a life of its own in modern-day Louisiana.
Third graders dove in with enthusiasm, studying what the traditional costumes worn on Mardi Gras meant, what the colors represent, where the tradition stemmed from, and how it has evolved over time. To celebrate their newfound knowledge, third graders decided to design, and then create, their own Mardi Gras costumes. Despite being limited to only paper, staples, glue and tape, the students made some incredible creations featuring traditional Mardi Gras colors, hats, masks, and even fringed accessories.
We can’t wait to see what comes of our next biome; off to the desert we go!
Lower Elementary students had a wonderful time spending two full days at the Duvall farm! Morning work periods inside the barn were novel, but the students were proud of their productivity and success despite the change of scenery! Being surrounded by beautiful countryside, we spent most of our time outdoors. Students enjoyed spontaneous nature collection, hiking, and using our trowels to excavate and analyze earth as part of our biomes lesson. Roasting food over a fire, visiting the horses, and a jump course-turned obstacle course were the “cherries on top” of a wonderful two days spent adventuring and exploring.
2020 has certainly thrown some curveballs, but we are thankful for the adaptability of our students and families, enabling us to take the time to get away and enjoy the quiet serenity of the country and the organic learning that arises from such a landscape.
“There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature, to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature… so that the child may better understand and participate in the marvelous things which civilization creates.” -Maria Montessori
Just in time for Halloween, Lower Elementary’s creative writing projects got a little spooky! Our students were challenged to write a real estate listing for a haunted house. What could they write that would attract ghosts and witches? Through a series of drafts, this project pushed students to consider what would appeal to their audience, which is one they don’t typically write for.
Each child completed a three dimensional house to accompany their listing, as every good agent knows that visuals help boost a sale.
This year, all classrooms are trying to spend as much time outside as possible. Each unit has always had an outdoor classroom, but spending the whole day outside has meant getting a little more creative!
In Lower Elementary, when we are outside, desks are replaced by tents or yoga mats. Schoolwork is stored in a portable bag rather than a cubby. All students have a complete set of outerwear that stays at school, so they are ready to be outdoors in all weather.
While being outside offers some challenges, it also yields tremendous opportunity! Students have thrived working in nature, and we suspect we will retain many of our new routines for years to come.
Primary students have been studying space. We learned about planets and stars as well as scientists who study space. A popular work was finding constellations and we discovered we could find our own constellations on the top of our tent if we pretended the leaves were stars!
Preschoolers and Kindergarteners have been learning why we wear masks. We began our study by talking about the safety changes this year to keep ourselves and others safe from germs and how scientists of all kinds are researching and learning about this new virus to help us all.
We learned that wearing masks is a way to help others and ourselves. Washing our hands before we eat snack and lunch keeps ourselves safe and washing hands after we eat keeps others safe. Some viruses spread through droplets in the air and that’s why we’re being careful not to get too close for too long, to eat separately, and to stand in line with space between us. We know some people can get a virus and never know they have it while others can feel awful if they get sick. Kindergarteners went deeper into the subject, learning that there are four types of germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. We were fascinated to find that not all germs are bad for us and what we can do to help our bodies fight off germs that would make us feel sick.
Works for exploration included three-part cards of scientists and the tools scientist use, matching silhouettes, sorting pictures of science and healthcare by size, and learning the correct way to wash our hands.
The Primary unit is progressing full steam ahead with our learning from home curriculum. We began the first week of stay at home right where we left off in social studies, learning all about Australia then moved onto Antarctica. There was no lag at all for science, ending our discussion of spring and baby animals, and heading right into plants. The students were sent home with cuttings from our classroom pothos plant to study as we begin to learn about roots and stems, flowers, and seeds. They care for the cuttings and soon will pot them while also making a plant book. Practical life tools were sent home with the daily packets of handouts, as well as instruments for Kindermusik, supplies for enrichment, handwriting books, and access to digital materials for each week.
A new daily schedule goes live the evening before to allow parents and students to prepare for the next day. All of the children are working every day, whether they are part-time or full-time because all of the materials are available to everyone. A typical day for a Kindergartener studying from home begins with our classroom calendar and an instructional teacher video, or digital materials for science or social studies. They have assignments for the morning work period like math, language, or journaling as well as optional activities for the work period. A list of practical life skills to apply changes each week, nature scavenger hunts, sensorial handouts and extensions, counting, sorting, and categorizing everyday items are just a few examples.
We were thrilled to be able to implement a beloved lunchtime activity called, “what’s your favorite?” at home. This is a student-driven project. Each student offers a topic like “what is your favorite thing about Egypt.” All of the ideas are written down and put in a box. One idea is drawn each day and every student can give their answer. We still had some of the student’s ideas left over, so we moved this game out of the classroom and on to flipgrid where they can record their answer with a video to share. It’s a lovely way for the children to remain connected to one another. Teachers are also keeping in touch with students on flipgrid, and sometimes a phone call or FaceTime.
After lunch, the children can enjoy recorded videos of read-aloud stories with their teachers; then, it’s time for kindergarten studio subjects: botanical science drawing booklets, woodworking videos for art, Kindermusik instruction, and Zoom meetings for social studies.
The children can wind down with some afternoon independent work time and enrichment activity to round out their day.
We are so grateful to our parents who have taken the extra time to support our classroom. We appreciate the special videos of baby farm animals and hand-drawn coloring sheets for science units, and yoga for P.E.
We miss all of the children dearly and while this is not at all how we envisioned our spring semester would be, we are grateful to keep moving forward and learning.