Week 6: 4/9-4/13
This week proved to be a very exciting one for many reasons. First, it was our first week back from a long spring break, and the student’s enthusiasm, to be back with their friends and in school, was palpable. Secondly, our class is preparing for a three day field trip and our class’s excitement grew with each lesson. Lastly, on Friday the news that our school will not be closing was announced to audible sighs of relief and hoots of joy.
After a ten day break from school it was nice to see the students walk in fresh and ready to be back “to work”. I don’t know if this was particular to our class but I seemed to notice an excitement throughout the school from kids in the hallways, in the playground, on their way to lunch and even in other classrooms. Student’s just simply seemed happy to be back. As I began to teach math for the day, fully expecting to have to re- teach much of what we were working on before the break, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the students had retained the bulk of the concept for fractions. We had full review day on Monday and then Tuesday a unique fractions unit review assessment. This assessment, that I created, was a bit like musical chairs. Each student started on one of the nine stations an independently worked through that station for an allotted amount of time. The rotation was complete when each student had finished each station. This assessment seemed to go well and the feedback the next day when we reviewed the test together was great. The kids really seemed to enjoy moving about between questions and like the variety of problem solving opportunities to show their understanding of fractions in different contexts. I was able to better understand what “holes” I needed to address for further understanding of specific skills for individual students and better plan for future lessons.
Secondly, the students in the class have been actively participating and excitedly absorbing all the information we have been teaching about the Olympic Temperate Rain-forest. We are headed to Olympic Peninsula Institute- Nature Bridge for a three day immersion in the unique biome that is the temperate rain-forest. Because of the focus on the temperate rain-forest we were able to teach about the ecosystem specific to this amazing biome. Throughout the week we lived and breathed the temperate rain-forest through study of the Tree of Life, the Temperate Rain-forest Food Web, expert study of the Northern Spotted Owl, development of our Cognitive Content Dictionary (CCD) or academic vocabulary, inquiry charts, sentence patterning charts, layers of the temperate rain-forest, chants and poetry, and much more.
However, the highlight of the week, for the students and me, had to be the dissection of owl pellets. While at first I was unsure what to expect, (I never had the opportunity to do this before) this proved to be an amazing hands on way to explore, create, discuss, hypothesize, infer, cooperate, and learn for everyone involved. The student’s paired up and worked together and their enthusiasm soared as they began to search the pellet for bones structures to organize.
It was amazing to see these young scientists discover complete sets of bones from ingested animals. As the students explored they hypothesized what their owl had eaten and categorized bones accordingly. Then, as they matched and developed full sets of bones, they were able to process the cycle of life in the temperate rain-forest with a bit more understanding. All in all, I think that this will be a learning experience that neither I nor the kids will forge for a long time.
Lastly, as I have mentioned before, the school that I am working at has been on the proverbial “chopping block” for budgetary cuts for the upcoming school year 2012-2013. The news was announced on Friday that there will be no closing of the school for next year to much elation and relief for staff, students, and families. However, this relief might be short lived as it is still in the talks for closure the following year 2013-2014. The moral, at least for the day, was better and it was nice to see many people smiling. I am constantly aware of the pressure that this type of closure and budgetary crisis’ puts on everyone in a district, town and community. People become divided and angry. So, for at least today, I can say it was nice to see the mood elevated…even if it is temporary.