Sunday, 23 August 2015

Louise Kool for Back to School!

As an educator, who strives to create a classroom environment that is natural and promotes curiosity, I was in complete awe when I stepped inside Louise Kool & Galt with #4EverInspired. 

Not only does this 100% owned and controlled company strive to create natural learning materials, furniture, and equipment for the classroom, they also provide the same resources for outdoor learning and exploration. 

As much as Sonia Polak and Cathy Elliott, the Sales Representatives for the company, were excited to present their showroom to us, as well as share their knowledge and expertise of the products with us, we were equally excited to explore all the beautifully crafted and high quality materials they had to offer! 

I definitely felt like a kid in a candy store walking through the space at Louise Kool & Galt. Every corner and tabletop was filled with natural and realistic materials, as well as the latest resources for educators. How could I pick just 10 items for my wish list when I could easily choose 100!? With that being said, the following are 10 of my favourites for Back to School that I had the chance to explore and tinker with during our visit!

1. The Sand Trays caught my attention with their glass base and their shallow wooden sides. I loved reading that they also feature a built in slot underneath to add coloured paper or materials for different effects. 

2. The Magnetic Wooden Blocks from Tegu were another personal favourite of mine! This set provides endless possibilities for building and creating with the various shapes and colours.  

3. I would love to add the Outlast Ramps, Blocks, and Flow Pan to my outdoor classroom. These materials are sure to create open-ended play and exploration opportunities with water and loose parts.

4. The Discovery Windows, which are square blocks that you can fill with various items, intrigued me during my visit. I would love to add them to block play, the light table, or a provocation. 

5. I had never seen Transparent Prismo Triangles before and was drawn to them on top of the round mirrored table. They would also be great on the light table or in the math area.

6. The Rattan Sorting Trays are great for sorting manipulatives and loose parts. They are natural in colour, plastic, and super sturdy! 

7. The Nature Wooden Disc Set is another must-have for both the classroom and outdoor learning. The wooden discs are stamped with insect images for sorting, matching, and imaginative play. 

8. A great fine motor manipulative for the classroom are the Letter Stones. They are natural tools for developing fine motor control and feeling the formation of the letters with your fingertips. 

9. I absolutely loved the Storage Units with various built-in panels on the back- from felt boards to mirrors, and magnetic panels to dry-erase boards. It aids in the utilization of all spaces in a classroom environment.   

10. I couldn't complete my list without adding one of the many amazing and current professional resources on their shelves! I can't wait to return to Louise Kool & Galt to pick up my copy of Working in the Reggio Way.  

Don't forget to visit the other ladies of #4EverInspired to see what they have on their Top 10 Wish List for Back to School with Louise Kool & Galt! 

"Four" more on....

Vanessa Bianchi of The Evolving Educator  

Jocelyn Schmidt of Our Kindergarten Journey 

Joanne Babalis of Transform Ed 

Also, visit our Instagram Accounts to enter a free giveaway for your chance to win one of four $50.00 gift certificates from Louise Kool & Galt in collaboration with #4EverInspired! 


A special thank you to Sonia and Cathy for allowing us to spend time tinkering in their space, providing us with resources and goodies, and generously contributing to our #4EverInspired giveaway! Their excitement for Louise Kool & Galt was contagious!   

Reflectively Yours,
#4EverInspired xoxo

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Sit Spots- Engaging Students in Meaningful Learning Opportunities Outdoors

I first encountered Sit Spots at a Ministry Pilot "A Week in the Forest" founded by Tanya Murray, an Outdoor Education Teacher and Specialist with Sibbald Point, which took place with Jocelyn Schmidt of Our Kindergarten Journey's Kindergarten students. You can visit Jocelyn's detailed post of the week, including a section on Sit Spots at "A Week in the Forest"- Inspiring Learning Outside

Sit Spots are used as a place where students can sit independently and connect with nature. The intention is to foster a lasting bond or relationship with a particular spot in nature and watch its transformation over time. I have seen firsthand how Sit Spots have helped inspire learning outside and allowed for an easy and accessible way to engage students in meaningful learning opportunities outdoors. 

With a younger age group, such as those in Kindergarten, you might consider using Sit Spots during an outdoor group activity first. Playing a circle game or having a community or knowledge building circle using Sit Spots allow students to gain familiarity with them and feel comfortable using them. You can also assign each student to a Sit Spot, as you lay them down outside, and provide them with an activity to do while they are at their spot. 

Some examples that I have tried with my class are clipboards with paper and crayons or watercolours to record what you see and hear in nature, magnifying glasses or binoculars to look closely at things in nature that surround your Sit Spot, or frames made from sticks or paper to focus on a particular spot in nature. With these activities, I have found that students are able to sit and focus independently for longer periods of time, which in turn allows them to connect on a deeper level with nature. As students become more comfortable on their Sit Spots, you can increase the time they are seated, as well as their independence in choosing their own spot. 

As an educator, it is also important that you actively participate in using the Sit Spots. It is tempting (speaking from experience) to want to go over to a student and ask them questions or walk around and take pictures, however modeling how to use your Sit Spot is important for students to see, especially in the early years. If they see you engaging in the activity, they will be more inclined to stay in their spot and focus on their activity as well. Remember, there is always time for meaningful discussion and sharing after Sit Spots! 

The Sit Spots that I were introduced to are foam puzzle mats that can be found at Dollarama (a pack of four for $3). These particular ones are recommended for their durability, comfort/size, and insulation in all weather conditions- so don't be afraid to use Sit Spots all year round!

A special thank you to Tanya for introducing me to Sit Spots and to Jocelyn for welcoming us into the forest to see them in action! 

I hope this post inspires you to use Sit Spots with your students this Fall! Don't forget to hashtag #inspirelearningoutside on Twitter and Instagram if you do!