Friday, 29 July 2016

Outdoor Learning

I am thrilled that The Kindergarten Program includes a section on Learning In The Outdoors where "learning in the outdoors is included as part of the instructional day, and the educators play an active role, engaging with children in an inquiry stance as they play, explore, and learn together outside the classroom." (The Kindergarten Program, pg. 34, 2016)

This past year, our teaching team made a commitment to include Outdoor Exploration to our instructional day. We dedicated time each week to play and learn outdoors. We took nature walks in the forest behind our school, used Sit Spots to build connections with nature, and created opportunities in our "backyard" to explore and create. You can visit Rose Marcelli of Educate.Invest.Inspire and Lucas Serper of Play.Create.Inquire for more information on our Outdoor Exploration

As part of my commitment to outdoor learning, I created a proposal for adding learning materials to enhance the space we have in our kindergarten pens. I also incorporated ways in which we could use those same materials beyond the fence. The proposal was well received and approved by our supportive Administration and School Council. 

Our outdoor order was placed with Louise Kool & Galt who "are the leading supplier of learning materials, furniture and equipment to the Canadian early childhood and elementary school markets (Louise Kool & Galt, 2016)." Having had the opportunity to visit their showroom last summer and tinker with their products, I knew that they were the right company to trust with our outdoor space. 

Photo Credit: Joanne Babalis

The products from Louise Kool & Galt enhanced the outdoor space that was previously designed with the help of Linda Naccarato of Art With Linda. Linda worked with our students to create a natural environment that included a painted mural, waterfall, stepping stones, and wooden house, as well as a bike path, and tire garden. She provided hands-on activities throughout the entire process, which engaged the students and further connected them to their environment. This included planning the environment using loose parts, painting the mural, planting flowers to attract various insects, exploring ramps and loose parts play, and engaging in dramatic play experiences. 

Photo Credit: Joanne Babalis

I look forward to continue using the outdoor space with our students, as well as taking our new materials beyond the fence, in the upcoming school year! (We will be doing this with the help of our newly purchased Mac Sport Wagons from Costco). I am excited to continue documenting students learning and having it available for them to observe from the outdoors and I am most excited to foster our students curiosity and sense of wonder and contribute to their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being (The Kindergarten Program, 2016). 

The following are three of my favourite children's books and educator resources to inspire learning outside!

The Other Way To Listen by Byrd Baylor

If You Hold A Seed by Elly MacKay

The Listening Walk by Paul Showers

in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard

by The Laboratory School at the 
Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study 

by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter

"It's a good thing to learn about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it's even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it's a lot more fun."
Richard Louv

Friday, 22 July 2016

Ontario Focused Intervention Program

"Ontario Funding Intervention Program (OFIP) Tutoring supports school boards in initiating or extending programs that help students in Grades JK to 6 to strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills beyond the regular school day. This includes programs such as before and after-school tutoring, homework clubs and cultural programs that focus on literacy and numeracy skill development. Partnerships with existing community-based programs that provide tutoring for students are encouraged." (Ministry of Education, 2016) 

I came across the YRDSB's posting for OFIP and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for our youngest learners to strengthen their literacy skills. My teaching partner, Rose Marcelli, and myself created a proposal for the program and had it approved by our Admin and Superintendent. 

After conducting observations and assessments in the area of literacy, students were selected by their educators, and we developed an Early Learning After School Program that aimed to support and strengthen literacy skills based on their individual needs. 

As a team, made up of six educators, we planned and implemented play-based literacy activities that connected to areas of focus in the classroom. We included provocations that targeted sight word recognition and recording, created stories using story props and texts that were familiar to the students, and explored wonders through fictional and non-fictional texts. We also conducted small-group guided reading and writing lessons, as well as whole group oral language opportunities to share our learning.

As an educator team, we used Google Drive to share our weekly plans, anecdotal observations, and next steps for learning. We communicated our students progress with parents and guardians, as well as provided a package to educators with student work samples, anecdotal notes and observations, and assessments, to inform next steps in the classroom. 

I found this program to be extremely beneficial for our youngest learners. In the two months of focused instruction, we were able to see an abundance of growth, not only in their literacy skills, but also in their attitude towards learning. We strived to instil in them a growth mindset, where each student believed that their abilities could be improved over time through hard work. 

Click here to read more about the program from 
Rose Marcelli of Educate.Invest.Inspire.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day! We had a fun-filled last few days of school creating Canada flags using red paint, finger paint paper, masking tape, and wooden dowels.  

We also added a touch of Canada to our end-of-year gifts for our students with Canada pencils and white and red ribbon! 

We hope to inspire some wonder writing over the summer with these personalized clipboards, pencils, and a beautiful quote from one of our favourite books, "I Wonder" by Annaka Harris. 

We live with some big mysteries. 
When we come upon one, we're given a little gift.
Every mystery is something for all of us to wonder about together. 

What do you wonder about?