Monday, 27 March 2017

Canada 150 - Honouring First Nations People for Their Maple Syrup Discovery

Our Trip to Willowgrove

This year, Canada is celebrating 150 years old.  We thought it would be fun to learn about Canada's earliest people, The First Nations.  The First Nations People were also the people who discovered maple syrup.  We began our maple syrup inquiry by asking the question, "Where do we get maple syrup?" and we made a chart (we honor all answers that the children give).
We got lots of answers such as, "maple syrup comes from a store!"

After collecting many different theories on how we get maple syrup, we read several books telling about how maple syrup is made.  We learned that maple syrup comes from maple trees and it starts from a liquid called "sap".
We also read that the sap needs to be boiled at a very high temperature for a long time so that it can thicken into maple syrup. We also read books and watched stories about The First Nations or Aboriginal people who still live in Canada.

Then we went on a trip to Willogrove Outdoor Education Centre, where we met Farmer Marie.  We watched  a puppet show where we learned many things about maple syrup:
  • The First Nations people discovered maple syrup.  They would use a hollowed out log and hot rocks to boil the maple syrup until it was thick.
  • Maple syrup comes from a maple tree and you can tell it is a maple tree by the three B's - bark (dark grey/brown and rough); branches (sit opposite from each other); and buds (buds aren't out yet)
  • The tree must have a trunk which is at least 62 cm around (older tree) for one bucket of sap and you can only tap up to 3 buckets
  • The tree is ready for tapping in the early spring when the nights are cold and the days are warmer and sunny
  • The hole is made with a drilling tool called an "auger"
  • A spout is put in the tree called a "spile" and a bucket is hung to collect the sap

We learned that today, sap is boiled in a house with 3 walls or a building with a hole in the ceiling.  The container that boils the sap is called an "evaporator" and it has a fire underneath it.  It takes 40 cups of sap to make one cup of maple syrup!

We Got to Tap a Maple Tree and Taste the Sap!!!

Then we got to taste maple syrup.

Farmer Marie told us that the First Nations people discovered how to make maple syrup and then they showed the first settlers when they came to Canada.
We found a video from Historica Canada on how this happened; watch the video here:

The First Nations People passed on how to make maple syrup to the early settlers.
Eating yummy pancakes and maple syrup at school!
First Nations Inspired Art

We read several books about the Aboriginal people.  Many of these books showed that the Aboriginal people have a deep respect for nature and animals. Many of their sacred teachings have animal symbols that teach about strength, kindness, respect, and treating others respectfully - much like similar teachings that we learn in our Catholic Faith.  We looked at Ojibway and Inuit Art and read many storybooks which feature animal symbols. 

We made some of this art in our learning centres.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Understanding the New Reporting - The Four Frames in Real Life

This February, TCDSB parents will receive the new report card mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. You will notice that the format has changed and that there are no longer columns that describe where your child might be on the learning continuum. Also, the section for comments on how your child is developing will be longer.  

The report card will be divided into four frames: Belonging and Contributing, Self-Regulation and Well-Being, Demonstrating Math and Literacy Behaviours, and Problem Solving and Innovating. An outline of the Four Frames can be found in the Kindergarten Program by clicking here and going to page 46. This type of reporting will give educators an opportunity to show the learning in a more holistic way, which is specific to your child's development.  It will also give us a starting point for deeper conversation about your child's strengths and needs.

Part of our job as educators is to plan a learning environment which allows the children to learn through play and investigation.  Ms. Switzer and I observe the children carefully during play and we document their learning through written observation and pictures. We have taken a look at some documentation (some from past blog entries) and put them here to show you that the teaching/learning has not changed - it it just being reported in a different format.

Below, you will see some examples of learning in the four frames. Many of the expectations overlap.

Belonging and Contributing

Showing a growing sense of self and connection to others through movement, problem solving and the Arts.

Through Play, Does your child?:

  • Explore different centres in the room
  • Choose materials to express their creativity in art, drama, and dance
  • Participate in group circle time, physical education, games, and songs
  • Express themselves during problem solving

Demonstrating Literacy Behaviours

Through play, does your child explore materials in the room which promote Oral Language, Reading and Writing?

Beginning behaviours to look for:

  • Exploring books and concepts of print (turning pages from left to right, holding book upright, following the print with a finger, pretending to read familiar books)
  • Singing familiar songs and visiting the puppet centre and the drama centre
  • Using literacy materials appropriately (abc centre, finding letters in the sand, making letters with dough, writing symbols in the writing centre, reading environmental print, using proper language for social skills)

Demonstrating Math (and Problem Solving) Behaviours

Mathematics exploration and problem solving through investigation of the "Big Ideas" of early Mathematics

Through Play, Does your child?

  • Count by 1-1 correspondence for small numbers (one count for each number)
  • Keep stable order (1,2,3,4.. not 1,2,4,5..)
  • Show order irrelevance (you can begin at any object in a set and the order will be the same)
  • Begin to understand conservation of number (the final number in a set is the quantity and you don't have to start counting over again if you add one more)
  • Rote count to 30 by the end of Kindergarten
  • Show simple operational sense such as adding and subtracting through finger plays (e.g. Five Little Ducks)
  • Show understanding of quantity (how much is it?) - more, less, fewer, same or that a numeral represents how many
  • Show understanding of relationships (sorting by attribute or understanding 5 and 10)
  • Show representation of a number (knowing that the symbol for 5 means five things) 

Self Regulation and Well Being

This area is often overlooked but is extremely important. If a child has difficulty with self-regulation, it is difficult to learn.

Does Your Child?
  • Participate actively during learning and circle time
  • Listen to others and wait for his/her turn during conversations
  • Communicate his/her needs to the teacher (such as asking for help, to use the washroom, etc.)
  • Use self-help skills such as toileting, getting dressed, putting materials away and showing respect for the classroom materials
  • Use appropriate social skills to solve problems (e.g. asking, "can I use that toy when you are finished?")
  • Follow the classroom rules
  • Have the ability to keep personal space during listening time
  • Take turns and share during play time

Problem Solving and Innovating

Showing curiosity and understanding for the natural world and Science investigations.

Through Play, Does your child:

  • Participate
  • Ask questions
  • Show an interest in Science investigations
  • Communicate their thoughts and ideas
  • Use materials in the classroom and outside to construct things
  • Explore various Science and sensory activities
  • Use problem solving skills in Math, Language, play and social situations

We have tried to shed some light on examples of The Four Frames through play in our classroom.  If you would like to see the complete list of examples from The Ministry of Education, please go to - Curriculum (link provided at the beginning of this blog).

We look forward to meeting with you about your child's development! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Fun With Sensory Play

Getting Messy for Fun’s Sake

This year, we have been experimenting with messy materials such as sand, shave cream, goop, pumpkin guts, water, playdough, etc).  Sometimes we add a smell (like pumpkin spice, baby oil or other stuff) to enhance the students’ experience and sometimes we add other fun stuff like sparkles or food colouring.

Sensory play is important so that the children can experience learning with all of their senses (touch, sight, smell) and they also develop their manipulation and fine motor skills in the process.  Ms. Switzer, Ms. Mallory and I set up several investigation stations. Most times, we make the experiments with the children, incorporating fun Science investigations:
Pumpkin spiced play dough.

In October, we investigated pumpkin guts.

Shaving Cream Investigations.
Pumpkin spiced moon sand (cornstarch, water and sand).
Playing with "Goop".
Ms. Mallory did baking soda, vinegar and food colouring experiments.
Ms. Mallory made sparkle moon sand.
Doing the dishes in warm, soapy water.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Halloween Fun

A Month of Halloween Fun and Learning

Every year, as soon as October hits, the children begin getting excited for Halloween. This year, Ms. Switzer and I began to think about how we can shape the learning environment together with the children. We thought that we would incorporate curriculum through fun, play-based opportunities which reached most the children's senses.

Here are some things that we had fun with this month:

Pumpkin Investigations

Halloween Writing and Literacy:

Our classroom inherited an old pumpkin box that the children decorated to make a spooky reading nook.

Enriching Oral Language through songs and finger plays.

Samara's depiction of "Five Little Pumpkins"
Sensory play using shaving cream.

Sensory play using pumpkin spiced play dough and pumpkin spiced moon sand.
Ms. Mallory and Tianna (our Notre Dame Co-op student) made a Haunted Drama centre.

Mathematics and Fine Motor Skills

Making pattern necklaces with straws.

Halloween Activity Day

On Friday, we paired with Ms. Devitt's FDK class to have Halloween games and activities. We combined the children into groups and had lots of fun things to do in each classroom.  It was a great day!! 

We also celebrated our Virtue of the Month assembly on Gratitude together in the Gym.  The FDK students sang the "Thank-You" song for the school.

Ms. Switzer and I are thankful to have the important job of teaching and caring for your precious children everyday!

Using our "Lookers" to Find Nature with Mallory

Discovering Nature at the Local Park

For the fall/winter term, we have been fortunate to welcome an ECE student from Ryerson University, Mallory McClaskin.  Mallory spends Thursdays and Fridays in our classroom.  As part of her practicum experience with us, Mallory has been listening to the children when they are playing/exploring to see what they are interested in learning about.  She noticed that when they were playing at the park, the children would bring natural artifacts over and ask questions about them.  She decided that it was a good idea to ask the students what they know about the nature in our local park and to follow up with a nature walk in the local park space.

She began with a circle discussion on nature:

Question for Inquiry: "What Kind of Nature is in our Local Park?"

She got a list of things to look for: trees, grass, butterflies, bees, worms, leaves, acorns, birds, clouds, sun, dirt, and sticks.

She introduced the "looking glasses" (3D glasses from the movie theatre with the lenses popped out) which are meant to help us look closely for nature. All of us put them on (including the teachers) and armed with paper bags, we set out to find nature. 

The students began collecting their artifacts.  They were very focused and intentional in their search.

When we got the nature, the students emptied their bags and we looked at what we found: leaves (from different kinds of trees, in different colours), sticks, acorns, pine cones). Mallory decided that it would be a waste to just throw the nature away, so she decided to make nature hand print trees.

During our mixed outdoor play in the yard, Mallory painted the children's hands/arms to make the tree outlines. We set them to dry.

The next day, the students used the hand prints to make nature tree art. They glued the nature that they found anywhere on the page to make beautiful nature art.

When they were completed, we displayed them outside of our classroom! 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sorting and Patterning Fun Outside

Taking our Sorting and Patterning Outside

The weather in September was fabulous! The days were mostly sunny and warm, giving us a chance to take some of our learning outside into the Kindergarten yard. Ms. Devitt and Ms. Dwamena (the other FDK class) set up the Kindergarten yard with some Math manipulatives such as pattern blocks, colour tiles, and sorting animals.

Before we went outside, I read two books to the children from the Nelson Mathematics program for Kindergarten: At the Toy Store (sorting) and The Pattern Farm (patterning). 

We used these stories as an introduction to Sorting and Patterning. We also asked the children what they knew about the concepts. We took the students outside to explore further.

The students worked together to make animal groups using the squares from a hopscotch painted on the ground.
This picture shows a group of kangaroos.
They used coloured hoola hoops to make groups of colour tiles.

The J.K.'s made simple patterns using colour tiles.

A simple AB pattern using red and green tiles.
An ABC pattern using red, yellow and green tiles.
The S.K.'s used pattern blocks to make more complex patterns.

An ABC pattern, using a red trapezoid, orange square and a tan rhombus.

An AB pattern, using a red trapezoid and a blue rhombus.

An ABB pattern, using one green triangle and two orange squares.

An ABC pattern, using one yellow hexagon, one red trapezoid and one blue rhombus.

The S.K.'s also used snap cubes to make patterns.

While it may look like the children are playing with the manipulatives, a deeper look would tell us that they are learning valuable "Big Ideas" in Patterning and Algebra. If you are a teacher (or a parent wondering about Curriculum), there is a valuable resource written by the Ontario Ministry of Education called, 
A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Kindergarten to Grade 3 (2007). You can click on the link to go directly to the site. It will take you to the page for Patterning and Algebra.

Through this lesson, the Kindergarten students were learning to:

  • "recognize, identify, describe and copy repeating patterns involving one attribute";
  • "develop an understanding of the repetitive nature of patterns";
  • "create repeating patterns". (Ont. Ministry of Education. A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics K-3, p. 19)