Monthly Archives: March 2015

Polar Learning Flourishes!

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Einstein understood that the ability to imagine is what opens our minds up to possibilities we never considered before. When we imagine the so-called impossible and seek to discover or uncover new truths, we create new knowledge that leads us to more questions. The reality is that we, as a human race, are never finished knowing and understanding all that there ever was, is or will be. We need to keep that fire to search alive by continuing to ask questions. This habit of mind, I believe, is best developed young so that our children – our future – can grow and develop into thinkers, explorers and innovators and go beyond the acceptance of every day facts at face value. This sense of imagination and disposition for questioning is something I aim to instill in my students as young learners. Even if all I do is plant a seed…

Learning About the Inuit Peoples & Culture

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As our Polar Inquiry continued to deepen and as we looked at more and more books that contained pictures or stories about the people who live in the Arctic, the children became fascinated and we became knee deep in new questions that neither I nor Madison could answer.

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Our Winter & Polar Inquiry Continues

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Our Winter & Polar Inquiry Continues

In my post entitled, The Start of a New Inquiry, I discuss the birth of our Winter & Polar Inquiry. You can see how we began our inquiry with an interest in snow and winter and began focusing our investigation with the introduction of our Animals Shelf (a small-world play area with animal figurines and a winter environment). We began delving into questions about the behaviour of animals in winter time and learned that some animals hibernate, some migrate and some adapt to the cold. When discussing animal adaptations, we naturally began to explore many polar animals (penguins, polar bears, arctic foxes, etc.) and discovered their physical and behavioural differences from those animals who hibernate or migrate. Soon, our inquiry narrowed further and became much more of a Polar Inquiry as the children’s keen interest with “the poles” continued to grow.¬†Below I’ve outlined the evolution of our inquiry – how it began, how it transformed with the children’s questions and interests and where it has developed to at this point.
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Now that the children have learned about the kinds of animals and how they survive in the Poles, we have expanded our inquiry furthermore and have put a spotlight on the geography, land, people and cultures associated with the Arctic and Antarctica. As you will see in an upcoming post, from there, we have put an environmental focus on our inquiry and are now investigating the melting of the ice caps, reasons behind the melting and what we can do about it. For now, let me show you how this all evolved.

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Groundhog Day & a Mini-Light/Shadow Inquiry!

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 Learning About Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a holiday that many young children have heard about but don’t quite understand. I was able to easily integrate this holiday and learning into our current Winter & Polar Inquiry due to the hibernation aspect, making it relevant to the children and not completely out of context from their focus of study. The image below shows some snapshots of video clips the children viewed, stories we read and the kinds of questions we explored in order to get a better idea of what really happens with groundhogs this time of year.

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First, we learned about the tradition of Groundhog Day but then we learned that groundhogs don’t really intend to look for their shadows when they emerge from their burrows in February. Actually, they don’t care about their shadows at all! They really only come out to keep tabs on the location of nearby female groundhog’s burrows so that when spring comes, they know exactly where to go. In a way, they can give us an inclination about whether spring is close by or not because of course, if the groundhog chooses to go back into his burrow, it is clearly not warm enough for him to leave hibernation. However, this is true for many animals.

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Valentine’s Day Week

Valentine’s Day Week in Room 209 was eventful in many ways! We took a short break from our Winter and Polar Inquiry to focus on some other learning adventures. We added in some Valentine’s Day-inspired invitations to play, we visited Winterlude as a class, we held a “Colours of Love” Healthy Snack class party and we participated in the school Dance-a-Thon – whew!

Join us in reflecting back on memories of this exciting week!

Valentine’s Day-Inspired Invitations to Play

Although I’m not big on themes, I don’t mind throwing in more “themey” activities every so often so long as they are culturally meaningful to the students, are open-ended in nature and do not flood the entire program or room. The children in our room almost always have options and have many opportunities to practice making choices. Alongside the Valentines Day activities you see in these pictures, were many other activities or invitations to play and learn that coincided with our Winter & Polar Inquiry (those photos will be reserved for the following post!). In my opinion, it really is all about balance when it comes to planning and setting up invitations in your classroom. You want them to reflect the interests, values, realities and abilities of your learners. If you’re going to present something that is not culturally-familiar to the children, you need to introduce it properly and with sensitivity and ensure they understand your reasoning for presenting it to them. In my case, the children in my room all celebrate Valentine’s Day and are quite familiar with it. Moreover, they all expressed significant interest in Valentine’s Day, in preparing for it and in looking forward to it, which is why these activities ‘made sense’ for us. Of course, each classroom is different.

To clarify for those who aren’t familiar, “invitations to play/learn” are simply displays of toys, play materials, sensory tubs/bins/tables, loose parts, art materials, etc. organized in inviting ways that attract children and provoke creativity and open-ended play.

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Behold: Our classroom Love Potion! Children were presented with this new sensory invitation early in the week to bring in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, which is coming up that weekend. Inside the bin was pink coloured water, red and pink water beads, plastic heart-shaped accessories, heart-shaped boxes, a heart-shaped muffin container and heart-patterned buckets.

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