Tag Archives: documentation

Caterpillars to Butterflies to Goodbyes


Goodbye Worms, Hello Caterpillars

Moving into June, we said, “goodbye” to our worms and said, “hello” to our Painted Lady caterpillars! The entire kindergarten division ordered these ahead of time so we knew they were coming. However, since we had studied our worms so closely , had the inquiry steps almost down pat, and were always full of wonders, we were more than ready for our next study. Having caterpillars also inspired us to broaden the scope of our inquiry from one exclusively focused on worms to one that included the entire subject of insects and creepy-crawlies.

When we received our caterpillars, Madison gently placed them into their new temporary home (a laundry hamper with mesh sides). She showed us the mushy food that we needed to put in the hamper so that the caterpillars could get big and strong enough to climb up branches or the sides of the hamper, attach themselves to something, and form chrysalises.

The caterpillars didn’t lend themselves to as much of an interactive study as the worms did since they needed to be left alone inside of their mesh hamper. However, they taught the children the art of careful observation and patience.

We set our new friends up where our worms used to live. This became our little observatory. Every day the children would come in and check to see how the caterpillars were doing and if any of the caterpillars had formed chrysalises. We made a predictions graph to guess when we thought our caterpillars would form chrysalises and later on, we made another graph to show our predictions of when we thought they would emerge as butterflies.

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Blasting Off Into Inquiry!

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I may have gone a little overboard there but you get the idea: Our Space & Gravity Inquiry has not only taken off but has become a richly engaging learning opportunity with limitless possibilities for our SKs. I must say, this inquiry has been one of my favourites to facilitate. I can shamelessly admit with a sense of pride and honour that I have been learning alongside my students every step of the way and it has been utterly rewarding.

As a child I did not have much exposure to this topic area and I’m not sure scientific concepts were ever explained to me in ways that captured my interest and motivated me to explore more. As an adult I’ve come to understand how much of that was partially a result of the kind of education I received. Back in the early 90s when I began my schooling, inquiry-based learning was definitely not “on trend” nor understood by Ontario’s education system. I learned primarily from textbooks or chalkboard lessons and rarely participated in interactive activities. The topics covered were the same ones that were covered the last 10-20 years and were delivered in mostly the same way. To me – and probably many of my classmates – school was where you went to listen to and then remember information being presented by your teacher. I was marked on how well I retained that information and was expected to demonstrate it and “prove” my understanding at the end of each unit in some form of a test or big assignment.

Now, coming from a family of artists, I loved art. I loved drawing, colouring, painting, crafting, experimenting with line and texture and form. My teachers often took notice of my talent and that began to define me, as a person and as a student. As much as I loved art, when I reflect back on my childhood, I question whether or not my abilities outside of art were ever noticed and nurtured to their fullest potentials. In fact, I would argue that they simply were not. I was that kid who made the eye-catching art displayed in the hallways. As I grew older and entered University, I started to feel that my art was not all I wanted to be and began exploring what else I was capable of by pursuing a degree in Sociology – completely shocking my friends and family who assumed I would’ve went into the Arts. I learned so much about myself in those years but what was most life-changing was my realization that: I was, and could do, more than one thing; I could use my mind in other wonderful ways. I found out that I got so much personal fulfillment from learning about the world, researching, reading, analyzing, teaching and creating through my writing as opposed to exclusively through my art.

All of this to say that – what I want for my own students is something more than what my childhood school experience offered me. I don’t want my students to go through school being pigeon-holed into one area of strength in their abilities – or worse, being labeled based on their weaknesses. I don’t want them sitting and listening to my voice all day long. I don’t want them being forced to learn things that are completely irrelevant or uninteresting to them. I don’t want them to be afraid to ask questions and to question even their own teacher when they’re unsure. I don’t want them being assessed only at the ‘end’ of a unit or inquiry and in only one way.

What I want is for them to be thrilled about going to school to learn new things. I want them to be inspired to share their own ideas, thoughts and opinions and to allow these to evolve. I want them to realize that they have a ton of knowledge, understandings and potential within themselves and to offer the world. I want them to ask questions – lots of them. I want their understandings of curriculum content and larger concepts to be assessed using authentic strategies that recognize the many ways and opportunities people can demonstrate their learning. I want them to learn to think about their own thinking and to push their thinking further. I want this to happen while they are still young enough for it to all make a difference and shape their future. This is what I want.

So now, as we begin to unravel and witness the magic and wonderment that has been made possible by this Gravity & Space Inquiry, I encourage you to consider how all of us – in each of our different roles – can contribute to the educational experience I’ve described above. Educators, administrators, families, community members – we can all teach children to love learning. How can you help to shape a child’s vision of herself as a strong, capable and courageous learner?

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Inquiry of a Castle (Part 2)

Let the Building Begin!

After the art show, we had the time to focus more on our giant castle. We had also collected enough larger boxes and felt confident that the students were ready to construct a castle that could reflect their learning. Different students contributed at various times along the process and we could proudly say it was a collaborative process in which all students thinking and skills were involved.

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Top Row: Children painted boxes black and stamped grey bricks on with a rectangular foam block. Bottom Left: It was sometimes difficult to get this boy to participate in classroom activities and we were looking to find something he could connect with. The creation of the giant castle sparked his interest more than anything I had seen all year. He painted boxes outside in the hall for three days straight. Bottom Right: Children went inside of the castle to consider the arrangement of the boxes and what details needed to be added. Here, one boy runs in with his plan that he has drawn on a piece of paper.

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A Worm Inquiry (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in which I explained where this worm inquiry came from and how I prepared for it (see the last post), I will now describe what happened when the children were introduced to the worms. Enjoy!

Engaging Students at the Science/Worm Centre:

My prized worm tank was complete and ready for its worm inhabitants. This new provocation was, at first, hidden from students when they came into the classroom the next morning. I started off reminding them of their wonderings yesterday about why there were no worms in the soil at the mud table. I told them I wanted to read them a story about a worm to get them thinking more about worms. I read, “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin.

As we read the story, certain questions arose about whether or not the book was giving us real facts about worms. Initially the students stated that the book was fiction because they could tell it was more like a story and did not have a table of contents like the non-fiction books we have looked at did. As students asked questions or made predictions as to whether or not something in the story was a real fact about worms, I recorded their thinking on chart paper. I was surprised when some children talked about worms being good for the soil and the environment! This was something I kept note of because it told me that some children had a fairly good background on worms. The chart paper became quite crowded and messy but the children know from me reminding them, that thinking is sometimes ‘messy’ and not always ‘neat and tidy’.

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Our ‘busy paper’ as we wondered and talked about worms.

After the story, we review our thoughts from the chart paper. I asked the children how we could find out the answers to our questions as well as find out more about worms. The children are becoming very familiar with this process of “researching” or “exploring”. Some answers included: Look on the iPad or iPhone, look on the computer or Internet, ask Scientists in Sweden (yes, Sweden!), look in non-fiction books, and finally…. look, study and feel worms by bringing real worms into the class. A few children actually suggested this last idea. A few children immediately stated that this would be impossible because there’s still snow outside and the ground is frozen. Other children brought up that fisherman have to buy their worms from a story so maybe we could buy worms from a store too. The children discussed a possible plan of action with one another for a few minutes while I left the circle to go grab the tank.

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