Taking a Gallery Walk of Our Journey

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

As the school year comes to a close in the coming week, we decided to recount our favourite memories of the year together as a class! From the garbage pick-up and our Roots of Empathy baby to our field trip to McMichael Art Gallery and Pizza Pizza, the most popular memory, however, was related to our Tree Timeline! In order to make our students’ recounts authentic and purposeful, we asked them how we could best reflect on our journey! One student suggested that "We could go out and look at the pictures" and the rest of the class we decided to bring them back to the start of the timeline and have them "walk the walls." It was a wonderful opportunity for students to discuss their memories, their learning, and their peers. Some students even came up with new "wonderings" that we later took back to our sharing circle which gave students the opportunity to answer their peers. 

Here is what they had to say:

“I see old friends that aren’t here anymore.” – I.D.
“J.S. is building a snowman and A.D. and me rolled a big snowman too.”A.M.
“I see a bird nest which is a good home for a bird.”A.Z.
“We were using tape measures to measure the trunk of the tree.”A.L.
“I see all the months of the year!”A.T.
“I see R.L. I wonder what he’s thinking? Maybe he’s looking at the tree’s shadow.” E.C.
"Our tree is living in a cloudy day." - D.M.
"I see me making a snowman!" - V.V.
"I see the leaf buried in the ice!" - R.D
"I wonder if the snow felt cold in their hands?" - M.D.
Ms. Schmidt: “I wonder why we call these seeds helicopters?” [pointing to a picture of a branch with seeds hanging down from it]
Student Response: “I think because they have wings and helicopters have wings and both spin round and round.”I.D.

Environmental Inquiry in Action: Our Tree Timeline

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

 "We need a fundamental shift in the way we think and behave, a shift made possible by a fundamentally different approach to teaching and learning: Education that nurtures children's innate curiosity about the natural world, that fosters their understanding of the interconnectedness of all living and non-living things, and instils in them an abiding sense of care and responsibility for the well-being of their communities and planet Earth."
- David Orr (Ecologist & Scholar)

Over the course of the year, my DECE and I have been intrigued by the notion of making the classroom environment a third teacher and we thought there's no better way to do that then by bringing the outdoors inside. What started as a Nature Walk at the beginning of the school year has now lead to ongoing student wonderings, explorations, and most importantly a desire to care for and respect our environment. While our students chose to focus on one particular tree in our school yard (that they could see through one of our windows), they have come to a fundamental understanding and natural curiousity at this point in the year that they can make a difference.

Our Tree Timeline documents our class' learning journey in the hallway outside of our classroom and truly tells a story from September until June. It highlights key findings, questions, observations, and student engagement in the inquiry process. To provide you with a few examples of this natural curiousity, below are some of our students' wonderings throughout the year:

"How does a tree grow?" - A.J.
"Does a tree die when it turns 100 like us?" - A.D.
"Why does a tree stand straight?" - L.D.
"Why and how do the leaves change colour?" - D.M. 
"I wonder how the colour of the tree gets brown and then how the branches get brown too?" - L.D.
"How do the rings in the tree get bigger and bigger? Do the trees then have birthdays?" - I.D.
"Why do the needles fall off?" - A.L.

To incorporate art into our inquiry, our class completed bark and leaf rubbings, leaf printing, and stem printing. The learning experiences were completed by using natural materials that students collected from outside on our many Nature Walks. The belief of using natural materials in the classroom is from the Reggio-Emilia approach towards teaching and learning and we have found a profound shift in interest, engagement, and overall learning in our students with this approach.

Take a look at our environmental inquiry in action and we hope you feel inspired!

Exploring Plasticine - Inspiration From Barbara Reid

Monday, June 18, 2012

Picture a tree - what do you see?
From bare branches tracing the sky to an explosion of colour, a place for adventure or a friend to shelter us from the sun - a tree can be so many things.
As part of celebrating each child as an artist in our classroom, we decided to combine art with our exploration of a Big Idea of changes in our local environment. Our inquiry continues as we have tracked a tree in our school yard all year long from fall, into winter and now from spring into the beginning of summer.

Our Plasticine Provocation:
After reading Barbara Reid's latest book entitled Picture a Tree, our students began asking questions related to the pictures they saw in the story. "Are they paintings?," "Are they drawings?," "How did she do it?" are only some of the questions that came from our students. With this interest, we decided to show the artists in our classrooms how Barbara Reid creates her storybook illustrations with plasticine through the "Simple Tree" short video clips found on her website. Our student artists then planned their own creative interpretations of the book. They then took their plans and created their artistic works.

A Raving Review:
After our Principal helped celebrate our students' artistic achievements by visiting our gallery and taking pictures, he decided to send Barbara Reid an email informing her of their creations! Surprisingly, we received a quick response:

Hello Mr. C,
What a beautiful start to the day! Thank you very much for sending me the link to the gorgeous artwork by your kindergarten students. I love creating books, but it is enthusiastic teachers, librarians and parents who put them into readers hands and bring the pages to life. Plasticine is an excellent medium for exploration and creativity, I’m delighted that your students had the opportunity to work with it. Please share my congratulations with the teachers and artists, their work will inspire me on my current project!
Best regards and happy reading,
Take a look at how we made our students' learning visible through the art of plasticine!

Creating a Community of Artists

"Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!" -- Dr. Seuss

Creating a community of artists has been one of our many highlights of the year! With the belief that each child is an artist, we have been able to instill a love of art, creativity, expression and reflection in our students which we hope they will carry forward with them as they grow. For originality to be represented in each of our students' artwork, we made sure to teach the technique behind the task and not the task itself. We felt it was important for students to gain knowledge around how to use the materials rather than replicate a modeled example. That being said, each piece of art created by our students is a success and helps them continue to see themselves as artists!
Being involved in making art gives young children a sense of emotional satisfaction. The control the children have over the materials they use and the autonomy they have in the decisions they make gives them this sense of achievement. Providing students with opportunities for feedback from peers helps to build students self-esteem by helping them accept criticism and praise from others (Schirrmacher, 1998). 

By celebrating each artistic achievement as a class, we have been able to recognize each students' unique abilities to practice different art techniques (e.g. contour drawing, blind drawing, water colour, self-portraits, finger paint, wax-resist techniques, observational drawing, etc) and we have enjoyed showcasing their artwork through meaningful displays, framing and documentation in our classroom, hallways, and throughout the school.

Take a look and feel inspired by the work of our Kindergarten class!

Experimenting with Various Watercolour Techniques and Blow Art with Straws (inspired by a picture of a tree)
Observational Drawing and Blind Contour Drawing (inspired by orchid flowers in a vase)

Our cubbie area showcases a variety of art pieces selected by students. We rotate the artwork presented in the frames to ensure that each student's art is celebrated!

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