"We Can See" Project - A True Celebration

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

About a month and a half ago, my good friend and inspiring colleague Angie Harrison (founder of the "We Can See" Project) was contacted by a writer for the Ontario College of Teacher's "Professionally Speaking" magazine who was interested in showcasing this incredible global inquiry that stemmed from one simple question, "What do you see when you look outside your classroom window?" Not only did this project begin with such a simple question, but it resulted in connecting classrooms on a global scale as our youngest learners began to inquire and learn about their communities and the world around them; a truly authentic way of connecting the big ideas in the Full Day Kindergarten Curriculum to the real world. 

(You can read about our involvement in this incredible project by clicking on the "We Can See Project" tab under Categories or by visiting our collaborative blog space:

Safe to say, I was truly honoured when Angie extended the interview opportunity to myself and another good friend and inspiring colleague, Joanne Babalis ( Not only was this something I had never anticipated, but it was truly a celebration of our learning as a class and as a professional learning network of many educators from the 2012-2013 school year and I couldn't be more honoured, inspired, and thrilled to be a part of this documented journey! 

After checking my mailbox daily for the last week or so, the December issue of "Professionally Speaking" magazine finally arrived and I couldn't be more proud to see our journey documented for other educators to read about and feel inspired by! 

Here is the article for you to enjoy:

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Angie and Joanne for continuing to inspire me on a daily basis. I feel incredibly fortunate to have you both in my professional learning network and I can't wait to see where our next global inquiry of "Looking Closely" takes us! Here's to new learning and a wonderful journey ahead!  

"Be the change you want to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Over the course of this past week, many schools across Canada have been acknowledging, promoting, and educating their learners around bullying and in particular, Anti-Bullying Awareness Week's theme of "Stand Up!"
By D.K. 
At Lorna Jackson Public School, our school's Positive Climate For Learning committee and student team worked very hard at addressing key messages, bullying tips and how to be an "UPstander" throughout many school-wide initiatives and during our Good News Assembly.

By G.B. 
By J.S. 
The reason for this post is because, in our class, our youngest learners have truly shown a deep understanding for what it means to be a "bully" and how we can stand up for ourselves, our friends and make a difference. Over the course of this past week, the students in our classroom have taken the profound initiative to want to teach others about what bullying means and how to stand up to a bully. 
By J.L.
By P.B.
Ms. Theis and I couldn't have felt more inspired by our students as they showcased their thinking and made it visible through drawings, writing, small group discussions and during daily read aloud opportunities. Not only were some children able to talk about their own experiences around how they have felt when someone has mean to them, but they were able to articulate strategies, acknowledge each other's ideas and show a true desire to be the best friend they can be to their peers. 

By T.B.
By Z.P.
One SK in particular, decided to illustrate his understanding of a bully through the form of a visual story. It is clear through his story-telling, that E.Sz. has a very important message and we hope that as you watch, you can see that even as young as 4, our students can be the change! 

Similarly, others students in our class took to our iPads and in particular the app called "Doodlecast" to create stories around bullying and how to stand up to them for themselves or their peers. We have captured their videos here and we hope you enjoy listening to their special messages as well. 

(Doodlecast is $1.99 from iTunes)

(Story by E.S.)

(Story by T.B.)

Thank you to our students' families for letting us showcase their work on our blog and setting an example for how our youngest learners have a strong message to give and can be the change we want to see in the world. For more information around Anti-Bullying Awareness Week, please visit: 

Looking Closely...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Looking back at last year's success of our We Can See global inquiry project (you can find those posts under the "We Can See Project" tab), it goes without question that this type of learning opportunity brought an authentic learning lens for our class to inquire and learn about the world around them. The beauty of this project was that it involved connecting our class with other classes around the world and focused on building an understanding about each school environment whereby students would make comparisons, ask questions, draw conclusions, and gain a deeper understanding of where they live. 

Over the summer, a group of educators that are part of my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter began to dialogue around what our next global inquiry project could be and what it could look like for this school year. In particular, Heather McKay (@HeatherMMcKay), a talented and inspiring Kindergarten teacher from Calgary, Alberta, ignited the idea of using Frank Serafini's series entitled "Looking Closely." 

Image from:

Through this lens and with his series of books, this project explores how to "look closely" at the world around us, nature's natural wonderments, and our students' curiousities in a way that allows us to gain a deeper understanding of our world and digitally connect with other classrooms while doing it. As part of starting this global inquiry project, a collaborative blog space was created whereby classes, educators, and their families could go on and post their discoveries, inquiries, and wonderments and interact as digital citizens through the blogsphere. You can find the link to the collaborative "Looking Closely" blog here:

For our class, it has been a slow start in sparking the interests of our students with this concept, so we have taken the idea in strides and in connection with the interests of our students. For instance, throughout our Snail Inquiry, our students took interest in "looking closely" at snails through their scientific observations, fiction and non-fiction texts, and more and similarly with our Leaf Inquiry. Students were able to dig deeper in their thinking with the framework of "what do you see?," "what do you think?," "what do you wonder?," which helped guide and facilitate the learning. Many opportunities to compare, discuss and make their thinking visible emerged and we couldn't have been more delighted!

This one image of a Monarch Butterfly inspired another
SK, G.B., to paint it after looking closely at the image.
After creating her sketch (plan), she ended up inspiring
3 other girls to create their own interpretation of a
butterfly based on the image in the book.
Such attention to detail!
Sharing our interest in "looking closely" with our reading buddies!
After using the "Looking Closely" texts as read alouds and throughout peer and self-directed reading opportunities within our classroom, Heidi and I finally feel that the spark has been lit as of this week and it didn't even come from us! Throughout this week, one of our SK students decided she wanted to make her own "Looking Closely" book and have our class try and guess what we think the images are. Over the course of the week, E.S. has been reading through the various books from this series, getting ideas and making connections to the format and set-up of these texts. Here is the "Looking Closely" book she created:

We hope that E.S.'s story will inspire her peers or even other classes to create their own and share them with our class through the collaborative blog or by commenting on this post. E.S. would be thrilled to know what you thought of her "Looking Closely" debut as an author so we welcome any comments below. 

How does "looking closely" at something 
inspire wonder? We would love to know 
what you think...

"This is our machine!" by T.B. and T.D.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Over the past week, two SK students have been working quite hard as a building team to create what has been called "the machine." Now...according to T.B. and T.D., this machine is no ordinary machine. It is a machine that can create all sorts of tasty treats with only the touch of a button! Without giving too much away, the following transcriptions have been documented by Ms. Theis and I as these two future "engineers" made their thinking visible through drawings, diagrams and video recordings. Thank you to T.B. and T.D.'s families for letting us share their building adventure on the blog and we welcome any comments and questions below! 

Part 1: "The Machine" began as a Pizza, Pancake and Cookie Machine

Ms. Theis: Can you tell me about what you created?

T.B.: "That's a plan. This is where the pizza goes and this is where the pancakes go."

Ms. Theis: What happens in there?

T.B.: "It looks like an oven. The KAPLA Blocks represent the steam which is what happens on the oven. This is the pizza decorator (points to T.D.). First I need to put it in. The decorator puts the cheese and pepperoni and tomato sauce on it as a decorator."

Ms. Theis: What are the shapes on your machine for?

T.B.: "They are buttons. It works for the cookies. The hexagon and square buttons are for the cookie one to start. And the trapezoid and other square buttons are to stop the cookie one."

Part 2: "The Machine" turns into a magic restaurant machine that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Ms. Schmidt: Can you show me how your machine works?

T.D.: "First, you have to choose what you want." (shows the menu cards)

Ms. Schmidt: Can I please have some cereal and fruit?

T.B.: "Ok, so T.D. you be the chef and I be the server."

T.D.: "Ok, you need water now."

T.B.: "Remember to push the button so that the machine turns on and makes the cereal. I'll get all the fruit. The shells are the power so we need lots. The shells work with the gears."

Ms. Schmidt: What are gears?

T.B.: "Gears are the things that go round and round. They help things go through the machine. They are special because they have a job to do so our machine can work. See?" (shows with his finger).

Ms. Schmidt: What are all the arrows for?

T.D.: "The arrows go up and down."

T.B.: "Yeah, they show the machine and how it works like up and down, back and forth like here, see?"

Ms. Schmidt: "I noticed you put two different letters on either side of your machine. Can you tell me what they are for?"

T.B.: "The 'F' is for 'finish' and the 'S' is for start. The 'S' is where the ingredients go in and where we have to put them all and the 'F' is where is all comes magic! The letters tell us where to go so we don't make mistakes."

T.D.: "Look, your cereal is ready and fruit is ready. It comes out here." (points to the 'F')

Here is a video that documents T.B. and T.D. explaining their thinking behind their machine and also highlights them presenting their work to the class. 

Feel free to enlarge the video to get an even better glimpse into their thinking!

It is thrilling to see students apply so many learned skills in one exploration! The learning that occurred throughout T.B. and T.D.'s investigation truly exemplifies the beauty of a play-based environment and the nature of the Full Day Kindergarten Program. The "play" that you witnessed in the video and throughout the transcriptions, is a testament to the meaningful learning that came out of such a rich and robust experience for these students. Moreover, with this one exploration, T.B. and T.D. demonstrated an understanding of many curriculum expectations from Language (Oral Communication) and Mathematics (Geometry & Spatial Sense) to Science and Personal/Social/Emotional Development, these types of learning opportunities foster endless possibilities for authentic dialogue and assessment. 

Celebrating our "Think Work"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

One way we try to promote parental engagement and meaningful connections between home and school is through the form of what we like to call, "Think Work." The term "Think Work" was shared with me by my mentor, Tania Sterling, a few years ago. The idea came from the desire to transform the stigma associated with "homework" and make it into something that students would find fun, engaging, and thought-provoking and would also allow them to think deeper about a particular inquiry, topic, etc. Once this idea was shared with me, I began to see the true value in the term "Think Work" and being intrigued, I jumped on using it with our Kindergarten class about two years ago! It's been a hit every since!

Presently, my DECE, Heidi Theis, and I utilize this concept in ways that foster excitement around extending the learning going on in our classroom with our families! Our "Think Work" is not something we create on a weekly basis nor is it mandatory for all families to participate in. We just wanted to provide our families with meaningful opportunities to extend on the learning occurring in our classroom in a fun and engaging way! 

The excitement, joy and enthusiasm that our students showcase before, during, and after presenting their "Think Work" in front of their peers is truly incredible and exactly what we had hoped for - a true testament to the love for learning! Moreover, the positive feedback we have received from our families goes without question that this type of learning opportunity presents our parents with multiple entry points to the learning going on within the walls of our classroom. Similarly, it provides our families with multiple opportunities to engage in purposeful talk at home and a diverse way of exchanging and showcasing their child's learning by sharing photos, transcriptions, and/or videos with us and the class!

Talk about a powerful home/school connection that can be celebrated in both learning environments!

When sending home our "Think Work," we always include question prompts for our parents that they can use to help engage with their child before, during, and after the learning. This is one of the main things parents have said help them facilitate purposeful talk at home and give them the opportunity to truly become an active participant in their child's thinking and learning

Some images captured from our class Leaf Hunt!
Our Leaf Inquiry has begun!
Students created Leaf Books about the leaves they
collected from our class Leaf Hunt.
Which tree does this leaf come from? We
used the app LeafSnap to investigate!
Over the month of October, we had two wonderful opportunities in our classroom that led to perfect "Think Work" activities! The first was our Leaf Inquiry and our students profound natural curiousity for the changing seasons and what they noticed about the leaves outside. That being said, Ms. Theis and I wasted no time in creating an activity that students could do with their families that truly enhanced their thinking about leaves and connected to our classroom learning at the same time. In brief, we asked our students to take their families on a "Leaf Hunt" similar to the one we went on as a class. 

Emily's Leaf Hunt was a real hit and her energy was definitely contagious!

Whether it be to a forest, in their backyard, or at a family member's house, students were able to make meaningful connections to their home environments and tie it into our classroom learning. Furthermore, and as a way of incorporating mathematics, we provided our students with an open-ended template that would encourage them to record down the types of leaves they found and how many of each. The way students recorded their thinking was completely unique to them (e.g. tally marks, check marks, pictures, numbers, words, etc). Here is evidence of our students' Leaf Hunts as their "Think Work" activity:

Some recorded responses and E.S.'s homemade Leaf Book!
Documented responses help gave insight into J.S.'s
insightful conversations with his parents!
G.B. investigating some of the leaves she brought in
from her family Leaf Hunt and discovering which
trees they came from!

Secondly, Halloween and the tradition of "Trick-or-Treating" naturally lent itself to a meaningful "Think Work" activity and one that revolved around a Halloween Math Challenge! With our students excitement building as the date got closer, we noticed our students having conversations around what types of candies were their favourites, what candies they hoped they would get and which candies they didn't like. So.....we created our math challenge and again, supported our parents by providing them with questions they could ask their child before, during, and after trick-or-treating. Furthermore, we invited parents to share photos, writing, videos, etc of their child's learning so that we could build in those rich connections and conversations as students got to present their "Think Work" at school in front of the class! 

J.S. sharing how he began his challenge!
R.K. talking about what she did with her candy.
T.P. highlighting how he used his "counting finger" to
count all of his candy!
T.B. telling us step-by-step how he did his
Halloween Math Challenge! 
C.S-J. talking about how she lined up all the candy to
help her count.
D.K. pointing our his Mom's favourite candy - Kit Kat!
G.V. sharing how she made an AB pattern - chips, chocolate,
chips, chocolate!
R.V. sharing how she made lots of piles of
the different candies.
Here are the photos that our wonderful families sent in showcasing their child in action as they completed our Halloween Math Challenge! One family even experimented and made their very own PicCollage!

Dev's Halloween Saga was a huge hit and was created using the site called "haikudeck."

T.P. counting all of his Halloween candy.
C.S-J. and her family documented her thinking
and learning using their first PicCollage!
J.L.'s family recorded her counting!
R.K. sorting her candy after counting each piece!
J.H. counting and sorting his Halloween candy for our
Math Challenge!
T.B. sorting and counting his candy!
G.V. and R.V. sorting and making AB patterns with
their collected Halloween candy!
J.S.'s family documented his entire thinking and learning
process through a series of photos showcasing the
steps he took to draw conclusions! Incredible!
This is just one of the many ways we try to build a positive home/school connection and foster a sense of engagement and conversation with our students and their families. For other educators, I hope that this post has inspired you to think about ways you foster parental engagement and we would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave any comments, questions, or further inquiries below!

We couldn't be more thrilled with the number of family responses and we are so fortunate to have such dedicated, involved, and supportive parents - so THANK YOU for your continued involvement in your child's learning. The following photos and videos were shared with us by our families and we thank you for letting us share them on the blog!
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