Monday, November 24, 2014

Rigor and Resiliency

The forest fosters a "can do" belief system.
Representation, relationship, research, reflection and rigor.   
 These five words drive our decisions as educators and are the lens through which we view our classrooms.  In early blogs we considered the ideas of representation, reflection and relationship.                                                                                   
 I have been thinking about the word rigor. In Kindergarten, this word means persistence and resiliency. As an educator and a parent, there is a perplexity and reverence surrounding both words. When a child bumps up against something hard, untenable and outside their immediate reach how do they react?  Supporting children to be resilient and persistent in Kindergarten provides the fuel to stick with goals and intention that are rigorous as they grow older. These are not traits but rather deep resources that students tap when they are pursuing intentions or surviving adversity.

Research tells us that relationships, high expectations and opportunity to participate and contribute are necessary for students to move forward and persist. In the classroom, educators can shape resiliency through their approach rather than the curriculum. We can work with a child's strengths as they identify the gaps and problems and then outline incremental steps to solve the problems and close the gaps. We can influence their perspective to view these problems as opportunities to grow. 

Cultivating curiosity and imagination within children provides the inspiration and motivation for learning and striving for answers.

The ability to listen to others and communicate ideas connects children to their peers and community. Children acquire patience as they wait for others to find their voice. They develop empathy for others and begin to perceive the world as others see it.

Kindergartners are asked to take initiative. How can you discover the answer to your question? What resources are available to you? How can you assert your independence and solve a problem that you are encountering?

Is this a tepee or a lean-to? It was a hot debate between the boys building the structure. We all checked in and listened to each others perspective. The boys are learning to lead through influence. 

Collaborating demands that children adapt and remain open to change. If problems arise then assumptions need to tested and reviewed critically. Options need to be analysed. 

It is always hard to avoid the Happiness Trap with our children. I try to keep the idea that childhood is a journey not a race...slow, steady and consistent. It is a process that may not have immediate results. The seeds we sow now may not be reaped for years. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Expedition to Richmond

The excitement was contagious. 

All moments were captured through the photography talents of Molly Booker, Brian's mom. She documented our trip with energy and thought. 

On Wednesday, November 6th we ventured into the city for further exploration. This time our mode of transportation was a train with the destination Old City Hall. This castle-like structure appeared in the students' drawings from our last field trip and seemed to garnish much curiosity. We boarded the train at Staples Mill station.

We waited patiently for the train at the Staples Mill station. 

It was with great dismay that we heard that the train was delayed. Our excitement was impossible to contain. 

Thank goodness Mary Baxter began to sing. The station master liked our sound and
asked us to return at Christmas to sing carols.

Our train was announced and so we headed to the platform. 

"Dinah, won't you blow your horn." Our ride into the city arrives.

We boarded the train with great anticipation. 
We spent some time drawing the sights and
architecture that we saw at the train station.

We left the  station and embarked on our trek up the hill to the Capitol.
Our weaving caravan included a red wagon piled high with lunch boxes and necessities. 

"It looks like the white house." As we considered who might live in this house, we
decided to take a run up the long and inviting staircase.
The Kindergarten ate on the Capitol lawn and enjoyed the statues, view and soft grass.

We shared a picnic and explored the grounds together.

We studied  the Capitol, the tall buildings in the distance and the spires of Old City hall. 
This building  appeals to the children. They seem to be attracted to the
unique architecture and the idea that there are two city halls, an older one and a new one
It was a day that put smiles on all of our faces. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Collective Perspective

The Kindergarten ventured into the city on a train this week.  It was a big adventure with much to absorb. Their senses were bombarded with the life, energy and vibrations of an urban environment. 

The children have been developing a schema or thinking map of the city in preparation for this trip. 

 Each child arrived in the Kindergarten this Fall with their own experiences and perceptions of the city. The work of the classroom currently is to gather data and listen to each other with understanding as we create a common schema that we can tap into during our study of Richmond.

We are developing a model of the city on the block table using a variety of materials to represent the landmarks, terrain and life of the city as documented during our field trips. This process will help us get on the same page.

We asked the children to sketch landmarks that they would like to recreate.  Their choices are varied and are not confined to anyone neighborhood or area in Richmond.

The Science Museum     Evan

The Pony Pasture     Sadie
Maymont     Harper

We are building a collective context as a class but also as a school. First grade has explored the Fan and second and third grade have visited the river. All of these beautiful places are part of  our city of Richmond. It has an urban center with green spaces and surrounding neighborhoods. It has a deep history and a wide culture.

As we begin to share a common language and perspective regarding the landmarks of Richmond we are also asking the children to evaluate what they are seeing as we walk the city. What is their interpretation of the images that they are seeing?

The City through the eyes of a Kindegardener....what do they think when they observe and consider the city?

Anna posed a question to the Kindergarten during Circle. Is the city a good place for kids to live?

Lenore: The city is a good place for kids because I live in the city.

Nathan: The city is  a good place for kids but downtown is not good for kids. It is busy and there are alot of cars and there is not much fun to do. The speed limit is fast and the cars are going faster. It might be hard to stick with the Marys. There are a lot of big buildings.
It is not a good place for kids because they might get run over by kids, trains, and buses.

Brian: It is a good place for kids because there are toys and games.

Cole: I know it is a good place for kids because Reed live in the city.

Reed: It is a good place for kids because there are carnivals.

Sabine: There might be crosswalks in downtown. 

Dyson: I live in Virginia and it is a good place for kids

Gabriel: I live downtown and we go to get lots of pizzas.

Carter: I think it is bad because the cars go really fast and make some smoke and will get the kids sick.

Harper: At downtown they have lots of ice cream and purple ice cream too. I went to a festival and they had a maze.

The children are evaluating Richmond on the criteria appealing and vital to life as a five and six year old. Does the city provide fun things to do and eat? Is it safe? 

Cole notes that Richmond must be a good place if his friend has made the city his home. Homes provide safety and security and love.  

We had many moments of high excitement on our field trip but there was also moments of reflection. We will unpack this reflection and the children's documentation of what they saw. What memories are most salient? What connections are drawn? What questions exist? 
Eating lunch at the capitol

Our view from the train station in Richmond
Gazing at the majestic tiers and light within Old City Hall
Sketching Old City Hall on a lit floor space