Monthly Archives: September 2014

Looking for the red thread

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As I begin this year with these little ones, I have been on the lookout for the “red thread” that will tie our year together.  I’ve been searching for something that we could explore as a group that would give us a rich experience of discovery, and I believe I have found it in conjunction with our 8th grade science teacher, Sean Casey.

Sean’s 8th graders are our Science Buddies, a partnership that grows richer with each hour that we spend together.  This Science Buddy partnership has been a part of our K-8 group for the past several years, and the children develop a strong bond with their buddy, who remains the same throughout the school year.  Kindergarteners light up when they see their buddy around the school, and the 8th graders delight in the joy they bring to these little ones.

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In the past, the 8th grade project with the kindergarteners has been to weigh and measure them once a month as well as to chart how many teeth have been lost.  We teachers began to feel that while the connection was being made between children, this experience could provide much more as a learning experience.  As we continued to ponder this, we looked out as the courtyard outside our doors, and realized that the courtyard could provide our “red thread” for this school year.

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Together the 8th graders and the kindergarten buddies could become the experts on Jamie’s Courtyard, for there are a wealth of ideas to be explored. The children can measure the courtyard using standard and non-standard units of measurement and they can chart the changing temperatures as the seasons change each Monday at Greet the Week.  They can report on all the activities that use the courtyard, from Greet the Week to lunches to the annual Oyster Roast.  The children can study the wildlife that make the courtyard their home, including the bugs and insects that live in the raised beds.  They can make a calendar showing when the leaves begin to fall, and when they begin to emerge in the spring.  Together they can plant bulbs, learn about the plants in the raised beds.  Couldn’t we record the sounds of the courtyard, from footsteps to the sounds of birds at the bird feeder?  We can chart all the varieties of birds that visit the feeders outside our window, making a book of “Bird Visitors” that could be a kick-off to the 8th grade science project in May.

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Suddenly we would have a K/8 Reggio inspired partnership that would enrich both groups in a dynamic way.  We could provide documentation with photos, videos, and recordings as well as the work of the pairs of children.  It may be that the 8th graders would start us off on each exploration, such as birds at the feeders, and that kindergarten would spend time before the next session of Science Buddies to find out those “wonderings” that they could report back to their buddies.  The 8th graders may provide some of the technical expertise for recording/graphing of our discoveries.  DSC_0012

I think this may be the thread that we can explore together, looking for the trail that leads to the next red thread.  I’m sure these children will have paths in the courtyard to lead us toward that we haven’t even thought of.  The adventure begins!

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I am still in the process of learning about these little folks who will be a part of my life for the next ten months or so, and finding the red thread that we will follow as we follow our path together.  For now I’m finding a link to math as we are exploring common attributes.  In math we are looking at buttons, and sorting them according to common attributes.  Some of the buttons are round, some have two holes, some are small, some are red… Buttons give us an ideal venue to find similarities and differences, so Reggio has stretched my boundaries.  We have asked each child to go home with a paper bag (not huge, just sandwich size) to find some treasures they could donate to our class studio.  IMG_0392

When they come back to school at the end of next week, we are hoping for a range of materials—corks, bottle tops, ribbon, screws…you name it.  Then we will put the children in groups and let them sort the things they have shared.  We have a quantity of clear plastic tubs that they can use as they group the materials they have found.  There could be a tub of round things, a tub of  ribbons, a tub of things made of plastic, a tub of things that are made of metal…The possibilities are endless!  This will expand our work in math as we stretch beyond buttons and attribute blocks to find similarities and differences, and perhaps it will help lead us to the red thread that we can follow as this school year progresses.

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I have done this kind of thing before as I asked parents to send it the things they want to send our way, but without the parameters of sorting.   When I would ask parents to send in those beautiful and random items, they would dutifully respond, sending in a big bag of stuff that I then felt responsible for using. With the sorting, the materials are organized, they are accessible to the children, and the children  have ownership of the beautiful stuff.  As we give the children the job of sorting, they gain understanding of the materials, they discover common traits as they work to put the items together, and they know what is available when they are looking for supplies for art work.  The Reggio experience is present here in the beginning of the school year with this new batch of little ones, and their year will be richer for that time in Italy.