Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Purposeful Numeracy and Literacy in PLAY

Have you ever thought that PLAY is what you do when you are not working? 
What if Play and work could be intertwined or even become synonymous?

 We all know how important it is to be able to communicate to function in our society and most would agree that basic numeracy knowledge is also of key importance. For these reasons part of the important 'work' for our primary age learners is developing their literacy and numeracy skills. Does this necessitate drill, worksheets and paper pencil seat work?

At NIDES primary we are following a Playful Inquiry Approach with our multi age class. In an effort to blur the lines separating play and work; in an effort to engage and motivate our learners in authentic, real life literacy and numeracy activities we are PLORKING.

The topic of our most recent Playful Inquiry - Pets
What type of pet would you choose?
An opportunity to share our opinions and listen to the ideas of others using a Venn Diagram.

Our learner's prior knowledge and interest has guided a transformation in our environment - the once popular household area has become a Pet Store. Following our learner's interests our Pet Inquiry has expanded. Many questions arise: What supplies are needed to set up our store? What type of pets should we have? When will our store be open? What types of jobs do we need to do in the store? 
Purposeful list writing soon becomes a popular  activity. Elephants, cats, ducks, fish  and even a snake...children's stuffies of all shapes and sizes are shared from home and quickly become our pets. Cardboard boxes, orange crates, wicker baskets serve as pet containers.

Oral discussions, book research and story reading activities help us build our 'pet' knowledge. Pet experts within our class community have much to add to our growing research.

Engaging, purposeful literacy/ numeracy activities naturally developed from the children's Playful Inquiry: signs, price tags, paper money, order forms and work schedules has all been created by the learners as their store is taking shape. 

If you happen to be looking for a cute blue cat or exotic purple elephant we have the perfect Pet Store for you with a very dedicated staff who love to PLORK (play + work) and learn too!  
We would like to learn about ways you have found to intertwine your work and play.  Happy PLORKING!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Ask Your Teacher to Take You Outside

When is a perfect day to not have a classroom with walls? I am quickly realizing a perfect day for learning outside is any day for most learners, young and older.

NIDES Nanaimo learning community had just such a perfect day on Friday, when we travelling to Newcastle Island and spend the day in nature creating collaboratively.

Inspired by artist Andy Goldsworthy, we set off along the beach trail awakening our senses in the Autumn colours. After a visual feast of vibrant leaves, twisted tree trunks and pebbled beaches we arrived at our first canvas - a shale covered shoreline.

The individual and collective, creative, spirit emerged and soon the canvas was dotted with stones, shells and pieces of drift wood. Building on the elements of art that they had been studying; spirals, waves and concentric circles began to appear. 

Realizing that the elements of our earth, water and wind, could impact the permanence of the art work many photographs were taken and conversations overheard speculating how long the creative works would last.

Collaboration, creativity and companionship in such beautiful surroundings can only be rich food for our brains and our senses. One learner commented "this is the best activity ever". Maybe ask "your teacher to take you outside" and discover your creativity in nature.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Creating Places to Gather

It never stops amazing me how a single piece of furniture can transform an environment, change the mood and attitudes of the folks within. Although this image is blurry the relationships being build and connections being made between learners from Kindergarten to grade 7 were  very clear to any observer. Could it be that by deinstitutionalizing our classrooms we are encouraging everyone within to feel more comfortable, more able to give of themselves and receive from others? Could one answer to creating environments that encourage reading and sharing books be making them more home like with furniture, softer lighting and multi age groupings? Maybe it is time to ask our students what and who they would like in their classrooms.

Taking Learning Into Our Community

Our Qualicum group had the giving opportunity to visit and share with residents at the Trillum Lodge in Parksville on October 31. Learners arrived with their identities disguised by costumes ranging from Pippy Longstocking to cowboys and police people. Lead by one of the Moms, the group paraded their costumes and sang seasonal songs. To wind up the event, the group offered conversations and newly fallen Autumn leaves that they had gathered from the grounds. The staff of the centre treated the children to witch finger cookies, and other non edible treats. Being more of a documenter, and singer from the sidelines, gave me the opportunity to chat with some of the residents and see their enjoyment in having young energy within their midst. It was particularly striking how responsive the audience was to the Hokey Pokey song. I wonder if this is because the song was familiar? It reminds me of how the human brain is constantly striving to make connections - connections between our past and new experiences - no matter our age.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The power of observation

After an inspiring first art lesson, with local artist Tracey Kobus, our class ventured outside on a chilly morning. Some were unsure as we changed to our outside footwear, dressed in coats, toques and left our cosy classroom, sketchbooks and pencils in hand. On our trek to sit under the trees we were amazed by the number and variety of mushrooms emerging from the dew covered grass. It became an adventure to arrive at our spot without crushing any mushrooms under our feet. "Here's another one", could be heard. "Where can I sit, there are mushrooms here too?" Finally settling down upon our homemade 'sit upons' (newspaper inside garbage bags secured with masking tape) we began using the skills we had developed in our first session to observe what was around us. Some learners  noticed the colourful leaves, others focused on the mushrooms, and some chose sticks and needles as their objects of focus. Although our hands were chilly our pencils were busy holding onto our thinking - sketching and writing. To gain another perspective we travelled to another location on the school grounds and changed our gaze to the trees in the distance. Tracey guided us to consider the shapes we were observing and suggested ways to represent them in our sketchbooks. Back inside we used our outside experience as a launch for our larger drawings.
The morning may have been dew covered and chilly but the children's brains were alive.

When we had our 'Sharing our Thinking' time near the end of the day their wondering questions made it very evident that they had been keen observers and inquirers.

Artists as Inspiration

Guided by local artist Lisa Kirk, NIDES learners (young and older) found inspiration in Andy Goldworthy's keen sense of observation and patience. After viewing and discussing his creative works in books and media we took our new knowledge outside. Our brain break walk through the Beban Forest trails awoke our senses to the colours and sights of Autumn. A multitude of mushrooms, enormous ant hills and a leafy carpet welcomed us in the drizzle. Upon arriving back at the centre we used the green grass as our canvas and worked as a team to shape our collections. Leaves of green, red, yellow, gold and brown unfurled into a spiral creation - aptly named by one learner as the 'Friendship Spiral'.