Monday, October 28, 2013

Bones Bones Bones

We finished our skeletal system study with an experiment.  Here was our setup:

Three chicken bones, one container of milk and one container of vinegar.  We learned that vinegar has a powerful and "kind of stinky" smell. 

You may notice that this is a post-experiment picture.  We saturated one bone in milk and one bone in vinegar over the weekend; we left another bone by itself as a "control" for our experiment.
Our chart read: 

Milk bone
Vinegar bone
Experiment Result
It bent and broke.
We saw the mushy inside of the bone!
It broke—because it was a skinny bone to begin with.

It was pretty cool to see how much the acid from the vinegar sapped the calcium from the bone.  You might be able to see the inside of the bone from the picture.  We thought it was gross and cool.  Our experiment helped reinforce how important it is to take care of our bones and eat healthy foods, things with calcium, vitamins and minerals.
If you are interested in creative science experiments for kindergarteners (and all ages), there is a great resource at prepare to get messy!  If you do any experiments at home and want to send us your pictures, I'll post them to share!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writing for Readers

Last week, we embarked on our new unit of writing named Writing for Readers.  The title refers to how we begin to look at the readabiity of our text as we write in the areas of both process and mechanics.  Students begin using their workshop "office--" a file folder with a popcorn word list (sight word list), alphabet chart, color words and number words.  Their office also includes a checklist to run through after writing, with items such as "Did I use finger spaces between words?  Do my pictures match the story I am telling?  Did I end sentences with periods?"  We practice reading back our stories to the teacher and ourselves and begin asking the questions writers ask themselves--Does my story make sense?  What else can I add?  Does my story have a who, what, and where?  Families may also hear their children refer to "small moments" or "true stories" during this time.  This unit focuses on children drawing stories from their own real-life experiences, and honing in on one adventure or "small moment" to expand upon.


Our read-aloud story to help think about small moments was the wonderful book by Margaret Wise Brown, Sneakers the Seaside Cat.  It is also a great segue into our next science unit on the five senses. A favorite of this teacher :)  

Of course, we got to do some fancying up of an earlier story.  Each child decided on and sounded out a title for their fancy pieces!  Each time we fancy up a piece, we will add something new.  Next time, we may add a front cover, a back cover and some dedications!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween is Coming!

Our Halloween Party will take place Thursday, October 31st 8:45-11.  We will begin with a lower school parade 8:45-9:20 (or so), followed by freeze dance, then Halloween fun stations in the classroom that involve making spider cookies, pop-up ghosts and BINGO.  Please bring in a change of clothes as well since we plan on going outside for recess at our usual afternoon time (we will probably change out of costumes before lunch so the costumes can be tidy and clean for the evening's trick-or-treating).

Getting ready for Halloween--making masks and performing plays at choice time!

Please note these costume guidelines from the School: Students may come to school dressed in costumes that are non-violent, respectful, and appropriate for a school celebration.  Students should refrain from make-up, hair dye, scary masks and/or props.  

We will also visit the Walker Senior Living Home on Tuesday, October 29 as part of our service this fall.  We will sing our nursery rhymes and give out wonderful Halloween pop-up cards we created this morning.  Ask your kindergartener to sing Hey Diddle Diddle, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill for you--with the actions!

Eidem Homestead

We had a great time at the Eidem Homestead this week.  Thank you to our three parent volunteers who braved the chilly weather with us as we learned what everyday life was like in the early 20th century.

Pumping water

Imagining life only by kerosene lamp--We learned that the kitchen was a favorite gathering place since it was the only warm room in the house!

How children took their Saturday night baths before Sunday church--a cold metal tub--brrrrr!

Time to feed the animals a favorite treat, corn.

The farm's rooster named Pretty Boy!

Next week we will create a class story about a day in the life of a homestead kindergartner using the ipad app My Story.  We will create a collective story and each child will then work with a buddy to design, illustrate and write a page of the tale.  You can look for the finished product in the next few weeks!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

MEA Days

What do we do on these MEA days?  Our whole grade level team took the time to delve into all aspects of the curriculum, listen to speakers, discuss overall goals, themes and more.
My view in the school theater Friday morning as the entire school listened to sabbatical presentations from two faculty members.  Presentations included beautiful pictures of South America (including video of a condor over the Andes Mountains), photographs of the American West, poetry readings and book lists to help us think about the achievement gap.
Members of our team who agreeably let me capture them as we examined curricular goals.  What good sports!

See you this week.... 10 Days until Halloween Fun!
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October is Cooperation Month!

Each month, our Lower School focuses on a life skill and works it into everyday practice.  October is Cooperation Month.  So we talk about teamwork, working through problems and more.  Next week, we will read the classic story The Little Red Hen.
In the story, the little hen looks for help as she makes bread, but only finds cooperation when she wants friends to help eat the bread!  We talk about how the animals could have changed the outcome of the story with more cooperation.  This story will also help us as we begin looking more closely at short vowel and building three-letter-words with a, e, i, o, u, such as -en words like "hen."

We also have a field trip next Tuesday, October 22 to Brooklyn Park Historic Farm Eidem Homestead. We will be pumping water, seeing the animal barn, wringing out clothes, and lots more as we experience life long ago.  For more details and pictures, click here.  We hope there's apple cider!

We read the wonderful story When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant last week and thought about the differences between our homes now and how they would have been over 100 years ago.   We thought in particular about the materials people used then and today to build.  We will continue talking about settler life and life long ago as we head to Thanksgiving.

The Newest Addition to Kindergarten Is...

a Woolly Bear caterpillar!  Or, as the students named him, Fuzzball.
Fuzzball in Frightened Protective Mode (after being moved for the picture)

A few kindergartners found him on the playground, and we are fostering him inside in hopes of seeing what he will change into.  We have begun some research but are really using our imaginations and prior knowledge to make predictions.
Our caterpillar facts and post-it predictions of what Fuzzball might become

We are trying hard to be a good foster family for him, and so try to provide him with fresh green leaves each day.  There are also rocks and twigs since one of our students said he really wanted Fuzzball to have something to play on :)  So thoughtful!

There is a chance that he was out on our playground looking for a place to "overwinter," such as under tree bark, until the spring when he builds a chrysalis.  In that case, we will release him in a week or so after we had time to observe and make our predictions.  Since we might not see the outcome in person, we will begin using some research techniques (using moodle2 and querying our librarians for reference books) to discover what he becomes! 
Fuzzball in the top center, crawling quickly to get away from the flash

For more information on Woolly Bears, click here.  You can share what you learn with your kindergartener--or keep it a surprise!  According to lore, the length of the brown segment of the Woolly Bear caterpillar can predict the severity of our winter weather; the longer the brown segment, the milder the winter.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wolf in the Yard!

At conferences, many of us talked about the importance of building and solving math stories in kindergarten as a way for math to become an "everyday" importance.  We began creating math stories this week with a game called "wolf in the yard."  A set of math buddies got a wolf, a set of ten bears, and took turns having some bears run away from the wolf in the yard.  Oh no!  The other buddy had to draw and solve to discover how many bears had run off.  It sounds confusing, but we had a great time doing it and we began some story subtraction in the process.

A few notes about the week:  We did a great job with our fire drill today, and will continue talking about fire safety for National Fire Safety Week.  We are also going to be reading and talking more about Bullying Awareness, being peacemakers, and "using our voices" to stand up for ourselves when we need to!

Pumpkin Glyphs

Halloween is around the corner and we started thinking about the holiday with some jack o'lanterns.  Our pumpkin people are part of a glyph--we discussed how a glyph can give someone information about something when we have a key.  Our key is posted below--sorry the type is so small!  
We discovered through our glyphs that many of our students have a costume ready for Halloween, love candy corn and pumpkin pie, and many decorate their homes for Halloween.  We also began talking about odd and even numbers.  If your age is an odd number, then your pumpkin's eyes were circles; if your age is an even number, your pumpkin's eyes are triangles.  We also practiced accordion folding for the legs--a great fine motor activity. Some of our pumpkin people even ended up with tiny boots by the end!
We can't wait for Halloween!


Our seventh grade biobuddies came today to help us begin our science unit on the body!  Our buddies are tremendously kind, thoughtful, engaged--just great role models for our kindergartners.  I was very impressed with how well they jumped right in as they helped their kindergarten buddies paint their feet and hands, measure their weight and height (using the metric system!) and create a self-portrait.  Each set of buddies began to get to know each other with the buddy interview, asking each other about their favorite color, dessert, book, game (Candyland and Madden Football video games came up a few times) and more.

We can't wait to see our biobuddies again in November.  We'll see how much we've grown in weight and height, and explore measurement around the classroom.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Orange Day for Bullying Awareness tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 9 is "Wear Orange Day." This is National Bullying Prevention Week - and PACER, the Minneapolis-based organization that has had a longtime commitment to anti-bullying has proclaimed Wednesday as Unity Day.  To support the day and take a stand against bullying, we will join the thousands of others who will WEAR ORANGE tomorrow.

Please encourage your child to wear an orange shirt, jersey, or sweater.  We will be reading the book Tacky the Penguin or Hooway for Wodney Wat and talk about what each of us can do to "stand up against bullying behavior."  Bullying can sometimes be confused with typical conflict resolution, and so I have added a link here that helps clarify what can be typical problem-solving with peers in everyday life, and what bullying looks like. Here is also a link to Responsive Classroom, a program that many of us at school to use to foster community. The site is directed at teachers, but it gives you a flavor of how we approach building empathy and problem-solving in the classroom.  

A few service notes from our chaplain are below!

1.  Some very special musical guests visiting this Wednesday, October 9 in our Chapel
     6:00-6:30 pm Appetizers and Bato Bato in the Chapel Gallery
     6:30-7:30 pm Kenyan Boys Choir and Chris Tse - spoken word artist.

2.  “Light the Fire – Let’s cook!” 
    Food Drive for St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP) October 7-November 1
    Cooking is one of the best ways for families in need to keep their food costs down. 
    If your family would like to donate cooking INGREDIENTS like salt, pepper, spices, rubs,       sauces, oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, flour, honey etc. please send them to school with your         student. 
Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Secret Garden

We had the opportunity during religion class with Chaplain Zoser to enter the secret garden!  There is a wonderful sanctuary space between the lower and middle schools with a garden, composting bins creating rich soil for the garden, birdfeeders and chimes.  You can view the garden from the library as well.  The children planted bulbs for the spring and helped bless the soil.

Thank you to all our families for meeting up this week to discuss the transition into kindergarten and to look at goals for the year.  I will follow up with particular questions after this weekend since, on a personal note, it is marathon weekend for my family!  My brother and I are running the TC marathon together tomorrow and looking to run some personal bests.
My brother Andrew forgot his bib number but should be sporting it tomorrow.  Wish us a tail wind and a strong finish up Summit Ave tomorrow!  See you Monday!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Westwood Nature Center Field Trip

We had a great (but chilly) time at Westwood Nature Center this week.  We even had the grandfather of a kindergarten friend as our bus driver!
Upon our arrival, the children explored the puppets, examined live reptiles, amphibians and worms in mini-habitats, and found all the animals on our checklist.  
We didn't see deer, but we spotted antlers next to some fierce-looking mammals.

The puppet show featured a squirrel getting ready for winter, and all the other critters who try to share his tree.  The guides and puppeteers definitely had fun with the show--and the grown-ups enjoyed it too!
 Our tour guide showing us a painted turtle shell before our nature walk.  During our walk, we looked for fish, evidence of deer rubbing their antlers on the trees, and holes from woodpeckers.  We entered the bee center to see honeybees up close and in action in their hexagon honeycombs.  Our kindergartners were very brave as we studied the hundreds of bees at work!
The nature walk ended with a walk over a peaceful waterfall.  A few students stopped to listen to the lapping water and watch for sunfish.

Upon our return to school, we checked off a few of the animals we saw evidence of at the center, including Canadian geese and deer.  We will return to the nature center in the winter (with more layers on) to see what other evidence we can find, and see what changes the season brings to trees, bees and pond.