Monday, June 8, 2015

About A Dear Teacher's Creativity

          Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is a pleasure every week.  Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Beth and Anna!

             School is over, but writing evaluations are not. Instead of grades, each teacher at school writes a yearly summary, but then writes an evaluation of each student, as best we can, highlighting the year's accomplishments and the future needs of each. I'm happy to take a break from that writing so I can share a little bit more about those units that I mention sometimes. At my school, each student chooses a particular topic around which the teacher (with student input) wraps the curricula. There are many other things our students do, but the main part of their schooling is the unit. They choose books, only sometimes related to the units. They do specific assignments related to the unit, but also as a class when the group is studying something particular. It's a little complicated, and differs with each student.



              This year, in her first year at the school, my granddaughter Ingrid chose to study manatees. I wrote about it earlier, showing off her first Expo, when all students show their learning "so far" in February. This time, for her spring choice, she chose a relation to the manatee, dugongs, a lesser known species called a sea cow because they graze on sea grasses, and inhabiting parts of the Indian Ocean near Australia. Our school also has teachers who help students go on day trips to learn 'in the field' about their topics. This can range from an interview with a psychologist if a student is studying mental illnesses, a trip to a dam to see how they work, or to the art museum to examine the impressionists. You get the idea. Well, there are no manatees or dugongs in Colorado. Ingrid's trip teacher, Kelly, took her to the Museum of Nature & Science to study a skeleton and that was a wonderful learning trip, but no manatees for real. 
               When I consider my colleague Kelly's love of learning, she is both persistent and creative. She searched the web for some connection for Ingrid in the "real" world, and found a scientist in Australia who studies dugongs. She e-mailed her that a six year old in the U.S. was studying this species and asked if she would answer some questions. Well, yes she did. They had a lovely back and forth question and answer session, and about a week later Ingrid received a box from Australia, with more information and a stuffed dugong! I imagine she won't forget this for a long time! A thank you is on the way, and her mother posted the picture on the scientist's Facebook page. Learning in the world is the best thing, isn't it?  I must add a thanks to Ingrid's core teacher too, who has been my colleague for a long time. Ingrid had a wondrous year with her, and was so fortunate to have her.

           We are traveling to Florida this summer, and hope to see some manatees!
Ingrid's display of her work.


Her writing and the e-mails exchanged.

Well, you know what this is!

40 comments:

  1. What an amazing learning experience for your granddaughter!! I wonder how I would have been different, if I'd attended a school like this as a student. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the picture of Ingrid with her manatee. Just perfect!! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. We all say that we would have liked to go, Michelle, and in a way, we do, I think. And all you teachers who keep seeking good things for students do. Exciting learning can be anywhere. Thanks.

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  2. Holy Toledo, your school sounds amazing. I forget where you live, but I want to move there. :-) Ingrid is about as cute as it gets. This learning experience is so purposeful and powerful. I'd like to follow one student for a year. Do they have digital portfolios? Can you share one?

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    1. Thanks, Kimberley. I'm in Denver. No, no digital portfolios, only folders, sorry.

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  3. That's where we should all be moving, my friend!!!

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    1. We talk about it all the time, how this can work anywhere, but everyone has to believe in it, which is often the challenge. Thanks, Bonnie.

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    2. Every time I read about your school, I want to teach there! This is what I would love school to look like for every kid!

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    3. I bet you would be a wonderful teacher with us, too, Carol. Thanks!

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  4. How amazing. It is really something when you stop to think about how technology can bring continents closer together. It is wonderful that your granddaughter had someone who cares about her education to go that extra mile for her. How excited Ingrid must have been!

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    1. She was, and I heard that the scientist also loved that someone so far away cared about her special species. It is wonderful to connect like this.

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  5. This is the way it should be! Is there some way that the research and work that your school does is getting out to the people making decisions about public education? Geez. Someone needs to change our testing mentality to learning such as this.

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    1. I don't think that anyone thinks this framework would work, Margaret. It does take a village, & perhaps all educators wouldn't want to try it either. You do some of this I know, as do so many that post here, working with the individual needs instead of whole class. Testing has changed much I know,
      too. Thanks for considering that it would work.

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  6. What a year of learning for Ingrid! Love the pictures, especially of Ingrid. See you next week!

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    1. So looking forward to it, Elsie. It will also mean I'm finished with my evaluations! Thanks.

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  7. What a wonderful learning experience for Ingrid - one that she can direct herself. Sounds like an amazing school!

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    1. Thanks Beverley. She had a wonderful year!

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  8. Every time I read about your school, I am reminded of what is possible. I like Margaret's "What if.." trail of thought. I get the counter arguments too.You are right it takes a whole village, everyone on the same page, to make this kind of philosophy a reality in school life. It might be too much for decision makers to understand.

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    1. I know that your school is so similar, Terje. What if is a question we ask often! Thanks.

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  9. Your school amazes me every time you share about it. I wish every school would follow in its footsteps.

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    1. I wish it too, Katherine, & I know you would be right there doing it. You already teach to the individual as much as you can.

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  10. I continue to be in awe of you and the amazing school where you work. Love Ingrid's manatee display. I hope she sees lots of manatees in Florida this summer.

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I hope we see lots of them, too.

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  11. Linda, your school is such fine example of one that honors the inquiry path is such a powerful and unique way for each learner. I can't imagine how fascinating it is to work in a school like this. By the way, Ingrid looks so adorable with her fabulous rose-colored glasses and manatee.

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    1. Thanks for noticing the inquiry. Sometimes the biggest problem is knowing when to stop. Ingrid loves her new glasses, and of course, rose-colored!

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  12. Linda, as the other slices have all said your school sounds amazing. I would love to learn more about what you do too. Sounds like we are all little sponges ready to soak it all in. The dugongs are such a popular choice for under the sea units here in Australia too. Ingrid certainly did learn more than just information about dugongs. This learning is so holistic and rewarding. Thanks for sharing. Say "Hi' to Ingrid from Australia. :)

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    1. Oh, wonderful to hear this. I will certainly pass along the message. Our family just might get there some day, Tracey! We've been looking at the aquarium in Sydney.

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  13. I love this story! And your granddaughter is adorable! I grew up in Florida, and my family went to Blue Springs often. Many times, we got to watch manatees in their own environment, and it was always beautiful. They always seemed so slow and gentle and daydreamy, like they lived in a magical world of their own. Hope y'all get to see some on your travels!

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    1. Thanks, Laura. I kayaked with manatees in Florida, will be interested if we can find some for Ingrid to observe. I'll look up Blue Springs, too.

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  14. What a wonderful journey from curiosity to connection and learning! I love that her teacher took that extra step and found an expert willing to correspond. That makes such a difference to a learner! We love seeing the manatees in the springs during the winter here -- they are amazing creatures.

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    1. I know that some of you live where they live, so special, Lee Ann. And it was wonderful that this connection happened for Ingrid. Thanks.

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  15. What an amazing learning journey for you all. I suspect your school is a magical wonderful place filled with teachers who go beyond the usual. I took love a good manatee story.

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    1. Thanks, Anita. It was a wonderful ending to the year.

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  16. Ingrid is a lucky little to girl to have had such a wonderful year. As many others have said, I wish this could be the model in all schools. Hope you all see lots of manatees this summer!

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    1. Thanks, Catherine, I hope we do too, & yes, I think she's lucky, me, too, to have been at the school her first year!

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  17. That last picture. I am tempted to print it and put it on my fridge. That little girl is so charming!

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    1. Thanks Ricki, that's my granddaughter, Ingrid, the dugong expert!

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  18. We need more schools like yours, Linda. From the LONG trip away in DC to the creative thinking that is nurtured to the written assessments you do of your students, I am continuously impressed by how progressive you, your colleagues,and your school is. (Can you open a branch here in Central PA? Wink, wink. But seriously, I'd send Isabelle there if I could!)

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  19. Love the pic of Ingrid in the sparkly dress with her manatee. How fun that the scientist connected with her. When we were in fourth grade, we adopted a ship that traveled to Australia. The captain wrote letters to our class. I still remember the artifacts we received - a boomerang and a stuffed koala! Here's to manatee sightings in FL!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!