The First Grade and Animal Shelters

Just before we left for Spring Break, Gail and I spent time discussing how to continue our discussion with her class regarding making a difference. Knowing her girls are very interested in animals and their service learning project this spring involves helping a local animal shelter, we began wondering how we could help the girls put that passion to even greater action. Gail created a LiveBinder, and we began filling it with resources, one of which is the shelter's website. However, as we looked at the site, we realized it has no content meant for children other than a simple page advertising field trips and tours of the facility. That got us thinking. What if Gail's class created content for a children's information page, similar to the ones found on ASPCA and AVMA? Maybe the girls could create a PSA or informative coloring pages or a list of ideas and ways to help animals. The ideas suddenly seemed limitless.

The next step was to continue the discussion with the girls. So Gail suggested I share the story of my two Jack Russell puppies. I put together a presentation, and the next day, I told the first graders my story. I told the girls it began when my children decided they really wanted a puppy. As I investigated the best way to get a Jack Russell puppy (my family is partial to these dogs), I discovered the Jack Russell Rescue organization. I explained to the girls we decided that rather than buy a puppy from a breeder, we would rescue a dog in need of a home. As it turned out, at the time of our search, there was a litter of pups that had been dropped at a shelter. While explaining the adoption process to the students, we discussed how that seemingly small choice on the part of my family made a huge difference in the lives of those dogs (we ended up adopting two!). Now my little dogs have a loving home with all they need to keep them healthy and safe. Through the discussion, the girls helped Gail and I brainstorm a list of ingredients essential to caring for animals: shelter, food, water, a yard in which to run, medicine if they are sick, and most of all, attention and love. Throughout the discussion, the girls were amazing. One student even made the association between my adoption story and one of their summer reading books, A Home for Dixie. Gail and I couldn't have been more pleased with the observations and comments the girls made. They shared stories of their own pets, some of which were also adopted. We talked about how important it is to support shelters and how keeping homeless animals safe and healthy requires money and support from the community, which is all of us.

The next steps this project takes should be quite exciting!


Wells and Clean Water Part 2

I met with my two Fifth Grade classes last Wednesday and we started the research portion of our project. I began by categorizing the questions they came up with the week before in their KWL Moodle Forum discussions. Their questions fell into the following categories:
  • Engineers - Responsible for sharing well designs and ways to keep well clean.
  • Global Corespondents- Responsible for direct communication with the Cambodian students.
  • Health Workers - Responsible for teaching us what happens when people drink contaminated water.
  • Ambassadors - Responsible for teaching us about Cambodia and its people, with attention to the governments efforts to bring clean water to Cambodian villages.
  • Aid Workers - Responsible for reviewing the different Aid Organizations and making a recommendation to our group: Which organization best fits our plans to "Make a Difference?"
I created a Moodle "Choice" survey so students could select their groups. The next time I'll set limits to the number of students in each group and open the survey at the same time for both classes (something students in my second class faulted me for not doing). The result is that I have two engineering groups and two health worker groups, but just one group all the others. Ideally, I would have the students work "cross classrooms."

Each Team created a Google Doc for their team and shared it with me.

Lindsay and I created a Google Doc with links to a variety of resources. Students will have two weeks to complete their research.

I feel things are going well, except that I only see my 5th graders once-a-week for about 40 minutes. It's hard to maintain momentum.


Making a Difference (Lindsay and Renee's project)

Lindsay (6th grade) and I (5th grade) are working together on our Inquiry-based learning project. Under the umbrella of Making a Difference, we decided to take advantage of a unique opportunity. One of our teachers took a year sabbatical to work with different classrooms around the world. Here is a link to her blog. Her interest and objective is to help these students share stories about themselves with the rest of the world. Our students have been "following" her and listening to the stories of the young people she meets. We've also participated in two Skype sessions.

Using this video as a prompt, our students first responded in KWL fashion using Moodle Forums to two questions:

1) What did you learn from watching and listening to this video?

2) What questions were not answered in the video? What questions do you still have?

The video is narrated by a Cambodian HS student who, with his team, created a video about the dwindling number of wells and clean water in his village.

In addition, I had them answer a survey question: Does your family get their water from a well?

Lindsay and I will take their questions and after sorting and coming up with themes, we will create a Google Doc for different questions. Then the students will do research to answer the questions. Based on what they come up with, we'll move to the next step in deciding what action to take in order to make a different.

Lindsay has located a local professor who is a member of Engineers Without Borders. We're hoping to get him in to speak with our students.

That's what we're doing.


The Process of Making a Difference

Over the last few weeks the students in my Peace Studies class have been identifying issues which interest them so that they can develop a plan of action to try to address the issue. They have now created their action plans and are attempting to raise awareness and to make a difference, if only a small one. The sheer fact that they are trying to make a difference is a step forward. It has been exciting to see the range of topics being explored- from packaging food that was made but never served in our dining hall and sending it to local food kitchens to addressing adult illiteracy to protesting against puppy mills.  

 From: peaceactionphiladelphia.org

Each student is expected to identify and analyze:
* the causes of the issue and its history
*  the organizations (Governmental and/or Non-Governmental (NGOs) working in the area of their issue. They must identify and discuss:
§  who they are;
§  what they are doing;
§  what their successes are;
§  what obstacles they face;
§  and whether or not they making progress and how one  can tell.
·        They must describe the criteria they are using to gauge success- use of philanthropic dollars, impact on the problem, education, rehabilitation, placement of those who are oppressed (ex. places to live for those who are homeless), other?
* any other people who are involved with the issue and what they are doing. What is working? What isn’t? Why?
*how the issue relates to peace, social justice, and non-violence, as well as why the issue is important. Why should we care about it?

The culmination of this project is a multimedia presentation of their analysis of the items above as well as their analysis of the action plans and their effectiveness. 

These students would benefit from feedback. Those who have social media sites so far can be reached at: 
AIDS in South Africa 

Please encourage these students with your questions and reactions.

Cross-posted with Ruekmusings.blogspot.com


Words become Art

Today I met with the second group of first graders to continue the QR code activity with them. Just as Gail and I did with the first group, I guided the girls through their search as they learned more about the Chocolate Pilot, Gail Halvorsen and Mercedes, the little girl who grew up during the days of the Berlin Airlift. The QR codes took the students to various sites including a YouTube video of children singing to Colonel Halvorsen, current day photos of the Colonel and Mercedes, and a book review about Margot Theis Raven’s book. Because this would prove to be a challenging exercise for the girls, they worked in pairs to explore their thoughts and reactions. Together, they used their hearts and minds to answer questions about why Colonel Halvorsen would continue to bring candy to children even long after the days of the airlift ended or how Mercedes felt when she read the book written about her childhood experience. The girls’ words were insightful and sweet. After collecting all their responses, I took their words and entered them into a Wordle. The result is below, and I think it so wonderfully reflects the feelings this lesson evoked in the girls. By sharing this Wordle with them, Gail and I will then begin to help them see what actions and feelings are vital to the idea of making a difference, words such as happy, good, feel, make, think, learn, and special. It has been an insightful beginning into this inquiry.



Brainstorming with First Grade!

In trying to decide how to incite my students to think about making a difference that might go beyond "pick up trash on the playground", I used a recently published picture book as my springboard.  The book is entitled Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven.  It recounts the true story of the Berlin Airlift and the candy that dropped from the sky.  I began by doing research on the Berlin Airlift and the efforts of a young American pilot,  Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen to drop candy to 100,000 children of Berlin.  What my research revealed was a heartwarming story that I knew our students would love (What is not to love about candy when you are six years old?).  I met with our Technology Coordinator, Chris Shriver to discuss my plan to introduce our students to the story of the "Candy Bomber" and to follow up with student-centered research using QR bar codes.  What ensued was immensely rewarding.  The girls viewed a PowerPoint presentation (see below) on the Berlin Airlift and the Candy Bomber.  Chris and I used oral questioning as our formative assessment strategy in order to ascertain their comprehension. Their demonstrations of learning of accurately and creatively discussing the how's and why's of the Airlift, allowed us to move forward with the QR code  activity.  The girls were given sheets with four different QR codes.  Each bar code directed them to a website directly related to our discussion.  In addition, the girls had one question to answer relating to the information, which they could work on collaboratively.  It was so amazing to watch the girls work on this assignment and Chris collected the responses.  She will then enter their responses in a Wordle so that at our next  meeting with our students they can see which words directly affect "making a difference".  Words like helping, serving, giving hope to others, sharing, etc., will then prompt our brain storming of how they might make a difference.  Stay tuned!!!  There's more to come!
The Candy Bomber


"How can I make a difference?"

Yesterday our team held a "meeting of the minds" using Elluminate to attempt to identify the guiding question for our PBL unit. Following the first meeting a few weeks ago, the team assembled a very impressive list of possible questions and topics surrounding the theme sustainability. Topics included students' roles in environmentalism, comparing/contrasting carbon footprints to those in other schools, connecting with schools in other countries to compare our impacts on the environment, research around energy consumption, video/documentary creation, trash or treasure?, and so much more! This made our role of identifying a burning question to drive our PBL unit quite the tricky business.
How do we design a unit that meets the needs of a K-12 student audience? How do we guide their thinking without stifling the inquiry process? Don't we want students asking the big questions?
After much discussion, we decided that we'll begin by identifying this driving question: How can I make a difference? Broad? Yes. But, we're going to use student voices to help us refine our goals for the unit. Each teacher will go back to her students and hold a brainstorming session, asking them to provide input about what this question means to them. By doing so, we believe students themselves will be responsible for shaping the PBL unit, to make it as passion-driven and powerful for students as it can be.
Teachers will be commenting on this post to share the results of their student brainstorming sessions, and we'll begin to see our project come to life!