Over the past couple of weeks, something incredible has started to develop in our classroom. It all began when my teaching partner, Paula, mentioned to me that a student in our class has a concern. He’s really passionate about saving the environment, and he noticed how many items go into the garbage that could be recycled. He thinks we need to do a better job recycling. Even his parents have mentioned that he discusses this at home, so we know that this topic is important to him and could lead to some meaningful learning. This year, an EA (Educational Assistant) in the school works with one of her students to collect and empty the recycling bins in the afternoon. We thought that we could encourage this child to help sort the recycling prior to the collection process. Our hope was that he would help gather some other students to help, and eventually, the desire to make a difference would spread.
After our initial planning discussion, I came in from nutrition break one day, and asked this student if he would like to help me sort the recycling. Not only did he say, “yes,” but other students gathered around too, and pretty soon we had our own Garbage Crew.
Reading, writing, and math skills were all evident as students helped sort our recycling bin and decrease the amount of garbage that we threw away each day. We even started to use a calendar for a new, meaningful purpose and track how we did at sorting items and reducing garbage.
One student even brought in some gloves from home to use when sorting garbage and decided to get students to sign-up if they wanted to help. He created a meaningful reason to write and to collect data.
Pretty soon, this child wasn’t the only one developing lists of people to help with garbage. He inspired others to make a difference. Recently, we’ve started going outside in the morning to the forest that links onto our school property. Students noticed a lot of garbage in the forest and some of them decided that they wanted to help. Earlier this week, this child created a My Little Pony Pick Up Team to pick up toys and garbage.
Then yesterday, two students were outside exploring the forest, and they were so upset by the amount of littering they saw. They went back to the classroom and grabbed our garbage can, walked it out to the forest, and started to collect the garbage. They filled almost an entire can. This led to them doing some problem solving about how to reduce littering.
One child decided that our principal, John Gris, could get us some garbage cans for outside. She thought that writing him a letter would help. As soon as playtime started, she went to the table and started writing. She spent almost two hours writing, and started over at least five times, before she ended with the letter that she wanted.
During the process, we worked together, and she reflected on one of her drafts and what made it challenging to read. I then modelled an option that might help solve her problem, and she used this method to complete her final letter.
While “grit” is not my favourite word, this child definitely demonstrated grit because she was passionate about the subject and the change that she wants to see happen. She confidently walked this letter down to the principal, and will be thrilled on Monday when I show her his tweet that a reply is forthcoming.
As some of our students work to make a difference outside, others work to make a difference in the classroom. The child that initially inspired this environmental inquiry, noticed that while we’re getting better at recycling, we still have a lot of food waste. “We need a grin bin, Miss Dunsiger.” I happened to have a mini-green bin at home, so I brought it into the classroom this week. The students have just started our “food waste recycling.” They drew and wrote about what items can go inside the green bin, they help sort garbage each day to find more items for our green bin, and they police one another to ensure that non-food items do not end up inside. I may have been asked to scoop out a couple of straws this week. 🙂
Our plan is to partner with some parents to bring home the green bin each week. This then helps become more of a “community initiative.”
While our students may only be three-, four-, and five-years-old, watching this inquiry evolve, I’m reminded about the important belief that underlies the finalized Kindergarten Program Document: that we view children as “competent and capable of complex thinking.” There are so many components of our Four Frames that become evident through the observations, conversations, and work products that have happened throughout this evolving project. Students contribute to this inquiry in different ways, but they all play a role in one way or another.
I share all of this because we have just recently concluded our Parent Observations. During some conversations with parents over the past couple of weeks, I’m reminded about how they view our ongoing communication with them. Many parents made comments to me that are similar to the ones that Aaron Puley made during our presentation at #BIT16: speaking about how they’re ultimately interested in what their own child is doing in the classroom. I’m saying this because when I document learning, I don’t always do so through this lens. Yes, at the end of the day, Paula and I look over the photographs and videos that we’ve taken, and we think about who wasn’t included and who we may need to spend more time with the next day. But we also look at the evolution of learning that happens in the classroom. We look at how ideas emerge again, how thinking changes, and where we might want to go next based on current interests. Sometimes, as much as I may notice other things happening in the classroom, I want to spend more time with some students because of their work related to our current inquiry. These students will change day-by-day, but I share this because my conversations these past couple of weeks remind me that we all view things differently. I don’t have my own children, so I don’t tend to see this documentation with a parent hat.
This weekend, I’m left wondering, is there a way to capture everyone while still following some conversations more in-depth? How might parents use photographs and videos of other children to still find out more about what their child did during the day? I’m curious to know what others do and also hear how parents feel about different options. I see the amazing things that happen when we leave it to kids to solve some real world problems, but I’m also aware that every child may not equally make it into our documentation. Since this documentation can really be that “window into the classroom,” how do we create a window that reflects everyone?