We are, we are WRITERS!! On Friday, Whales celebrated their amazing growth as writers with their biggest fans. Whale parents and friends gathered to listen to newly published stories by Whale Authors. Whales have continued to hone their skills in sequencing, elements of a story, character development, adding details, phonics, sight word use, editing, revision, and more! Whales were so proud to be able to read their own writing to such a supportive and happy audience. We ended our celebration with fancy fizzy drinks and cupcakes. Yay Whale Writers!
Welcome to the Early Learning Community at Pacific University
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Whales spent the last two weeks learning more about their bodies. We were lucky enough to have visits from some parent-teachers who are true experts in human anatomy. We started our unit with a visit from Ali Shapiro, a nurse practitioner and Whale mom. Ms. Ali taught us about the skeletal system. She brought two skeletons for us to investigate, and we spent time talking about what various bones do to help support and protect our bodies.
With so many Whales losing their teeth, it made sense to look more closely at the structure of our teeth, and dental care. Dr. Mario Pedroza and Ms. Barrie paid us a visit and talked to us about how to properly brush our teeth (and gums!), what foods are good for our teeth, and how often we ought to brush. Later in the week we performed a science experiment, hypothesizing what might happen to the shells of eggs left in various liquids overnight. Whales learned that the shells of eggs are a lot like the enamel of our teeth, and we observed that eggs sitting in soda and apple juice became weaker and discolored, while the eggs sitting in water stayed strong and white. We learned about some of the differences between human and animal teeth and discovered that (just like the beaks of birds) the shape and structure of our teeth help us to eat the food we need to survive. No study of teeth would be complete without the Tooth Fairy, so Ms. Julie set up a magical storytelling table where we could tell the story of lost teeth. When our Kestrel buddies came to visit, we wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy and painted a picture of what she might look like.
At the end of the week, we were lucky enough to tour Pacific's College of Optometry with Dr. Horn (a Whale dad who happens to be the Associate Dean of Academic Programs in the College of Optometry). Whales got to visit the lab, as well as the Sports Vision Clinic. We learned about parts of the eye (iris, pupil, cornea, lens and optic nerve). Dr. Horn talked about rods and cones; the photoreceptors in the eye that allow us to see, and the way that the optic nerve sends messages to the brain about what we see. He showed us some nifty optical illusions that played tricks on our eyes and brains. We feel like eye experts now!
To finish our unit on the body, we had Aaron Frye (a physical therapist and Whale dad) give us a lesson on the muscular system. Mr. Aaron answered our questions about how muscles work, how they are attached to our bones and how many muscles we have in our body. We learned what the biggest and smallest muscles in our body are, and we practiced some exercises to help strengthen our muscles. We are so lucky to be able to learn with the help of our larger Whale community!
Last week the Whale classroom was filled with talk of wee leprechauns and their rascally ways. Students spent Thursday and Friday morning engineering traps and writing letters to the leprechauns that included concrete directions for how to successfully gain entrance to the trap.
After lunch the Whales entered the classroom to find it in a real state of disarray. The leprechauns had paid a visit! Chairs were tipped over, our writing station was torn apart and there was glitter everywhere (including the toilets!). As one Whale shared, "Those leprechauns may be small, but they sure know how to make a big mess!" Although no leprechauns stayed trapped long enough for us to talk with them, they did leave a pencil and a single chocolate coin for each student. What a happy St. Patrick's Day!
The Whales finished their study of birds this week (though we're noticing a continued interest in ornithology; with birdwatching happening during our outdoor learning time in the piazza, and out our classroom windows!). With research help from their Kestrel buddies at the Community School, the Whales have completed a beautiful Bird Encyclopedia. The book includes writing and scientific illustrations that inform the reader about bird habitat, diet, nest building, eggs, feet, beaks and more.
We will unveil the finished book on Wednesday of next week when our Kestrel buddies visit our classroom for a book share. Make sure to ask your Whale student to share information about their Northwest Bird!
What tremendous fun we had as we marked the 100th day of learning and growing together! Whales made 100's posters and paper chains to decorate the classroom on Monday, so it looked like a real party when they arrived this morning. We baked some yummy brownies with Ms. Julie, engineered amazing structures with 100 paper cups, decorated 100's eyeglasses, created 100's art, wrote 100 words, drew a picture of what we might look like at 100, wrote about what we might be like at 100, did 100 exercises, and counted to 100 4 times as we marched up to the top of Berglund Hall! "Hooray for Hundreds Day!"
During our study of birds, Whales examined the structure of a feather. We discovered that birds have many different kinds of feathers on their body, and each feather serves a specific purpose. We looked at stiff compound feathers from the tail and wing, and soft downy feathers that provide insulation close to the bird's body. With a scientist's eye, we drew illustrations of both kinds of feathers, looking closely at details like color, shape, texture and line.
Later in the day, Whales participated in Bird Olympics as they got the chance to stare like Great Horned Owls, fly like American Kestrels, flap their wings like Rufous Hummingbirds, stand on one foot like Great Blue Herons, and compare their wingspan to that of the Bald Eagle. Whales discovered first hand the amazing adaptations that birds in the Pacific Northwest use everyday to survive in their habitat. What fantastic, learning fun!
Whales finished up their study of migrating animals by spending some time talking about the obstacles birds sometimes face as they migrate. Our Creative Play area was filled with squawking, clicking, chirping, honking birds making their way under windows, around tall buildings, over power lines, streets, and polluted water to eventually dodge a hungry cat! We ended the lesson with a discussion about why birds are important for our earth, and ways humans can help birds migrate safely.
To launch our study of birds, Ms. Diane from Jackson Bottom Wetlands visited the Whale classroom and shared an amazing lesson about birds. The conversation at carpet concentrated on questions like, how are birds different from other animals? Where do they live? What do they need in order to survive? Students then broke into small groups and engaged in hands-on activities that allowed them to imagine "eating like a bird". They discovered that the shape and size of a bird's beak was essential to their survival in a specific habitat.
Whale students spent time this week sharing more about their migrating animals. We compared the distance that various animals migrate, and we discovered that all migrating animals move from North to South and back again. Whales discussed places on the globe they knew were warmer and cooler, and decided that one of the main reasons animals migrate is to stay warm!
In Whale Writing Club, we had three friends present a mini-lesson we called "Writing In A Fish Bowl". Club members thought it was fascinating (and inspiring!) to watch their friends write a sentence in their newest piece of writing. We learned that good writers share their techniques in order to grow in their craft. We are becoming amazing writers together!
Whales began their study of migrating animals this week. Each student chose a migrating animal and completed some research at home. Students looked at their animal's path of migration on a map, and shared any other facts they discovered about breeding, diet, or physical characteristics. During an "art in" morning, Whales painted their animals, using the skills of a scientific illustrator; paying attention to small details like color size, shape and scale.
To begin our study of migration, Whales looked more closely at a bird they are familiar with, the Canada Goose. We noticed the way that geese fly, the sounds they make as they travel, and the direction they fly when the weather gets chilly. Whales went out onto the campus and practiced flying like geese (in a southerly direction) making plenty of noise and honking madly at one another. One Whale remarked that "Hibernation is much easier than migration. I'm tired!"
Later in the week Whales shared what they learned about their migrating animals. We listened to the sounds that various migrating birds make, and worked hard to replicate the sound as a class. We compared the sounds of the Humpback and Gray whale, and measured the length of both (50 feet!) discovering that it took 13 ELC Whales to equal the length of one Humpback or Gray whale! During our classroom choice time, Whales played a migration game together, using skills of measurement, counting and literacy.
On Friday Whales got to watch a special performance given by the Otters class, all about the life cycle and migration pattern of the Chinook Salmon. It was amazing! The Otters even managed a question and answer period, fielding interesting observations and "wonderings" from the Whales.
After weeks of research and inquiry, Whales presented their hibernation sites and shared some very interesting facts with their preschool friends at the ELC! Whales shared information about four Northwest animals that hibernate: Black Bear, Northwest Painted Turtle, Little Brown Bat & Garter Snake. Whales spent time researching their animals, then worked together to create realistic habitats that captured the process of hibernation beautifully. It was a whole lot of work, but as one Whale said, "It felt awesome to share all the stuff we know!"
Whales flexed their engineering muscles as they worked in pairs to provide a safe and secure place for a bear to flee when being chased by a predator. Using only 40 paper cups and 12 sheets of construction paper (neither of which could be altered in any way) Whales worked together to draw a sketch of a design they believed could be built tall enough to allow the bear to escape, and strong enough to support its weight. The process was a lot of fun, and allowed students to collaborate, plan, problem-solve, create, test, evaluate and redesign.
To commemorate our recent work in peace, Whale students and their families took a meditative walk through the university campus. On the walk, students placed their handmade Traveling Peace Stones in Trombley Square. The stones were part of the Whales' plan to help spread peace across the Pacific University campus. Each child wrote a single word that best represented peace to them. The words they chose included forgiveness, love, joy, peace, happiness and kindness. They said their word while placing their stone on the ground one at a time. Holding hands and singing songs of peace, we walked back to the ELC where Whales shared their Peace Flags. On each flag was an illustration and quote by Whale students; their own special wish they were sending out to the world. The Peace Flags are now hanging in the entryway of the ELC. We hope you'll take a moment to read them. We promise you'll be moved and inspired by Whale students' drawings and words!
Following the Peace Ceremony, Whale authors shared their newly-published works with their families. Together, we toasted the amazing accomplishments of our newest writers. We celebrated their use of detail in illustration, the elements of story (remembering to include a beginning, middle and end), the use of labels to help the reader identify parts of the illustration, and their use of phonics and sight words to begin to compose sentences on their own. Whales are WRITERS!
The Whales had a surprisingly abrupt (but very exciting!) finish to their final day of school for 2016. Before leaving in whirls of snow, the Whales managed to finish making their Peace Stones. They plan to leave their stones on the University campus to help inspire others to consider love, peace, kindness, joy and forgiveness (all words the Whales believed were helpful in finding peace). They also finished making their painted hands for the Youth Uplift Project Project http://studentsrebuild.org/youthuplift which helps support Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon. Their work didn't stop there! The Whales also had time to write letters to their pen pals from Mooberry Elementary School, compose Christmas letters to their families, finish sewing their family Christmas gifts, do some baking with Ms. Julie, share in some Mingle Math, read the story of the Gingerbread Man on their own together, and finish the day with a giant sight word snowball fight. We're looking forward to seeing everyone in 2017. Stay warm and safe!
We began our day with flurries of beautiful and magical snow. There was so much excitement in the classroom that it simply could not be ignored - we needed to go outside! We enjoyed a snowball fight and made snow angels together. We came back to the classroom wet, tired and full of joy. Happy snow day!
The Whales classroom is filled with glittering, magical, snowy wintertime fun!
In numeracy we've been exploring the concept of addition as putting together, and subtraction as taking apart. Using glittery pieces of snow and ice, we've been looking at the number 11 and 15 this week. Whales have discovered that there are so many ways to create the numbers by adding two, three, four, even 8 numbers together! When we began to explore the concept of subtraction, we split into two groups. Ms. Ellie told a story about a blizzard, and some friends disappeared in the storm! Whales had to decide how many of their friends were gone. Whales had lots of practice in sharing their mathematical thinking with their friends.
Whales have been studying the popular holiday plant poinsettia. We have learned that the red and green foliage of the plant is actually leaves and not petals. Whales looked with a scientific eye as they painted and drew the plant, looking hard at the shapes and colors they saw. Whales will explore the history of poinsettias next week.
On Wednesday, Whales were surprised to find that a lovely gold package had been placed on our reading couch. Ms. Ellie and Ms. Julie had no idea who had placed the package there. We all could see the glitter leading to the beautifully wrapped box, and many of the Whales were convinced it was left there by a fairy. We could hardly wait to open the package during our classroom meeting. When we opened the box, we discovered a beautiful letter from Felicity The Handwriting Fairy, along with sweet little penmanship books, nifty markers, and our own mechanical pencils! Along with the books and writing utensils, Felicity gave us some very special magic fairy dust that helps us slow our hands down and write our letters beautifully!!
During the past three weeks, Whales have been busy exploring the well-known story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. We have listened to various renditions of the fairytale, noting differences in story line, characters, and setting. We have performed the play with hand and stick puppets, and have re-created the fable together at our storytelling table. With such a deep understanding of the storyline, Whales were more than ready to try their hand at performing a drama production for their friends at the ELC. We had three dress rehearsals; allowing for plenty of students to try out their thespian skills. Along with actors in each production, we had students that helped with props and costuming.
As Whales were performing the story they were busy working on the following skills:
- receptive and expressive language skills
- expanding their capacity for imagining
- building their attention and engagement capacity
- practicing problem solving skills with their peers
- building their working vocabulary
- understanding the concept of sequencing and the elements of a story
- increasing their confidence when speaking in front of others.
Whales agreed that when performing the play for their friends they felt "excited, happy and proud." It was a celebratory ending to a spectacular week!