Saturday, 10 May 2014

Spring Learning Highlights in the ECC

This spring, the ECC has been a busy place full of energetic learners of all ages. Here are some of our highlights from the last couple of months:

Writing - Special Grown-Ups

One highlight that seems to be a stand-out for students in my room is a set of two writing lessons by Ms Marlow. The first lesson started with a beautiful story about a mother and child and then students participated in a planning activity meant to evoke details about a special grown-up in the child's life. 

The power of this activity was evident when, during an Elder's and Family Tea in my classroom, one student shared her piece of writing about her deceased grandfather. The hush that comes over a crowd moved with emotion spread like a blanket over the 50 or so people in the room that day. It is a beautiful piece of writing and this student, like many others, will be proud of that piece of writing for a long time to come.

Science - Environmental Science

For many students, the most memorable learning in Science with Mr. Lewis this spring has to be the lesson about the green and blue frog. Students have been learning through scientific inquiry all year and recently Mr. Lewis has been using Smarter Science as a framework for lessons.

The lesson on the green and blue frog was focused around a seemingly simple photograph prompt. Students made observations, asked questions and then wrote and shared inferences about the photograph. I was impressed with the quality of their ideas and surprised at how insightful many students were - I should know better by now, but kids never cease to amaze me! At the end of the lesson, the discussion turned to the frog life cycle and how this frog spent some of it's early years in polluted water resulting in a permanent change in the colouring of it's skin. Serious discussion about the effects of pollution ensued and left a lasting impression.

Photoshop - Happiness Imagery

The focus of my lessons this spring was editing and altering digital imagery using Photoshop Elements 11. By this point in the year, students have a bank of their own amazing photographs and they are skilled at creating and critiquing images using specific knowledge learned throughout the first part of the year. The shift in learning from simply taking photographs to uploading and editing/altering those photographs using software is subtle yet profound. Students love using Photoshop. It is instant engagement and students are surprisingly skilled at using software with only the most basic of how-to lessons. I've learned the best thing to do is introduce Photoshop, demonstrate a bit, and then let the kids have the time to figure it out on their own and teach one another if needed. They are quick to learn!!

The highlight has to be the Happiness Imagery for a few reasons. Students were asked to create an image that communicated the idea of happiness. We brainstormed what those images might include (a lovely list of ideas that included rainbows, smiling faces and puppies!) and then students were given time to create. The ability to create a image using digital technologies is an important piece to the larger learning goal of visual literacy.

While many students jumped into the assignment and quickly created their imagery, one of our classes struggled. When it came time to share, they didn't have any images to share out that week (which is fine - depending on each individual class schedules sometimes one class is ahead or behind the rest of the group). Interestingly, after seeing about a dozen Happiness Images shared from three sites, the teacher in the fourth site reported that the students went crazy and quickly completed an assignment that they had previously been stumped on. It seems that all they needed in the end was a little more time and, as the song goes, "a little help" from their friends. 

Gathering at CCES - Geocaching!!

I'm quite sure that the number one highlight for most in the ECC would have to be the recent Gathering in Cache Creek. As Cache Creek is new to the ECC this year, this was the first ever Gathering hosted by Cache Creek Elementary School (CCES). Mrs. Patterson and her students did a fantastic job creating a day of community building through several hours of geocaching around the town of Cache Creek.

A local volunteer from Gold Country helped to start our day and, after Mrs. Patterson placed students in multi-site groupings, off we went! Not only did we have students and teachers from all four sites participating, but we also had Aboriginal Student Support Workers, Special Teaching Assistants, parents, grandparents and Ms O'Connor, the principal of CCES. It was meaningful relationship building on many, many levels.

We had a super fun day travelling all over Cache Creek by foot searching for hidden geocaches. From my perspective, and the perspective of all those I talked with, the day was a huge success. I should mention, that perhaps a couple, (okay, three), groups took a wrong turn, misread a clue and became more than a little lost, resulting in an unnecessary and short hike, but that only led to making the day even more memorable! It was wonderful to see everyone and to spend some time in one of our communities, not to mention, one of our schools.

That's it!! Well, not really, so much more has happened, but those are a few of the more amazing learning experiences in the ECC this spring. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for at least one more update before our year ends in June.

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