#1168 Wiggly Worms, Decomposing, and BUGS!

What lives underground and wriggles?
Which decomposes faster: an apple core or a wrapper?
Black flies, mosquitoes and dragon flies: whose team do you want to be on?!

This month’s videos challenge young learners to think, question and develop strategies to find answers.

Watch the videos. 
See the notes underneath for learning extensions.

Wiggly worms!
Kindergaretn & Grade 1 inquiry into the the life of worms, soil and dirt!

Decomposing!
Which decomposes faster? Apple cores or wrappers?
Inquiry into natural vs plastic waste!

Bugs!!!
Who do you want on your team?
Black flies?
Mosquitoes?
Dragon flies?
… Pick very carefully!

See all the videos including:
• Mystery forest object
• Being happy
• Heart and breathing

We’re always looking for ideas to support Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 learning with links to the Ontario curriculum and appropriate for homeschoolers and Forest School fans!

Subscribe and share!

#1167 Pond Life, Chicken or Egg and, Self Regulation Learning

Which came first? The chicken or egg?
What’s making all that noise in the pond?
What do YOU do when you’re upset (or ANGRY!)?

This month’s videos challenge young learners to think, question and develop strategies to find answers.

Watch the videos.
See the notes underneath for learning extensions.

Chicken and Egg
Kindergaretn & Grade 1 inquiry into the life cycle through chickens and eggs:

Pond Life
What creatures make ALL THAT NOISE?!
Inquiry with literacy / creative writing links.

Self Regulation
Look what happened! … it was an accident!”
Strategies for kinders and primary students for when things go wrong…

See all the videos including:
• Investigation of capacity (approximately Grade 3 math).
• Tadpoles and frogs – life cycle.
• Creative writing / storytelling prompt.

We’re always looking for ideas to support Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 learning with links to the Ontario curriculum and appropriate for homeschoolers and Forest School fans!

Subscribe and share!

#1166 Distance Learning – YouTube Inquiry +

We’re in a peculiar time.
Mandatory distancing and isolation has created new realities for the planet’s population.

As people scramble to develop new norms teachers are busy managing their own families and supporting their students in new ways.

New ways include YouTube, Zoom, SeeSaw, and Google Classroom.

Below are a few videos I’ve produced or supported to help the elementary classes at school.

The last three are my favourite…

First is a school staff compilation to remind the school community we are #TogetherApart – produced by Mme. Labrosse and fed to families via Twitter.

An alternative, cross curricular Grade 3 fractions lesson:

Kindergarten inquiry about seeds:

Kindergarten inquiry about trees and what lies underground:

Kindergarten inquiry about compost and soil (stinky gross alert!!):

They’re fun to produce.
And help students remember #WeMissYou.

Support.
Be kind.
Smile as best you can!

#1165 Kindness

In my part of the world non-essential services have been ordered to close due to the Corona virus pandemic. However, liquor stores are considered essential and remain open.

I was surprised. 
Liquor? Essential? Really?

I dug deeper.

And I realized I had caught myself (quietly, in my head) judging people’s hidden challenges

… Some people are quietly dependent or overtly addicted to alcohol. If their supply is quickly cut off it would be bad for them. Anxiety. Witdrawl. Physical and mental health challenges. Deaths. And if alcohol became unavailable, it would be bad for society by placing an additional strain on the health care system and community.

Hidden challenges can include biases from painful pasts, fallout from mental health challenges (OCD, depression, addiction) or invisible visual/auditory impairments that create ‘unusual’ behaviours when observed by another person. 

Hidden challenges affect many people (but can be completely invisible to others.)

Including Tara Westover, who did not attend any school until she was 17 years old. Despite years of adversity, she excelled, graduating with a PhD from Cambridge University 11 years later. 

Her hidden challenges included physical and emotional adversity – abuse, neglect, trauma. She often suffered from misplaced judgment – after genuinely asking, for instance, what the Holocaust was during a college lecture.

Because of a series of hard work, support and fortunate events, she overcame hardships – including judgment and misunderstanding – that would have crippled most.

She shares her experiences in ‘Educated,’ depicted above.

People are doing their best.
Everyone has hidden challenges.
Be kind.

#1164 Praise or Punish for Better Behaviour?

He abruptly raised his hand as if to hit my lovely dog. My dog just looked at him, unsure what to think. My dog-walking, human acquaintance looked at me and said “You’ve never hit your dog, have you?”

“No need…”
There are two ways to raise a dog – either through praise or punishment.

My first dog, trained with praise.

We got in a discussion about training dogs. He came from a farm background where discipline was instilled with a heavy hand. I had taken another path, decades ago, inspired by a book called “Training your Dog Positively.” In a nutshell, it promoted praising positive behaviour in a big way while acknowledging challenges with brief but succinct and mild corrections.

Both our dogs were very well-behaved and could walk off leash by our side. The difference was his dog worked from a basis of fear – “I better be good or I’ll be scolded or hurt.” My dog functioned based on positive reinforcement – “He’s nice to me when I work well.”

Dog #2 praise and support

The two mindsets create vastly different beings – one is fearful, one is positive:
• Opening with positive expectations and intrinsically positive outcomes creates an atmosphere of wanting to perform well.
• Coming in with a “Do this, or else!” attitude creates a tougher environment resulting in less (positive) risk taking and community cohesiveness.

Extrapolate these two mindsets to the classroom and you create two different learning environments.

What positive reinforcement might look like:
• To help establish expectations and positive outcomes during transitions I offer drumming opportunities to students (and the whole class) when they transition quickly. The drumming creates a positive outlet for the whole class to work towards. See my drumming transitions featured in Professionally Speaking, “Get Creative” on page 32-34.
• Praise positive behaviour publicly: I draw class attention to a display when it exceeds expectations – “Wow! I love how Djenane has organized this science project.”
• Address missed expectations / poor performance privately, quickly and with support: Quietly at their desk “Hi Robin, I notice your science project is missing parts. Are you ok? What do you need to make this better?”
• Praise positive changes, however small: “Thanks for getting your shoes in the right spot today!”

The two dogs cast in clay by Carol Froimovitch

Sometimes, stronger corrections are needed but they should be brief and effective before returning to positive praise in the classroom.

Recently, I saw an article sharing quantified studies that recognized the positive effects of praise and positive mindsets in teaching.

The studies saw significant effects of positive teachers in controlled studies.

Praise the positives publicly.
Manage the challenges quietly.

That’s good news for my dogs and for students in the classroom.

#1163 The Inner Workings of a Bully (or a Shooter)…

What would make you:
Punch someone?
Explode in a rage?
Go on a shooting rampage?

I’m fascinated by what makes people tick.

And so an article caught my attention exploring the inner workings of an ‘almost’ mass shooter – “Trunk” (short for “Trunk full of guns”) was thankfully stopped before any shooting could happen. And he subsequently spent years in prison for what he had planned.

In the article, Trunk shares what was going on in his life at the time he was planning to cause destruction.

Illuminating.
He was a good kid. He was shy (or ‘bashful.’) He felt alone. He didn’t feel heard. This boy was the invisible child in the class that was often overlooked or asked to be quiet. 

I see this often at schools:
• Two years ago I wrote a blog post with a story of a Grade Six good student who exploded at recess one day – hurling a discarded bag of dog feces across the school yard. 
• One of my kind students uncharacteristically hit a classmate. Where did that come from? It took some investigating to find out.
• In another school, a gentle boy punched a classmate. Hard. Why? It seems he had been quietly internalizing taunts for a long time from a vocal boy with behavioural challenges.

In the article, ‘Trunk‘ expands on the idea of feeling like an outcast: “If you’ve ever been on the side of the fence where you are an outcast, it hurts. Why me? Why do they get to have all the fun? … He wanted so much to be accepted, he was willing to kill other people.

The article bluntly summarizes: “A threat-assessment team could have intervened before [Trunk] had to begin his life as ‘Trunk Full of Guns.’ But no one came near him—no teacher, no school psychologist, no parent. The threat that he presented remained un-assessed.

And there lies a clue to avoiding further explosions in the classrooms, schools or workplaces:
• Listen. 
• Take time to notice little things. 
• Connect with all individuals.

One teacher made this connection and she spends time each week looking for patterns in behaviour to support her students needs.

How?
She asks her students to write 4 names with whom they would like to sit  to develop  the weekly seating plan. Why? It helps her define social patterns in class – who is left out… who wants to be included and who is being excluded. 

Her process is time consuming in an already busy schedule but helps ensure students are heard, included and supported. The benefit is huge. Societal well-being supports the whole community. If people feel included and worthwhile their need for destructive attention seeking activities is minimized.

When governments cut resources – including teachers and support workers – the true cost is often hidden. Missing the needs of the overlooked, lonely, disgruntled or “quiet” student has enormous costs down the road, as Trunk’s story suggests.

Supporting people (and students), properly, costs money. The cost of not supporting people properly is greater, by far.

#1162 Maslow Moment: Which Would You Choose?

Your plane crashed in the wilderness...
You’re the only survivor. You walk for 3 days with no food other than the few blueberries you find. You’ve only drunk water from creeks and swamps (that you hope is clean.) You have blisters on your blisters. You’ve slept poorly – shivering under your ripped plastic sheet and frightened by the midnight scufflings – you hope they are just raccoons and skunks. You’re alone. You’re scared about the other passengers’ families who are not as lucky as you.

You finally get to a road. Someone stops to help.
They offer you four choices:
• food and clean water.
• a hot shower and fresh, warm dry clothes.
• a dry, safe, indoor bed where you can sleep, uninterrupted, for 8 hours.
• a math lesson on geometry.

My guess is you do not choose the math lesson first.

Abraham Maslow developed a theory in psychology – the hierarchy of needs –  that suggests people are motivated by base needs (survival) before pursuing more lofty goals like education. The hypothetical plane crash illustrates your desire for basic needs before academic advancement.

And so it is with school children.

Some children in our schools are not ready to learn because:
• they haven’t eaten enough today, this week or this year.
• they’ve lost someone close to them.
• they’re frightened of their neighbours, the bullies, or a family member (who is violent, abusive or suffers from mental illness).
• they keep having to move because they can’t afford rent.
• they wake up with nightmares every nght about what they experienced last year.
• they’re quietly suffering from a hidden illness – OCD, depression, cancer.


Children are good at hiding uncomfortable truths. If they are pre-occupied by a lack of food, shelter, safety, love they will not be able to soak up (or pay attention to) school lessons.

The causes for their inattention may be their ‘normal.’ Some kids (and adults) are not ready or able to absorb the education offered at our world-renowned public schools. They’re too busy trying to process or access more basic necessities – food, shelter, love and belonging, safety.

What can be done?
• Recognize a red flag. This can be tough. The challenges can be well hidden or disguised.
• Once a challenge is flagged, investigate the root of the behaviour (unexpected low academic scores, falling asleep at school, unexpected behaviour…) That can require support from other teachers, administrators, parents, multidisciplinary team (psychologists, social workers, etc.) It starts by building a relationship in the classroom. This step can be perplexing and require detective skills, compassion and empathy…
• Develop a support plan. This can involve social services, breakfast club, food bank, counseling, interpreters, doctors, and financial aid.

Listen, support and follow-up.

#1161 Enough!

I wear a different button everyday to school.
Last week one button on my shirt said “You are enough.”
During circle time an eight-year-old boy gently asked “What does that mean?”

I paused for a breath and the following fell out of my mouth:

So many people are told they are not tall enough, fast enough, big enough or smart enough.
Lots of people believe they are not good enough at math or art or reading. 
Some people wish they were strong enough, kind enough, tough enough…
But you are enough. 
You’re enough at SOMEthing. 

You just need to find out what your thing is.

There was a pronounced pause and the boy quietly said, “That is wise.
I’m not sure where those words came from, exactly, but they floated around in my head for the rest of the day.

My Button of the Day – thanks to Ifs Ands or Buttons

We spend so much energy in school and life focusing on narrow outcomes:
• excellence in math and literacy
• being stronger and faster
• attaining a university education

These are excellent goals. But many other traits or characteristics are overlooked or under-valued.

Ken Robinson describes a story of a student whose passion and skills to be a firefighter were spurned by a teacher as not good enough until, years later, his student saved his life in a car wreck.

A teacher at my 1980s high school was well known for rejecting a student’s desire and talents in music. Later, the student, Bryan Adams rocketed to fame and fortune.

As a boy, Ingvar had a tough time in school. His father told him he wouldn’t go anywhere in life. He was dyslexic but had an aptitude to think differently. Despite his challenges, he was good enough to build IKEA from a tiny business to an enormous company.

Stephen Wiltshire, as a child, would not speak. His language abilities were minimal. He didn’t socialize well. But he had an amazing ability to memorize enormous details – enough to reproduce cityscapes on paper from memory. He is now a world-renowned, architectural artist.

Many real superheroes start out with enormous challenges.
With support, tenacity and/or good fortune, they discover their (sometimes hidden) talents were more than good enough.

As a teacher, I support students’ challenges.
More importantly though, I seek to recognize students’ true talents and help them shine. They are enough. We just need to discover their true strengths to let them shine!

#1160 Growth Mindset – Making Changes

Life can be tough.
Making positive change is easy.
Or is it?

I spoke to a veteran teacher recently about the idea of making positive changes.

Me: “Change is tough.”

Other Teacher: “It’s just a decision people have to make.”

This was a tough discussion for me.
Change is easy, technically. Instead of A you choose B.

But overcoming entrenched barriers and obstacles takes more than a flick of a switch. Change is harder to overcome if life has been traumatic or decades of obstacles have become entrenched.

How you approach the obstacles has a significant impact on your success at getting around them. Recognizing the need for, and accessing, support is another piece of the puzzle.

Obstacles will always be there. Some will be tougher than others.
Growth mindset – along with support – can make the difference to create change.

Fixed Mindset:
The way is set. It’s always been this way. It will always be this way.
“I’ve never done well at ________ (school, love, interviews, tests…) That’s the way it is.”
With a fixed mindset obstacles turn into barriers that become insurmountable.

Growth Mindset:
The past has been set. But it can change. Anything is possible.
So far, my success at ________ (school, love, interviews, tests…) has been limited. How can I get better?”
With a growth mindset, obstacles turn into puzzles that become possible with perseverance.

It’s true, some people have innate abilities that make (some) tasks or changes easier. And some people have external negative influences that increase the challenges.

But, with a growth mindset, the outcome is a challenge or puzzle that just needs to be navigated for success. Anything is possible. Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” 

Listen to Carol Dweck speak about the power of yet.

Finding effective mentors or support for those with a history of recurring obstacles or entrenched barriers will also be one important key to success and positive change

Back to my discussion with my teacher colleague…
Change is tough. History can repeat itself unless you make the decision to choose a growth mindset – perhaps with support – to allow the change to happen.

#1159 Teaching Climate Change

People around the world banded together recently to urge for change to help earth.

At school I see a wide range of views from young students. Most are keen to help but can be limited in knowledge and resources. What can you do to help young people help the planet?

• Lead by example! 
Children are sponges and mimic those they hold in high regard. If you compost, recycle and pack lunch with re-usable containers, it’s likely they will, too. Our son came home and told me he needed a container to bring his lunch/snack compost waste home. He made me smile. His teacher is making a difference.

Tree planting – every tree counts!

• Talk
In class we talk about factors affecting the environment. Discuss options for getting around: using bikes, public transit, electric/hybrid and gas car.

Discuss the benefits? Costs? Modelling critical reasoning is a valuable skill for youth to experience (and adopt.)

It doesn’t take a lot for young people to understand and appreciate .

• Bring nature to the classroom
I love trees!

I bring trees and plants into classroom learning. Trees can be used in science (soils, life, photosynthesis) and in literacy (describe/compare, narrative, read aloud…)

In math, trees can be used to recognize and create patterns as well as measurement.

After a month of learning, we plant the class tree somewhere at the school. I asked one student if she ever went to see her class tree. Without hesitation she beamed “Everyday!” 

Trees can be a powerful learning tool! Bring your own environmental passion to the classroom.

Trees in the Classroom!

• Goals
Set goals with your students/children. Every little positive environmental action helps… 
Will you:
1. Plant trees?
2. Walk, bike, car pool?
3. Reduce/eliminate purchases with excessive packaging?
4. Compost
5. Choose alternatives to fossil fuels?

Help the earth.
Teach the children…