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We had one of those lovely moments this week where Theresa encourages me to throw my carefully planned schedule out the window in favor of letting the learning settle a little deeper. All of the third through fifth graders were immersed in making their "boxes." They were drilling, nailing, measuring, assembling, and re-assembling as necessary. They were helping each other out. They wanted to finish, and why on earth would we stop them. The younger elementary students meanwhile created a chair washing assembly line to get some chairs we needed to pull out of storage and add to our seating. The scrubbers, sprayers, movers, and dryers were so efficient, they pulled out all of our current chairs and made sure they sparkled too. I love watching children immerse themselves in a project where they are directing themselves (and each other). Our job is to provide the materials, the space, and then step back a little to watch it all unfold.

Cheryl's PreK Reflections

This week we celebrated Autumn, apples, stars, sharing, and the letter 'B'! We hunted for colors in 'Red Are the Apples' and noticed the animals' faces when a girl shared her apple pie in 'The Apple Pie That Papa Baked'. "Did you make a friend smile today when you shared your blocks, baby doll, or truck?" Many fingers went up and down to signal yes - and they were right- Rebecca and I are already seeing preschoolers checking in with each other, welcoming others, and taking turns.

We are practicing using words and not hands to ask for things. Self control and compassion will continue to be taught, but what I love about our school is that the littlest ones who are just learning these important life skills get to see the older students model it too, besides the teachers. And how cool are big kids?! Preschoolers successfully sat quietly and practiced being a respectful audience for the older students during a monarch butterfly play and later copied their older peers as they sat respectfully for Nancy, our visiting nature storyteller. Older students reading to the youngers this week checked to see what each little one wanted to read, and at recess checked in with their faces to see if they were still okay with the fast zooming of a wagon or car being pushed around the driveway (lots of smiles pleading for big kids to continue)! Again, if big kids are checking in with us, and it makes us feel good, then shouldn't we try to check in with each other?

Cutting out paper apples to place on our school family tree, taking turns churning and then taste testing the applesauce all allowed us to use our hands and senses to experience Fall's bounty from right outside our classroom's door. "I taste the cinnamon!" one exclaimed. We ended our week together tracing our names on paper bags to bring our very own apple home with a 'star magic' poem written on it. This poem reminded us of the shape gift inside each apple if they cut it just a slightly different way. How sweet (and kind) life is when we all can see things from another view...and even sweeter to then share it!

Nancy's Return

You may have noticed her in the photo gallery at the top of the page. Nancy Payne, our favorite storyteller and environmental educator, returned this week with a story she made with the kindness of our children in mind. Ask your child about the girl who grew ill, and the "butterflies" that made her well again. Nancy had two monarch butterflies that we could examine in small frames so that we could figure out the differences between a male and female. She also shared some great monarch resources from Five Rivers that the children are exploring.

Writing Workshop

Writing workshop is based on the theory that we learn to write best when we write daily, for extended periods, and have some control about what we write. We start each writing time with a mini lesson that focuses on some aspect of writing. We also often start with a story that helps to illustrate that idea. Then the children settle into a period of quiet writing. The teacher meets with children individually or in a small group to hone their work. At the end of the writing time, there is time to share some of what has been written.

Tracy's writers have just started adding this last element of the workshop, and they did such a lovely job this past week of offering constructive comments and questions. They noticed specific details that made the writer's work memorable. They asked questions that showed they had listened closely and that had the potential to help the writing improve. Everyone was smiling and felt good about the whole process - just what we want for the sharing part of the lesson.

Our Theme: Monarchs

We have a chrysalis on our staircase, at least 3 on bookshelves, and 1 hanging from the ceiling. Perhaps next time we study butterflies, we'll work a little closer with the students as they are developing their monarch enclosures to make sure they are actually closed. Regardless, we are eagerly awaiting the moments when these butterflies emerge.

The older students have concluded their monarch studies and written up their results. Ask them to find out more about what they learned. They're already talking about other experiments they'd like to try in the future and new questions they want to answer.

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