Saturday, December 22, 2012

China, here we come!

....Ok, so, it's really more like:  "China, here comes our art!"

As of last week, after collaborating with one of my favorite Ohio peeps (Mrs. G) across the hall, our 2nd grade group sent off their artistic renderings of the role "light" plays in their lives. Meanwhile, a class of kids in the Sichuan Province of China has been doing the same, and we will receive their artwork in January. This is all done thanks to the support of Creative Connections.

Although this theme sounded incredibly abstract for 2nd grade kids, learning was scaffolded through brainstorming and discussion. Not to mention a wee bit of art guidance regarding the use of details to add depth to their stories.

I love the idea of telling stories through art--the focal point becomes the product itself, and it eases the stress of the kids trying to express themselves orally or in writing. This is especially good practice for language learners who have so much to unlock from within. They do write a few sentences about themselves and what their art represents, and that, in turn, provides delicious little insights into culture that might otherwise never come to light. (ha--couldn't resist) This is also how we learn about our partner's culture.

We also learned via the internet about different cultural highlights in the Sichuan province, such as the incredible diversity of nature, the Photographer's paradise in Ganzi, snippets of Chinese, (oh so basic), and the class' favorite--Leshan Great Buddha. So many ways to engage learners in this project.

Here are just a few of our 2nd grade examples. Stay tuned for our partner school's art next year!
Fishing at the beach with sunlight to guide the fish to the surface and keep us warm...

Swinging under my tree under the stars and moonlight...

Swimming in my pool with my sister on a sunny summer day...

Decorating our house for Christmas with lots of lights.
(*this one was created by a student who has spoken maybe 10 sentences at
school since he started 3 years ago!)

Me with my brothers and sisters catching fireflies...

Getting ready to have a picnic with my little sister. (The little artist couldnt'
tell us who was watching from the window.)

We would love to know creative ways that "light" and the concept of illumination plays a role in your life...Please feel free to comment!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Caring and sharing lead to reflecting and wondering

The Reflective Practitioner. A blessing and a curse all in one--why can't I just leave things as they are?
Our goal of "Around the World: one recipe at a time" for our Friday cooking club extended to New York this month.

Here's how:

Each Friday our school has 45 minutes for clubs--areas of "passion" that teachers run for the kids. Mrs. B and I run the cooking club where kids cook simple recipes that can be concocted, eaten, and cleaned up after in 40-45 minutes. Kids were encouraged to think of others these last 2 Fridays before Christmas, when they were choosing what to make.

We brainstormed, and although it was somewhat painstaking, they finally "got" that cooking the next two weeks wasn't going to be about them.

We decided to go with an idea to send goodies to a school/class in New York impacted by Hurricane Sandy. (We had just been studying the hurricane in social studies...Yay for connections and curricular integration!) After persistence, logistics and willing contacts, we were able to link to a single class.

Love making a mess with
cinnamon ornaments.
Making our HUGE tree!

One girl suggested making a big paper Christmas tree so they did. We also worked together to make cinnamon ornaments, a poster about what to do if you are sad, and a booklet filled with letters to the 4th graders. Not to mention, sugar cookies.

Anyone for an array of cookies?
Is it 4x6 or 6x4?
Baking with love.
Can you believe my 3rd graders were nervous writing to the 4th graders? They really tried hard to get their spelling right and make good 3rd grade sketches/ drawings! Gotta love an authentic audience comprised of peers!

Goodies like hot chocolate and candy cane pens found their way into the cookie box to be mailed, for NY kids to sip and write as they read our story and looked at the kids' pictures. The box was mailed off with love, indeed, and some palpable excitement....

Writing our story

Packing up the goodies

Thoughtful advice from 8 & 9 year olds.

But here's my question for all of you--why do some kids care so much more than others? i.e., Why did some kids brainstorm goosebump-inducing ideas and want to work on the art all week long? Why did some kids whine about only getting one cookie while others worried about getting the story written? Why the complaining about getting the "wrong-colored" apron instead of expressing gratitude? Or being upset about not getting their own candy cane pen? Even trying to steal a handful of cookies?? Honestly? It just sort of deflated the ideals I had in my mind about the kids being giving and caring. I know they're only 8-9 years old, but after thinking about the plight of kids dislocated from their school, I guess I hoped that they would walk away thinking a smidge more about others. Some definitely did, but why is it so hard? And how much reflects back to my instruction and classroom community? Is there something as their teacher I can do or could have done better?

I wonder how we can better teach this characteristic of caring, or maybe empathy, selflessness, and simple gratitude. Modeling it through our own actions requires a fine balance of generosity without enabling. Is caring learned best when taught at school in the presence of others? Learned at home? An innate characteristic?
What are your experiences? What is the "it" factor that sets apart truly caring kids at younger ages? And how much does classroom practice affect that level of compassion?
I'd love to know your thoughts and suggestions!

In honor

In honor of my kids--and all kids--who have experienced loss this week and this year, my simple art reflects Christopher Robin's timeless wisdom. No child should forget they have strength and immense capacities to meet adversity head on. Of course, friends with sweets aren't bad to have around, either...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Leader in Me....?

For our blog readers, our school is considering full-on implementation of the Leader in Me...Staff have visited other schools at various stages of implementation, and we are taking steps in their direction. We recently listened to Chad Smith, a representative of Leader in Me, at our school last week, and from a point of neutrality, I would like to know what others think of the program, whether you or another school has embraced it, shunned it, or tabled it for now. Any other comments about the whats, whys and cost-effectiveness are welcome.
Below are my sketchnotes from the talk...looking forward to your comments about pros, cons, and interesting thoughts on the program.

Sketchnotes from Chad Smith's talk to our staff about Leader in Me, 11.28.12