UNH SeaTrek Program Visit

Today our class had the privilege of welcoming the UNH SeaTrek Program Docents into our school!  These talented volunteers bring with them a vast wealth of knowledge about New Hampshire’s rocky shore.  They also brought in a variety of smaller guests such as crabs, limpets, mussels, sea urchins, sea stars, periwinkles and more!  It was an incredibly fun, exciting, and educational event.  Enjoy the brief video below of their visit:

Blizzard Bag Day Two – Dr. Seuss Version

Good morning!

Hope this blog post finds you all safe and working well on your blizzard bags!  I wanted to share a video with you that includes a read-aloud, a bunny eating her breakfast, a Dr. Seuss discussion and more!

See you soon,

Mr. Smith

Snowball Slam Champions!!!

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What a MAGNIFICENT job our class did by coming in first place in this year’s Snowball Slam!  The final total was 186 snowballs earned – that is equivalent to 1,860 chapters read!!!  AMAZING.

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I was so proud of all of the students – they saw a goal, worked hard both as individuals and as a group, and came out on top.  The students were reminded before the winners were announced, that no matter the result, though, that the most important thing was being aware of whether or not they tried their best.  They knew they had, so they were glad.  :)

Unknown to us during the competition, the winner is to receive a free book from MainStreet Bookends of Warner…how cool is that?!  I went there yesterday and chose three books for our class to vote on:

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry

Animal Planet Atlas of Animals

DK Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

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I also wanted to mention, in case you are in Warner this afternoon from 3-4 pm, I will be conducting a poetry workshop for kids in grades 2-5 at MainStreet Bookends of Warner (I think all student participants receive a 20% off coupon, too).

Lastly, there are always opportunities for me to get books through Scholastic or book fairs, so if you have a book or book set you want in the class library, let me know and I can see what I can do.

Hope you have a FANTASTIC February break!

Training to Think

Imagine a gym teacher welcoming her elementary school students to class and informing them that they are going to learn about basketball today.  Big and small cheers come from the students as they are excited to learn how to play.  There may be a groan or two heard, perhaps from those that prefer other physical activities, but for the most part the group is eager.

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The gym teacher begins her class by talking about all the skills a person needs to play the game.  She then describes the basketball court, and the purpose of each line on the court floor.  After some more discussion, and a question and answer time, the gym teacher then fills the students in on all of the rules of basketball.

All this time students have been sitting on the hard gym floor, listening intently yet somewhat impatiently as they are enthusiastic about playing the game.  As the gym period comes to a close, the gym teacher reaches into a bag and pulls out a basketball.  This is it!  The moment the students have been waiting for!  But the gym teacher calmly explains to the class that the next time they meet they will be discussing the history of the game, as well as the composition of the ball.

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A student raises his hand.  He asks when they are going to get a chance to play the game.  The gym teacher responds that there are not enough balls for the entire class to learn how to play, but that students need to pay close attention to the lessons because there will be a test in a couple of weeks on what they have learned.  And it is important for them to learn about basketball in case they get a chance to be on a team someday.

All of the students are discouraged.  Many students have lost interest.  Many will remember what they have learned, but the joy of the game…the desire to participate is lost.

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This is what science class is like without hands-on activities.  Yes, instruction needs to occur.  Yes, facts need to be addressed.  But without the ability to participate in science – without the ability to learn science by doing science – interest is lost.  And when interest is lost, ability is lost, and when ability is lost, scientists are lost.

I am thankful that our school’s district is currently investigating how to make our science instruction and curriculum even stronger this year.  A committee I am proud to be a part of is currently working hard to ensure that each elementary classroom is providing as many meaningful science instruction opportunities as possible.

Recently our class has had the privilege of participating in a pilot program using Foss Science kits.  These kits contain a well-blended mixture of instruction, reading, mathematics, and hands-on activities that have not only taught our class vocabulary words and science content, but it has encouraged students to participate as scientists, peaking their interest and increasing their abilities.

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After all, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” – Albert Einstein

The Amaryllis Moment

I received an amaryllis for Christmas from my father.  Since it was winter time I figured it would be a cool experience to have our students watch it grow.  After taking the bulb, soil, and plastic pot out of the little cardboard box I set it on my desk for all to see.

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Well, we didn’t see much for awhile.  But eventually, out of the dirt slowly grew a small, pale stem.  I watered the plant according to directions, kept it out of direct sunlight, turned it every so often, but still no flower.  Gradually the small green stalk started heading for the ceiling.  Some time after that a bud began to form.  Then one Monday morning, several weeks after it was planted, a bright red, pink, and white flower welcomed us to school in a glorious way.

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One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching is the “amaryllis moment”.  Sure, it is an incredible thing to behold when students are bursting at the seams to answer questions to concepts they only learned days, or even minutes ago.  But what is much more amazing and satisfying to both teacher and student is that amaryllis moment – that moment in time when a student who has been struggling with a concept for days, weeks, and perhaps even months finally understands.  Finally “gets it”.  Finally has conquered the matter that has troubled their brain, their time, and even challenged their self-esteem.

When the amaryllis blossoms it is a sight to behold – like a firework exploding then freezing in time.  When children display grit failure after failure, watching the timid or even shocked smiles that spread across their faces and then freezes in that moment of understanding and satisfaction at the realization that they have just overcome that difficult concept – it is SO much more amazing than any flower blossoming or firework exploding.

And I’m just the soil in this analogy.  Or perhaps the water?  Or I suppose the gardener.  It is the amaryllis itself that truly has to do all the work.  It is the young student who has to block out all of the discouragements and distractions to finally break through the soil and prevail.

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The amaryllis moment requires time, patience, endurance, and a brave determination that says, “Yes, I will succeed no matter how long it takes me and no matter how discouraging my failures become.”

CONGRATULATIONS and CREDIT are due to all the kids out there who stick with “it” every day no matter the trial so they can grow – so they can learn, and know more, and be more.  And when the next challenge wields its ugly face, they will be prepared to rise even higher than before…