JKs Look for Spring in High Park

We can all agree that this past winter was brutal and seemingly endless.  Generally speaking, spring has never been more anticipated and welcomed than this year.  Where does winter end and spring begin?

We had timely discussions in our JK classrooms, prior to the official date, so we would recognize spring when it arrived.  We read kid-friendly books with promises of better things to come. We printed spring words using our best HWT (Handwriting Without Tears) letters.  We drew hopeful pictures of spring in the brightest colours we could find.  We took a few pictures in the playground with our iPads of even the slightest hint that spring was around the corner: receding snow banks, patches of ice from the previous day’s melt, and stubborn hedge buds reluctant to unfurl.  Spring just wasn’t coming to us fast enough!

We decided to go on a field trip looking for spring.  High Park was close and pretty expansive with its alluring variety of habitats: the wetland, the woodland, and the endangered black oak savannah. Surely we would find spring there! Following a lovely warm spell of sunny weather, snow had fallen on the weekend prior to our trip: one last blast of that relentless polar vortex.  Our unfortunate traffic delay on the Humber Bridge, due to road work, hinted that we were definitely getting closer to spring!

Our two JK classes, along with teachers and parent supervisors, were greeted by two knowledgeable and captivating guides, Katrina and Mallory, who invited us into the intriguing High Park Nature Centre for the first part of our tour.  Our students impressed them with their first-hand knowledge of spring during our lively discussion, book reading, and introduction to the resident critters: turtle, lizard, and snake. Our students carefully created seed balls by rolling together mud and seeds for our outdoor planting activity: our contribution for the upcoming Earth Day and for the restoration of the rare black oak savannah.

Once outdoors again, in winter jackets and snow pants, our students hurled their seed balls into an open grassland. They were encouraged to undertake a sensory exploration while engaged in a nature hike into the woodland.  We captured signs of spring with the iPads: tufts of green grass emerging from the leaf piles, footprints in the mud, and buds on branches. We heard the songs of many birds calling for mates and announcing their readiness to start building nests.  Our keen guiders kept reaching into their educational pouches, bringing out soft replicas of the elusive birds, and coaxing their proper songs with gentle tummy squeezes. We captured images of the trees through bark rubbings, and we hugged a few trees.

It was over too quickly! Both the children and adults agreed that it was an amazing field trip.  The bus ride home seemed a little quieter, but no one fell asleep! There were so many images dancing in our heads, luring us to come back again.

Yes, we found spring, but we still want MORE!

On a personal note, I have experienced High Park as a wonderful place for families to spend quality time together.  There is nothing more humbling than hand-feeding tiny tame chickadees at the south end of the park. It is not unusual for a butterfly to land on you as you stroll through the beautiful gardens. The chipmunks along the pathways love to gather snacks thrown for them.  There are great playgrounds, opportunity for many sports, a small zoo, a pioneer museum, and many special events. What a great place for all family members to slow down, take a mental break, get one with nature, and engage in fun physical activities! I highly recommend High Park as a place to visit frequently.

Sharon Freeman, RECE
JK Teacher

Fish 1 and Fish 2: A JK Dream Come True!

FishName02It all started with a kindergarten app designed to teach sight words, numbers, letters, addition and subtraction.  For every three correct answers, students receive a coin.  With these coins, children buy items to complete an aquarium including several varieties of fish, fish food, plants, gravel, sand, and décor.  The fish swim about darting towards the digital-fed food and hide if the iPad screen is tapped.  It is intriguing, engaging, and most of all FUN, even for certain teachers!

This led to a discussion of an appropriate classroom pet and how to keep it alive and healthy. Our class PBL (Project Based Learning) was launched with its many key elements: significant academic content with 21st century skills, a driving question, a need to know, student voice and choice, in-depth inquiry, revision and reflection, and a public audience.

Naming our fishThe list included a dog, a cat, an ant, a snail, a fish, a whale, a butterfly, a worm, and a rabbit. It was decided that ants might tickle, and they would be hard to find at this time of year.  A worm might be too squiggly, and a snail might be too slimy.  A whale would be too big to fit through the door, and how would we transport it to school?  A rabbit would just jump everywhere!  Who would walk the dog?  Who would clean up the messes left by the animals; no one put up their hands.  It was suggested that the teachers could look after the animals on the weekend!  Some children have allergies to certain animals, and some were afraid that they would bite.

A vote was taken and the majority ruled that an aquarium would be the best idea.  We talked about the needs of a fish to keep this living thing alive and healthy.  The children concluded that the fish needed clean water, a tank and food to eat. Some decorations would be nice.  Everyone offered to help feed the fish and to keep the tank clean.

Tank01The children contributed to a class shopping list recorded by pictures and words using inventive spelling, and guesses of cost for each item.  We then put forth a budget as children guesstimated how much money we would request from administration. The requests varied anywhere from 1 cent to 100 dollars.  On Thursday, March 6th we headed to the office of Madame Fanjoy and presented our budget.  Madame Fanjoy loved our idea of the fish tank and agreed to give us funding for a project that she deemed worthwhile and exciting.

Tank02The children “read” lots of books, examined colourful plastic fish, and visited wonderful places like Ripley’s Aquarium and pet stores.  In response to a request for a possible family guest speaker with aquarium experience, one of our parents approached us with an amazing proposal.  She had a client in the pet products industry eager to donate the needed supplies to set up our class aquarium and to provide a specialist to assist and educate us.

Tank03On April 3rd, Jae Hovius, Ontario Aquatic Specialist for Rolf C Hagen Inc., gave the JK class a captivating, informative, and hands-on session.  He truly enjoyed the experience as much as the JK children did. On April 8th, we excitedly welcomed our two goldfish, and the children aptly named them Gill and Goldie-Antonio.  Our much loved pets seem to have settled in well despite all the attention of the many inquisitive, beautiful faces peering at them through the glass.

The learning does not stop here.  There will be so many observations to be performed, pictures to be drawn, photos to be taken, and responsibilities to be taken on.  We are very excited about this project and look forward to sharing its progress with our KCS families and friends.

Sharon Freeman, RECE
JK Teacher