Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Voyage

This post was cross-posted on my classroom blog, Ms. Jill's Crew.

Our Fall Voyage was wonderful! We were worried about the weather because so much rain was predicted for our area but we ended up with only one small rain shower. The Rattlesnake and Eagle patrol groups had a great time, challenged themselves and learned so much.

Why do we have a Fall Voyage?

We have a Fall Voyage for many reasons.
  • We take voyages to push students just a little bit out of their comfort zone. Real learning occurs when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and are challenged to try things you have not done before. For some first graders the biggest challenge is simply being away from home for a night and learning that they can trust other adults and themselves. For others the challenge is being responsible for themselves and their gear instead of counting on mom or dad to keep track of everything. Most are challenged in some way by the activities of the voyage. They must learn to work together, show perseverance when trying to find solutions to challenging problems, push themselves physically, and start to show independence in an age-appropriate manner.
  • I love the voyages because I get to see the students in a completely different environment and see other strengths that they have that might not show up in a classroom.
  • The voyages are also a great place for the students to practice the character traits that we have been working so hard to learn in class. Students also bring back some of the confidence and new skills that they learned on the trip and are able to apply them to academic learning.
  • We also all form tight bonds as a crew and are able to work very well together for the rest of the school year.

What did we do at Camp Elim?

In addition to eating, sleeping, packing, unpacking and taking care of ourselves, we also had time for some learning and some fun. Listed below are the activities we did along with a very short description.

Initiatives (Problem Solving Challenges)
Bag It – This activity had us feeling objects in bags (without looking) to try to figure out what they were or finding the rock we put in the bag. We learned to use other senses rather than simply rely on sight to gather clues and make decisions.

Camouflage Hide and Seek - A unique version of hide and seek that can be played in a wooded area. We learned about predators and prey in this fun game.

Nature Hunt at the Lake - This was a beautiful walk around a lake. We were challenged to really look at, listen to and smell what was around us. We had a list of things to look for and check off as we found them.

Web of Life - During this activity, we learned about how plants and animals depend on each other. We all wore an animal or plant nametag and then made a web (with string) to show how they are all related and what happens to the whole web when one animal is removed.

Recreational Activities

Alphabet Hike - At the beginning of this hike, we were all given a card with a letter of the alphabet on it. During the hike we had to look for things that started with that letter of the alphabet.

Obstacle Course – There were several physical challenges at this station. Check out our photo slideshow for more.

Solo Hike – This was a short walk with a stop for a little solo time to reflect on the voyage. The kids chose spots within a set boundary and they sat by themselves just thinking, reflecting, writing or drawing about the Voyage and what they had learned.

Games - There were several fun running and very active games that were played indoors. We played various tag games, follow the leader and parachute games.

I have created a slideshow of photos for you at the link below but first, here are a few photos to pique your interest. Thanks to Ms. Wendy for helping me get some great photos. Chaperones, if you have any more to add, please send them to me.

Fall Voyage Slideshow  - 152 more photos of our time on our Fall Voyage (once at this link, click on the small arrow at the top, right of the screen to choose to view the photos as a slideshow)

Thank You Chaperones!
We had a fantastic group of chaperones this year and we so appreciate their time and help on this Voyage. We couldn't have done it without them! Thanks to:
Ms. Aleia (Lilliana's mom)
Ms. Jody (Madison's mom)
Ms. Lisa (Kyson's mom)
Mr. Mark (Taylor's dad)
Mr. Michael (Lexi's dad)
Mr. Steve (Simeon's dad)
Mr. Mike (Gabby's dad)
Mr. Jesse (Landon's dad - he filled in for Ms. Mary Beth's crew)

We are Crew!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Love My School

So I am back at school for the 2014-15 school year. We began with two days of staff development and team building, followed by two days of Listening Conferences with parents telling us all about their children in preparation for the new school year. Tomorrow the students will come. This post is about those first two days of professional development.

We began our first day with a morning meeting just like we do each day with our students. Then the staff was placed into random groups and given a box and told to find a location to work with our team. When we opened the box we found fedoras, sunglasses, t-shirts that said "RAKtivist" and a link to this video:

Our team chose to visit a local senior living center and sing a few songs to any residents we could find for our RAK - Random Act of Kindness. After arriving at the center we set up in the lobby and sang our songs. I think the few residents there really enjoyed our song as you can see in these videos (taken by me while still trying to keep singing). We loved the woman who danced to our songs with her walker.

After we sang our songs an employee came and asked if we would sing again for the Memory Care Unit. Of course, we agreed. One of the nurses filmed us so we had the "proof" of our RAKtivism to bring back to school.

Needless to say, we had a wonderful day. The purpose of this day was to give teachers a chance to experience what we want our students to experience - service learning. We all had a choice of what acts to carry out. There were lots of great ideas. Some people delivered treats to our transportation department, others visited a local hospital, and much more.

The senior living center really wants us to come back and visit again. We are all trying to think through the details of providing this type of experience for our students.

The second day of our two staff development days had the whole staff going on a hike. This time we wore t-shirts that said, "Think Outside. No Box Required." During the hike we had some time for some solitude and reflection - just like we ask our students to do, along with lots of relationship building.

Do you see why I love my school?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuck - Again

So it turns out that I can't seem to make this post be what I want it to be despite many revisions. I think I may just go ahead and post it so that I can move on. No great reflections here just a random collection of thoughts. Read at your own risk but please know that I am not looking for sympathy here, I am just trying to clear my head.

About 11 months ago I wrote a post on this blog called Stuck about how "stuck" I was feeling in my job at the time. I realized recently that I am still stuck and have been since that time - none of the things on that list have gone away or been resolved. Most of the posts I have added to this blog have been posts that I wrote for my classroom blog. I can write on that blog for parents but I can't seem to be able to write more reflective posts here.

What really brought home to me just how "stuck" I am was being asked to take part in some online blogging challenges going by the names of Sunshine Award or PLN Challenge. I had fun reading the posts of others who accepted this challenge and so appreciated being asked to participate by Rose and Judi. When I actually sat down to write my 11 random facts about myself, I was shocked to see what came out. You know how the act of writing sometimes actually brings out what you are thinking even when you aren't aware of it yourself? Well, that is exactly what happened to me. My list was a very sad list of things that had happened to me over the last few months and years. I knew then that I was depressed even if I was able to carry on with my day to day life and act very positive. So needless to say, I ended up not participating in the challenge.

A few other things that have happened that may also have contributed to my "stuck" feelings have also helped me change my perspective and outlook on many things. Last month was the shooting at Arapahoe High School. My husband teaches there so the impact on my family was rather intense and while we still have moments of great sadness, we know that we need to appreciate each day we have with each other. (For more details of this event, see my husband's blog post about it, 12.13.13 or Judi's blog post about it, Teaching Tip...It's Okay to Cry - Judi is my daughter's Language Arts teacher and tells the story about how that day unfolded for my daughter.) The other more recent thing that happened was that I was hit by another car while I was waiting at a stoplight. No one was hurt and my car had minor damage but it was extremely scary to be slammed into the middle of the intersection when I was hit.

I have been using these events to remind myself to appreciate each day and each moment because we truly don't know how many moments we have. So while there is still sadness, there is also gratitude. These events help me put into perspective the "things" that are making me feel stuck in my job (as listed in the previous Stuck post). They help me put into perspective a rough start to this year that included a very contentious school board election and lots of resulting fallout from that (including a very, very uncomfortable district-wide professional development day last Friday).

I thought I had a specific purpose in finally returning to this blog and trying to reflect and write. It may have just been that I realized the other day that I was once again writing reflective blog posts in my head. I sort of feel like I can't move on and begin to write those reflective posts until I get some of this out (and not nearly as eloquently as I wrote it out in my head earlier).

Maybe now I can move on to writing other posts. Time will tell if I am finally unstuck.