Posted by: jwhiff | May 14, 2011

Fingerling Festival and Thoughts to the Future

The Fingerling Festival ended up being a good experience.  I felt guilty that I had commissioned 4 parents to help me set up, though.  Before the event, I pictured myself slogging through crowds of eager vendors, heroically pursuing the best spot for our displays, transporting several heavy tables and a class set of projects back and forth from the truck parked a challenging distance away…you get the idea.  In reality, my husband and I pulled up to the Rec Centre doors at about 8:50, unloaded the projects (in one go) onto the closest tables to the entrance and….that was it.  4 parents and their eager kids ended up with a little more free time than they expected.

To be honest, I was hoping that my students would get a chance to explain their work to the public, but they didn’t really end up doing this.  I stood guard over our tables while most people filed past us to more interactive displays set up by a range of environmental societies, community groups, and vendors.  When my students came for their shifts, I snapped photos of them by their projects and sent them off to enjoy the festival.  Not many people stopped by to take a look.

Those who did, gave us some great feedback, however.  Several people from different naturalist societies combed over the projects quite thoroughly and gave us some lovely compliments.  I had the chance to chat with parents, although spent most of the time writing up some feedback for my kids.  The greatest advice for my students, now that the projects are complete, is to remind them to try (in future projects) to continue to seek out what is local.  Local places to explore, local experts to consult.  Take the initiative to get out there, and wow!  Projects become so much more personally satisfying, research becomes so much more meaningful, and the result is always so much more impressive.

Now, what makes it really interesting is that I’m going to be changing grade levels next year.  Really changing.  I will be working with our very youngest students next year.  This doesn’t mean I am abandoning the learning I have done over the course of this project, no.  I am eager to apply it to young, curious, mostly preliterate kindergarten children now.

I have closely watched my own sons become more connected with nature over the years and especially over the course of this project.  They have become eager bird watchers, hearing and seeing birds always before I do.  They love to turn over rocks and logs to see small creatures scurry away, squat down to carefully observe dead bugs and tidal pools, touch slimy slugs and squishy mud, and hunt for delicate garter snakes in tall grass.  They are collectors of rocks, interesting sticks, bits of metal and shells.  They like taking pictures and even recording their findings in journals (now and then).  They like reading about nature all of the time.

Can I encourage this in a classroom environment?  Well, not if we stay inside all of the time.  I don’t think that my sons are an anomaly.  And I see so many possibilities for connecting numeracy and literacy to what I feel is a natural fit for young children: exploring nature.  It will be a wonderful adventure for me and I can’t wait to give it a try!

In the meantime, I will be treating my grade 4’s and 5’s to “poetry walks” in the great outdoors as much as possible.  We’ll visit the inlet a little less often now, but will certainly take at least one nice group field trip out there, I think.

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