Posted by: jwhiff | June 23, 2018

Best Salad Ever!

Wanna get your kids to rave about bitter greens? Get the to grow their own!

Our school garden limped along a little bit in its first season. It had been too hot early on and the soil needed more oomph, but the kids still loved taking care of it. In the end we made a lovely big salad, added foraged huckleberries and salmon berries, and served it up to a big group of eager grade 2’s, 3’s and 4’s.

Verdict? Best salad ever!

Posted by: jwhiff | June 9, 2018

Maker Space

I finished organizing the school maker space this Friday. We have an old computer lab that was just collecting junk. It is a great space for some crafty maker projects.

I drew on my classroom maker space experience. It’s handy to have lots of roomy containers for recycled stuff, obviously. The old computer desks are perfect work spaces, plus there are outlets for hot glue guns.

I keep sewing kits and glue guns in an old teacher’s desk. It is good to get kids to ask for these and even sign them out.

The key for a well-run maker space is to get kids to window shop for ideas and inspiration, draw out plans and lists of needed materials and then get the plan officially approved before diving in. Younger classes can work with buddies for that purpose. They can then keep ongoing journal reflections on how projects are coming along. Excellent for core competency practice (bringing together communication, creativity and critical thinking).

Posted by: jwhiff | June 9, 2018

Mystery Numbers

I’m going to refine my Mystery Numbers routine over the summer. My big problem with the routine is that it is hard to find enough kid-friendly sources of interesting, thematically related numbers.

So! I am going to be the source. I’m going to research numbers related to curricular content areas in Science and Socials from grades 4-8.

I feel like I need at least one interesting image per Mystery Number post, too. I think I might get kids to help me illustrate the concepts. We’ll see how it goes!!

Posted by: jwhiff | May 31, 2018

Northwest Coast Game

I’ve tinkered with this so much over the years it is ridiculous!  This year, I tried a very different approach and I think I love it.  Not so darn complicated and the kids get to use their knowledge more in creative ways.

It all starts with making sure they really understand the resources they will need to work with!  This involves an extensive plant study, which I always love.  My school has easy access to the forest (very handy, but not totally necessary).  I’ve created some study resources that worked perfectly for my 3/4 split, but will keep older grades happy too.  Here they are:

Local Plants (a powerpoint of local plants…great for practice and review)

Local Plant information (wrote this myself in kid-friendly, annotated fashion, although got all of my information from Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Pojar and MacKinnon, 1994)

drawings of local plants (my drawings…a bit rough, but useful)

Local Plant Sorting Activity (for the kids to work through) and Local plant sorting sheet with answers (at least for the name-drawing matches).

I also have a powerpoint for the game and a sheet that each group will get.  They need to earn points through trivia in order to use the resources to create products for trading.

Game Resources

Game Resource Sheet pdf

I’ll explain more about how the game works in another post soon.


Posted by: jwhiff | May 25, 2018

Trivia Questions for Northwest Coast Game

This year, I wrote questions that matched the “Our Beginnings” text (Where the Cedars Meet the Sea).  My group this year needs the added structure and likes to hunt down answers for our trivia game.

I’m combining the trivia with a story wall format for Social Studies.  They use the trivia questions to earn points to give them rights to use certain resources.  The resources are used to create goods that can be traded with other teams.

Good format so far.  Lots of creativity and applied knowledge.

Where Cedars Meet the Sea Questions

Posted by: jwhiff | May 13, 2018

Outdoor Classroom Past the Idea Phase

Good ideas are all well and dandy.  I have lots of those.  I have stopped patting myself on the back for having good ideas.  They aren’t worth much unless you can bring them to fruition.

Now, the outdoor classroom idea is an undeniably good idea.  Worth stressing myself out over, for sure.  The concrete wasteland with a water source is just too ugly and too perfect:

Perfect location (right close to bathrooms, water and the office), perfect sun exposure (sun for garden, shade for play), and perfect bones (amphitheatre-like steps, ample classroom-sized space, old shady gravel pit with benches). It needed life!

It took me a couple of months, but I finally have the basic elements (mostly) in place: gardens, barrier between parking lot and classroom, sand instead of gravel.  The water tables have arrived and the plants are growing.  We just need some flexible seating, tables and some ongoing imagination.  And fewer ants.

Here’s how it looks so far:

The biggest strength of the space?  Exposure and traffic.  Kids and parents pass by the garden everyday to enter the front door of the building.  They pause to check out how the plants are doing and they love to hang out and water the plants after school. I have more kids asking to join the outdoor club everyday.

I’ll keep you posted as it develops!

Posted by: jwhiff | April 21, 2018

Updated Shape Shifter Lessons

Here are three other powerpoint lessons that I used in my presentation yesterday:

Intro to Using Shape Shifters

Shape Movements

If you are interested in the Orca Chief powerpoint, please contact me directly.

Thank you!

Posted by: jwhiff | April 21, 2018

Shape Shifters Daily Challenge

This powerpoint is to get you a start.  Kids can work on the daily challenge at the start of math class, or after finishing work.  When they have accomplished the daily challenge, I recommend you challenge them to create an interesting shape that can be used for the daily challenge in days to come.  When they are done, take a picture of their creation and then add it to this powerpoint!

Shape Shifters Daily Challenge

Posted by: jwhiff | March 30, 2018

Grazing Garden

I keep tinkering with my outdoor classroom ideas. I know what resources I get to start with and have had a bit of extra time to think. I’ve also had several years experience gardening with kids to draw on. I really want this to work!

My most successful gardening years came when I taught K. During those years, I was not really worried about growing something until it reached maturity. I wanted my K’s to play in the garden–planting, digging, watering, picking, munching and planting again. As a result, the garden was a pretty lively place. I didn’t have a huge garden space either (only 6 milk crates!), so I knew we weren’t aiming for any big feast. Still, we made good use of what we had and the garden was an important learning focus from the time following Spring Break until the end of the school year.

I was less successful at the intermediate level. For some reason, I was caught up in the idea that the plants needed to reach maturity. There was a flurry of activity at the start with all the planting and then….waiting. A bit of watering, but that’s it. Our climate doesn’t allow for many spectacular fruiting veggies to be ripe by the end of June, so the end result wasn’t super interesting (radish and spinach salad, anyone?)

This time, I would like the garden to be a place of continuous planting and munching, just like back in the good old kindergarten days. Here’s a drawing that I did recently to give you an idea about how I’m going to set it up:

While we wait for the planters to arrive (bought 3 from Costco), I’m going to work with the kids to plant seeds in little compostable containers made out of newspaper. These will be planted in one of the three planters. We will also buy some plants this year to give us a head start (cheating, I know) and these will planted in another planter. Next year, we will start these ourselves before the break. The final planter will have seeds planted directly into the soil. This should give us some interesting variation between the planters. We will start another round of seed planting every time we free up space.

This should allow for continuous garden activity. By the time June rolls around, we’ll stop planting and let the soil in the planters dry out. Then we’ll store the soil and the planters in the undercover area over the summer.

Posted by: jwhiff | March 14, 2018

Outdoor Classroom Ideas!

This should give everyone a rough idea about where we can go with a previously overlooked space at the school.  Best part is, we can use this space right away.  We were given the official thumbs up!

By the way, none of the ideas are set into stone.  They are simply a good starting place.  Check out the powerpoint:

Outdoor Classroom Presentation

Check this idea out, too:

I know the perspective in my drawing is out of whack, but you get the idea!

Bottom line: this is going to be fun.

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