Monday, November 15, 2010

Butterflies and Moths

(Caterpillar observation station, plus coloring moth life cycle)

You have to be flexible like that and work with what comes. We had planned to focus for some weeks on conservation and had a trip to the recycling facility scheduled, and a beach cleanup, but in the middle of it, one of the children brought two ENORMOUS moth caterpillars and that was that... the children were consumed with interest in the moth life cycle. It was prime time to study insects.

We have collected a few more butterfly caterpillars and begun a "unit" on butterflies and moths. This is how it's developing:

*Identification of local butterflies and moths (with classification cards)
*Identification of caterpillars (classification cards)
*Identification of pupae (classification cards)
*Matching of caterpillars and host plants (with live samples of the leaves when we can find them)

*Life cycle of the moth/butterfly (true story and in our observation station with live caterpillars)
*Parts of a butterfly/moth (with a labeled chart and coloring booklets)
*Differences and similarities between moths and butterflies (comparing two pictures)
*Sorting butterflies vs. moths (with mixed classification cards)

*Planting a simple butterfly garden at school (I've been collecting seeds of local butterfly host plants, and small flowering plants for nectar)

*Field trip: visit to the Butterfly Farm

We are lucky enough to have a lovely Butterfly Farm on our small rock in the middle of the ocean to bring to life all of the identification preparation we will be doing in the next days. And because two years ago we visited the butterfly farm, our third year children are ready for new classification cards (hence the pupae and caterpillar cards). I am as excited to learn about these insects, plant our butterfly garden, and visit the farm as any of the children are!

For You:
If you'd like to print our butterfly/pupa/caterpillar cards you are welcome to! Find them HERE. They are related specifically to the species we encounter locally, and the ones we will see at the Butterfly Farm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From The Happiness Project

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
There are three happiness killers - doing work you do not love and are not passionate about, surrounding yourself with people who you do not really like (someone who just fills time), and living somewhere that does not let you be you. Just stop it. Life is far too short. Also, materialism. We know that experiences matter so much more to happiness than material goods, stop the madness. That's why your place, community or neighborhood is so important - it is not just where you live. It is the center-piece or should I say center-place of your experiences.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Yes, each day, every day. Someone once asked me, "What is my perfect day?" Every day I try to have one.

(I copied this off of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog a while ago and found it in my notes. Unfortunately I didn't copy who was asking and who was answering the questions. In any case, the words plain work for me.)

Parent Conferences

At our school we have parent conferences three times a year. It is not obligatory for all parents to sign up, so we send out a sign up schedule for observation times in the morning, and conference times right after school and parents pick whether or not to come for one or both. Usually I have about 75% of parents sign up for conferences, and 50% sign up for observations. If I have any child that is really struggling with something, I usually make sure that parent finds a time for conference.

As much as conferences represent extra effort and time in my part both during school hours and after work, they are well worth it in terms of the impact they have on the smooth running of the school. A thirty minute session (or more if necessary) to address any concerns, to give suggestions for the home, to ask for suggestions for school, and to highlight the child's strengths works wonders on both the parent/school relationship and ultimately influences the child in the classroom. The way I see it, conferences are an investment that can make my work in the classroom a lot easier (by helping the parent work WITH me).

The way that I structure conferences in general is the following:

1) Invite the parents to talk about their impressions of their observation. Clear up any questions or concerns. I usually offer a clip board with written observation guidelines and suggestions that really helps direct the parents attention while they observe. This keeps their hands off of their cel phones (believe it or not), and usually helps translate what they are seeing.

2) Ask parents if there is any subject in particular, or aspect that they'd like to focus on during the conference. Address it if they have one.

3) Go over the conference notes. These are usually a two page written "report" that highlights the child's development as follows:

  • General development comments (this is where I talk about sensitive periods, transition times in development, etc.)
  • Motor development (both gross and fine)
  • Practical life (including bathroom, nutrition, clothing issues)
  • Sensory development
  • Language development (spoken, reading, writing)
  • Math work
  • Social Development
  • Independence

As I go over each topic, I try to suggest ways in which they can parallel what we do at school in the home. If the child is having difficulty in any area, I ask a lot of questions about if they see the same thing at home and if so what their response is to it.

My goal is to make the conference feel as much as possible like a conversation instead of it feeling like an evaluation in any way. I like to notice the all the areas of progress that I see, especially if there has been prior difficulties with the child. I like to think that when parents leave the conference, they feel proud and inspired about their child (at best) and that they have new ideas to work with at home (at the least).