#optoutside @ROCS

In 2015, Recreational Equipment Inc. encouraged people to spend Black Friday outdoors. REI closed its stores that day in support of their vision. Given you're reading this blog you probably don't need convincing that a day spent adventuring outside is better than any day spent at the mall. Either way, the #optoutside video campaign that year was heartwarming and worth a few minutes of your time. Every day we bring our kids to ROCS, we #optoutside. 

Photo credit: Maureen Alley

Photo credit: Maureen Alley

In a recent conversation with ROCS Director, Cheryl Ryan and the chair of ROCS Education Committee and Metro Parks Education Administrator, Tanya Taylor, we got to talking about what playing and learning outside currently looks like at ROCS and how  that might that change over time. At the root of the conversation were questions like: What does it mean to be a nature-immersion school? Why do we #optputside at ROCS and how does that look day-to-day?

Photo credit: Michelle McNabb

Photo credit: Michelle McNabb

Reflecting we realized these questions had multiple answers. We identified at least two parts to the equation: 1) providing environmentally connected programming and, 2) simply enabling kids to play and learn outdoors. People tend to think of environmentally-embedded education when they hear nature-immersion - school gardens, nature walks to collect and study specimens, habitat restoration, and other things we very much see as our goals. Most ROCS parents are concerned about the environment and want our kids to learn to be stewards of the earth before its too late. However, there are many other reasons to be glad we #optoutside during the school day.

A recent report from REI and Futerra, The Path Ahead: The Future of Life Outdoors, released just in time for Black Friday 2017, might help us articulate more of those reasons in the future. It suggests, "Often, the outdoor community is focused on what we need to do to fix the outdoors, but it isn’t the only thing suffering — we are too. The outdoors can be the antidote to so much of what ails us in our 21st century life."

The Path Ahead is "designed to provoke discussion by exploring nine ‘brutal truths’ juxtaposed with nine ‘beautiful possibilities." For example, to combat humans' ever-increasing evolution towards an "Indoor Species," they propose a return to "Free Range Humans." To address the kind of "Urban Sprawl" we are all too familiar with in central Ohio, development that erases our last vast green spaces, they call for more "Wild Cities" where nature is integrated into planning. More than just a manifesto, it is packed with references to research studies for further reading. 

Photo credit: Maureen Alley

Photo credit: Maureen Alley

The report brought me back to a recent morning I spent in the natural playspace chatting with our Chickadees teacher Michelle McNabb. Michelle has decades of experience teaching, both in traditional school settings and homeschooling her own children. I wanted to follow-up on something she'd told me: While she'd been nervous at the start of the year about having to transition a group of 5 and 6 year-olds from over an hour of unstructured play to an hour and a half of structured academic time, she found the opposite to be true. After their free time playing outside, the kids were ready to settle in and focus. The typical wiggles of kindergarteners in a classroom were greatly reduced and they were able to be more productive as a result. (Compare this with The Path Ahead "All Work No Play" -> "Headspace")

Michelle begins her weekly reports to parents with notes and observations about outdoor play time. For example, for October 24-27 she wrote,

In outside news, we had our first campfire of the season!  Students helped gather dry(ish) sticks and learned how to make a cone of kindling with recycled fire starter material in the middle.  We also reviewed fire safety expectations: only grownups start or put materials in a fire, walking only around the fire pit, and stand arm's length away from the pit.  Students learned that fires need fuel and air to burn, and how to encourage embers by blowing gently on them.  They also experienced the difference between smoke and steam when we put the fire out using creek water.  Students also enjoyed exploring our expanded play area.  The discovery of an animal skull led to the creation of paleontology club that searched for more remains. A new slide and an uphill trek with the aid of a climbing rope has been a fun physical challenge as well as an added running loop for more large motor movement. 

Photo credit: Michelle McNabb

Photo credit: Michelle McNabb

The morning I spent with Michelle, I noticed my own daughter and a friend sat on a log side-by-side and read, in the low 40-degree temperatures(!) for nearly the full first hour of school. Michelle suggested that different kids need different things from that time on different days. Sometimes they need to run and scream and sometimes they just need to sit quietly with friends and talk. (Compare this with The Path Ahead "Sick and Sad" -> "Nature RX")

It's no secret our school is in its infancy. That means we are doing some totally amazing things, and we're still working hard to figure out lots of others. Refining our vision and developing curriculum and general standards of practice fully in line with that vision won't happen overnight. But let's remember and be thankful that our teachers and children, board members and parents are working towards that goal everyday - through our actions and interactions. 

This Friday we hope you'll #optoutside. If you share any photos on social media, we'd love to see them! Tag Red Oak Community School (on Facebook) and @redoackcommunityschool (on Instagram). It'll be fun how many of us are out there, wherever we might be!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Jodi Kushins
ROCS Mom, Education Committee Member, and Blog Editor

No Matter the Weather - Seasonal Reflections on Being a ROCS Parent

I hate the cold and I hate the heat. Spring and Fall are my seasons. But you won't hear me telling my kid anything like that on our way into school. No matter the weather (down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit), ROCS kids will be outside, playing and learning. Last winter, I realized quickly that I couldn't express any concern or irritation about the weather if I wanted to ensure a swift and smiley morning drop-off. Cora and I rode our bikes to school most mornings and I learned to embrace the cold, and the wet, and the laundry.

15977503_10158177877030245_7367229565289371589_n.jpg

Last Monday's rainy playspace workday and this evening's frigid Stone Soup were perfect examples of events I might have skipped in a former life, because of the weather. But being a ROCS mom has implored me to stretch beyond my edges, just as it is stretching my daughter. In the winter I will pull on my snowpants so I can hang around at pickup if the kids want to play for awhile. In the spring, I'll pull on my rainboots and grab a baseball cap if it's raining so I can take in the sights, sounds, and smells that come to us only with those conditions.

See you out there?

- Jodi Kushins
ROCS Blog Editor

Giving Kids Space to Make Community

Red Oak Community School was founded in part on the notion that children need to learn how to live in community with one another. As the school got off the ground last year, ROCS Director Cheryl Ryan began to understand that vision within the context of the 2 hours of unstructured time our kids spend outdoors each day. "There is science behind the large chunks of time we give the kids," she shared in a recent conversation. "They need that time to figure out whom they want to play with and what they want to play. Then they need time to play and to change the rules of their play and whom they are playing with."

Sounds rather simple on its face, but when you stop to think about what kids are learning as they navigate all of those steps of engaging in play, things become more complex. Cheryl notes, for example, that our children are developing social, executive function, conflict resolution, and cooperative skills as they figure out how to play together. Such social and emotional skills are often left behind in traditional school settings. At ROCS they are a primary concern, however, "The teachers are there to supervise but do not get involved unless they are asked for help or see space to encourage further thinking or action." In other words, the students are teaching and learning from one another, in community. We're giving kids space to be self-determined but socially aware human beings, rather than treating them as bodies needing to be managed by outside forces.

Cheryl shared the following story which illustrates this point.

"Recently I noticed conversations between some of my friends trying to figure out how to navigate situations where their kids were being bullied at school by other kids they thought were their friends. I was following the discussion, but I didn't have perspective because I hadn't experienced anything like it. It may be that this is happening at ROCS and I'm naive, but I haven't heard about it or seen it.

What I have seen is kids being kind and inviting to kids who don't come to school in a good mood. If those kids continue to struggle to settle in, I've seen staff approach such children's difficult behaviors with empathy. And I've seen kids let other kids know when they think their behavior is out of step with the caring culture of our school.

I was on vacation last week and reflecting on all this when I got this photo from Meridith, one of our teachers. The conversation that followed helped further my thinking about how institutionally, we organize the school so the kids have space and time to build community."

IMG_1380.JPG
IMG_1378.PNG
IMG_1379.PNG

Kids with Sticks

This post comes from ROCS Dad, Mark Fisher. Mark and I met when we were both active organizers for the Community Festival (ComFest). Based on our work together in that venue, I know him to be someone who engages the world with appreciation and wonder. A retired attorney, he loves live music and makes handmade greeting cards for his friends and family. When he offered to write for the ROCS Blog, I was excited to see what he'd come up with.

In trying to explain my goals for the ROCS blog to teachers, staff, and the ROCS Education committee, I often talk about making learning visible, a concept borrowed from the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Making learning visible strives to document aspects of learning that cannot be captured by summative tests and assessments, the learning that happens as students explore concepts together and share their ideas.

Inspired by my introduction to making learning visible, Mark observed the kids during unstructured outdoor play time one morning in late September. I love his contribution both for what it brings to our attention about how children play, but also as an outlet for his own creative connection to the natural world. Look forward to more reflections from him in the future.
- Jodi Kushins

Kids with Sticks - by Mark Fisher (with photos from Cassie Lewis)

After talking with Jodi and reading about making learning visible in the Ohio Visible Learning Project (OVLP), I noticed a lot of focus on listening to children. With that in mind, I took my notebook and pen and sat on a log to observe our ROCS kids during a morning session in the play area. At first I tried to concentrate on their conversations. Well, that didn’t work out too well. At my age and with my long history of listening to live rock and roll, I have a hard enough time understanding what adults are saying when they talk directly to me, much less children who are conversing with each other as they run around the woods. Pretty quickly I shifted my approach and ended up just visually observing what the children were doing.

There was one common activity that was inescapably obvious. So much of what the kids were doing involved their appropriation of the plentiful supply and variety of fractured remnants of fallen tree branches. Having succumbed to the forces of Mother Nature, they no longer stretched into the sky seeking a place for their leaves to catch the sunlight. They had devolved into stripped smooth, skeletal remains, perfect for tiny hands to comfortably grasp and young muscles to wield through the air. No longer the progeny of a family tree with life giving sap coursing through them or leaves sprouting from them, now they were just sticks. Reduced to the most basic, elemental shape; a line, a mark, a stroke.

ROCSSPRING017 copy.png

The ancient simplicity of a stick and the magic of human imagination it can unlock, connects each child who grasps it with millennia of ancestors. It recalled for me, the scene in Kubricks’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey in which the proto-human learns the power of a stick-like bone by playfully, at first, tapping then hitting then viciously smashing an animal skeleton with it. From toy to tool to weapon to elongated bone-white spaceship, the stick elicits a primal response in the hand of a child. My guess is that most children descended from chimps have picked up a stick in a wooded area and played with it, dug with it, fought with it and transformed it in their imagination.

20170223_133749-01.jpeg

As I watched the kids in the play area I saw a variety of of behaviors with the sticks. Sometimes they used them to create art. One child skewered fallen leaves. Another stuck small sticks into the ground creating an architectural sculpture. Some children seemed to just enjoy collecting and bundling sticks. Moving around larger sticks and small logs became a feat of strength. Medium-sized sticks were leaned against vines or bushes creating a type of shelter or sanctuary. A stick was used to dig into a rotted tree just for the visceral pleasure of disemboweling its soft, pulpy guts. Sticks were punched into the earth, unsuccessfully stuffed in a pocket and slapped against boots and legs. Swords slashed the through the air accompanied by swashbuckling exclamations of bravura and the swishing sounds expelled by bursts of air between clenched teeth. I heard the popping sound of pistols being fired, war cries and yelps. Spears were chucked, knives were sharpened and leaves were stirred in a pan. A twig suspended a plushy possum by its tail to make it fly. Ninja battles were choreographed in slow motion ballets. Sticks were carried around wherever they went, symbols of power and confidence, magic wands, scepters. They formed a fellowship of stick-wielders. Holding something so easy to grasp and manipulate radiates control and security, a palpable connection to the outside world, an entree into interaction with others, a key to unlock the flow of imagination.

002ROCSFIRSTWEEK.png

One of the few memories I have of my own childhood is an undeveloped wooded area on the edge of my elementary school grounds where we played war, unsupervised, running down dirt paths, hiding in the bushes, splashing through the creek. I remember stick play was popular last year at ROCS how but I don’t remember thinking too much about it. The OVLP book suggests that “documentation requires learners, children, teachers and parents to slow down and reflect on the content and processes of learning” (OVLP). I’m not sure what I’ve learned or achieved by documenting kids with sticks, whether I’ve added anything to the scholarly discussion or helped increase understanding of their learning process but I did slow down and reflect. “Documenters are asked not only to observe and record but to interpret and share their observations” (OVLP) Thank you, at least, for allowing me to share my somewhat kaleidoscopic reflections with you.

20170111_131143-01.jpeg

Learning through Change at Red Oak Community School

This post comes from ROCS mom, Cassie Lewis. Cassie is a fabulous person as well as a fantastic photographer. She'll be at school this coming week to take photos of the kids for school picture day. You can see more of her work at LewisLens Photography. Look forward to more ROCS photo essays here in the months to come.

"Last year, I was in the First UU indoor and outdoor classroom with the homeschool program every day. I had an enrolled child who needed my presence at school. I learned the ins and outs of the school days as we all formed strong community bonds.

This year, my child wants to be dropped off at school. She has blossomed immensely with her time at ROCS. I feel safe leaving her in the hands of what we have built so far, a place that honors children and families, and will always have her social and emotional growth in mind.

Since I don’t have as many opportunities to catch school-day photos this year, I did a drop-off excursion to the play area in this late summer weather.

I am reminded that the only constant is change, and I am inspired by how ROCS has rolled and grown with this change. I am reminded of our humble beginnings. ROCS started in 2015 with a few parents talking about their unhappiness with school options in Central Ohio. When we joined together and made developmentally appropriate practice our cornerstone, we began to build our foundation. We solidified that foundation in the first school year with our talented educators and the families that gave it a chance. Now, in our second school year, we bring our children to a beautiful 15-acre urban farm. We still await our permanent facilities, but I can feel those community bonds at work. We work towards them through our partnership with Sunbury Urban Farm and welcome newcomers to help us grow. [Editor's note: Check out how you can help make these dreams a reality through Project Grow!

In those early times, we imagined an acorn and called it “potential.”
Now watch us continue to unfold our branches and leaves."

[Click through the slide show below for a glimpse at ROCS kids in our natural play area, as seen through Cassie's lens.]

The Life of a Ninja

This year, ROCS students began studying Japanese language and culture with Meridith Kiyosue. Meridith's work is cross-disciplinary, engaging, and enables our students to think of themselves as citizens of a world in new and interesting ways. This post is based on her class notes from August 23 through September 29, 2017.

The first week of school, Meridith spent time measuring the students' comfort levels and exploring their interests and prior knowledge to identify ways to engage them in learning that would be relevant and meaningful to them.

Together they discovered small connections to Japan they experience in their daily lives including martial arts, origami, an interest in ninjas, a love of sushi, and video games. 

In the first few weeks of school, Meridith led the students through a study of ninjas. They learned the origins and evolution of the ways of the ninja over time. Drawing from the book Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior by John Man, they learned how ninjas began as farmers defending their villages in war-torn Japan nearly 700 years ago.

Through their studies, they dispelled some common myths such as: ninjas always wear black (black actually stands out in bright moonlight!) and identified the 6 items ninjas always carried (they didn't always carry a sword or throw shuriken!)

Meridith and Maureen introduced the concept of correct mind required first and foremost of all ninjas. Correct mind includes: being responsible, remaining calm & peaceful, being flexible and shugyo (training like crazy or persevering).

20170912_112438.jpg

As their studies continues, students used a simple embossing technique with aluminum foil and dried leaves to made a tsuba or hand guard for a sword.

Some students currently practicing martial arts shared their skills with the students. And they colored paper ninjas complete with common tools and items ninjas historically carried.

Students labeled parts of the ninja atama, kata, hiza, ashi (head, shoulders, knees and toes), practicing more new vocabulary, which they could practice using an already familiar children's song.

20170913_152411.jpg

All students enjoyed the dramatic storytelling of "How a Ninja Grows from a Single Bamboo Sprout", a well-known ninja legend in Japan.

The story introduced more new vocabulary including ta-ke, jishin, ame, kaze, kaminari, and yuki (bamboo, earthquake, rain, wind, thunder & lightning, and snow).

This past week, Sensei Dan Rotnem, the uncle of two of our students, visited ROCS.  Sensei Dan, as the students call him, introduced himself with a palm strike, breaking a concrete concrete block with one swift action. 

fullsizeoutput_1e13.jpeg

After getting our attention in a big way, Sensei Dan went on to explain the meaning of the kanji characters of "ninja" (忍者) :  one who endures via perfect practice every day.  The students used their prior knowledge to answer questions on mindfulness, real ninjas, and to count to ten in Japanese.

Next, Sensei Dan led the students on a Zen meditation walk where they practiced being in the moment, listening to the ambient sounds, and feeling the breeze on their skin. 

He spoke of a circle having no beginning and no end, and how there is always someone ahead of you from whom you can learn, and someone behind you whom you can help. The goal is being mindful of others and less focused on the self.

fullsizeoutput_1e10.jpeg

Next, Dan got the students moving with some karate forms including the  騎馬立ち - horse stance from which we learned the basic punch, followed by a complimentary block (外腕受け - outside forearm block).

fullsizeoutput_1e0f.jpeg

Not only was this unit interdisciplinary, it impacted students intellectual, social-emotion, and physical development.

We look forward to seeing what Meridith will explore next with the students!

Annual Pawpaw Celebration

Earlier this month, ROCS science educator, Bethany Filipow, led students through a week-long celebration of the pawpaw.

Those unfamiliar with the state fruit of Ohio, which ripens in the fall, can learn more about its rising popularity through this recent NPR story.

Learning to identify, harvest, and process this wild fruit offered students a connection to the natural world and the food they eat that would be hard to find in the produce section of the grocery story. This unit of study demonstrates the kind of integrated, real-world learning we value at Red Oak.

After reviewing some of the basic facts they learned about pawpaws last fall, students practiced skills related to prediction, observation, and documentation to record the weight, length, circumference, and number of seeds in pawpaws they examined.

Students began by recording predictions on data sheets (see below, left). Next they found the actual measurements using rulers and scales. 

Afterwards, some students created number sentences to find the difference between their estimation and actual result. They also hiked to our parking area to observe and sketch the pawpaw patch on our school property (see below, top right).

IMG_20170914_105224.jpg

Next, students dissected and processed pawpaws for use.

They separated the skins, pulp, and seeds. The skins were composted while the seeds were used as math manipulatives and will eventually become beads for jewelry.

Wednesday was production and marketing day.

Students made their "pawsicles" (pawpaw popsicles) and came up with flavor names - Tropical Explosion, Blueberry Crush, and Banana Splash. 

Our older students determined a sliding scale price of $1-3 per frozen treat. They also computed the initial investment of frozen fruit (which was added to the pawpaw pulp) and plastic cups of $12 which would have to be subtracted from their sales to obtain the true profit. They created posters and went through cash register training, practicing making change.

FullSizeR 2.jpg

As the week came to an end, Bethany led students into the woods to plant some of the pawpaw seeds. We hope one day we'll have more trees on the school property to pick from. 

IMG_20170915_113006.jpg

 

The week ended with a the pawsicles sale. The students sold out and made a total profit of $107.90!  This included the sale of some surplus pawpaws at $.10/oz, which was not only a bargain price for customers, but a nice round figure for converting weight to cost.

FullSizeRender 11.jpg

Our next task is for the students to decide how would they like to spend our money. Come back to the ROCS blog for updates!

Celebrating Outdoor Classroom Day

Environmental education (EE) is a primary pillar of teaching and learning at Red Oak Community School (ROCS). Students spend 2 full hours each day playing outdoors with little adult intervention. In our next post we'll share more on how and why we do this, followed by a series of posts documenting some of the ways kids are learning during that time.

In this, our second year of operation, ROCS teachers are working to bring more instructional activities outdoors as well. This is a learning process for them, as well as our students and parents accustomed to more conventional methods and modes of instruction. Last Thursday, they took advantage of Outdoor Classroom Day, an international effort to keep kids outdoors for an entire school day. We'd like to think of it as an introduction and celebration of more outdoor teaching and learning to come. The following notes from second year ROCS teacher Maureen Alley offer some snapshots of what went on at ROCS that day.

"In the morning, students constructed a slingshot using old nylon rope and sticks.  They decided on this project themselves, created it, tested it, then shared their contraption with others.  It was a student-led endeavor that came about because there was enough time and space to work though the idea!

Later in the morning, our older students chose targeted learning groups to participate in. Some went to the creek to collect rocks to paint.  These works of art will eventually line the paths between the new classrooms on our property. 

Others chose to play a large-scale version of the game Mancala (read about how to play here - then go out and find some rocks and acorns and make your own set at home!).  Playing by the rules led to questioning the rules, creating new mancala rules, and experimenting to see which rules worked best. Students then experimented with different ways to create checker and hopscotch boards using chalk and rocks.

IMG_20170907_112951139.jpg

Other students played The Web of Life game, learning about how the sun, producers, and consumers work together to support life.  They also modified the game to see what would happen to the web if something happened to one group of creatures.

IMG_20170907_104127232.jpg

The youngest group went on a "micro hike."  They used magnifying glasses to examine the ground around a single piece of string.  They observed insects, eggs, leaves, and more activity than they expected.  We were impressed to see this activity occupy ten five-year olds for forty-five minutes!

And of course, there was reading!  We read A Beetle Is Shy, clapping out syllables to new vocab words and trying to identify a beetle we found outside.  Some students chose independent reading, warming themselves in the sun on the brick porch or finding a shady spot in the grass.  It is so wonderful to see children choose reading as a refuge to relax and recharge.

IMG_20170907_114716954.jpg
21369111_10214784431313034_6303041260537581453_n.jpg

The afternoon saw self-portraits made with found natural materials, reading, and art in the grass, and a massive creek-clean up.  Students hauled out buckets of broken brick, pointed out glass for the teachers to pick up, and practiced environmental stewardship in a real and tangible way."

 

GetFileAttachment.jpg

The kids were so happy, and tired, and dirty at the end of the day. Some even reported that they'd had a "free day," but the adults who were present know that a lot of learning was going on. We're looking forward to documenting more of how we can make this seemingly invisible learning more visible to our students, their parents, and readers of this blog.

Field Trip!! To Stratford Ecological Center

Stratford Ecological Center is a non-profit educational organic farm and nature preserve just about 30 minutes north of our school, in Deleware, Ohio.

We spent the day there tromping around in the mud, learning about tapping and processing maple syrup. We learned all about it's history and how the Native Americans processed and used it. They cooked it further down into sugar - making it easier to store. 

Learning about the tapping process                                      Cooking syrup in the "sugar shack"

Learning about the tapping process                                      Cooking syrup in the "sugar shack"

We learned all about how to tap the trees and when. And how to cook it down it get that yummy amber syrup we all love to drown our pancakes in. Most importantly how very special these trees are, Sugar Maples only grow here in the Northeastern North America . From Ohio north up into Canada and east to the coast. Very Special and very Yummy!

Lambs!

Lambs!

We also visited all the Springtime babies! Tons of baby goats jumping and bumping around. Climbing all over their Mamas and the llamas! Killer cuteness and many of us wanted to bring one home!

New born calf with her Mama.

New born calf with her Mama.

Also on that very day we visited, a sweet little calf was born in the morning. We saw her an her very protective Mama. We fed the chickens and roosters and taste tested in the greenhouse. Overall it was a pretty awesome farm day field trip! Thank you Stratford Ecological Center!

image4144.png

What We Did Last Week.... Explorers

The Explorers are our Three Day/Half Day - (Homeschool Hybrid) group.

Hello, Red Oak families!  This week was a short one, but still full of learning and exploration. We got to enjoy the iglu made by the Page Fisher family for a day before the rain dissolved its glue.  We were sad to see it go, but the students had fun playing in it while we could!

We are collecting diaper packs for refugee families here in Columbus and money to send to buy diapers in refugee camps in Serbia, France, and Greece until March 10. We will be making welcome to Columbus cards to include with the diaper packs next week.

The Explorers read the book Teacup and created timelines of their day using analog clock drawings, and finished their I Have a Dream writing.

After time, our next math focus will be addition and subtraction, with multiplication and division for older students. 

In science this week we enjoyed checking in on our bread mold experiment. Many of the groups have begun seeing some changes begin to show.  We enjoyed getting out the magnifying glasses to help in creating our detailed entries in our observation journals.

This week in Material World we journeyed to South Africa. We discussed Nelson Mandela and his role in the country's history. Explorers had the chance to work on a kente cloth weaving, a textile that originated from the Ashanti people of Ghana. 

What We Did Last Week.... Cheetahs and Morning Kittens

Cheetahs are our Five Day/Full Day group and Morning Kittens are our Five Day/Half Day group.

Hello, Red Oak families!  This week was a short one, but still full of learning and exploration.  First thing last we,  we got to enjoy the iglu made by a ROCS family for a day before the rain dissolved its glue.  We were sad to see it go, but the students had fun playing in it and recycling the milk jugs the next day!

2017-02-24_00003.jpg

We started collecting diaper packs for refugee families here in Columbus and money to send to buy diapers in refugee camps in Serbia, France, and Greece.  We also started making cards to include with the diaper packs.  Students wrote welcome messages and drew pictures for families new to Columbus.  

In writing we've gone from big picture thinking, like in the I Have A Dream writing, to smaller-scale, concrete examples of ways we can be helpers in our lives.  Students wrote about bringing diapers to school, clearing the table off at home, and playing with little siblings. 

2017-02-24_00002.jpg

In reading we started with a biography of Nelson Mandela.  We discussed how he learned from Dr. King, compared and contrasted segregation in the US with apartheid in South Africa, and how Nelson educated his fellow prisoners while he was incarcerated.  One particular part of the book caught the attention of many students.  When Nelson went "underground", and had to wear disguises and sleep in a different place each night.  There was a discussion about what "going underground" really meant, and a few students made the book to book connection that there are three books in our classroom about the Underground Railroad.  They wondered if that was the same kind of thing that Nelson Mandela had to do, so we started exploring the Underground Railroad by reading Henry's Freedom Box, Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, and Barefoot Escape on the Underground Railroad. 

Slavery is a very difficult topic to teach to young children.  In an effort to keep our exploration developmentally appropriate, we will only be reading about the Underground Railroad and the path to freedom it offered.  The students are interested in the helpers, or "stations" along the way, the quilt pattern signals used, and map songs such as Follow the Drinking Gourd. Other songs we have listened to are Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Wade in the Water, which were instructional songs.  

http://www.harriet-tubman.org/songs-of-the-underground-railroad/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw6N_eTZP2U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lEV35LNGYc&list=PL7FF4BC2E230C93A0&index=2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNMpludVo6g&index=1&list=PL7FF4BC2E230C93A0

In math we continued working on telling time.  Our next focus will be on addition and subtraction number sentences, with multiplication and division for the older students. 

In science this week we enjoyed checking in on our bread mold experiment. Many of the groups have begun seeing some changes begin to show.  We enjoyed getting out the magnifying glasses to help in creating our detailed entries in our observation journals.

2017-02-24_00004.jpg

This week in Material World we journeyed to South Africa. We discussed Nelson Mandela and his role in the country's history. Explorers had the chance to work on a kente cloth weaving, a textile that originated from the Ashanti people of Ghana. Cheetahs and Kittens had the opportunity to make a mbira, a African musical instrument, also known as a thumb piano.

Water Filtration

Water Filtration

It was exciting to see that many of our potato pals have begun to sprout roots and are looking and smelling stranger than ever.  We finished up the week by discussing how the continent of Africa is considered part of the developing world.  We learned about how people living in these countries do not have access to affordable clean drinking water.  Students put their engineering design skills to work in creating a device to help filter dirty water into something cleaner.  Student designed their purification system in a solo cup and had a table full of materials to choose from in creating their filter.  After their test was complete they had to think of how they could improve their design to make the water even clearer.  Some students had the chance to rebuild and test their new ideas several times.

The Cheetahs continued to explore Africa with some map skills work which had us identify some of the major biomes and animal life found on the continent. We also worked on strengthening our fine motor muscles with our upside down drawing of our African continent and playing Mancala using tweezers to move pom poms to the different egg carton compartments.

What We Did Last Week.... Explorers

The Explorers are our Three Day/Half Day - (Homeschool Hybrid) group.

The Explorers spent a lot of time at school working on the Kindness Cards this week. Each student got to write in their classmates' cards; some wrote their own messages, some dictated to a teacher, and some simply chose to sign their name.

We continued learning about inventors this week by reading segments of  "What Color Is My World?" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  We learned about different innovations from some lesser known African American inventors. Our first scientist we learned about was Granville T. Woods. We were excited to learned that he was born and raised in right here in Columbus. We learned about how the induction telegraph helped improved the communication and safety of our railway system. The class investigated the engineering design process with our own communication investigation by constructing string telephones.  We tried improving the design by trying out cups made out of different materials, different kinds of string and holding the cups in different ways. We made predictions before each trial and then recorded how well each design worked. We found that shorter string and plastic cups seemed to work the best overall.

The next inventor we explored was Valerie Thomas who designed the illusion transmitter, where she used concave mirrors to create the illusion of 3-D objects. We made thaumatropes which was an early optical toy that was used to create animation.  We had a butterfly on one side of a piece of paper and a jar on the other. When we spun them quickly in appeared as if the butterfly was flying inside the jar!

This week in "Material World" we traveled to Central America and learned about Guatemala.  There was a huge different in the wants and needs of the American family compared to the one from Guatemala.

This week we read The Boy Who Changed the World and Because Amelia Smiled.  Both books explore how individuals' actions can have a profound impact around the world.  The first one is a story that spans multiple generations while the second story covers just about a week's worth of time.  We discussed how each person has the potential to impact so many others, and we talked about ways to have a positive impact at home and at school.  There were lots of book to world and book to self connections going on!

We also listened to an audio recording of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech while looking at Kadir Nelson's book.  I explained that while the recording quality is different than what we're used to and the speech can be a bit difficult to follow, I wanted the students to hear Dr. King's words in his own voice.  Next week we will be working on pieces of writing about our own dreams to change the world.

In math the Explorers worked on another way to organize numerals, tally marks, and number sentences.  Next week we will begin our study of time as it relates to telling time with clocks and timelines of events. 

In the hallway you can see our gigantic peace parade.  Each student in the school was given the same picture to color.  We talked about ways that we could take what was the same and make it our own, and how many different people's interpretation of a single thing could be so varied.

Our outside time was a muddy as ever!  Many of the students participated in bridge-building to solve the problem of how to get from one side of the mud-pond to the other.  Red Oak students continue to amaze me with their willingness to get dirty while playing-- and learning!-- and it is truly inspiring to see how happy and engaged they are after an hour in the mud!

What We Did Last Week.... Cheetahs and Morning Kittens

Cheetahs are our Five Day/Full Day group and Morning Kittens are our Five Day/Half Day group.

The Kittens and Cheetahs spent a lot of time at school working on the Kindness Cards this week.  At one point we even had an assembly line of kindness going!! Each student got to write in their classmates' cards; some wrote their own messages, some dictated to a teacher, and some simply chose to sign their name.

We continued learning about inventors this week by reading segments of  "What Color Is My World?" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  We learned about different innovations from some lesser known African American inventors. Our first scientist we learned about was Granville T. Woods. We were excited to learned that he was born and raised in right here in Columbus. We learned about how the induction telegraph helped improve the communication and safety of our railway system. The class investigated the engineering design process with our own communication investigation by constructing string telephones.  We tried different improving the design by trying out cups made out of different materials, different kinds of string and holding the cups in different ways. We made predictions before each trial and then recorded how well each design worked. We found that shorter string and plastic cups seemed to work the best overall.

Since we had been studying the telegraph the Cheetahs also learned about the Morse code and sent messages to each other using the dots and dashes.  We used both flashlights and our snap circuit kit and created a buzzer to send the information.

The next inventor the Cheetahs explored was Valerie Thomas who designed the illusion transmitter, where she used concave mirrors to create the illusion of 3-D objects. We made thaumatropes which was an early optical toy that was used to create animation.  We had a butterfly on one side of a piece of paper and a jar on the other. When we spun them quickly in appeared as if the butterfly was flying inside the jar! Some of the Cheetahs even created some 3-Dimensional art using paper and tape.

One of our favorite inventors this week was Alfred Cralle who responsible for the ice cream scoop.  We set up our own classroom ice cream shop where the class decided on the menu and the prices of the items. We used our ice cream play dough to create our sundaes.  The kids took turns being both the consumers and producers.  Each student was given $3.00 to spend and made decisions on how they wanted to spend it.

We also enjoyed learning about Lonnie Johnson who created the Super Soaker. I read the book "WHOOSH" which told the story of Lonnie's journey to success. We then were able to use the invention outside and see how air pressure was used to squirt the water far into the distance.

Our final inventor on the week was Joseph Lee who invented the bread machine. The Cheetahs made their own bread that we were able to sample in the afternoon. While we were waiting on our bread to rise we discovered how that process worked with investigating yeast. We put some yeast in a petri dish with some warm water and sugar and watched it multiple before our eyes using our magnifying glasses. We also put some of the mixture into test tubes and beakers and placed balloons over the opening to capture the carbon dioxide. It was a lot of fun to observe our balloons get bigger throughout the day.

This week in "Material World" we traveled to Central America and learned about Guatemala.  There was a huge different in the wants and needs of the American family compared to the one from Guatemala. Cheetahs and Kittens had the opportunity to also learn about El Salvador, a country the borders Guatemala with a presentation from a student's father. The class especially liked learning about the geography of the area since it involved volcanoes!

Our books for the week included The Boy Who Changed the World and Because Amelia Smiled.  Both books explore how individuals' actions can have a profound impact around the world.  The first one is a story that spans multiple generations while the second story covers just about a week's worth of time.  We discussed how each person has the potential to impact so many others, and we talked about ways to have a positive impact at home and at school.  There were lots of book to world and book to self connections going on!

We continued our study of civil rights by reading We March and Sit-In:  How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgIMTkmzBck).  These books were about the March on Washington and the Greensboro sit-ins, which we had read about before.  We had so many great book to book connections, and one amazing "notice" from a student: "All the people in the books about Dr. King had hope even when things were bad."

We also listened to an audio recording of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech while looking at Kadir Nelson's book.  I explained that while the recording quality is different than what we're used to and the speech can be a bit difficult to follow, I wanted the students to hear Dr. King's words in his own voice.  Next week we will be working on pieces of writing about our own dreams to change the world.

In math we continued our work on other way to organize numerals, tally marks, and number sentences.  We also began our study of time as it relates to telling time with clocks and timelines of events. 

In the hallway you can see our gigantic peace parade.  Each student in the school was given the same picture to color.  We talked about ways that we could take what was the same and make it our own, and how many different people's interpretation of a single thing could be so varied. 

Our outside time was a muddy as ever!  Many of the students participated in bridge-building to solve the problem of how to get from one side of the mud-pond to the other.  Red Oak students continue to amaze me with their willingness to get dirty while playing-- and learning!-- and it is truly inspiring to see how happy and engaged they are after an hour in the mud!  We also erupted a mudcano that the students built.  We tried making the lava red, but it turned out pink.  There was a great deal of delight at the eruptions nevertheless!  

Lessons learned from a food drive | Red Oak Community School

Part of our mission at Red Oak Community School is to foster a sense of community both among our students and their families as well as in the greater context of our local and world communities.

Along with the more traditional subjects of reading, writing, math and science, we also value emotional intelligence and are committed to helping our students express their feelings in safe and healthy ways.

One of our projects this fall is a great example of how we provide integrated, real-life, learning experiences here at Red Oak.

It started off with a group discussion the day after the presidential election.

In light of the wide range of emotions swirling around in response to the election, how could we best support our students? 

What was an actionable thing our students could do to?

They could practice choosing love.

Teacher Maureen Alley led the students in a discussion around the topic of Choose Love. When could they choose love?

Here's the repeatable line poem they created together:

After each student shared their idea of when they could choose love, they wrote their response of Choose Love.

From the line "When you get food for people who are hungry, you choose love." the students became interested in doing a food drive to help hungry people in our community have a more enjoyable Thanksgiving.

We chose to gather food for Mid-Ohio Food Bank, a Columbus, Ohio based organization that partners with agencies to provide food to hungry people in central and eastern Ohio.

Students and their families donated canned and boxed food to the food drive as well as gift cards to Lucky's Market and Kroger grocery store

In next phase of the project, our students had the opportunity to work on their math skills as they sorted the food into categories and tallied how much of each item they had.

Other students double checked the tallies and weighed the food.

Over 100 pounds of food was collected as well as $40 in gift cards!

Students got involved with choosing the fresh fruits and vegetables that would be purchased for the food bank with the gift cards.

First, they talked about needs vs. wants. What is a need and what is a want?

Next up, they looked at how they can "eat the rainbow".

Which foods count as rainbow foods (not skittles!)?

What healthy food choices can they make?

 

 

 

The students then broke into groups.

The older students got $20 of play money, a set of ads, and put their reading and math skills to use as they figured out the best way to spend their money to get the most food. 

While they worked, the younger students and Maureen gathered by the board.  They found good deals on rainbow foods and glued them to chart paper.  

After they had a good collection, they talked about how to divide $20 among six people, and each student got two dollars and five quarters while Maureen kept the final two quarters.  

Each student got to choose an item from the list to "buy".  They could buy some items on their own, but sometimes they had to team up to combine their change in order to buy another item.  

At the end of this, Maureen had a shopping list for the fresh fruits and vegetables that would be donated along with the canned and boxed goods that were gathered.

This project is an example of how we integrate learning here at Red Oak.

It was a great opportunity for our students to develop their competence with reading, writing and math, and practice their decision making and collaboration skills, while also helping to feed hungry people in our community.