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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Storyboarding and iMovie

The kids have been storyboarding and making movies using iMovie. They all drew out their stories, wrote their scripts and then did the filming. It's difficult doing a one-man or one-woman show. It takes some creativity and focus on acting rather than set design or various actors.
The kids came up with some great movie ideas, and the diversity is astounding. Seth here is working on his movie about Good Seth and Evil Seth. Apparently there is a planet called Evil Seth Planet and an Evil Seth comes to Earth to take over Good Seth's life. Paintball fight ensues.
Tyler had a great show about a hungry family depending on Dad to go out and shoot a deer. It being Frenchboro, there was a boat involved in this process. We're going to have the first annual Frenchboro Film Festival coming up soon. Stay tuned!

Wigwam Building

We've been studying early Native Americans in Social Studies class. Time to make another wigwam! First up, get some grasses.

Then, make some grass mats...teamwork helps.

After making the frame, we covered it in grass mats. (Pay no mind to the duct tape...they had duct tape back then, right? We're all about authentic over here.) Fini! A great place to do our reading. They open the smoke hole for more light. Super cute.


I absolutely love this series of pictures. I had my camera on the table and was clicking without them knowing. They were so scared to flip the switch of their circuit. Maybe they thought it was going to shock them, or blow up. So cute. I love the interest and wonder that scientific exploration creates. And the laughter. We always like a good laugh.


Yeah, so this is Buggy. We come up with some very literal names for our animals here in Frenchboro School. Buggy came out of Saylor's engine during small engine club after school. A live bug was not what we expected to find when prying apart an engine. It sort of disappeared and we assumed it had died, but what do you know, it popped up on the windowsill days later during reading class. I think it's some kind of stink bug, which of course made Brody want to squish it to see how it smelled.

The Happiest Sight

One of the happiest sights for me as a teacher is to see my students totally engaged in reading a book. Reading for me is one of the great joys in life. It opens up worlds and minds. It's so wonderful to listen to them read to each other, or, when they're reading silently, have them exclaim about a picture, an interesting fact, or a suspenseful plot. Watching Kindergarteners go from not being able to identify any letters to reading entire paragraphs is a vicarious adventure I'll never forget. Studies have shown that good reading skills are one of the greatest indicators of academic success, but a true joy of reading will create the motivation to become a lifelong learner. I want that for all my students. So, curl up in your favorite chair on the next rainy day, turn off your computer and enjoy a good book instead!

More Magnets

After our first magnet exploration, it was time to talk about the magnetic field. What better way to illustrate it than using iron filings? It's one thing to draw the field and talk about it, another to actually see it in action.
We had some fantastic examples.
We did learn the hard way: thicker is not better.
Giving it a little shake helped spread out the filings and show more of the field.

Then we wondered what would happen with a round magnet. Where are the poles? What would happen when we doubled or tripled up the magnets for added strength?
A pincushion!
We did a lot of experimenting with two bar magnets. Knowing that same poles would repel, we had to tape them close to each other. And what about two bar magnets wanting to attract? We had to tape those down as well so we could see what happened in the gap. Do you know which one is illustrated above?

Monday, January 23, 2012


This is about it for snow this year, guys. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Long Goodbye

Doug and I met in Alaska. We'd both went up there separately to teach. We weren't looking for a spouse, but we ended up connecting very quickly. We're both adventurous people, love to travel, and experience new things. After four years teaching on a remote island 160 miles off the coast of Alaska, 35 miles from mainland Russia, we were okay to move to Maine, where we own a house in Cherryfield. I grew up in this area and love coastal Maine. It has always been home to me. I missed seeing my family and having a place to call my own, so we happily began searching for jobs in this area.

Maybe it's something about us, but we laughed to find ourselves teaching on another island, this time off the coast of Maine. We came to the one room schoolhouse excited that we'd be together. I mean, really together. As in 24/7 together. Four years later, we're closer than ever. Four years later, we find ourselves ready to embark on a new journey. We're leaving Frenchboro. Moving to our house in Cherryfield, that has been mostly vacant for the nearly 6 years we have owned it, will be a big change for us. The biggest change of all will undoubtedly be that we will spend much more time apart than we ever have in our 7 years together.

Teaching together with your spouse gets a lot of raised eyebrows, mostly from people who think that would be their worst nightmare. Unlike many couples, though, we actually get along. We rarely quarrel and see eye to eye on most matters. In teaching, this is important, especially when it comes to classroom management and curriculum. Being out here, as the only staff members in our school, we talk constantly about what is happening and will happen and why. We try to keep things transparent for the kids. They deserve to know what is going on and how it will affect them.

So, it was difficult to not tell our students first, that this would be our last year. They are, after all, the reason we are here. Every decision is thought of in regard to how it might affect the kids. But, as professionals, we knew we needed to tell our principal and school board first, then the students. We weren't sure how they would handle it. We know how we feel about them, and we know how hard it is to leave them, but what will it be like for them? Many of them have never had any other teachers but us. Imagine that.

This kind of change is big for these shy kids. When we first got here, several of them would not even speak to us. Now, we know them better than our own nieces and nephews. They are, simply, like family to us. When we told them, they said nothing. You could have heard a pin drop. They sat in stunned silence. We told them if they needed to ask any questions or talk, they were welcome to but they weren't ready for that.

Several days later, the questions and comments started. Things like, "But you'll still be here in the summer...right?" No. "So you're selling your house?!" No. We don't own this house out here. The new teachers will be living there. "Oh." And, "What table will I be sitting at next year, Ms. Finn?" I don't know, buddy. You might not have the tables. You might have desks instead. "Oh." Then it was the Encouraging Words that we do every Friday. Usually they are to each other, but they started trickling in to us. "You are the best teachers in the whole entire world." "Please don't leave us." "I'll miss you so much when you're gone."

I can't rightly express how I feel about this group of kids. I know I blog often about how great they are. But that's not lip service. These kids have been an absolute delight, and continue to be. Just this morning, when asked about doing the dance, apparently called The Dougie, Seth, our first grader, started mimicking writing on the board. He said, "See, I'm doing The Dougie. I'm Mr. Finn, writin' on the board in Math class." Yes, my husband was called, to his great chagrin, "Dougie" when he was a child. Seth knows this.

Which brings me to knowing someone. Most teachers don't get to know their students like we know these guys. Spending so much time together (4,320 hours of classroom time plus the countless hours before and after school as well as on the weekends) creates such a bond of knowing. I've decided to do some blogging about the kids as individuals. I'm going to take time to share photos of them over the years, tell stories and what I know about them. They've really touched us forever, these guys, and I'm tearing up already, just thinking of the long goodbye ahead of us. We wanted to come forward early, as soon as we knew, so that we could give our school board lots of time to find a replacement, but also because we wanted the kids to have time to process and get used to the changes that are afoot for them. Just like all our decisions having to do with the school, we thought of them first.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Update on the Engines

So, we went from 7 sign ups to...all 11. I think most schools have trouble with kids dropping out of extra curricular activities. We do not have that problem. We're happy to say that 100% of our school is involved in an after school club! There was a whole lotta clunking and rattling going on, and they emerged from downstairs covered in grime and toting parts with glee.

A Little Ehow Never Hurt Anybody

We've got this bathroom downstairs in our basement. It is, ahem, so disgusting. We tried, we really did. The kids put down linoleum tile that you buy in squares and did all the math themselves. Then, the tiles began to, um, curl. And liquids began to get trapped around the bowl, under the tiles, and stuck into the weird glue the tiles required that didn't quite wipe off the way it was supposed to. Besides that, the walls are totally scuffed up. How that happens, I've no idea. It looks like someone was trying breakdance all along the white paint. So, we hatched the idea last year to do a mural and paint over the nasty parts. The kids will do the artwork, so we needed to learn how to draw all the sea life that we want to include as it will be a mostly underwater mural.
We checked out the website ehow as it has some great tutorial videos on how to draw, like, everything. We stared with a lobster. Duh. What's great is that every kid could work at their own pace and pause the video as much as they wanted as they worked on their picture.
They were all SO great, working away, taking their time to include all the details. We'll make a splash with our mural in no time.
As for the tile, well, those nasty old ones came up (with a lot of help from surgical gloves) and Mr. Finn ground down all the glue and prepped the floor. The kids have already started laying the permanent ceramic tile and let me tell you, it is a beautiful sight! Cannot wait until the finished product.

New Year with Ursula

Ursula came out on Jan. 4th, the day after school started and took the New Year as a chance to work on short and long term goal setting. The 5-6 students came up with some great ideas after working out the difference between "wishes" and "goals". Among our wishes: flying (just one of the many super powers on our list), having unlimited wealth, you know...the usual. When I came up to check on the K-4 group, I found them like this. Apparently there was some yoga charades going on. It was great to kick off 2012 with some quality Ursula time. Yay for the Wednesday ferry!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Small Engines Club

Right now I am upstairs in the school. Downstairs I can hear, well, a lot of thumping going on, and... oh dear, is that a grinder?
I'm not panicking though. This is intentional. Sometimes it is not. Then, I panic. Mr. Finn is downstairs with a group of 7 intrepid kids who signed up for Small Engines Club. I know. I know. Seriously? Small Engines Club?! What the heck is happening over there at Frenchboro School, you might ask. Well, Mr. Finn spends most of his winters here in Frenchboro freezing his tookus off in the shed out behind our house. Fixing things. Whatever kind of junk you have in the front yard, he's game to grab it. He sees potential in it. This is why we have motorcycle parts all over our garage in Cherryfield, and, gee whiz, is that an ancient chipper?
So, this summer, as we're relaxing at our farmhouse home, (well, I was relaxing, he was more gyrating with his knee going a million miles an hour) and apropos of nothing, he chimes in with, "I think I'm gonna do a small engine repair class with the kids after school this year." I eyed him warily. "When are you going to fit this in, between cross-country running and Lego Robotics practice?" He laughed. "No. In the winter. You know I'm always in that little shed...might as well do it at the school in the warmth." Yeah, in the warmth...with 11 little kids. I did not say that part aloud.

So, true to form, Mr. Finn sent out some emails to the town and folks he thought could help out and asked for broken down motors. I laugh. This is not exactly at a premium out here. That means there's no scarcity. Shopping malls we lack. Broken down crap we certainly have in spades. Soooo, on the way back to the island after our vacation, at 7:00 in the morning, we stopped by Maine Coast Heritage Trust where our fantastic steward, Terry Towne, had amassed a scary collection of decrepit 2 and 4 stroke engines. Weed whackers, lawn mowers, tillers, chain saws. We started piling that junk on top of all our groceries and Christmas things. It was like the Clampett reunion I'm telling you...stuff sticking out akimbo like you've never seen before. Thank god it was early as I was downright mortified. Mr. Finn, as you can imagine, was in hog heaven.
So, first day of school back after two weeks off. Kids are all clambering for Small Engine Club. Clambering, I tell you! Just back, you'd think they'd want to ease into it. Nope. 7 of them run downstairs like it's Christmas all over again. I could hear the hammering and had to go downstairs to make sure nothing untoward was going on. Not a lot of talking going on. Mr. Finn is a man of action. These kids are, too, though usually nothing silences Brody who loves to gab away as he works. Nope. Everyone working like crazy. For fun, this is!

Big smiles on their faces, every one, can't wait to show me what parts they'd removed already. There was especially a lot of, "Ms. Finn, look how dirty my motor is!" They were downright proud.
This thing is practically as big as he is, little 5 year old man!
And the girls? Right in their with gusto. You go, girls!
Again, with the smiles, like this is just the greatest fun they can imagine.
And where's Mr. Finn? Right in there with them, of course. He's often told me that if he had known this sort of thing was taught in schools, he surely would have ended up a mechanic, not a teacher. Mr. Finn can fix just about anything. Now, he can pass it on to kids who will really benefit from the skills. Melts my heart, really, to see all these little grease monkeys.
So now it's day 2 and they're all down there working away. Grinder stopped and I went down for a peek. They are positively covered with grease and could not wait to show me. (We thankfully bought not one, but two bars of Lava soap.) Everything is in pieces. They're showing me all the parts, Saylor found a live bug in her engine. I'm not even kidding. But their bright, eager faces tell me that, yet again, school is not a place they hate to come, not a place that they grimace about, not a place that they dread or drag their feet getting to. Our school is a place that, even when they don't have to be here they come anyway, with a smile. And we, of course, smile back.

Looooong Hike

What to do in the winter months when it is too cold to play ball, but the ice isn't ready for us to play hockey? We decided to hone in on the 'endurance' aspect of their standards, namely, a big hike. Our island is covered with trails, but it's not like a paved pathway. There are a lot of...obstacles. Downed trees, big rocks, chasms to jump over.
We got tired. Almost lost a few along the way. But we kept right on marching along. Tyler was leading us, after all, and he doesn't stop for anything.
Just look at this glorious view of the spit that connects the main part of the island to Rich's Head. The light was just perfect.
Then we were up and over Burnt Hill, with a rope to help us up the steep parts. We were shedding layers like gangbusters.

Here we all are at the stone wall, right in the middle of the woods. Hard to imagine all the land being devoid of trees a hundred years ago to make way for livestock. Today, it's just a nice place to sit and take a little rest. I know I slept well after this big expedition!