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Monday, March 26, 2012

Underwater Mural progression

The mural is beginning to take shape now that the kids are adding seaweed and rocks. The used the overhead to project the drawings they made during art class, which they traced onto the walls with sharpies. They had to mix their own paints to get the colors they wanted as we only bought the primary colors in wall paint. It's coming along nicely so far and we can't wait to add some creatures!

Doug and Patrice Visit

We may be remote, but we have certainly had some visitors this week! Doug and Patrice Lynch from Portland came to stay with us overnight and observe in the classroom on Thursday. Doug is the head of the Education department at the University of New England. He and his wife make an impressive educational duo so Mr. Finn and I were a little nervous to have them visit. There was nothing to worry about, though, as they were thoroughly impressed with the kids, as all visitors are. They couldn't believe how independent, articulate, and skillful they were, not to mention how well they cooperated with each other, regardless of age. Call me partial, but I have a tendency to bubble over effusively about this group. It was nice to have folks who have spent their entire careers in the classroom feel the same way. Thanks to Doug and Patrice for the big journey and willingness to visit us!

L is for Lobster

Look what we got in the mail! Jeannie Brett, one of the authors and illustrators that comes out to visit us through Island Readers and Writers sent all the kids a signed poster of the cover of her book L is for Lobster. We send out birthday cards to all of our community and folks who have visited us out here and Jeannie really loves getting her card every year, so this year she sent a lovely note to us, these wonderful posters, and bookmarks of her book about a Maine Coon cat. Excellent! We can't thank her enough. We just love hearing from everyone and often get mail here at the school.
I included all three of these pictures as the first was just "normal face" and then I told the kids to make silly faces. Just have a look at Jayde in all three pictures. Same face. Every time. She's got googly eyed, slack jawed Seth and Tyler on either side of her and she's like, total deadpan. She could be a 911 dispatch operator when she gets older, cause nobody's getting a rise out of her!

911 Dispatch

We recently got actual road names out here on Frenchboro and are now a part of the 911 system. Of course that doesn't mean that any of us actually know our address so heaven forbid we have to call 911 as that is the first question they ask. Ms. Becky brought out Marie and Bob from 911 Dispatch to work with the kids on what to do in an emergency, what constitutes a proper time to call 911, and what to expect when you actually dial those three little numbers.
They even acted out a scenario and Marie was taking Bob through his paces because as soon as he "answered" the phone, she started screaming wildly. The kids were totally freaked out! Bob, calm as a cucumber, kept saying, "Ma'am. Ma'am. Ma'am, you need to calm down..." Though that sort of call is not the usual fare, it does happen, and the operators are specially trained to deal with the high emotions of crisis situations. It was great to learn more about what they do, and also to thank them for the important service they offer. They are often the First first responders as they connect the ambulance, fire department, and police officers to the location, all the while offering that calm, steady support to someone in need. At the end, Teressa piped up with, "I don't have a question, but I have a comment. You guys are awesome." Well put.

Marshmallow Challenge

Ursula brought her husband, Jay, out to Frenchboro on her last guidance visit. Jay teaches business classes at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. He came out to do the Marshmallow Challenge with our kids. It's a challenge that has been given to people of all ages and has some wonderful lessons embedded within it as a jumping off point for great discussions afterward. The challenge is: Given 20 uncooked noodles, a yard of masking tape and string, scissors and a marshmallow, construct the tallest tower possible in 18 minutes. At the end, the marshmallow must be at the top of your structure.
It was a frenzy of activity for nearly the entire 18 minutes. There were impressive structures and lots of problem solving. Though nobody broke any records, we sure learned a lot about trial and error. The findings of this challenge have been that kindergarteners consistently score very high on this activity because they create prototypes throughout the process while adults often wait until the very end to put on the marshmallow and watch their structure collapse under the weight of pillowy sugar.
It was such a fun, interesting way to spend 18 minutes and Jay was particularly impressed that even when crunch time happened, there were no arguments and the kids were all positive and worked together as a team. There were no pointing of fingers and everyone listened to each other when they were sharing ideas.
One lesson we won't forget: a marshmallow is a lot heavier than it looks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reading up on Simple Machines

Cutest picture alert! We were reading up on simple machines so we had stations set up and the groups rotated from station to station to read the short books and discuss them with their partners. They are so great at team work. It's great to watch them.

Show me your wedges boys!

Archimedes Screw

Mr. Finn is great to watch when he's teaching. He's so engaging and humorous, not to mention he really knows his stuff, especially when it comes to Science. So, I was really looking forward to today's lesson because he was working on these contraptions all weekend. Archimedes screws. The kids were baffled when he brought these things out. Screws are difficult to really comprehend as a simple machine and since they have to include the simple machines in their Rube Goldberg experiments, Mr. Finn has been doing some mini-lessons on the tougher ones, helping the kids to broaden their minds about how they could include them.
So then he gets the water out. And the kids get the big eyes, like, "What in the world is gonna happen next?!" Cause you never know with Mr. Finn. Well, he asks them what they think will happen. And some answers pop out because they know mentally that the screw is moving things, but they can't wrap their brains around the fact that it could actually be moving the water UPHILL. So, he starts to twist...and twist...and twist. Suddenly water spurts out of the top and Seth screams as he's sitting right next to the spraying water and they're all laughing and watching in awe. It. Was. Awesome. Cadin immediately asked, "How?" He wanted to know how it works. Seth said, "It's magic."
Then he gets the larger tubing. They all gasp. Their hypothesis was correct...MORE water came out. More screaming, lots of it.
After Mr. Finn pulled the screw out of the water he asked the kids what would happen and they said, "There's still water in it?" Mr. Finn asked, "Where is the water?" And Teressa pointed to the bottoms of all the loops. "Yes. So, how many turns will still pour out water?" Teressa immediately counted the loops, "Six." Then they tried it out. Six it was. They were starting to get it, but they were still blown away. It was like, seeing it with their own eyes, they just could not totally believe it.

So, Mr. Finn got an external visual for them. A marble, butted up against wooden blocks, sitting within the coils of the screw. "What will happen to this marble?" Tyler, the kindergartener: "It's gonna move!" Mr. Finn: "Where is it going to go?" The kids start to point toward Mr. Finn as he begins turning the screw. The marble starts traveling toward Mr. Finn and they all watch, mesmerized. This is why I love, love, love Science so much. It's these miraculous things that bring out this sense of wonder either of the natural world, the universe, or how things work that just make learning so engaging and delightful. It also helps to have a teacher like Mr. Finn. So, how does the Archimedes screw work? I'm with Seth: Magic.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kick the Ball (woods version)

We never miss gym, and we always go outside. Once in a very great while, like perhaps 5 times in the past 4 years have we had to stay inside for gym. That's one awesome part of living on an island. We get tired of playing the usual suspects of baseball, kickball, volleyball, and this year pond hockey was a total bust because it's been so warm, so we were excited to come up with a new game. It started as Kick the Can at recess, but now it's Kick the Ball, and we've headed into the woods to play for gym class a couple times. It is awesome. I wanted to get some pictures, but I kept giving away the hiding spots of the kids, so I had to come to the "jail" where kids were gathered near the ball waiting to be freed by someone who hadn't been seen yet.

Jail has never been so fun.
I love taking photos of these kids out in nature. They're so photogenic and the setting is so beautiful.
They really had to have some good hiding spots because they were not exactly camoed up.
Myron shirt blended really well and he was successful in his sneak-up attempts several times.
For some reason Jayde could not stop giggling as I was taking her photo.
And....what do we have here?? A Frenchboro alumna coming to join us for gym class. He very much approved of the new game. Great to see him, though I can't stand how tall he's getting! I kept standing on a hill whenever he came near me.
Absolutely love this photo. I'm so happy when they cooperate and don't duck behind trees!
And of course, we can't forget the cuteness factor. Sure was nice getting out and enjoying another beautiful day. The weather has been amazing!

Swimming at the Y

Nothing about getting off island for a field trip is ever easy, but we're lucky enough to have the Sunbeam, the Maine Seacoast Mission boat once in a while for transportation. We took the state ferry off island in the morning and the Sunbeam brought us back in the afternoon, since we only have one ferry ride three days per week. We wanted to go to the Y for swimming and basketball, so it was worth all the effort, even the rocky ferry ride off island. They kids were whooping it up as the big waves rocked the boat. Not everyone was as excited.

These may very well be the worst pictures I've ever posted, but these happen to be the two best out of the bunch. And for some reason, probably because I was reffing, I didn't take basketball photos.The Sunbeam is awesome because not only is there often wonderful treats to partake of, there are also toys! The state ferry doesn't have refreshments, or toys, that's for sure! Thanks to Storey and Mike for picking us up at the bait house and bringing us home!

Rube Goldberg Experiments

Last week we reviewed simple machines and Newton's Laws, so it was time to jump in with our Rube Goldberg experiments. We got all our blocks and gadgets out and spent some time playing around with them to figure out what might work well. Depending on the age, the kids have to include a certain amount of the simple machines, so it could be very challenging for the older kids who have to have all but one of them somewhere in their set up. They also have to be able to talk about what laws of motion are at work in their experiments.

It was a busy afternoon in the schoolhouse. Very busy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday Art

We always try to do at least two major school and community service projects per year. This year we're renovating the downstairs bathroom which is a nasty eyesore into a more pleasing and beautiful space. Already the kids put down and grouted tile for the floor during Math class. Now it's time to tackle the walls. When we're done, it's going to seem like you're actually IN the ocean as you sit and do your business in there. Awesome! It's also a way for the kids to make a lasting impression on their school, just like they felt when they built the new playground. This year's community project is to build new picnic tables for Eastern Beach. We've already contacted our Maine Coast Heritage Trust steward, Terry Towne, for the okay, and he said we can have a burn of the old decrepit tables down at the beach, so that will be an excellent incentive (toasted marshmallows, anyone??)
Since the bathroom is tiny, we can only have a few kids down there at a time, so the rest of us did another art project upstairs, a rare treat on a Monday. With the success of the Koi painting, I adapted the Art Projects For Kids lesson to work with warm and cool colors, three dimensional layering and drawing more sea creatures, this time star fish.

These two, Jayde and Tyler have opposing styles and they sit right next to each other, so I always love coming over to see what they're up to. Jayde always has the lightest, most delicate of colors, while Tyler uses the least amount of water possible to still call it water color. Both beautiful and expressive. The best feeling in the world is to see kids just being comfortable with who they are, not feeling like they have to make theirs look like anyone else's picture. It's a little like handwriting, how you can tell which piece belongs to which student.
I thought the finished products were stunning!
More art for our school walls, for sure.