Outdoor Learning and STEAM: Global Connections

 “Nature Pedagogy is defined as the art of being with the natural world inside, outside and beyond.” 

Claire Warden, Founder of the International Association of Nature Pedagogy,  2018 

5-“The birds are blending into the leaves and we can’t see them. Predators will have a hard time trying to find and eat them.”

The Week of November 4th through 8th featured two back-to-back important global events:  International Outdoor Classroom Day on November 7, and National STEM / STEAM Day on November 8.  Our East Boston Young STEAM Inventors participated in both of these events and shared their learning with the global community.

 

International Outdoor Classroom Day

The Outdoor Classroom Day website explains that this is “a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play.”  In 2018 over 3.5 million children in over 100 countries participated.  This year, our Young STEAM Inventors were part of over 3 million children and more than 25,000 schools that were involved.  Check out the outdoor day classroom map here to see all of the countries that participated, and the global community that we are part of!  We are excited to participate in the next Outdoor Classroom Day on May 21, 2020.

Young STEAM Inventors spent their time learning outdoors and engaging in different STEM/STEAM learning activities.  Outdoor learning is a global movement. Educators, parents, homeschooler communities, and community educators from around the world used shared their best practices and student learning on these days to promote the importance of outdoor learning, and how it supports intellectual and social emotional health of the whole child.  We shared our learning in East Boston with educators worldwide.  Our Young STEAM Inventors are now part of a global community of STEM/STEAM learners.

Here are some photos from International Outdoor Classroom Day:

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National STEM/STEAM Day

On November 8, our Young STEAM Inventors participated in National STEM / STEAM Day.  The importance of the “A” in STEAM represents the inclusion and integration of Art with Science

Brenda Engel - Considering Children_s Art

learning.  Research tells us now that science and art is about teaching our young learners the importance of creativity and artistic expression.  Brenda Engel, a renowned educator, Professor Emeritus at Lesley University, artist, and a founder of the Mission Hill School in Roxbury in 1997, said “Without the arts we are all deprived.”  Brenda wrote a book on the importance of integrating art into children’s learning.

National STEM / STEAM Day is a National Holiday that has been set aside to encourage learners of all ages (students, parents, community members) to identify their passions and develop their creativity in the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

To celebrate this day at the East Boston EEC, Young STEAM Inventors led their own inquiry, exploration, inventing, engineering and problem-solving.  This day was about kids having the opportunity to use a wide variety of materials to explore and express their own learning.

I began by asking them, “What would you like to explore today?”  This is a question that I ask them all the time, and very often the Young STEAM Inventors come to me first with their own ideas that they want to explore, ask to design and make something, or even bring back an activity that they’ve been thinking about.

For example, students recently asked me, “Miss Alicia, would you please bring the train tracks back, because we have an idea for building another kind of bridge for the trains to go over so they won’t fall off.”  I had thought they were finished thinking about trains, but clearly they were not.

 

29a The Bridge

Building a bridge

29b The Bridge

Building more bridges!

These Young STEAM Inventors are the next generation that will design the bridge infrastructure of our national transportation system!

For National STEM / STEAM Day, Young Steam Inventors had the opportunity, the space, and the time to ask their own questions and explore their own ideas.

 

26d A Stone Sat still

Some kids wanted to explore more ideas from the book “A Stone Sat Still.”

Above: “Our Nature maze that we started after reading One Stone Sat Still with the snail puppet with Ms. Alicia. The snail went on a journey and met different animals like some of the ones we are learning about like a slug, snail and worm.”

Some kids wanted to create their own facial expressions based on the book “The Invisible Scribble.”

 

Some kids created their own mazes. Some kids chose to explore yoga in the Yoga space. Some kids sat in the rocking chair and explored stories using puppets.

Below are some pictures of our Young Steam Inventors: exploring snails, building mazes, a moon rover, designing and building person ramp, and more. These student designers and creators are led by their own imaginations.  They are creative creators at work-play!

Slugs and Snails (Tap each image to enlarge)

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Exploring Ideas with Mazes

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Creative Creators at Work-Play

“Play is at the heart of creativity” ~ Lucas Learn

20 “I designed this tall birds nest with color and water blocks. I’m proud of this.”

“I designed this tall birds nest with color and water blocks. I’m proud of this.”

23 Creative Creators” at work play 2

8 “This is my person ramp. The marble drops from the persons head and travels down through the body while I run two marbles from both arms. One marbles touches the heart on its way down. All marbles roll down the leg into the foot Ms.Ali

“This is my person ramp. The marble drops from the persons head and travels down through the body while I run two marbles from both arms. One marbles touches the heart on its way down. All marbles roll down the leg into the foot Ms.Alicia.”

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Art and Expression

 

Architects at Work and Play

This is what should be going on all the time our classrooms.  In the Young Steam Inventors classroom everyday is National STEAM Day.  Our YSI classroom is where science, design, creativity and literacy come out to play!

 

 

 

 

The Forest Classroom with Our Young Naturalists

“Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development…A critical aspect of the present-day crisis in education is that children are becoming separated from daily experience of the natural world, especially in larger cities.” 

~ Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong, Natural Learning, Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching

“Let Nature be your teacher.”

~William Wordsworth

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings.”

~John Muir

 

What is a forest-school-style learning environment?

Forest school is a teaching and learning approach that emphasizes outdoor learning, rather than a specific place. Forest schools in other countries have become more about how children use a unique space to develop social and personal skills, rather than a dedicated trip to a natural outdoor space. It is being held up as a valuable method of teaching, a place to continue learning and to imbed work that connects to the indoor classroom. 

My goal is to provide outdoor learning experiences for our Young Steam Inventors that support the whole child,  building self-esteem, confidence and independence. Children need space, and spaces that provide the freedom and opportunity for them to learn at their own pace:  exploring, collecting, discovering, asking questions, analyzing, and problem solving.

Teachers, education experts and child psychologists worldwide are alarmed that children are losing touch with the natural environment as they spend much more time indoors and playing with electronic devices. Current research is showing that children are increasingly addicted to electronics and screen time, and that this has led to an increase in isolation, aggressive behavior, and difficulty sleeping, among other things. 

Likewise, allowing children to be outdoors and connect with nature has many crucial positive health benefits, including an enhanced imagination, an increased attention span, better focus, and less aggressive behavior. Being outside helps children develop a love and respect for nature. (The Ten Benefits of playing in nature)

K0/K1/K2 Young Naturalists go Bird Watching

Last week we went bird watching in the back parking lot of the school. We started with a silent minute of standing and observing. Then we began our walk. We stopped every so often to listen and look.  The young naturalists made lots of observations, as well as gave answers to their classmates’ questions:

Here are some of the observations and questions our young naturalists came up with:

  • “How big is that bird? It looks like it weighs like 50 hamburgers!!!”
  • “What is that bird?” 
  • “It’s a seagull !” says another young naturalist.
  • “Is the bill really that small on the little bird? How can it hold a big worm?” 
  • “It’s because it has a strong beak.”
  • “How does a bird fly?”
  • “God made him do it.”
  • “We counted three birds. One brown bird. Ms. Alicia what is the name of that bird?”
  • “It’s a falcon” I say. 
  • “There are two seagulls flying way up high in the sky. I can see them with my binoculars!” 
  • “I noticed that they can make a lot of noise trying to talk to each other. When do they listen if they’re always chirping.”
  • “Some of the birds are making nests in the trees and in peoples houses.” 
  • “Remember we read that not all birds make nests in trees.”
  • “They’re smart because they don’t want to be cold.”
  • “I see a blue bird. “
  • “It’s a blue bird because my Mom told me that before.”
  • “Some of the birds are flying into the garbage to get food. That’s why we shouldn’t pick the berries. They need their food and not our food.”

 

Engineering Design Challenge

Our young STEAM inventors were challenged to design and build a bird nest from the natural materials they collected!

Check out this article about birdwatching by Jason Ward, an African American birder from the South Bronx.  He also has his own Youtube channel called Birds of North America, including a whole episode on teaching kids how to use binoculars.  Check out this Youtube episode about birdwatching in Central Park, NY

Grade 1 Young Steam Inventors: FOSS Unit on Air and Weather

Our grade 1 studies of “Air and Weather” continued this month, with explorations of flight and airplane design.  Young Steam Inventors had to step into the shoes of an engineer in order to put together their own airplane.  They had to look at a blueprint, read directions, look at a picture and follow all five construction steps just like engineers do.  They had to figure out how to detach and reattach two pieces of the airplane in order to put the propeller onto the front of the plane, and then test the propeller to see if it was going to move in a circular motion.  This was important to get right because otherwise the plane wouldn’t fly. This was a challenging activity, and all of the Young Steam Inventors worked hard and were resilient. They worked in pairs and in threes to help each other.   

Here is what our Grade 1 Young Steam Inventors want you to know about what they have been learning about flight and airplanes this past week:

  • “We designed airplanes and tested them outside and inside.”
  • “We had to figure out how to construct them and see if they would fly with or without the propeller.”
  • “It was fun flying airplanes in the school cafeteria! Some of the planes went into the kitchen and some got stuck on the lights.”
  • “We had to draw and write in our journals about what we noticed and observed, and what questions we had .”
  • “Ms. Alicia read the story about the Tuskegee Airman. They were Black men who flew airplanes during the war.”
  • “The Tuskegee Airmen were brave and not always treated fairly because of the color of their skin. They were great pilots.”
  • “We liked that story!”
  • “We are going to read about Bessie Coleman the first Black woman pilot and Amelia Earhart the first white woman pilot.”
  • “Just like the first woman pilots who walked in space last week or two weeks ago I think.”
  • “We talked about how the air can be different in different places in the P3 playground. We flew our planes to different places to test it out.”
  • “We flew our planes in different places in the cafeteria. We noticed the airplanes did more loops in the cafeteria. We think because the air was not as windy inside. But the planes flew higher because there was more wind blowing.”
  • “Next week we are going to start making weather calendars. That’s gonna be fun.”

 

The Having of Wonderful Ideas In Action (Part 1)

“Real learning, attentive, real learning, deep learning, is playful and frustrating and joyful and discouraging and exciting and sociable and private all the time, which is what makes it great.”

Eleanor Duckworth, “The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Essays on Teaching and Learning”

Dr. Eleanor Duckworth at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is my most important mentor for my work in STEAM education with young children. Last week I was re-reading her book and thinking about our Young Steam Inventors.  As it happened, I realized that Friday October 11 was the UN International Day of the Girl Child. The 2019 theme for the day this year was “GirlForce:  Unscripted and Unstoppable.” At the same time, several related articles came across my email feed that caught my attention, such as this one from Forbes magazine about several travel companies that are actively promoting programs and activities to inspire girls to be the next generation of leaders in the travel industry; United Airlines promoting Girls in Aviation Day, and this one about an all-female airline crew that flew 120 girls to NASA to get them excited about careers in aviation.

I was inspired by these articles and others about programs that are encouraging girls to step into the shoes of scientists, inventors, designers, naturalists, builders, and readers. My own mind was full of these ideas last week while I observed the children researching, designing, and building.  What I was able to observe that day led to further thoughts, and I realized that I was watching the having of wonderful ideas in action.  As Eleanor Duckworth says, providing young learners with the space, the environment, the encouragement and freedom to generate and test their own ideas is critical to their cognitive growth.  Balancing unstructured play time alongside the structured curriculum that is required allows young learners to be engaged in what I like to call work-play.

 

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Work-Play In Science

For the last three weeks, students have been imagining, wondering, and curious about what they are observing outdoors. One student said:

“The fall,’ or ‘the autumn,’ which is another way of saying fall because maybe you don’t like the word ‘fall’. That word means you fall and hurt yourself. Maybe the leaves are feeling that, too.”
They are creating, building designing, problem-solving, reflecting on their projects and sometimes making changes. One student said to me:

 

“I made this perfect the first time. It doesn’t need anything else. I want to make something else now and think about what my brain is thinking.”

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As I moved around the classroom, I began to observe one of our Young STEAM Inventors at work in the block area.  But as I watched, she shooed me away and said: “Ms. Alicia I have an idea. Come back later and see what I’m going to make.”

 

I did come back later and saw that she had built a complex block structure.  It was asymmetrical and at first glance looked off-balance, like it might fall at any time.  But before I said anything I realized that her building reminded me of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry’s buildings. Two famous examples are the Stata Center at MIT and the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi.

I realized that this five-year-old scientist was having her own wonderful design ideas and was able put them into action. In asking me to come back later she was letting me know that she needed the freedom and space to do this.  I praised her ideas that are very much like the ideas of this older international prize-winning architect.

 

K0/K1 and K2

In addition to providing the time and creative space for the young scientists to put their ideas in action, I also make sure that I am meeting the subject-area standards, being culturally proficient, and meeting and the language goals, especially for our students who are English Language Learners.

In the past week, the K0, K1 and K2 classes have been exploring the following questions:

  • What are the parts of goldfish?
  • What do goldfish need to live? What do we need to live?
  • How are goldfish and guppies different? How are they the same?
  • How can you design and build a shelter for these animals?

Next week, we will turn our attention to birds in our school yard. Our guiding question will be, “What birds visit our schoolyard?” This exploration has three sessions that will take us outside,  and we will use our five senses to observe, to draw and record in our science notebooks, and read stories about birds. I’ll present an engineering challenge for them using natural materials.

Grade 1

Our Grade 1 scientists are exploring Air and Weather.  They have been going outdoors to explore wind and weather over the last few weeks. Our guiding question has been, “What can air do?” We have explored parachutes, propellers, small and large parachutes, and airplanes.

We’ve started talking and noticing the weather and read stories about the fall/autumn season. Next week, we will explore airplanes and create a weather calendar.

 

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September Open House at the East Boston EEC

It was wonderful to meet parents last week at the Open House. I smiled at the wonderful stories you’ve shared about your children wanting to be scientists and inventors, how science is carrying over into your homes and how your Young STEAM Inventors can’t wait to come to class in the Science Makerspace! I feel very inspired.

HERO Elementary

I’m very excited that PBS has officially announced that their new animated series Hero Elementary will launch in the summer of 2020.  I am teamed with PSB Kids and along with Ms. Maria in the K0-K1 classroom will be piloting Hero Elementary science curriculum interactive digital activities.  Stay tuned here for more updates about this exciting project!

~Ms. Alicia

 

More Start of School with Making and Pourquoi Stories

The Science Makerspace at the East Boston Early Childhood Center is buzzing with lively activity from our Young STEAM Inventors!

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Cultural Explorations of “Why” and “How” Things Came to Be

During our study of Animals 2×2 Foss Science Unit, I will introduce Native American author and illustrators Joseph Bruchac and his son James Bruchac. Their children’s books share share Native American folktales known as “Pourquoi  (pour kwah) Tales.” Students will learn the characteristics of a pourquoi tale, or why, tales, a type of folktale that usually explains something in nature and is found in most world cultures. We will explore puppetry with animals from these stories and connect to our outdoor “Forest School” learning space.

Articles and Resources I Have Recently Explored

diversityinchildrensbooks2018_f_8.5x11

Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

 

Welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year

 

Dear Families:

Summer has ended, and we have just begun the 2019-20 school year at the East Boston Early Education Center! I invite you to take a look at several snapshots of our first week in school and in the Science Makerspace:

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K2

Our kindergarten Young STEAM Inventors will begin with “Animals 2×2”. This unit provides students with close and personal interaction with some common land and water animals. Students study the phenomena by observing and describing the structures of fish, birds, snails, earthworms, and isopods. They also learn about the animals’ survival needs. The driving questions for Animals 2×2 are:

  • How are animal structures similar and different?
  • What do animals need to live and grow?

In “Materials and Motion,” students will investigate the how objects are made of materials—wood, paper, and fabric—and how the different properties of these materials determine how we use them. Students will engineer structures and apply physical science ideas. Here are the driving questions:

  • What is made of wood, paper, and fabric?
  • How are the properties of those materials useful to us?

Grade 1

For eight weeks, we will be doing lessons from the new combined curriculum with Foss and Focus on First. With this curriculum, your student’s science education will also be supported in the classroom. I will start with “Air and Weather”, then move into “Plants and Animals”, and will finish the school year with “Sound & Light”. Here are the driving questions for Unit 1 on Air and Weather:

  • Week 1:  What does a scientist look like?
  • Week 2:  What is a meteorologist? Why are they important to the community?
  • Week 3:  What are some of the tools that a meteorologist uses?
  • Week 4:  Measuring Temperature
  • Week 5:  What can clouds tell us about the weather?
  • Week 6:  Wind Speed
  • Week 7:  What happens when there is a storm?
  • Week 8:  How do we describe weather over a month? How does the temperature and weather change over time?

Forest Schools Learning

Over the summer, I was able to research “Forest Schools” and the work the Forest Schools Association does around the world to promote outdoor learning.

A Forest School is defined by the Forest School Association as “an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.” You can read more about using the power of nature to increase student success in a blog article I read on the Community Playthings site. Community Playthings is a company that designs and creates furniture for child playtime and exploration.

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My goal is to work with the Parent Council and students to create a space for that learning at our school. Our school had a setting that sits on Gove Street (inside the black iron fence). There, we can begin thinking about how we can develop a “forest school” for all learners. I will write more about this project and on working with the Parent School Site Council project as the year unfolds.

 

Best wishes to a thrilling school year!

  ~ Alicia Carroll

Farewell To The 2018-2019 School Year

Families, Friends, and Fellow Educators:

The school year has ended for Boston Public Schools! I have done some packing up and cleaning out in the Science Makerspace, and will now make sure I rest, reflect, and get ready for this upcoming school year in the next few months.

That being said, now is the time for your Young STEAM Inventor to continue being immersed in engaging and authentic learning experiences. This does not have to happen in a summer camp classroom. There are many ways to provide these experiences for your student:

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  • Explore the resources on this website. My Resources page links to several apps that are great for young children to practice important skills, such as literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving. You can download the website one-pager for my top picks on educational websites and products for STEAM, such as LEGO Steam Park.

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Of course, there are many more ways that I did not list here. Still, I hope that you are able to seek out these particular resources for your student and can share their experiences with me!

 

All the best,

Alicia