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Black History Month

There are so many great picture books to read with kids for Black History Month, but this year try this true story:

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Viola Desmond was arrested in 1946 in Halifax for sitting on the main floor rather than the balcony in a theatre. Because she was a non-white patron, theatre employees insisted Desmond sit in the balcony. She refused and was taken away by the police. Viola Desmond’s face will now be printed on Canada’s ten dollar bill.  An essential library book.

 

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The Two Sisters

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The Two Sisters, a tale from the Squamish Nation, that explains the existence of two iconic peaks on the north shore of Vancouver. If you live in the lower mainland, you probably know these peaks as The Lions. This beautifully illustrated book is loved by teachers and students. Never in the library and always in use, I hope to purchase another two copies. As one grade 4 student told me, “I can see them from my front window!”

An essential library book. Great for launching writing and art projects.

Discovery Table


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When you walk in the doors of Strathcona School Library, one of the first things you see is the new Discovery Table. Here students can investigate and explore natural objects with their hands, eyes, and noses. They can use the magnifying glasses and read bits of related books I’ve left there. The Discovery Table is inspired by our wonderful Kindergarten teacher and winner of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellency, Colleen Sturrock’s classroom. Full of wonderful natural objects, beautifully displayed and arranged to invite children to explore, play, learn and tell stories, Mrs. Sturrock’s classroom is engaging and inspiring place. Tucked to one side of the classroom, is a sand table. Its not just any sand table, though, this one also contains fascinating natural objects such as fresh water drift wood form Pitt Lake, shells, rocks, and pine cones. When I saw this sand table, my heart leapt, and my imagination  soared.

How could I incorporate this into my school library without creating a giant headache for myself? Borrowing some shells, pine cones, and pieces of wood from Mrs. Sturrock, I arranged these objects on a low, natural wood table my mom gave me. A few books and a couple of magnifying glasses completed the table. I was surprised by how interested the children were. Gathering around in small groups of two to five, they explored the objects, picking them up, peering closely, and smelling them. they compare information in the books with the objects on the table.

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As interested waned, I replaced the natural objects with some simple puzzles and building materials. Kids were thrilled. Changing the materials every so often seems to work well. My colleague Annie gave me some evergreen branches with needles and cones that she used for a writing and math provocation inspired by the Reggio method (see book below). I am inspired by the provocations Annie and Colleen use that invite and inspire children to inquire and express.

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What’s next? I plan to read the book above, learn from my colleagues, and try Story Workshop with some intermediate students. I am grateful to work with such amazing colleagues.

E-Textiles

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Here’s my first project using conductive thread. Using the Sew Electric kit, I made a bookmark out of crafting felt, sewing a battery inside that lights up an led. Instructions for this project and others are available on the Sew Electric website. For this particular project, you don’t actually need the kit. You could just head to your nearest electronics store for a few bits. Lee’s Electronics in Vancouver is my favourite. The staff at Lee’s helped me order my Makey Makey kits and pull together enough very basic supplies to do a little project with coin batteries and mini LEDs. The staff were not only patient with my lack of understanding, but they were excited to hear teachers wanted to experiment with circuits in classrooms.

 

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The Sew Electric Kit has very fun projects, including ones where you use a Lilypad arduino board that you need to program, and comes with all the supplies you need for the circuitry.

 

 

Diversity

A couple of lovely read alouds.

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Tech Club

The Tech Club meets each Thursday at lunch in the library to play, learn, and explore technology in various forms. Annie Simard, grade 4/5 French Immersion teacher and previous Tech Mentor, and I have talked about Tech Club for awhile and finally launched it this year. Tech Club is a great way to engage keen and curious students with hands-on, experiential learning. The kids love to play and so do we!

But in a school so big and diverse, where did we start? We decided to invite teachers with students grade 4 and up to submit the names of two kids who would be interested in playing with technology one lunch hour a week. We mentioned that the club was a good opportunity for many learners, not just the ones who excelled at everything. So we called our first meeting and started off easy – with coding.

Many classes having just completed Hour of Code the week before, we keen to try their skills again using this fantastic site. Free, easy to use, and usable on iPads, Hour of Code offers video game style coding activities based on pop culture, such as Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen.


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From there we jumped to Scratch Jr., the lite app version of Scratch, a free drag-and-drop coding platform from MIT.

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And from there we started to play with Annie’s Ozobots, super fun little robots that ‘read’ colour combinations and perform various actions.
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Last week we pulled out the Makey Makeys and started experimenting. Makey Makeys are these great little circuit boards that you plug in the the USB port of a computer. Using alligator clips, you can then make all kinds of things into keyboard functions.

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Watch the video for inspiration:

Steve Jenkins

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Two more gorgeous books by author and illustrator, Steve Jenkins. Discover fascinating facts about animals with great infographics. Steve Jenkins never disappoints with his beautiful paper collage images and captivating lay outs. And great facts. Did you know that in a 24 hour period, elephants sleep 3.5 hours while squirrels sleep 15?

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All about the eyes of animals!