Students were engaged in a lot of truly fascinating and exciting activities this week. FIrst grade saw the culmination of their PBL lantern project and were able to present their work to classmates and teachers from the school. The resulting project was so beautiful! Visitors and students alike were mesmerized by the lantern's beauty and first graders did a wonderful job speaking in front of a diverse audience.
First graders were also able to participate in a PBL project that they were already familiar with. Kindergarten has a yearly project where they learn about the Iditarod and create their own sleds, racing them throughout the school and stopping in other student's classrooms as checkpoints. This year first graders got to be the 2nd checkpoint and they were so excited to have this new role as the "big" kids in the race. Everyone gathered at the end of the "race" the celebrate the end of this project and the kindergarteners hard work.
Our week ended with an absolutely amazing space party. Community and business members contributed to an event that was incredibly engaging, hands-on, and intensely educational for our students. First graders engaged with the Civil Air Patrol using flight simulators, learned about how oil and water are separated from ConocoPhillips, investigated fingerprints with the Crime Lab, learned about glacier formation, as physics from UAA - just to name a few of the amazing experiences in which students were engaged. First graders, along with the rest of PNA, were immersed in week of truly hands-on learning and embracing the spirit and advantages of an independent education!
On top of our math fun, students also prepared their invitations to our lantern exhibit. Our current PBL project about lanterns has been a fun and beautiful way for students to learn about light waves. During student-led conferences yesterday, it was so rewarding to hear students talk to their parents about different materials and know how light does or doesn't travel through particular objects. Over the past few weeks, we have moved through the stages of our PBL project and we are currently at the point of distributing invitations in order to share our project with the larger community. Although I am excited for first grade to share their hard work with the school, I am also excited for the critique phase and to hear about what students thought worked or didn't work and how they could have improved their design or execution of the project. Sometimes PBL is messy, sometimes we try projects that don't work, sometimes our PBL is gold standard and other times it's not; however, what matters is that students learn from their mistakes, learn from the process, and continue to build up their confidence and feel the burn for inquiry!
Our week, full as it was, still had a bit of room to go to Grant Hall to see (and support) a fellow schoolmate in the Velveteen Rabbit on Thursday. Students have read the story in class and truly enjoyed the experience. What's even better is that students were able to engage with the cast in a question and answer session after the play. PNA students were confident and ready with all sorts of questions! Thursday was an art-filled day as we returned from the Velveteen Rabbit and began working on our class auction project. Students hammered and strung thread to begin what will become a beautiful piece of authentic art in someone's home! I am so excited to see the final product as our class continues this project over the next few weeks.
As you can see, our week is bursting with all sorts of activities, filled with math, theater, art, science, and PBL. One moment it is Monday morning and it seems as though I blink and the week is over due to all the fun activities going on at PNA. The best refrain a teacher can hear is her students lamenting the fact that it's the weekend and we don't have school for two whole days!
Of all weeks, this week is the week to talk about love, friendship, and kindness towards others. Students have been talking about Valentine's Day for the past five days non-stop and anticipating all the pink, red, hearts, candy, and exchange of trinkets and cards. We have read and listened to stories about Valentine's Day, about friendship, and one of my favorites, a book called A Little Bit of Love that is about a mouse who teaches her child about how very simple acts can be done with love. Acts such as holding the door for a friend, helping a teacher clean up, sharing and offering kind words to others - these are all ways we can teach our children to do simple acts with a little bit of love. Of course, first graders laugh and scrunch their noses at any mention of love regarding Valentine's Day but it's a wonderful holiday to come along after learning about Dr. MLK, kindness, and servitude. It allows us to continue the conversation about how we treat others and how simple acts can make a HUGE difference! As Dr. MLK said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." This week, we practiced being kind and using encouraging words as we worked on engineering challenges, solving number line problems, word sorts, reading in our book bins, and listening attentively while others shared in morning meeting.
I also witnessed a lot of love during our parent snack on Thursday. Students were counting down the hours until parent's showed up and I even had another teacher say, "I've never seen students so excited for a parent snack!" Despite being Valentine's Day themed, family support and love was the most obvious theme during the activities. To see the interaction between parents and students revealed how even simple acts such as designing a Valentine's Day bag or solving math problems and riddles can be filled with love.
We worked through our math unit assessment Friday morning and students had to effectively count backward by 10 from different numbers, some starting at 100, others 88, and so on. They also had to solve multi-step equations using a number line and use their estimating skills to solve word problems. I also worked with another student who has been struggling with certain aspects of reading. However, after working with this student a light bulb went off and he exclaimed, "Oh! Now I get it! That makes sense!" and he began firing off word after word now knowing how to break the code. It is moments of success like these that make my heart feel full of love as a teacher. I adore these kids and love watching them grow and learn!
We celebrated the 100th day of school on Friday and students had so much fun! We began our day by breaking into pairs and focusing on a design challenge. Students worked with 100 pieces of a particular object to build a hollow core tower that could hold a piece of paper with a plastic bear on top. Students had different methods counting to 100; some counted by 5s, others by 10s - skills we have been working on throughout the year. They also displayed teamwork, listening and communication skills, and patience. Students had so much fun and to see how far they have grown in their teamwork abilities since the beginning of the year was a very proud moment for me as their teacher.
An aspect of PNA that stands out is how much interaction there is between different ages and grades. Students in PK become familiar with students in 5th grade because of fun and engaging experiences such as our 100th day celebration. As students gathered in the gym, they mixed and mingled and Pre-K through 5th grade were playing and learning side-by-side. It was so joyful and exciting to see students from all grade levels not only helping each other but having fun and learning together! Students displayed respect to one another, self-confidence, and had a lot of fun engaging in the 100th day celebration in the gym - isn't that what we want for our kids educational experience!?
Something I truly have come to appreciate and cherish about PNA is that I get to interact with students from all grade levels on a daily basis. As we move into February, the end of the school year is rapidly coming upon us; however, I am also looking back over the past 100 days of school and thinking that they went by so quickly, how much students have grown and matured, and how much fun I have seen these kids have over the past months. Celebrating the 100th day of school with all grade levels was just a reminder that PNA is indeed a special community and a unique place of learning!
Ms. Tuomi has over five years experience in ASD, where she taught first and fifth grade classrooms. An avid skier, Ms. Tuomi is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Alaska Pacific University’s Bachelor of Arts in K-8 Education.