Friday, 16 September 2016

Agriculture in the Classroom

Manitoba Cooperator

Over the years I've had several children's books and many blog posts published as well as editorials in our school newsletter, the Brennan Bulletin.  This week I can add another feather to my writer's hat.  I had my first article published in the Manitoba Cooperator, a weekly agriculture based newspaper.  I can now rub shoulders with other Hutterite writers such as Fairholme teacher, Dora Maendel, her sister, the late Selma Maendel and my sister, Linda Maendel, for all three of these ladies have had numerous articles published in the Cooperator. 

Agriculture in the Classroom

Click on the link below and scroll down to page 40 to read my article on Brennan School's experience with Agriculture in the Classroom.

Made in Manitoba Breakfast
Making Butter - "It's finger licking good!"

Checking Canola Seed for Ripeness

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Bringing Butterflies Back to School


In the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to attend a fabulous three-day PD session on bringing Monarch butterflies into the classroom.  Since then, every September we've brought in at least one Monarch caterpillar and observed its metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly with the accompaniment of excited squeals from our students.  One summer they were so plentiful, my family actually raised over fifty of these royal butterflies.  Sadly this year was different. 
My sisters and I as well as our middle grades teacher Robert went out on numerous occasions to hunt for caterpillars, to no avail.  Ironically, the only thing I brought home was a poison ivy rash!
Not to be daunted, I contacted one of the presenters from the PD session, she forwarded my email to other teachers and one of them informed me that she also couldn’t find any Monarch caterpillars, that a substitute was available though.   


She said that swallowtail caterpillars are easily found on dill, carrots, parsley and fennel.  Before I had an opportunity to pay a visit to our community vegetable garden, our ladies were working with parsley – packaging it up to freeze for the winter.  My nephew Jakobi who had been at the cannery at the time, proudly came home carefully carrying a sprig of parsley. “Elma, do you want this caterpillar?” Did I ever?
A second one came to me similarly when my sister Shirley was working in her herb garden where she also raises dill.  Since then I’ve hunted through our vegetable garden several times, wading through the carrot, parsley and dill patches, but haven’t found any more.  The pair of caterpillars feasted on dill and parsley greens for several weeks before slipping into their chrysalises just days before school started!  I’ve brought them to school for the students to observe, as it’s the first time any of us have seen this bumpy, brown shell-like case.  The down side of having swallowtails as opposed to Monarchs is that we’ll have to wait until spring to watch them emerge.  Undoubtedly, we’ll have to learn the virtue of patience from them throughout our long cold Manitoba winter as they, diapause (an insect’s version of hibernation) in our garden shed.
Since we don’t have live Monarchs, my back-to-school activity this year was one I gleaned from that Monarch PD session.  All our students, since coming back to school have emerged into marvelous Monarchs. 

Back-to-School Activity

Each student wrote a sentence on what they are “a-flutter” (excited or nervous) about regarding coming back to school.   

I’ve read them several books from my butterfly collection as each class in our school came to my room to complete their butterfly creation.  My personal favourite thus far is “A Butterfly is Patient” by Dianna Hutts Aston, a book I’ve had in my classroom library for quite a while, but hadn’t taken the time to read before.  The information coupled by its charming illustration held captive the attention of all my listeners.  What I especially

appreciated was that the inside of the front cover displayed dozens of caterpillar species along with their names.  By the time we’d read our way through to the inside of the back cover, they had all emerged into beautiful butterflies that were also labeled!  In fact, just looking at all the illustrations in this book and reading the labels gives readers much information on the appearance of both pupa and adult stages of dozens of different butterflies!
My hope is that like butterflies sipping on sweet nectar, so too will our students enjoy studying science, social studies and all the other subject and skills in all stages or grades to grow and emerge into knowledgeable adults.

Where have they gone?

Throughout the summer there didn’t seem to be a shortage of Monarch butterflies around our flower gardens, which left us baffled as to why we couldn’t find their eggs or caterpillars.  As well, milkweed was in abundance and I don’t think there’s a patch around our colony from the railroad tracks to the south of us to the Assiniboine River to the north that wasn’t inspected by eager caterpillar detectives. 
Was anyone able to bring any caterpillars in this summer?  Do you grow any specific flowers to attract them? If so, I’d love to hear from you. 

Friday, 2 September 2016

Canadian Postcard Exchange project


Social Studies Grade 1, Cluster2

Learning About My Province and Country

My class received postcards  from across Canada almost every week throughout the past school year and learned so much about our fabulous country!



I registered my class for the Canadian Postcard Exchange project in August at: Pro Teacher.  The organizer, Betty Welch, a teacher from Sylvan Lake, Alberta organizes the entire project and works hard to ensure that at least one school from each province and territory isinvolved.  She sent a schedule for when each class was to send their postcards. I prepared a bulletin board with a Canada map in the centre and an outline of a bar graph with provinces and territories as categories.  I also created a black line master for recording interesting facts about each community that sends us a postcard.  These were placed in a binder.


     I asked students if they have ever seen/received a postcard and showed them samples of postcards.  We brainstormed for ideas to write about to tell people about facts and special things about our school and community.  Next, we decided on a picture idea and created a postcard using Microsoft Publisher.  Once our postcards were completed, we took a mini-fieldtrip to the tiny post office in Newton to mail them.

Postcard Lesson

As the postcards arrived: I read them to my class and had students relate several interesting facts from the postcard; recorded them to BLM.  I also had them note the symbol on the postage stamp.  We used Google maps (on our SMARTboard) to look up the communities they come from and graphed what province or territory the postcards are from.  Students located the community on the BB Canada map and stapled postcard to BB and drew lines from the postcard to the location on the map.  After the first few weeks of reading postcards as soon as they arrived, we designated Friday as Postcard reading day. 

At the end of the year, we took down the postcards.  I suggest allowing time for students to enjoy and reminisce.  We created a concrete postcard graph on our Learning Carpet and checked if the data on this graph matched that of the bar graph.  In addition, we compiled a scrapbook which includes all the postcards in the interesting facts BLMs.  This proved to be rather time-consuming, so I suggest numbering the postcards as you post them on the BB which would make the year-end scrapbook project easier.  

I encourage all primary classrooms to sign up for a great year of learning about Canada one postcard at a time!  Just click on the link above to register your class.



Dandelion Wishes

One of the last ELA / Art activities I had my students do in spring was create watercolour sunsets with silhouettes.  I borrowed the idea from That Artist Woman, but put my own twist to it.

 Dandelion Summer Wishes Poem
To compose the wishes poem, we brainstormed for several subheadings for things we might like to do during the summer holidays including: trips, fun activities, work projects, etc.  The students listed several ideas for each topic.  Next, they selected one "wish" in each topic that they most wanted to come true.  They typed those in a table in Word along with a title and their name to complete the poem.  After printing it out and cutting it into strips, they arranged their strips on their watercolour sunsets and silhouettes to make it look like their wishes are floating away with the dandelion seeds.

We kept their project up on one of our bulletin boards, so that once school starts we cab reread them to see which of their dandelion wishes came true.

Since we'll be starting a new school year next week, students might have back-to-school wishes they'd like to write about.
Perhaps you have ELA / Art ideas that you'd like to share.  I'd love hear about them.