Saturday, January 18, 2014

 PA Farm Show

A week ago we were lucky to be able to venture off to the PA Farm Show. We left early in the morning and rode about two hours on a school bus. The children were very excited and could not wait to enter the large building when we arrived. This week some of the children chose to write about the animals they saw and were given the opportunity to touch. Living in poverty, in the city, farm animals are just characters in books. Here they came alive!
The children were amazed at all the different cows, but most of all by their huge size. At first many of the children thought the cows were moose.

Well it seemed like everything was huge - even the farm equipment!
Maple syrup is gathered in PA. This stand taught the children a bit about the process and helped them create a craft to remember their day.
There were speakers. This guy was talking about turtles. Shaver's Creek also had snakes to view.
Snakes have something on their stomach that makes them slither on the ground. Some snakes have poison teeth.

We had fun searching for the queen bee and we each took home a sample of PA honey - yum!
Who would ever have imagined there are so many different kinds of ducks, geese, turkeys, and chickens. They sure were noisy.
So soft!
Rabbits they have red eyes and they have fur and he was sad and he was lonely. I like rabbits and brown rabbits and he was nice he didn't bite. I like rabbits were nice all the time.

For some petting the cow was the highlight of their day. This kind girl was very patient while each child visited with her cow.
I see the cow because we get to touch the cow.

For others - the horse was more interesting. This kind farmer brought her horse out of the stall and spent some time with the children.
I saw a horse. They smelled us. We saw horses and we saw a lot of animals.
I saw a horse and he was kind of soft and was kind of lovely and he was kind of white and his nose was black.

On our long bus ride back to school we enjoyed a snack of PA chocolate ice cream. The children enjoyed playing with the animal pencil toppers they were given at the show.
Well you'd have thought that after an early start to the day, and all the excitement at the show some of the children would have laid down and relaxed on the bus like this dear sheep. That was not the case. They talked the entire trip home about all they saw.
This was an amazing trip made possible by Just Born Candies. We look forward to visiting again next year.

The first grade team - three classes - has decided to develop a farm week for our students at the end of the year. Our brainstorming sessions are coming up with so many wonderful ideas, hopefully we can fit them all in. I know the week will begin with a large farm breakfast for all!
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Friday, January 3, 2014

 Lessons Learned

Rather then making resolutions I thought I'd reflect on what I have learned in 2013.
Hopefully I am a bit wiser, I know I'm older.
1 ~ Dream Big Dreams, Make Specific Plans, but be Prepared to Take Baby Steps. This has been the biggest lesson I learned this year. I had/have a vision for a very specific curriculum. I wrote my plan, got it approved, and then began preparing, preparing, preparing. I thought all would be up and running the first day of school. Well it wasn't and this frustrated me to no end. It is coming together, we are learning so much about animals and their habitats, but every day I make notes of how to improve for next year. Lesson learned: Realize the first year is a learning and growing year.
2 ~ Search out funding sources and grants. They are there, but you have to search. Local businesses like to help their local schools! Look locally. Don't expect to receive everything you need right away. Funding takes time to make it to the district, then the principal needs to approve each purchase order, then it gets sent to the district, and finally to the company. I just today received a box of nonfiction books that would have been really helpful in September. Lesson learned: Supplies take time.
3 ~ Local nonprofit organizations and government agencies are just waiting for you to ask. Seek out partnerships, guest speakers and printed material. Lesson learned: Others want to be involved - ask!
4 ~ Taking  field trips with first graders during the first weeks of school is tricky business. Would I do it again - yes, BUT I would take extra help along. Some surprising behaviors may pop up, and extra hands sure would have been great. Our two September field trips to the forest set the stage for our animal/habitat curriculum. They were wonderful learning experiences that the children talk about often. For both trips the adults from the places we were visiting came to our classroom the day before the trip. This proved to be a very wise move. They talked about what the children would see and do, and what the guidelines were for their behaviors. Lesson learned: take extra help on early trips.
5 ~ Don't make plans based on last years' students. Every group is different, what works for one group may not work for the next. I was all set to begin Daily 5 and CAFE the first week of school. I had read the books, read every blog post I could find, made the posters ... but this group was not ready in September. I tried and tried, followed the books, no success. I had to do what was best for this group. We are doing a modified version of Daily 5 now and it is going quite smoothly. Lesson learned: do what is best for the students you currently have.
6 ~ Watch your immune system especially if you are training for a long distance event. My husband and I enjoyed a fabulous year of running. All summer my husband trained for a marathon, he did every work out, didn't get injured and was set to PR. Two weeks prior to the marathon he was feeling a bit extra tired, but attributed this to all his training. Less than one week before the marathon he was SICK. Fever on marathon day - no running. Six weeks out of work and still tired. Doctor said it could be six months before he returns to normal. Lesson learned: sickness can stop you in your tracks.
7 ~ Parents get old. I've never before thought of my parents as old until this Fall. My Dad spent a month in the hospital. It got quite dicey a few times, but he is finally home and on his way to recovery. This illness took a big toll on both of my parents.
8 ~ Grandchildren are the gifts you receive for letting your own children leave the nest!   
... The great horned owl pictured above visited our classroom. He was huge - a six foot wing span! The children got to see him turn his head, and a close up look at talons. Its amazing how live animals can make learning come alive.
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