The coho salmon eggs have hatched and the alevin are alert and healthy. The children had an opportunity to peak into the aquarium this week to see them.

Big Idea
Learning about ourselves and others helps us to develop a positive attitude and caring behaviors which helps us build healthy relationships.

Your children have been having lots of conversations about caring relationships with their families and their school friends. We have read many books like Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox and The Six Cedar Trees and How Raven Stole the Sun to inspire deeper thinking and cultivate knowledge building conversations. I have also added some First Nation plush animals into their play so that they can use some of the language and learning during exploration.

We have been continuing our learning about the spirit alliance First Nation animals; wolf, salmon, bear and raven and their inspiring traits. This past week the children set a learning goal for writing using the animal traits as inspiration (in kid language) be kind, be creative, work hard, be a good communicator, work together, listen with our minds and body... Next week the children will continue with setting a learning goal and be introduced to reflecting orally on their goal later in the day.

Big Idea
People create art to express who they are as individuals and community.

The children were introduced to a variety of new materials in the art studio this term. They have been exploring sharpie markers with different tips, paint, water colour, chalk pastels, pencil crayons, shaving cream, as well as paper, tape and string (very impressive pieces). Last week they combined chalk pastels and water colour on beautiful water colour paper squares to illustrate the coho salmon eggs. We will be spending time this week on 2D chalk pastel art modelled after Wesly Kandinsky and then, after spring break, use that understanding to create a collaborative sculptural interpretation of Kandisky using coloured paper.

Please begin to collect recycled parts for our spring endeavor 3D sculptures which I would like to add to the art studio. I already have some clay for the base. Some suggestions would be:
large beads
large buttons
wood offcuts
squares of cardboard
stiff tubes
small Styrofoam blocks
pipe cleaners

I will set up a box for the collection in the classroom.



Nature Kindergarten by its very nature is exposed to the elements. Parents should expect that their children will be outdoors in all forms of weather as a core part of the program. Therefore, please ensure that your child is suitably dressed for all types of weather. 

Because this is a locally developed program the school district does not provide additional staff to support the program. Parents choosing to be a parent supervisor often sign up for a month of days i.e. Tuesday mornings using a shared google document. We prefer two parents supervisors to be offsite.

Every child must bring:
  • a hiking backpack which fits your child comfortably and should be water resistant. We often hike for more than one hour on our Neck Point days. MEC has a range of children's backpacks and we also have loaner packs for a short term loan or the entire school year.
Inside the backpack please pack:
  • small, non-breakable water bottle
  • snack and lunch in lightweight containers (the children often eat quite a bit so please pack a robust snack and lunch)
  • water proof mittens and wool hat
Wearing the right clothes is essential for your child to have a good experience:

Cold/Wet days (fall winter spring):
  • warm base layer top and bottom
  • warm sweater and pants
  • touque
  • waterproof mittens
  • wool or synthetic socks
  • rain jacket and pants
  • waterproof boots -Boggs and Kamiks are great
Warm and Dry days:
*please apply sunscreen at home
  • light weight long sleeved shirt and jacket
  • long pants
  • long socks
  • sunhat
  • closed toed, sturdy shoes
Thank you,

We returned to the forest today after a long break due to the wet and cold weather. It was such a joyful morning, cold but sunny.

We began in the meadow with a conversation circle followed by stories about raven, bear, whale and salmon. I told the story of Mary's Sweater and then we played two games. Playing circle games is so much fun, lots of laughter and great movement at the same time. Both of the games were new this week.

The first game , Grizzly Bear Is Sleeping includes a lovely song as well as a chasing game. 
here is a youtube video Soooo much fun.

Then we moved to a wide area game

The second game is from
Where Is My Family? I chose four animals and we decided upon a sound for each animals  i.e. grrr. Then I whispered to each student the name of his/her animal. The children moved around making their animal noise and found other students who were the same animal.
Here are a few other games that lend themselves to forest play:

Freeze tag- this game is often played indoors but is so much more fun in our meadow. The taggers tag a friend who stands arms stretched wide waiting for another friend to unfreeze them. After a few minutes I like to blow the whistle and have the children change roles.

Squirrels in the tree - this class favourite was learned from Margie Radigan, the other K teacher at our school. We have a fox, a loose squirrel and trees (2 children make a tree by holding hands).  Each tree has a squirrel in it. The fox chases the squirrel who runs to the nearest tree and switches places with the resident squirrel. The chase resumes and if tagged the squirrel becomes a fox and the fox becomes a squirrel.  After a few minutes I like to blow the whistle and have one child who is part of the tree to change places with a squirrel and then again a few minutes later so that everyone gets opportunities to run.

Prey and Predator  (project wild game) we usually play this camouflage game along the path in the forest. The prey is at one end of the path and the group of predators are at the opposite end (about 200 feet). The prey stands with his/her back to the predators and begins to count slowly to ten. About number 5 the predators begin to hide and camouflage themselves along the path. When the prey reaches 10 he/she turns and calls out names of any spotted children. Those children return to the beginning of the path and the count begins again. The first child to reach the prey slaps their hand and the game is either over or a new game begins.

Life Cycle Game - we learned this game from NS3 a local not for profit science organization. We have cards for each part of the life cycle and each child is given one card. They move and begin to look for someone with the next step in the life cycle and do a card exchange. This is a very busy and fun game especially if you have more than one animal!!!! As we have salmon eggs at school we played the Salmon life cycle game this week. Later during debrief you can have them sit with a partner and discuss the life cycle and then later in the day extend either through an art response or sketching the life cycle.

Bird Game - I learned this game a science workshop. We spread out half a pipe cleaner (warm colours) and then sort the children into four groups of local birds. Then we send them out to hunt for food for their families, bringing back "one worm" at a time. Lots of wings and chirping happens during their fun game. Afterwards sort the worms on a small tarp and have them discuss camouflage and how long it took to bring one worm back at a time. This game almost always leads to the children wanting to make bird feeders and sometimes a bird inquiry about local birds.

All of these games were active and lots of fun.

a lovely example of students generously offering support to a peer 
by quietly gathering nature's loose parts so that she could focus on 
design and construction of her mandala during our fall free 
exploration at Neck Point 

Last year Kindergarten students in my class worked on a project for months! As they deepened their understanding they learned so much about themselves and each other. I wanted to share this powerful project because as I moved with them through the months I witnessed a profound change and growth of understanding and kindness.

Reggio Inspired Practice: The Kindness Project

During the past few years I have worked to transform my full-day Kindergarten learning environment to reflect a more authentic experience for students. I wanted to move away from expecting children to be ready for school, towards the concept that schools should be ready for children.  I wondered if an increased understanding of younger children ages 3 to 4 would help me better prepare for the broad range of children entering kindergarten.

I began with visiting local preschools and getting to know their programs, teachers, children and families. I noticed the emphasis on storytelling, observation and documentation of children’s conversations. The slower pace and respect shown towards these younger learners by the adults was powerful to observe. Juxtaposed with this I began to read more broadly about early learners and attend early learning workshops on the island. One of the best learning experiences has been the walk and talk conversations with my early learning peers and the gift of time with a Reggio inspired preschool teacher.

During my learning journey, I made subtle changes to both my Kindergarten program and learning environment. I removed some closed play activities and offered more opportunities to play with loose parts. Daily schedule changes involved moving to a daily flow with expanding blocks of time for exploration, student led literacy blocks and a greater emphasis on process over product across the curriculum. I  increased the outdoor learning component of my program in order to grow student relationships and self-regulation.

Immediately I noticed two things; that there was an increase of physical space in the classroom and secondly that I had much more time to observe and interact with the children.

I began to be more aware of the conversations occuring amongst my students. One morning I overhead a child talking about another child using the term “bully”. I wondered what that word meant to the child and if other children were using that language? Did they understand it? This really intrigued me and I decided to discuss this with the children.

Discussion with the children: What does it mean to be a bully?
Immediately the children were interested and had a lot to say. I sat down with children in small groups and asked

Me: “What does it mean to be a bully?”

S: (a five year old girl) “being mean”

S: (a six year old boy) “not sharing”

Me: “tell me more”

S: (a five year old girl) “hitting”

S. (a five old boy) “saying no you can’t play but not everyone is a bully, sometimes you can be kind”

Me: “Interesting, so then what does it mean to be kind?”

S: (a five year old boy) “looking after someone like if they fall and have a hurt you can get some ice”

S: (a six year old boy) “saying thank you”

S: (a five year old boy) “yes, saying please too”

S: (a five year old girl) “like holding hands or giving a friend a hug”

Me: Yes, helping, tell me more

S: (a six year old boy) “like sharing your toys and building the marble ramp together, giving a marble to everyone”
This was followed immediately with a chorus of children telling me all the different ways that they share.

Listening to the children talk about their views made me think that they equated meanness with hitting, not sharing and exclusion while they equated kindness with being helpful and sharing. I also wondered if they noticed that they themselves were sometimes “mean” according to their own definitions.

This conversation made me think that perhaps there was an opportunity to focus on positive thinking and explore kindness with the students.

In my mind kindness was a much more complicated concept than giving and sharing and I wondered how I could expand their thinking? I decided to reflect on my role as their primary teacher, being intentional about expectations, modelling and language along with observations of the children’s daily activities and how they interact with each other. Stepping back to observe continued to be the most powerful tool for learning about the children’s interactions with each other.

In Reggio Emilia, teachers frequently consider a child’s question and then relaunch it. I decided to try this approach.

Re-launching the question: What does kindness look like in our lives?
I revisited our question with the whole class using structured talk, Think Pair Share, a familiar framework. Our question became five questions and the children wondered why the same person was mean sometimes and kind at other times. They wondered if animals were kind and could we change a mean feeling into a kind feeling

Classroom Environment: what changes could be made to encourage kindness based on my discussions with children and anecdotal notes?
I began by introducing Vivian Paley’s Everyone is Welcome during one of our conversations. The children weren’t sure they wanted to do it I suspect because they liked controlling their play partners, but I convinced them that we should try it as we were learning about kindness. We compromised and chose to try it during our morning exploration time. We were already doing it during any table work and carpet time as the y children did not have assigned seating.

Also since we spent four mornings a week outdoors the children felt that it was only fair to have “everyone is welcome” during our outdoor exploration time as well. During school recess they decided not to follow that rule (although they actually did follow the rule once it was embedded in the program). Following a bumpy start, most of the children began to accept everyone into their play with only an occasional child refusing.
It was interesting for all of us to learn that most often the refusal had nothing to do with exclusion but rather that their play skills and language needed some development.

It was also interesting that children perceived the refusal as being mean when it meant something quite different. Bridging these conversations became an important support that I was able to offer to help the children understand that it was more about language and play rather than being mean or unwanted. It’s not that I wasn’t already doing this (we all do) however the difference was that I was being explicit and it often emerged as a topic during our conversations about kindness.

I chose to use storytelling to help expand their understanding about kindness and their understandings of meanness. I regularly shared stories in which children solved their own social problems, highlighting differences, compromise and problem solving. A favourite book was This Is Our House by Michael Rosen, a gentle tale about kindness and acceptance. I stepped back and gave children time to solve their social problems, encouraging them to use peaceful solutions, compromise and language to express their feelings and explain their thinking.

Acts of Kindness
The children decided to track their kind acts by having a secret kindness detective who would report to me in private when they observed a student’s kindness. At the same time I eavesdropped and observed kind comments and acts.

We created a kindness tree and covered it with hearts, which included quotes from the children and adults in our community.  Sometimes we would pick some of the quotes to talk about and they would share their stories about what they observed and experienced. It was through these conversations, stories and examples that the word empathy emerged and children began to care about each other in a deeper way.

As their understanding of kindness developed they created a Kindness tree in the school foyer and covered it with hearts modelled after Jim Dine and wrote key words on the back. Later the children took their hearts home to share with their families. The school secretary wrote a beautiful letter to the children thanking them for making the foyer so beautiful and welcoming.

To nurture an understanding of empathy, I invited a parent with a newborn to visit us each month. Baby Ana’s monthly visits became a cherished day. We would count the days until her visit, discuss what questions we would ask and make predictions on what changes we might observe and hear about. In between visits the children loved to connect with Baby Ana when she came to drop off or pick up her son.

Eventually, the children wanted to share their learning outside of our classroom space with other kindergarten classes and the school in general. They baked surprise cookies and received a wonderful letter from the receiving students. They crafted beautiful hearts for the custodians and spontaneously decorated the school hallways with beautiful drawings. Eventually the children moved to the building exterior to draw a kindness wall using sidewalk chalk. The culmination of the project was collecting canned goods for the food bank.

We worked on this project over many months, circling back to our questions as we noticed growth, new learning and understandings. Throughout this time the concept grew and included being helpful, inclusion, listening, generosity and most surprisingly peer to peer conversations began to emerge on how they could be kind, respectful and work harder.

The children learned that sometimes you are mean because you are hungry, feel sick, tired or sad.  They learned that everyone can be kind but also everyone can be mean. This changed the children’s whole perspective towards children who did or said something mean. Instead of being angry or trying to exclude, they would try to figure out what the problem was by asking “are you hungry? “Would you like to join us”, or making positive statements “I am glad you came, we needed another person to play the game.” I found this perspective very empowering for the children and my respect for their thinking grew alongside.

Some bigger surprises were the risks that children took asking if they could join into play, especially the younger children who were shy or had less language.

Our Aboriginal EA who accompanied us once a week to the forest or seashore commented that she was just amazed at the collaborative approach to play and learning embedded in our classroom. As we watched and listened to a group of children working to solve a math problem using sticks, we were awestruck by their sophisticated language, gentleness with each other and the respect shown for ideas and contributions.

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