Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fishing for Knowledge at the Aquarium

The Perkins School now has a partnership with the New England Aquarium. And, Ms. Harden's fourth grade class is learning about animal adaptations--aquatic animals, that is. Jessica, an Aquarium educator, has already visited the Perkins, bringing some animals into the classroom.

Last week, it was the fourth grade's turn to visit her--along with everything else at the Aquarium from 80-year-old, 500-pound Myrtle the Turtle to the most beautiful seastars.

Before the kids went in, they got some ground rules: Don't drop anything in the water; after all, gum can get stuck on a seal's coat. And, don't tap the glass. It scares the fish!

Then Mrs. Harden added, "Make sure you look a as well. In fact, each of you will have to come back and report on two things that you never knew before."

Just two!?! The kids set off in small groups with teachers and chaperones and learned something new just about every minute! Ms. Harden's group went to see the seals first, reading signs about each one and then picking them out in the pool. Cordova makes yelling sounds.

Isaac can't see so well. Nevertheless, he manages to see a trainer's signal and do the trick that gets him a fish!

Another group stared for a long time at the leafy seadragon exhibit. It takes a while to realize that the seaweed is actually a seahorse.

"What is that animal's adaptation?" the chaperone asks. "Camouflage!" the kids answer.

The seadragon was something new, but not the idea of camouflage. Since the kids had been studying adaptations, they know that all living things have special things about them that help them fit into their worlds.

They learned even more about the subject when they visited the Boulder Reef Exhibit. There, Jessica asked them to act like scientists as they looked at the tank of creatures. Then they filled out a paper with their thoughts about how the bodies and actions of these animals helped them live on the reef.

Some of our kids learned that cownose rays and little bonnethead sharks liked to be petted. That's probably not an adaptation, but it is a fun activity for fish and kids alike.

"I was surprised," said one girl, describing her reaction to touching the ray. "It feels so soft--and a little greasy."

Azaryah wasn't as interested in touching the fish. She had a favorite spot, scrunching down to watch them eye-to-eye. "It's more fun," she explained. I can see them better and actually watch what they are up to down there."

Good for her, that's just what scientists do.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The World in Just One School

Every day is like the United Nations at the Perkins School, given all the different countries our students or their families have come from. One day last week, however, was extra special.

Our kindergarten and third grade classes had a visitor from Rwanda. Sister Felicity came to see what kind of books our school has for students in these grades, and if any would be good for the kids she works with in Africa. It turns out that Rwanda has decided to turn their official language from French to English. Wow, now it isn't just their kids who will be going to school!

Up in Ms. Enos's classroom, kids who moved from different countries to Boston and our school were learning about Thanksgiving. They started with the basics: cider and pumpkin pie with whipped cream!

Two of our new students come from Vietnam. So seeing teachers dressed like Pilgrims is a whole new experience!

It was also our new music teacher's first day at the Perkins. Ms. Lynch was conducting her class outside so the kids could play a game and sing loud. The kids were playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. But they were playing it the way children do in Japan.
In the Japanese version, two people stand on a piece of paper facing each other. They sing a song (in Japanese, of course). At the end of tune, they throw out their hand signal for rock, paper or scissors.

The loser must fold his or her paper in half. Then it's time for another round--the song and the draw. The game goes on until one of them can no long balance on a piece of paper that has gotten smaller and smaller with each loss.

No matter who wins, learning a song in Japanese is a victory for everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MCAS Math Marathon--this week's answers are...

It's time to report on the weekend's MCAS homework--the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade each having one math question from an actual MCAS exam, and then one based upon data from the Old Colony construction site across the street.

As you know, we can't show everyone's work. We don't have enough room. Here are some samples, though.

Here's the official 3rd grade MCAS question:

Here is the question based upon the construction site across the street:

Now here an actual question from a former version of the 4th grade MCAS:

And, here is our construction site version:

Finally, here is an actual question from a past 5th grade MCAS exam:

Now comes the constriction site version:

Since this is a short week and Thanksgiving Vacation is coming up, we are not giving out MCAS math questions for the weekend. Another thing some kids might be thankful for.

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Reading! Happy Thanksgiving!

Kindergarteners writing out a complex paragraph, kindergarteners printing so clearly is pretty impressive. So is the way this collectively written paragraph came about.

After Ms. Smith read a book about the Pilgrims to her students, she had them summarize what it was about in a writing session for Morning Message. First she helped the kids brainstorm to answer the question. Then the writing process began.

"Our sentence starts with
The. Can anyone tell me its first letter? That's right, it's a T. Would you like to write it on our paper?"

"Pilgrims. P-p-p, what's that letter? Who wants to print the "P" in Pilgrim?"

"Great, now what's next? P-i-i-i-l."

And this is how it goes. Some children screwing up their courage to write a letter. Some ready to print a whole word. Big pieces of correcting type and reassurance allows mistakes to be redone.

In kindergarten, it takes a village to write a sentence. Or better said, the whole village gets to participate!

The kids also got to draw their own pictures, recounting their favorite parts of the morning. Some recorded hearing the book, others retold the Pilgrims' progress to their feast with friendly Native Americans. Here are a few examples below:

Friday, November 18, 2011

MCAS Math Marathon

Yup, it's time to present this week's new problems. As always, one problem for each grade will come from a previous MCAS test and one from the construction site. This helps prove to our kids that math IS really important.

Here is the third grade's actual MCAS question:

Now comes the 3rd grade's construction site question:

Okay, fourth graders, here's your official MCAS question:

Now, your construction site version:

Fifth graders, take a look at your question that comes from a previous MCAS exam:

And now the one that comes from Old Colony's Phase 1 site.

Kids, have a good mathematical weekend!