Write My Community

We are writers…and today we celebrated writing.

I teach in a pretty unique situation, in a multiage class of first, second, and third graders.  I co-teach this class with another amazing teacher and we keep our students for three years.  We are not merely teachers and students, we are a learning community.  We support each other, challenge each other, learning together over an extended period of time.

And this is the third year where we have celebrated the National Day on Writing by joining up with our district’s other multiage class–this one of fourth and fifth graders–many who were our students.  This time, the older kids joined us at our school starting with some shared play time on the playground…and lots of hugs as kids reconnected, siblings sought out their brothers and sisters, and older kids reminisced about their days as “little kids.”

And then the fun began…

As 80+ students headed into the auditorium, they each had a part of an animal picture to match to find their cross-age partner(s).  After spending a few minutes getting to know one another, partners were ready to begin a collaborative writing activity.

Believing that writers write best from abundance, last week students in both our classes drafted some poetry.  Our students had studied some poetry mentor texts from some of our favorite poets including Kristine O’Connell George and Valerie Worth and then, considering things they care about and know about, set off to write some poetry.  Once drafted, they separated their poems into individual lines and then cut the lines apart to store in a baggie. The other class used a similar process and came to our event today with lines of poetry in a baggie as well.

ndow protocol

After getting to know each other, students pulled three lines from their poem from the baggie to share with their partner and after reading and listening to the six lines of poetry, decided how to build on those ideas to create a collaborative poem representing the partnership.  A hush fell over the room as poets set to work negotiating and collaborating, crafting poetry together.

collaborating

And even though the room was full, it was if each partnership worked in a bubble of creativity and focus of their own.

poets at work

And it wasn’t long before drafts were prepared…and the writers were ready to go public with their poems.

poem draft

We headed out…beyond the school gate…to the sidewalk outside of our school, out into the community.  And with sidewalk chalk and their drafts in hand, our writers chalked their poems onto the sidewalk for the public to see and read: a chalk-a-bration!

making it public

It was fun to watch cars slow down to see what we were doing and people with their dogs stop to admire our handiwork.  Chalking their poem onto the sidewalk was not as easy as students first thought.  There was the dilemma of figuring out which direction to write and how much space it would take.  And then applying the right pressure to make the words readable…and even finding a comfortable position to do the writing came into play.

chalking the sidewalk

Students began to suggest that we post the written poems on the fence near the sidewalk, realizing that reading pencil on paper might be easier than chalk on sidewalk.  We’re looking into the feasibility of the possibility.

sidewalk poem

Our celebration ended with an open mic back in the auditorium.  I’m always amazed with how eager our students are to share their writing.  We could have stayed for another hour listening to the poems, but had to limit ourselves to a few random poem selections…for now!

For us, the National Day on Writing is an opportunity to publicly celebrate what we do every day…write.  And this year’s theme: write my community, was perfect for us.  We are a community of writers that extends beyond the classroom and across age and grade levels.  We write to learn, to remember, to explain, to share our knowledge, to explore, to convince, to analyze, to reflect, and to express ideas and feelings.  We write for ourselves, for each other, and for the public.

We are writers.

Happy National Day on Writing!

ndow setting

 

 

In a New Light

I had the opportunity today to see a museum through the eyes of people who helped to design it and nurture its continued growth.  The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a gem. The museum is a combination of old and new, growing from a robust history of collection and curation to a modern space of interaction, interrelationships, research, and digital tools.  There is something about a tour led by the director of exhibits who clearly loves his work and his museum that refracts the museum experience, bending the light in ways that allowed me to appreciate nuances of museum craft and scientific discovery and learning that I hadn’t considered before.

Having a working research lab in the middle of the museum (actually several of them) seems ingenious!  Partnerships with local universities bring scientists out into the open, working in modern, state of the art facilities behind clear class walls.  Seeing scientists at work helps to demystify what it means to be a scientist…and they are able to interact with museum visitors, answering questions and explaining their work.

lab

And this interactive projection allows the glass between the lab and the exhibit to nearly disappear, and also works as a tool for the scientists to use to explain their work with school groups and tour groups.

interactive wall

Augmented reality and robotics allow young people access to difficult to understand concepts, using models they can virtually hold and manipulate as they watch atoms come together to form molecules or see the changes in the earth as it is impacted by fire, drought, and storms. This robot, whose head was printed using a 3-d printer, will soon be roaming the museum responding to questions asked by museum guests.

robot

The story of this right whale is both a tragedy and a triumph.  Killed by a boat, its skeleton and that of its fetus were recovered and studied by scientists.  Experiments to determine the speed a boat would require to break the facial bone of a whale and kill it resulted in legislation slowing boats during the migration season of the right whales off the Atlantic coast.  Here’s a great example of science working to save a vanishing species!

whale

And in a unique space, short visual narratives mesmerize you with their beauty and fascinate you with their complexity.  Balconies allow you to stop and watch from different locations and you can easily dip in and out of the viewing experience.  This sequence on networks grabbed my attention…I know i want to think more about the different kinds of networks in our lives, how they are similar and different, organic and manmade…and how light and movement help us understand them.

networks

These mini movies were projected on the inside of a curved surface that just happens to be this extraordinary globe from the outside of the building…another interesting and beautiful way to learn about our world.

globe

Today’s tour allowed me to experience the museum in a new light, refracted by the passion of those who know this place intimately.  This post only begins to scratch the surface of what I saw, heard, and experienced in my short visit.  And I’m lucky, I get to return to the museum again tomorrow when it will be filled with museum people from all over the world as they socialize and learn from each other.  I can only imagine what new insights I will gain as I return to this magnificent place of science, research, and learning.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to motion and movement lately…and it’s difficult to capture in a still photo.  But that doesn’t keep me from trying!  On Saturday while I was hiking up Cowles Mountain, a local peak that is the highest point in the city of San Diego, I was fascinated by the beautiful red-trunked manzanita trees.  This particular image makes me think of dancers, I love the bend and sway and even the way the shadows play on the branches.

movement manzanita

There’s something about light that also helps to capture the feeling of movement.  In this unedited image I like the way the morning light plays with Geoff’s legs and hiking sticks as he blazes the trail for us.

movement hiking

I couldn’t resist this shot of the girl out on the rocks seeming to celebrate the waves crashing onto the shore and splashing her each time.  What you can’t see is her friend with her cell phone taking photos from behind her…and them checking the images to see if they captured the effect they were looking for.

movement waves

As I spent some time on an airplane today, I was going through photos and deleting some that I had already downloaded onto my computer.  I couldn’t resist including this one from earlier in the summer where I caught a bunch of birds taking off…with my husband in the background.  These guys are my favorites–sandpipers.  I still want to catch the whistling sound they make when they call to each other as an audio tape!

motion birds

I was delayed on my layover today in Chicago, so after a bite to eat, I wandered around looking for interesting images.  As I looked out the window I noticed planes taxiing, some parked at gates either loading or unloading passengers, and even planes landing.  If you look closely at this one you can see all three motions going on!

motion planes

Once I arrived in Raleigh, NC (I’m here for a conference), I was ready to stretch my legs after a long day of sitting in cramped airplane quarters.  So once I checked into my hotel, I headed out with my camera in hand to explore a bit of downtown Raleigh.  I have so many questions about this place and its history, especially after happening upon the Capitol Building, other government buildings, and lots of old churches.  As the sun was setting my eyes were drawn to the flags bathed in the lowering light.  The American flag and the North Carolina flag danced in the breeze with the pinky-purply clouds in the distance.

motion flags

Where have you noticed motion and how might you capture it in a still photo?  Consider nature and living things…and also the movement of manmade objects.  (I’ve been trying to get a great shot of the train that runs near my school for a while now…maybe this week I’ll get it!)

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #motion for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Be on the lookout for ways to capture that motion you see in a still image.  I can’t wait to see motion through your lens!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

Sometimes as I am going about my life I see something that stops me in my tracks and makes me think.  I’m having one of those kind of weeks.  On Monday I had a meeting to do some planning with colleagues…that happened to take place in the San Diego Natural History Museum.  I love meetings there–the grand old building oozes character, and when I walked in the conference room on Monday, I was surprised to see there was a tusk on the floor!  I couldn’t resist a shot!

tusk

Over the weekend the weather continued to be unseasonably warm (into the 80s on the coast!), so the beach was the best option for a walk.  As we walked along I was surprised when I spied this man on a ladder.  You can see that he is right along the shoreline, perched on the top, with his big camera lens pointing at the surfers navigating the larger than usual waves. Did he carry the ladder from his car, does he live nearby?  Does the ladder make a difference in his photography?

ladder photographer

Further down the beach I was surprised by the pop of color from the orange umbrella.  It felt like a fall leaf turning in the sea of greens and blues.

orange umbrella

Earlier this week I took a photo of the palm tree that graces our school playground.  And later in the day came across a new editing app for my phone.  It was fun to play with the different effects and lenses.  Here is the surprising result.

palm app

And this morning on playground duty my eye was drawn to the purple boa on the playground bench.  Who wore their boa to school…and who left it on the bench?  Will this person be surprised when it is missing?

boa

So what has surprised you this week?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #surprise for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Be on the lookout for those things and situations that surprise you this week.  I can’t wait to see surprises through your lens!

 

Looking for Signs…

Six weeks into the school year with unseasonably warm temperatures…I find myself looking for signs of fall.  Southern California is not known for spectacular fall colors: the changing leaves, colorful gourds, and orange pumpkins decorating doorsteps.  Instead, I notice things like the orange and red kelp washed up by hurricane Simon off the coast of Mexico,

orange and red kelp

the orange beach umbrella near the lifeguard tower,

orange umbrella

and the golden sun highlighting the surfer atop the bigger than usual waves.

golden surfer

And I’m starting to see some even more exciting signs of fall…and of the writing community growing in my classroom.  Some signs are subtle, like students settling into writing without any urging from us and sticking with the writing for longer and longer periods of time.  There’s a willingness to share writing with one another and with the class as a whole…even from our shyer students.  And then there’s the risk-taking…trying out new strategies for revision and composition with independence and confidence.

This third grader uses her reflection notebook to write about a tool we use in class to help with revision.  It’s clear that she sees the value of revision for improving her writing…knowing writers, even good writers, have to work at improving their craft.

elke's reflection

It’s also fun to see students bring their voice to informal, reflective writing.  They are writers whenever they put words to a page…like this student describing something learned from reading a Scholastic News magazine,

reflectionand the student who began her reflection on a writing and art project with, “It all started when Ms Boyesen read us a book called Flashlight.”

Like the more obvious brilliant crimson leaves, sweet apple cider, and crisp autumn evenings that signal fall, these subtle signs in the classroom represent our growth as a community of learners and writers.  We are ready to dig in, to stretch ourselves as learners, and to learn from and with each other throughout the school year.

I have to look carefully for signs of fall in my place…they aren’t easily recognized by those looking for the gorgeous iconic images we see represented in the media.  The same is true in my classroom, looking carefully uncovers signs that might be overlooked otherwise.  The signs are there and I’m looking forward to the journey with these young writers.

What signs of a developing learning community are you seeing in your place?