PA 'Mud Studies'

This April, PA took advantage of the warmer weather to explore the ever present spring mud. The clips below are highlights of their mud collecting activity. This schoolyard trip was preceded by soil discussions...and followed-up with classroom experimentation.


Primary B - Initial Activities

Primary B classroom teachers, Marilyn Fenster and Gail Hanss, have volunteered to explore how their curricular work with students in outdoors environments can be expanded via the possibilities of the Chesonis Commons Initiative. They are also interested in the connection between their use of the Responsive Classroom philosophy Responsive Classroom Site and how it can support the civic and empathetic aspects of Citizen Science. With the Allen's Creek north bank as a ready field site, we will follow students’ changing ideas as they document their interests with cameras employing a technique developed at Stanford University’s Design School. Camera Studies

In preparation for all of their work this year, Primary B has been developing an understanding of how to work with one another following the Responsive Classroom model. Below are two video clips providing a clip-shot of students engaged in this learning.
Second Week of School

PB -Third Week of School
Meeting Agreement

A 'Listening' Excursion

Pursuing the Primary B teachers' goal of developing outdoor activities that support students' natural interest in the outdoors by exposing them to new outdoor experiences, it was decided that students visit three class-elected sites to listen (eyes closed) to the outdoors. They recorded the sounds to be later analyzed in the classroom. In preparation for this visit, they were read a book about outdoor sounds and afterwards discussed sounds using the following classifications:
  1. human made sounds (cars to sneezes)
  2. non-human animal sounds
  3. non-human, non-animal sounds
The video clip below is the video sound clip of this excursion.
Ourdoor Sounds
Note: While not the goal of the above activity, it provides a good example of where an outdoor experience readily becomes an activity that requires MIndfulness, one of the key components of the Chesonis Commons Initiative.
Late October
Primary B students visited the outdoor sites where they had previously taken pictures and looked at this world from the viewpoint of Bird Habitat. Due to the visitation of The Last Bird project at Harley in early November, the school was awash with 'bird activities'. Students picked sites outdoors and discussed each choice from the viewpoint of "good" or "bad" for the birds.
Good for Birds

PB - November - January

PB has continued the use of cameras to document their outdoor experiences. Richard Louve ( journalist and author of eight books about the connections between family, nature and community) in his most recent book, The Nature Principal, suggests that an important way to connect today's child to the natural environment is to take advantage of the intrinsic attraction of digital technology and have them employ it in outdoor environments. The camera lends itself easily to this process. Other environmental educators are coming to similar conclusions. For a more detailed discussion of this topic see:Cameras, Kids & Hybrid Thinking

PB has been learning how to use an online tool called Voicethread to create team journals of their photos and their comments about the photos. In the short video below, the class is listening to and discussing their work. Afterwards, is a short clip of their most recent photo shoot. Their teachers, Marilyn Fenster and Gail Hanss, decided they should return to the same location where they took fall pictures for updates. Additionally, they shot photos of newly hung bird feeders which will allow them to have a visual record of how much seed is eaten over the next week when they return to take new photos.

PB- Late January

While our overreaching learning goal is to promote children's constructiveness to nature, no learning is accomplished in isolation. The slides below show how much the processes of writing and coming to understand 'how one learns best' are integrated into the process of authentic assessment. Additionally, the frame work of the Responsive Classroom (see Primary B - Initial Activies) is also apparent.


Mid-winter, PB shared their photos on the large classroom screen and discussed them. The attention and respect they bring to sharing one anothers work exemplifies the increase in their ability to look closely at the natural world in a meaningful way that goes beyond - 'that's pretty' or ' I like it." The following video clip typifies the kinds of discussions that have become increasingly 'the standard' when talking about the outdoors. The video starts with their responses to the question raised by one of their pictures: "Why has someone built a wall along the creek bank?"

PB-March-Mouse Town

On a March visit to the woods, PB was excited to discover the entrance to 'Mouse Town' - the location of an adventure storyteller Jay Stetzer had shared with the group. Children at this grade level love the opportunity to explore the magic of imagination connected to the natural world. The biographies of such well known children's authors as Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame testify to power of being able to draw upon the memories of powerful outdoor experiences decades after they happened. The class's enthusiasm for the seriousness with which Jay responds to their stories is evident in the video below. We thank Jay for adding this unusual dimension to our PB Afield project.

Here is a slideshow of students' photos taken the day they discovered 'Mouse Town'. Still, learning the skills of close-up photography many of the shots of the entrance are blurry, but they were determined to record their finding and took many pictures several of which are inside the hole. Afterwards follows a lengthy presentation of the actual 'Mouse Town' pictures described in the video above. Jay had shared his pictures and story with the students the previous fall. They had never mentioned it to us until we entered the woods many months later to take photos.

PB-Showers Bring PB Inside to Discover Hallway Nature

PB was accompanied on the 'in-house' field trip by Dean Kindig who's video camera caught their excitement and enthusiasm.
PB Inside