We interrupt this program…

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We interrupt our weekly STEAM post to share with you our educational philosophy – the method to our madness, if you will.

All teachers have a philosophy, whether they ever put it into writing or not – each teacher has an overarching thoughtful process that influences their everyday instruction.  Many philosophies differ, creating different climates and cultures in each classroom.  No matter what your approach is, we are all in it for the same reason – we do it for the kids! We strive to be those teachers that you remember 30 years from now because the culture and climate in our classrooms was one that our students enjoyed so much.

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We were lucky enough that fate brought us together and we share a very similar teaching philosophy, which is grounded in the fact that as we meet our new class each year, we have a goal to teach them how to become empathetic, compassionate little members of our society.  

Here is an outline of the driving forces that shape our teaching practices:

Culture

We aim to create a warm,loving, playful environment where kids feel welcome to be themselves.

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We begin each year introducing the Habit of Mind, “Listening with empathy and understanding” because this is the backbone for our culture of learning. Once our students understand that their voice will always be heard and that they are respected and loved, we feel we can teach anything!

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We use this adorable video from Sesame Street to introduce the habit:

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Mark Ruffalo and Telly Teach Empathy

This leads us to our next belief:

Ambition

We are constantly learning ourselves, striving to be ambitious and to try new things in our classrooms. Do our lessons always pan out the way we thought? Absolutely not! There have been many occasions where we would open our adjoining door and say… “Ummmm. This is a hot mess!” (Like our Snowman Stretch Full STEAM ahead Friday challenge that went awry!) But guess what? That’s okay! In fact, when our students witness us as teachers trying, failing and adjusting, it sends the message that learning is messy and that it is perfectly fine to have things not work out sometimes…

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…because that’s just the way life works. And guess what characteristics come from failing, frustration and disappointment? Persistence, grit, patience and determination. If we can instill those traits in our students, then we have done our job.

Reflection

We are reflective practitioners. In fact, just sitting down to write this blog post proved to be a difficult task. However, it brings to light new insights and reaffirms for us why we do what we do. We see clearly where we can improve. This art of reflecting takes time and quiet thought, which is something that can be difficult for us to come by, but in doing so, we get to reset our paths as educators and our roadmap to success becomes clear. It sets our purpose.

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This is precisely why we have our students continually reflect on their learning as well. They learn what happens when they feel frustrated and how to push through it:

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They also learn to celebrate their successes!

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Experiences

We strive to develop creative and memorable learning experiences that engage all learners at any level. We work diligently to provide students with cross-curricular learning opportunities. We realize that skills in isolation can be taught by anyone on any worksheet, but it is the DELIVERY of those skills that create life-long learners. At the end of the day, we want our children to skip out the door, anxious and excited for tomorrow! This can only happen when we ourselves are passionate and excited about our day!

This is one reason we employ the principles of STEAM and Design Thinking in our classrooms. Through our Steam/Design Thinking- centered curriculum, students learn there is not always one right answer,they use creativity to solve problems, and they learn to use their voices with clarity. They learn collaboration.

“Far beyond filling out answers on a worksheet, these assignments allow for individual talents and personality to shine through. While it’s unlikely that you have ever heard a person say, “that worksheet changed my life,” most people have an assignment from their childhood that they remember with pride because it was meaningful to them. More often than not, that memorable assignment was one that allowed them to build and create.”
By MindShiftAPRIL 23, 2014

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We want our classrooms to be “student-centered spaces of possibility” (Anne Stephens…Mindshift).

If we were to summarize our philosophy (or turn it into an acronym), it would spell-

CARE

because at the end of each day, that’s just it, we do care.  We care about our students enjoying their days and learning as much as they possibly can in an environment that feels safe to make mistakes and be themselves! We also care about being the best possible teachers we can be!

Thank you so much for reading BLOG post #4…we LOVE sharing our days with you! We hope that some of our insight can bring new insight to others! We would love to hear about the things that drive other educators in their classrooms. Please share and leave a reply!

Stay tuned for BLOG Post #5 , when we return to our regularly scheduled programming of…

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Jess and Laura

Teacher wisdom of the day…

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Full STEAM Ahead Friday- Livin’ A Dog’s Life!

The journey through STEAM continues…

Led by the determination to tie STEAM to literature, coupled with having a required reading series to follow,we decided to try it out on Mudge, our favorite, big, messy, lovable dog from author, Cynthia Rylant. This was the week’s story and we needed a “FULL STEAM AHEAD FRIDAY”  challenge to go with it.

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We also wanted to give our students a design process to follow in order to give them a simple method to use when designing. If you’ve taken some time to search, then you know there are many design models out there. From the D- school at Stanford, to The Nueva School in San Francisco…

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Having used these models before with different projects, we knew that they hold value, but none of these felt like the perfect fit for our first graders to use on a weekly basis. We searched for one that they could really use.

Here is one we found and love:

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Prior to any STEAM activity, we go through this process with students so they can really think about the task they are being given, write a plan and ideate. These thoughts are housed in the students’ STEAM Notebooks….

We also taught them a song to remember the process! (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Experiment, Improve – to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)

With  that said, let’s get back to Henry and Mudge!

The task at hand:

“How might you design a dream doghouse for Mudge?”

The kids were SO excited!! They immediately went to work  imagining, planning, and ideating.

In the end,we saw everything from sweet, cozy backyard doghouses, to those that had a doggie swimming pool ( constructed in a shoebox with straws and blue tissue paper!), and even one that had a rooftop deck, for the times when Mudge needed some peace and quiet…LOL. Most importantly, however, we witnessed the PROCESS of creating, which is genuinely more important than the final product.The activity and engagement in our classrooms was evident.

The problem-solving, collaborating and THINKING as they become six-year-old designers is an experience that we look forward to each and every week because we witness it’s value. We, as teachers, hope to always lead our students with inspiring and thoughtful experiences, but allow them to take the reigns and become the owners of their learning. This is exactly what Full Steam Ahead Friday has done for us.

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Thus, another Successful Full Steam Ahead Friday comes to an end. To witness the smiles, creativity, critical thinking, and genuine LOVE for learning is something that we  strive for everyday. When it happens, you can’t help but share it with the world!

Until next time…keep steamin’ along!

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Jess and Laura

Words of Wisdom for the day…

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