Project-Based Learning: The Final Product

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Project-based learning is where learning is displayed through the creation of something.  This quarter, we worked on a project that spanned the entire nine weeks.  Often with project-based learning, the process is more important than the product.  Also, it involves problems and difficulties that we must overcome.

We began this project by doing extensive research about life in the medieval times–the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the music they listened to, the differences in class, the different roles in society, the people made famous by history etc.

Then within their groups (ranging from one to three people), the children synthesized their research into a historical fiction script that followed the story map structure.  They had to include math and science concepts, and they had to allude to the book that we read for the quarter.  Overall, they had to also incorporate the theme of faithfulness spreading, our quarter’s theme.

With their script approved, they then set about the task of creating costumes and props that would look as similar to the medieval times as they were able to create on the low-classroom budget.  I loved hearing the conversations of “Well the peasants were poor, and they did not have money for color, so we have to make their costumes dirty and bland looking.  No red!”  or “This character should wear red because it shows his strength.”

This year, I relinquished even more control by allowing the children to film and edit their own movies.  We discussed movie making techniques and how to convey various emotions through cuts and music.  While examining books, we discussed how authors convey mood through words and pictures.  The children then applied this to movies by searching for the right music to set the mood of their production.  Though it was challenging, they found the appropriate music to set the scene.

Several children told me about their struggles through this process; they told me about their failures.  They saw me as I struggled trying to make the technology work and improvising when it did not (example: needing to put the music onto a google drive rather than being able to directly download it from the music site that we were using).

These fourth graders had to work together; they had to communicate their ideas.  They had to creatively solve problems; they had to critically think about incorporating the historic content into their projects.  The process lent itself to developing skills that these children will use beyond the classroom–skills for life (also known as 21st century skills as we prepare these students for jobs that do not yet exist).

However, the struggle and the lengthy process was completely worth it as today, they got to see their final products next to those of their peers.  Yes, these children will remember their movies, but more importantly they will remember the process that led them to create that final product.

I hope that years from now my children are still applying the creative problem solving skills that they used for this project.

 

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Spirit Week

Sometimes, my students get a wonderful idea, and then I allow them to run with it.  This time, their idea was to have a school-wide spirit week just because our school is so amazing.  They wrote the official e-mail and created fun flyers that they plastered all over the school.  I was though afraid that it would just be a fourth grade thing, but I was pleasantly surprised that the entire school participated.  And, ultimately, we felt more united as a school because of these days.

Tuesday was Disney Day.

 

Wednesday was Nerd Day.

 

Thursday was Twin Day, and Friday was School Spirit Day.

This might just be the start of a new tradition at CCA.

Christmas Activity

Christmas at CCA is always fun.  Throughout the entire month of December and even before, we are continuously practicing for our Christmas play.  This year, CCA celebrated 50 years so our Christmas play reflected that.  Each class chose a decade and then a song that was popular during that time period; we then tweaked the words to talk about Jesus.

Fourth graders got to be the 90s, and so we got to be one of the most popular boy bands of all time:  the Backstreet Boys.  We changed I Want it that Way to the following lyrics where God is talking to us.

Yeah-eh-heah/ You are my fire/ The one desire/ Believe when I say

I want it that way

But we are two worlds apart/ Can’t reach to your heart/ When you sin/ It should not be that way

(Chorus) Tell you why/ Ain’t nothing but My love for you/ Tell you why/ I sent My Son to die for you/ (Tell you why)/ I never want to hear you say/ It’s not enough for me.

Am I your fire?/ Your one desire?/ I know it’s not too late/ But I want it that way

(Chorus)

Now I can see that we’re fallen apart/ From the way that it used to be Yeah/ No matter the wrong done/ I want you to know/ That deep down inside of Me

You are My fire/ The one desire/ You are (you are you are you are)/ I want you to hear me say/ 

(Chorus x3)

‘Cause I love you so much!

For me, these changes to the song held such a powerful and personal message.  God cannot bear the thought of being without us because He loves us so much.  And yet we are separated from Him by all of the wrong that we have done.  Because of His love, He pursues us to have a relationship with us by sacrificing Himself on the cross.  His ultimate example of love was when He sent His Son as a baby to Earth to one day die for the world; that’s why we celebrate Christmas.  What a great reminder of God’s love through a love song.  He wants to heal our broken hearts.

Besides the Christmas play, other CCA traditions include making an ornament for the school tree and pajama day.  This year our ornament was an angel with the arms outspread; on the back, we wrote some of the words from our Christmas song.

We were even able to use a social studies lesson about Saint Boniface to create thumbprint Christmas tress.  And we used an art lesson to create The Greatest Starry Night where we looked at Van Gogh’s work, but we also added the manger scene.

Pajama day is always fun.  It’s a fourth grade tradition to go caroling throughout the whole school.  I always love seeing the children get so excited about singing the carols and the other children about the surprise visitors.  We then combined with the entire upper elementary grades to watch a movie and have snacks.  And we ended the day by completing our craft for our parents.

Though a lot of work goes in the final days before break, a lot of memories are also formed.  I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas, and I cannot wait to see you in 2018!

 

 

Why We Study Crickets

Crickets are such happy little creatures that can fill an entire room with joyful singing.  This year, as we read The Cricket in Times Square, we purchased our own crickets to study, observe, and care for.  We created a cozy cricket home with dirt, leaves, gumballs, and sticks.

But the main reason that we raise crickets is to be able to donate them to a local organization.  This year, we went to the Virginia Living Museum and donated our crickets to  their herpetology department.

Below, in their own words and creations, the fourth graders shared what they learned about these creatures.

Cricket Facts   

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And despite all of our learning and the love of our crickets chirping (especially during awkward moments of silence), today we donated them.  And as we donated the crickets, we also got to explore other animals of Virginia.

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The children drew this on my board in their excitement.
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Donating our crickets to the Virginia Living Museum

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The children got to feel and learn about horseshoes, starfish, and conch shells.

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We had a plants and animal lesson.
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One child got to demonstrate what it was like to be a plant.
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Explaining pollination

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We got to pet a very soft bunny.

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We then saw several statues of Lego creations. Thousands of legos went into creating these.

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And the children were excited to be able to play and create with Legos.

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The whole group.

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Hurricane Relief Service Project

Ever since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, my fourth graders have asked for us to pray for the people impacted.  When Irma hit Florida, they asked prayer for both Texas and Florida.  They reminded us to pray for these people everyday.

Finally, I asked the children if they would like to help out in a more physical way.  They all eagerly agreed, and our brain-storming began.

Within a few moments, the children had come up with the idea of a bake sale.  We knew we would need parental support in order to make it work.

After a quick e-mail to my class parents, my inbox was flooded with parents eager to participate.

We continued to pray for the hurricane victims and that our bake sale would be successful.

On my own, I prayed for God to bring in $600.  In my mind, that would be a huge amount for fourth graders to raise at a bake sale.

When everyone had signed up with what they were brining, we used the sign-up sheet to select prices for each item.  Then we tied it into math by estimating the total amount if each item sold out.  And then we figured out the exact amount  by practicing addition: $616 if everything sold.

The children eagerly created flyers, posters, a Facebook event, thank you cards, and even a commercial in preparation for our event.

Since we had been studying Matthew that week, we chose Matthew 6:33 as our theme verse, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

And then we saw the forecast.  It was supposed to be pouring on the day of our bake sale that was scheduled to be outside.  During morning meeting, we brought it to God.  We prayed specifically for a clear, sunny day.

The day of the bake sale arrived.  The morning was overcast. The children eagerly sold their baked goods to hungry customers.

Right before our second heavy-traffic time, the children looked out from our classroom and excitedly announced that it was sunny and clear!  We immediately thanked God for answering our prayers.

We sold in the afternoon, and we sold that evening at AWANA.  In the end, we went from two tables full of items to a solitary box.  We did not though sell out.

Everyone though who came was extremely generous.  Several people gave us large amounts and did not want any change back.  We were blown away by how thoughtful people were.

Today, our math lesson involved us counting the money.  I had three different groups.  One group counted the coins, and the other two counted the cash.  Finally, we added all three groups’ totals and then subtracted from that the original amount we had begun with.

The children kept saying, “Whoa!  That’s a lot of money!”

“All that from a bake sale?”

Ultimately, we did learn we were about 90 cents lower than our added total.

In all, we raised $918.57 to go to help hurricane victims donated to Baptist Bible Fellowship.

However, this would not have been possible if we had not all worked together.  Thank you to everyone who baked, who helped us sell, who bought, and who donated extra money.

More importantly, though, throughout this process, we were able to see the power of prayer.

Sometimes, God answers our prayers in unexpected ways (like giving us the opportunity to help the victims) and other times He goes above and beyond what we expect (like getting $300 more than what I asked Him to bring in).  However, watching God work is testament of His unending love.  And we pray now that the people of Florida and Texas will be able to see that love in action.

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Dissection

One of my favorite lessons comes right at the start of the school year.  It begins with me casually mentioning to the children that we are going to dissect something a little later.  The excitement quickly spreads throughout the room.

Until the actual dissection, the children continuously speculate about what we will be dissecting.

Finally, the moment arrives.

I begin by holding up a pair of safety goggles.  In a rather boring voice, I explain that we must all wear them.  Then, I put them on.  Suddenly, before the children is Professor Bonnhoffhoff, world famous scientist from Germany.

To the excitement of the children, she explains the lab safety and the importance of wearing goggles (“To prevent juices from squirting into our eyes”  EWWW!!!).  After discussing how to properly use each of the tools in the dissecting kit (aka nail file kit in a typical household), she asked the children what they thought they would be dissecting.

One child thought we would dissect him.

Another said crickets.

Another said frogs.

Another said worms.

Then, there was a dramatic drumroll as the Professor announced “You will be dissecting… FLOWERS!”

Silence.

Crickets chirping.

“Really?”

“Yes, really!  Flowers are fascinating things!” And once the children began dissecting, they too realized how truly fascinating flowers are. The children discovered new things and used their senses to describe what they were observing.

The excitement went back up as they explored, shared, and documented their discoveries.

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The next day, we dissected one more flower as I shared with them the names of the different parts of the flower.  We realized that the sole purpose of a flower is to bear seeds.

Our vision for the school is shown through a plant.  The seed is God’s Word planted in the soil of humility.  The stem then grows through integrity and with that, we leaf relationships with each other.  Then, we bloom flower of knowledge through all that we learn.  And ultimately, that flower turns into a fruit.  And that fruit (thinking about the fruit of the Spirit) is filled with seeds to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for us.

Even with something as simple and as beautiful as a flower, we can continue to see God’s creativity and order as He demonstrates His love to us.

First Week of School

Looking back on the first week of school, I am always amazed with how much we accomplish in such a short amount of time.  Through this week, we have been building a community of learners and learning how exactly the classroom runs.

Here is a small sample of all that we learned and did this week.

On the first day of school, we began writing workshop and with that, I got to read several books to the children.  One of the books was Officer Buckle and Gloria.  This is playful book about a police officer who gives safety speeches with the help of his buddy, Gloria the dog.  The students who hear him write him notes, and one child sends him a note on a star.

After finishing, we had a discussion of the importance of classroom expectations.  The children received their own set of star sticky notes and used them to answer six questions about how our classroom should run.  Then, we used this as the basis to discuss positive and negative skills for Class Dojo.

On the second day, we started exploring what it means to work with others to accomplish a task.  In fact, we saved Freddy.  Freddy is a worm who went swimming but was not very smart because he did not wear his life preserver.  Sadly, his boat capsizes, and his life preserver is under the boat while he is on top.  So to save Freddy, the children had to put the life preserver squarely in the middle of him (the life preserve is a life saver candy and the worm is a gummy worm).  However, they could not touch the boat (a cup), the worm, or the lifesaver with their hands; they had to use paper clips.

Working together and trying different things, each group was able to complete the task.

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We then talked about how we are very much like Freddy.  But Jesus is our life saver; He saves us from the punishment of all the wrong things that we have done.  And the paperclips show the faith that we must have to accept Jesus.

On Thursday, we got our first taste of history as we explored primary and secondary sources that create history.  Then, each group had six images that they had to look at together to determine what was going on and what they noticed.  One child excitedly realized that these were all images of Pentecost.

Once they studied the images, I handed them the passage from Acts so that they could fill in the holes that the pictures cannot share (like the tongues of fire show the Holy Ghost coming down and that after that, 3000 people came to know Jesus). The children were so excited to explore these images and the passage.

And then it was Friday before we even realized it.  Friday is usually different because we rotate and do art, music, library, and P.E.  This Friday, we even added Engineering for Kids.  CCA had won a grant which allowed us to have a two hour segment where we got to build rockets.  And then we launched them.  It was all very exciting, and it ended the week on a sky-high note.

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