Kindergarten

Na'a is Waking Up!

Although the spring equinox came and went months ago, it is only recently we have begun to notice changes outside our classroom window.  We are so grateful to be able to spend much of our time outside on the land connecting to, and learning from, our nature friends. 



Circle teachings often connect the colour yellow to the East, and the season of spring.  These teachings differ between cultures but one thing remains constant, that the bright yellow of the sun rises in the East each morning, bringing with it a new day and new possibilities.  The season of spring is much the same - a time of new beginnings as life begins again for the plants and animals who have rested through the winter and are just awakening, and for the new babies who will be welcomed into the natural world.  For us as two legged beings, perhaps it is a time of awakening for us as well.  The new season is an opportunity to move on from any darkness in our lives, and to embrace the light surrounding us.

What does this mean when you are only five or six years old?

We have considered this idea during talking circles and in conversations about stories we have read, and these are some of our ideas that will bring more light into our learning community:

"I will not say mean things to my friends.  I will use kind words."

"I don't like feeling mad.  I will do things that make me joyful."

"Sometimes learning is difficult.  I will say, "I can try!"

The concepts of light and dark were ones we explored when we learned about the Winter Solstice.  At first, we connected darkness with negativity and fear but then discovered that there are things that are dark that we find interesting and beautiful, including: the night sky, the mystery of outer space, and the protection of a bear's den.  Maybe we need the dark things in life to better appreciate the light. 

These are a few books and traditional stories that we love connected to these ideas:

Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun

Raven Brings the Light

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

Whimy's Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis

Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds

We  look forward to finishing our school year with light, love, joy, and connection!

"Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light." ~ Theodore Roethke


The First Thunder

Did you hear that?!!

We have been watching the sky outside our classroom window; noticing the changing colours, the movement of clouds, and the different examples of weather.  One day, one of our friends observed dark clouds moving towards the school and exclaimed, "It's going to rain!"  Rain it did, and with the rain came thunder!  This provoked much conversation and excitement about the sounds we could hear and memories we had of storms experienced before. 

This learning provocation invited us to create storms using paint (and even a little glitter!).  We had stories, pictures, and video to inspire our visual representations of a thunderstorm.  Watching lightening streak across the screen, and listening to the sounds of pouring rain and rumbling thunder made this learning experience seem much more real - almost like painting amidst a real storm!

There were so many great ideas shared as we painted our storms; we realized we had many different theories and wonderings about this thing called Thunder.  We searched our classroom library for books about thunder and made a list of questions we wanted to ask Elder Randy during his next visit.  When Elder Randy came, he told us that The First Thunder is an important event in his Blackfoot community.  There are special ceremonies and songs after the first thunder is heard.  There is also a story about Ksistsikom (Thunder) that has been told for many generations.  

This is an animation of Saakokoto's graphic novel, KSISTSIKOOM:

This is a written version of the traditional story from the Glenbow Museum:

Storytelling is an important part of our cultures and our classroom.  We considered the question, "How can sounds help to tell a storm story?"  We played with a variety of instruments to make the different sounds of a thunderstorm: rain, wind, lightning, thunder, stars, sun, clouds, etc.  It was a bit noisy but we had lots of fun telling stories this way!


We are storytellers through song, dance, words, and symbols...a story helps to make sense of the world around us.  Right now that story lives in sound, inspired by the sky. 


Tobacco Teachings

Tobacco is one of the four sacred plants Creator has given to us.  Our school was gifted with some tobacco plants which are now growing in our living wall in the hopes that we will be able to harvest the seeds for new plants and dry the stalks and the leaves to make tobacco bundles.  We often stop to observe any changes and say a few words of kindness to encourage their growth!  

Like all living things, tobacco plants have a life cycle that can be understood using the Medicine Wheel.  The plant goes through stages of life including seed (germinating), seedling (sprouting), mature plant (growing), flower (harvest).  Watching these stages, and waiting for changes, teaches us patience and appreciation for the current stage of life.

Watching plants grow helps us to learn what is necessary for their survival.  We have discovered that these plants need soil, light, warmth, air, and water.  They also need a lot of space because they grow quite tall.  Lastly, like all living things, we believe they will thrive with love!

They have also given us an opportunity to consider mathematical concepts such as shape and measurement.  

"This plant is almost as tall as me!" ~ Nahla

This observation initiated a conversation about how we could measure the plant and words we can use to compare size such as big, small, short, tall, and height.  

We are grateful to Na'a for providing us with what our tobacco need to grow to be healthy, and look forward to creating bundles that we will gift to our Elders when asking them to share their knowledge with us, and to Mother Earth when we ask to use something from our natural world. 

Below is a great video that further explains the traditional use of tobacco: 


The Heartbeat of Na'a

The beat of the drum - the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  Mr. Darcy came to visit us for a special week long residency.  The sounds of drumming and singing filled the school.  He shared teachings about how to show respect to the drum, and taught us a new song.

We were interested in the animals who gave their life for us to have our drums and wanted to look more closely to see if we could figure out which animal was used and examine how the maker of each drum laced the hide to the wooden frame.  We sketched hand drums and our school gathering drum, remembering to look for small details that make each one unique.  


We also told stories using pictures and words about our learning experience with Mr. Darcy.  We are practicing using the letter sounds we know to help us turn our ideas into written text.

We can't wait for Mr. Darcy to come back and are so grateful for the time he spent with us. 

Drumming is healing.  Drumming is culture.  Drumming is Niitsitapi. 


Looking at Life Through The Eyes of Bear

What is life like for these furry, ferocious friends of the forest?  We sought to find out more than the basics we already knew - or thought we knew...

  • Bears live in the forest. ~ Faith
  • Bears have claws. ~ Kilo
  • Bears sleep in a cave. ~ Erin
  • Bears eat berries. ~ Kayden
  • Bears can climb up trees. ~ Orlando
  • Bears scratch their back on a tree. ~ Nahla
  • Bears eat humans! ~ Neo

To investigate the life of this animal, we needed to know where to look for information.  We collected books from our school library, searched for reliable websites on the internet, and brainstormed experts who might be able to help in our learning.  We also transformed a corner of the classroom into a winter woodland, which inspired imaginative play and sparked new wonderings.

As we learned about the species of bears living in the Canadian Rockies (and sometimes our city!), we discovered interesting facts about their daily behaviours, seasonal survival skills, and unique instincts.  This new learning was discussed, theorized, and questioned during exploratory learning tasks and play experiences.  It was documented through the co-construction of documentation such as this bear's den.  

Bears were the perfect subject for a variety of art projects.  Painting and sculpting were our favourites and we had many visitors stop by to comment on our creations.  

          


Investigations into the natural world naturally bring up conversations about sensory experiences, habitats, basic needs, relationships, comparisons, and new vocabulary.  Inquiring into what life is like for a grizzly bear, compared to that of a black bear or polar bear, gave us an abundance of opportunities to connect curricular topics and apply our developing literacy skills and mathematical understanding.  Acting as little biologists required us to observe, question, analyze, manage information, use numerical data, communicate effectively, and demonstrate creativity.  

As spring arrives and instinct causes the bears to stir from their state of torpor, we are looking forward to learning about life in other parts of our planet.  We are leaving our den to continue our search for answers about what it means to be alive...

How grateful we are to have so many gifts of life from Na'a (Mother Earth)! 

Happy Spring!  


Life is Love

Eagle teaches us about love.  Flying closest to creator, as well as walking the land with us, Eagle reminds us to show love and kindness to all living beings.  To love others we must love ourselves.  During talking circles over the past few weeks, we have focused our ideas on what characteristics we love about ourselves, and our friends. 

"_____, I am grateful for you because you are _____."  

"I love that I am _____."

Last week, our morning exploration turned tables into valentine stations and red and pink pattern-making areas.  We counted heart shaped beads and created a LOVE-ly number line with some paper hearts and string.  Loose parts such as felt, wooden people, heart cutouts, and a variety of other pieces created stories about friendship - and even a wedding! 

We have been noticing and discussing the difference between 2D and 3D shapes.  This learning was extended through visual art, in which we built heart sculptures and created beautiful mixed media canvases.  Although there was an abundance of red, pink, and purple in our learning space recently, we considered which colour(s) represent love to each of us.  The story What Color is a Kiss? by Rocio Bonilla prompted great conversation and inspiration for our paintings. 


Kindergarten has moments of conflict, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and BIG emotions.  Despite the challenging moments, we are a community of learners who care for each other and show love and kindness throughout our days together.  This impromptu hug was observed near the reading window last week.  Makes your heart happy! 

"You have been my friend, replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. ~ E.B. White, Charlotte's Web


What is Inquiry?

"The important thing is not to stop questionsing; curiosity has its own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein

Inquiry is a journey that begins with the learner.  It lives organically in the classroom, integrated into all subject areas, providing the learner with the opportunity to wonder, explore, and discover.  An inquiry topic or question provides a unique lens through which children can make meaning of the curriculum in an authentic way; in a way that makes a difference to them and the world around them.  It is the common thread, the essence of the learning, during a particular time of study. 

Our inquiry this year will consider the question, What Does It Mean to be Alive?  This concepts of life, survival, and interconnectedness amongst species on Earth will be the lens through which we look at all curricular topics this year.  Having this one "big question" focuses our learning, with the intention of deep learning to occur. 

Some other essential questions that we want to investigate include:

  • What is life?
  • How do plant and animal species survive?
  • Do all living things have the same characteristics?
  • What are Indigenous beliefs about life and spirit?
  • How does our definition of life change when we consider it to be more than a physical state? Does life exist without emotional, social, and spiritual aspects?

We began the year brainstorming what we believed it meant to be alive.  These were our ideas...

Being alive is having a heart.

Being alive is thinking.

Being alive is love.

Being alive is eating.

Being alive is breathing.

Being alive is growing.

Being alive is moving.

Being alive is having roots.

Being alive is nature.

Being alive is water.

Being alive is energy.

Being alive is being not dead!

What makes you feel most alive?



The Winter Solstice

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." 

~ J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What is the Winter Solstice?

Why do we need light from the sun?

What do animals survive the winter?

How does the lack of sunlight affect us as humans?

What is the difference between light and dark?

The winter solstice is the beginning of the new year in Indigenous cultures.  It is a celebration of light returning to Turtle Island, bringing longer days and the promise of spring and new life.  It is a time to reflect on the past and look toward to the future - to new beginnings.  We learned that the day of the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  We explored the concepts of light and dark, read non-fiction books about Earth's rotation around the sun, and learned how light helps things to grow and thrive.  We considered what it means to be alive and how our animal friends are able to survive the harsh winter months with little food and warmth. 

To celebrate the solstice we read many stories including a Cherokee story, Grandmother Spider Brings Back the Sun.  We decorated an outdoor Solstice Tree for our animal friends with natural ornaments made from popcorn, cranberries, oranges, and twigs.  



We also made lanterns to shine light in the darkness, and used them in a special ceremony to honour Winter Solstice.  We created a spiral made from cedar boughs and placed "fire" in the center to represent natoosi and the hope of longer days ahead.  As we walked into the center of the spiral, we filled our lanterns with light and then chose a place in the circle for our lantern to stay.  We made wishes for our nature friends, thanking natoosi for light to help our plant and animal friends.

Happy New Year!


What Does Christmas Mean to You?

We began the Christmas season considering this question in a talking circle.  There were responses about Santa and presents - obviously - but there were also ideas about twinkling lights, decorating trees, and singing Christmas songs.  We discussed the activities that bring friends and families together during the holiday season, and which traditions make it FEEL like Christmas.  Then we made a list of things we wanted to do together as a learning community to celebrate the season and bring joy to one another.  

The Tree

It was at the top of the list to decorate a tree in our learning space, so we found a little one - Kinder size! - and used a combination of store bought ornaments and hand crafted paper chains to decorate it with.  "It needs a star!" was heard exclaimed by many.  This problem was soon solved with the discovery of a star-shaped cookie cutter. :)  The simple act of hanging ornaments on the tree led to observations about colour, texture, weight, and transparency.  Students took turns hanging the decorations, negotiating where each one should hang and whose turn would be next. 

12 Days of Christmas Reading

We shared our love of books and stories with the whole school, sharing twelve favourite picture books that celebrate the season.  Each morning, we sat in the central gathering space to open the next gift, wondering which book it would be.  Some were funny, some were familiar favourites, and all filled us with happiness and excitement for Christmas!  We used the reading strategy of making connections while we discussed the stories and their characters; familiar feelings and traditions made it easy to make connections to ourselves and the world around us.  The repetition of holiday words also supported us as readers and writers, as we began to recognize and write these words independently.

Santa's Visit to Niitsitapi 

Our Christmas/Winter Solstice celebration was a heartwarming day of love, generosity, and joy.  We were so surprised to hear bells ringing in the hallway, and to discover that it was Santa himself bringing gifts for all of us!  Our community of learners were so kind to each other, patiently waiting for everyone to have a gift before excitedly ripping off the paper to find out what was inside.  Everyone was so excited to have something new to play with; our faces had big smiles and our hearts held much gratitude. 

One of the best things about the Christmas holiday is the sense of community.  We were so excited to share a delicious turkey meal with our friends and family, and then share a special performance in the gym.  Our class loves the bear books by Karma Wilson and decided to create a our own story inspired by, Bear Stays Up for Christmas.  It was lots of fun experimenting with different musical instruments and deciding how they might help to tell the story of one particular Bear who decided to avoid hibernation, so that he can celebrate the holiday with his woodland friends.  

We had a wonderful month of learning and holiday cheer! 


The Flower Beadwork People

Celebrating Métis Culture

Throughout the month of November we honoured our Métis ancestors and friends through a variety of learning experiences.  We listened to stories, played the spoons, danced the jig, and created some artwork inspired by  Métis artist, Christi Belcourt.  


Our exploration led to discoveries about the significance of the sash, we were visited by Elder Edmee who taught us some words in Michif, and we were treated to some bannock cooked over an open fire!  

We also enjoyed searching the school for hidden artifacts and photographs that helped to tell stories about Métis history and modern culture. 


iinii - Our Solid Friend

How can Grandfather Rock help us tell our story?

"Only when the rocks begin to know you will they tell you their story." ~ Leroy Little Bear, Listening to Stones

This is iinii. Iinii is the Blackfoot word meaning buffalo.  If you haven't met our solid friend, he stands in the front entryway of our school to greet us each morning and wish us well at the end of our day.  When iinii first arrived at our school, his arrival prompted many questions:

What is iinii made out of?

How heavy is he?

What are we going to name him?

Who made iinii?

How do you carve the rock?

We have learned that an artist named Stewart Steinhauer carved our sculpture using a rock called granite.  It is very strong and difficult to work with.  He had to use special materials to shape and smooth different parts of iinii.  We also learned that Na'a (Mother Earth) is made of different kinds of stone, and that Grandfather Rock is very old - a keeper of all the stories that have lived in a particular place.  What stories could he tell of this place we now call Calgary?  What stories come from the tops of the Rocky Mountains and the bottoms of our glacier fed rivers?  We began to play with rocks to see what we could discover, and what stories would start to be told...

Playing with rocks provided opportunities to create different lines, shapes, and structures.  We sorted rocks according to attributes such as size, texture, shape, and colour.  In small groups, we explored quantity - discussing how many rocks one friend had compared to another, using mathematical vocabulary including "how many?", more/less, and greater than/less than.

We considered why we use a rock during talking circles, and how special it is that the stories and ideas we share are kept by Grandfather Rock. 

We also wondered about the rocks that people choose to use as their "talking rock" during circle, and what draws someone to a particular stone.  Some stories would tell us that the rock speaks to us, asking us to pick it up, and it is important we pay attention and listen...

What kind of rock speaks to you?


Little Humans

In anticipation of Orange Shirt Day, we continued to explore concepts of self and what contributes to each person's unique identity.  We talked about the gifts of our names, our families, and our cultures.  In talking circles, we shared the things we like to do, the talents we have (and are developing), and the things that make us feel most alive.  We discussed the emotion of pride, and tried to answer the question:  What makes you feel proud?  This is a little snapshot of our documentation of learning:

           

    


We have learned that who we are, what we do, what we believe, and where we live are all parts of our identity. 

We Are Unique.  We Belong.  We Are Community.  We are Niitsitapi!

                      


I Am Unique

"Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you." ~ Dr. Seuss

The Kindergarten Program Statement includes the following general learner outcome in the learning area of Citizenship and Identity:

"The child demonstrates an understanding and appreciation of the multiple social, physical, cultural and linguistic factors that contribute to an individual’s unique identity." 

We have been engaged in the exploration of self and what makes each of us unique.  We have examined our physical attributes using mirrors and loose parts, created portraits using a variety of mediums, and read stories about the differences in our appearance that make us special.  

Who we are is not only what we look like on the outside, but who we are on in the inside.  Here is a link to one of our favourite songs, What I Am

What makes me me?  This is a hard question to answer as a little human, and still difficult when you are an adult!  We have talked in circle about our individual personality traits.  Some of the adjectives shared included: funny, smart, imaginative, silly, active, kind, brave, strong, friendly, and helpful.  Someone made the realization, "I am lots of those things!"  

As a learning community we will continue to explore our similarities and differences, celebrating each member of our class as being special in their own way.  


What's in a Name?

The names given to us at birth, in ceremony, and in other circumstances are part of who we are and what makes us unique.  Names are the first words we learn to read and write in Kindergarten.  We have been singing songs, playing games, and exploring materials that will help us remember the letters in our names.  












Can your Kinder kid name the letters in their name?  Here are some fun ways to reinforce letter recognition at home:

  • magnetic letters on the fridge
  • make letters with play dough
  • write letters on scraps of paper and then mix them up and see if your child can put them in order

Welcome to Kindergarten 2018-2019!

Hello families,

Welcome to a new school year!  My name is Ms. Sarah.  I come from rural Saskatchewan where I grew up amongst fields of grain and beautiful living skies.

I am excited to be teaching Kindergarten again at Niitsitapi Learning Centre this year. I have been working for the Calgary Board of Education for the last thirteen years in a variety of positions. I am passionate about early childhood education, as well as holistic approaches to learning that value Indigenous ways of knowing and being. I look forward to getting to know the children and families who are a part of our community this year.

As the school year begins, we will be spending the first few weeks getting to know our new friends and learning to recognize and write our names.  We will learn to be more independent by hanging up our backpacks, zipping up our coats, putting on our shoes, and cleaning up classroom materials. 

A few reminders to make sure everyone is prepared for Kindergarten:

  • Students need a pair of INDOOR shoes that can remain at the school and are appropriate for physical education.
  • Make sure your child is dressed appropriately for playing and learning outside everyday.
  • Students have a better day at school when they get lots of sleep the night before.

Looking forward to this year of learning together,

Ms. Sarah 



Seeing Circles in Space

When we were at Telus Spark we went to a show in the Dome Theatre.  We were excited to discover it was all about space and the planets in our galaxy - just like we had learned about earlier this spring in our classroom!  We excitedly named each planet as it appeared on the enormous screen above our heads.  

In our classroom we had many wonderings about Father Sky and the universe beyond...

Why are we the only people who live on a planet?  Why are we even alive?

Which is the hottest planet?  Is the sun hotter than Venus or is Venus hotter than the sun?

How does Mother Earth move around the sun?

What is inside the sun?

What are the planets made of?

We have learned that when you want to research something specific, you don't always have to look in a book or use the internet.  There are people who are very knowledgable and can be a valuable resource.  We asked Elder Randy if he would come to share some teachings about the sky with us.  He showed us the stars that are on the welcome wall of our school, as well as on our school tipi.  He told us about the constellation with seven stars, called The Big Dipper and explained that the five stars represent the Milky Way Galaxy - called The Wolf Trail in Blackfoot culture.  

We read the story "We Are Here" by Oliver Jeffers and explored many non-fiction books about stars, the sun, the moon, planets, and astronauts.  We used loose parts to tell stories of space exploration and built rockets, space stations, and satellites.  We played with sand, clay, ice, rock, and black beans as we created nebula, moon rocks, stars, and meteorites.  The unique characteristics of each planet inspired us to make artwork representative of the solar system.  AND....most fun of all, our dramatic play area transformed into NASA with a control centre and a rocket ship!

10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...BLAST OFF!





Learning in the Community

We have been out in the community twice in the past two weeks!  Our field trips to Telus Spark Science Centre and The Children's Reading Place provided completely different, yet equally thrilling, environments to play and learn in.  

The Science Centre was a full day of exploring, investigating, tinkering, creating, dancing, climbing, and playing!


The Children's Reading Place invited us into a home filled with books everywhere we looked!  We explored the different rooms, looking for a book to take home with us, and then found a special spot to curl up and get to know what was inside the pages.


We had so much fun on both trips! 

Welcoming Iinii

Today was a special day at Niitsitapi li tass ksii nii mat tsoo kop.  Our little buffalo arrived and is resting in the front entrance.  We love him already (it seems to be an unspoken understanding that "he" is a boy buffalo!) and feel so grateful that we were able to watch Stewart, the artist, and the other workers bring him into the front entryway this morning.  


Rainy Days

We love to sit and watch the rain pitter-patter on our classroom windows.  The grey sky and cooler temperatures make it very inviting to stay inside and curl up with a good book but...

We decided to embrace the drizzle and have some fun creating some rainy day art outside!  Some questions we considered were: 

What happens when you take the paint outside and let the rain fall onto the paper?  What happens if you smear your paper on the wet pavement?  Is the paper absorbent or water proof?  How will the rainy day art dry?  

      

Have fun in the puddles!

Gifts from Mother Earth

 As the year progresses, we continue to talk about the gifts from Mother Earth and find ways to strengthen our connection to the natural world.  The Blackfoot word for Mother Earth is Na'a.  Do you know how to say it in another language?  We would love for you to teach us!

Our world gives us food, water, and air to breathe.  This gives life to living things and helps keep us healthy.  We are learning that we need to take care of Mother Earth so she can continue to take care of us.  The cold weather kept us inside more than we had hoped earlier in our exploration of Earth but we found many interesting ways to investigate and play with the land and water that cover the surface of our planet.  One of the messiest was creating our own model of Mother Earth using paper maché!  




We also experimented with paint and paper collage techniques to represent Na'a in different ways. 


Reading books like The Earth Book by Todd Parr, as well as many non-fiction informational text gave us opportunities to learn new words and the letters in each of them.  We played with the letters in EARTH, NA'A, LAND, WATER, and PLANET.  Ask me if I can tell you the name of each of these letters!

Extending our inquiry into circles, it was noticed that Earth is "kind of a circle" but not really because it isn't flat.  We learned that when something is the shape of a ball it is called a sphere.  How can this blue and green ball float in space?  How far away is the sun?  Why causes day and night, and the changing seasons?  As little scientists we wanted to find out and so our learning reached beyond our home and our sky, into the space beyond...



Circle Teachings and Ceremony

When we brainstormed all the things we know about circles, many of the examples of circle came from Indigenous perspectives and cultural practices.  We identified the use of circles in smudge ceremonies, talking circles, the Medicine Wheel, and the drum.  

                       

                          

"Smudging makes me feel really great!" ~ Keirra                                                                        "I love drumming.  I drum.  Drums is at the powwow." ~ Josiah

                               

When we sit in circle together as a learning community we are all equal.  Everyone has a voice.  Everyone matters.  It gives us the opportunity to share ideas, learn from others, and solve problems together.

   
                                                                      One of our first circles of the year, in the tipi with Elder Randy!


Seeing in Circles

Consider what makes a circle so special...

We started an inquiry into circles and began to see our world in circles, spheres, and cycles.  To begin this exploration we read the story, The Dot by Peter Reynolds.  The story inspires the reader to make a mark - just a dot - and see where it takes them.  Art is one of the many languages of children, and the freedom to create using line and colour led to some beautiful dots that are each unique, just like the little artists who made them.    




Community Connections

Our time spent at Eric Harvie School was such a great day being on the land with new friends.  We spent the morning buildings structures with BIG loose parts on the playground.  It was so much fun rolling, dragging, and standing the huge tubes!  After lunch, we took a walk to the neighborhood coulee area where we hiked through trees, jumped over a little creek made by melting snow, and kept our eyes open for any wildlife that may live in the area.  There are so many sources for imagination outside, and soon many of us were excitedly taking part in a dinosaur hunt during the walk. :)


Swimming 

We were brave little swimmers last week!  Each of us learned something new and had something to share with our friends about our lessons in the water. 

"I liked playing What Time is it Mr. Shark! He tried to get me!" ~ J

"My favourite part of swimming was playing Chop, Chop, Timber." ~ M

"I put my whole face in the water." ~ M

"I practiced my floating on my back." ~ L

"Swimming is too fun!  I just love being in the water!" ~ T

                        


Elder Randy came in to talk to us about animals that live in the water.  We talked about the kinds of feet, fins, and tails that make certain animals well-suited to life in rivers, ponds, and oceans.  Some of our friends were very curious about how these animals "just know" how to swim and why they don't drown without a life jacket!                       


Love and Kindness ❤️

A constant teaching in our learning community is that of love. Building a culture of care and kindness is intentional in the talking circles we share, the way we play and explore together, and in the words and actions we choose. 


The month of February and the celebration of Valentine’s Day gave us extra motivation to focus on this teaching. We created art from the heart, wrote notes and cards to express our love for others, read stories about friendship with special heart shaped reading glasses, and used red and pink materials to count, pattern, build letters and much more. 


It is heartwarming to hear the positive interactions happening in our classroom, as well as how students hold each other accountable for being kind and “filling up each other’s buckets”.  How Full is Your Bucket for Kids by Mary Reckmeyer and Tom Rath is a great book to borrow from the library or add to your own collection!




February 2018 | Solstice, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun

The winter solstice brought the official start to winter.  Despite the cold, we have been bundling up to explore the freezing landscape and observe seasonal changes in our outdoor space.  The solstice also gave us an opportunity to learn about day and night, light and dark, and the concept of time.  Elder Randy sang our Winter Solstice song with us, and talked to us about Grandmother Moon and Grandfather Sun.  We enjoyed creating mixed media artwork to represent these two spirits in the sky. 

It is a new year, and a time of reflection and new beginnings.  We have celebrated our successes in Kindergarten, and are creating goals to work towards as little learners.  We have begun an inquiry into circles; exploring our Earth as a circle, as well as our moon, the stars and the planets beyond.  Some questions to guide this inquiry are:  What is a circle?  Where do we find circles in our world?  Is a circle flat?  It will be exciting to see where this exploration leads us.

Literacy and numeracy continue to be integrated throughout our learning in both structured and unstructured learning experiences.  We count objects, compare quantities, and identify numbers written in books, on toys, and in games.  Interacting with each other provides opportunity to develop our communication skills and build vocabulary.  We are connecting letter names to sounds that they make, and trying to blend sounds together to make simple words.  We love to listen to poetry and sing songs that have rhyming words in them.  Reading rhyming stories and poems at home will help build important pre-reading skills!

With love from our classroom, 

Ms. Sarah and our Kindergarten Class

December 2017 | Peace, Snow and Métis People

Oki, Tansi, Hello!

The month of November provided an opportunity to think about the question, “What is peace?” We loved reading The Peace Book by Todd Parr, who is quickly becoming one of our favourite authors and illustrators.

It also brought snow to our playground and an exciting opportunity to go on a nature walk in search of animal tracks! We discovered that there had been a rabbit visiting the school, as well as birds near our class tree. The fresh snow was also an excellent canvas to create some marks of our own, using sticks to draw and write.

Snow has a way of transforming the natural world in such a beautiful way. We have spent lots of time sitting in our Wonder Window, observing the seasonal changes, and asking questions about the snow and the impact of cold temperatures. In these conversations, you might hear someone share a theory about why something happens, make a connection to a book we have talked about, count how many tracks they can see in the snow, or apply their alphabet knowledge to a seasonal word - “S is for SNOW!”

Our learning has also focused on the Métis people and their stories, traditions, and contributions. Elder Kerrie came to visit our learning community, and shared teachings with us about the Métis sash. We have been exploring stories, beadwork, bannock, jigging, wooden spoons, and artefacts in our play, helping us to better understand the Métis culture and identity.

Every day is busy with little readers, writers, artists, scientists, and anthropologists making new discoveries and new connections. While all of this learning is going on, we also strengthen our relationships with others and develop greater self-confidence.

We can’t wait to share all of this with you at conferences. See you then!

Ms. Sarah

November 2017 | Changes of the Season

Hello families,

Since the fall equinox, we have been exploring the changes of the season. We have been visiting the same tree to investigate what happens to it as the days get shorter and the temperature gets cooler. Small changes provoke questions and we have conversations to discuss and make theories. We have used our senses to observe colours and shapes, identify smells and sounds, and describe texture. The leaves, sticks, ladybugs, and rocks have been manipulated to create stories, make letters, sort into groups, count quantity, and even to create nature art. Our tree also provides a lovely place to sit and share stories, whether they be shared in a talking circle, or read from a book.

We have also brought our outdoor learning into the classroom, transforming our dramatic play space into a fall fair with apples, pumpkins, leaves and a hay bale! As we play together we learn new words, negotiate who is going to play which role and use certain materials, and most importantly we use our imaginations. Natural objects such as leaves and pumpkins have provided us with unique opportunities to explore the concepts of measurement, colour, shape, patterns, number, and the alphabet. We learn from Bear that this season is one of rest. When we watch the natural world and the unhuman beings, we can see them preparing for  winter, seeking warmth and stillness. In our classroom we learn from these teachings. We practice breathing to calm our bodies so that we are able to show kindness to our peers and teachers, engage in learning with curiosity, and regulate our emotions when we feel fruit strated or angry. These actions help us take responsibility for ourselves as learners, as well as contribute in a positive way to our learning community.

With excitement about the learning that is to come,

Ms. Sarah and our Kindergarten Class

October 2017 | Play and the Alphabet

“Play is the highest form of research.” ~ Albert Einstein

It has been a busy month in Kindergarten! We have been learning routines and expectations, and how to work together to build a culture of community within our learning space. We have been playing inside the classroom and outside in the field to explore concepts including colour, patterns, shape, measurement, and number. During our play, we have been working with different groups of friends to problem-solve, share ideas, and have conversations that extend our oral language abilities.

Looking ahead, we will begin an inquiry into the alphabet. What are these symbols that we see in our environment? How do these lines make letters, and letters make words? What is the power of written language and how do we use it to share our ideas and develop our voice? We will use a variety of materials, stories, environmental print and other resources to investigate these ideas.

Love,
Ms. Sarah

September 2017 | Biography

My name is Ms. Sarah and I come from rural Saskatchewan where I grew up amongst the fields of grain and the beautiful living skies.

I am excited to be teaching Kindergarten at Niitsitapi Learning Centre this year. I have been working for the Calgary Board of Education for the last twelve years in a variety of positions. I am passionate about early childhood education, as well as holistic approaches to learning that value Indigenous ways of knowing and being. I look forward to getting to know the children and families who are a part of our community this year!

Ms. Sarah 

Ms. Sarah

Kindergarten

Na'a is Waking Up!

Although the spring equinox came and went months ago, it is only recently we have begun to notice changes outside our classroom window.  We are so grateful to be able to spend much of our time outside on the land connecting to, and learning from, our nature friends. 



Circle teachings often connect the colour yellow to the East, and the season of spring.  These teachings differ between cultures but one thing remains constant, that the bright yellow of the sun rises in the East each morning, bringing with it a new day and new possibilities.  The season of spring is much the same - a time of new beginnings as life begins again for the plants and animals who have rested through the winter and are just awakening, and for the new babies who will be welcomed into the natural world.  For us as two legged beings, perhaps it is a time of awakening for us as well.  The new season is an opportunity to move on from any darkness in our lives, and to embrace the light surrounding us.

What does this mean when you are only five or six years old?

We have considered this idea during talking circles and in conversations about stories we have read, and these are some of our ideas that will bring more light into our learning community:

"I will not say mean things to my friends.  I will use kind words."

"I don't like feeling mad.  I will do things that make me joyful."

"Sometimes learning is difficult.  I will say, "I can try!"

The concepts of light and dark were ones we explored when we learned about the Winter Solstice.  At first, we connected darkness with negativity and fear but then discovered that there are things that are dark that we find interesting and beautiful, including: the night sky, the mystery of outer space, and the protection of a bear's den.  Maybe we need the dark things in life to better appreciate the light. 

These are a few books and traditional stories that we love connected to these ideas:

Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun

Raven Brings the Light

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

Whimy's Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis

Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds

We  look forward to finishing our school year with light, love, joy, and connection!

"Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light." ~ Theodore Roethke


The First Thunder

Did you hear that?!!

We have been watching the sky outside our classroom window; noticing the changing colours, the movement of clouds, and the different examples of weather.  One day, one of our friends observed dark clouds moving towards the school and exclaimed, "It's going to rain!"  Rain it did, and with the rain came thunder!  This provoked much conversation and excitement about the sounds we could hear and memories we had of storms experienced before. 

This learning provocation invited us to create storms using paint (and even a little glitter!).  We had stories, pictures, and video to inspire our visual representations of a thunderstorm.  Watching lightening streak across the screen, and listening to the sounds of pouring rain and rumbling thunder made this learning experience seem much more real - almost like painting amidst a real storm!

There were so many great ideas shared as we painted our storms; we realized we had many different theories and wonderings about this thing called Thunder.  We searched our classroom library for books about thunder and made a list of questions we wanted to ask Elder Randy during his next visit.  When Elder Randy came, he told us that The First Thunder is an important event in his Blackfoot community.  There are special ceremonies and songs after the first thunder is heard.  There is also a story about Ksistsikom (Thunder) that has been told for many generations.  

This is an animation of Saakokoto's graphic novel, KSISTSIKOOM:

This is a written version of the traditional story from the Glenbow Museum:

Storytelling is an important part of our cultures and our classroom.  We considered the question, "How can sounds help to tell a storm story?"  We played with a variety of instruments to make the different sounds of a thunderstorm: rain, wind, lightning, thunder, stars, sun, clouds, etc.  It was a bit noisy but we had lots of fun telling stories this way!


We are storytellers through song, dance, words, and symbols...a story helps to make sense of the world around us.  Right now that story lives in sound, inspired by the sky. 


Tobacco Teachings

Tobacco is one of the four sacred plants Creator has given to us.  Our school was gifted with some tobacco plants which are now growing in our living wall in the hopes that we will be able to harvest the seeds for new plants and dry the stalks and the leaves to make tobacco bundles.  We often stop to observe any changes and say a few words of kindness to encourage their growth!  

Like all living things, tobacco plants have a life cycle that can be understood using the Medicine Wheel.  The plant goes through stages of life including seed (germinating), seedling (sprouting), mature plant (growing), flower (harvest).  Watching these stages, and waiting for changes, teaches us patience and appreciation for the current stage of life.

Watching plants grow helps us to learn what is necessary for their survival.  We have discovered that these plants need soil, light, warmth, air, and water.  They also need a lot of space because they grow quite tall.  Lastly, like all living things, we believe they will thrive with love!

They have also given us an opportunity to consider mathematical concepts such as shape and measurement.  

"This plant is almost as tall as me!" ~ Nahla

This observation initiated a conversation about how we could measure the plant and words we can use to compare size such as big, small, short, tall, and height.  

We are grateful to Na'a for providing us with what our tobacco need to grow to be healthy, and look forward to creating bundles that we will gift to our Elders when asking them to share their knowledge with us, and to Mother Earth when we ask to use something from our natural world. 

Below is a great video that further explains the traditional use of tobacco: 


The Heartbeat of Na'a

The beat of the drum - the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  Mr. Darcy came to visit us for a special week long residency.  The sounds of drumming and singing filled the school.  He shared teachings about how to show respect to the drum, and taught us a new song.

We were interested in the animals who gave their life for us to have our drums and wanted to look more closely to see if we could figure out which animal was used and examine how the maker of each drum laced the hide to the wooden frame.  We sketched hand drums and our school gathering drum, remembering to look for small details that make each one unique.  


We also told stories using pictures and words about our learning experience with Mr. Darcy.  We are practicing using the letter sounds we know to help us turn our ideas into written text.

We can't wait for Mr. Darcy to come back and are so grateful for the time he spent with us. 

Drumming is healing.  Drumming is culture.  Drumming is Niitsitapi. 


Looking at Life Through The Eyes of Bear

What is life like for these furry, ferocious friends of the forest?  We sought to find out more than the basics we already knew - or thought we knew...

  • Bears live in the forest. ~ Faith
  • Bears have claws. ~ Kilo
  • Bears sleep in a cave. ~ Erin
  • Bears eat berries. ~ Kayden
  • Bears can climb up trees. ~ Orlando
  • Bears scratch their back on a tree. ~ Nahla
  • Bears eat humans! ~ Neo

To investigate the life of this animal, we needed to know where to look for information.  We collected books from our school library, searched for reliable websites on the internet, and brainstormed experts who might be able to help in our learning.  We also transformed a corner of the classroom into a winter woodland, which inspired imaginative play and sparked new wonderings.

As we learned about the species of bears living in the Canadian Rockies (and sometimes our city!), we discovered interesting facts about their daily behaviours, seasonal survival skills, and unique instincts.  This new learning was discussed, theorized, and questioned during exploratory learning tasks and play experiences.  It was documented through the co-construction of documentation such as this bear's den.  

Bears were the perfect subject for a variety of art projects.  Painting and sculpting were our favourites and we had many visitors stop by to comment on our creations.  

          


Investigations into the natural world naturally bring up conversations about sensory experiences, habitats, basic needs, relationships, comparisons, and new vocabulary.  Inquiring into what life is like for a grizzly bear, compared to that of a black bear or polar bear, gave us an abundance of opportunities to connect curricular topics and apply our developing literacy skills and mathematical understanding.  Acting as little biologists required us to observe, question, analyze, manage information, use numerical data, communicate effectively, and demonstrate creativity.  

As spring arrives and instinct causes the bears to stir from their state of torpor, we are looking forward to learning about life in other parts of our planet.  We are leaving our den to continue our search for answers about what it means to be alive...

How grateful we are to have so many gifts of life from Na'a (Mother Earth)! 

Happy Spring!  


Life is Love

Eagle teaches us about love.  Flying closest to creator, as well as walking the land with us, Eagle reminds us to show love and kindness to all living beings.  To love others we must love ourselves.  During talking circles over the past few weeks, we have focused our ideas on what characteristics we love about ourselves, and our friends. 

"_____, I am grateful for you because you are _____."  

"I love that I am _____."

Last week, our morning exploration turned tables into valentine stations and red and pink pattern-making areas.  We counted heart shaped beads and created a LOVE-ly number line with some paper hearts and string.  Loose parts such as felt, wooden people, heart cutouts, and a variety of other pieces created stories about friendship - and even a wedding! 

We have been noticing and discussing the difference between 2D and 3D shapes.  This learning was extended through visual art, in which we built heart sculptures and created beautiful mixed media canvases.  Although there was an abundance of red, pink, and purple in our learning space recently, we considered which colour(s) represent love to each of us.  The story What Color is a Kiss? by Rocio Bonilla prompted great conversation and inspiration for our paintings. 


Kindergarten has moments of conflict, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and BIG emotions.  Despite the challenging moments, we are a community of learners who care for each other and show love and kindness throughout our days together.  This impromptu hug was observed near the reading window last week.  Makes your heart happy! 

"You have been my friend, replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. ~ E.B. White, Charlotte's Web


What is Inquiry?

"The important thing is not to stop questionsing; curiosity has its own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein

Inquiry is a journey that begins with the learner.  It lives organically in the classroom, integrated into all subject areas, providing the learner with the opportunity to wonder, explore, and discover.  An inquiry topic or question provides a unique lens through which children can make meaning of the curriculum in an authentic way; in a way that makes a difference to them and the world around them.  It is the common thread, the essence of the learning, during a particular time of study. 

Our inquiry this year will consider the question, What Does It Mean to be Alive?  This concepts of life, survival, and interconnectedness amongst species on Earth will be the lens through which we look at all curricular topics this year.  Having this one "big question" focuses our learning, with the intention of deep learning to occur. 

Some other essential questions that we want to investigate include:

  • What is life?
  • How do plant and animal species survive?
  • Do all living things have the same characteristics?
  • What are Indigenous beliefs about life and spirit?
  • How does our definition of life change when we consider it to be more than a physical state? Does life exist without emotional, social, and spiritual aspects?

We began the year brainstorming what we believed it meant to be alive.  These were our ideas...

Being alive is having a heart.

Being alive is thinking.

Being alive is love.

Being alive is eating.

Being alive is breathing.

Being alive is growing.

Being alive is moving.

Being alive is having roots.

Being alive is nature.

Being alive is water.

Being alive is energy.

Being alive is being not dead!

What makes you feel most alive?



The Winter Solstice

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." 

~ J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What is the Winter Solstice?

Why do we need light from the sun?

What do animals survive the winter?

How does the lack of sunlight affect us as humans?

What is the difference between light and dark?

The winter solstice is the beginning of the new year in Indigenous cultures.  It is a celebration of light returning to Turtle Island, bringing longer days and the promise of spring and new life.  It is a time to reflect on the past and look toward to the future - to new beginnings.  We learned that the day of the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  We explored the concepts of light and dark, read non-fiction books about Earth's rotation around the sun, and learned how light helps things to grow and thrive.  We considered what it means to be alive and how our animal friends are able to survive the harsh winter months with little food and warmth. 

To celebrate the solstice we read many stories including a Cherokee story, Grandmother Spider Brings Back the Sun.  We decorated an outdoor Solstice Tree for our animal friends with natural ornaments made from popcorn, cranberries, oranges, and twigs.  



We also made lanterns to shine light in the darkness, and used them in a special ceremony to honour Winter Solstice.  We created a spiral made from cedar boughs and placed "fire" in the center to represent natoosi and the hope of longer days ahead.  As we walked into the center of the spiral, we filled our lanterns with light and then chose a place in the circle for our lantern to stay.  We made wishes for our nature friends, thanking natoosi for light to help our plant and animal friends.

Happy New Year!


What Does Christmas Mean to You?

We began the Christmas season considering this question in a talking circle.  There were responses about Santa and presents - obviously - but there were also ideas about twinkling lights, decorating trees, and singing Christmas songs.  We discussed the activities that bring friends and families together during the holiday season, and which traditions make it FEEL like Christmas.  Then we made a list of things we wanted to do together as a learning community to celebrate the season and bring joy to one another.  

The Tree

It was at the top of the list to decorate a tree in our learning space, so we found a little one - Kinder size! - and used a combination of store bought ornaments and hand crafted paper chains to decorate it with.  "It needs a star!" was heard exclaimed by many.  This problem was soon solved with the discovery of a star-shaped cookie cutter. :)  The simple act of hanging ornaments on the tree led to observations about colour, texture, weight, and transparency.  Students took turns hanging the decorations, negotiating where each one should hang and whose turn would be next. 

12 Days of Christmas Reading

We shared our love of books and stories with the whole school, sharing twelve favourite picture books that celebrate the season.  Each morning, we sat in the central gathering space to open the next gift, wondering which book it would be.  Some were funny, some were familiar favourites, and all filled us with happiness and excitement for Christmas!  We used the reading strategy of making connections while we discussed the stories and their characters; familiar feelings and traditions made it easy to make connections to ourselves and the world around us.  The repetition of holiday words also supported us as readers and writers, as we began to recognize and write these words independently.

Santa's Visit to Niitsitapi 

Our Christmas/Winter Solstice celebration was a heartwarming day of love, generosity, and joy.  We were so surprised to hear bells ringing in the hallway, and to discover that it was Santa himself bringing gifts for all of us!  Our community of learners were so kind to each other, patiently waiting for everyone to have a gift before excitedly ripping off the paper to find out what was inside.  Everyone was so excited to have something new to play with; our faces had big smiles and our hearts held much gratitude. 

One of the best things about the Christmas holiday is the sense of community.  We were so excited to share a delicious turkey meal with our friends and family, and then share a special performance in the gym.  Our class loves the bear books by Karma Wilson and decided to create a our own story inspired by, Bear Stays Up for Christmas.  It was lots of fun experimenting with different musical instruments and deciding how they might help to tell the story of one particular Bear who decided to avoid hibernation, so that he can celebrate the holiday with his woodland friends.  

We had a wonderful month of learning and holiday cheer! 


The Flower Beadwork People

Celebrating Métis Culture

Throughout the month of November we honoured our Métis ancestors and friends through a variety of learning experiences.  We listened to stories, played the spoons, danced the jig, and created some artwork inspired by  Métis artist, Christi Belcourt.  


Our exploration led to discoveries about the significance of the sash, we were visited by Elder Edmee who taught us some words in Michif, and we were treated to some bannock cooked over an open fire!  

We also enjoyed searching the school for hidden artifacts and photographs that helped to tell stories about Métis history and modern culture. 


iinii - Our Solid Friend

How can Grandfather Rock help us tell our story?

"Only when the rocks begin to know you will they tell you their story." ~ Leroy Little Bear, Listening to Stones

This is iinii. Iinii is the Blackfoot word meaning buffalo.  If you haven't met our solid friend, he stands in the front entryway of our school to greet us each morning and wish us well at the end of our day.  When iinii first arrived at our school, his arrival prompted many questions:

What is iinii made out of?

How heavy is he?

What are we going to name him?

Who made iinii?

How do you carve the rock?

We have learned that an artist named Stewart Steinhauer carved our sculpture using a rock called granite.  It is very strong and difficult to work with.  He had to use special materials to shape and smooth different parts of iinii.  We also learned that Na'a (Mother Earth) is made of different kinds of stone, and that Grandfather Rock is very old - a keeper of all the stories that have lived in a particular place.  What stories could he tell of this place we now call Calgary?  What stories come from the tops of the Rocky Mountains and the bottoms of our glacier fed rivers?  We began to play with rocks to see what we could discover, and what stories would start to be told...

Playing with rocks provided opportunities to create different lines, shapes, and structures.  We sorted rocks according to attributes such as size, texture, shape, and colour.  In small groups, we explored quantity - discussing how many rocks one friend had compared to another, using mathematical vocabulary including "how many?", more/less, and greater than/less than.

We considered why we use a rock during talking circles, and how special it is that the stories and ideas we share are kept by Grandfather Rock. 

We also wondered about the rocks that people choose to use as their "talking rock" during circle, and what draws someone to a particular stone.  Some stories would tell us that the rock speaks to us, asking us to pick it up, and it is important we pay attention and listen...

What kind of rock speaks to you?


Little Humans

In anticipation of Orange Shirt Day, we continued to explore concepts of self and what contributes to each person's unique identity.  We talked about the gifts of our names, our families, and our cultures.  In talking circles, we shared the things we like to do, the talents we have (and are developing), and the things that make us feel most alive.  We discussed the emotion of pride, and tried to answer the question:  What makes you feel proud?  This is a little snapshot of our documentation of learning:

           

    


We have learned that who we are, what we do, what we believe, and where we live are all parts of our identity. 

We Are Unique.  We Belong.  We Are Community.  We are Niitsitapi!

                      


I Am Unique

"Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you." ~ Dr. Seuss

The Kindergarten Program Statement includes the following general learner outcome in the learning area of Citizenship and Identity:

"The child demonstrates an understanding and appreciation of the multiple social, physical, cultural and linguistic factors that contribute to an individual’s unique identity." 

We have been engaged in the exploration of self and what makes each of us unique.  We have examined our physical attributes using mirrors and loose parts, created portraits using a variety of mediums, and read stories about the differences in our appearance that make us special.  

Who we are is not only what we look like on the outside, but who we are on in the inside.  Here is a link to one of our favourite songs, What I Am

What makes me me?  This is a hard question to answer as a little human, and still difficult when you are an adult!  We have talked in circle about our individual personality traits.  Some of the adjectives shared included: funny, smart, imaginative, silly, active, kind, brave, strong, friendly, and helpful.  Someone made the realization, "I am lots of those things!"  

As a learning community we will continue to explore our similarities and differences, celebrating each member of our class as being special in their own way.  


What's in a Name?

The names given to us at birth, in ceremony, and in other circumstances are part of who we are and what makes us unique.  Names are the first words we learn to read and write in Kindergarten.  We have been singing songs, playing games, and exploring materials that will help us remember the letters in our names.  












Can your Kinder kid name the letters in their name?  Here are some fun ways to reinforce letter recognition at home:

  • magnetic letters on the fridge
  • make letters with play dough
  • write letters on scraps of paper and then mix them up and see if your child can put them in order

Welcome to Kindergarten 2018-2019!

Hello families,

Welcome to a new school year!  My name is Ms. Sarah.  I come from rural Saskatchewan where I grew up amongst fields of grain and beautiful living skies.

I am excited to be teaching Kindergarten again at Niitsitapi Learning Centre this year. I have been working for the Calgary Board of Education for the last thirteen years in a variety of positions. I am passionate about early childhood education, as well as holistic approaches to learning that value Indigenous ways of knowing and being. I look forward to getting to know the children and families who are a part of our community this year.

As the school year begins, we will be spending the first few weeks getting to know our new friends and learning to recognize and write our names.  We will learn to be more independent by hanging up our backpacks, zipping up our coats, putting on our shoes, and cleaning up classroom materials. 

A few reminders to make sure everyone is prepared for Kindergarten:

  • Students need a pair of INDOOR shoes that can remain at the school and are appropriate for physical education.
  • Make sure your child is dressed appropriately for playing and learning outside everyday.
  • Students have a better day at school when they get lots of sleep the night before.

Looking forward to this year of learning together,

Ms. Sarah 



Seeing Circles in Space

When we were at Telus Spark we went to a show in the Dome Theatre.  We were excited to discover it was all about space and the planets in our galaxy - just like we had learned about earlier this spring in our classroom!  We excitedly named each planet as it appeared on the enormous screen above our heads.  

In our classroom we had many wonderings about Father Sky and the universe beyond...

Why are we the only people who live on a planet?  Why are we even alive?

Which is the hottest planet?  Is the sun hotter than Venus or is Venus hotter than the sun?

How does Mother Earth move around the sun?

What is inside the sun?

What are the planets made of?

We have learned that when you want to research something specific, you don't always have to look in a book or use the internet.  There are people who are very knowledgable and can be a valuable resource.  We asked Elder Randy if he would come to share some teachings about the sky with us.  He showed us the stars that are on the welcome wall of our school, as well as on our school tipi.  He told us about the constellation with seven stars, called The Big Dipper and explained that the five stars represent the Milky Way Galaxy - called The Wolf Trail in Blackfoot culture.  

We read the story "We Are Here" by Oliver Jeffers and explored many non-fiction books about stars, the sun, the moon, planets, and astronauts.  We used loose parts to tell stories of space exploration and built rockets, space stations, and satellites.  We played with sand, clay, ice, rock, and black beans as we created nebula, moon rocks, stars, and meteorites.  The unique characteristics of each planet inspired us to make artwork representative of the solar system.  AND....most fun of all, our dramatic play area transformed into NASA with a control centre and a rocket ship!

10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...BLAST OFF!





Learning in the Community

We have been out in the community twice in the past two weeks!  Our field trips to Telus Spark Science Centre and The Children's Reading Place provided completely different, yet equally thrilling, environments to play and learn in.  

The Science Centre was a full day of exploring, investigating, tinkering, creating, dancing, climbing, and playing!


The Children's Reading Place invited us into a home filled with books everywhere we looked!  We explored the different rooms, looking for a book to take home with us, and then found a special spot to curl up and get to know what was inside the pages.


We had so much fun on both trips! 

Welcoming Iinii

Today was a special day at Niitsitapi li tass ksii nii mat tsoo kop.  Our little buffalo arrived and is resting in the front entrance.  We love him already (it seems to be an unspoken understanding that "he" is a boy buffalo!) and feel so grateful that we were able to watch Stewart, the artist, and the other workers bring him into the front entryway this morning.  


Rainy Days

We love to sit and watch the rain pitter-patter on our classroom windows.  The grey sky and cooler temperatures make it very inviting to stay inside and curl up with a good book but...

We decided to embrace the drizzle and have some fun creating some rainy day art outside!  Some questions we considered were: 

What happens when you take the paint outside and let the rain fall onto the paper?  What happens if you smear your paper on the wet pavement?  Is the paper absorbent or water proof?  How will the rainy day art dry?  

      

Have fun in the puddles!

Gifts from Mother Earth

 As the year progresses, we continue to talk about the gifts from Mother Earth and find ways to strengthen our connection to the natural world.  The Blackfoot word for Mother Earth is Na'a.  Do you know how to say it in another language?  We would love for you to teach us!

Our world gives us food, water, and air to breathe.  This gives life to living things and helps keep us healthy.  We are learning that we need to take care of Mother Earth so she can continue to take care of us.  The cold weather kept us inside more than we had hoped earlier in our exploration of Earth but we found many interesting ways to investigate and play with the land and water that cover the surface of our planet.  One of the messiest was creating our own model of Mother Earth using paper maché!  




We also experimented with paint and paper collage techniques to represent Na'a in different ways. 


Reading books like The Earth Book by Todd Parr, as well as many non-fiction informational text gave us opportunities to learn new words and the letters in each of them.  We played with the letters in EARTH, NA'A, LAND, WATER, and PLANET.  Ask me if I can tell you the name of each of these letters!

Extending our inquiry into circles, it was noticed that Earth is "kind of a circle" but not really because it isn't flat.  We learned that when something is the shape of a ball it is called a sphere.  How can this blue and green ball float in space?  How far away is the sun?  Why causes day and night, and the changing seasons?  As little scientists we wanted to find out and so our learning reached beyond our home and our sky, into the space beyond...



Circle Teachings and Ceremony

When we brainstormed all the things we know about circles, many of the examples of circle came from Indigenous perspectives and cultural practices.  We identified the use of circles in smudge ceremonies, talking circles, the Medicine Wheel, and the drum.  

                       

                          

"Smudging makes me feel really great!" ~ Keirra                                                                        "I love drumming.  I drum.  Drums is at the powwow." ~ Josiah

                               

When we sit in circle together as a learning community we are all equal.  Everyone has a voice.  Everyone matters.  It gives us the opportunity to share ideas, learn from others, and solve problems together.

   
                                                                      One of our first circles of the year, in the tipi with Elder Randy!


Seeing in Circles

Consider what makes a circle so special...

We started an inquiry into circles and began to see our world in circles, spheres, and cycles.  To begin this exploration we read the story, The Dot by Peter Reynolds.  The story inspires the reader to make a mark - just a dot - and see where it takes them.  Art is one of the many languages of children, and the freedom to create using line and colour led to some beautiful dots that are each unique, just like the little artists who made them.    




Community Connections

Our time spent at Eric Harvie School was such a great day being on the land with new friends.  We spent the morning buildings structures with BIG loose parts on the playground.  It was so much fun rolling, dragging, and standing the huge tubes!  After lunch, we took a walk to the neighborhood coulee area where we hiked through trees, jumped over a little creek made by melting snow, and kept our eyes open for any wildlife that may live in the area.  There are so many sources for imagination outside, and soon many of us were excitedly taking part in a dinosaur hunt during the walk. :)


Swimming 

We were brave little swimmers last week!  Each of us learned something new and had something to share with our friends about our lessons in the water. 

"I liked playing What Time is it Mr. Shark! He tried to get me!" ~ J

"My favourite part of swimming was playing Chop, Chop, Timber." ~ M

"I put my whole face in the water." ~ M

"I practiced my floating on my back." ~ L

"Swimming is too fun!  I just love being in the water!" ~ T

                        


Elder Randy came in to talk to us about animals that live in the water.  We talked about the kinds of feet, fins, and tails that make certain animals well-suited to life in rivers, ponds, and oceans.  Some of our friends were very curious about how these animals "just know" how to swim and why they don't drown without a life jacket!                       


Love and Kindness ❤️

A constant teaching in our learning community is that of love. Building a culture of care and kindness is intentional in the talking circles we share, the way we play and explore together, and in the words and actions we choose. 


The month of February and the celebration of Valentine’s Day gave us extra motivation to focus on this teaching. We created art from the heart, wrote notes and cards to express our love for others, read stories about friendship with special heart shaped reading glasses, and used red and pink materials to count, pattern, build letters and much more. 


It is heartwarming to hear the positive interactions happening in our classroom, as well as how students hold each other accountable for being kind and “filling up each other’s buckets”.  How Full is Your Bucket for Kids by Mary Reckmeyer and Tom Rath is a great book to borrow from the library or add to your own collection!




February 2018 | Solstice, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun

The winter solstice brought the official start to winter.  Despite the cold, we have been bundling up to explore the freezing landscape and observe seasonal changes in our outdoor space.  The solstice also gave us an opportunity to learn about day and night, light and dark, and the concept of time.  Elder Randy sang our Winter Solstice song with us, and talked to us about Grandmother Moon and Grandfather Sun.  We enjoyed creating mixed media artwork to represent these two spirits in the sky. 

It is a new year, and a time of reflection and new beginnings.  We have celebrated our successes in Kindergarten, and are creating goals to work towards as little learners.  We have begun an inquiry into circles; exploring our Earth as a circle, as well as our moon, the stars and the planets beyond.  Some questions to guide this inquiry are:  What is a circle?  Where do we find circles in our world?  Is a circle flat?  It will be exciting to see where this exploration leads us.

Literacy and numeracy continue to be integrated throughout our learning in both structured and unstructured learning experiences.  We count objects, compare quantities, and identify numbers written in books, on toys, and in games.  Interacting with each other provides opportunity to develop our communication skills and build vocabulary.  We are connecting letter names to sounds that they make, and trying to blend sounds together to make simple words.  We love to listen to poetry and sing songs that have rhyming words in them.  Reading rhyming stories and poems at home will help build important pre-reading skills!

With love from our classroom, 

Ms. Sarah and our Kindergarten Class

December 2017 | Peace, Snow and Métis People

Oki, Tansi, Hello!

The month of November provided an opportunity to think about the question, “What is peace?” We loved reading The Peace Book by Todd Parr, who is quickly becoming one of our favourite authors and illustrators.

It also brought snow to our playground and an exciting opportunity to go on a nature walk in search of animal tracks! We discovered that there had been a rabbit visiting the school, as well as birds near our class tree. The fresh snow was also an excellent canvas to create some marks of our own, using sticks to draw and write.

Snow has a way of transforming the natural world in such a beautiful way. We have spent lots of time sitting in our Wonder Window, observing the seasonal changes, and asking questions about the snow and the impact of cold temperatures. In these conversations, you might hear someone share a theory about why something happens, make a connection to a book we have talked about, count how many tracks they can see in the snow, or apply their alphabet knowledge to a seasonal word - “S is for SNOW!”

Our learning has also focused on the Métis people and their stories, traditions, and contributions. Elder Kerrie came to visit our learning community, and shared teachings with us about the Métis sash. We have been exploring stories, beadwork, bannock, jigging, wooden spoons, and artefacts in our play, helping us to better understand the Métis culture and identity.

Every day is busy with little readers, writers, artists, scientists, and anthropologists making new discoveries and new connections. While all of this learning is going on, we also strengthen our relationships with others and develop greater self-confidence.

We can’t wait to share all of this with you at conferences. See you then!

Ms. Sarah

November 2017 | Changes of the Season

Hello families,

Since the fall equinox, we have been exploring the changes of the season. We have been visiting the same tree to investigate what happens to it as the days get shorter and the temperature gets cooler. Small changes provoke questions and we have conversations to discuss and make theories. We have used our senses to observe colours and shapes, identify smells and sounds, and describe texture. The leaves, sticks, ladybugs, and rocks have been manipulated to create stories, make letters, sort into groups, count quantity, and even to create nature art. Our tree also provides a lovely place to sit and share stories, whether they be shared in a talking circle, or read from a book.

We have also brought our outdoor learning into the classroom, transforming our dramatic play space into a fall fair with apples, pumpkins, leaves and a hay bale! As we play together we learn new words, negotiate who is going to play which role and use certain materials, and most importantly we use our imaginations. Natural objects such as leaves and pumpkins have provided us with unique opportunities to explore the concepts of measurement, colour, shape, patterns, number, and the alphabet. We learn from Bear that this season is one of rest. When we watch the natural world and the unhuman beings, we can see them preparing for  winter, seeking warmth and stillness. In our classroom we learn from these teachings. We practice breathing to calm our bodies so that we are able to show kindness to our peers and teachers, engage in learning with curiosity, and regulate our emotions when we feel fruit strated or angry. These actions help us take responsibility for ourselves as learners, as well as contribute in a positive way to our learning community.

With excitement about the learning that is to come,

Ms. Sarah and our Kindergarten Class

October 2017 | Play and the Alphabet

“Play is the highest form of research.” ~ Albert Einstein

It has been a busy month in Kindergarten! We have been learning routines and expectations, and how to work together to build a culture of community within our learning space. We have been playing inside the classroom and outside in the field to explore concepts including colour, patterns, shape, measurement, and number. During our play, we have been working with different groups of friends to problem-solve, share ideas, and have conversations that extend our oral language abilities.

Looking ahead, we will begin an inquiry into the alphabet. What are these symbols that we see in our environment? How do these lines make letters, and letters make words? What is the power of written language and how do we use it to share our ideas and develop our voice? We will use a variety of materials, stories, environmental print and other resources to investigate these ideas.

Love,
Ms. Sarah

September 2017 | Biography

My name is Ms. Sarah and I come from rural Saskatchewan where I grew up amongst the fields of grain and the beautiful living skies.

I am excited to be teaching Kindergarten at Niitsitapi Learning Centre this year. I have been working for the Calgary Board of Education for the last twelve years in a variety of positions. I am passionate about early childhood education, as well as holistic approaches to learning that value Indigenous ways of knowing and being. I look forward to getting to know the children and families who are a part of our community this year!

Ms. Sarah 

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