Earth Day Environmental Centers

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Our school is a green school, so we do a lot as a whole school to learn about caring for our Earth throughout the year. Our third grade has some specific science standards that explore pollution and effects of humans on the environment. They are beginning a unit on this during science, and the opportunity aligned to allow us to explore the topic during the week of Earth Day. Each class came to the library for a 45-minute exploration of 5 centers. Students began on the carpet for a quick intro to the 5 centers. Students did not have to make it to all of the centers. Instead, I told them to prioritize which ones interested them the most and do their best to make it to those and save the others in case centers were full or they had extra time.

The classroom teacher, gifted teacher, and I all walked around and talked with individual students as they worked to see what they were discovering and assisting them if they had a question. Here’s a look at the 5 centers they explored:

 

Center 1: Books

I pulled multiple books from our collection about the environment, energy, recycling, water conservation, and more. Students were encouraged to find a book that caught their eye and spend a few minutes reading parts of that book or parts of several books.

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Center 2: Flipgrid

I created a list of authentic environmental problems that exist in our school. These included things like printing to copiers and never picking up the copies, throwing away recyclables, and trash in our parking lot after a UGA football game. Students were encouraged to pick an issue from my list or come up with their own observation. Using Flipgrid, they recorded a brief video identifying the problem and naming possible solutions.

 

Center 3: Observation and Poetry

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This center included multiple books by Joyce Sidman. She is a master of making observations in the natural world, researching those observations, and then turning them into poetry. Many of her books feature side-by-side poetry and the information that inspired the poem. Students were encouraged pick a book, find a poem, and see how the factual information that Sidman researched made its way into her poetry.

 

Center 4: Environmental Blackout Poetry

This center was modeled after the blackout poetry of Austin Kleon. It is  kind of found poetry where you find words in magazines, newspaper, websites, or books to arrange into a poem and you blackout the rest of the words on the page. I copied multiple selections from books about the environment and students chose one of those pages to create a blackout poem. It’s always interesting to see how students boil the words down to the ones that stand out the most in the article or page. This year, I made sure that we did our blackout poetry on top of a table cover so that they black crayon and marker didn’t make its way onto our tables.

 

Center 5: Environmental Online Resources

Using Symbaloo, I pulled together ebooks, websites, interactive sites, and videos about the environment. Students spent time on a few of the sites before moving on to other centers.

Now the students will use the topics and ideas that they discovered in this exploration as they continue to study these topics back in the classroom.

 

Kicking Off Poetry Lessons for Poetry Month: Blackout Poetry

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I love to do poetry throughout the year, but April always brings an increase in poetry lessons since it is National Poetry Month.  It’s also the month that we have Poem In Your Pocket Day across 2 days at our school.

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Our 2nd grade has been busy with poetry in these first few days of the month.  They’ve already explored list poetry and now they are trying a kind of poetry called “blackout poetry”.  This poetry was invented by Austin Kleon when he had a case of writer’s block and started using the New York Times to help him write his poetry.  You can see a time lapse video of Austin’s process, which we showed to each class before we started.

Blackout poetry is a kind of found poetry because it uses words that were created by someone else.  You put boxes around the words that you want to use in the poem and then blackout everything else.  You can find your text in so many different places:  instruction manuals, pages from books, newspapers, junkmail, old tests,……the list could go on and on.

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Two classes at a time came to the library for this lesson.  We started by looking at the video as well as some examples of blackout poems online.  Then, we talked a bit about what we noticed about the process.  Austin Kleon put boxes around words that he thought he might use.  He tried to find words that seemed to go together.  We noticed that there were times where he was sitting and thinking without marking anything on the page.  We also noticed that he blacked out some of the words that he originally thought he would use.

We encouraged students to try out this same process at tables.  Since 2nd grade is working on animal and plant life cycles and habitats, we selected a few pages from a variety of animal and plant books and made multiple copies of them.  Students sat at a page that looked interesting to them.  The teachers and circulated to assist students as needed.

Most students jumped right in, but a few needed some help getting started.  One of the things that I did to help students was just to talk out loud about what I would do if I was writing the poem.  I said words that seemed to have a connection with one another and then scanned the page for more words that fit with those words (and so on).  Most of the time this nudged students to start.

As students finished selecting their words, they used crayons, color pencils, regular pencils, and markers to blackout their page.  Then, they practiced reading their poems.  Some shared with one another.

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Other students decided to use our poetry Flipgrid to record their poems.

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Click the picture to visit our poems!

Many of these students will carry these poems in their pockets on Poem In Your Pocket Day.  I love seeing how students break down the text to create a new meaning.

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3rd Grade Environmental Projects with Flipgrid, Story Me, and Blackout Poetry

IMG_3405Third grade has been revisiting their environmental science standards at the end of this year.

S3L2. Students will recognize the effects of pollution and humans on the environment.
a. Explain the effects of pollution (such as littering) to the habitats of plants and
animals.
b. Identify ways to protect the environment.
• Conservation of resources
• Recycling of material

 

In the library, I pulled tons of environmental print books and made a pathfinder of ebooks, database resources, and websites around the environment.

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We’ve also had guest speakers from The Seed and Plate   What is The Seed and Plate?

We are an independent magazine in Athens, Ga. with a focus on food, farming and community in the Southeast. We hope to educate and inspire using our surroundings and the amazing people we’ve met along the way. We begin now as an online media publication, with an eye towards a print version in the future. Enjoy.

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The Seed and Plate has been fantastic because they have presented to the students several times on composting, community farming, and being friendly to our earth.  They have also supported students as they work on environmental projects and plan to give our students an outlet for publishing their work.

We’ve also hosted the Athens Clarke County Recycling Department to talk to the students about composting.  Students have been using compost bins and paying attention to the amount of food that is being thrown away in our cafeteria.  Since students are watching this closely, they are really starting to think about what we can do as a school to be friendly to our Earth.

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After our exploration of print and digital resources as well as our guest speakers, I sent all of the resources into classrooms for students to continue using. Students chose a focus area to learn more about.  Then, they came back to the library to learn about 3 options for final projects during the last week of school.

Option 1: Students could write a script with or without props and record it on our environmental Flipgrid.

Option 2: Students could use the Story Me app on the iPad to create a comic strip about their chosen topic.

Option 3: Students could create a blackout poem using text from a web resource or a copied page from an environmental book.

As I shared each option with students, I let them know what they would need to prepare in order to create their final product in one work session.  For Flipgrid, students would need their scripts and prop.  For Story Me, students would need drawings that they wanted to include in their comic and possible text that would go into speech bubbles written on post it notes.  For blackout poetry, students needed to print the page from the web or have teachers copy a page from a book to use.  Students spent 2 days in class preparing their materials.

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Today, students came to the library with their materials ready.  I gave one more quick overview of the projects and we designated areas for record, areas for coloring for blackout poetry, and areas for spreading out to take photographs for Story Me.  The classroom teacher, Natalie Hicks (spectrum teacher), folks from The Seed and Plate, and I all walked around and helped students think through the process of creating their product.

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Eventually, I stopped roaming around so that I could focus on collecting work from students.  Each Story Me comic was saved to the camera roll on the iPad and then downloaded to a folder on my computer. Each blackout poem was photographed and downloaded to a separate folder.  Flipgrids were automatically added to the online grid as students submitted.

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The students were truly prepared when they came to the library today. This allowed them to really focus on putting together their final product rather than focus on trying to create all of the content.  Students supported one another and adults were able to focus on students who needed extra support.

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Now our work is ready to show to the world.  We’re sharing it all with our new friends at The Seed and Plate to highlight on their website but we also have a gallery to share with you here.

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Flipgrid:

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

Blackout Poetry:

Story Me Comics:

Exploring Civil Rights through Blackout and Magnetic Poetry

IMG_30815th grade has a massive social studies curriculum.  It spans from the civil war all the way up to the present.  One of the things that they have been doing for the past 2 years that I love is using Christopher Paul Curtis’s books to tie in to the curriculum.  They start with Elijah of Buxton, move to Bud Not Buddy, and finish with the Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963.

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The civil rights movement is where they have been spending a lot of time recently, so the teacher emailed me to see what we might do in the library to focus on this time period in her language arts class. The standards they are working on are:

SS5H8 The student will describe the importance of key people, events, and developments between 1950-1975.

b. Explain the key events and people of the Civil Rights movement; include Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and civil rights activities of Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Since it’s poetry month, I wanted to pull poetry into our time together, and I knew that 5th graders would be able to handle some complex text and concepts.

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Just like with 3rd grade, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, but their background information was much deeper than what 3rd graders knew.  They had connections and stories to share about the riots and peaceful marches that took place during the civil rights movement.  It was the perfect opportunity for me to also pull in Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  This book doesn’t publish until May 27th, but I have an advance reader’s copy from the Texas Library Association Conference.  I was able to show them some of the speeches, music, advertisements, etc from the time period to accompany the picture book, Freedom Summer. 

 

For poetry, the 5th graders created 2 kinds of found poetry.  They used the Word Mover app on the iPad to create magnetic poetry.  The app has a word bank that is words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  They also used pages from Freedom Summer and a couple of pages from Revolution to create blackout poetry.

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This time for blackout poetry, we used the New York Times interactive site to create blackout poetry together.  The site makes it very easy to select & deselect words from articles to create 15-word blackout poems.  We did an example together on the board.  The teacher also helped demonstrate how to mark words on their own paper by putting boxes around words in the NY Times article on the board.

We found that a good first step for students in making blackout poetry is to read or skim the page and then put boxes around words or phrases that stand out.  Once you are sure of the words you want in your poem, then you blackout the rest of the page.  Modeling this on the board was important today.  We had very few students in 3 classes who needed to start over.

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I randomly gave students pages  from the books and they started the process.  For the most part, it was a very quiet process.  Students methodically chose their words and then quietly shared their work at their tables.  A few students paired up to help each other decide on words and phrases.

As students finished their blackout poems, they grabbed an iPad and created their Word Mover poems.  Just like with 2nd grade, most students arranged their words into solid sentences rather than shaping them up like a poem.  If time allowed, I conference with students and they went back into their poem to shape it into line breaks.

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Almost every poem was a reflective synthesis of student understanding about events of the civil rights movement and freedom summer.  Some students had some humorous twists to their poems, but most were solemn, serious, and reflective.

Take a look at their gallery.  Just like Revolution immerses us in the time period through story, music, advertisements, speeches, and other documentary pieces, the student poetry immersed us in the positive and negative feelings of the civil rights movement and freedom summer through multiple perspectives.

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Using Freedom Summer to Create Blackout Poetry

blackout poetry (14)In third grade, students learn about civil rights through the standard:

SS3H2 The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s
rights and freedoms in a democracy.

Students specifically learn about Mary McLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglas, and Thurgood Marshall.  When these students get to 5th grade, they will spend a larger amount of time studying the civil rights movement, but I thought this would be a good time to explore some text that connected with their current understanding of civil rights.

Students spent a small amount of time sharing what they currently understand about segregation and civil rights.  They brought up things like drinking from separate fountains, riding in the back of the bus, and holding boycotts of the transportation system.

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Then, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.  Students immediately noticed the connections to their own understanding of segregation as the 2 main characters could not do the same things together.  They were shocked when they got to the part in the story where the two boys couldn’t go to the pool because it was closed and filled in with asphalt.  The students used words like unfair, lunatics, and furious when describing their feelings and the idea of closing things rather than follow the law.

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After discussing the book, I showed them how some artists and poets use text that they find in the world and turn it into something new.  Austin Kleon, in Austin Texas, is one of these writers and artists.  We looked at a few of his poems called “blackout poems”.  He takes pages from newspapers or other texts and blacks out all of the words on the page except for the words in the poem.

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I gave the students one of three pages from Freedom Summer.  They spent time looking for words that stood out to them as a possible poem.  When they decided on the words of their poem, they circled them or drew boxes around them with a black marker.  Next, they used that same marker to blackout the rest of the words on the page.

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It was interesting to see how students interpreted the exact same page in a different way.

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We had students share their poems at the end, and it gave us a new understanding of what stood out on the page and in the story for students.  It was as if the poem helped us to look more closely at the meaning that we might all take from the text.  As usual, this was more difficult for some students than others, but we noticed that this kind of poetry did take away the barrier of spelling or deciding what to write.  We could instead focus on the meaning of the words on the page and use those words to interpret the story as a poem.

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Here are a few of the poems that students created.

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