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.

 

America Recycles Day: Connecting with the World and Making a Difference

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This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to collaborate globally.  In the past, I’ve participated in amazing events such as Dot Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and World Read Aloud Day.  Each of those events has connected our students to classrooms and authors around the globe, and I’ve found so many collaborative colleagues through these events.  It’s these very events that have pushed me to wonder what more we can do with our students.  I’ve been pondering how we can have collaborations that allow our students to make a difference in the world and share their ideas, their questions, their problems, and their solutions.

When our spectrum teacher, Natalie Hicks, came to me with a flyer about America Recycles Day, I knew that this day had potential to spark some action projects with our students and students around the globe.  I made a Google doc, crafted a blog post, and started inviting anyone and everyone to connect for America Recycles Day.  It didn’t take long for some of the very people I’ve connected with for other events to start posting their own schedules in the doc and making connections.  I want to thank Shawna Ford, Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Donna MacDonald, Misti Sikes, Ly Phan, Kathy Schmidt, and Craig Seasholes for taking a risk with me and trying something new.  These people put their schedules out there and started making connections.

This week, my own students started making connections for America Recycles Day.  Each Skype or Google Hangout offered a little something different.

Ms. Clarke and Ms. Haley’s 3rd grade class connected with Kathy Schmidt and her 3rd graders in Gwinnett County, GA.  We learned about how her students are collecting items from home to put in the library’s tinker lab rather than throw them away.

Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class connected with Cally Flickinger in South Burlington, Vermont.  We read the book Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter.  The story sparked a great conversation about how our trash can take over our world and how important it is to recycle or reuse instead of throw things away.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class connected with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, Vermont.  Her students shared how they are using Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit to inspire a save the crayons campain.  Students are collecting crayons and sending them to be melted into new crayons.  Our students took time to offer some other ways that the crayons might be used such as making candles, melting crayons for artwork, fusing crayons together to make two-sided crayons, and investigating what crayons are made of so that they might discover even more things that crayons could make.

Ms. Li’s Kindergarten connected with Misti Sikes and her Kindergarten in Forsyth, Georgia.  They shared how they recycle at their school by separating white paper and color paper as well as other ways that recycling has to be prepared before it goes into the bin such as removing paper clips and staples.

Ms. Boyle’s Kindergarten connected with Holly Esterline & Katie LeFrancois’s grade 1 & 2 class in Bolton, Vermont.  We shared the book Compost Stew and heard about how their school is doing TerraCycling.  Even with our connection issues, we still learned a lot about something we don’t do much of at our school.

Ms. Tesler’s 4th grade students gathered a lunch bunch together to connect with Cathy Potter and her students in Falmouth, Maine.  The 1st graders at her school showed us a Google presentation with pictures of recycling and composting efforts in their school.  They have a whole process of how their scraps at lunch get put into a bucket to go to the composting bin.

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Finally, Ms. Spurgeon’s 3rd grade class connected with Karre Sloan’s 6th grade students in Nashville, Tennessee.  They shared the recycling program from their school and how their 3rd graders are in charge of recycling.  They also shared their ideas and tips for our own recycling problem at our school.

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In every connection, our students shared our own school problem.  We have recycling bins in every classroom, but we are finding that people are still throwing away recyclable things.  Even when we recycle, we have an additional problem.  People are parking in front of our recycling dumpster and the recycling truck can’t get to the recycling to empty it.  We posted these problems onto a Padlet.  We showed each connecting class the bins that we have in our classrooms and read the recycling instructions that can be found on the bag inside.  Sometimes our connecting classes gave us new ideas right on the spot or shared what their own school is doing that might support our problem.  Other classes added to our Padlet after we disconnected.  We also added to the Padlet.

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Our next step is to take this Padlet and share the ideas with our environmental committee which is chaired by Natalie Hicks.  We also have 2 enrichment clusters that we can share the Padlet with.  Our hope is that some of the ideas that came from so many perspectives will spark change within our school problem.  We want to connect back with some of the classes we met this week and share what we’ve done to improve our problem, and we want to see what they have done since our connection.

I loved that during our very last connection, students arrived in the library to put signs on our recycling bin that were sent by our recycling department.

 

Miraculous things came out of our connections:

  • We saw that we weren’t alone with our problem and that there were multiple things to test out to try to reach a solution.
  • We learned that recycling is very different from place to place.  We are so fortunate in Athens to have a state of the art recycling facility and single stream recycling.  Some communities have to put forth a lot of effort to recycle, and it is so easy for us.
  • We realized that there were so many things we could do with our “recycling” other than put it in the bin.  The concept of makerspaces is really causing a lot of us to think about turning trash into functional creations.
  • We saw that together we could come up with out-of-the-box ideas.  We often started with “put up posters about recycling”, but with the energy of collaboration, new ideas surface such as make smaller trash cans, create a recycling contest, write a catchy song about recycling to sing on morning announcements, and more.

My hope is that this week of connections really does spark change in our school and others.  At the very least, I think it made us more aware of what we are throwing away.  These types of connections have the potential to grow into large-scale collaborations around the globe.  The combination of powerful texts such as Here Comes the Garbage Barge and Eyes Wide Open along with the innovative ideas of students, teachers, and families fosters a healthy environment for long-lasting collaboration.  Our students are the future of our world, and when we allow them to unite with one another around authentic dilemmas in our world, we are equipping them with problem solving skills to keep our world a peaceful place.

 

 

Connected Librarians: Eyes Wide Open & America Recycles Day

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One of my goals this year in our library is to foster global thinking and global collaboration.  To connect with these types of opportunities for our students, I seek out connections on Twitter as well as in Google Plus communities such as GlobalTL and Connected Classrooms.  I also offer opportunities within the projects taking place in my own school for other people around the world to join in.

This summer, I became involved in a conversation with Joyce Valenza, Shannon Miller, and Paul Fleischman about how books could live beyond the closing of the cover.  What if a book inspired us to take action in the world?  What would those actions look like around the globe?  How could they be documented?  How could they be shared? What would it look like if the author engaged in conversations about the actions being inspired by the book?

This September, Paul Fleischman’s book Eyes Wide Open: Going Beyond the Environmental Headlines was published.  It’s a different kind of book because it doesn’t give our young people a prescriptive list of answers to solve the environmental problems of the world but instead to take an inquiry stance.  It inspires our young people to listen closely to the environmental stories being shared about our world and to uncover stories of their own.  It calls our young people to take action on those world problems and realize that even at a young age they can make a difference in our world.

Joyce Valenza wrote a great post about the book.  In it, she included Paul’s voice about his book.

About Eyes WIDE Open:

Paul Fleischman 300x225 Eyes Wide Open: A proof of concept for sustaining the conversation around booksWe’re living in an Ah-Ha moment. Take 250 years of human ingenuity. Add abundant fossil fuels. The result: a population and lifestyle never before seen. The downsides weren’t visible for centuries, but now they are. Suddenly everything needs rethinking–suburbs, cars, fast food, cheap prices. It’s a changed world.

Eyes Wide Open explains it. Not with isolated facts, but the principles driving attitudes and events, from vested interests to denial to big-country syndrome. Because money and human behavior are as important as molecules in the environment, science is joined with politics, history, and psychology to give altitude on this unprecedented turning point. It’s a time of bold advances and shameful retreats, apathy and stunning innovation.

What better time to have our eyes wide open?

An Eyes Wide Open Google Plus Community has been established to make connections for global collaboration around the book.  Paul Fleischman has also created a site to house headlines, projects, and conversations about the book.  He wants this to be more than a book that you read and close, but instead for it to be a book that inspires action in the world.

Also from Joyce’s blog, there’s a great list of ideas of how you might use Paul’s book with students.

What sort of reports might students contribute?
  • Take photos (and create a gallery) that document population rise or consumption levels or innovations being used to address these challenges.  Attempt to document how your eggs, milk, farmed fish, and meat are made.
  • Make a video describing a local citizen science project.  Document a plastic bag banning campaign, a local pollution issue, or your own attempt to go vegan for 30 days.
  • Interview someone in city government connected with water, transit, city planning, or emergency services.  Or a biologist, park ranger, or science teacher.  Or a religious leader whose church has taken a stand on the environment.  Or your state senator, state assembly representative, or an aide to your congressperson.  Or fellow students or neighbors to get a sense of how average citizens view the situation.  Google+ Hangouts might be a perfect venue for archiving these interviews!
  • Write a description of one of your area’s key issues and how it’s being dealt with.  Join with one or two others, each tackling one part of the project: research, interviewing, editing.  Would your local newspaper be interested in the result?
  • Do a survey of your city, finding out where your water comes from, how your electricity is made, where your trash goes.  Prepare to make many phone calls and to ask follow-up questions.  More fun with a friend.
  • Annotate local newspaper stories, adding commentary that lets us see how the global trends and mental habits described in the book are playing out locally.  Feel free to refine my thinking.
  • Remix media and create digital stories around an area of local interest.
  • Inspire a meme to invite continual, global reinterpretation around an environmental prompt
  • Submit a field report. Work prepared for school assignment is fine.  Take time to review and revise.  Once you’ve posted it on Google Docs, YouTube, or another platform that all can access, send a description to fieldreports@eyeswideopenupdates.com.  Include a bit about yourself, how you came to the topic, and a photo of yourself or something connected to the report.  If Paul finds it well done, he will add it to the roster, put a pin in the map, and maybe even give it a shout out in his blog.

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Connected librarians have a huge opportunity with this book and the many communities that are available to us.  We are the people within our buildings who work with every student, teacher, and family member within our school.  If we collaborate, then we connect our entire school communities with one another.

November 15 is America Recycles Day.  The week of November 10-14 would be a great week for us to begin to connect our voices with one another around an issue that really affects us globally.  Paul’s amazing book Eyes Wide Open could be a piece that we could use to spark conversations around the globe.  It could also be paired with a plethora of other picture books and informational texts on environmental action.  More than a conversation, our connections could push our young students to take action in our world, and those initial connections could lead to a continued connection between schools around the world in the name of environmental action.

Here’s what I hope to do:

  • Connect with schools throughout the week of November 10-14 via Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Read an environmental text together
  • Have each school identify and explain an environmental issue in our school or community.  For us, it will most likely be the amount of waste being thrown away in our classrooms.
  • Have each school exchange their issue and brainstorm possible next steps for one another.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hand your problem over to someone for a few minutes to see the problem through their eyes?  That perspective might be the very thing you need in order to take a next step in your problem.
  • Share our brainstorming with one another and document suggestions in a digital format such as a Google doc or Padlet.
  • Commit to reconnect at some point to share what actions we have taken, what has been successful, or what new problems have surfaced.

I invite you to connect with my students and also to post your own schedules and find your own connections via this Google Doc.

http://bit.ly/americarecycles14

Let’s do more than just connect our students for a day.  Let’s connect our students to work on an issue that has an impact on our world.  As part of Connected Educators Month, let’s start thinking of how we can connect our students in meaningful ways throughout the year and begin planning those connections now.

As you make connections, create action steps, and make an impact on your world, share it!

Eyes Wide Open hashtag: #ewopf

America Recycles hashtag: #americarecyclesday

GlobalTL hashtag: #globalTL

and don’t forget #tlchat