- About Us
|Riley Adams holds her underwater painting|
Journeying into the deep
There were no sponges named Bob and the students didn’t find Nemo, but the exploration of ocean life by Samantha Miller’s first grade class yielded insight into about a dozen species that call the water their home. The unit, which combined elements of the first grade science curriculum with elements of the language arts curriculum, focused on the study of informational writing.
The student read a number of ocean-themed books that discussed both aquatic vegetation and sea animals such as blue whales, penguins, manatees, sea turtles, kelp, sea otters, coral reefs, octopuses, and sharks. After digesting the information, the students then wrote short informational pieces about what they learned throughout the unit or what they found to be most interesting.
The culminating activity was a painting project. Each student used watercolors to paint an ocean scene that included some of the animals and plants that were included in the books that were read. The artwork, a veritable sea of sea paintings, was then hung on a wall outside the classroom along with the students’ essays.
“Ocean life is something that just naturally fascinates kids,” said Ms. Miller. “It’s so different from life on land. That fascination kept students engaged and motivated to learn about the various aquatic species while they also developed their reading, comprehension, and writing skills. Students were eager to read and write, and read and write some more. What more can a teacher ask for?”
Journeys, the district’s new elementary language arts program, frequently includes elements that are part of the science and social studies curriculum. This cross-disciplinary approach has been shown in many research studies to improve learning because it teaches, enriches, and reinforces curricular content from other subjects.
|Kadin Zafiropoulos shows off his cave painting|
Kindergarteners create cave paintings
In southern France, two cave systems have some of the most extensive and impressive cave paintings in the world. Dating back more than 30,000 years ago to a time when wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the Earth, the paintings cover the walls and ceilings of the Lascaux Caves and Chauvet Cave. Check out the links below or do a Google image search and you’ll be amazed at the work of these prehistoric Michelangelos who worked on scaffolds and ladders to accomplish their grand visions.
The caves are closed to the public but you can visit exact reproductions of two of the Lascaux caves. You just have to fly to Paris, rent a car, then drive five hours. Or, you can save all that time and money (and avoid the frustration of dealing with the metric system!) and walk into Tinc Road.
Kindergarteners recently created their own versions of cave paintings in art class.
“The project really opens students’ eyes and helps them begin to understand and appreciate art in its most simplest forms,” said art teacher Emily Moore. “It also allows them to see the artistic beauty in everyday objects and objects not typically considered works of art.”
Introducing kindergarten students to this ancient art technique is part of the art curriculum. It helps students identify and work with animal forms, colors, and simple shapes.
To create their cave paintings, students first immersed heavy paper in a bath of water and brown paint and then let the paper dry. This simulated the earthen tone of a cave wall. The edges were cut, the paper crumbled, and a texture impressed on the paper to further create a distressed, rustic look.
Then, working with a palette of browns and other colors found in nature, students created animals and other shapes using their fingers or brushes. Some students also made handprints, a popular symbol in some cave art.
An application of oil pastels finished off the cave paintings and gave the work another dimension of realism since cave art often feature different layers and textures working together.
The final pieces were hung together on a wall outside the kindergarten classrooms.
“The kids loved the project,” said Ms. Moore. “What amazed me though was hearing a group of older students who were walking passed the display recognize the cave paintings because they were studying them in social studies. They were so excited to have made that connection.”
For more on the actual cave paintings that inspired the kindergarteners, check out:
|Cave art by Tyra Tagoe|
|Tatiana Correa holds her report on emperor penguins|
Learning about animals – and effective writing
The description of a project that Keri Lieberman recently created for her second-graders reads like a checklist of ways to create an engaging and powerful classroom assignment.
The students had just wrapped up a science unit on animal habitats that explored the natural environments of a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians. With the class immersed in a language arts unit on informational writing, Ms. Lieberman thought it the perfect opportunity to create a multi-disciplinary assignment for her students – one that expanded on the science curriculum and allowed students to practice their writing skills.
Ms. Lieberman brought in about 30 books on various animals and each student selected an animal of interest to write a report about. Students practiced their note-taking skills and outlining, and constructed reports that described the animals in detail.
Combining science and language arts in this way allowed students to broaden their understanding of the world while simultaneously teaching them how to process new information, organize it, and then present it in a clear, compelling form.
It took students several weeks to research and complete the reports, many of which contained illustrations and photographs. Each report included an introduction and chapters on diet, habitat, and fun facts, as well as a table of contents. Lions, tigers, snakes, monkeys, penguins, and many others were given their due.
“You want to make learning fun,” said Ms. Lieberman. “Kids of this age all have favorite animals. Because they selected which ones they wanted to learn and write about, the project really kept the students engaged and interested.”