Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Warming Up to Project-Based Learning: The Perfect Winter Project

So project-based learning is kind of "our thing", and we hadn't tackled a big project since our Kids Who Code Code-a-thon in December. I was checking my email one morning while the kids were playing outside and discovered a message from World Wildlife Fund Canada about National Sweater Day. After reading it to my class, I asked them if they would be interested in turning down the heat and wearing sweaters and the answer was a resounding yes! 

Our first task was to research why wearing a sweater and turning down the heat was an important action to take. We read the information on WWF Canada's website, then visited Brain Pop Junior to learn more. A video about Arctic habitats gave us more information about climate change and its impact on cold weather animals. Once we understood why we wanted to turn down the heat and wear sweaters, it was time to take action.

We used shared writing on the SMART Board to compose a letter to our principal asking if we could turn down the heat in our school. We also wrote a letter to our custodian asking if it was possible to turn down the heat. We weren't sure if our school's temperature was controlled remotely or by a computer. Once we got permission, we used Twitter to invite some of our partner classes to participate with us--Mrs. Obach's Grade 2 class and Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Lyburn's kindergarten classes. We even tweeted my "big kids" at Brandon University and asked my second-year Bachelor of Education students to join us too!
A to do list is essential to every project-based learning experience in our classroom. It basically becomes my lesson plan until the project is complete, and I think learning how to generate and follow a to do list is an important life skill. 

We used the calendar generator in SMART Notebook to create January and February calendars, then made a countdown. It was terrific daily practice in counting down from 10-1. The picture below shows us experimenting with QR codes, There wasn't enough room on the invitations we designed, so a QR code seemed like a great way to add more information. QR codes were magic to my young learners!
We designed our invitations and posters as a class on the SMART Board using SMART Notebook software. All images were from the gallery, and we discussed why it was okay for us to use these images. As you'll see from the invitation, we had to celebrate National Sweater Day a day earlier as we didn't have school on February 5!
Once invitations and posters were complete, it was time to flood our social media channels. We used Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to share these images and challenge other classes and our families to join us in wearing a sweater and turning down the heat. We discussed who we would tag and what hashtags we would use. My kindergarten students understand that hashtags "group pictures together" and "they can be funny sometimes". 


We printed enough invitations for the entire school and our families. We printed them four per sheet to save paper, so it was a great opportunity for a mini-lesson on halves and quarters. Students further developed their fine motor skills as they cut all the invitations in half, then half again. 
Our next job was to visit each classroom with our clipboards and count how many students. Our class numbers were perfect for students working on teen numbers. Lots of opportunities to count and represent those tricky teens!
After surveying each classroom, we counted invitations into piles and labelled them with each grade and the correct number. 
We were excited to deliver the invitations to each classroom. We practiced how to knock politely, wait until the door was open, and what to say.

We decided to make a commercial to promote National Sweater Day. So we examined a number of popular TV commercials to learn more about advertising and what makes an effective commercial. We made our own commercial to promote National Sweater Day using Windows Live Movie Maker.  The boys and girls thought of these reasons and printed them all by themselves. We shared it on social media and showed the whole school at our sweater day assembly.

We learning more about patterns and designs through sweaters. I used this learning experience to explore patterns and designs with my K students, then we used various materials to create patterns and designs on paper sweaters. We photographed them and shared them through Instagram, then used them for decorations in our classroom.

Finally the big day was here! We arrived in our sweaters to a chilly school. We collaborated with Ms. Lees, our community schools connector, and Mrs. Masson, our principal, to lead an assembly first thing in the morning. We explained why it was important to turn down the heat and who and what we were helping. Everyone loved our sweater commercial and laughed in the right parts!

After assembly, it was time to get started on making and serving hot chocolate to the whole school. We used our survey numbers from the other day and ten frames to count out stacks of cups for each classroom. We labelled each stack with the classroom name and the number. Using big ten frames on the floor was a great way to see that teen numbers consist of ten and another number.


 
We had some wonderful parent volunteers come in and help us make more than 120 cups of hot chocolate. Everyone was so excited to warm up with delicious hot chocolate and marshmallows. Of course we used earth-friendly cups and spoons from Canada Green!

We made a schedule so that everyone had a turn delivering hot chocolate to the classrooms in our school.

 And just when we thought the day couldn't get any better, we had a dance party to warm up! Complete with a disco ball!
 Elder Frank Tacan from Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation visited our classroom. He shared the seven teachings with us, and explained how what we were doing on National Sweater Day fit within those teachings. We loved learning about the dream catcher too.
And the big kids at Brandon University wore sweaters that day too! We saw their picture on Twitter the next day we were at school and we were so happy that they joined us in helping the earth and cold weather animals!





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