Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Daily Calving Report in Kindergarten

You just might be from a farming community when calving is a big deal in your classroom. For my big city colleagues, calving happens in late winter-early spring on Canadian beef farms when mama cows give birth to baby calves. When a farmer's cows are calving, it requires frequent checks at all hours of the day and night, and sometimes farmers have to help the cow give birth. Once the calf is born, it has to be tagged and documented. Many issues can arise during calving--emergency c-sections, mothers and babies that die, calves that won't drink, and mothers who reject their babies. In farming families, calving and the resulting successes and challenges are a frequent topic of conversation and there is no doubt that my little people are impacted by this. Some of my young learners check cows with their parents and bottle-feed calves. These little farmers can tell you the tag numbers of their favourite animals and use terms such as heifer, steer, cow, calf, and bull correctly. So after a number of days of children spontaneously reporting on calving on their farms, I decided to turn it into a learning experience. Giving my students' the support to pursue their interests while connecting it to curricular outcomes is hugely important to me, and it seems that these learning experiences can never be planned in advance--they just happen.

We began by including a hundred chart in our SMART Board calendar. Every student created a coloured, semi-transparent square to place on the chart to mark the number of calves on their farm. If students didn't have cattle of their own, they were related to someone who did--students reported on their grandparents' cattle for example.

After we recorded our calving numbers on the chart, we made comparisons among the numbers. I made a point of explaining that it wasn't a contest to see who had the most calves, but a way for us to learn more about numbers and share what was happening on our farms. However, that didn't stop my students from taking great joy in having more calves than Mrs. Caldwell most days!

My local co-op feed and hardware store was kind enough to give each of my students their very own calving record book (the kind that real farmers use). So each day, we recorded our calving totals in our record books. This gave the students an opportunity to practice printing numbers as well as copying the date off the SMART Board (strengthening visual-motor coordination in preparation for Grade 1). 
Next we represented our numbers to share with our school population and through social media. We tried to represent our calving totals in different ways. 
 Using bingo dabbers to stamp our number on a hundred chart
 Use hand prints in fives and tens then printing the number
 Colouring our total on a hundred chart
Representing our numbers using ten frames
We displayed our daily calving report in the hallway outside our classroom. Lots of people looked at it and asked us questions about it. My students were eager to explain what was happening with calving, confidently using numbers from 1-300! 

Lastly, our daily calving report provided an opportunity for real-life problem-solving. This allowed us to explore early multiplication and skip counting. 

This learning activity was a huge success for a number of reasons:
-it emerged directly from my students' interests and students were highly motivated and engaged
-it fostered strong connections with families and extended families
-it underscored the importance of agriculture and helped kids take pride in their agricultural operations
-it provided an extremely relevant way for students to explore, represent, and compare numerals and quantities from 1-300 

Agriculture is an extremely important industry in rural Manitoba, and I'm proud to say that as young as kindergarten, we are contributing to the next generation of farmers!

"That's the thing about farming...you clock in at age 5 and never truly clock out." -Unknown

1 comment:

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