We had a wonderful month of studying Canada in many ways, from many perspectives, in all 4 directions! The students worked with the geography and landscape of Canada from sea to sea, they worked with memory games to connect provinces/territories with capital cities, they learned about many fascinating geographical features of Canada, they learned about many explorers that staked claim on this land, and drew many maps.
They received further education regarding the history of the indigenous people of this land. They learned about the various ways of living, based on the landscape the aboriginal settled in. We had a visitor, Daryle Mills, from the Cree Nation. He now lives in the valley and does a wonderful job of sharing his culture, and the history of indigenous people throughout Canada. He spoke about Residential Schools, the history of inequality for the indigenous, and shared ceremonial practices with us. It really spoke to the children. They were engaged and respectful as we sat in a circle, listening to his songs and drumming, and participating in his smudging ceremony.
The next day the children were asked to work in partners to design a new Canadian flag. Many children created beautiful new designs that included sage and sweet grass burning, symbols of the 4 elements of the earth, and animals of Canada. This to me is clear evidence that these children hold a new vision of Canada, a vision that encompasses the truth of our history, and a feeling of pride for the magnificence of this country.
Throughout the block the children worked in pairs to research a region of Canada. This was an excellent opportunity to work in a group, share skills, manage time, and present orally. Each group prepared a paragraph of interesting facts, an image or flag, and a regional map. The students then included this research in their own main lesson books. The result is a wonderful, factual homemade text book that I am sure will be useful in future grades when learning about Canada!
Candlemas (or Groundhog Day) marks the middle point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. For light lovers, this reminds us of the return of warmth, the lengthening of days and the tides of life turning. It is interesting to know that mid seasons festivals were celebrated in the past as they represented the peak of a season. Often times, the thick of winter occurs close to this date. March will most likely be cold and damp, while May day (another mid-season festival) usually comes accompanied by flowers and certainly more light.
In our class, the beginning of life is fascinating the children. They are curious to learn what my baby is doing in the tummy, often telling me "baby is eating your oatmeal" and reminding each other "not to lie on Ms Lucia's tummy or you'll squish the baby". A student suggested that tomorrow when my baby is finally born, I should bring them to school so they can meet them.
Not surprisingly, because children make sense of their environment through imitation, we have had many "pregnancies" and quite a few "deliveries". Once a friend would go into labor, they would call for the doctor immediately. The doctor came and often times asked a "nurse" to find a knife because the baby needed to come out now. With surgical expertise, they lifted shirts and happily delivered the baby to the mom, who carried on with her baby in tow.
When it happened that the doctor was unavailable, I volunteered to midwife a mom who was in labor. We set some soft blankets down, and I asked if she wanted to give birth alone, or invite a friend. They invited a friend, who held their hand. I asked her to let me know when she was ready, and to take a deep breath, and give a short push, and baby was out! Mom was happy to hold baby on her breast for a bit, and move on when she was ready.
The rest of the children were fascinated by this scene, and it didn't take long before every child, girls and boys, were pregnant as well. We repeated the scenario for the rest of free play, delivering babies, a set of twin bean bags, and many kitties, some of them with their clothes on already!
Eventually, all the children settled around their laboring friend, some quietly observing, some wiping foreheads, some offering words of encouragement or reassuring touch. One of the boys said at the end "That was so much fun, can we do it again?!"
It was heartwarming to see the children organically assist each other, either by taking charge and helping the parent deliver safely, or by being a supportive observer. By acting out and reshaping stories or experiences, children can integrate the knowledge in a more practical way, while rehearsing how to act in every situation. This dual quality of play (instructive and creative) puts the child at the center of their own learning experience, by drawing from past concepts and planting a seed for future behavior.
We have also dived into handwork, with many children trying their hand at sewing with colored thread on burlap stretched over a small embroidery hoop. I have been impressed by their capacity to focus and carry a project over many days, as well as their aesthetic choices of color and pattern.
We worked with the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, first hearing the story orally, then watching it come alive in a puppet show, and finally acting it out. This sequence follows the same pattern as free play, where children are invited to imbue knowledge that they have with their own personality, thus integrating what they have learnt and giving it new life.
The Grimm's fairy tale "Sweet Porridge" tells the story of a little girl who is gifted a magic pot. The right words will make it bubble with good, sweet porridge, and "Stop, little pot, stop!" will make it stop. One day, when the little girl was out of town, mom forgets the final magic words and the porridge threatens to drown the whole town! The little girl arrives just in time to say "Stop, little pot stop!" and whoever wanted to go back home, had to eat their way through.
In this story, the children feel emboldened as it is the child who knows the magic words. They feel the bubbling activity start as welcome, and feel the drawbacks of it getting out of hand. The magic of being able to say stop! saves the day.
This wisdom can be applied when the sillies get out of hand, when a game goes on too far, and when one is searching for the words and courage to say "no more". This is especially timely as the Spring sap starts to run through the children 😉
February will find us making Valentine's Day cards, and looking for the first signs of Spring. We have already observed some brave bulbs peeking through the ground and cannot wait to see what color they will be!
Snowdrop, snowdrop, little drop of snow,
What do you do when the cold winds blow?
I hang my little head and say:
"Cold winds, cold winds, go away!"
Snowdrop, snowdrop, dressed in green and white,
What do you do when the Sun shines bright?
I lift my little head and say:
"Ding-a ling, ding-a ling, ding-a ling,
Here comes Spring!"