Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seeking Enrichment Programming Feedback

The during school enrichment program at RES has been evolving as we try to develop a program that best meets the needs of students and teachers.  In class we routinely ask students for feedback about lessons and projects.  Parents and community members feedback is equally important and will influence the direction of the school day enrichment program as it continues to grow. We appreciate all feedback--positive and negative--and ask that it be given constructively so that we can use it to improve and learn.  If you want to extend the discussion beyond this feedback form, please contact .

Survey time:  5 minutes tops-- to help our students!

Last year I made direct changes to my programming as a result of your comments. I value our community--please share your ideas with me.

To complete the survey, click here:

Thanks so much in advance for providing valuable input into constantly improving our school!

-Darcie Rankin, Enrichment Teacher

Enrichment Challenge Scorecards Due June 5th!

In October every K - 4 student received an enrichment challenge booklet.  The packet is a series of activities that students are challenged to try over the course of the school year.  Challenges range from participating in a community event, to building a lego creation and everything in between.  Students can choose which activities to try, and can work with family and friends to learn!  Some of these activities will match things they are doing at school, while others will extend their skills in different areas.

I created the enrichment challenge my first year at RES in response to requests that I received about how families could extend, enhance and enrich their children's learning outside of school.  The challenge has grown to include a large variety of activities that were requested by students as well as community members!  
I hope many of you  enjoyed taking the Enrichment Challenge!

Please return your scorecards to school by Friday June 5th, 2015 in order to be eligible for prizes and receive your certificate!

Westward Expansion Projects

This year I have had the great opportunity to collaborate with the third grade teachers on many of their science and social studies units.  Last month, we worked together to elaborate on student learning about westward expansion by utilizing our enrichment time, and some library time to create student interest projects.  Students spent time learning about some westward expansion topics--everything from clothing, to dangers on the trail, to the Gold Rush was explored using books and online resources!  Next students selected an individual topic that they wanted to learn more about. Students took notes and found images to support their learning.  In their classrooms students wrote a research report on their topic.  During enrichment time students created a project.  The guidelines for this project were broad, and students were encouraged to be creative as they thought about what type of project would best share information about their topic with others. It was really great giving students a chance to explore something they wanted to learn more about, and it provided depth to their in class curriculum learning about westward expansion.

The projects that students designed were as varied as their topics and included: clay models, cooking, wooden models, Google presentations, green screen movies, songs, posters, cartoons, drawings and more!

One important aspect of any project is knowing that your work has an audience.  On Friday, third graders were thrilled to share their great work (reports and projects) with the second grade classes.  Third graders set up their projects and then answered questions as second graders visited each of the classrooms. I was really impressed with the conversations that I witnessed that showed that second graders were truly interested in learning about a new subject and that proved that third graders had become topic experts! This was a great connection for second graders who are starting to think about becoming third graders next year and our third graders were really proud to share their learning.

The below video shows the westward expansion project share so that you too can celebrate this great learning. Enjoy! 

And as promised in a previous blog post, a sample green screen project:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cooking in Enrichment Class--Homemade Tortillas!

Second graders have been spending time in enrichment class exploring their interests. Several students in Ms. Darling's class expressed interest in cooking something from a different culture.  Since students have been spending time in their classroom learning about Mexico, we thought cooking homemade tortillas might be a great connection.

We watched a video on you tube about making authentic tortillas, and then we made our own!  Students worked in groups (each recipe below made enough dough for four-five tortillas) to make their dough.  Next each student made their own tortilla and with Mrs. Redman's help cooked their tortilla!  Next groups made a few toppings to add (shredded cheese, avocados, tomatoes, and lettuce) and they each got to eat their creation! 

This learning experience would not have been possible without the great help of our Farm to School coordinator, Mrs Redman, and the flexibility of Ms. Darling in giving us a bit of extra time to eat our tasty snack! We also have Mr. Rankin (my husband) to thank for the tortilla press which we all had fun trying out!

Many students asked for the recipe, so here it is!

Homemade Flour Tortillas
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water

1.     Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl
2.  Mix wet ingredients into large bowl
3.  Mix until dough forms (we had to add a bit of extra water)
4.  Each person create your own dough ball by rolling in your hands (if the dough is too wet sprinkle flour on)
5.  Use a rolling pin or the tortilla press to change your dough ball into a tortilla
6.  Place your ready tortilla on a paper plate—it is ready to cook!

The Sounds Of Learning

Image result for venspired
Image from Krissy Venosdale at venspired, downloaded from:

A few weeks ago, our principal was scheduled to stop by and observe my class (this had been on the schedule for months).  When I looked at the time slot I cringed---this was the first day of student interest driven projects in second grade and we were scheduled to do kitchen chemistry! I had already spent a lot of time wondering what this lesson was going to look like (my classroom in carpeted!) But I also knew that it was a great opportunity for me to get feedback on classroom management on a brand new lesson to me, and one in which there would be a lot of energy and messy materials!

The lesson was a ton of fun, including when students cheered at the beginning of class when they found out the topic.  I am honored that this lesson was then embedded into a weekly school podcast, which you can find here:
(Episode 23)

When I first listened to the audio from my lesson I was nervous that the volume was going to be too loud, or that it would be hard to hear the sound of learning.  I was wrong! Students were engaged in conversations, I was able to ask open ended exploratory questions and we were all having fun!  Clean up was a bit of a mess that day (several of our chemistry concoctions spilled over as they foamed and expanded!)  but as students left they asked--when will we do that again??  To me, this is the greatest sign of a successful learning experience!

Learning sounds different in different contexts.....but I think it is important to embrace the noise and the mess to encourage student engagement, fun AND learning!

Exploration and Student Interest in Grade 2

Students in second grade enrichment have been spending time over the last few weeks exploring topics of their own choice. After meeting with me individually students had a chance to pursue their interests through a centers based approach to learning, or as a whole class when a large number of students expressed interest in the same topic.
Here are some of the topics that we have been pursuing:
Cooking foods from other cultures
Chemistry and Potions
Creating Robots
Country Exploration (China, Japan, Egypt and Germany)
Pets and How To Care for Pets
Animals (Horses, Sharks,  Dogs, Dolphins)
Clothing and Fashion (in our country and others)
Research Using Online Tools

I was inspired to give students this choice in learning by a persuasive letter I received from a second grader a few weeks ago.  He created a very persuasive argument for why we should do some sewing in enrichment.  After spending months on science curriculum work about light it was clear that students were ready to design some lessons and learning opportunities themselves!  I am thankful for Brady's persuasive letter and all of the great learning that we have been experiencing the last few weeks based on student interests!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Green Screen Experimentation

 As a teacher I am always asking students to try new things.  I feel strongly that learning takes place when we take risks and move away from our understanding comfort zone.  I don't think every learning experience happens that way...but I do want students to experience that feeling of trying something new and learning from the experience frequently enough that they have confidence in themselves to--figure things out, embrace exploration, understand that answers are not always automatic and that failure is a part of the learning process.

While I believe all of those things, I sometimes hesitate to embrace that philosophy in my own teaching.   I want to prove something works or see evidence of a theory or practice before I take a risk.  I justify my hesitancy to myself by saying that it is not just a risk for me, but it is also a risk for my students.  What if a teaching method I use does not work the way I intended?  What if I try a brand new technology tool with students and it does not work?  I don't want to waste their is so precious.  But then I go back and think about what lessons students can learn if they see me taking risks in my own learning.  I have decided that I would much rather be a teacher that is viewed as learning and taking risks than one that has all the answers.

While I want to innovate I also want to leave as much time for student learning in my classroom as possible.  This idea has led to me trying out a lot of new technology tools on my own kids at home before bringing them to school.  I have also found that if I introduce technology tools to students without a specific learning target, it can help me to figure out how the tool might be best used in my classroom.  Together my students and I take minor risks that lead to great potential for learning!

Over the last few weeks I have been trying the Green Screen iPad application by DoInk.  First my daughters tried it over Spring Break.  It was a rainy cold week in Vermont so they had fun dreaming of where we may have taken a vacation!  Below you can see the clip they made to send to their Grammy sharing their imaginary adventure!

Next, I invited students in various grades to try it out in my classes. Their experimentation was open ended and led to students in first grade who are learning about plants, sharing their plant knowledge as they stood in front of a giant garden of sunflowers.  Kindergarteners incorporated the green screen into a dress up center and had a great castle photo booth and had fun pretending to be surrounded by giant monsters. In fourth grade students immediately saw the potential to use green screen instead of creating a theater set for a skit they were working on and that it might help them teach about movie special effects for a capstone project.

These trial runs were a lot of fun, and my confidence in this teaching tool has grown as we have explored together as learners.  I currently have plans to support a third grade student project where he shares his knowledge of Davy Crockett, standing in front of an appropriate back drop AND I will now look for opportunities to incorporate this into my curriculum.

I am so grateful to learn with and from my students each day, they drive me to innovate and learn.