Sunday, September 28, 2014

Is a Square a Rectangle and Other Questions to Ponder

Is a square a rectangle?  Is a rectangle a square?  This is such a fun conversation to have with learners!  For you see, a square is most definitely a rectangle.  Don't believe me?   Neither do the kids!  Let's take a look at the conversation that ensues.

What is a Rectangle:   a closed figure with...                                    
  • four vertices                                    
  • four right angles
  • 2 pair of parallel lines
  • four sides  

Does a Square Have...
  • four vertices...yes!
  • four right angles...yes!
  • 2 pair of parallel lines...yes!
  • four sides...yes!            

Does a square meet all the criteria for being classified as a rectangle?  Yes!


All squares are also rectangles.

This is where the fun starts, for now that I have the learners fully convinced that a square is indeed a rectangle, it's time for the next phase of the conversation.  I begin with another question.  This time I want to know, "Is a rectangle a square?"  Now, fifteen minutes earlier, every child in the room would have absolutely sworn that no, a rectangle is definitely not a's a rectangle!  A rectangle is a rectangle and a square is a square, and by the way Ms. Malone, what's wrong with you today!?!?!? 

But remember, I just spent fifteen minutes convincing every one of them that a square is, in fact, a rectangle, so for these learners, it naturally follows that a rectangle is also a square.   Unfortunately, they couldn't be more wrong.  (Are you beginning to see why I have so much fun with this conversation?) 

Let's take another look at the criteria.

Square: a closed figure with...

  • four vertices
  • four right angles
  • 2 pair of parallel lines
  • four congruent sides

Rectangle: a closed figure with...
  • four vertices
  • four right angles
  • 2 pair of parallel lines
  • four sides
but... those sides are not necessarily congruent!



All squares are indeed rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.

Okay, fun conversation...but what's the point?  

Well, some might say the point is to help kids to understand the difference between a rectangle and a square...nope!  

Maybe it's to give kids a chance to talk to each other using mathematical language?  Important, but... nope!

Learn more about squares?  Nope!

Learn more about rectangles?  Nope!

Show them the teacher is always right?  Ha..tempting, but most definitely...NOPE!

Here's the point.  Through this conversation...and others like learn to evaluate ideas, concepts, decisions, etc...through the lens of the criteria that define them.!  But as we say in the classroom...So what?  Now what?

Well, this same line of questioning can be applied to any number of topics in any number of ways. For example...
  • in a family...a dad is always a father...but not all fathers are "dads."
  • at the grocery carrot is always a vegetable...but not all vegetables are carrots.
  • in your neighorhood...a home is always (or usually) in a house...but not every house is a home.
  • in the world of construction...all buildings have a foundation...but not everything with a foundation is a building.
  • in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model...all enrichment experiences are enjoyable for the participants...but not every experience that a learner enjoys is enrichment.

Whoa...what?  I thought the Schoolwide Enrichment Model was all about student interest...passion based teaching...learner driven instruction?   


And that it involved providing enrichment experiences for all learners based on those interests?


And if learners are interested in something, they will enjoy experiences centered around that interest?


So therefore enjoyment = enrichment?!

Let's go back to the criteria.  

What is Enrichment?  
  • learner driven
  • no pre-determined lesson plans
  • interest based
  • authentic tools / methods
  • advanced content
  • real world problem solving

What is Enjoyment?
  • learner driven
  • no pre-determined lesson plans
  • interest based
  • fun!
  • may...or may not...include authentic tools / methods
  • may...or may not...include advanced content
  • may...or may not...include real world problem solving


All enrichment is enjoyable...but not all that is enjoyable is enrichment!  

Click on the link below for more information about how the Schoolwide Enrichment Model is changing the face of learning @Austin Elementary!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

SEM 2014-2015: The B.E.S.T. Year Yet

I just bought a new house...a brand spanking new house!  I designed it myself...picked the colors, chose the tile, selected the cabinets....and the carpet...and the lighting...even the sink!  It was so much fun!  I moved in over the summer, and I absolutely LOVE my new house!  But as much fun as I had during the design process, and as exciting as it is to live in my brand new house, there have been times when I have felt a little...unsettled...nervous...even scared.  Now, I realize you may be thinking, "She's crazy! What's so scary about living in a brand new house?"  Well, you wouldn't be the first person to call me crazy, but hear me out.  In a brand new house, EVERYTHING is DIFFERENT.  For example, in my new neighborhood, I am surrounded by strangers...neighbors I don't know...and who don't know me! What if I don't like them? What if they don't like ME?  And in my kitchen, there's this new oven...completely different from my old one.  The other day I was making dinner for my son, and I couldn't figure out why the chicken wasn't cooking.  My son is the one who discovered the problem. The chicken wasn't cooking because I hadn't turned on the oven!  And my closet..instead of long and skinny, it's short and fat!  All my clothes are in the wrong place!  My pantry has sink is too big...I have a study.  A study!  I've NEVER had a study!  What the heck?!

Okay, so clearly I am being facetious, but let's face it...change IS hard.  Its uncomfortable.  It's stressful. Sometimes it's even a little scary.  So, if that's the case, why bother?  Why do we put ourselves through this painful journey of change when it would be just as easy...easier, in leave things the way they are?  Well, let's think about my new house.  Yes, there is some discomfort.  I don't know where things are.  I am further away from work.  My furniture doesn't quite fit.  BUT IT'S A NEW HOUSE! It's got these lights
that fade on slowly to save electricity.  And the cabinets have a soft close feature which makes it nearly impossible to slam them shut.  (Sure wish I'd had those around when my kids were teenagers!)  There's even a rain gauge built into my sprinkler system that enables it to recognize when nature has given my lawn the water it needs so it doesn't waste water by adding more.  My old sprinkler system couldn't do that.  Oh old house didn't even HAVE a sprinkler system!

Now one thing my old house did have was size.  Two stories...four bedrooms...two and a half baths...two living areas...a huge backyard.  It was big...and perfect for raising three rambunctious
children, especially when I was young and spry and as full of energy as they were.  But that time in my life is gone, and my needs are very different now.   I no longer need four bedrooms or two living areas. I certainly don't need, or even want, a big backyard.  However, a sprinkler system is pretty handy to have around.  And a house with no stairs is the perfect fit for a girl with a bad back.  And the study...oh my...the study allows me to separate work time from play time and find a balance between the two that leads to greater joy in both.  I love the study!

So what's the point?  Simply is changing.  I'm not talking about a subtle shift of educational pedagogy.  I'm talking about moving into a brand new house!  EVERYTHING is DIFFERENT.   It's uncomfortable...and it's stressful...and sometimes, it's even a little scary.  It would probably have been easier to just leave things the way they were. But "easier" is not always "best."  Heck, sometimes "easier" isn't even "good."   I could have stayed in my old house.  It would have been much easier.  I was comfortable there.  I knew my neighbors.  I was close to my school.  It was "home."  But I was paying for space I didn't need....rooms I never used...stairs I couldn't climb.  My foundation was cracking because I wasn't strong enough to pull out the hose to water it. didn't have a study!  Staying would have been easier...yes....but if I had made the "easy" choice, I would have missed out on the "best" that replaced it.  Our kids...the learners in our classrooms...they are different.  Their needs are different.  And they don't need easy.  They need BEST!

As we begin a new school year, I am more excited than ever about the "BEST" that the Schoolwide Enrichment Model has to offer to our learners.


Brings opportunities for all learners to collaborate with peers and adults who share like passions.
Enables all learners to identify and develop their unique interests and talents.
Supports the development of future ready skills such as collaboration, creativity, and communication.
Takes control of the learning away from the educator and puts in the hands of the learner!

SEM's going to be the BEST year yet!

Monday, March 31, 2014

S.E.M. - The Week in Review 3/28/14

Click on the the link below for an overview of The Schoolwide Enrichment Model at Austin Elementary this week.  Brown Bag Lunches, garden construction, visitors, and more.  Don't miss out!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Transformation - It's About the Kids

I love Saturdays...don't you?  I get to sleep in late, read in bed, maybe go shopping or take in a movie.  No responsibility.  Isn't it great?!  That's what I was thinking this past Saturday as I slowly woke up, stretched and yawned in my bed, and welcomed in the new day through my open window.   But then I was the day!  It was time to put our money...or at least our muscle...where our mouth was.  The construction of the reading garden was about to begin!

When I arrived at school, the construction materials were just being delivered.  Lumber, screws, soil, trash bins, tools, watering cans...the list goes on and on.  Stuff!  A lot of it!  I stood there, alone with one other teacher, and lots and lots of...stuff...and I wondered, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?"  How was this huge pile of...stuff...going to be transformed into...well...anything?  Much less a garden!
                                                                         Soon enough, help began to arrive.  It came in all forms.  Parents, administrators, husbands, PTO members, friends, teachers...and kids...lots of kids!  I watched as they arrived.  I, I felt...their excitement...and suddenly, everything was okay.  We didn't really know
what we were doing.  We didn't have the right tools...or enough of the ones we did have.  We didn't really have a plan, and we certainly didn't know how this little adventure was going to work out.  But, we had something more important...something that no amount of frustration or confusion or exhaustion can take away.

We had the kids!  We had their hope...their optimism...their energy...their sense of wonder.  We had the joy that comes from knowing that they are the reason we are here. 
One look into the eyes of those kids, and I knew that I was right where I needed to be.  All the stresses and pressures of the week melted away as I became absorbed in the purpose...the real purpose...for this day.  You see, it wasn't about a garden.  It wasn't about me or Mrs. Cook.  It wasn't about "doing it right."  It wasn't even really about "going green."  It was about the kids!  It was about making a dream come true. 

And so it began!  Step by step, piece by piece, things began to fall into place.  A group of volunteers worked together to create a design for the raised beds.  Others ran home to gather more tools and supplies.  Still others began the process of transforming that pile of "stuff" into a garden. 
We drilled, we pushed.  We lifted, we measured. We placed the beds in the perfect spot...and then moved  them to a place that was better.  We blocked the weeds, we poured the soil.  We laughed, we cried...well, not really, but sometimes we wanted to...we built a garden!  We built a garden! Or at least, the beginnings of one.

You might be thinking, "So what!  It's just a garden!  What's the big deal?"  Well, okay, I get that...but here's the big deal.  This wasn't just any garden.  This was a garden born out of the dreams and passions of 2nd and 3rd grade learners who wanted to make a difference. This was a garden that came to be because of the dedication of an inspired educator and the generosity of an amazing PTO.  This was a garden that was built because, as Mr. Hilton put it, a "village" came together to make it happen.  This garden was the fruition of a dream that began a year ago in the hearts and minds of the learners in the Book Blooms Enrichment Cluster...and culminated with another group of children who came together with parents, educators, friends, and family to make the dream come true!

Remember my question?

How was this huge pile of...stuff...going to be transformed into...well...anything?

I found my answer!  Transformation doesn't always come in the form of plans or tools or materials.  Those things are important...I get that.  But taken alone, those things are just "stuff."  The magic happens...the transformation takes place, when you add a little something more.  Transformation happens when you add passion...and hope...and dreams.  Transformation occurs when "a village comes together to make it happen."  Transformation happens when we's all about the kids!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Community Garden Day

One of the goals of enrichment clusters is to give our learners opportunities to use their interests and passions to make an impact on their world.  The 2nd and 3rd grade learners in the Book Blooms Cluster did just that last Fall when they designed a reading garden for Austin Elementary.  After much work behind the scenes, the time has finally arrived to make their dream a reality, but these young learners need your help!

We are looking for volunteers to join us on Saturday, March 29th, for a Community Garden Day. Our goals that day include:
  • building two raised flower beds
  • building two raised vegetable beds
  • creating planting barrels for science investigations
Please see the flyer below for more information.

This will be a tremendous opportunity for parents and children to work side by side as together, we help these young learners make their dreams come true!  If you are interested in participating in this unique event, please use the link below to let us know you are coming.  No special skills are required...just a willingness to work hard and a desire to make a difference in the lives of kids.