Thinking and Learning

This Saturday I went to the STEM Summit at UNH.  I wasn’t sure I was excited about going.  I wasn’t convinced it was the best way for me to spend my weekend.  After all I had plans to make stew, invent our new science unit and what seems to be a thousand million books to read all around my desk.  But I went anyway and I’m so glad I did.

Hearing Marina Bers talking about her coding projects for very young children was inspiring.  We have Scratch on our iPads.  It will be fun to help kids explore it more and think of things they can do to animate more of the projects they make.  Here analogy was  to think of inventing ways for children to use technology as if they were playing on a playground rather than being placed in a play pen.  Clearly I need to spend more time with coding exercises.  Dr. Bers said it is important to think about coding as an essential literacy that needs to begin as early as possible because as early as 3rd and 4th grade stereotypes of who is and who isn’t a creator through technology are already established.

After the keynote I went to a workshop about integrating math and science through the GLOBE Program.  I learned different ideas for graphing weather and keeping the data over time so we can explore patterns more easily and come to understand how scientist are truly able to show Climate Change though the data.  I learned about many global data projects that we can participate in as well.  It will be exciting to develop projects that help us interact with data sets from across the world – and we’ll be dealing with the metric system in an authentic way.

Finally in the afternoon I worked with a small group of teachers from Dover and Merrimack to explore the Question Formulation Technique.  This is something I’ve been dabbling in for the last few years.  It was interesting to work with others and to realize that we had the same types of difficulties that kids in the classroom do as well.  I had not explored any of the resources at  The Right Question Institute  and I am looking forward to find how they will further my understanding of how questions can change the depth of learning.

If you know more about any of these topics and/or have resource suggestions, please let me know in a comment.  I’d appreciate them.


The Word Collector – Growth Mindset Questions

A1 I collect books, feathers, nests and interesting things I find in nature.

A2 Jerome could collect words like cool, courageous, and confident,  He could also collect possible, positive and purposeful.

A3 A good way to use words is to give compliments, share ideas and create together.  Being cooperative, and collaborative in ways that make where we are more peaceful and happy, are also good ways to use words.  Creating a great story is another one.

A4 I am people, self and word smart.  I do my best to help build a positive, happy, supportive classroom so we can all learn together.

A5 I am trying to give more compliments, listen more carefully and pick up at least five pieces of litter every day.  Hopefully that will make our world a little better.


Table set with a place for everyone – even if it’s super crowded.

Heat and warmth on cold fall days

Aunts, uncles and cousins who join together to celebrate

Nature that brings us nights and days to enjoy

Kids who come to school each day and promise to make the world a better place

Family and friends who add joy to my days

Understanding and thoughtfulness to help the world become a kinder place

Loving care to share with those who could use some help

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I feel grateful for all I have.  I’ve been lucky to have my family gather together on that day every year of my life.  Each year I’ve gathered with grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, sister, daughters, son-in-laws, grandchildren and cousins!  Lots of cousins – they are the best.

What do you think is the best part of Thanksgiving?

Bird or Beast – Summer Quick Write #1

If I could choose to be any animal, I would become a bird.  I  love the idea of flying free and gliding through the clouds.  Of all the birds, I would choose to be a hawk.  I love to watch them soaring and circling around in the hot air thermals.  They seem so strong and purposeful.  They seem invincible.  Of course I am sure that is not true, because every life is complicated with trials and challenges.  None-the-less, a hawk is what I would choose to be.

I imagine myself in bird form.  I would love to see all the different sight during my migration.  I would look for a nesting site that ways near a lake or marsh surrounded by mountains.  There I could rest with my family is peaceful solitude – catching a trout or a squirrel whenever we were hungry.  We would launch ourselves into the early morning sky to watch the sun rise as we planned our days activities…a trip to the ocean to see the waves crash on the shore while we collected a feast of mussels or perhaps a trip to the wide grassy field with the warm sun on our backs and the gorgeous wild flowers blanketing the ground below.


Practice Makes Progress

This year I decided that I would try having my own blog.  I thought that maybe I’d explore ideas about how our school was transforming under new leadership.  I thought about sharing books with families or posting themed collections of books that could bring classroom discussions home if families chose to do that .  I thought that perhaps I would share resources to grow understanding about various social issues.  I do some of that in the classroom, but am sensitive of differing family values and choices.  How much should I talk about the refugee crisis or poverty or the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN?  I wanted to share and allow families to make choices.

That was my thinking in August, but then I got cold feet.  What I’ve discovered is that blogging makes me nervous – I think of things I could post all the time, but putting them down feels risky.  I’ve talked to Mrs. Wyman about what I am learning about this process.  She said I should just do it.

Today, on this second snow day in a row (UGH!), I read this post on a teacher’s blog that I follow.  It’s about teachers as learners – in this case these teachers are learning about blogging.  At the end of the post, Megan, a teacher in this project, pretty much described everything I’ve been feeling.  She wrote about it eloquently and reminded me of what I need to do.  Practice!  Many years ago I told my cousin that I just couldn’t seem to capture light in my paintings.  “I just can’t do it,” I said.  He asked, “How many times did you try it?  Once, right?”  He was right, I had only tried once.  How silly of me.  Of course I couldn’t do it the first time.  Of course I’d need to practice and experiment over and over and over and then some.

I realize the same is true with blogging.  If I truly want to find my voice, I’ll have to explore, experiment and practice.  With time, perseverance and patience perhaps I’ll find my way.

Becoming Brilliant – a book review

I just finished reading Becoming Brilliant by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD. I think it is an important book for parents and educators to read. Here are some of the main points that stood out to me as I summarize my notes. I think it would a great book to read in teacher/parent book club. We might use it as a source to re-vision how we’d like about school to grow.  If you’re interested let me know!

Collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creativity and confidence have been identified through scientific research as key skills all children need to meet their future with success. “If scientist do not share what we know, the void will be filled by those with little experience or with values that are more in line with the market place than with the betterment of children.” p 8.

Success has been redefined in our new Age of Information – how will we broaden our vision and expand our educational environments so these key skills are more likely to flourish?

Do a greenfield experiment with my classroom – what would I build if there were no constraints?

Encourage real thinking with high doses of creativity and innovation. Build a classroom environment that fosters playful exploration, collaboration and problem solving.

It is important to understand the necessity of building “soft skills” in schools. “Children are far more than the grades they earn.” p 55.

The more self-control and social competence expected, the more likely it will show. When practiced through collaborative projects an identified through reflective discussions these skills develop and grow.

Effective communication fuels collaboration. Effective communication is built on careful listening with attention to empathy.

Information is everywhere and easy to find. Learning is not about content or knowing a bit about lots of things. Learning is gaining a deepening understanding of the process of acquiring, interpreting and applying information so that the learner is transformed.

Critical thinking is key to understanding and making informed decisions that will lead to new opportunities.

Make space for play, for reflections, for what-ifs, and what’s next and for dreaming of possibilities.

You have to be willing to try. You have to be willing to fail. You have to examine the process and move forward – engage, persist, envision, express, reflect – experiment, hypothesize, questions revise – cycle through again.

Creators of effective learning environments embrace the responsibility for nurturing growth in all the essential skills (the 6C’s) required for success. They attend to the growth of the whole child.

Vacation Memories

My vacation was full of small ordinary moments. There was nothing anyone could call sensational but each one made me appreciate each part of my family. I had time at home with mom and dad and my sister Beth. We remembered the “the old days.” We laughed about Christmas night at Aunt Muriel’s and crazy days of runner sleds on the crusty snow in Grandpa’s back fields. My cousin dropped off poinsettias from the family greenhouse. There were five different colors – one for each of us. We brought the red-flecked one home.


The next day we got to see James. He was in awe of his Christmas morning abundance. I think he’s still getting used to everything that fills up his play spaces and room.


A few days later as many of the Eaves family as could make it, came over for feasting, a gift swap and an enormous bonfire.


My favorite vacation memory though, is playing Scrabble with my sister. We don’t see each other very often, but when we do we often fit in a game. My sister’s nearly three years older than me. There were no other kids around so if we wanted to play something more than Solitaire, we played with each other. My memory of things is that I NEVER WON anything. Whether we played Rummy 500, Chinese Checkers, Chess or Scrabble, Beth won. That was especially true when we played Scrabble!

But here we were playing and laughing and struggling to come up with the longest words possible. We’re “a little bit” competitive when we play. We don’t necessarily gloat but, hey, if you use all your letters in one word and get a fifty-point bonus, well it’s worth repeating. I didn’t win this time either, but the score was close. There were still comments of, “I don’t think you spell that word like that, Brenda”, but it was okay. I didn’t feel embarrassed anymore about not being able to spell or not knowing big words. I didn’t worry about not being able to claim the double or triple score spots. We were about equal in that. We just had fun. We had fun playing and we had fun remembering. And we agreed we’d play again in March when I saw her on her birthday. We’ll take out the pencil and paper we’ve been keeping score on for the last 35 years and we’ll play just for the fun of playing because now that’s what we do.