Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Nest

I have been away from home-- even flying like a bird through the skies-- for several days. It was a wonderful trip to the International Reading Association's annual convention in Chicago with a good friend (who has already been posting photos about it here). I am glad to be back at home in my nest in Jackson with my family and friends, pets, and students. I hope to write more about the conference soon.

Jennifer, a blogging friend, knitter, mom, and many other things, wrote a lovely piece about my blog and our friendship. Her words are lengths of the most beautiful yarn imaginable weaving into my "nest." Thank you, Jennifer, for reminding me about the intersections and the daily choices made at those intersections.

The nest photo was taken before I left for Chicago, and I carried the image with me during the trip away. It had been in a large sticker bush along the fence row that we pruned down to the ground. Some pair of birds is probably not happy, but I hope they were able to start over again in time for their eggs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ground Level Fib Poems

The following photos and poems were written by third grade students at St. Therese Catholic School. Read more about the project here and check out their flower Fib poems from yesterday. Most of these poems were inspired by photographs taken at ground level. There are more spring flowers of the wild variety, but there is also a photo of a crawdad hole that C. R. identifies as a snake hole. Either way, it is worth reading and seeing! The exception to "ground level photos" is B. L.'s humorous poem/photo of red berries in a category of its own. I can testify from experience that B. L.'s personality matches his poem!


Fibonacci by V. B.

nice things
rain forest
purple white sunshine
fairy tale land with white flowers

Fibonacci Poem by S. C.

I love bright flowers
I love nature, trees, birds, and grass.

All About Flowers by K. C.

so bright
as the midnight sky
God's creation is in full bloom.

Fibonacci Poem by C. R.

hiding in
a secret, dark spot;
giant, brownish, scary snake hole!

Fibo What?

Looks good to eat it.
I want to cook and eat it bad.

Flower Fib Poetry

This group of poems and photographs by third grade students at St. Therese Catholic School focuses on flowers in full bloom. See yesterday's post for more information about this arts integrated project. Happy Earth Day!

Fib Poem by C. B.

bursting high
happy, loving thoughts.
It's spring time in the world around.

Fibonacci by A. N.

bright, green leaves
beautiful purple
shining pollen on the flowers.

Fibonacci Poem by C. L.

tall, green grass
reaching for the sun
drinking water from down below.

Fibonacci Poem by T. H.

growing nice
like a tear of sky
shining in the sky like a bird.

Flowers by L.B.

purple as my church dress.
The yellow pollen peeking out.

Come back on Friday for 5 more student Fib poems and photographs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fib Poetry Readings

How can you celebrate National Poetry Month, National School Library Month, and Earth Day all at the same time? It's easy! Host an author in your library who writes about nature, go outside to take photographs of nature, write poetry based on your photographs, and have a poetry reading in your library to celebrate everyone's creativity and hard work. This is exactly what third graders at St. Therese Catholic School have done during April through a special author/teacher/librarian collaboration (see my last post on this topic to catch up). On Monday, April 18th, Sarah Campbell returned to our library to listen to thirteen poems based on student photographs and read from student-made Fib accordion books.

Each student took my "read-aloud" chair to share their book. First, they read their poems without letting us see the inside of their books or their photographs. We practiced making mental images from the words of the poem and then compared our images to the actual photograph on a second reading of the poem in which the student also revealed their photograph. Sometimes we were able to predict the subject of the photograph, and sometimes we were surprised that the final image was different from our mental image. As Sarah Campbell remarked, listening to the thirteen poems all together made her remember in new ways the beautiful day we had spent outside taking our photographs. The students did a wonderful job!

Over the next few days, I will share the students' original poems and photographs a few at a time so that we may continue to celebrate poetry. The students' books will also be on display in the library for all classmates to see on Earth Day (April 22nd). Finally, Sarah and I are taking the books and this project to a workshop we're facilitating at the annual convention for the International Reading Association in Chicago on Monday, April 25, 2010.

We concluded our poetry reading with some cookies and fresh pineapple (a Fibonacci fruit!). Sarah signed and dedicated a copy of Growing Patterns to our library so that we may continue to learn about the special relationship between math, science, and nature through Fibonacci numbers. Thank you, Sarah, for collaborating with me and with the third graders at St. Therese Catholic School!

And now, for a few of the students' poems and photographs. Three students chose to photograph and write about nature subjects related to trees:

Trees, Trees by J. P.

Trees, trees
That I really know.
Trees, trees gracefully that I see.

Fibo Number by B. B.

in trees
laying eggs
living a new life.
Their children live a new life, too.

Spring Fib Poem by J. R.

reflects on
sharp, hanging pine cone
I see it on my springtime walk.

Check back tomorrow for more student photos and poetry.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing Fib Poems

Third grade students are well on their way to publishing their Fib poem accordion books! To review, they have visited with author and photographer, Sarah Campbell, to learn about her new book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. They have taken their own digital photographs on the school grounds and chosen their favorite photos to use in their books. They have constructed blank Fib accordion books in which to write and illustrate their poems with a photograph and other drawings. On Wednesday, they wrote their Fib poems.

Each student had a manila folder with their photograph and a "Fib Poem Template" with which to work. Fib poems are similar to haikus in that each line of the poem has a certain number of syllables. These students had already written haikus for a unit on Charlotte's Web and cinquains for a unit on snowflakes and crystals with their classroom teacher, Mrs. Holder, earlier in the year. The syllable count for a Fib poem is based upon the first few numbers in the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8.

Mrs. Tarleton, St. Therese's art and music teacher and my co-teacher for literature connection class, was also on hand to help guide students through the process of brainstorming, counting syllables, writing, and revising. To help get them started, Mrs. Tarleton suggested students brainstorm and write down words and phrases about their photographs. We asked them questions such as:
  • What colors, shapes, and textures do you see in your photograph?

  • What does your photograph make you feel or think?

  • What do you remember about taking your photograph?

  • Does your photograph remind you of anything?

  • What do you know about the subject of your photograph?
We all used our fingers to count syllables! Many of the students chose a similar word for the fourth line of the poem which demands 3 syllables: "beautiful." The day on which we took photos was beautiful, and their nature subjects of springtime were also beautiful. The poems are all different, however, and reflect their personalities and interests.

On Thursday after checking out new books for the week, students wrote their poems on the folded pages of their Fib accordion book. On Friday, the students will illustrate their books in their classroom. Sarah Campbell will return to St. Therese on Monday for thirteen book readings as the students share their completed books and poems with her and with each other. We have tried to keep their photo choices and poems secret so that the final sharing session will be a surprise to all!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nature Saturday

As we did last year, we spent yesterday looking for milkweed and tiny, white monarch butterfly eggs at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi. The event was coordinated by the Clinton Community Nature Center as the beginning of their week long series of activities related to monarch butterfly education.

Searching for the eggs on milkweed was much more difficult this year because the milkweed was not yet as abundant (colder weather?) and there were fewer monarch eggs to be found and gathered. We were told by some of the naturalists on-site that the butterfly population is greatly reduced this year.

Several in our group also spent time searching for eggs on a plant that looked similar to milkweed but was not! We should have remembered the milky sap that oozes out when the plant is cut. We hunkered down close to the ground and tried to decide if tiny dots that we kept seeing were eggs. Alas, they were not! Some of these dots turned out to be aphids, some may have been pollen or small seeds, and still others may have been other insect eggs. Only when we were about to leave, disappointed and hungry, did we find some milkweed hiding close to our vehicles at the beginning of the trail.

Finally, I found one egg. In comparison, my family found about 20 eggs last year. We had so many that we gave them away to multiple classrooms in three schools and raised several ourselves with enough gathered milkweed for all. This year in our group of 5 families, I think we only found 5 or 6 eggs after almost two hours of hunting.

The egg is on lower left leaf.

After our egg hunt, we re-grouped for a picnic with friends, played outside, and ended our day by visiting the Nature Fest at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science where we learned about reptiles, bats, saw a colorful moth hiding near the ground, and raced a gopher tortoise. I also accepted a photography award in the museum's first annual Back to Nature Photography Contest for a photo taken last fall at the museum. The winning photo and a slide show of highlights from the rest of the day are below.

"Eye to Eye"
1st place in the "People and Nature" category

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Making Fib Accordion Books

Third graders at St. Therese Catholic School made their Fib accordion books on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a special project with visiting author/photographer, Sarah Campbell. We had already met Sarah during an author visit and reading of her new book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, on March 31, 2010 (see our posts here and here). The next morning, Sarah returned to St. Therese for an outdoor photography session (posts here and here) with students on the playground.

Book-making was very hard work that involved measuring, folding, cutting, taping, and stapling. While the third graders were familiar with measurement, applying this skill required concentration and attention to details. I had thought we could make the books in one class period, but it actually took two, 30 minute sessions for all 13 students to complete the book-making from start to finish (along with returning and checking out new library books). Three students were able to complete the book in one session after watching me construct a book in a start-to-finish demonstration. Other students needed one-on-one assistance to complete the process.

Photos of a student-made, but empty, Fib accordion book are below. Sarah and I plan to create a step-by-step tutorial to share for making these books. Next week, the students will write their photography-inspired Fib poems in these bare books. The Fib books will not be blank for long!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Growing Patterns Photo Selection

In individual conferences, I met with third grade students to review their photos taken last Thursday on the school grounds of St. Therese Catholic School. I used Flickr to organize each student's photos into a set so that I could show them their photos as slide shows at my desk computer. Then, we looked at a few photos that stood out to each student from the slide show so that we could narrow down each set to one photo for the poem writing and book making. I remained neutral during the photo selection, and the students did a wonderful job picking out their better photos.

I recorded what the students said about their photo choices in the comments field of each photo. They chose photos for many different reasons. For some, colors or contrasting color combinations were important factors. For others, the image in the photo reminded them of something else. In some cases, students chose photos because they were "pretty" or because they remembered taking the photo.

When a photo was not in focus, the student was disappointed that he or she had not captured the photo desired. I reminded them that they took their photos with a camera that they used for the first time and that we did not have a lot of time to take our photos and review how photos were turning out on the playground.

Since I don't want to spoil the surprise of the students' final poems and books, I won't show you any of their final selections now. Instead, I'll let you see a peek of some of their other photos that almost made it into the final selection. Tomorrow, we will make our accordion books with measurements based upon the first few numbers in the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8. You can find good instructions for making a simple accordion book here. Can you guess how we will construct our Fibonacci accordion book? Check back soon to find out!

T. H. took this photo of pansies that her class planted around a tree outside their classroom. Her class also watches birds feeding at a bird feeder hung outside their classroom windows.

J. P. liked this photo of ants spilling out over the recycled rubber tire pieces that surround the playground equipment. He "loves ants."

Not every student looked towards the ground; some looked up at the large trees budding and shedding pollen. This was one of C. R.'s photos.

While less glamorous and colorful than some of the many flower photos the students took, I liked the textures of the lichen, tree branch, and grass in this photo by K. C.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Here We Are

I confessed to a friend on Good Friday that Easter is not my favorite holiday. It never seems like I am ready for Easter, and April/May are usually busy months already packed with school and work activities beyond the normal load. Here we are.

From looking at what I did today, however, you might think I like Easter-- just a little bit. I have to admit that digging down and making the traditions happen by dyeing eggs with my son, baking hot-cross buns with my daughter, readying the clothes, cleaning away the pollen, and taking the obligatory photos of the children did change my mood a little. We planted hard red wheat grass in small containers last Saturday. Today we have festive green spots throughout the house. We've enjoyed watching it grow all week.

So, here we are. Maybe the tradition of Easter Vigil will also carry me closer to where I need to be.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Photography on the Playground

Day 2 of Sarah Campbell's visit with third graders from St. Therese Catholic School took us outside. The weather could not have been better. We had morning sunshine (good for photos), mild temperatures (good for exploring), and many spring wildflowers (good for photo subjects).

Before we went off in our groups, Sarah gave the students a few pointers about taking photos. We also instructed them to only take horizontal photos because the books we are making will have a horizontal shape. Sarah took 7 children and 3 cameras to share. I took 6 children with 2 cameras. Both Sarah and I also had our own cameras to document the children taking photos and to take a few photos of our own. Check out Sarah's blog post about yesterday to see some of her photos using a macro lens.

By the time we made it outside and were ready to start shooting, we only had about 30 minutes left. Each student had a camera for about 9 or 10 minutes. Some students took over 20 photos, while others only took 5 or 6 photos. The students also chose to take their photos from many different angles (as seen in the photos below). Whether we were crouching down low or aiming high, we all discovered things about our school ground that we might not have noticed before.

One student remarked to me, "Mrs. Owen, I think there is always nature to see if we just take the time to look."

My response: "Absolutely!"

In half an hour, we saw ants, sparrows, insects, many flowers, trees, pine cones, pollen, berries, buds, tree bark, crawdad holes, water, mud, grass, blue sky, leaves new and old, rocks, tree limbs, and lichens. I'm looking forward to meeting with each student individually to review their photos and choose their favorite photo for the book-making and poetry writing next week.