Saturday, March 21, 2015

Genius Hour

"Talk at me and I struggle to learn. Actively involve me and I achieve. Empower me to lead, and I take my new skills wherever I go."  Paul Solarz

Have you heard of Genius Hour?  Classrooms everywhere are trying this idea and finding that it encourages student excitement and engagement.
It is all about student-led learning environments where students develop confidence, curiosity, independence and collaboration. 
So how do you start this in your classroom and what does it look like?

Chris Kesler is an 8th grade science teacher who shares great resources on his website, Genius Hour.  Follow him on Twitter!
Paul Solarz is a fifth grade teacher in Illinois.  He calls his genius hour "Passion Time" find out more Here on his website. Follow him on Twitter! He has also written a book, Learn Like a Pirate! You can find it on Amazon.  If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!

For resources and inspiration:
Genius Hour Wiki- Denise Krebs and Joy Kirr organizers
LiveBinder by Joy Kirr
Read: "Genius hour": What kids can learn from failure, by Emanuella Grinberg, CNN.
Twitter #genioushour

What do students have to say about Genius Hour?

I hope that I have inspired you to investigate Genius Hour, or maybe even try this in your classroom with your students!  I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Connecting Children with Nature

Today’s children and families often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment.  What can we do as educators to help children experience and enjoy nature? First, we need to understand why it is so important!

The benefits of connecting to nature have been well documented in numerous scientific research studies and publications.  Collectively, this body of research shows that children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature. (The Natural Learning Initiative)
Positive impacts include the following:

Supports multiple development domains. Nature is
important to children’s development in every major way
—intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually
and physically (Kellert, 2005).
Supports creativity and problem solving. Studies
of children in schoolyards found that children engage
in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They
also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment,
2006). Play in nature is especially important for
developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving,
and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).
Enhances cognitive abilities. Proximity to, views
of, and daily exposure to natural settings increases
children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive
abilities (Wells, 2000).
Improves academic performance. Studies in the US
show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and
other forms of nature-based experiential education
support significant student gains in social studies,
science, language arts, and math. Students in outdoor
science programs improved their science testing scores
by 27% (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms.
Contact with the natural world can significantly reduce
symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as
young as five years old (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).
Increases physical activity. Children who experience
school grounds with diverse natural settings are more
physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to
one another and more creative (Bell and Dyment, 2006).
Improves nutrition. Children who grow their own
food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell &
Dyment, 2008) and to show higher levels of knowledge
about nutrition (Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2006). They are
also more likely to continue healthy eating habits
throughout their lives (Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).
Improves eyesight. More time spent outdoors is
related to reduced rates of nearsightedness, also known
as myopia, in children and adolescents (American
Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011).
Improves social relations. Children will be smarter,
better able to get along with others, healthier and
happier when they have regular opportunities for free
and unstructured play in the out-of-doors (Burdette and
Whitaker, 2005).
Improves self-discipline. Access to green spaces, and
even a view of green settings, enhances peace, selfcontrol
and self-discipline within inner city youth, and
particularly in girls (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).
Reduces stress. Green plants and vistas reduce stress
among highly stressed children. Locations with greater
number of plants, greener views, and access to natural
play areas show more significant results (Wells and
Evans, 2003).

I don't know about you, but I am impressed with the benefits of exposing our kids to the natural environment!  I want to provide you with a few resources to add this element to your classroom.
This article tells you how to incorporate a nature wall in the classroom!

You will love this post and the ideas presented!

Image result for toddlers nature
Little ones love nature! 

Bing : Reggio Emilia Schools-- love the leaves on the windows!
How about a Pinterest Search?

Create a nature library for your kids!  Children love to read books about nature!
Images of natural environments, such as jungles, are declining in some children's books, a study finds.

I hope you are inspired to bring nature to your classroom!