Why Coding is Important Part One

I consider myself a fairly techie teacher.  However, until recently I hadn’t really tried my hand at coding or robotics.  Well, I had, but I had lost interest as I quickly felt as though I was out of my depth.  So, I did what I always do when I really want to learn something about teaching, I go to a colleague that has the knowledge and I try it WITH the students.  Collaborative inquiry.

Until recently, I didn’t see what the big deal was or why it was important to teach coding to students.  Yeah, playing with robots is fun but what does that have to do with curriculum?  When I started working with and learning coding along side students I had a change in mindset.  There is a lot of math, strategic planning and visualization in coding. Coding may not always directly relate to curriculum content-that is true.  However, in terms of teaching students about the deep learning competencies, coding is key.  If you aren’t sure what I mean by the deep learning competencies; they are referred to as the 6 C’s.  Here is a link to the New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning paper but I have extracted a summary of the 6 C’s for a quick reference:

Character: Character refers to qualities of the individual essential for being personally effective in a complex world including: grit, tenacity, perseverance, resilience, reliability, and honesty.

Citizenship: Thinking like global citizens, considering global issues based on a deep understanding of diverse values with genuine interest in engaging with others to solve complex problems that impact human and environmental sustainability.

Collaboration: Collaboration refers to the capacity to work interdependently and synergistically in teams with strong interpersonal and team-related skills including effective management of team dynamics, making substantive decision together, and learning from and contributing to the learning of others.

Communication: Communication entails mastery of three fluencies:digital, writing and speaking tailored for a range of audiences.

Creativity: Having an ‘entrepreneurial eye’ for economic and social opportunities, asking the right questions to generate novel ideas, and demonstrating leadership to pursue those ideas into practice.

Critical Thinking: Critically evaluating information and arguments, seeing patterns and connections, constructing meaningful knowledge and applying it in the real world.

I reflected on these 6 C’s as I wrote the learning skills for my grade 4/5 students this year.  I spend the most time on my reports creating the Learning Skills for each student.  They are personal and they reflect each individual student.  As a parent, it is what I am most interested in reading about my own child.  The 6 C’s are competencies not only for school, but for life.  While students were exploring coding I had them working in pairs or small groups to give them the opportunity to communicate, collaborate and show leadership.  When the code didn’t work, they were able to go back and find the error and correct it and try it again with results right away. Sometimes they found it painstaking and I had to let them work through that and they were glad in the end when I didn’t give them the easy way out and they solved things on their own.  When they learned something in coding, they quickly wanted to share their learning with other students.  I gave basic instruction about the program to start using a youtube tutorial and then let the students go.  Students who often don’t do well in groups with “typical” academic tasks often excelled as leaders in coding because it is a divergent way of thinking and they had a self-check strategy built into the task.  It was incredible to witness the amount of learning that was taking place.

You don’t have to have robots to code.  There are online coding websites that teach kids to code such as code.org and Scratch.  The students even as young as grade 3 are easily able to use these sites to code.  Scratch Jr. is available for younger students.  The sites have great tutorial videos and somehow the students seem to just start discovering and creating things intuitively.  They begin helping each other when they see that someone has created something cool and ask the creator to show them how to do it too.

I am proud to say that I can now code a square, star and a small obstacle course using blocks and a Sphero robot.  My students discover new things every day and share them with me.  It is definitely a new age in teaching.

 

 

Flexible Classroom/Schedule a huge success!

The other day in my grade 4/5 class I decided to try a flexible schedule day where students would have the list of subjects available to them on the board with specific tasks under each subject. This is how the day unfolded.

Students entered the room after French and were confused by the fact that the schedule board was blank. Some of them right away started reading the black board and noticed the various subject headings. Under each heading it said grade four and grade five. The subject choices (which are the subjects that I teach on my one day LTO) were: social studies, music, math and library. In library, they are writing their own books right now so that was a writing choice.

I explained to my students that from 9:30 until 3:10, they would have the choice to pick whatever task they wanted and that they could move on when they wanted. If they completed a task, they could come hand it in to me or hand it in on google classroom. On the board I specified which tasks were to be done on google classroom. The only task on the board that required direct instruction was the grade five math task. When students were selecting that task, I asked them to come see me so I could explain it. This happened every so often throughout the day if students chose math.

I also put a “self regulation/independent work” challenge into the day where I told the class if I noticed them working hard and not getting off task, I would give them a green happy face in my app (which I have previously explained) called iDoceo. Before each break, they could come check in with me to ask how many happy faces they had.

At the end of the day, students were able to reflect on the entire experience. Here are the comments directly from the students.

Students comments about their flexible schedule/task day:

  • I liked the various choices of subjects
  • I liked how the option to switch when I wanted was there
  • This allowed us to get things done in our own timing
  • If you finished early with one task, you could move onto the other without asking what to do next
  • I liked the flow of free choice
  • There was no “have to” involved, I loved the flow of free choice
  • More time to finish things
  • “You are basically treating us like high school students”

Of my 25 students, all 25 raised their hand when I asked “How many of you prefer this type of schedule to the schedule we usually have?” The schedule we usually have is 60 minutes math, 80 minutes social studies, 40 minutes music..etc.

These were the students comments about the competition where they were asked to stay on task and work responsibly and they would be rewarded with a green smiley face in my app if they were working well:

  • The smiley faces made us work harder, they were good motivation
  • I loved the competition aspect of the day
  • Something to try for rather than just working
  • I liked finding out how many I had before each break
  • It reminded me of a race because you would still get smiley faces even if you didn’t win at the end of the day but you still had finished the race
  • Some people like competition so you can think about it like that or you could just work like usual
  • Makes you try different things

I really encourage all educators to try this flexible schedule thing! It was just a way of me looking for students that could handle the independent work challenge. The flexible schedule thing came to me while I was looking for a way to challenge students to stay on task and to work independently. I will definitely try this again next week as the kids LOVED it and as you can read, they loved the pressure free environment it allowed them to work in.

Science Through Inquiry

I’ve always been excited about Science. Believe it or not, as a child it was my dream to become a Pediatrician. In High School, that dream was slightly crushed by my Grade 11 Chemistry and Grade 12 Co-op teacher who said that I would be a better teacher than Scientist. I thought that if perhaps she had stuck to Science rather than teaching, I may not have been so terrible at it. But that conversation also sparked in me something that made me want to prove her wrong. I went on to get a degree in Science, worked for a chiropractor and then did Pancreas Cancer Research. And then, I got on with my true passion – teaching.

I say this because I think in a very real way, we have the power to be able to shape our students’ interests. If we make a topic or subject engaging, they are more likely to embrace it. If we offer tools to allow them to think critically, collaborate and problem solve, then no matter the content, they can transfer those skills and embrace new learning opportunities.

I remember my experiences and that conversation with my Science/Co-op Teacher vidly because I said that if ever I became a teacher, I would never teach Science in the same way. As a beginning teacher, I think that I did. I taught based on what I remember learning which was through a textbook or worksheets with a few experiments sprinkled in. I wasn’t doing much better because I found myself again mirroring the content-delivery that I was familiar with. It wasn’t until I learned about and understood the power of inquiry that my practice was able to change.

4 years ago I had the privilege of working at John A. Leslie Public School with some amazing teachers who were on a journey through inquiry and looking at how it might be done in the whole school through the theme of water. Classes from Kindergarten through grade 8 were engaged in allowing students to question and explore their own interests related to water. From exploring pollution in the Great Garbage Patch to investigating water scarcity in different parts of the world, – including Canada – students were learning about Science in meaningful ways.  Seeing the messiness but high engagement of inquiry allowed for me to make the shift and I haven’t looked back since.

Currently, I teach grade 5 Science and my students have been working on their own inquiry related to Human Body Systems. In the beginning, we watched a few brief videos identifying the systems and their interconnectedness. From that point, students were asked to consider a rich question to investigate related to our learning. Almost every student came up with a different question and they have been investigating them. We’re now at the stage where students are creating artifacts of their learning. Some are creating websites that will host their information for others. Some are creating slides presentations, while other are creating models. Some are even choosing to do a combination of a model and presentation.

During our classes, students are the ones directing what they need to do in order to complete their tasks. They’re collaborating with peers for feedback and to share their information as they learn. They have choice in how they wish to present their learning to others and are excited about doing it in their own way. The process isn’t always as straightforward and sometimes I wish there were more of me to go around and conference with students, but when students are engaged in and learning about something that is meaningful to them, I find it to be the best type of work.

Here’s to hoping that through inquiry, students can find an entry point into the wonderful world of Science.

Discipline used to mean something good

Discipline

The mere mention of it conjures up deeply personal memories. Other than infancy, there are very few times in our lives when we act without discipline. STOP signs, social media, and schedules are all prime examples when it is required. And then there’s discipline as it relates to school. For me, it started with stories shared by my mom about a one room school house where the headmaster sadistically silenced students into submission with a switch. Shudder. I clearly remember the rows on a dusty chalkboards replete with repetitive reminders of our recalcitrance. In the 70s, my grade 6 rotary teacher allowed students to pick the paddle with which he would use to discipline us. He had a collection in the corner. Speaking of corners, many were filled with kids “rewarded” with a change of scenery and a new hat for their misgivings. It was a different time and we were afraid.

Discipline varied from year to year and teacher to teacher. Perhaps it was to keep us off balance or that a constant was simply not possible. I’ve experienced 100% of them myself, and was tied to a chair in grade 1 for good measure. Thankfully, I haven’t seen 80% of these types of discipline since beginning my career as an educator in 2009.

In 2017, discipline has evolved to lost recesses, extra work, isolation from peers, loss of privileges, the walk of shame/glory to the office to see the principal, expulsion, and yes still, the writing of lines.* Have students become better behaved or have educators become better at classroom management? Ask yourself, “How does discipline happen in your school?”

In my classroom, a collective establishment of behavioural expectations has been crucial. With my students involved there is democracy, their voices are heard, and this then becomes the standard for everyone to uphold. At it’s heart, discipline must be founded in respect and responsibility where students contribute to and are expected to make good decisions at all times.

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/4193370268 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
via https://www.flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/4193370268 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

So how in 2017, where a JK to 12 education is mandatory and free for all, why then are things like the one below still happening?

| The state of Arkansas Corrections department carried out the unprecedented  execution of 4 prisoners in April. Really?|

This got me thinking about discipline, law, crime, law enforcement, punishment, society, and then, without fail, back to education. I wondered how any society built on the rule of laws, which are guaranteed for the protection and benefit of all, fails itself so frequently? Does education contribute to the school to prison pipeline with outdated methods of discipline?

Would it not be easier to rearrange the order of this equation in order to place education and society first? Could schools be funded as highly as prisons in order to end this destructive cycle?  Did you know that education receives approximately one tenth of the funding per student as the prison system does per inmate? This gap cannot continue if we expect to grow happy, healthy, and whole learners.

Can we return to discipline’s original Latin disciplinawhere it means method, instruction, and knowledge instead of scourging and flagellation? If we put knowledge and instruction over control we could restore discipline to its positively intentioned origins? I am positive the investment in education will lead to greater opportunities for everyone while reducing crime and prison populations.

I wanted to stretch, if not challenge, thinking with this reflection on discipline. Specifically, how this word, through its meaning and deeds, effects everything we do in education. Assuredly, any discussions of discipline require rules, boundaries, and consequences. But after all, isn’t that what it’s here for? Perhaps, in the spirit of the word, it can be so much more if we choose to use it positively instead to preserve power.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to share your memories in the comments section below.

Please read on if you’d like a little more.

* A switch history

Remember the axiom. ” Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Banning the Strap delves into the history of discipline and banishment of corporal punishment in Canada.  Looking on our neighbours to the south, New Jersey was the first state in the USA to abolish corporal punishment in 1867 with Massachusetts coming a close second doing the same in 1972.

Thought this was interesting from our friendly neighbourhood land of the free.

via https://www.pinterest.com/edweekpress/
via https://www.pinterest.com/edweekpress/

For Earth Day – A Chance for Environmental Custodians to Show What They Know

Knowing that I have a worm composter in my kindergarten classroom, two girls (grades 1 and 2) came up to me last week as they walked in from recess holding a bucket of earthworms. A bucket. Full of worms.

They asked me if they could join these worms with the ones in my classroom, and I had to tell them, “No”, that just as there are different kinds of fish or dogs in the world, so are there many different kinds of worms, and these two kinds were very different, not to mention the fact that the worms in the bucket had been born in the wild and that is where they should remain. The students were a little disappointed by my answer, especially after all their hard work delicately harvesting about 2 cups of worms, so I suggested that they could introduce them into the gardens in our courtyard (outdoor) classroom. The girls headed into the courtyard, found a spot near a tree and gently dumped the contents of the bucket on the ground. They were very proud of themselves and told me they knew about how worms help us so they felt that they had really helped the worms, too.

While I was on lunch duty in their classroom a while later, the girls were still eager to talk to me about the worms – evidently, the vermicomposter makes me some sort of expert in the way of the worm. Anyway, they told me that they were just getting started. The girls had BIG PLANS. They wanted to start their own Worm Care Service, since they know exactly what worms need. “Great!” I said, as I realized what a great inquiry-based learning opportunity this was, “Maybe you should make some posters and business cards telling people what it is you do.” This got them even more excited and they wanted to get down to work as soon as they finished eating. Even though selling a worm care business may not be a realistic venture, there is the fact that the girls could at least have an opportunity to share their knowledge about worms. And that is how the idea of a Children’s Fair to showcase students’ environmental interests and projects has come to be added to this year’s Earth Day Celebration. Being the first time at my new school, it will start out with just one or two tables, if we’re lucky, showcasing students and their nature-conscious projects and hobbies. The Fair is open to grades 1 to 6, and all the students will get a chance to visit and ask questions and learn from each other.

Having done something like this last year at my previous school on Earth Day, I had forgotten how rich an experience it was for the students involved. I realized afterwards that it had been so successful because it was an opportunity for students to do something at school which had no rubric or assessment attached to it, and for which they were highly motivated. Last year, all I did was call a meeting together asking students how they would like to participate in the Earth Day Celebration. That’s when things just started to morph into them wanting a way to share their knowledge or expertise about the environment. At the meetings, there were lots of ideas and “Can I…?” questions. In the end, not everyone was ready to set up a table with items and information, but at least it got them to consider the possibility that something they know or do could be of some interest and value to their peers and the adults in their life. This year, I don’t know what expertise we will showcase, but If someone has a feather or rock collection they are proud of, if they know how to fold newspaper into compost bin liners, or if they know how to make bird calls or care for worms, then the Children’s Fair is the place to show what you know.

Options

My grade five class is almost done their perimeter and area unit. At the close of this unit, I was having trouble deciding what the best option would be, a project or a test. I decided to present both options to the class and then let them select which one they should do.

I then had an issue with letting students who had received an “A” on their reports not do both. I wanted them to challenge themselves by trying both since they had achieved such a high mark on their report card.

Some students reacted very negatively to this thinking they wish they had received a lower mark. I on the other hand, tried to explain to them that since they had such a high mark on their report, they have proven that this unit is not a challenge to them so they should challenge themselves by trying to take on two activities.

It was interesting how many students chose to take the test over the project. I for one, HATE tests and as a child never enjoyed spending time after school studying for them. As a teacher, I dislike giving them as well because they do not offer any creative elements for the child who is writing it. So when some of my students chose the test over the project, I was rather shocked.

I am happy I gave my students the option because I loved seeing students debate over both and then finally arrive on their final choice. I think that when I was in university learning about choices for students, I never really understood the feeling over power it would give my future students. It was amazing seeing them weighing their options and I am happy I was able to give them that feeling.

Students making a difference

Throughout this school year, it was one of my goals to not only start a fundraiser that would benefit a charity somehow but to have students orchestrate most if not all of the procedure. At my school Ancaster Meadow, I asked a group of 30 grade eights to plan with me a day entitled “All Star Day”. Together with myself the grade eights:

  • chose two charities for all monies collected to go towards
  • selected how the day would work picking the events at All Star Day
    • 3 point competition $10 to play
    • All star skills competition $10 to play
    • All Star game where kids from grade five to seven would play and would be coached by grade eights $20 to play
    • All star game where grade eights would play the teachers $20 to play
  • help run the day and organize the crowd to watch the event

There were many other tasks involved to help make the day a success. I went to 30 different companies to ask for donations as well as other companies to sponsor t-shirts, lunch the day of and volunteers were involved from Redeemer University.

The day went off without a hitch and we raised $2000 total, $1000 going to each charity. After this day, every grade eight came to me asking to lead more events, raise money for more charities, etc. They had all these ideas that are impossible to all say yes to because it is May at the end of a school year and the ideas they have would take many months to plan for. However, students do have the potential to make the greatest difference in their school. Whenever you have an idea, put it in the hands of your students and trust that they can take it anywhere. I have never seen kids more involved or more into what they were doing in a school building then I saw on that day. I cannot wait for next school year when I can do that same event again, keep building on it and inspiring children to know that they can make a difference and have an amazing time while doing so.

If you would like to see videos from our event, you can youtube: Ancaster Meadow All Star Day. IMG_4604

Maybe it’s not as simple as 1, 2, 3, BYOD

It’s simple, or so many of us want to believe, but…

If you want to be guaranteed access to technology in your classroom bring it yourself…for now!

Much has been shared in the last 5 years in the edublogosphere and media about bringing your own device to school. This post will attempt to share my thoughts when witnessing, discussing and reflecting on BYOD.

History and Questions

The term BYOD origjnated in “Tech” sector companies permitting workers to use their personal/preferred technology (phone, tablet, laptop etc.) with the goal to allow staff to use a favourite more user friendly option. However, over the past 4 years, BYOD represents an increasingly acceptable approach to equipping  21st Century Classrooms. In a world of austerity and cost cutting, I call this the ultimate download because it allows schools, school boards and government to abdicate much of their responsibilities to provide funding towards the substantial costs of classroom technology (laptops, tablets) all of which now gets dumped onto students and their families. 

Is BYOD fair? Not yet. It’s unfair to this point because not all students/families are able to afford technology.  It’s not fair because infrastructure does not have the bandwidth, server capacity or security measures in place to support it. It’s not fair because teachers are still stuck in transmission models of education at the expense of inquiry. It’s not fair because classrooms become another snapshot of haves and have nots. Socio-economic realities are still dictating that some students will be given tools to succeed while others will be left stranded when it comes to BYOD.

Could this be an equity issue around access, availability and apathy? Will BYOD really allow students without their own devices more frequent access to technology provided at school? Yes, in some schools, but not in others. Unfortunately, unless it can benefit all learners, and not just the ones who can afford it, the disparity will be perpetuated repeatedly unless preventive policies in are put place. Who is going to pay for all of this because it’s always doom and gloom in the world of educational funding.

““If technology is seen as the vehicle for learning, it needs to be accessible to everybody,” said Jeff Kugler, of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. That means there has to be enough tablets or laptops to serve every child that needs one.” from the Toronto Star

In Ontario, Canada  (a.k.a home) there is a concerted push towards using technology from K to 12. My board (York Region District School Board) has adopted a very proactive approach and continues to develop and refine its policies as well as upgrading the infrastructure to accommodate this growing trend. Another such commitment to BYOD comes from the Peel District School Board. Their progressive approach  and promotion of BYOD is giving more students access to the resources of the internet and 21st Century learning and collaboration than ever. Although socio-economics dictate that this board will still need to provide tech to students, the opportunities for students are increasing.

 “some students will have a great device, some an old device, and some no device at all. But savvy schools will leverage BYOD projects in ways that will increase access to technology for all students. If a classroom has 30 students and five computers, it has a 6:1 student to computer ratio. If half of the students have a personal device that they can use, the ratio in the classroom becomes considerably lower. Schools will need to provide access to online resources by lending out individual devices or opening labs for students who do not have their own equipment.” Doug Johnson,  Power Up! On Board with BYOD

Resolving the financial constraints allowing access to all can move this favourably forward to more equitable eduction for all. So what happens then?

Favourably Fast forward

BYOD is here to stay. After millions of dollars in server upgrades, purchases and professional development students are connecting like never before to content, Web 2.0 tools are making learning come alive and on terms and platforms that modern learners are intuitively seeking to use (see graphic).

Proponents believe that BYOD allows for a more fluid access to information in the classroom. I agree and disagree.

At its finest, access to the resources and potential of the internet are everything good about this shift. In my classroom when a student has a question or inquiry I find it incredibly valuable to have them get on their device (if available) to scratch their immediate intellectual itches. With access to BYOD this becomes a seamless act allowing for neural myelination to happen. At this point, knowledge can be reinforced when the ideas and thoughts occur thus engaging us with our learning. Think of it as being able to protect your tech with a shield like an OtterBox. Myelination allows neurons to be reinforced while at the same time boosting the recall and connectivity of the neural architecture. This is where I see BYOD blowing the roof off a detractor’s arguments. Imagine the depths of engagement when students are given the latitude to control their learning the moment an idea occurs?

But wait! Students are playing Candy Crush not inquiring about Chemistry. They’re on Snapchat not researching their Social Studies. They’re taking pictures of each other in bathrooms and they’re bullying each other on social media. Aargh!!!

Of all the shadowy sides to BYOD the above seems to be the most reviled by teachers and board IT folks alike. That is the misuse of bandwidth and technology for surreptitious activities on social media, gaming and video streaming sites. Schools now have to institute and educate students and staff on acceptable use procedures and then enforce them. A great example of this working well is in New Jersey, USA via Eric Sheninger. His post BYOD begins with Trust and Respect is a good place to start. Seeing this as a teachable moment has lead to several digital citizenship lessons with students in my world.

Technology will continue being a part of learning whether we can afford it, or are prepared for it. Students must be given access to the tools, the time and the trust to use technology to advance their learning. Failing to do so is not an option. Turning the negatives into positives(teachable moments) will allow BYOD to move forward.

And going forward is good, but it comes with its share of work. No one said BYOD would be e-a-s-y as 1, 2, 3. But with patience, leadership, hard-work  and responsible funding its benefits will be immeasurably beneficial to students and teachers alike. This in itself should be the impetus for a greater commitment by schools, school boards and governments to continue moving in this direction. 

Further Resources (since you haven’t read enough)

http://chalkboardinquiries.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/reflections-on-digital-citizenship-and-the-byod-classroom/ (Paul Aniceto)

http://edtechreview.in/dictionary/278-what-is-byod-byot

http://esheninger.blogspot.ca/search?q=BYOD

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/tag/byod/

http://stager.tv/blog/?p=2397

Get, Give or Pass

As part of our end of the week celebration my class convenes with our daily circle discussion. In addition to our debrief of the week’s events, we add our ‘Get, Give or Pass’ activity. Each person in the circle is asked whether they would like to give a compliment to another person, get a compliment from a fellow student or pass. This is truly a very powerful measure of the level of community that my class has evolved into.

In order for this level of comfort to be present in my group I have to spend time daily working on team building tasks that facilitate a comfort level between all members of the class. In addition, there is extensive time spent modelling and supporting effective communication skills. As with any other outcome, this has to be scaffolded over time in order for the activity to be successful. If this activity is done without the time spent in building to this level of trust it could and will most often produce negative results.

Two pieces of advice I would offer to teachers in implementing this strategy are first and foremost to spend daily time reinforcing the expectations you have around how people are expected to treat each other in your room. This is best done by finding and recognizing students who are exhibiting the target behaviours you seek to develop.These expectations must be clear and consistently followed through on. The second critical piece is the modelling by  you of the way to speak, to listen and how to give and receive compliments from other people.

Kinders as Enviro-Experts

A couple of months ago, I got the idea into my head that we should have an Earth Day Fair at our school. I found it frustrating that although we touch on aspects of sustainability and respect for the environment in the curriculum, when it came to Earth Day, saying “Happy Earth Day!” over the morning announcements, was pretty much as far as it went. I happened to mention it to the principal one day, and she said, “Got for it!”. So I started to put more ideas together and tried to figure out how I could also bring my kinders into the mix, not just as participants, but as leaders.

Time passed and things slowly came together. We held our fair  in the morning, indoors, where tables were set up with various presenters to showcase their eco-friendly projects. In the afternoon, the whole school was invited to participate in a variety of eco-friendly activities in the school yard. It was marvelous!

Generally speaking, kinders are often not invited to participate with the general school in certain events due to their young age and somewhat shortened attention span. With the Earth Day Fair, however, I was willing to try out having a table set up, just like the big kids, where kinders could share their knowledge of the worms we have in our vermicomposter.

I decided to follow the science fair model of having a tri-fold poster board for all our information, some literature about worms, the things we need to prepare the compost, and the worms themselves for our information table. In the weeks preceding the fair, I invited students who were interested in showing what they know about worms to a table with pencils and paper and the tri-fold board already set up. I divided up the board into three sections I knew my kinders could elaborate on in order to be able to teach others about vermicomposting;

  1. All about Worms
  2. How to Compost
  3. Why is it important?

There were 8 students who showed an interest – reviewing the books and looking at pictures (some even reading – “Madame! Look! It says here that worms can push ten times their weight!”); who wanted the challenge of writing and drawing their information; and who stayed and observed and asked more questions whenever I would open the compost bin to feed or check on the worms – and so they became my Worm Experts. Because they contributed to the poster display, they were the right people to represent our vermicomposting table at the fair. They were so excited!

I was there to supervise while the Worm Experts had the responsibility of answering questions. Students and staff who visited the display learned a lot as the kinders presented anatomical drawings they had made of the worms, delighting in stating that worms have 5 hearts. The Experts also explained that worms need to stay slimy or they will die, because they breathe through their skin. The composting they explained in three easy steps; collect compost, blend the compost, feed the compost to the worms. Finally, they stated that worms are important because when they dig tunnels, their poo becomes soil with nutrients that helps plants grow. 

The Worm Experts answered questions for the better part of an hour, with the whole school filing past to visit the display. With their enthusiasm beginning to fade a bit towards the end, I asked if any of them would like to stay at the fair or return to the classroom. Half of them decided to return to the classroom because “Being an Expert is hard work.” The others who were happy to stay, chatted with other presenters or went and visited other displays with grade 6 Big Buddies, just like the big kids.