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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

School’s a Hoot! By guest blogger Andra Goodwin

Andra Goodwin is a first grade parent and our first guest parent blogger! We're thrilled to kick off Family Blogging Month with Andra's thoughtful post! Thank you for sharing your story!

Recently, I was asked to provide a parent's perspective on how Star Academy fosters creativity in its students. This gave me an opportunity to think over the first half of the school year and provide some examples of creativity at work in my daughter's classroom. As I started to put my thoughts down on paper, I was delighted at how this simple approach has created a love of learning in my first-grader, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from 2013.

The first thing that sprang to my mind was the Wonder Wall in Mrs. Luhrsen’s class. Students come up with a weekly question that they post on the wall and brainstorm answers to as a group. I love the Wonder Wall because: 1) I believe that fostering “creative thinking” is a process where students are encouraged to find multiple solutions to a problem rather than being told that there is one correct answer, and if you don’t get that answer, then it’s considered to be wrong or a mistake. And, 2) If my daughter comes home from school and asks a question that stumps me, I can casually look at her and say “That’s an excellent question sweetheart. Why don’t you write that down for the Wonder Wall this week?” Yes, darling, Mommy is just trying to encourage your creativity here. A big thanks to Mrs. Luhrsen for helping her solve some of worlds biggest mysteries!


Another highlight would be the signal words the kids have been learning in class. I’m not sure if all grades have signal words but first-grade parents, you know what I’m talking about here. It’s pretty amazing to have your child be able to use words like proboscis, oviparous, crevice, strata, woodland, nocturnal, diurnal and aestivate in a sentence and know what they mean. Now, not many of these words come up in easy everyday conversation, but recently, my daughter overheard me talking about going to Costco in Woodland, California and immediately said “Woodland. Areas with trees, shrubs, sunlight and shadows.” If you ever find yourself in the midst of a rowdy group of Star Academy first graders, just say the word “ungulate” and they will instantaneously stop whatever they are doing to give you the definition while doing American sign language. It’s magical.


Finally, in thinking about something specific that my child has learned and loved, I would have to say the owl pellet dissection. She completely absorbed the entire unit of woodland creatures, specifically the tawny owl. She would come home and tell me facts about the tawny owl being nocturnal and hunting rodents, birds and frogs at night. When she found out that she would get to dissect an owl pellet, she was thrilled. She gave me a lesson in owl regurgitation that I won’t soon forget, and was excited to come home and report that her owl pellet had mouse bones and the skulls of not one, but two voles in it! Any chance she had during that unit was spent diagramming the tawny owl. In fact, Mrs. Luhrsen emailed me a picture of a sketch that she brought into class one day. She did it at home. Unbeknownst to me. On a paper towel.




Obviously, the creativity overtook her and she had to get it out of her brain while she ate her morning breakfast. Don’t bother asking why I don’t have regular paper or markers that aren’t of the extra dull tip variety. Like the tawny owl, I work in strange and mysterious ways.

I can’t wait to see the creativity that abounds in 2014!


Would you like to be a guest blogger on this blog? What do you love about our school? Is your child excited about learning? Email jkloczko@natomascharter.org to share your story!

9 comments:

  1. I love your story about Woodland,CA and how your daughter immediately launched into the woodland chant. My first grade daughter has taught me many new words this year such as coniferous and oviparous. Our first graders are so advanced!

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  2. Thanks for your blog Andra - Especially loved seeing Maya's diagram of the Tawny Owl - Very impressive!

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  3. Thanks for your blog Andra. I especially enjoyed Maya's diagram of the Tawny Owl - Very Impressive!

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  4. Andra, I love your story! I had a similar story when I said Woodland. Our first graders are learning so much in their class. Mrs. Luhrsen is doing a wonderful job teaching our kids. I am amazed how much my first grader has learned this year. I LOVE the owl drawing. You have a smart little girl!

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  5. Maya is a great artist! I volunteered the day they dissected the pellets. The kids were super excited. It was so cute, but thank goodness I took Anatomy and Physiology! I needed to figure out some of those bones :)

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  6. Thanks for sharing Andra! And I totally agree on how much our kids are learning. The owl drawing is amazing! Awesome job!

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  7. Thanks for sharing Andra! I totally agree on how much our kids have learned and how much they enjoy doing so! The owl drawing is amazing!

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  8. Great story Andra! I say the word Woodlands just so I can do the hand gestures and chant with my daughter.

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  9. Thank you for sharing Andra. I am amazed at how much our first graders are learning. I love that they are able to apply what is being learned in the classroom to daily life, like Woodlands or stamina. Peyton told me she needs stamina, not only for reading, but for soccer too:)

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