Sun & Moon partners in the classroom: a freebie

Just posted a new freebie over at my TPT store! I use partners in my classroom for lots of things, including turn & talks on the carpet and buddy reading in Reader’s Workshop. In my effort to bring more nature into my classroom (even in the form of clipart), I made up a list for Sun & Moon partners. You can print it out and post it somewhere. Then when you ask your kiddos to turn and talk to their partner, you can say “Sun partners go first,” or vice versa!

Click on the image below to download the freebie, or find it at my TPT store here.

Sun Moon partners

Inspiration for the week

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The beginning of the school year took over everything! No surprise there of course, but I apologize for going so long between posts. Now that the first month is over, I finally have time to share some inspirational links that have been carrying me through:

I really want to do Project 333, a challenge to reduce the amount of clothes you own. It’ll make deciding what to wear in the morning way easier.

8 ways to finish the year with love and intention. It’s only the beginning of fall, but the end of the year will be here before you know it. I liked this nice list of suggestions.

The truth of “Black Lives Matter,” so that no one can claim ignorance about this movement anymore.

We have to do a research project as part of our teaching this year (in our “spare time”) and I decided to do mine on mindfulness practices in the classroom. I’m so excited! I got these two books (Planting Seeds and Mindfulness for Teachers) and also started a pin board to kickstart my research.

I LOVE this teacher’s blog, Inquiring Minds. She has the coolest ways of nurturing curiosity, wonder, and inquiry with her kindergarteners! Like this kite inquiry they did recently.

The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge looks amazing.

Stovetop granola! I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks awesome.

I am totally guilty of Inspirational Photo binging. This post was hilarious.

 

What I want kindergarten parents to know.

K parents

Dear kindergarten parents,

A new school year is starting! For some of you, this is the first time you’ll be sending your sweet, sensitive, singular five-year-old anywhere on his own. For others, you have done the whole preschool thing, so you’re not hyperventilating, but you also know that real, big-kid school is a whole other ball game.

And now, in late August, you’re meeting with me, the kindergarten teacher, and as you bring your little kiddo into this giant classroom with an overwhelming number of tables and long hallways that look prime for getting lost in, you can’t stop thinking about how nervous you are.

I want you to know, I’m just as nervous.

I’m not nervous because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve been in the classroom for a number of years now, and while I don’t consider myself an expert, I do my damn well best to teach things right, and with passion.

No, I’m nervous that you won’t know how much I care about your child.

Throughout the year, I will do my best to communicate how much I care about your child, through conferences and little notes home and hopefully many conversations. But I only have so much time in the day, and there are so many kiddos in my class, that I know I will fail at really showing you how much I care. So please, accept my apology for that ahead of time, and allow me a chance to explain it to you now. Here’s what I want you to know.

I want you to know that I believe your child is beautiful, and very, very special. I will try to tell him that every day, but if I forget, I’ll make sure to tell him tomorrow.

I want you to know that my classroom is a safe place for him. I don’t allow kids to be mean to each other, but when they do, I stop what I’m doing to teach them how to be kind.

I want you to know I will do my absolute best to meet her needs: her need to wiggle while I read aloud, her need to go to the bathroom sixteen times a day, her need for a hug when she first walks in the room. Most of my energy is dedicated to making sure I meet the needs of all my kids. And I don’t mean just their academic needs. I mean all of them.

I want you to know that my goal is for your child to love school, as much as I loved school when I was little, as much as I love school today. I want him to look forward to coming each day, so that learning is something he will happily do for the rest of his life.

I want you to know that I won’t let the testing craze prevent me from giving her time to play, and have fun, and interact with her friends.

I want you to know that her reading level is less important to me than whether or not she is happy at school.

And last, I want you to know that I will let your child be herself. I won’t judge her for what she can and can’t do, and I will make sure she knows that it’s okay to be exactly as she is.

Thank you for sharing your child with me. I hope I can show you how much I care.

Sincerely,
your child’s kindergarten teacher

Inspiration for the week

forestI can’t believe it’s August already! This is the time of year when I start to get anxiety dreams about the first day of school, where I can’t remember my students’ names or forget to plan for the first day of school. But I also love this month, because the anticipation of a new school year makes me feel like anything is possible. I have lots of ideas rolling around my brain, including having an Outdoor Hour every Friday, and finally tackling the Next Generation Science Standards in their entirety… Anyway, my inspirational links this week are pretty kid-focused, since that’s what’s been on my mind lately!

How helping children find nature helps us find ourselves. This post resonated with me, and was written by someone who used to work at the same nature center as I do!

Ohhh how I want to teach kindergarten at a place like this!

I am trying to figure out how to add more yoga into my classroom, since research shows it may help relieve ADHD in children. And the kids love it.

Go Michelle Obama! School lunches now healthier at racially diverse schools, although we still have a long way to go in terms of healthy eating education. (Accessibility to healthy food is one barrier, and the next one is teaching kids to enjoy the healthy options.)

I loved this article on nurturing the whole teacher. Written by Emily at Shelburne Farms, who hosts the Institute for Education on Sustainability that I attended last summer!

And, a hilarious letter titled Dear People Who Live in Fancy Tiny Houses.

Tips for becoming a runner: vol. 3…Go trail running

Tips for Becoming a Runner

As a result of my unrealistic desire to turn everyone into a runner, I’ve decided to share some tips about what helps me keep running. While I’m no expert, I’ve been running for seven years now, which, at the age of 29, is 25% of my life. Thus, I’ve accumulated a few ideas for how to go from running-is-miserable-torture to running-is-freedom.

These tips are in no particular order of helpfulness, and may not work for everyone. But I hope they inspire you just a little bit!

Tip #3: Go trail running.

trail run photo

The words “trail” and “running” together sound really hard core, like going for a run will turn into navigating crevasses and avoiding rogue rattlesnakes.

In the midwest, however, trail running is often just another way of saying “run somewhere besides the sidewalk.” I have two sidewalk routes in my neighborhood that are my regular routes. They’re great during the week when I don’t want to put any effort into deciding where to run. (Even the smallest of barriers to running, like having to decide where to go, often become insurmountable during the school year.)

But on the weekends, those routes become really, well, routine, and I start to dread running past the same old scenery. As you probably figured out, I do everything I can to look FORWARD to running, instead of dreading it. So now I use trail running to find new places to go.

I’m lucky to live in an area full of hiking and biking trails, so finding trails hasn’t been difficult. I purchased one of those 60 Hikes Within Wherever You Live books, and use that as a sort of checklist to decide where to go. I usually find a trail that can take me 3 to 6 miles, and I make sure to bring a water bottle in the car for when I return.

Even if you don’t live near an extensive network of trails, find a river or park in your city where you could go. Switching locations will hopefully keep you motivated to go for a run. Your body will appreciate the break from pounding on sidewalk. (A lush carpeted forest is so much better for the knees.) And prairie flowers are much prettier to look at than old apartment buildings.

IMG_5244Happy running!

50 Ways to Wonder: Science kits for the playground

50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the Classroom

In an effort to bring curiosity and joy back into the elementary school classroom, I decided to start a series called 50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the Classroom. I hope to keep these ideas simple and easy to implement for the time-crunched teacher. Most of these ideas come from other teachers, blogs, and books – so I don’t claim credit for them! Click here to see previous posts in the series. And without further ado, here is the next idea!

8. Make science kits for the playground.

I don’t know how recess works at your school, but at mine, it’s complete chaos. All kindergarten classes have the same recess times, so there are usually about 65 kids running around on one tiny playground. Despite their best efforts to institute rule-following, the poor recess teachers spend their whole time fielding complaints about hitting, tackling, and going the wrong way on the slide. It’s not the recess teachers’ fault though – most of the kindergarteners, especially at the beginning of the year, don’t have the social skills or the independence to organize games together, or do anything except run around like recently-freed monkeys in a zoo.

Don’t get me wrong, I really value recess and think it’s incredibly important for kids to get outside and have time to move their body. If it were up to me, we’d have a recess at the end of every hour of learning (well, ask me that question in the middle of winter, and I would NOT be as excited to facilitate putting on of snow clothes at the end of every hour…)

But when my kids come in after recess, they are mostly just sweaty, and more hyperactive than before they went outside. The environment of five dozen kids running around screaming is not exactly rejuvenating for them.

So rather than complaining about recess (I need to save my complaining time for even bigger problems in public education), I decided to slowly work on this problem, starting with something very small – science kits. The idea came from the nature center where I work in the summer – small bags that kids can take out into the field to investigate the natural world. I figured if kids can use them out in the woods at the nature center, why not make something similar for the playground?

So I went to Michaels, bought four cheap canvas bags, and filled them with magnifying glasses, small notebooks, and a bug catcher. It took me less than an hour to put them together.

They turned out to be a huge hit. Kids were so excited to have something to do besides run around on the playground, and the bags were filled with enough items that 3 or 4 kids could share each bag. Every day I pulled name sticks to pick four people who would be in charge of bringing the bags out to recess. I thought I would have to make a big deal out of not forgetting the bags on the playground, but the kids felt so much pride in bringing them out that they almost never forgot to bring them back in. (I think it was also because they played with them for the entire recess time – instead of just discarding them after a few minutes, and forgetting about them by the time the bell rang.)

The science kits also had the benefit of engaging students who love to investigate the natural world. I saw students working together to create bug homes, identify (often imaginary) animal tracks, and use notebooks to sketch leaves and rocks.

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Using a bug catcher to capture ants crawling on a tree

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Working hard to create a bug home

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Look at these kids at recess! No running around screaming here, just good old fashioned exploring

Below is a photo of what I included in my science kits, as well as a list of other ideas. In the future, I’d love to create other playground kits, including a reading kit and a nature journaling one.

TeachRunEat - science kits for the playgroundIncluded in my science kits:

  • Bug identification cards
  • Small notebooks
  • Bug catcher (actually just a cheap craft box from Michaels)
  • Magnifying glass
  • Pencil
  • Animal track identification cards

Other ideas you could include:

  • Field guides
  • Binoculars
  • Compasses
  • Butterfly nets
  • Flashlights
  • Nature log (for recording animal and plant sightings)
  • Colored pencils
  • Nature journals
  • Maps
  • Jars or boxes for building collections of rocks, leaves, etc.
  • Nature scavenger hunt checklists

Here’s a few more links on creating science kits for the playground: Fun Field Bag Supplies for Kids, and Scavenger Hunt Bingo.

Inspiration for the week

It’s been a while since I’ve posted! As usual the summer is flying by, filled with a trip to Montana to see a dear friend get married, work at the nature center, and lots of time spent reading. The gorgeous weather this summer has made me much less inclined to be on the computer – but I have gathered some inspirational links in the past few weeks that I’d love to share!

Let’s put those tired anti-bike arguments to rest. Yes please.

Rainbows and privilege. Hooray hooray! I love this post. “Covering your profile picture in a rainbow isn’t going to cut it – though don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent start. But for you, for me, for all of us – there is so much more that we should do.”

Why you should quit your job and travel solo. While I have no desire to quit my job, my first solo trip (a brief, four-day trip to Vermont when I lived in New York) was kind of life-changing. It was the first thing I had done completely alone, and it made me feel powerful and adventurous and confident. I’ve taken several more solo trips since then, and I highly recommend it.

I’m kind of taking a break from making kombucha right now, so it was helpful to read this post, from the fermentation blog Phickle, on how a kombucha scoby can stay healthy for quite a while, even if you ignore it.

A mindfulness coloring book for adults!

Last but not least, this article confirms what every kindergarten teacher knows: when you’re a little kid, learning social skills is more important than learning academic skills. Too much urgency surrounds academics and testing in kindergarten, leaving no time for play – and through play, kids learn empathy, kindness, and how to take turns. In the long run, research shows that pro-social skills are more important than academic skills when it comes to leading a successful life.

Buddha bowls with Green Goddess dressing

Oh Buddha bowls. How do I love thee.

Buddha bowls are my favorite thing to have for dinner. I make them at least several times a month, and since you can constantly change out the ingredients, I never get sick of them.

In case you haven’t been to any hippie vegan cafes lately, let me define a Buddha bowl for you. It’s a one-dish meal with four basic components:

  1. a whole bunch of vegetables, usually sautéed or roasted
  2. some kind of grain (rice, quinoa, couscous)
  3. a protein (beans, tofu, tempeh)
  4. dressing

Since the ingredients are so flexible in Buddha bowls, you can use your creativity to choose what you’ll include. Roast any type of vegetables, depending on what’s in season or what you need to use up in your fridge. Vary your grain type, depending on what you’re craving that day. For protein, use chickpeas in one recipe, and grilled tempeh in the other.

And when everything’s done, mix it all up with some delicious dressing! There are so many dressings out there that you can never get sick of them all. I went through a long phase of using this peanut sauce recipe for my Buddha bowl dressing. As much as I love peanut butter, I eventually got sick of it. So all I had to do was change my dressing and voila, brand new Buddha bowl!

So here’s a new Buddha bowl recipe that I’ve been obsessed with lately. It uses Green Goddess salad dressing, a simple and flavorful dressing from Tessemae’s. Add avocado as a garnish, and you end up with a healthy and delicious Buddha bowl.

P1000966Recipe: Roasted Veggie Buddha Bowl with Green Goddess Dressing
Prep time: 45 minutes

  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, diced into bite size pieces
  • 3 T olive oil or coconut oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup almonds, sliced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup Green Goddess dressing
  • 1 avocado, optional
  • 1 cup feta cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When broccoli and sweet potato are chopped, spread on a baking pan and coat in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste (more is usually better!). Roast in oven for 40 minutes, until sweet potato can easily be pierced by a fork.

Meanwhile, boil 1 1/4 cup water. At boiling point, add couscous and remove from heat. Let sit until grain has absorbed water.

Add cooked couscous, vegetables, almonds, and chickpeas to large bowl. Stir together, then coat with Green Goddess dressing. Serve hot or cold, adding avocado slices and feta cheese if you wish!

Photo credit

Tips for becoming a runner: Vol. 2…Listen to interesting things while you run.

Tips for Becoming a Runner

As a result of my unrealistic desire to turn everyone into a runner, I’ve decided to share some tips about what helps me keep running. While I’m no expert, I’ve been running for seven years now, which, at the age of 29, is 25% of my life. Thus, I’ve accumulated a few ideas for how to go from running-is-miserable-torture to running-is-freedom.

These tips are in no particular order of helpfulness, and may not work for everyone. But I hope they help a little!

Tip #2: Listen to interesting things while you run.

Now, this is a controversial one, because there are a lot of people out there who say you should run just for the pure joy of running. Be in touch with your body, pay attention to your surroundings, listen to your own thoughts, and all that.

If you’re one of those people who can run this way, I am extremely impressed. Keep it up.

I, however, am not one of those people. I don’t like listening to the sound of my labored breathing, and I get so bored focusing on my mind replaying the day over and over again. When I don’t have headphones to distract me, I end up dwelling on little aches and pains in my body, or the extreme level of humidity, or any other excuse to stop running. Thus, I am a big proponent of bringing along your ipod (or whatever) and listening to interesting things to help you get through the run. Such as…

MUSIC!

I make my own playlists, and always keep at least one playlist on my phone titled “Running.” The songs are usually upbeat, dance-y type songs, or else epic instrumentals that leave me feeling motivated. I also have playlists titled “Training,” (for really long runs) “Mellow,” (on those rare days when I can run to slow music) and “Life” (for nostalgic purposes).

Sometimes I listen to playlists that people have made on Spotify, like this one and this one. Also, Spotify just came up with a new program that tracks your steps per minute and makes a mix for you! I haven’t tried it yet but it looks pretty awesome.

I also love the podcast called Music that Matters, from Seattle radio station KEXP. They put out an hour of new music each week, and sometimes have ones called Runner Powered Podcasts. I love these and keep them on my phone even after I delete other episodes. The DJ plays perfect running songs and intersperses them with inspirational running quotes. The latest one is my current favorite!

PODCASTS!

It took me a long time to realize how genius it is to listen to podcasts while you run. It’s like reading, my favorite thing in the world, only you can do it while running! There are a million different podcasts out there, but I find the ones that work best for me to listen to while running are the story-telling podcasts. They keep me focused on the story, rather than my desire to stop running, and sometimes minutes (whole minutes!) can go by where I don’t think about how my body feels, but instead think about what will happen next in the gripping podcast story. Some favorites:

I also love ones that are more focused on teaching you something (rather than telling you a story), but are still engaging programs, like…

And last but not least, I often defer to my dad’s favorite show when I need some humor to distract me: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

AUDIOBOOKS?

Okay so I had to include this, because it would seem logical that if I love podcasts, and reading, I would also love audiobooks. But for some reason, no matter how hard I try, I can NOT seem to get into them. I have successfully made it through probably five audiobooks in my lifetime, which is not for lack of trying. (My dad has an incredible list of hundreds of audiobooks that he has listened to, organized alphabetically, that puts me to shame.)

Anyway, I think some people do like running while listening to audiobooks, because it’s something to engage your mind on the trail. So I found some lists on the internet that seemed helpful. Who knows, maybe some day I will discover a latent love for audiobooks…

12 Audiobooks for Runners (these all sound awesome)

Read While You Run

Listening to Audiobooks While You Do Something Else is the Ultimate in Multitasking

 

Small things to make life better

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Making small changes in order to live a healthier life has been an obsession of mine for a while now. I love Gretchen Rubin and Zen Habits and all the other people out there who write meaningfully about this topic, without just making listicles like “12 Things to Do for Eternal Happiness.” So of course I was excited about the “One Small Thing” series from one of my favorite bloggers, Alicia at Jaybird! She and other bloggers write all about small, actionable things you can do to make yourself feel better and healthier – like making your bed every day, or storing your canvas bags more efficiently.

I get excited every time she posts a new one, and I was lucky enough to contribute as well! Click here to see my guest post on making grocery shopping faster, easier and more awesome. Just like the other ideas in her series, it’s a tiny thing that makes a big difference in reducing stress (which ultimately makes life better).