Hidden Valley Nature Center II

On Friday the 4th grade took a second trip to the Hidden Valley Nature Center. Since there was no snow, we learned about some spring tracks in the mud and leftover ice. We participated in numerous activities about animal tracks, pictured below:

First, we learned the way many animals walk. We practiced moving like the perfect walkers (deer, humans, fox), the waddlers (skunk, porcupine), the bounders (weasels, mink), and the hoppers (rabbits, mice).

Then, we analyzed scenes with animal tracks. By looking at a picture, we tried to guess who went by and what they were doing. In one, a mouse and a fox approached each other until the mouse ran away. In another, a human walked up to a bench, sat down to take off his or her shoes, and kept walking. After analyzing a few of these scenes, we created our own with cut-out prints.

After lunch, we learned about beavers. The instructors had a collection of beaver skulls and showed us how their teeth grow. The Hidden Valley Nature Center has a trail that goes around a pond called Kidney Pond. The pond was created by beavers. We hiked around the pond to see the beaver lodge, the stumps chewed by beavers along the shore, and where the beavers dammed the stream to create the pond.


Project Based Learning Begins

This is the second year that 5th grade will participate in Project-Based Learning. The students will decide on a service project, plan, and execute it themselves during guidance blocks throughout the week. As instructors, we will do our best to facilitate the students so that they feel ownership over every aspect of the project.

What is Service Learning?

  • We are going to learn something
  • We will give back to our community
  • Student Ownership: The entire project will come from the students

Last year, students did trail maintenance on the trail behind their school and visited an animal shelter. Other schools have collected children’s books for children in need, read to patients in the hospital, started a recycling program, and even passed a no-littering-cigarette-butts law.

What will this year bring?

We will find out in the next couple weeks. Today, the students participated in a team building activity called “Human Scrabble” to practice communicating ideas and working together. Next, we will learn about what service is and what it means to “give back.”


Here are some great resources on Service Learning in Maine:



5th Grade and the Bull Ring

To prepare the 5th grade for project-based learning, I have been facilitating team building activities. This activity is called bull ring. A metal ring has 20 pieces of string tied around it. The students all take one string and hold the last three inches of it, suspending the metal ring in the air. A tennis ball is placed in the center, and the students must keep it suspended while moving in different ways.

The challenges got increasingly harder. First we lowered and raised the ball, next rotated in a circle, then we traveled with it across the room. Since this group succeeded in all three levels, we decided to take on an ultimate challenge: walking around the entire school.

After talking about what a team was, many students stepped up with ideas as leaders. One leader never really emerged and we spent a lot of time talking about what to do. Since hallway rules include being quiet, I assigned two random students to be the only ones that could talk in the hallway.

The hallway was a test of stamina. A couple students felt like they weren’t doing anything to help and became frustrated. One student solved this problem by himself and decided to be the “hallway traffic warn-er,” running ahead to tell people to wait in a doorway. During the debrief, the class decided that they could have been more successful with the hallway challenge if they didn’t blame others for lowering the rope. Even though we made it, success also means having fun. I think that project-based learning will challenge this group to compromise their ideas and increase their awareness of group dynamics.


5th Grade FARMS

Above a local store called Rising Tide is a beautiful kitchen. Today, the 5th grade went to this kitchen for cooking lessons. We split up into three groups to make roasted vegetables, veggie home fries, and “sea green” omelets. After cooking, we set up the tables like a restaurant and sampled our work.

“Sea greens” refers to locally grown seaweed. A seaweed farmer (pictured below) was there to tell us about the growing demand for seaweed as food. His farm is in a nearby bay. He puts long ropes into the water and plants different seaweeds on them. They are currently in season and taste just like salad!


Spanish Safari

This week in 2nd grade Spanish class, by popular demand, we will be learning animal names. We have been doing a lot of drawing/labeling and listening/repeating exercises, so I decided  to mix it up with a sort of scavenger hunt.

I created a bingo card with 25 squares and wrote a spanish animal in each box.  On index cards, I printed or drew the same animals and labeled them in both Spanish and English. In each class, we went through the animals an passed the cards around the circle to look at. Then I had them put their heads down as I put the cards around the room in visible but inconspicuous spots.

I told the kids that they were on a safari. Therefore, we cannot run or shout or push to scare the animals away. We have to calmly look around, not touch the animals or push others to see them. My backup plan was to use a speaking tool and look from their desks. But luckily, we are two-for-two in respectful safari behavior.

The kids were so great. They worked together to fill out the chart (“hey guys I found the ‘el conejo!'”) and used the Spanish animal names instead of the English during reflection. I am very proud of this lesson plan.


Spanish animal cards I made for a scavenger hunt

Kieve Day for 5th Grade

On February 12th, two fifth grade classes came to Kieve for a day of adventure, teamwork, and outdoor fun.

Here is what we did:

8:45 Arrive, settle, and snack

9:30-11:30 One class goes snowshoeing while the other indoor rock climbs

  • We snowshoed along the lake shore and stopped at points along the way to play games and build forts. We brought track guides and spotted many rabbit and squirrel tracks, a set of fox tracks, and a deer track. At one spot, we took turns with a partner to put on blind fold. The partner without a blindfold guided the other to a tree, let them get to know the tree, and return to allow them to guess which tree we were led to.  The best was building forts and gnome homes on a beautiful sunny spot in the woods.
  • In rock climbing, the students were taught to belay each other and to work together to keep a climber safe off the ground. This belay is called “Australian Belay,” and the kids encouraged each other and took in the slack in the rope as a team. Many kids pushed their comfort zone and gave the wall a try.

11:30-12:15 Lunch and Free Time

12:15-2:15 The classes switch climbing/snowshoeing

2:30 Depart


We arrived at Wescott Point to build forts and play by snowshoeing along the lake shore

The Final Cooking Club

Our final cooking club had a grand finale before vacation. We shaped pretzels with dough I pre-made int0 Valentine’s Day hearts. While we waited for them to cook, we made microwave chocolate chip mug cookies. The girls met the challenge of following the recipe and delegating tasks all by themselves. I also managed to get the gang together for a group picture.


Bunny Watching

I had to include a post about this because it is a huge part of my every day. The bunnies are very popular. Any group I take to the library or any group passing through the library will usually try to spot a bunny. We get very excited whenever the bunnies are doing anything. This bunny is camouflaged in the snow.


Adventure Camp II

We have done so much this week! Here is the general schedule:

9:00-10:00 am is arrival and “human practice,” where we take turns answering questions politely and respectfully. Usually a speaking tool stuffed animal helps us out. Questions include “What flavor of ice cream would you invent?” or “If you could create a hybrid animal (parts of animals merged together to a new one), what would it be?” The kids are very creative with these.

10:00 snack

10:30-11:30 is indoor rock climbing

11:30-12:30 is indoor fun. We have been painting, creating puzzles, playing board games, and constructing blocks and legos.

12:00-1:00 lunch

1:00-2:00 is outdoor fun. We have been hiking out to a point on the lake to build forts and gnome homes.

2:00-3:00 is choice time. The kids can play inside or outside and pick their activity within a certain area. The most popular is “catch the counselor.”

3:00-4:00 the parents begin to arrive. I have been reading  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while the kids calm down and play with a stuffed animal from our collection.


Tarp games


Fort Building




Fort Building


Hybrid Animals