Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tornado Information for Kids

In the news the other morning was an account of a serious outbreak of tornadoes. The tornado season is upon us, and mother nature is certainly keeping busy as over 800 preliminary tornadoes have touched ground (According to the NOAA's Storm Prediction Center). With the peak of the season not yet reached (May and June) one only wonders what the old girl has planned.

Watching the swirling columns of air sweeping their way across our TV screen, and witnessing the destruction left behind was rather frightening to me. I imagined it would be the same for some of my students while others might be drawn to it.

Naturally, children are curious, fascinated and maybe fearful of tornadoes. It might be helpful for them to have some information about this topic.

Fujita Pearson Scale: This is the old scale used to rate and describe the tornado, but it gives the children an idea of what kind of damage occurs. The scale has now been enhanced to these wind speeds.

Tornado Video: This 3 minute National Geographic video for kids explains how tornadoes form and what to do in the event of a tornado.

Tornado Alley: In the U.S. most tornadoes occur in the states between North Dakota and Texas, although they can happen anywhere. (More in depth information can be found at

Other Great Sites:

Teach Your Kids about Tornado Safety: Safety tips from eHow explaining what to do before, during and after a tornado.

Weather Wiz Kids: This site has a lot of information created especially for kids.

FEMA for Kids: This site has information and more. A highlight of this site are some Tornado stories written by children.

Tornado Photo Gallery: This site shows the different types of tornadoes: Cones, Wedges, Elephant Trunks, Ropes & Stovepipes.

Putting the power in kids’ hands by helping them learn about natural phenomena like tornadoes will hopefully, ease their fears through understanding and at the same time create an interest in their world.

Please let me know if you have any resources that should be added to this list. I welcome your comments and ideas.

Resources from Cybraryman:
Top Photo:photo credit: Jmos® via photo pin cc

Bottom Photo:
photo credit: Florencia Guedes via photo pin cc

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Outdoor Education

Hiking through the woods this week I found myself humming  "Catalina Madalina Hoopa Stada Walk-a-dada Hoka Poka Loka was her name!"  and  "Boom Chicka Boom! Boom Chicka Boom! Boom Chicka Ra Ra Boom Boom Boom!"  
I had learned those songs about 40 years ago while in sixth grade at Camp Calumet during our  school's Environmental Education week.  Environmental Education Week  consisted of the entire sixth grade class (about 70 kids) leaving our classrooms and homes for 6 days, traveling over 200 miles away and learning our lessons at camp. 

My first exposure to hiking was climbing Red Hill and Jackman's Ridge during that week away from home.  Canoeing, orienteering and cooking outdoors were some of the other activities in which we participated.  We learned teamwork,  how to live with people other than family and took on new responsibilities (KP duty and such).

We still spent time doing English Language Arts, Math, Science, Art, Music and more, but we did it hands on through activities based outdoors.  I daresay, we grew up a bit that week. 

I got to thinking this week as I went on several walks in the woods "would I have ever gone hiking, kayaking, camping or spelunking if it weren't for my Environmental Education Week some 40 years ago?  I don't know....

What I do know is is important to take our lessons outside for kids.  We don't have to travel far to have them explore and learn from their environment.  We can learn from nature all around us. Exploring symmetry in math is easily done by looking at leaves; learning about the cardinal directions can be done easily using a compass on the playground; classifying rocks can be done after collecting specimens outside; or writing poetry or journal entries can be completed after spending time outdoors.   

Outdoor education ideas and lessons are limitless. During this Earth Day week why not try and find something outside your own door with your students or children!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

School Assembly

Imagine 458 kids along with 30 + adults singing and dancing in an auditorium! All in sync - all in tune! Well, this past Friday, that was OUR school.

Every other week our elementary school gathers together in the auditorium and is treated to a whole school assembly presented by a different class or two.

Assemblies this year included a tribute to family veterans; a choral reading about the Pilgrims; a class role playing promoting bullying prevention; a class sharing their family heritage and more.

By far there are some whole school assemblies that become 'Boyden' Traditions! Two of those assemblies happened to occur in the same week!

Dressed in their best cowboy attire, our annual 'Hoe Down' is held in the gymnasium and shows off the new dancing skills of the fourth grade students.  The Virginia Reel, Cotton-Eyed Joe and other dances were featured as part of the culminating unit on 'Pioneers'.  Each fourth grade class demonstrates one of the dances they learned while the rest of the school waits in anticipation for a chance to be chosen to dance with a fourth grade buddy.  Dance after dance, smile after smile, students are learning first hand about American Culture while having fun!

On the Friday before the spring break it's our Kindergarten students' chance to perform on stage.  They sing, gesture and dance to  Tony Chestnut while the rest of the school wiggles and whispers along with them. When the song is finished a thunderous applause can be heard in the audience.  Kinder faces beam with pride.  Our principal then invites all in the auditorium to stand and participate.  There is nothing quite so powerful (and fun) as being in a room filled with students and staff singing and dancing together.  It's truly heartwarming.

Image from
For our students assemblies provide a way to showcase their work, either individually or as a group.  Speaking in front of others and being on stage are important as this will help students build confidence with their communication skills.    

For students in the audience, assemblies provide a way for them to learn HOW to be a part of an audience and how to show appreciation by applauding appropriately (not hooting and hollering).  Learning to sit quietly and listening attentively are other benefits of being an audience member.

Boyden School is proud of their students and their school assemblies.

Does your school have students presenting at whole school assemblies? 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Teachable Moment - Watch Live - Iowa Eagles

Making our way back to the classroom from Phys. Ed. the other day, one of the kindergarten teachers stopped my class in the hallway and invited them into her classroom.  I'll admit I was a tad bit annoyed because it was near the end of the day, and we still had some pressing things to get accomplished.  Quickly, my annoyance turned into absolute fascination!  Staring right at us was a momma eagle sitting on her 3 eggs waiting for them to hatch!  Talk about a 'Teachable Moment'!

Well, our kindergarten teacher was actually projecting a live stream video feed of a bald eagle's nest sitting high atop a tree in Decorah, Iowa.  The 'Nest Cam' is part of the  Raptor Resource Project whose mission is to "preserve and strengthen raptor populations."  Raptors are birds of prey. The eagle's eggs which were laid in February have an estimated hatching date of April 1st! 

  (This video created from a PowerPoint show produced by Colorado State University)

Watching the male and female eagles 'LIVE' has been the highlight of our week!  Everyday the kids rush into class sharing what they witnessed while watching the Nest Cam.   
Students' observations have included:
  * the male eagle swooping in and changing places with the female
  * moving and rolling the eggs closer together using their beak   
  * dinner (in the form of a mouse) being brought to the nest
  * the female eagle signaling to the male with a high pitched squawking
  * building up of the nest around the eagle's body

The students also blogged
about their observations, and also wrote short stories from the point of view of the eagle! They have been asking me question after question about eagles.  They are so en'raptor'ed by the whole thing!

The students have not been the only ones watching this extraordinary event, as their parents have been glued to the live feed as well. One parent commented,  "Not only is it a permanent fixture on our home computer...everyone I work with had it on their computer as a window today." Another parent stated "It's addicting - I can't wait to see the chicks". It's hard NOT to get excited about nature up close and personal!

To think I almost passed up this 'Teachable Moment!' Let this be a lesson to us all about capturing those 'teachable moments' for we never know where learning will lead us (or our students)! How lucky we all are to be able to experience the hatching of these majestic birds - the symbol of our nation! Thank you Ms. Bearce for drawing us in! 

Resources to help answer Eagle Questions:

Eagles 101: Although this is geared for kids in grades 5 - 8 it has a lot of information that can be shared with younger children.
Bald Eagle Facts for Kids:  Some quick facts about the eagle.
Bald Eagle Fun:  Coloring pages, greeting cards and games    
Bald Eagle Photos: Photos taken of Bald Eagles in Alaska
Ben's Guide to Government: Tells how the eagle came to be the symbol of the US Government

 What was your most recent 'Teachable Moment'? Please share it in the comment section.