Giving Tuesday is Almost Here!

Remember to embrace the opportunity to join forces on our second “Giving Tuesday” campaign. You can visit and make a donation to our school family anytime during the hours of 12AM-11:59PM on November 27th.  All donations of any amount are greatly appreciated. Help us reach our fundraising goals this “Giving Tuesday.”  Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Thankful and Blessed

First graders enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday by taking part in various activities to celebrate.  They made turkey crafts and learned about the Pilgrims and the very first Thanksgiving.  We then put that knowledge to work in STEM Lab by challenging the students to create houses for their Pilgrims that would shelter a Pilgrim from the wind, rain, and snow.  With their knowledge of the hardships the Pilgrims sustained the first winter in America, students successfully built shelters that were tested and kept their Pilgrims safe and dry. We also enjoyed a little popcorn feast and Thanksgiving movies.  We are so very thankful for all the wonderful blessings in our lives. As one first grader put it, “There are just too many to count!”

Our PBL is Looking Great

Previously, First Graders made tally charts of the data collected from the “Safe Routes to School” surveys.  This Friday we past those charts along to the Kindergartners who then totaled the hundreds and hundreds of tallies.  We followed this up by working with the Eighth Graders to create charts that would display these totals as Base Ten Blocks.  Students learned that with larger amounts of data, there are different ways to display the information so that it is easier for the audience to read. The students of St. Joseph Parish School have set out to make a difference. It’s inspiring to watch them take on the challenges with enthusiasm, diligence, and a growth mindset in everything they are doing.  Our goal is to come together as a school and present this data to improve our community.  Please continue to follow us on our whole school PBL to share in our journey.

A Habitat Exploration

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium was an awesome field trip that taught students so much more about habitats. Students were able to expand their knowledge of fresh water and salt water habitats in a truly hands on experience.  We were able to learn all about animals that lived in each habitat and many, many interesting facts that the students totally soaked up.  What an amazing day God has made for us!

Tallies,Tallies Everywhere

First Graders put their new knowledge of tallies and tally charts to work on our whole school PBL.  They began by reading surveys that were given to every classroom in all of Amherst schools including our very own St Joe’s.  Teachers and students were asked to respond to the survey for two days in the AM and PM.  They were asked how students got to and from school each of the two days.  The students are on a mission to provide data for a project called, “Safe Route to School.” After hundreds of tallies, it is safe to say that these students have definitely mastered this skill.

Spooky Spider Spectacular

In the spirit of Halloween, first grade spent last Friday studying spiders. We began this investigation to introduce our new unit in Science where we will be examining animals and their habitats.  Did you know that spiders can live in almost every habitat on Earth?  There are only a few habitats that a spider cannot live and if you’re curious about where they are…just ask your first grader! We also incorporated the current math topic in which we are studying surveys, tally charts, bar graphs, and picture graphs.  The students surveyed their peers and teachers with the survey question: “Are you scared of Spiders?” Then they each made a tally chart and bar graph to represent their findings.  First graders also learned about different types of webs that spiders can spin, how they do this amazing work, and why they don’t stick to their own webs.  A few of the web designs we learned about are the Orb web, Sheet web, and Net web.  Students concluded the lesson by creating their own salt and glue art web. For some of us, this might have been a truly terrifying lesson but, first grade lit up with excitement for this spooktacular learning.

Kindness Counts

What is a Flex Day? A flex day gives us the flexibility to teach things we may not be able to otherwise fit into the typical schedule or to teach things in a new way. In first grade, that is exactly what we spent our most recent Flex day doing.  As most of us have all too often experienced, kindness is not always present in our world.  At St. Joseph Parish School we strive to grow the whole child so, we spent our Flex day learning about kindness.

Kindness is something that we work to always teach as educators and parents but, with life’s busy schedule it doesn’t ever seem to be covered enough. The first graders began their kindness exploration by reading How Full Is Your Bucket?

This is a fantastic book that is very relatable for children. The story displays a wonderful lesson about kindness and how it affects each of us in our daily lives. We then had a great discussion about how kindness makes us feel when we receive it and when we share it. We also explored how we can change our words to show kindness. The first graders practiced words of kindness and placed kind words into a bucket to demonstrate the lesson.  Each student was given a kindness challenge that asked them to complete 28 kind acts. Our final lesson for the day was all about how kindness is directly tied to our faith. We learned that we can share our faith with others through small kind actions every single day.

Greenhouses and Lima Beans

In our everyday studies we have been exploring living and nonliving things, plants, what plants need to survive, and different environments where plants live. Students then took a hands on approach in STEM Lab to create their very own greenhouse.  The first graders were asked to recall all of the knowledge they had learned about plants when building a greenhouse that would actually grow plants.

We faced a few challenges at first. When we began to design, students had ideas that resembled an actual house. We used the Design Process and asked questions. Will our plants get enough light? Will they be warm enough? How will we get water to our plants? After a little redesigning, every group was able to create a greenhouse that would meet their plants needs. The first graders built their greenhouses and then tested the stability of their structure by moving it through the halls and back to our classroom.  They were then given the opportunity to strengthen or improve their structure.  When each group finalized their greenhouse, we turned our attention to their plants.

First, the students explored Lima beans that would not be planted.  We broke the seed open and examined all parts.  Then we selected our beans and began to plant. Each student planted their own seed with soil in a cup.  They gave their plants water and tucked them into their houses. We are anxiously awaiting to see plants beginning to sprout!

A Teacher Blown Away

The whole school was issued a challenge to create a randomly selected letter from the words MAKER SPACE.  The first grade was drawn for the letter K.  We began our journey by researching words that began with the letter K in children’s dictionaries.  That’s right, we set out to learn not only about our challenge but also, how to use an old fashioned dictionary.  First graders worked in groups to find words that would inspire the design of our letter. After a huge brainstorm session, the students chose the word knowledge. They wanted the letter to represent the knowledge we gain in our Maker Space through STEM learning.

The students then brainstormed materials that we would need to create our letter.  They decided on gears and circuit boards to represent our brains and again, the knowledge we gain. Within their idea they also issued a challenge to their teacher. How could I help these amazing ideas come to life? They wanted the gears to work and turn so, I set out to find a way to help them realize their vision.  We found gear magnets with a motor and with the help of one of our fantastic parents, circuit boards that were cut to the student specifications. After more research and learning, we found that we would need galvanized sheet metal for our letter K to work with our magnets. I then learned how to cut sheet metal!

All materials were prepared and ready for assembly!  The metal was traced on the chalk board for safety reasons and every student was given the opportunity to experiment with the design and materials.  The entire class collaborated on what worked in their personal design and came up with our final design on the metal K.  I was truly blown away by the students project! I could never have imagined all the learning lessons, collaboration, and creativity that resulted from this amazing challenge. Please look for all the phenomenal letters created by the students coming soon to the SJS Maker Space.

Constitution Day and Collaboration

Our second Flex Day in first grade was spent learning about Constitution Day.  We learned all about the history behind this day, the meaning and importance of “We the People”, the men involved, and why they took action. We discussed how this document has become a symbol of our country.  After learning all of this very valuable information, we turned our attention to the idea that 55 men wanted change.  These men then came together with all of their different ideas and worked to put them into one document.  We had previously talked about collaboration but, the idea that all of these men had used it so many years ago was amazing to the students.  From here our challenge was born.  The first graders were asked to individually design a new symbol for our school that would represent what they believed we stand for.  Many great ideas took shape but, this was not the real challenge.  They were then paired with another student and told that they must combine their two ideas into one while using elements from both designs.  Once students arrived at one collaborative design, they were then able to build their symbol.  In this post, you will not see any finished products because our true focus was on communication and collaboration in the past as well as in the present.