Frozen Planet cameraman visits The Big Room.

We were really excited when John Aitchison came to visit us in The Big Room at Keills. John is a wildlife film cameraman who has worked on lots of amazing programmes like Big Cat Diary and BBC Spring Watch. One of John’s latest projects was filming for the Frozen Planet series and since he was on Islay and the Wee Class are investigating Polar Lands we couldn’t let him leave without coming to visit!

Sorry it's dark but the lights were off! The picture on the screen is of Captain Scott's hut, Antarctica.

John showed us fantastic pictures and video of polar bears, penguins, whales, leopard seals,  sea birds and the landscapes of the Arctic and the Antarctic, and told us all sorts of stories about filming different animals. It was a fantastic opportunity for the children to meet and chat to someone who has actually been to lots of the places we have been investigating in our topic work.

The children had lots of things to tell and show to John.

John did so much to help this topic come alive for the children, and for the P5-7 who joined us, his experiences helped them to realise just what sort of amazing jobs there are out in the world beyond school and college.

Showing John our Penguin Day display.

The Wee Class enjoyed teaching John our emperor penguin chick game and showing him our recreation of Captain Scott’s Antarctic hut.

Demonstrating the 'Pass the emperor penguin chick' game.

After John left I realised that it was one of those moments to re-plan fast – the children were so enthused and motivated by meeting John, seeing pictures and hearing stories, that they spent the rest of the day in Antarctica making artefacts for our hut, drawing and painting polar animals and re-enacting polar adventures and expeditions. Pictures to follow!

Penguin Day!

As part of our Polar lands topic we had a special Penguin Day on Friday 20th January. We all wore black and white clothes so that we looked a bit more like penguins and Mrs Harper and Mrs Ferguson even had silly big penguin feet!

The day started with our challenge where the children had to make a three dimensional model penguin that would stand up on its own.

Innes and William found Mrs Urquhart's panto penguin to help them!

I am always amazed at the creativity and ingenuity which the children show when we have a ‘design and make’ challenge.

Success at the Penguin Parade.

On one level it may just seem like junk modelling, but in fact the children had to draw on their knowledge of what penguins look like, understand the qualities of the given resources and bring these together to create something completely original that met the design brief … and they all succeeded.

After this individual challenge the children applied their measuring skills  in cooperative group work to paint a life size penguin.

The Emperor penguin group had to make the biggest of our Antarctic penguins.

The penguins had to be exactly the correct height and when the children had finished we did some careful checking. The Gentoo penguins, the Emperor penguins and the Chinstrap penguins were very close but the Adelie penguins, Innes, Isla K and Isla M were exactly spot on! Well done.

The Adelie penguin was exactly 70cm tall.

Our next group challenge was to use the internet and our topic books to find out penguin facts. We wrote each fact on a fish to feed to our penguins. We decided that penguins need lots of food to give them the energy to keep warm in Antarctica, so we had to work really hard to find penguin fish facts!

One of the Gentoo penguin team finding information from the internet and taking notes.
Only 10 minutes or so to go and this little Gentoo penguin has been carefully cutting out fish for his group.

This was a timed challenge so we had to concentrate, stay on the task and share the work. Well done to everyone for good team work – we have enough fish to stop our penguins getting hungry for a while, but we will need to keep fishing for more facts!

The Big Schools Bird Watch 2012

On Wednesday 18th January Mary from the RSPB, visited P1-4 to help us get ready for our Big Schools Birdwatch by making bird feeders.

Making apple feeders with Mary.

We learned that different birds need different types of food and that some birds are better at feeding from the ground and others are really clever at using hanging feeders. Mary showed us pictures and explained how the shape of birds’ beaks affected what nuts or seeds they preferred.

Some of us loved making lardy log feeders!
But some of us thought the lard smelled revolting!

We want to encourage a variety of birds to our playground so we made different feeders such as lardy logs, speedy bird cake cup feeders, recycled bottle feeders and hanging apple feeders filled with succulent sunflower seeds and yummy dried meal worms!

Mmmmm ... there is nothing quite as tasty as a dried meal worm, especially when it is served up in a juicy apple!

We have hung our bird feeders in the willow trees and little shrubs outside the Big Room windows and Mrs Ferguson helped us to make hides so that we could watch the birds without them watching us!

This will be the fourth year that Keills Primary School have taken part in the Big Schools Bird Watch, which means that our bird watch observations are now part of the RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch data base allowing comparison of data from one year to another. Mary will be coming back to help us on our official bird count but in the meantime children have the opportunity in their planning to choose to use binoculars to watch the birds eating from the feeders and try their hand at identifying the different species.

2012. So far this term …

It has already been a busy time in the Big Room at Keills this term. We were sad to say goodbye to Mrs Fleming in December, (although we hope to see her when the Small Isles children come to visit us from Jura), but we are pleased to be sharing the class with Mrs Baker.

Our Big Room has undergone some changes this term so that we now have a northern and southern hemisphere divided by the equator to fit with this term’s topic about polar lands. (Thanks to Fiona McGregor for the idea – do you remember saying this to us months ago Fiona?). There is a new Discovery Zone where children can explore aspects of the natural world, investigate puzzles and games and much more. We are recreating Scott of the Antarctic’s hut and making authentic looking artefacts in our creative and making areas. Our reading area is now located in a cosy igloo at the North Pole and there are icebergs floating in our water tray. I even have to keep my computer bag in the correct side of the classroom because it has a penguin key ring attached to it – these guys don’t let me away with anything!

We have lots planned for the term from learning our Burns poems and trying out recipes in our Crofting Connections project, to preparing for our Big Schools Birdwatch,  becoming penguin experts on Penguin Day, meeting Frozen Planet  wildlife film camerman, John Aitchison, investigating the science of ice and lots more. Look out for our term topic web in your children’s learning logs for more information.

Mums, dads, grandparents, carers and friends – as always you are more than welcome to come in and spend time in the classroom to see what we are up to and chat to the teachers and children, either during the school day or after 3.30. Just contact the school to arrange a date!

Christmas memories … in January!

I feel a bit like I did when I was wee and my Mum would keep reminding me that it was more than half way through January and I STILL had not written all my thank you letters and what would Aunty Gladys  say and how could I expect to be given presents if I didn’t write to say thank you …. . Well Mum, you were quite right of course and here I am writing about Christmas in January – sorry folks. I let myself get distracted by pantomimes, Christmas holidays, five days of no power … I think I’m making excuses here!

What a lovely couple!

So here are a few of my favourite Christmas moments from the Wee Class in the Big Room. Pantomime preparations in the Big Room would not be complete without Mary and Joseph looking outrageously cute, and a busy shepherd and king/wise man puzzling over a Christmas maths problem solving challenge.

Sometimes it takes a shepherd and a really wise man to solve really tricky maths problems.

Pantomime rehearsals always cause a certain amount of disruption in school and it is difficult for the wee ones to keep to their usual routine … but this year we all discovered that it was at topsy turvy moments like this that the Big Room really proved it’s worth. The flexible structure of the children’s personal learning planning and target setting system meant that children were always busy  between rehearsals.

Team Christmas Cake!

Apart from learning songs, words and stage directions for the pantomime, P1-4 were also busy weighing and measuring to make mincemeat and mini Christmas cakes to sell at the pantomime. Thank you to Mrs Urquhart for coming in to help us.

Careful measuring.
Decorating our mini Christmas cakes.

I sent a jar of mincemeat to my Mum and she said it was delicious – well done P1-4 for your careful measuring and thank you to Mrs Urquhart for adding the essential secret ingredient! Getting ready for Christmas, making cards and presents and baking, is my favourite part of the festive season and it’s great to share this with the children. They should all feel very proud of their hard work. These three girls certainly felt pleased with their handiwork!