One of things you quickly learn as a classroom teacher is that there is never enough time to teach everything you want, and have to, cover every year. In addition to the mandated curriculum, there’s also the holidays (for us, an essential part of Kindergarten, and it also ties in with Social Studies) and just the curious and interesting things that you want to do with your class because of your personal interests, ideas you learn about from other teachers or activities you think your class will just enjoy and have fun doing. Therefore, the process of integration, combining two or more subject areas, comes into play.
We integrate a lot, because it’s the only way we can fit in everything we have to do, and want to do, with our Kinders.
So here’s what’s going on with us this year.
In the new Kindergarten Social Studies curriculum, Aboriginal Education and learning about the First Peoples’ culture, will be an integral part of our teaching and learning.
We wanted to focus on the symbolic meaning of specific animals according to the First Nations. We were thinking about the salmon, bear and eagle as our starting point as they are familiar animals here on the Westcoast. The animals are a topic the Kindergarten children will be interested in, understand and make a connection with in their own lives.
At the same time, we are beginning our study of local animals in the Natural World (Science), and we have taught within the theme of Bears because not only are bears local and relevant to our area, but we can tie in a literature focus on well-known Bears in stories, such as “The Three Bears” and Corduroy by Don Freeman. This also allows us to have a discussion on the differences between fiction and non-fiction stories.
In order to fit everything in, we’re going to have to integrate Reading, Language and Literacy (stories and literary activities on the bear theme), Community (Social Studies) (the bear, and we will extend to include other animals and their symbolic meaning in First Nations teaching), The Natural World (Science) (bear behaviour) and Art activities.
Children’s literature is of primary importance to us and so we always like to begin with a good book. As Kindergarten teachers, we need to revisit the classic children’s stories with our students through the Primary years to build a broad knowledge base of literature. We make constant references and cross-references to Fairy Tales, Nursery Rhymes, and other well known books, in our everyday discussions. We discussed schema theory in a recent post, and the importance of building a common understanding when developing a new topic or idea.
We asked our teacher-librarian, Mrs. Kennedy, to help us with the Aboriginal Education resources, and other Bear books, and she had some wonderful treasures waiting for our classes during Library this week!
We Greet the Four Animals (Terry Mack and Bill Helin) This book describe the four animals, Eagle, Wolf, Bear and Buffalo, and the gifts or teachings that are offered to us. The children look to the East to thank the Eagle for the teachings of truth or honesty; when they face the South, they greet the Wolf and are thankful for the gifts of being brave and having courage. The children look to the West to thank the bear who Bear teaches about love; and they face the North to thank for the Buffalo for the gift of being able to listen to others.
As the children are learning about the First Nation’s people, they are learning about the similarities and differences between our cultures. In this way, they can develop an appreciation of themselves and others as individuals, but also how we all work and live together in the broader community.