Sunday, 26 March 2017

Scruffy's Adventures: How the gift of a stuffed dog encouraged literacy, math, and home connections!

If you follow this blog, you may remember reading about the Aboriginal Card Fundraiser the children decided to do with the intention of supporting the Toronto Humane Society and the Toronto Wildlife Centre with the proceeds raised. As a thank you, both organizations gave us certificates of appreciation which the children proudly placed on the classroom door for all to see. The Toronto Humane Society also included a few pamphlets about good pet care, a calendar and a dog stuffy.

My teaching partner, Mrs. Kinsey shared her experience with the children of delivering the funds raised from the Aboriginal cards to the Toronto Humane Society. She told them about getting to meet a few of the dogs and cats and explained to the children how the money they raised would help the animals at the shelter. She showed the children photos she took of some of the animals and then showed them the stuffed dog that was given to us as a thank you. 

The children were so excited to see the stuffed dog with the green t-shirt that read "Toronto Humane Society"! I was glad they had something tangible to play with in the classroom and that is as far as I thought this stuffed toy would go. But children can have the best ideas! Within minutes everyone started to discuss what they could do with the dog. Ideas were flying about naming the dog, taking it home, leaving it in the classroom, etc. 

I decided to start with naming the dog. As with most decisions we make in the classroom, we voted on a few suggested names. The winner, originally thought by T. H. was "Scruffy"!

Once the name was chosen, D. F. thought we should write a list of all the children's names on the chart paper and then everyone would get to take Scruffy home for the night and return him the next day to give to the next person on the list. The idea was voted on and unanimously everyone loved the idea.

And so began Scruffy's Adventures for the next month and a half. I did not give any direction as to what the children should do with Scruffy at home. All I asked for was that a photo be sent to me for sharing purposes for the following day. As the photos came in our idea grew and the children decided they wanted to make a book with them. Luckily this idea was generated early on so that I made sure everyone had a photo of themselves with Scruffy to include in the class book.

*I printed out photos each evening and had the children write about their experiences with Scruffy the following day during our Log Book writing time.

Below are the pages from our classroom book titled: Scurffy's Adventures! It was so great to see the way the families supported this project at home. The activities captured were unique and delightful. I especially loved the way it seemed to bring together siblings, family pets, and parents.

Once everyone had a turn to take Scruffy home and we finished the book I decided to create a challenge at the Construction Area using Scruffy. Since there was still interest in Scruffy I asked the children if they wanted to build Scruffy a bed? The challenge was to build a tall bed for Scruffy that was stable and to measure the height and record the results on the chart stand beside their name. Some children wanted to work with a partner and some wanted to work alone. This challenge allowed for some wonderful discussion about what stability means and how to make something stable. As the the children started to measure their structures, discussions about appropriate materials to use and the best way to compare structures were discussed. 

Below are photos of Scruffy's bed challenge!

I decided to share and blog about these experiences because I can't believe how much leaning was a result of this stuffed toy. What I am also amazed at is how the children took the lead on many aspects of the learning that have taken place. I tried several times throughout my teaching career to "create" learning experiences using certain toys but I found they never really took off like this experience. I suspect it may be due to the fact that Scruffy was gifted to the children by an organization and past experience that was important to them. They had a connection to the previous project which made this a bit more authentic rather than if I just brought in the stuffed dog on my own. Whatever the case, I am very proud of the learning and the fun the children, families, and us as educators had along the way.

Thank you Toronto Humane Society for the gift. It was well received and used!