Editor’s Note: Luanne Howe, an early learning specialist with the Manatee County School District, is participating in the Suncoast Summer Book Challenge.
Soar in 4 is an initiative supported by Carolyn and Steve Roskamp in collaboration with Manatee County Schools, the Early Learning Coalition, the Manatee Community Action Agency’s Head Start and Early Head Start, Manatee Community Foundation, and United Way Suncoast.
The premise behind the Soar in 4 is One Family, One Neighborhood at a Time. Participating schools during the summer of 2017 are Sea Breeze Elementary, Ballard Elementary, and Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary. Before school begins in August, the Soar in 4 families will be invited to attend five Family Nights where they will enjoy a free dinner followed by hands-on play experiences, science-based activities, art projects, family reading time, and more. The glue that holds all of this together is a virtual Volunteer Buddy. Every other week, juxtaposed with the Family Nights, the buddy will call the student’s family at home to touch base with them. The buddy is there to answer questions and help the family navigate through the program, reminding them of the fun assignments (like gathering artifacts from a nature walk) for the next week’s meet up.
Our Sea Breeze Elementary Soar in 4 families welcomed a guest teacher, Ms. Tara Legowski. Ms. Legowski is a pre-kindergarten educator who came to preview our Nature All Around Us unit. Nature All Around Us is the first unit our Soar in 4 students is studying. Participants learned the purpose of this unit is for us to explore living things and to investigate what they need to grow. After dinner, we learned about living things by observing nature and using all of our senses as we began to identify characteristics in plants and animals. Our families became scientists! We got to use science tools such as magnifying hand lenses and binoculars, and we learned all about what living things need be healthy.
A few provocations were asked that made us think…..
What are characteristics of living things?
What do things need to grow?
Why do we need living things?
Ms. Legowski modeled reading the story, The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall and then we were invited to explore stations. We examined and discussed objects from nature using the science tools to study the details. Afterward, family homework was assigned.
Families were assigned to go on nature walks in their neighborhoods. Every walk was an opportunity for the children to learn about the natural world. As they explored their neighborhoods, they observed and noticed the small details and new growth. The families documented what they saw on their walk using the paper and crayons they were given. Parents were asked to model using all five senses on their walk while collecting “artifacts” that they found on their walks.
Families were encouraged to check out their local library for books that will help their children learn more about animals, plants, and whatever else they observe. Every child left last evening with seven books that complimented our nature theme so they can continue reading and learning about nature at home.