Monday, March 27, 2017

Second Hand Shopping, First Rate Teachers

Last week was a whirlwind of activity as I went on three (of four) planned half-day field trips. Frequent readers of this blog will remember that I'm deep into a media inquiry unit with my Grade 1-5 students about clothing and identity. An economical way to begin to make clothes, especially for non-sewers, is to go to stores like Value Village to find tops and bottoms to "upcycle" or alter. The students have practiced various techniques to hone their creativity in crafting clothes and we are now at the stage where we are planning our outfits and starting to make them.

I want to talk about the trips, but I also want to talk about what, or more precisely who, made these trips so wonderful (so far - I go on the last trip today, Monday March 27 - I hope I'm not jinxing things by sharing the successes). 

Pity the poor teachers on my staff. They get drawn into these wacky schemes of mine because their students are participating. Yet, these endeavors would fail miserably without their input and efforts.

On Monday, March 20 - yes, the first day back from our March Break holidays - Mrs. Alexander and Ms. Kim's classes went to the Markham Value Village store. Thank goodness for Brenda Kim, the Grade 4-5 teacher. I'm a "big ideas" sort of person, and sometimes the details trip me up. I was pretty pleased with myself that this trip wouldn't cost the students anything except the money they'd choose to bring if they wanted to purchase clothes for their projects. After all, we planned to use public transportation and the TTC is free for children under the age of 12. Brenda suggested that we should pay for the adult volunteers accompanying the students and she agreed to buy the required tokens during the March Break. Brenda emailed me over the March Break to draw my attention to an important point: the store we planned to visit was north of Steeles Avenue, and children were required to pay to ride. Yikes! Brenda offered to purchase the York Region transit (YRT) tickets for everyone for the first trip in addition to all the tokens I'd need for the adults for the subsequent trips. I arranged to pay her back with some of my library budget funds. So much for the "free" part of the trip! As it was, we chose to only buy one set of YRT tickets and we walked for 20 minutes to save some money.

Lance was the store manager for the Markham location and he was very welcoming and kind. After our visit, he even offered to bring free t-shirts to the school so that the kindergarten kids (who were not part of this trip) could do an Earth Day activity.  Thank you Lance! Thank you Brenda and Siobhan!

Lance shows the kids how they pack clothes to ship overseas

Students shopping for clothes to use for their media projects

On Wednesday, March 22, our youngest learners from Rooms 116 & 117 visited the North York Value Village store. Jenny Chiu and Aileen Morgan arranged for many parent volunteers to come with us, which was a blessing. I really admired how Jenny used this trip to make connections to other subjects and lessons. She supplemented our tour guide's explanations with points related to their social studies unit on community and how community members help each other. She also encouraged the students to use their addition skills to estimate and calculate if they had enough money to purchase items.

Joan was the store manager for the North York location and she left me speechless with her generosity. She told us that because the children were shopping for items for their media project (at which point, a couple of students embarrassed me by saying "What project?"), she allowed each and every student to select one item of clothing for free. This was completely unexpected. The store was busy that day with a surprise 75% off selected items sale, but Joan and her staff gave us their time and attention. She even donated two boxes of books for the classroom libraries, free of charge. (Carrying these boxes on the TTC was quite an adventure, but we appreciated the gift.) Thank you Joan! Thank you Jenny and Aileen!

They need forklifts to move the heavy bundles of clothes

How heavy is an entire class of Grade 1s? The big scale said 1100 lbs

On Friday, March 24, Rooms 115 and 114 ventured to the Scarborough Value Village store. This was quite possibly the most challenging trip. The destination was switched to Scarborough to deal with the Markham travel limitations. Originally, we planned on going to the Markham location twice and the North York location twice. The Scarborough location involved taking three different buses just to arrive. We were also somewhat concerned about returning to school on time. Our Wednesday venture showed us that it was possible to travel, tour, shop, and travel back in the allotted time, but it felt rushed. This is where the organizational skills and flexibility of Kerri Commisso and Stephanie Vinluen shone through. Kerri recommended that we leave earlier, during the lunch hour. She informed all her students and their parents in advance about the location change. Kerri and Stephanie contacted their parent volunteers to request that they come earlier. They set up travel buddies and Kerri gave students cards with school information printed in case anyone got lost. No one did. I was amazed at how smoothly everything ran. Something extra remarkable: Stephanie is actually a LTO (long-term occasional teacher), yet she handled the field trip like a seasoned veteran. 

Our bus drivers were extremely professional and patient as well. I wouldn't have necessarily seen a group of 40 excited children boarding my bus and greeted them with a smile, but almost everyone seemed genuinely happy to have us on board. Mo on the Lawrence 54 route was especially nice and waited until both classes had crossed the street and entered the bus before leaving the stop.

Blair was the store manager for the Scarborough location and he was also very accommodating. He allowed every student to select a book for them to keep for themselves at no cost. The cashiers serving our students was delighted to ring up their purchases. Thank you Blair! Thank you Kerri and Stephanie!

Selecting hats for our media projects

Blair shows us how "Cram-A-Lot" squishes clothes
Kerri even sent me a photo and a thank you note after the trip. Thank YOU Kerri, and all your fellow Agnes Macphail Public School staff members, for rearranging your schedules, losing your prep times, and pausing your own lessons so that we could take these trips together. Field trips aren't easy; teachers have a lot of responsibility to keep students safe during these excursions. These teachers I work with made it look easy. Members of the public were curious to see us out and about on the bus or in the store and asked us many questions about our purpose, which was a great opportunity to share our environmental, media, and mathematical investigations. We'll be partnering with Value Village more in the future and they have front-row seat invitations to our fashion show and charity auction, which will be the culminating end task for our media literacy unit. The students had a great time and I did too, thanks to some amazing adults.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing the collaborations that made this happen. And make sure to send your VV helpers a copy of the post.

    I am amazed at the adventures you come up with, the connections you open up for your students, and the way you build community. What terrific modeling you and your colleagues are doing.

    Keep up the exploring, learning and sharing.