We Had Ourselves a Day

As a teacher, as a student, as a learner, as a college graduate, as a human being, there are days where you just have days.

There’s no other way to describe it except just by saying that Monday was one of those incredible, unreal, wow-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here, kind of days. We went on a field trip to Eco Park Diamante to see up-close and personal the animals the second graders had been studying for their last big project of the year.

(Side note: one of our earlier posts was talking about field trips and how both Mom/I kind of dread them, but this one really changed my view of them to be completely honest.)

I’m not sure how else to describe the experience except through pictures, to see what I saw.

We started with an hour and a half bus ride, playing iSpy, Cheesey Touch, and eating snacks.

Once we got to the Eco Park, we had to take another bus to the visitors’ center, and another to the actual animal sanctuary. IMG_6408 (1).JPG









Here we are waiting at the welcome center, looking at a map and organizing our plan of attack for seeing all the animals. IMG_6414 (1).JPG

I also couldn’t resist getting a picture of these awesome kiddos waiting zip-liners and “The White House” (which is actually just a popular resort).

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Can you tell we were excited??


The first animal we saw was the chestnut-chested toucan. The best part about the big birds were that we actually got to hold them!IMG_6432.JPG









Then it was off to the snakes, then big cats! (Here we are peering into the margay cage.)IMG_6442 (1).JPG

The jaguars were playing around when we got there. When we went back later in the day, Nico (one of the jaguars) was sleeping.






Monkeys!! They actually climbed on over to us too. This one had a baby on its back that I didn’t even notice until one of my kiddos pointed and shouted with awe, “look, a baby!”

Enter a caption

Then we said “hello” to a crocodile, which was amusing since we know a song “Never Smile at a Crocodile!” You can’t see him in this picture, but he was basically right below where the kids are standing. IMG_6460.JPG


Found the iguana doppleganger of this little nugget and just had to take a picture. (He’s in the middle right. They both have red tops and the iguana was basically the size of this guy.)




In the butterfly exhibit we got to hold butterflies on our hands. I’m holding a blue morpho, which is one of the biggest butterflies in the whole world!IMG_6515.JPG


The worker in the butterfly area also let us set a newly emerged butterfly into the sanctuary! However, the butterfly didn’t want to leave us, so we thought blowing on it would be a good idea (update: it didn’t work).



My favorite animal was the sloth!! We got to see it during feeding time. Not only are they too lazy to eat, they’re also so lazy and slow that they don’t even need cages. IMG_6493.JPG

We rejoined as a whole class and explored the butterfly exhibit again. Everyone wanted their picture with the butterfly they were holding. And I, of course, obliged (happily).


Finally, on our way out, I snuck away with this little nug to say goodbye to his favorite animal, the jaguar. IMG_6514.JPG

Best field trip I’ve ever been on that’s for sure. It was amazing to see all of these animals in rehabilitation homes and then to see the pure joy on my students’ faces when they saw the animals they had been studying.

Times like these make me never want to leave and make me incredibly happy and confident of the profession I chose.

What does Genius Hour actually look like?

Yesterday I put the wraps on year 29.  I haven’t even begun to process that yet.  I am sure I will blog about that later.  How did I end my last day?  (The students actually end on Monday, but I had to finish early due to an elementary math 9 – 4 2 week course that starts on Monday)  I ended with one of my students favorite activity, Genius Hour.  I know I wrote this post about what Genius Hour is a while back.  In this post, I will show you what it looks like in grade three.

There is definitely prep work that goes into Genius Hour.  Students have to first decide what they are going to do.  I found that in grade three, this was difficult.  They really needed help deciding.  Before Genius Hour, students need to create a plan for what they would do during this time.  This plan includes what they would do/study and how they would do it.  Websites and book titles need to be included.  Students have to bring in all materials needed (except for things I have at school). This plan was due about three days before the actually Genius Hour.  That would give me time to look at it and make sure it was appropriate and web sites are accessible.  These papers were done at home as homework.  I emphasized with the students that if they are responsible enough for Genius Hour, they are responsible enough to fill out the papers and bring them back.  However, students also knew that I would give up any recess that I wasn’t on duty to help them find topics and/or resources.  The expectation is that the students would begin Genius Hour ready to work, not looking for materials and/or websites.

Students also need to have independent skills.  I do not start Genius Hour until later in the fall and independent work skills have been fully established.  The projects/time spent need to be something they can work on their own.  Because there are many different learning going on at once, I cannot sit and just help one group for a long period of time.

Over the years, my Genius Hour has changed.  Each class seems to have their own character on things they like to do.  I also have had Genius Hour Unplugged (no electronics) and Creative Genius Hour (art).

Here are pictures from my last Genius Hour on Friday. I have found that there are no behavior problems at all during Genius Hours.  Students do get excited to see what others are

img_0656doing, but my role is to walk around and help troubleshoot more than anything; help find a different website, get more materials, be an extra set of hands, suggest further learning etc.

This group is the coding group.  I used code.org in the beginning of the year for students who were having a hard


time deciding what to do.  These students loved it.  A few of them have done coding for several genius hours.


On my right, the boy on the floor is working with circuits.  It was a kit he brought from home.  During this time, there was an experiment to put the wires in water and add salt to it.  I am so glad I had salt!  Did you know that salt makes a sound louder?  I didn’t.  The child in the rocking chair is learning about the Hindenberg.  He was taking notes in his Writer’s Notebook.


These boys to my left and another friend were learning about the Yankees.  They taught me about a rookie who is on his way to having the most home runs in season.  They also learned who were the greatest Yankees of all time.


The girls to the right were doing science activities.  One of them was making slime.  The other was adding vinegar and baking soda to a water bottle and then put a balloon on top.  The liquid in the


bottle blew up the balloon.  She then researched why that happened.

On the left, we have a student studying the history of school and one room school houses.  Another student is studying cats.  Both are using their Writer’s Notebooks to take notes.

My final picture is a student who was studying mindfulness and yoga and its affects to help stress.  Pretty awesome, right?  We do mindfulness in our class and I was so excited that she took it to the next level.  She spent part of her Genius Hour practicing mindfulness as well. She then taught us about how mindfulness and yoga can reduce stress.

Genius Hour is one of my favorite parts of school.  Students drive what they are going to learn about and then set about learning.  As you can tell from the photos all students are highly engaged.  They are all challenging themselves to think deeply.  I truly feel that this is authentic learning at its best!



Iwanicki Book Awards

In going with the theme of making the last day of school as good as first, I did this Dave Burgess inspired activity of the Iwanicki Book Awards.  This was several weeks in the making and revealed today. Just a quick recap. Students used Kidblog to write their nominee and convince others of their choice. Then I created a google form which they answered (using google forms for the first time).

During the week, small groups of students had created trivia questions for many of the categories. Another group also made a word search. During the Award’s ceremony, we built up suspense by playing Oscar Music and then announcing each category and the nominees. I would then say, “Here is a word from our sponsor.”  While the students waited, they worked on their trivia.   Students were cheering and yelling and there were even a few disappointed students.  I had to sit back and remember that this was all about books!  Students in my class were yelling about books! How great is that?!  The books listed below affected my students.  It made them passionate readers. They all made my students think just a little differently.

It was a wonderful activity that I hope will become a tradition.  I am glad that I pushed myself just a little harder.  The students reactions were priceless.

PS I would recommend any book on this list for anyone to read. They are all fabulous!


Best Setting
Winner: Echo
Runner Up: The War That Saved My Life


Best Supporting Character:
Winner:  Frankie in Echo
Runner Up:  Rose in Out of My Mind

Best Illustrations
Winner: The Night Gardner
Runner Up:  Journey

Favorite Character in a Graphic Novel
Winner: Snappsy
Runner Up: El Deafo

Favorite Character in a Chapter/Middle Grade Novel
Winner: Tie: Gerta in Night Divided and Charlie in Wish
Runner Up:  Frankie and Mike in Echo

war that saved my lifeBest Picture Book:
Winner: Snappsy
Runner Up: The Night Gardener

Best Graphic Novel
Winner: El Deafo
Runner Up:  The Bad Guys

Best Middle Grade Novel
Winner:  Echo
Runner Up: Tie The Night Divided and The War That Saved My Life

Favorite Read Aloud
Winner: Rump
Runner Up:  Out of My Mind
the night divided


Weekend Getaway

So I meant to write this post …3 days ago… but as time has had a tendency of doing, it went by quickly and escaped me and now it’s Wednesday night.

Anyway, this past weekend I spent as a full tourist. We went to Hacienda Guachipelin, a hotel and adventure center near the base of a national park, Ríncon de la Vieja (a volcano!!!).

Friday night: right after school, the three of us (the other two girls that I’m studying abroad with) took the school bus to Tamarindo.


I didn’t take many pictures of the hostel we stayed at (only $16 a night what a steal!) but here’s an artistic picture of the surfboards they had in the main courtyard along with a bar, restaurant, pool tables, and a pool!



We then went to sunset yoga on the beach and it was absolutely incredible. I always forget how much I love to do yoga and experiencing it like that was surreal. The teacher taught in Spanish, there were only 6 of us, the sunset was breathtaking. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.


Then we went out to dinner with one of the teachers – Asian Fusion! I picked it because I wanted to have something a little different than rice and beans. (I ended up ordering a wok bowl with brown rice … guess I really am a tika!)


6:30 AM: Picked up & on our way to the hotel!

8:15 AM: Arrival

9:00-6:00: Horseback riding (my horse’s name was Lady Gaga and I practiced my Spanish off on one of the horse guides. This wasn’t my favorite part as Lady Gaga and I liked to take things slow but we were sometimes forced to a trot); tubing (this was super fun. I had the unfortunate luck of getting stuck on almost every rapid/ nearly drowning a nine-year-old but overall it was fun); buffet lunch (much needed); zip-lining (my favorite part! there was one part where we repelled down, tarzan swung across a canyon, & rock-climbed up. I was the first to go and fell in love with rock climbing all over again); mud bath and hot springs (even though it was raining at this point, by the time we got there we basically got the hot springs to ourselves and it was super relaxing).


We didn’t bring our phones anywhere during the day so I only have this picture I mooched off of Emily. (She’s the one with the red raincoat and Chelsea is to the left.) This picture was taken after the repelling part of the zip lining course.


Emily & I woke up early to milk some cows. Even after living in a cow town since I was five and going to school that produces its own milk / ice cream, I have never milked a cow. So thanks for letting me check that one off the bucket list, Costa Rica!



Featured in this picture: bucket of milk (I am responsible for 0.5 inches), farmer’s hat (had to fit over my super-high ponytail), and cow’s butt!!! IMG_6293.JPG

Action shot of me getting more milk on my arms/hands than in the actual bucket and the farmer getting ready to take over and actually get some serious milking done!!!

The rest of the day we spent hiking around Ríncon de la Vieja. The volcano had actually erupted that morning at 5. Due to its activity, the path to the peak has been closed for the next five years. The loop we went on was about 5K and we were able to see an abundance of wildlife and geothermal activity. It was ~hot~ !! (literally – the pools were over 125 degrees F)


*Shot with my iPhone 7* Mariposa tigre. I fell in love with the butterflies here! My favorites were the transparent winged and the angel butterflies, but unfortunately they were too quick and I missed them.


So I just happened to look down and to my left as we were walking on the path and I saw this snake casually eating a frog (note: frog’s legs were twitching). The guide assumed it was a silent rattlesnake, poisonous, and we slowly took pictures, and walked away, keeping our eyes on the snake and hoping it didn’t find us more appetizing than the frog….


The mountain way in the distance is the peak of the volcano. Pictures can’t do these views justice.


The view from the peak of our hike. The steam in the right is from one of the stops we took on our trip, one of the many examples of geothermal activity that are in this area.

As I settle back into my routine at school and at the house, this past weekend helps me remember to appreciate everything, the little things, the big things, and most of all, the experiences.

Blackout Poetry

I hoard books.  I have a problem.  I know I do.  Getting rid of books is very difficult for me.  You just never know if you will have a reader who needs THAT book!  So for me, it is always a struggle.  This year, I have been very lucky.  I have  received many brand spanking new books for my classroom library. I finally felt better getting rid of some of the old, worn out books and/or the books that were never read.  I set up an area in my classroom called retired books and my students could just take as many as they wanted.  I got rid of many of my books, but there were still many left.  What should I do?

Going with my theme of trying to make the end of the year as good as the beginning, I decided to give them to the students to do Blackout Poetry.  In blackout poetry, a reader skims any page.  Students are looking for words that stick out for them.  They then try to find words that go with that word to form a poem.  The rest of the words are then blacked out.

I gave a brief explanation from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/john-depasquale/blackout-poetry/ and showed them a few examples on google. Then set them off!

The pictures below were created in no more than 15 minutes (all the time we had).  If students create more tomorrow, I will post another blog.

In this example, the student highlighted the words and then made a base and part of a diamond to go with his poem.



This child was not completed yet, but you can see how her poem is turning out!


Students loved this activity and actually asked to take it out to it at recess!  Success!

Questions from 3rd grade East Granby, CT

Dear Miss Kelsey,

We have questions for you:

When does school get out in Costa Rica?  We get out 6/21.

July 6! But the last four days of school are called “camp” which I talk about a little bit later on.

How hot is it? What is the climate?

It’s around 85 degrees everyday. It’s hot and humid. We’re in rainy season right now, so it rains almost everyday. Last night there was a huge storm with hard rain, thunder, and lightening! The other season is the dry season and everything gets brown and dead. Fortunately for us, everything is beautiful and green right now!

When does school start?

Early September. But their year is separated into trimesters, and they have a break between each trimester.

Was the solar panel in the classroom?

Yes! The representative from the power company brought a solar panel into our classroom for the kids to see. The one he brought wasn’t one that was going up on our roof, just an example. The kids got to touch it and the representative told us it’s made up of different materials like silicon, glass, and metal.

What do kids like to do in Costa Rica?

Soccer, soccer, soccer! Almost all of the boys in my class play soccer. But they have very similar tastes to kids in the United States. Other activities the kids do include horseback riding lessons, tennis, and scuba diving. They’re very active!!

Also, both of my older host brothers love videogames (MineCraft for example). One of them also has a fidget spinner (they’re a big fad in the school right now).

What do they use the TV in the classroom for?

They use the TV as a SmartBoard. They don’t have a big whiteboard space, just a small easel, so if my teacher is presenting something, she’ll connect her computer and project it on the TV.

How is school different in Costa Rica?  Do they use different learning tools?

School is different but it’s also the same. They have different things like anchor projects, which are projects they work on for the whole year to benefit the community; creative block on Fridays when they get to pick a different form of creative expressions (I’m helping with painting the boat); the end of the year they have something called camp and they play games for the last week of school and pretend to “camp out” at the school; community meeting when PreK-2nd grade meets in the morning to share announcements and projects. Oh! They also don’t have any standardized test (like MAP or SBAC) and their grades (up until high school) are based primarily off of behavior.

But similar to the United States they have classroom management things like a fair jar (to pick people to participate), classroom jobs (line leader, folders), field trips (which are a little different – kindergarten went on a boat and we’re going to an animal sanctuary).

Do you like teaching there?

I absolutely love it here! I got attached to the class very quickly and I think they are an intelligent, funny, and kind group of kids and I am going to miss them dearly when I leave in a little less than 3 weeks. I think this school is so interesting and I love their mission of teaching students to better themselves, their families, their communities, and their world.

Do you have a bug patrol?

We don’t have an assigned bug patrol, it’s more of whoever sees the bug first takes care of it. Usually we leave the bugs alone but sometimes if it’s in the classroom or bothering someone, a teacher will try to relocate it. Unless it’s a scorpion … last week there was a baby scorpion in our community meeting and a teacher smacked it with her shoe because “there are no scorpions in community meeting!”

I personally have a motto that if the bugs leave me alone I’ll leave them alone and that’s been working out great.

Thank you!

No, thank you!!!