Saturday, December 28, 2013

A year of giving - 365 gifts

Anyone who knows me, or who has followed this blog in the past, knows that I'm a bit of a sucker for New Year's challenges. For example, in 2011, I blogged precisely 365 words each day for 365 days.

As another new year approaches, I find myself itching to take on a new project. So, for 2014, I have set the goal of giving something away every single day.

One of the primary motivations for this project is simply that we have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. Our basement and garage are filled with stuff. We don't need most of it, so it's high time to pass it on.

Sure, I could just organize one big garage sale or dump the lot of it off at Value Village or St. Vincent de Paul, but I want to be more intentional about this. For example, I know that bird sanctuaries will take old towels and baby blankets. My goal is to find people and organizations that could make use of the things we no longer need. I'll do some research, make some phone calls - and post information about what I find out in case there are others reading this blog who also have things that could be put to better use.

But this won't just be about giving away my old junk.

I'll be the first to admit that I am terrible at remembering to give presents. Perfect example, after Miya's last day of JK before the Christmas holidays, her teacher sent out an email to all the parents thanking them for their thoughtful Christmas gifts. The problem is, I forgot to send one. I also forgot to put out a card and tip for my newspaper deliverer.

I don't know how many times I have been at events where other people have lovely little gifts and I stand barehanded. It's not that I mean to be stingy. I just don't think of it until it's too late.

So in the year of giving, I resolve to pay better attention to the many occasions when gifts are expected.

Unlike my previous New Year's projects, this one will be a family affair. I'll be encouraging Miya to give where she can - even simple things like thank you cards or little crafts. We can't afford to buy 365 presents, so many of the things we give this year will be handmade - baking, knitting, etc. Cash donations will count, too.

What won't count is things that are given within the family. I can't pour my husband a cup of coffee and count that as my daily gift. I can't count the clothes and necessities I buy for my children. The exception here will be special occasions - like birthdays or anniversaries.

I won't be blogging each gift - that would be tedious and some may think this project already sounds a little too precious. But for the sake of public accountability, I will tweet each gift - @AnitaGrace11, #365gifts.

Your comments and feedback - and reminders of special occasions - will be welcome!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Science experiments with baby Nisha

I recently interviewed Churchill Alternative School teacher Shauna Pollock, 2013 winner the Prime Minister's Teaching Award for Excellence, and wrote an article about her for our local paper, The Kitchissippi Times.

As usually happens when I'm covering local events, I had my mini-assistant with me, 7-month-old Nisha. During the interview, Nisha crawled around the classroom floor, played with our shoes and tried to eat some books.

I mentioned that I had wanted to involve Nisha in the Roots of Empathy program, which has babies visiting school classrooms several times over the course of a year. Ever looking for new ways to engage and teach her students, Shauna suggested Nisha come back to visit this classroom. A couple days later, Shauna and I used Google Drive to draft a 'science experiment' the kids could do with little Miss N.

Nisha is just at the cusp of understanding object permanence - a fancy way of saying that she'll understand that even if she can't see something, it still exists. Shauna and I created an experiment with which students could test if she has reached this cognitive milestone.

When we came to Class 209, Shauna had the lesson plan projected on the big screen at the front of the room. She asked the kids if they thought baby Nisha is able to form memories. They were invited to write out their hypothesis on their lab sheets.

We explained the idea of object permanence and the experiment we had designed. Students would show Nisha a toy, then cover it with a cloth. Observe how she responds. Does she seem confused? Does she try to look for the toy? Will she lift up the cloth?

The experimenting began and students were eager to engage with Nisha and test their hypotheses. They took turns trying to get her attention with a toy, then covering the toy up.

Students recorded their observations of how she responded - which was generally to look away and almost never to reach for the cloth or search for the hidden toy.

The funniest part of the experiment happened almost accidentally. Nisha had not napped well that morning and after about half an hour, she was getting fussy and restless. She started crawling around the floor, trying to grab students' papers. I suggested we cover up something she was crawling toward and see what happened.

So when Nisha began crawling toward some blocks on the floor, a student quickly threw the cloth over them. Without a pause, Nisha kept crawling right on over. She didn't even notice that what she'd been after had disappeared.

"I had no idea she would be this oblivious!" laughed Shauna.

The class has invited us back in the new year so we can retest for object permanence and see how Nisha's cognitive development is progressing. We'd like to try another experiment then too.

Any suggestions?

Here is a lovely blog entry written by one of Shauna's students.