Elementary Education Monthly Update

April 2019

Earth Day 2019

"The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard."

Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day


"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people."

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Primary Connection (K-2)

Earth Day - Eight species of bees have been placed on the endangered species list! Bees are a keystone species, which means that if they disappear the world as we know it will change drastically. Check this page for facts on ways in which to protect bees. In this lesson, your class can build a raised pollinator garden bed out of many different materials (including an old dresser or a hanging plastic shoe rack). This site also gives a great list of pollinator-preferred plants to put in your garden.


The Honeybee Conservancy has many ideas on ways to save bees and allow them to flourish once again. In this lesson, students can visually see how pollinators move pollen by playing an interactive game of tag. If you want students to create something to plant at home, this make and take activity to create seed patties would be a good option. Please be sure to use seeds that attract bees!

Intermediate Connection (3-4)

Earth Day - Did you know that each year Americans throw away 5.5 billion tons of plastic? According to a BBC article, the US has produced 9.1 billion tons of plastic to date, which has generated 6.9 tons of plastic waste. Of these 6.9 billion tons of waste, only 9% has been recycled and 12% has been incinerated. That leaves the US with 5.5 billion tons of plastic in landfills! Do you want to urge your students to make a change? Use this calculator to see how much plastic your class throws away each year and make a pledge to reduce your footprint. This site also gives you resources and ideas to reduce the use of plastic in your daily life.


Another way to help students make a change every day (not just on Earth Day) is to teach them how to pack a waste-free lunch. The EPA has tips, lesson plans, and flyers about how to start this movement with your class.


Family engagement and community clean-up are important parts of Earth Day. Look at this map of Kansas park clean-up initiatives for students and families to participate. Volunteers will receive a free t-shirt!

Upper Elementary Connection (5-6)

Earth Day - To make a science connection to Earth Day in grades 5 - 8, teachers can download this free iBook and the accompanying teacher guide. These lessons (which take a couple of weeks to teach) include climate change and are correlated to Next Generation Science Standards.


For older students, Earth Day can be a civic engagement project. In this lesson, students learn about the impact of climate change on deforestation. There are many sites related to climate change and the impact of this on the weather and climate in our nation (I liked the linked one the best). Perhaps your class could raise money to contribute to reforestation or to plant trees with the Canopy Project.


Did you know that particle pollution (or particulate matter) is one of the main contributors to air pollution? In this lesson, students can make their own air quality sensor, called a particle sensor, play interactive games, and learn how to reduce their footprint in regards to air pollution.

Poverty and Trauma Resources

Children who come from homes where little to no trauma has been experienced have the following advantages when entering school.
  • Their brain has an active neocortex and keeps the limbic system in check.
  • Have the ability to show kindness and compassion.
  • Can think rationally.
  • Show empathy and understanding.
  • Have good self-awareness.
  • Uses their imagination more often and can think logically in steps.
  • Can use higher order thinking skills

Doesn't this sound like some children in your classroom? Unfortunately, not all children come from homes where this is the norm. More and more often children have experienced trauma and this does have an impact on their behavior and choices. These children show up with the following disadvantages.

  • Lives the fight, flight, or freeze system in the limbic system (unless they feel safe).
  • Are impulsive, often angry, and frustrated.
  • Cannot register rewards or consequences.
  • Think irrationally.
  • The memory system is compromised due to toxic stress.

For our children that show these symptoms, we must remember that they are not choosing to act out - they literally cannot help their reactions to fear, stress, worry, safety, etc. as the brain's limbic system is in charge. Our brains are naturally wired to signal our bodies to react to fear. Let's say you walk upon a mother bear with her cubs. Your brain will signal to your body to increase heart rate, produce cortisol, and prepare to either fight that bear or run from it. After this experience has ended, your body can regulate and you can think about what happened but probably won't remember all of the details because your limbic system took over. Image a child that "lives with the bear" - they never know when or if the "bear" (mom, dad, other adult living in the home) will arrive and this leaves them in a constant state of having the limbic system in charge.


This is the ugliness of trauma. For adults, it is about reframing our reactions when a child acts out. Instead of asking a student "What's wrong with you?" we should instead ask "What happened to you?"

Classroom Management Tip of the Month

It's April and the end of the school year is in view. Your students will undoubtedly get more active (ie. talkative) in these next few weeks. Here are a few tips to help you make it down the stretch!


  1. Mix up your classroom incentives. Consider group challenges or super kid-friendly coupons for toys, extra recess, sitting in the teacher's chair - etc. Group incentives help the class as a whole work toward a common goal and it may just be what they need for motivation.
  2. Instead of using the end of the year for busy work, make this the time for passion projects, hands-on activities, and/or maker-space activities. You could, for example, make Monday's your Marvelous Monday day where you introduce the fun project and allow students to work on this for the rest of the week in down times.
  3. Move your classroom outdoors. When the sun is shining and the birds are singing it is a great time to move your class outdoors. Just changing the scenery sometimes helps students refocus and enjoy learning.
  4. Avoid letting everyday routines get the best of you. This is the most important time of the year for sticking to your management plan and not allowing students to veer away from what they know.
  5. Most importantly remember to have FUN! Laugh a little with your kiddos and let them giggle and have a little fun while they are at it.

Social Emotional Learning

If you are using Zones of Regulation and would like some ideas on tracking behavior using this system, I have a link on my website for a great resource. This resource will help students, teachers, and parents see positive parts of the day and trends over time. There are four different resources that all have great data collection. Also, if you are working with a small group or an individual student on identifying emotions in the Zone, this BINGO game is fun.


If you would like a rubric for your own or your team's self-reflection, this tool from CASEL it a great start. This tool will help teachers, administrators, and members of any school team identify patterns in adult behavior, discover strengths of adults towards SEL competencies, and reveal areas of growth in the SEL competencies.

Happenings Around KSDE

KSDE Impact Institute

Thursday, June 27th, 8am to Friday, June 28th, 4pm

1820 Southwest Jewell Avenue

Topeka, KS

Please join us at the Kansas State Department of Education Division of Learning Services’ 2019 Impact Institutes. Kansas teachers, counselors, principals, curriculum coordinators, instructional coaches, and educational professionals at all levels (birth through high school) will have the opportunity to select sessions and workshops on topics connected to many academic areas. These workshops will provide the help you need in providing our students the academic and cognitive preparation, the technical and employability skills, and the civic engagement opportunities to allow them to be successful. TO REGISTER: click here - Washburn Impact Institute COST $25 per person

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KSDE Impact Institute

Wednesday, July 17th, 8am to Thursday, July 18th, 4pm

348 Kansas 61

Pratt, KS

Please join us at the Kansas State Department of Education Division of Learning Services’ 2019 Impact Institutes. Kansas teachers, counselors, principals, curriculum coordinators, instructional coaches, and educational professionals at all levels (birth through high school) will have the opportunity to select sessions and workshops on topics connected to many academic areas. These workshops will provide the help you need in providing our students the academic and cognitive preparation, the technical and employability skills, and the civic engagement opportunities to allow them to be successful. TO REGISTER: click here - Pratt Community College Impact Institute COST $25 per person

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Kansas Excellence in Math and Science Teaching Conference

Monday, June 17th, 8am to Tuesday, June 18th, 4pm

3100 McCormick Street

Wichita, KS

This conference will help you use the implementation of the Kansas Standards for Science as an opportunity to advance instruction in your classroom, building, and district. Math and science teachers from across the state will come together to review, refresh, and retool current math and science practices and inspire educators with a focus on problem-based learning.

The mornings will include guest speakers from KATS, KATM, and other chances to learn from expert math and science teachers. The elementary, middle, and high school educators that joined us for the Learn While Teach PD project will be leading our science sessions. Come learn more about using driving questions boards, talk move questioning techniques, and how to really anchor science learning in phenomena from this great group.


College credit available, fees vary depending on membership(s), includes lunch each day and snack each afternoon. To enroll or for more information - click here KS Excellence in Math and Science Teaching Conference

Cindy Hadicke, Elementary Program Consultant

Kansas State Department of Education