Cultures and STORY

For Block 3, we learned a lot about how we express ourselves through STORY.

When we first began our inquiry unit, we talked about the different ways people can tell stories. Our class came up with the following:

  • people can write books
  • storytelling
  • paintings/drawings
  • sign-language
  • clothes – what we wear can tell a story about who we are
  • movement/dance
  • music

Class observations:

We looked at several works from many artists. We listened to a lot of stories. We listened to many different types of music. We watched the Nutcracker Ballet. We even made our own stories through music, dance, and drawings.

After a while, we explored our inquiry statement: Cultures express themselves through story.

We thought about how we could learn about different cultures through their art, music, dance, etc.

Mrs. Baldwin showed us some art work by a man named John Nieto. We loved all the bright colors in his paintings and noticed that much of his work was of animals. After reading about the artist, we learned that John Nieto was born in Denver (!) and raised in New Mexico. His Native American and Hispanic heritage inspires his work. As we studied his paintings, we thought about the stories they told. We created some of our own Nieto-inspired art work.

Inspired by John Nieto

Inspired by John Nieto

We started asking a lot of questions about the history of Native Americans and wanted to learn more. We asked questions about the importance of animals – many of the works of art we saw from different Native American artists included animals. A lot of the stories we read also included animals.

At the Denver Art Museum

At the Denver Art Museum

We know that asking questions and investigating those questions leads us to even more questions!  Sometimes, we take learning trips to help us investigate more. We toured the Denver Art Museum to visit the American Indian Art Collection. We loved looking at the decorations on clothing and drawings on tipis, and our tour guide, Ruth, helped explain the stories in all the art work.

While we were at the museum, we learned that some of the exhibit came from Plains Indian tribes. We started to look at videos of ceremonial dances from Plains and Southwest tribes. Then we found photos and videos of longhouses and learned a little about the Iroquois tribes.

As we continued learning more and more, we stopped to think about the differences in these cultures. Also, we knew that we don’t see people living in tipis and longhouses now. What we had been learning was the historical culture of these tribes.

One of the things we learned was that the Native peoples lived in North America long before the Europeans came to this land. We were very sad when we learned how their land was taken from them, and we tried to understand what it would be like if strangers came and just took our homes away. It’s difficult to understand something that has never happened to us, and we wanted to be able to meet someone who could share more about Native American culture.

We were very fortunate to have a visit from Rose Red Elk, also known as Red Feather Woman. During her visit, she shared stories with us, talked to us about her regalia, taught us a song that she wrote, and helped us learn a round dance. Rose Red Elk answered a lot of questions, and we loved having her visit. She helped us to understand a lot about how STORY plays a part in her life. Rose Red Elk shares her stories to honor her culture and heritage.

With Red Feather Woman

With Red Feather Woman

Some of the stories we read or heard through storytelling were called legends. As we thought through these stories, we noticed that most of them either taught lessons or explained how something began. We loved the story that Red Feather Woman told us about Wind Eagle! We also heard a story called “The Little Boy And Girl In The Clouds.” It was a great story, and the hero is an inchworm. We noticed that it had a similar lesson to some other stories we know: “The Lion and the Mouse” and “David and Goliath.”

We love music, so Mrs. Baldwin brought out some instruments and taught us a song called “Ho Ho Watanay.” We practiced keeping a steady beat with the drums, and used rattles to emphasize the rhythm of “wa-ta-nay.” After we finished learning and performing the song, Mrs. B asked us if it sounded like a song that would be sung at a war ceremony. We didn’t think so! BC said it sounded like a song that helps you go to sleep and then remembered that those songs are called “lullabies.” That’s exactly what the song is! It’s an Iroquois lullaby.

This is a video of us practicing the song:

This was a really great block of learning for us! We made so many connections to things we already know and have experienced. We also really loved learning about Native cultures, and we are grateful to those who helped teach us this block!

Grade 1 student blog posts*:

Bodie’s Blog of Wonder

Zach’s Blog of Wonder

Nathan’s Blog of Wonder

Ryan’s Blog of Wonder


*Note from Mrs. Baldwin: I do not edit the students’ blogs for content or conventions. This helps us see students’ writing progress through the rest of the school year. Any notes from me will be included in [brackets].


Our Winter Stories

We’ve been working on winter stories for quite a few weeks. We started reading a book called Winter: The Coldest Season of All! from Cantata Learning. We noticed the art work in the illustrations, and how winter scenes use a lot of white and different shades of blue, grey, purple, and even some black.

After we read the story, we created a word bank of winter words:

snow, snowflakes, ice, white, cold, crisp, freezing, snowman, blankets, hot cocoa, sleds, skis, skates, snowboards, ear muffs gloves, coats, hats, mittens, scarf, snow pants, boots, trees, animals, hibernate, migrate.

We started thinking about stories by drawing our own winter pictures. Some of us drew and colored on paper. Some of us started in the app Paper by 53.

Some of our stories will be in video form, exported from Explain Everything. Some will be written on paper and shared with photos of our work.


Zach’s Winter Story

Bodie’s Winter Story

Nathan’s Winter Story

Ryan’s Winter Story

Elle’s Winter Story

Nora’s Winter Story


Cayman Ruth’s winter illustration



Johnny’s winter illustration



Wyatt’s winter illustration



(We’ll continue adding links and photos here as we complete our stories and art!)

Measuring Temperature

We have been talking a lot about how we measure – length, distance, weight, and much more. Two days ago, we we learning about how we measure temperature. We knew that we could use thermometers to see what how cold or how hot it is. Some of us knew that you can measure temperature in Fahrenheit. WG knew that most other countries (outside the US) use Celsius to measure temperature.

We have learned about the Earth’s orbit around the sun, and we also know that the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. It’s almost winter for people in the northern hemisphere, but almost summer for the people in the southern hemisphere. We wondered what the temperatures were and decided to ask people through Twitter to complete a survey for us.

After two days, we received over 275 responses! We know that means we have a LOT of information to look through. In the meantime, we wanted to share a map of the 202 unique locations from responses. We were VERY excited to see all the different places on the map, especially from other continents!

In the next two weeks, we’ll be looking at this information to see if we can discover some patterns, and we’ll be making some graphs to help us understand the information better. After looking at the temperature data, we definitely noticed that it was a pretty warm day for most people in the United States. That was a surprise for us.

Stay tuned for more information, and we hope you enjoy our map!


View December 2015 Temperature Survey in a full screen map



Thank you to all the wonderful people who helped us!

Day of Dinosaurs!

On Tuesday, November 3, we took a trip to two different places in Colorado to learn about dinosaurs. Our first stop was the Best Western Denver Southwest hotel. That might seem like a very strange place to learn about dinosaurs, but this is no ordinary hotel! Greg and Meredith Tally own this amazing hotel, and they have just completed a $5 million renovation to share their very unique collection with visitors. Their exhibits include interior and exterior murals, dinosaur fossils and casts, sandbox digs, and other curiosities. Our tour guide, Chenoa, shared so much information with us. We even got to touch some of the fossils! We are so grateful to the Tallys for welcoming Anastasis again to tour their hotel and learn more about fossils, dinosaurs, and ancient Colorado!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Tallys and the hotel, you can follow them on Twitter – @BestWestDenver.

The second leg of our trip was a visit to the Morrison Natural History Museum in Morrison, Colorado. We learned about the number of fossils found near Morrison, and we were able to see actual baby Stegosaurus footprints! We even had a chance to work with one of the paleontologists on a large stone with a fossil inside! We learned so much about different dinosaurs, and we can’t thank the staff of the museum enough for all their expertise and willingness to help us learn.

You can follow the museum on Twitter – @MorrisonMuseum

ZR wrote:

I lrnd at the hotel that a brd is a Dinisor. We got Dinisor fossils then we left I had a good time.

NS wrote:

We wnt to the Morison muesam. We so a T Rex hed. People found a Stagusoris Futprint.

BC wrote:

We went to the moreosin museum and we soo a T. rex had and lined about the ice age.

We went to the dinosaur hotel and lined about the ageis of the dinosaur.
This is a photo gallery of our visits to the “Dino Hotel” and the Morrison Natural History Museum:






How Questions Help Us Learn

In Block 1, we asked ourselves, “How do questions help us learn?”

In our reflection time, we thought about this a lot and made some interesting conclusions.


Asking questions:

  • helps us learn new things
  • helps us learn to ask more questions
  • can start conversations
  • helps us know ourselves and others
  • helps us to stay curious

We talked a lot about questions and answers during this block. We wondered about questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer and how we learn to deal with those. We decided that, most of the time, those types of questions lead to a LOT more questions. At first, it was hard for us, because we want all questions to have a right answer. It’s also hard for us when Mrs. Baldwin says, “I don’t know,” because we thought teachers were supposed to have all the answers. (That made Mrs. Baldwin laugh.) In the end, though, we learned that sometimes the answers we think we know as fact can be wrong. If we always remember to ask more questions, we learn that facts can change sometimes.

Very early in the block, we asked questions about WHO WE ARE and how do people get to know us? We played a game where we got to ask each other questions and then had to share with the whole class what we learned about our partner. We also painted pictures of the emotions that live inside our heads. At first, we could only think about a few emotions. But we asked questions: “What other emotions do we have?” When we thought about it, we came up with jealousy, embarrassment, satisfied, and a few others. This really helped us think about how we’re feeling each day, and how we can express ourselves better when we have those feelings.


We also practiced asking questions by having a weekly #whatisit photo. Mrs. Baldwin said we could write/ask as many questions as we wanted, but we could not ask what was in the photo. NS said that is so hard, because our brains just want to know what it is! We got really good at asking questions, especially when we stopped to think about what we could NOT see in the photo. Sometimes, we asked what the item was made of or how the photographer took the photo. We got really good at asking better questions!


During this block, we explored how we know if facts are true or not. One day, we asked a lot of questions about fall: how do the leaves change colors? Why do leaves fall off the trees? Why do some leaves turn red, some orange, and some yellow? Mrs. Baldwin showed us three different videos, and we were able to answer some of those questions. But then Mrs. Baldwin asked us, “How do you know that the information we saw/heard in the videos is TRUE?” At first, we were confused. We thought that Mrs. Baldwin would only show us information that was true. She asked us if we have to trust the person who is giving us the information, and we said yes. After a little more discussion, we were also able to decide that the information was true because we heard the same facts in each video. Today, we reminded ourselves that we have to find a trusted source for information, as well as check with other sources to see if they all agree.

When we were asking questions about the Mars Rover and evidence that water had been on Mars, we took our questions to our Twitter account, @TeamBaldwin to share with others. We were able to get some great answers from Bobak Ferdowsi (@tweetsoutloud) about the Mars Rover. We learned to ask questions of experts, so that we could learn even more than we could discover on our own.


Some thoughts from our class —

BC: When you’re curious and you watch a video or read something, then you get even more curious!

RS: “I wonder… ” is a good way to learn something new.

As a class, we decided that questions lead us to discover new things we like. Also, if we don’t ask questions, we don’t learn new things as well. It’s like building with LEGO. If our teacher does all the building for us, we didn’t really learn how to do it ourselves. If we don’t ask our own questions about what we want to learn, then we’re just doing what our teacher tells us to do.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

On Thursday, May 9, we traveled about an hour from our school to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. This was an unbelievable trip!

When we first arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Driving up to the parking lot, we saw bears, tigers, and wolves in fences right next to the driveway! Our orientation began with one of the many volunteers sharing some history and facts about the sanctuary. After that, we were able to start our self-guided tour.

Did you know that the illegal wildlife trade is a multi-million dollar business? Wild animals are sold to circuses, unlicensed zoos, private pet owners, and even as displays to bring in customers. One example – some of the tigers at the Wild Animal Sanctuary were rescued from cages at a truck stop. The owners of the truck stop thought that people would visit just to see the tigers. The tigers lived in small cages!

In many zoos around the world, especially unlicensed zoos, wild animals are on display in cages that are too small for them. They don’t get enough food or even the proper type of nutrition. Some of them suffer joint damage because they never get to leave their tiny cages. Sometimes, the enclosures are not properly maintained, and the animals escape into the public! Have you ever heard of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio? 48 animals had to be killed by local authorities because of this type of wildlife ownership.

We were surprised to learn how many people buy wild animals as pets. In many cases, they buy the “pets” to show off to their friends or because they’re really cute when they’re little. These people do not know how to properly care for a wild animal. These animals can be very dangerous to the public when an owner doesn’t know how to take care of it.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary rescues these wild animals. They are brought to a place where they can live in a more natural environment, free to roam, and they never have to worry about eating again.

At the Wild Animal Sanctuary, visitors don’t get to walk along the grounds at eye-level of the animals. It makes the animals nervous, and some of them would even become anxious or aggressive. Even though there are two sets of fences, the animals’ well-being is too important. The people who built the sanctuary created an elevated walkway and observation decks that allow you to move over several viewing areas – all outside – to view the animals in their “habitats.” This ensures that the animals can move around freely in their areas, instead of being trapped into a display area for viewers. They call it “Mile Into The Wild Walkway.”

We decided we would walk all the way to the end of the walkway right away. This led us to the Bolivian Lion Pavilion. We spent a lot of time observing the lions and learning about how they were brought to the sanctuary. Lions live in prides, and family groups are kept together in the sanctuary. There are over 400 acres just for lions!

On our way back from the lion pavilion, we also saw tigers, many different types of bears, arctic and timber wolves, porcupines, bobcats, and even more lions– all in their own living areas. We had time to just stand and observe these animals as they began moving around for the day. Some of them were starting to eat. We especially enjoyed watching some of the tigers and bears eat! It looked like “meatsicles,” different pieces of meat and other food all frozen together.

As we continued observing from the walkway, different volunteers would come to tell us the stories of the different animals at the sanctuary. Every animal has a name! We learned that every “enclosure” is a different size, depending upon the need of the animals in it. We wondered how the animals stayed safe during rainstorms or snow. One of the volunteers pointed out to us that each enclosure has several “den” areas: cement tunnels that are an opening and lead back about 50 feet into the ground. The temperature inside stays around 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit all year. He said that the animals are pretty acclimated to the weather in Keenesburg, but they sometimes head inside when the weather becomes severe.

We really enjoyed learning about all the beautiful animals that have been rescued by the Wild Animal Sanctuary, and we wanted to help, too. Each student in our class wrote a blog post about our experience, and we are currently working on a Public Service Announcement to help raise awareness about the illegal animal trade! (We’ll update our blog here when we post it!)

We hope that you will choose to get involved, too! Ways to help


Here are a few photos Mrs. Baldwin took during our trip. Because the enclosures are so huge, it’s difficult to get a close-up photo with an iPhone.

Notice: there’s a lioness named Tabitha who is the leader of her pride. This is very unusual, as most prides are a male lion leader with several females and younger male lions around him. You can see Tabitha sitting with the males in one of our photos.

Carson Nature Center Adventure

We were very fortunate to spend three whole days at the South Platte River/Carson Nature Center April 23-25! Each one of us is writing our own reflection about our time there, so this post will be a list of each day’s activities.

Wednesday, April 23

We started our day meeting our guide, Beth, in the Carson Nature Center classroom. We began talking about the parts of the South Platte river and the types of things we would find in this riparian ecosystem. We learned about some different vocabulary words through some activities and then went outside for a hike where we could “put it all together.”

  • Biotic – living and once living things of an ecosystem
  • Abiotic – non-living things of an ecosystem (water, sunlight)
  • Process – some force or cycle that affects biotic and abiotic parts of an ecosystem
  • Individual – one biotic part of an ecosystem (ex. one trout)
  • Population – multiple individuals of the same species (ex. a school of trout)
  • Community – differetn populations that depend upon each other in the community

We loved hiking with Beth and learning about the flood of 1965 that “accidentally” created the area of the nature center. In one area near the river, you can find a train car that was carried a few miles to this area. It’s mostly buried in a wooded area, but some parts are still sticking out so that you can see them.

Around the river, we found cut banks, point bars, secondary channels, and backwater areas in the river. There were so many areas where we were able to observe animals in their habitats. We saw ducks, an osprey, hawks, cormorants, lots of insects, and we could hear frogs chirping along the banks of the river. We learned from Beth that there are insects called “midges.” When they are still larva, they live in the water. As adults they are able to fly. They look and swarm just like mosquitoes, but midges don’t have mouths. They can’t bite humans or suck their blood. Adult midges only live for a couple of days.

After our hike, we returned to the nature center to gather around a water table. This was a simulation of rivers and sediment – we discovered how channels are formed, examined erosion and deposition when water levels change, and even simulated a flood to see how the water can be a very destructive force. We had a great morning with our new friend, Beth!

In the afternoon, we ate lunch, then went on a hike ourselves. We found a wonderful area to sit and write in our field journals about our day. In this small area, we had a choice of sitting in a wooded spot or a grassy spot near the river bank. Mrs. Baldwin asked us to include a “sensory” activity. We took a few minutes to engage our senses – what did we hear? what did we smell? what did we feel? what did we see? We wrote and sketched these things in our field journals, too.

That was a full day of learning! We headed back to school after that and geared up for the next two days.

Thursday, April 24

On Thursday, we were entirely self-guided. Our day started with a hike to a different part of the river than what we had seen the day before. We stopped at the memorial sculpture of the flood and took a photo. Then we hiked for about 20 minutes until we came to a part of the river that had numerous places for us to sit. At this time, Mrs. Baldwin asked to go on a “habitat hunt.” In this activity, we were to look for at least four different habitats. We had to find one bird, one mammal, one insect, and one animal of our choice. For each habitat, we had to describe what we found and then list food sources, water sources, the type of shelter each creature used for protecting its young, and any other details we thought we should include. In our field journals, we used a combination of writing and sketching to help us complete this activity.

After eating lunch, we hiked again and found a man-made eagle’s nest! It’s big enough for people to stand in! We searched for sticks and branches to add to the nest. Next, we ran over to an open meadow and played a game we call Producers, Predators, Prey, and Decomposers. Mrs. Baldwin gave us each a card that had some different names of producers, predators, prey, and decomposers. We ran around in the meadow until Mrs. Baldwin yelled, “Freeze!” When you freeze, you have to find the closest person to you and then look at each other’s card. If you have a coyote and the other person has a rabbit, the coyote wins. We had to decide which animals would win by thinking about food webs. Also, some cards had dead animals, while other cards contained decomposers. The decomposers would win that battle. This was a really fun game that helped us think more about primary predators, secondary predators, and other parts of food webs. We also got to run around a LOT!

By the time we hiked back toward the nature center, it was already time to go back to school! Our days went by very quickly!

Friday, April 25

Friday morning, we met our friend Beth back at the nature center classroom. We talked about the cycle of insects and small fish and amphibians. Beth helped us learn about how some insects create homes for their larvae and nymphs in rivers and still water. Then we hiked to a part of the river, and we got to wade in it! Because the water is still coming down from the melting snow in the mountains, the river water was really, really cold! Every single one of us waded, though, and Beth complimented us – no one screamed!

In the river, we found midge larvae, caddisfly larvae, caddisfly nymphs, and the homes they build out of tiny grains of sand. In the pond, we found a snail, dragonfly nymphs, worms, midge larvae, caddisfly larvae, sideswimmers, boatmen, waterstriders, and even a leech! We talked about everything we found with Beth, and we knew that we found more in the pond due to the fact that it was still water.

We ate lunch after we hiked back, and then we returned to the our writing spot from Wednesday. We continued sketching and writing about our experiences of all three days. To complete our day, we hiked back to the nature center building for a quick tour. We saw different examples of the wildlife at the nature center, and the man that was working there brought out a snake for us to see!

It was such a great experience to learn about an ecosystem while we were actually in the middle of one. We learn a lot in our research online and through books, but this was a really special opportunity for us. Again, we’re grateful that we have options like this at our school!

Our Capital Cities

In Block 5 (How We Organize Ourselves), we started learning about societies and governments. You can read about the beginning of our process here:

During one of our discussions about different types of governments, one student asked if we could build cities to show what we know about a government. After thinking this through, we decided we would need to learn enough about a specific type of government in order to really know what a capital city would look like.

We broke into three small groups and each chose a type of government we wanted to learn about. Mrs. Baldwin’s only rule was that we could not choose a democratic republic, since we already have that experience here in the United States.

The government types we chose: Oligarchy, Monarchy, and Dictatorship.

Oligarchy group: 

We used Minecraft to build our capital city. We learned that a very small group has all the power in an oligarchy, and they do not provide good resources for the other people of their country. There is usually a very wealthy side of town (minority) and a very poor side of town (majority) in the capital city. South Africa was an oligarchy for many years.

Monarchy group:

We learned that a Monarchy usually has a king or a queen (or both). Sometimes, the royalty is good to the people of the kingdom, and sometimes not good. Even a good king or queen will cost the citizens of the kingdom a lot of money, because the royalty has an expensive castle or home that is paid for by the citizens. If the king/queen is really good, there will be good resources for the citizens.  If the king/queen is not good to the people, the kingdom will suffer. The people will be very poor, hungry, and have bad living conditions. We decided to do a modern style Monarchy where the capital city would have good resources for the people and an expensive castle for the monarchs. Sweden is an example with a sovereign monarch.


Dictatorship group:

We learned that a dictator takes all the power and uses a strong military to control the country’s people. Citizens have little or no freedom at all, and everything depends upon what the dictator wants to do. The dictator’s home in a capital city will be very expensive and have a lot of servants. Also, there will be many guards around the dictator’s home. In the parts of city where the citizens live, they will have a lot of military guards and areas where they are not allowed. All access to the city will be heavily guarded.  Examples are Nazi Germany and North Korea.

We loved learning about types of governments by building cities! This activity was our choice, and we learned so much by building. We had to think about details of every building, roads, resources for citizens, and so much more.