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This workshop showcased and unpacked a project-based, interdisciplinary unit rich with hands-on learning opportunities that develop both foundational literacy skills and a sense of agency and empowerment to tackle the complex problem of pollution in the Indian River Lagoon. Participants left with a dynamic standards based unit plan they can adapt and engaging enriched literacy strategies that can be implemented in the classroom immediately.​ We looked closely at the WHY and the HOW of the strategies in the context of the unit to see how all successful learning is connected. We also explored how Foundational Literacy and Project Based Learning can reinforce each other and support student growth and achievement.

The Roots of Literacy: Growing Foundational Literacy Skills

January 20, 2018

Core Text: Mermaid Peg
by  Leslie Kiddy Maloney
Anchor 1

Essential Question/Big Idea:

What’s my role in growing a healthy community?

Focus Standards:

2.RL.2.4 Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.


SC.2.N.1.1: Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them in teams through free exploration and systematic observations, and generate appropriate explanations based on those explorations.

Mermaid Meg and the Magic Lagoon author, Leslie Kiddy Maloney, addresses the audience.

Great ideas were catalyzed and will be put into practice in my classroom!  - Participant Feedback

Debbi Arseneaux, Moonshot Institute Program Manager with The Learning Alliance, unpacks the day's objectives. Using Simon Sinek's "Golden Circle" as inspiration, participants are reminded to design learning experiences for their students by starting with WHY they are needed, rather than stringing together potentially disconnected activities that don't meet the demands of the standards and the needs of the students. 
Mindful Moonshot Morning Routine 
Leslie Connelly, K-2 Coach and Educational Consultant for The Learning Alliance, takes participants through a Mindful Moonshot Morning Routine, which includes activities to Unite, Connect, Disengage Stress and Commit. Here, Leslie is shown in a yoga-inspired breathing pose:  "Deep Roots, Strong Trees."

Learning is most effective when it’s interconnected and you can feel it and experience it.

- Participant comment

Fran McDonough, Moonshot Academy Manager and TLA Education Consultant,  leads a group of participants through several activities intended to authentically connect students to nature through observation and inquiry, while also developing vocabulary and learning parts of speech.

Connecting to Nature

Multi-sensory experience is important to differentiate learning. 

- Participant comment

Make it Grow, Make it Flow. Participants play a group game to build sentences that include nouns, verbs and adjectives from the core text. 

Nature Walk. Participants have the opportunity to explore the sights and sounds of nature. With clipboards in hand, they use their senses to observe, sketch, and listen. They later add to their word bank from their observations to be able to write original poetry.

Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives, Oh My . . .

Attendees come together and chart the words they've written in noun, verb, adjective collections on personal graphic organizers, and then on butcher paper to create a class Word Bank. 

Next participants write original poems that weave together words from the text, words from informational research, and their own thoughts. The final project for the day is to write and share an "I Wonder" poem that reflects their connection to nature and their commitment to caring for it. (I Wonder, I Wish, I Want, I Will

A Moonshot Talk: What's In A Word?

Liz Woody-Remington, Director of Professional Development and Co-founder of The Learning Alliance, explains the neuroscience behind learning to read. Using a layered literacy approach, she unpacks how we need to give students opportunities to "See it, Be it, and Feel it." By giving participants access to the knowledge and understanding of how the brain maps meaning onto text, she begins to remove some of the fear around teaching and writing poetry that grips so many educators. 

I was surprised by the amount of valuable knowledge I was able to take from this one-day workshop, particularly how to help students make real connections to learning. - Participant Feedback

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Choose Your Own Adventure: Participants had three options for the afternoon rotations - Ask the Experts, Enriched Literacy Centers, and open planning time. 

Ask the Experts

Guest presenters from the community make the real world connections presented in the unit plan come alive. ​Participants have the opportunity to learn about the challenges facing our community and hear from experts about possible solutions and what it might take to create authentic hands-on learning opportunities for students. 

Special thanks to the amazing team of scientists at Ocean Research and Conservation Association, Inc in Ft. Pierce for​ providing information, insight and inspiration as this workshop was developed. 

Loved the opportunity to talk with community members about ways to help our kids with the environment.

- Participant comment

Jim Lappert, a scientist from ORCA, answers questions about planting with students and how we can prevent toxic runoff into the Indian River Lagoon.
Sue Flak, Environmental Science Coordinator and Project Learning Tree educator at Pelican Island Elementary, shows teachers examples of native plants they can grow with their students. 
Enriched Literacy Centers
In the Independent Reading/Writing Station, participants explore thematically connected texts and activities that include strategies for reading and writing poetry.  
In the Foundational Center, participants see a variety of activities focusing on vocabulary and fluency.

Participants rotate through enriched literacy stations packed full of new ideas for their classroom centers.  These areas include a Creation Station for hands-on learning, a Foundational Skills Station to reinforce targeted skill building, and an Independent Reading/Writing Station. Each rotation includes a variety of standards based activities that connect to the core texts, build vocabulary, and extend the learning in purposeful and intentional ways to ensure no wasted instructional time.

What's in the Water? - In the Creation Station, Leslie Connelly presents hands on ways to better understand the concepts of pollution and filtration.

TLA has so much to offer and is making a huge difference with children as well as the entire community. - Participant Feedback

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