Monday, June 30, 2014

diy beaded fireworks

This is a patriotic take on a project I originally posted for Valentine's Day. You can turn this into a fun color sorting project by having your kiddos sort out the red, white, and blue beads from a random bead assortment. I picked up my beads a few years ago from a craft store. You can use assorted beads, pony beads, or perler beads even. If your beads are clear, you will want to stick with white, pearl, or silver pipe cleaners.
*pipe cleaners
*assorted beads
*plate or tray for sorting 
Step 1: Sort out the colors you wish to use, for the fireworks we used red, white, and blue beads.

Step 2: Hook one end of a pipe cleaner.

Step 3: Thread on a bead and push it to about two inches from the hooked end.

Step 4: Continue adding beads. The opalescent pipe cleaners are bulkier than the foil so beads with smaller holes will not thread onto them.

Step 5: Thread on a small tight fitting bead when you are about an inch from the end. This will keep the beads from falling off.

Step 6: Twist up the end tail for added protection and hang in a happy place!
 For kicks you might try using one of those GIANT pipe cleaners and larger wooden beads or painted pasta noodles. Ooh...that has given me an idea!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

mini fourth of july round-up!

the little tweaks we do: an observation

When you work with a lot of children you will find that some really like to get into the materials. They are the ones that always seem to have paint on their bodies and play dough in their hair. They are whole body explorers and boy, do they explore. 
You will also find a good number of children who prefer to not get their hands dirty and while it may look like the whole body child is playing more and getting more out of the process it only appears that way.  The child who prefers things orderly, or perhaps is sensitive to different textures is also playing...and learning. It just manifests differently. They are both playing fully and processing as they work.
These two photos were taken moments apart on the day I first introduced baking soda and vinegar to the children. All of the children were engaged and excited in the investigation. As the fun grew louder and um...bigger, one of the children began to back away. This child often enjoys getting elbow deep in paint but the noise level during this activity was a bit too much. I did not want this to be a defining moment where this child might abandon investigative activities due to noise and perhaps carry that around with them so I asked if they would like their own tray to work on in a different area of the classroom. They nodded that they did and a happy child trundled off to a quiet corner to investigate at their own pace.

Much of my work as a teacher is simply observing. To an outsider it might appear that we aren't really doing much at all but we stand or sit and we watch. We constantly make mental notes as to what works, what doesn't work. Who prefers quiet, who loves to sing. Who likes to build, who enjoys puzzles. We watch and observe and take photos and document all that is going on so that we can prepare an environment that meets the needs of all of the children. Some children need to be challenged in their play, others need to build confidence. As we observe we figure out who needs what and it is truly a joy to be a part of it all. Each day brings new discoveries and each group of children makes the classroom feel brand new.

Friday, June 27, 2014

investigating the lid bin

It took me months to save up enough lids for an impressive lid bin. When I introduced it to the children we were all sitting in our kitchen area enjoying our lunches. I brought out the lids which I placed in a sturdy shallow wicker and wire basket. I held the basket/bin under the table and shook it. I asked the children if they could guess what I had. I did this so long ago I forgot what their guesses were. I placed the bin on top of the table and the children were very excited. Who knew? We talked about the shape of the lids, the various colors and how some of the lids had words on them. I told the children the bin would be in our block area if they would like to investigate and immediately upon finishing lunch they swooped down on it. There was stacking and sorting, nesting and counting, design making and patterning. There was a single purple lid that allowed one of the kiddos to complete a "beautiful lid rainbow". All the busyness and exuberance makes my heart go thumpity-thump.  The children enjoy working with the bin and are extra delighted when they find a cap in their lunch or snack bag. Now we have more than one purple lid for more rainbow making. This is preschool math at its best.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

snails in the classroom

What more can I say? Snails in the classroom, one of my favorite things and now one of my classroom's favorite things. The Sunday morning before our week of snails, I armed myself with a plastic resealable bag and stepped out into the yard a few minutes after the sprinklers turned off. Snails like moisture and I had to get to them quickly before the mister did them in as they are ferocious eaters and chomp on most everything in the garden. Snails will keep in a container in your fridge for about a week. Add a leaf or two of lettuce or cabbage and seal it up and they are good to go. We kept misting bottles (to keep our mollusky friends comfortable) at the science table along with magnifying glasses and a small mirror. The children enjoyed watching the snails wake up from the refrigerated slumber and counting them throughout the day to see if they were all there (we had one adventurous fella who often strayed away). The children learned about the parts of the snail and habitats. At the end of the day, we returned the snails to their rinsed out bag and gently placed them back in the refrigerator. Don't forget to rinse out the bag so that the poor things will not have to wallow in their own poop. Also, snail poop is hysterical to children. Hysterical! We kept our friends for a week and liberated them to our play yard in the canopy of our enormous succulents.

We also read a lot of books about and starring snails:

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman
Snaily Snail by Chris Raschka
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Are You a Snail? by Judy Allen
Snail Where are You? by Tomi Ungerer
Slow Snail by Mary Murphy
Oscar and the Snail by Geoff Waring

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

sprouting sunflower seeds: part 2

We began our sprouting jars at the end of our week with the plan that we would be able to plant out our seeds the following week. I took the wee jars home over the weekend and when I brought them back on Monday, sure enough, they were ready to plant out!

*potting soil
*small scoops
*half an egg carton per child
*rimmed trays to work on
*spray bottles/misters

Step 1: Before we began, I opened  out our classroom jar and spread out the damp seeds onto a tray. I then sat down with the children and discussed what had happened to our seeds over the weekend and invited the children to investigate.We then compared fresh seeds to our sprouted seeds and listed how they were different on a large sheet of paper.

Step 2: When the children were ready they came over to the planting center and retrieved their jar. The first thing they did was scoop potting soil into their egg carton.

Step 3: Once their cartons were full of soil, they removed the rim and mesh from their jars and either shook or scooped their seeds out and spread them along the top of the potting soil. Many of the children chose to use their hands for this part.

Step 4. When planting sprouted seeds you do not need to cover them in soil. They can rest lightly on top of the soil as their roots are already developed. You do however need the soil to be damp so pass out those spray bottles and let the kiddos go to town!

Step 5. Once their seeds and soil are full saturated, set in a semi sunny place and keep an eye on them so that the soil does not dry out. The children would revisit their seeds throughout the day and spray them with glee. At the end of the day we would pour water into the trays to keep the cartons wet overnight.
Step 6. Sunflower sprouts appear to grow crazy fast! Once they reach about two inches high, they can be planted outside. If you wait too long they will be a bit root bound in the cartons but that is okay as the carton can be planted directly into the ground. While the children chose their perfect spot and dug their perfect holes, the adults in the classroom gently separated the cups in the carton and helped the children plant out their seeds in our play yard. I do not have any photos of this part and sadly we lost most of our sprouts to a crazy record breaking heat wave but we do have three flowers growing in the yard. Before the heat wave came, the children would check the status of their flowers every day. Once the sprouts began failing do to heat and some over watering by our young enthusiastic gardeners we brought that information into the discussion and now the children as about the temperature and ask which plants are okay or not okay. Awesome learning all around!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

impromptu scissors work

On the day I had planned for us to begin our sprouting jars I realized I had forgotten to bring tulle to use on our jars. Standing in our classroom kitchen I spied our container of bath scrubbies I had an a-ha! moment and pulled one down. I sat myself down at one of our wee tables and was about to begin cutting when the door opened and the first kiddo of the day walked in. He immediately walked up to me and asked what I was doing. When I told him what I was doing and why he decided he wanted to do it too and so off to the art center he went in search of scissors. He sat there quietly cutting and exploring the plastic mesh for more than 30 minutes. So involved was he that he attracted the attention of another student who wanted to do it as well and so we brought down the scrubbie container and set up a cutting station at the art table. I love it when things like this happen!

Monday, June 16, 2014

sprouting sunflower seeds: part 1

 Back in the fall we spent a week investigating all things sunflowers, in March, we sprouted our own seeds to plant in our play yard. The flowers are growing taller everyday but have been so very slow to bloom but that's okay, the children love watering them and talk often of the time they sprouted their seeds. Sunflowers are awesome an awesome bloom. They produce edible seeds and their tiny sprouts are also edible. We set up an area for the children to create their sprouting jars and got to work.

*sunflower seeds (organic optional)
*small jars such as jelly or baby food
*tulle or mesh from a citrus bag or bath scrubbie
*rubber bands or canning jar rings
*small scoops or spoons
*small pitcher of water
*containers for seeds

Step 1. Pass out a small jar for each child. We used 4oz jelly jars with the lid removed and rings set aside. 

Step 2. Have children scoop 1-2 small scoops of seeds into their jar. If you wish for the children to enjoy and sample the sprouts, use organic seeds, otherwise you can use black oiled sunflower seeds used for bird feed which can be found for in 5 pound bags for under $10.

Step 3. Have children pour water into their jars as full as they can. 

Step 4. Place a small square of netting, tulle, or mesh over the top of the jar and add rim or rubber band to hold the netting in place. 

Step 5. Place in a cool dark area of the room and replace water every six to eight hours. We placed our jars onto a rimmed tray so that I could take home and babysit. After the first day, you will pour out the water but continue to rinse every six to eight hours. Seeds should produce a tiny little root/tail in about two to three days. The rinsing is especially important if you are going to be sampling the sprouts/micro greens as the rinsing will help keep anything else growing on your greens.

If you are interested in sprouting seeds for food or fun, check out this nifty info page from The Sprout People. I have found their website to be very helpful and informative.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

a happy cloud song

(to the tune of Frere Jacques)
Clouds are floating, clouds are floating
Way up high, in the sky
Cirrus, Alto, Stratus
Cirrus, Alto, Stratus
Way up high
In the sky

In the classroom we use pom-poms as our clouds and float them over our heads. We also read our classroom cloud books (these two are faves) and explored our cloud photographs (a matching game I made from photos I took while on the BIG road trip).