Thursday, April 28, 2011

Artist In House

This week has been dismal with all the rain and there have been a few days when we had to stay in.

In anticipation of the bad weather, I had a few tricks in my bag to pull out to make for a very crafty/arty afternoon.

Some time ago, I found an artist on line who does pdf versions of famous paintings. You must purchase the file and it is very reasonable. It all gets printed on regular sized printer paper and you put it all together like a puzzle to make one large piece. The rest is up to you and the aspiring artist in your house!

For these two master pieces we used regular easel paint (tempra) and acrylic paint. The younger children, ages three to four worked on the first piece and the older children mostly five year olds worked on the second painting. I think any medium would be great. It could be done in wool, fabric and plasticine.

I can't tell you how peaceful our classroom was on that rainy afternoon. Not only was there joyful painting going on but conversation about this artist and why he painted the sky this way and what a neat way to make the stars. I asked the children if they thought this was why it was called Starry Night?

For me, this was another great way to connect with the children and encourage their creative side. Look more closely at the art coming into your home and see if you can detect any artistic influences.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Accidents Happen

Yesterday morning one of the children arrived at school and promptly came over to show me a treasure that she found on her front lawn. It was the most beautiful and perfect robins egg. I had to look so closely at it because it almost didn't look real. Perhaps, I just looked at way to much Easter candy on the weekend!

So, my little friend and I looked at this tiny egg and talked about how we should show it. In the end, it was decided that it would go on the nature table for all to enjoy.

Later in the morning, I heard two other children arguing at the nature table and I went over to see what was happening. Upon my arrival at the nature table I discovered that the tiny egg was broken and one of the children was crying as she felt horrible about what happened. Apparently, they were trying to make a more comfortable nest for the tiny egg and it slipped and fell on the floor.

I said accidents happen but that really they should go and tell their other friend who brought the egg as I was sure she would feel sad about it.

At first, I myself was very sad and disappointed about the broken egg. But as I watched the children go, apologies exchanged and worked out I realized this was a great experience for everyone involved. Things happen and I think we all learned the importance of letting go that day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This Week....

This week we enjoyed a puppet show about Easter.

There were Eggstra Special gifts for the children.

We took home a beautiful art project that we made last week about growing carrots.

We watched our garden grow.

We painted and looked at the world a little bit differently this week.

Happy Easter and Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Counting on Reading

I was fasinated by this work today. I watched as this particular child was counting his spindles into the spindle boxes but then stopped part way through to make some letters with the spindles. I never approached the child to ask about it I just observed and moved on with my morning. I thought you would enjoy this moment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs!

It is very eggy at Maple Tree this week. We are painting pinecones at the art table and we are looking at different kinds of eggs and where they come from.
I have a friend that has hens that lay the most beautiful blue green eggs and she has sent in two dozen. We are also the owners of a goose egg! Did you know that it is very heavy. I am holding it in my hand so that you can see how big it is. I think we will blow it out and add it to our egg collection on the nature table.

I have a special surprise for my Maple Tree children this year and I haven't told them about it yet.

A couple of Saturdays ago I met a very nice man at the Seaport Farmers Market. Let's call him Egg man. So I am buying some fish cakes from Egg man and we are chatting about things and he tells me he use to raise Rhea Birds and they lay eggs similar to Ostrich eggs. I say to egg man that I have an Ostrich egg and an Emu egg, but I would love a Rhea egg to add to my growing collection. Egg man tells me he has hundreds of them and that if I want to buy some he will give me a super special deal because he has a daughter that teaches and it is fun to give the children something special. So Egg man cuts me the deal of the century and I now have a very special gift for each of my Maple Tree children. Call me crazy, but this gift I am giving is designed to inspire the children to start a collection or create a nature space in their home where they can learn about and display their special treasures. The nature table space at Maple Tree
is about sharing and learning. It is a great place to see, touch and learn.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Learning about Blue Jays

As part of our bird study at Maple Tree, during circle time recently we passed round a set of photos of a Blue Jay Mommy in and around her nest of a growing family of chicks. The nest had been discovered late last spring in an evergreen tree right beside the front entrance of the building where a friend of a Maple Tree staff member worked. As the children looked at the photos they expressed delight at how small and fluffy the chicks were when they first hatched. "They are so soft," a little girl noted. When asked how the chicks got their foods, several children knew that the Mommy fed them. A couple of the boys were surprised at how the chicks were opening their mouths so wide as they waited for Mommy to return with food. Another boy remarked that the chicks looked very squished in the nest as they stared to grow. One of the older girls noticed how much like the Mommy the growing chicks looked with the marks on their wings. The photos of the Blue Jays have now been threaded on a string and attached above the nature table in the classroom. They continue to be a source of interest for the children. One hears comments like "Look at the little birds, they are so cute".

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This Week....

This has been a busy week for me and I started my week at home with a sick girl. I took the opportunity while things were quiet to prep some new materials in our practical life area of the classroom. I also got a ton of laminating done that was long over due. It is true that you get more done when the house is quiet.

This week we read the Carrot Seed and we planted our own carrots at the art table! I just love the art project Ms. Melanie put together and I love how very different each and every one is. Planting is so much fun!

Among my latest bits of new work is this basket with paint chips in it. I have laminated the paint chip cards so they will hold up better and then I cut each colour out and glued it on to a clothes pin. The idea is that you can match the colours by attaching the clothes pin to the control paint card.

Stamping your own letters and then printing them with a pencil. Who doesn't love stamping. This was a particularly popular piece of work this week.

Visually this tray is just so bright and beautiful and screams Spring! The larger wooden bowl in the middle holds colourful flower buttons for sorting into the correct coloured wooden bowl. The tiny wooden bowls came from Esty. I will try and find the link to add to this post. I could not resist buying them when I saw them.

Cleaning finger nails! Enough said on this one I think. Again very popular. Anything with water and pouring and bubbles is just way to much fun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Imaginative Sensory Play

I am constantly looking for new and exciting ideas/ inspiration for our shelves. I came across an idea for a sensory bin. The idea is that you keep it fresh and full of tiny interesting treasure. Also, the texture is very important as the children will be exploring this with their hands and mind with some imaginative play.
Some other great choices for this tray could be rocks, dirt, aquarium rocks,
sand, wool, jello, and shredded paper.

Yes you heard me correctly. I said play. Often in montessori we refer to the objects on our shelves as materials and work. In work there must be play and that is the purpose of the sensory bin/tray. This is one that I made last night when I was changing up the practical life work on the shelves. I have been home for the last few days with a sick girl and I escaped to my work last night for many hours. It was a lot of fun and I will be heading back again tonight.

This sensory tray is Easter inspired and the bunnies were to be for another project surrounding literacy. I just couldn't get it all together in time to work with our fairies. Sometimes, there are not enough hours in the day and I had to let that project go. The wool bunnies were made by the Wool Fairy. Thank You dear friend!

I have not put this tray out yet as it is planned for next week. But, I thought I would give you a sneak peek.

Sensory trays are a great experience to make way for quiet sensory play that connects the child with their mind and imagination. I am thinking of making one for home.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Ladies Aide

This photograph reminds me of my childhood. My grandmother would have one evening a month where she would meet with the ladies in her community to quilt or work on a large community project. The group was called, "The Ladies Aide".

One morning this week I looked over and saw this group of young girls working tirelessly on making birds nests from twigs and having the loveliest conversation. I must say I got a little choked up. Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Nature of Science

Last week Wendy and I went to a work shop at MSVU on Science in the classroom. It was a very fun evening and we both learned so much. I might even go so far as to say we have too many great ideas and not enough time to implement everything.

When you enter our classroom you will notice to your left that we have a small plant shelf that we have started seedlings on and they are already up! Not only have we started our garden seeds but we have also been talking with the children about roots, seeds and how they work. We have set up a few experiments in the window to show the children about taproots and that a seed or plant will grow roots and it doesn't always need soil for that to happen.

In this post, I have included a couple of new books that we have read to the children that I simply love. The illustrations are beautiful and the information very good for our age group.

What we learned from our evening of science is that science is grouped in three categories: Formal Science, Informal Science and, Incidental Science. I have never thought of science this way and so now I am asking myself do we do enough of each of these types or are we stuck.

Formal Science is when we (the teacher) set up and create the experiment with the materials and encourage the children to try it out to make discoveries. We have just done this with our white flowers and jars of colored water to see what happens to the flower. Another experiment we had set up was the sink and float table back in an earlier post.

Informal Science is when we make materials available in the classroom and the children take it upon themselves to to make something on their own or just explores the materials freely. I feel like we always have this available in a variety of ways in our classroom without even realizing we are doing it. The water table with wool, water and soap was a great spontaneous activity and so are the cove moldings with marbles and magnets on our afternoon shelf.

Incidental Science is the unexpected. When a class pets dies suddenly or the weather changes suddenly or a bird flies into our window. These are wonderful opportunities to talk with the children about science in our natural environment.
It is my hope to make a Sunflower house this summer out front in our garden so that we may enjoy the natural science unfolding in our garden. Encourage the exploration and don't be surprised if your little one says suddenly, "please don't move that, it is my potion or my experiment".

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Beets, Play dough and Wool

This is a fun week. I have been swimming in beets in my house this past winter and I am so sick to death of eating them! They are tasty true but I swear I've eaten my body weight in them and I would much rather eat my body weight in Julien's Hot Cross Buns!! Just a couple more weeks left and then they are gone until next year.

Anyway, back to beets. Yesterday we picked up our CSA box from Taproot and it was full of beets again. I really can't complain, I did commit to eating local and seasonal this past year and we have really enjoyed it. Today, I brought all my organic beets into the school and boiled them. I was on a mission for that beautiful beet juice.
Once the beets were cooked I used the beet juice to make the most incredible colour of magenta play dough! Not kidding, so freaking beautiful. Just replace the water for beet juice or any natural dye with water.

But play dough wasn't enough for me, so I set up the water table and pulled out lots of wool that we dyed last year at mt. I set it up with warm soapy water (lots of really warm water and I grated a bar of ivory soap) into the tub. Then the real fun began.

We had many children come and go from that table all morning long. We watched with wonder at how they handled all that soapy wool making it into balls or what ever they choose. I did suggest egg shapes as I have another project in my mind later this week or next.

At the end of the morning we were left with an empty basket and sadness because we had no wool left. As I type this I have two pots boiling away on my stove. Tomorrow is another day, and I've used the last of my beet juice to make the most beautiful shade of pink. I couldn't resist the robins egg blue either. I MUST be in a sensitive period for colour right now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Following the Signs

You probably know that your children have learned a little sign language. At Maple Tree they use the signs for "listen" and "sit" and a few other words. This month in music we are learning signs, known as cheironomics, for different musical notes. There is a hand gesture to indicate each note of the scale: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. This morning we used the symbols for "so" and "do" in our seashell song. Already I can hear that the children sing more clearly and in tune when they use cheironomics.
We also use spoken rhymes, and I thought I could provide you with the words in case you are hearing these at home.

Granny Spider (Dennis Lee)
Granny Spider sit and knits,
She sits and knits with all her wits.
She spins a line of silky twine,
and sits and knits all day.

Pussy Willow (Dennis Lee)
PUssy willow, pussy willow,
Like a caterpillar's pillow
Spring is near when you are here,
Pussy willow mine-o

Little Fish (with actions) (C. Bousman)
Little fish, little fish, likes to play, wiggles her fins and swims away.
Little fish, little fish singing a song, swimming and singing all day long.
Little fish , little fish in the water bright, opens her mouth and takes a bite!