Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

Today, we veered off our path and out of our usual routine. We were invited very last minute to see the production of Alice in Wonderland at my son's school which happens to be a few blocks and a short walk from Maple Tree.

We were excited to go and I was unsure about whether or not is was a good idea. Wow, was it ever a good idea! The children were super excited and it made for a very fun adventure. I was also thinking how nice this was for some of our older children who will be leaving us this fall to go to their new "Big" school to see this special production.

I must say we were delighted with the response from the children. The musical was an hour long and the children sat glued to the show the entire time. Not only was the production well put together musically speaking but visually the set was beautiful and you felt like you were in the forest with Alice.

There were questions asked by a few in very soft whispers and delight with the singing and dancing.

I was thinking about how these older children we were watching were brave putting on this show and being out there and what awesome mentors they are for our younger children especially the ones who feel shy and have a harder time putting themselves out there.

At the end of the show when it was time to go the children got to meet all girls who played the various parts of Alice (to watch this was sweet as they were in such awe). Thank You Ecole St. Catherine's School for a wonderful morning!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Everywhere Butterfly's

Everywhere you look we are seeing butterfly's. Our chrysalis have finally opened and we have beautiful painted lady butterfly's. It was so much fun to see the excitement on the faces of our children this morning as they came in and discovered we now have butterfly's.

The children have watched so closely all day. Coming to the nature shelf in pairs and on their own and having lovely conversations about birth, life and the complete life cycle.

I think we may be releasing our butterfly's tomorrow. I am afraid to keep them to long for fear they will die. I also,
think it will be an incredible experience to open the jars up and let them go. I am hoping to take them to playground and perhaps we can sing a song to send them on their way.

We also, enjoyed the the story, Marigold's Wings and painted our own butterfly and flowers with water colour crayons, brush and water.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Life at Maple Tree

Today while I was organizing the classroom at MTM, I noticed some red
stuff in the butterfly jars. My first reaction was 'why is there red
dye in the jars?' I bent down to have a closer look, and that is when
I realized there was a butterfly on the bottom, but It was laying on
its side and not moving. I looked around in the jar and saw two more
butterflies, and one more in the other jar. All of them were very
still. I called Ms. Michelle to tell her the good news! She
explained that the next step was to put a screen on the top of the
jars and give them food (cotton balls soaked in sugar water). As soon
as I opened the jars, the butterflies started fluttering around, even
the one laying on its side. The fresh air brought them back to life!
A few of them looked like they were stuck on their backs, but
eventually turned themselves over. It seemed like they were learning
how to use their wings, just like toddlers learning how to use their
legs. Once the butterflies got adjusted, all but one attached to a
branch and stayed there until I left for home. I can not wait to see
the reactions of the children Monday morning! They have anticipated
this moment for a few weeks now!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Maps, Maps, Maps!

These days I am in wind down mode at the school. Yes we still have a month left but there are still so many things to get done and for me to tick off my list.

One of the latest projects is our Map of the World. This is a project I tend to do with all of my children in their last year at the school. I find it to be a lovely way to cap off two years of learning. The map project is challenging and a child is only ready to tackle it when then have mastered many of the other material in the classroom. I love this time of year, working with the big kids. It is not just the working but the lovely and funny conversations we are having while we are working. They are working so hard on these maps and loving every minute of it. These children have watched and waited as others before them have worked on this very project and now it is their turn. In fact it will be turn taking for seventeen children in all if each of them chooses to make their own map! I just bought all the bristol board tonight. See Ms. Wendy, even though you are away, I am all over it!! Stay tuned for the finished project coming your way very soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The next phase.....

We have chrysalis! I came in this morning and discovered that we needed to move our caterpillars who are now in the chrysalis stage into the next new home. This meant some careful construction and good eye sight. I started off by taping the chrysalis to the top of the lid on my glass container but it wasn't so secure. It also looked awful. So I went out to the garden with a couple of friends and we clipped some branches and bent them into the jars. With the most careful hands ever I tied thread onto the chrysalis and tied them to the branches hanging upside down just as they are supposed to be. In less than two weeks we will have painted lady butterfly's!

This whole process has been very interesting and I've learned so much about it. To actually have the life cycle models on our shelf for the children to use and explore is great but to see it unfold for real is extraordinary. I know we are all enjoying the nature table so much!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cooking for Twenty four

Most days I am at the school early to get a jump start on the lunch menu. Today was no exception. As I was chopping vegetables with a couple of the children in the kitchen I heard a mom say how good it smelled already!

The truth is I love cooking and cooking for your children is something I take very seriously. I work hard at making sure the presentation is appealing and I am BIG on flavor and ingredients. If you spoke with the staff they might tell you I am a bit off the rails! I can not tolerate the pasta over cooked and it is a big no no to mess up a special lunch for someone with special food needs. I like to think that I am not a control freak. I tell everyone I am just giving it my best and I would expect no less from anyone else.

Many parents have been asking for recipes for the various things we cook at the school. I hear you loud and clear and just want to say I am working on a cook book because I have nothing better todo with my time!

With this in mind I would like to add art work by and photos of your children who are so much a part of the daily cooking at the school. So today, as I was in my groove getting lunch ready I thought I would show you what that looks like. I will be sure to include the recipe for my Southwest Soup and Pumpkin Muffins in the cookbook!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Sweeping Square

Last night I taught a class on Montessori Practical Life exercises and ideas. One of the ideas I shared was the sweeping square.

The sweeping square is just brilliance if you ask me. I came across this idea and implemented it in our classroom.
Have you ever noticed children want to help you sweep but they don't know how or where to sweep to?

The tapped square is the point at which all the dirt is collected. We generally have a few tapped on the floor in our classroom in different places so there is always one handy.

We also, have this set up as work on our shelf so that the children can practice their sweeping. In our presentation tray we have a small dish of kidney beans for pouring on the floor and a small child size dustpan and hand broom.

First, the child takes the tray from the shelf and sets it on a table. Next, the child pours the dish of beans onto the floor. As you can see and well imagine they go everywhere and this
is very exciting.

The child then goes to collect the broom from it's hanging place on the wall and proceeds to sweep the beans into the square on the floor. When the beans are all into the square the child then takes the small handheld broom and dust pan to sweep the beans into. The beans are then poured back into the presentation dish and ready for the next child's turn.

As I was coming into the classroom this morning with some of the materials I borrowed for last night I decided to put the sweeping work out again for our children. I didn't think much of it at the time . However, it was the most popular piece of work that the children did over and over again today.

Sometimes it really is the simplest things that make a child so happy and helpful!
I encourage you to take some time and start your day at home with a tapped sweeping square on your kitchen floor. I can guaranty you will never want for a swept floor again and if your worried about the the sticky residue of the tape, use painters tape as it can stay in place for two weeks and won't leave a sticky residue. When I figure out how to get the floor washed with ease I will be sure to let you know!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Soup's On!

Dandelion Soup, Dandelion Soup

If I don't get some

I think I'm gonna Droop.

I had this “Dennis Lee Moment” today as I was watching a group of children throwing dandelions into a giant mud puddle at the park. The excitement generated by this activity was amazing. What makes a mud puddle so captivating? I found the process fascinating. At first all the dandelions floating in the puddle looked quite pretty. Festive even. Then they got the sticks. They stirred for several minutes when “F” excitedly exclaimed: “I have a new ingredient! Dandelion stumps!” So after the dandelion stumps had been added and stirred “L” said “It looks like chocolate pudding! Mmmm tastes good!” In response to my startled look in “L's” direction “C” assured me that: “He didn't ACTUALLY eat it!”

The dandelion soup made me think of the importance of this kind of sensory play. Seven children were around the same puddle smiling and talking with each other. They were engaged in cooperative play. They were working toward a common goal (Dandelion Soup) and they appeared to be valuing each others contributions.

I was also thinking of the art process. When the activity started it was quite beautiful with yellow dandelions floating in the puddle. An adult would have left it at that. Children seem to have the ability to think beyond that. A pretty product sometimes doesn't mean as much to children this age as a fun process. And believe me stirring up a pot of dandelion soup with dandelion stumps for added flavor is a fun process!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Road Trip/ Day Off

I try to take Fridays off. My daughter is going to school this September and I am trying to make the most of our time together. There are some days when I feel sad for her. My girl has had to go to preschool everyday for three years and she also had to share her mama with everyone else. While I would not have had it any other way, there were days when I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I am a parent that has to work full time. I really get that push /pull parents feel.

When Maple Tree first started it was just a part day program in the basement of my house with six children. I always said I wouldn't work full time until the children were at big school and didn't need me at home anymore. But, life happens and work becomes important and opportunities present themselves.

I treasure my Fridays off with my girl. Sometimes we are just home cleaning, doing the laundry or baking. But we are together just the two of us and we manage to to have some special time together.

Today we went to the Valley, Port Williams to be specific. We are part of a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture). We get a food box weekly from Taproot Farm www.taprootfarms.ca . A great deal of it gets used at Maple Tree and we use some of it at home. I am very grateful for and humbled by this box of food we get each week.

This past week the members got an email from Taproot asking if we had some spare time help was needed at the farm to weed the garlic patch. So away we went today to work at the farm. Let me say this, it wasn't enough time. I am not sure how they do it. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of leaving all the weeding that still needed to be done. I worked for an hour and a half. I honestly don't know how they do it and it makes me appreciate how very hard farmers work and how fragile daily life really is.

My girl and her little friend that joined us for the day were supposed to weed, but the pull of the trampoline was just too great! So I weeded and they jump, swayed in the hammock, lunched in the play structure. They stopped only to skip around and eat apples! We did, after some time find the most beautiful skeletons/seed pods left from tamotillos the summer before. With the sun shinning down (yes it was sunny) on them they were the most beautiful silver color. The girls collected them for an art activity and I kept weeding. I let the girls set the pace for today. They let me know when they were done at which point we had a tour of the farm. We got to see the pigs, chickens and sheep.

We also got to walk through Swallows Nest which use to be a Waldorf School. It felt secret and special and I am so in love with the house. I can see in my mind how this woman who no longer lives here use to teach her children and how magical the gardens are. The trees felt like they were whispering to us to come and play. I just might have to plan a staff retreat/workshop for the lovely ladies of Maple Tree this summer.

Our day ended with a stop at Fox Hill Cheese house for Ice Cream. It is the BEST I have ever tasted!

What an amazing day. Thanks for the email about the weeds this week Patricia! Happy Weekend Everyone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Week....

This week we are watching with keen eyes our Butterfly Larvae. They have grown so much since last week and trust me, while they might look small to you, they have doubled in size. We are learning about the life cycle of a butterfly and what will happen to our Painted Lady Butterfly's after they turn into a butterfly. We will be able to release them outside when the time comes. So, we will observe a life cycle with this project and then say goodbye! For those of you interested we got these from www.sciencekit.com.

With all this interest in life cycles, we have set up water color painting of the life cycle of a flower at the art table. I am sure you have already noticed the beautiful paintings in the entry way. We are actually using real water color paper and paints! I also discovered water color pencils recently and I LOVE them! They are super easy to use and the children have enjoyed using them and seeing what happens when you add water with a brush. The ones we have used are by Faber Castell and you can get them at your local art supply shop.

We also took some time this week to enjoy the smell of Magnolia blooming in our classroom. How is your week shaping up? Are you as tired of this rain as we are?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Sound and Study of Birds

We've been looking at and listening to native birds. I had some work set up on the shelf that was intended for our older children. It has been a huge amount of work and I am glad to see it go. It is not that I did not enjoy it, it is just that it took three weeks to do this work.

In Montessori you can not rush, or have your own agenda when it comes to work and the children. So while I was hoping to have completed this work sooner it is now just finished or being finished up by some of the children.

I had a mom sit on our bench at the door today and say, "Did she do this today"! I explained that although this was indeed a lot of work, it was completed over the last three weeks. The parent seemed so surprised which in turn surprised me a little.

Earlier today I mention to the other teachers how I have been noticing all the lovely little gifts that are unfolding in our classroom by way of developmental growth. Not only are the children surprising us with their abilities with language and math work but emotionally and physically they are growing and have evolved so much since September.

I say this time of year is like Christmas for me. I see all of the hard work and effort not only from the teachers but the children paying off . I see it when I child can finally handle scissors and cut their work out with ease. I see it when someone who had trouble expressing them self and could only scream in frustration, use their soft and lovely voice now. I see it in the courtesy they give their peers when sharing simple tasks such as setting the tables for lunch or helping get gear on for play ground.

So, while this work coming home seems incredibly big, remember this, it is big and your child is simply amazing.

A Composition on Decomposition

On Friday several young scientists from Mapletree Montessori School helped me set up an experiment about composting. Miss Michelle purchased a See-Through Compost Container for our school. It is divided into three sections and is designed to show the process of decomposition and the rate of decomposition of different materials.

We put apple peelings in one section, paper towel in another and a Styrofoam cup in the third Section. We filled each section with soil and watered each section. After we finished setting up the experiment I went around the table and asked each child which material they thought would decompose first, second and third. Here is their hypothesis:


Apple Peeling

Paper Towel

Styrofoam Cup





























When I posed the question “ Why do you think the apple peeling will decompose first?” AA's answer was “Because the apple gets rotten.”

When I asked “Why do you think the paper towel will decompose first SG said: “Because it is easy to rip when it gets wet.”

I think that this is a wonderful experiment because it lets the children observe first hand the environmental impact of what we throw away.

We will be carefully observing and recording our findings. Please come back to the blog for our updates.

Submitted by: Ms. Melanie

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Photographer or Scientist?

On Friday Morning I heard an excited voice say “Miss Stephanie, come
over here!” I looked over and saw C standing at the Nature Table
looking at all the different organisms. As soon as I walked over, he
points to the jar with the crabs and said “This one has red eyes.
This one is trying to get out.” We both observed the crabs for a
couple minutes and I took a picture of the crab “trying to get out”.
Once C saw me take a picture he asked “Do you want me to take a
picture of that?”, pointing to the tadpoles. How could I say no, so I
handed him my camera. He looked at the viewfinder for a couple
seconds, framing his picture, and then pushed the button. It was as if
he was a professional photographer. “Do you want me to take another
one?” he asked. Once the picture was taken C pointed at the
viewfinder showing the picture and said “That's a picture of the fish
eggs there.” C looked intently at the picture and then looked at the
Nature Table and asked “Do you want me to take a picture of them all
at the same time?” After I replied “yes” C immediately framed his
picture in the viewfinder and pressed the button, with an enormous
grin on his face! (The picture is all the stuffed birds on the second
shelf - I guess he did not want to forget them!) Then in an excited
tone said “I want to show you all the pictures!”, so we sat down
together and looked at all his photographs together!
The Nature Table is always very popular with the children, especially
this past week because we have frog eggs, tadpoles, crabs, and
butterfly larvae! There might be some future biologists at MTM!!

Submitted by: Ms. Stephanie

Friday, May 6, 2011

An unexpected visitor today!

Today we had some visitors from Seaside Farm come into the school with their new baby chicks. One of the children that attends the school introduced us to his new little friend "Coopey". "Coopey" is an Americauna - blue/green layer know as the Easter egg Chicken. We also met another chick who doesn't have a name yet. This chick is black and known as the Cuckoo Maran- a French breed that lays very dark brown eggs known as the Chocolate layer.

The chicks were a lot of fun to see and touch. I am sorry my pictures are not that clear. There was a lot of excitement and moving going on during that time hence the blurry photos. It was too much fun not to show you though and it also meant we brought out our copy of, "Freckle and the Chicks" to read at the end of our morning. Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rhubarb Cake

This time of the year always takes me back to my childhood. Yesterday, in the taproot box we got rhubarb. I was immediately taken back to rural Nova Scotia in my grandparents kitchen waiting for my Nan to take the warming pot of stewed rhubarb off the stove. Stewed Rhubarb was often an after school treat with toast. Sometimes my mom made it for us for breakfast. So yummy. I have not made stewed rhubarb for my children because I am not sure texturally it would go over so well with the fussy eaters at our house. I do however, make the most divine rhubarb cake.

This morning very early I got up to make a second one for the children at Maple Tree. Last night I made one for our family and I thought it would be a real treat for my Maple Tree family to have it for dessert today. Here's hoping they love it as much!

Rhubarb Cake

1 1/2 Cups sugar
2/3 Cup vegetable oil
1 Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Cup Plain yogurt (buttermilk works also)

21/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt

11/2 Cups Rhubarb

Mix wet ingredients together and in a separate bowl mix dry ingredients together. Add the chopped rhubarb to the dry ingredients and then mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Stir until just blended together. Pour into a cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for approx 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bake until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Painting of a Master Piece

I need to start this post off by saying SPOILER ALERT!!!! MOTHER'S DAY PROJECT! Please stop reading if you wish to be surprised.

I am loving the Usborne Art Treasury right now and am in a very big way doing art with your children at the school lately. Earlier in the year we looked a Van Gogh's fourteen Sunflowers and recently we looked at and painted our own Starry Night.

Today, we did more painting. This time on canvases for Mother's Day. I talked with the children about the process and how you can make layers when you are painting. We also talked about blending and how to soften your picture with brush smooshing.

It is easy to get caught up with details when you are a child and you are drawing a picture. I encouraged the children to use a pencil on their canvas first and then to paint over the pencil as the pencil is merely a guide for the paint brush. We looked more closely at our art book and then we got into the business of paint and mixing colors. So much fun today. I helped soften edges and I helped to put flowers and sheep into pictures.
I even had the children squint their eyes to look at the painting so that they could see that even though the sheep did not have a painted face we knew it was a sheep. We talked about how things look far away and up close. We talked about the ocean, storm clouds, hills, forests, flowers and sheep.

I will post some of the paintings when they are finished, after Mother's Day because I want you to be surprised and I know you are reading this because you could not possibly wait to find out what we were doing. I will say this, they are the most beautiful paintings I have ever had the privilege of viewing. It felt like I was at a private art gallery today. That gives me another idea! We should pretend we are at an art gallery later this week so that we may all enjoy this art.