Planting and Growing

The last two weeks, we have planted fruits and veggies in the garden, and we planted sunflowers that will come home mid-May. We also checked in with our oak tree in see how it is doing in the spring weather. We planted watermelon, kale, and radishes. The Fireflies hope to sample  Kale and radishes before the end of school. The children  enjoyed digging in the soil and hunting for worms as we palnted the seeds. We also planted sunflowers that the children will take home after they sprout. By the fall the sunflowers will be 5-7 feet tall so find a place in your yard to replant it, once it is too big for the original container. All the talk about seeds and growing reminded us of our remaining oak tree. Each child got a chance to measure and record how tall the tree has grown( 11 centimeters). At Circle Time, we collected items that were the same height of of the tree and compared our items. 

Our sunflower activities focused on science, measurement, and writing. When we planted our seeds we discussed that it would need soil, sun and water to grow. We noticed that some of the seeds looked different from each other and notices the different color flowers on the seed packet. Each child practiced writing letters as they guessed what color thier sunflowers would be. At cirle time, we discussed that out flowers would be "about as tall as Meaghan."  Sixty inch measuring tapes were handed out and the children found items that were as long as or tall as the sunflowers will be. The rugs and  one of the tables in our room were the right size and outside in the gazebo yard,  the fence, bridge and gazebo were sunflower size as well. We also drew pictures of ourselves, the fullgrown sunflower  and something that will be the same size as the sunflower.

Tree Update!

The MWF class observe our healthy tree and compared it to the other trees with brown spots on thier leaves. Each child drew a picture of the healthy tree and one of the sick trees.The five trees that had started to grow suffered a series of misfortunate events. The littlest sprout stopped growing and died. Three trees contracted a brown spot disease that looked to be fatal.  Our love bird was fond off the trees and tried landing on them several times. We had one healthy tree, and then all of the trees were knocked over! We rescued the healthy tree and replanted it. After the spring thaw, our remaining tree will be put outside and hopefully it will hang on!

The healthy tree had six leaves, but....

our friend, Tweety, liked the liitle oasis of nature in our room. He knocked off two branches trying to land on the tree. Tweety, we still love you!

 

This morning was sunny and beautiful and our Nest Zester was full. It took two weeks for both classes to cut enough yarn to fill the suet feeder. I made rulers out of large craft sticks and the children measured and snipped yarn pieces.  Cutting yarn proved to be a difficult task but every child was ready for the challenge.  We gathered on the steps of the porch to discuss what yard should we hang the Nest Zester and the class quickly decided the Gazebo Yard was the ideal place.

We had to look for a tree that I could reach and after a couple of tries we found the trees by the Taxi Yard gate. Hopefully birds will notice the colorful yarn, fly over grab a piece and add a little zest to their nest!

Bird Plans!

As an extension of our tree experiment, we have started a bird study in the last few weeks. When a new topic of study is introduced, we generate two lists: what we already know about the topic and what we want to know. The BIRD lists are hanging in the room underneath the bulletin boards, please ask your child to show you the lists, it will make you smile. As part of designing a study, I often involve the children in the planning process as this increases their excitement and level of interest in the topic. I wanted to take the children on a bird walk today(see previous blog post), but I was disappointed because the weather ruined my plans. This was the perfect time to see what ideas the Fireflies could generate to add to our  Bird study.  At Circle Time,  we read Riki’s Birdhouse and I asked what activities from the book did the Fireflies want to do in our classroom. Of course, the first idea was...BUILD A BIRDHOUSE! Luckily, the book has detailed instructions and Laurie is headed to the lumber store for us (Thank You!). Blair wanted to to a make a special project for the bird's nests. Mills wanted to feed the birds and Bodie wanted to spread out the bird seed across the playground. Jason wants to make special bird treats and dig for worms. Charlie wants to build a bird bath. Cerys wants to make our own bird nests and Meghan wants to put in colorful yarn to make them rainbow! We decided as a group to make a bird journal. Andrew was absent today but I know he will love practicing our woodworking skills in preparation for building the bird house.

Often the children's ideas often overlap with what I have already planned, and so I was particularly pleased that I could implement a  "special project for the bird's nest" right away. We set to work on making Nest Zest, pieces of yarn 4 to 8 inches in length that the birds can grab from the Nest Zester, a wire bird feeder. I explained that the children will need to use a ruler to measure(Math Skill!) the yarn before they cut it(Scissor Skills!) Spring is approaching so we are going to work hard to fill our Nest Zester, so the birds will grab the string and build colorful nests with them!

Do you hear what I hear?

The Tuesday/Thursday class went on a bird walk this week.  I wasn’t sure how successful we would be but as soon as we went outside the children had their eyes and ears ready to spot and hear birds. We saw a flock of geese by the pond beside our school, and then a hawk flew above our heads.  “Caw Caw!" Sasha quickly declared, “I heard it!” and Drew identified the bird song was from a crow.  We heard a another bird song  but couldn’t see the bird, but  Riley K. said the sound made a “Chickadeedeedee” sound.  Suddenly, we heard a “Weegaaa, Weeegaaa, Weegaaa” and followed that sound to the Bicycle Yard. Under the pine trees, Aidan picked up pine needles and said, “Birds can use these!” and Riley K.  agreed saying, “Yeah, in their nests!”  Our most exciting discovery, was waiting under the pine trees, a beautiful scattering of yellow, black, and grey feathers! Luis pointed out, the different sizes of the feathers and we also noticed a second type of downy feather was lying on the ground as well.  Each child collected one feather and I picked up the rest for later study in our classroom. As we were walking inside, Marcella joined the class late that day and didn’t have a feather and Riley P.  promptly  gave her feather to Marcella! Upon returning to the room,  each child put their feather  in a baggie to bring home. Don’t worry, Mathin, we saved one for you!

At Circle Time, I read the book birdsongs and we talked about all the different sounds we heard on our walk.  After Circle, each child came to the table to work with me one on one, to make a list of the Bird Songs from our walk. Each child remembered a sound from our walk and copied the letters to write the words: CAW, HONK, CHICKADEEDEEDEE, PIPIT,  OR WEEEEGAAA. The Firefly children were extremely interested in this writing project and repeatedly asked for their turns. It gave them an opportunity to associate  letters with  their sounds, practice writing, forming the letters and proper pencil grip. Later this week I will introduce the word: Ornithologist: a zoologist who studies birds; Bird Watcher. I wonder which child will be up to the task of copying that big word!

Math is FUN!

The Fireflies have been, counting, recording, estimating, and measuring...

Last week we played a game called Zitternix. The children work  together to keep the sticks steady as they remove one stick at a time from the structure. After the structure falls, the group counted the sticks they were able to remove. We tried to beat our previous record each time we played. The Fireflies love this game and have no idea that one of the reasons I like to put out this game is the children practice counting with one-to-one correspondence.

 

The MWF class used every unit block in the room to build a road that stretched across the room. Every child at one point during play time added blocks to the road. Building the road involved using spatial relationships and reasoning skills as the children told each were the blocks should go . They built lego cars and the forest animals traveled on the road. When all the blocks were used up, I asked the children how many blocks did they think were in the road. I wrote down all their estimations and then we counted all the blocks. Then We compared our estimations to the actual number of blocks.

 

Yesterday, I had the pipe cleaner box set out, so we could sort out the brown pipe cleaners for a tree project. The children set out on their assigned task,and when they had sorted out the browns, they weren't quite done. Children made bouquets and graciously gave them Laurie and I. Drew started building a line, twisting the ends of pipe cleaners together. We started sorting out all the different colors and pretty soon every child in the class squeezed in around the box. Children sorted and moved on and came back to the project as they pleased. By the end of the activity, we had a very tidy box and Drew had a very long line. The pipe cleaner line was longer than our room, so we look it out in to the hallway. The Fireflies laid down next to the line and it was longer than six children!

 

 

 

 

Baby it's cold outside...

But it's warm in here! Warm enough to grow trees.

Five trees flourished over break, and the other  11 are outside for a deep freeze. Upon return to school, we labeled the five trees with numbers from shortest to tallest. At circle times that week, the Fireflies observed and analyzed the similarities and differences between the growing trees. ..

“Tree 5 and 4 both have six leaves.”

“Tree 3 has a cracked acorn but Tree 2 does not.”

“The stems on the all the trees are red”

“Tree two has buds and the other trees have leaves”

“I can’t see the roots any more.”

Please read more of the children’s observations, they are posted in the room under the bulletin board. After the observation and discussion, each child made an observational drawing to document and “draw what you see.”  The children noticed differences in height, color, number or leaves, buds on the small tree trunks.  The drawings are impressive and on display in the room and hallway.

Week of December 10, 2012

We haven’t forgotten our acorns. We spent November exploring textures of tree bark and leaves, counting the trees in all the different yards at Fairville & graphing our data and making our family trees for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, most our of acorns have grown roots and two have stalks. In other words, we have baby trees! We have diligently watered our acorns, watched and recorded our observations in our individual Growing An Acorn Books. A few children’s acorns have not grown at all, and these acorns will placed outside for the winter, as they may need to be dormant in order to grow in the spring(fingers crossed). We discussed at Circle time last week, the possibility that only a few acorns might grown into trees. Only having two sprouts at this point might mean that the baby trees would become class trees instead of individual ones. We also transplanted the sprouts/seedlings that seemed to need more room to bigger containers. There are many acorns with roots that look promising and hopefully will produce stalks as well.  I have high hopes for this experiment; we will see how it pans out. I will be taking the plants home with me over break as my dining room has excellent morning light. In January, I am hoping to obtain a growing lamp(anyone have one they are not using?) to foster their growth back in the Firefly Room. Plants typically don’t grow well in the Firefly Room as the covered porch blocks direct sunlight. 

 

Week of December 3, 2012

The Fireflies have been interested in the letters of their names.  This week, we had a Letter Hunt in the room. At Circle Time, each child received an envelope with their name on it and had to find the letters in their name in the correct order. This last direction was hard to follow, if a child recognized a letter that was in their name but hadn’t they had found the proceeding letter they were not allowed to pick up the out of order letter.  When a child found all their letters, they put their envelope on the rug and helped a friend find their letters. After the hunt was done and all the letters all accounted for, we gathered on the rug to spell out our names. This was a good opportunity to point out that names (and other words) start at the left .  Having spelled our names, we played a letter game; I would announce a letter and if the letter was in a child’s name, they were to stand up. A visual cue was provided if necessary. The Letter Hunt  was so popular that we held another hunt  the next school day as soon as the children entered the Firefly Room!

Week of November 26 2012

You may have noticed the black and white art work hanging in the hallway and around our room. We used an art and literacy tool called Thinking With A Line.  The children dipped small thin plastic rectangles in ink and used the edge to print lines on their paper. As each child begins the process of printing with a line, they explore spatial relationships, literacy, geometrical thinking and the beginnings of design.   One child discovered he could make X’s when he crossed the lines, another  made boxes and other children enjoyed printing lines every which way. After their creations dried, each child had the opportunity to share their pictures at Circle Time.  As we revisit the process throughout the year, the children will create more complex signs, patterns and structures as they become more familiar with the process.

Many Hands, Make Light Work...

Fairville survived Hurricane Sandy, but many branches and sticks have fallen off the trees. This was a perfect opportunity for the children to learn about one of the Quaker testimonies. We gathered together beforehand, and I told the children about a big word…Stewardship.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as:

STEWARDSHIP : the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care

Mills, a serious branch collector.

The challenge is not only translating the definition of stewardship in away 3 and 4 year olds can understand, “Stewardship is another way of saying taking care of the earth,” but finding an activity that is concrete and meaningful in order to live out the testimony. Living out stewardship meant that we were picking up branches and sticks today. A simple activity with a greater purpose…

We collected the branches and put them in a pile.

One Little Acorn...

 

It started in the peace garden, the children noticed acorns falling from the oak tree and bouncing off various items in the yard. We started collecting them.  This coincided with a family nature walk on the weekend, my daughter, walking through the woods, found the biggest acorns we had ever seen. She collected them as well. I brought the acorns in to show the Fireflies. We sorted and counted them on the table in the morning. We had a circle time in which we each grabbed a handful of acorns and each child made a guess or an estimation of how many acorns they were holding. We recorded our guesses on a chart (it is now hanging on the door to the covered porch). Then each child revealed the acorns in their hands and we counted them aloud. We compared our guesses to the actual amount. Which group has more? How many more could you hold than you thought? We even painted with the acorns, which you can check out the results hanging in the hallway.  The huge acorns from my daughter’s nature walk had been in the room a week and I noticed some of them had started to sprout. The fireflies were excited and we decided to take action. We planted the acorns, we are growing trees! The fireflies are going to study trees!

We discussed at circle time that plants need water, sun and soil. I read the classic book, The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. If you don’t remember this title the book begins with…"A little boy planted a carrot seed. His mother said, 'I'm afraid it won't come up."  The little boy is told by his whole family that the carrot won’t grow, but he persists, has faith, tends the seed and… "And then, one day, a carrot came up just as the little boy had known it would." I suggested we have the opportunity to make our own story about our own acorn seed, but it would take a long time, perhaps the entire school year for our trees to grow. So each child chose an acorn and planted it in a clear cup. I encouraged them to place the acorn near the edge of the cup so we could observe it as it grows. We gathered as a group to observe and draw pictures of our plantings. We will continue to record our observations in individual journals throughout the year. The children have faith, but don’t tell the Firefies, I’m afraid “it won’t come up!”

 

   

Fireflies Aglow

September was busy and my little Firefly Friends are adjusting to a new school year. We spent the first few weeks learning a new school routine. The children enjoyed several Circle Time games designed to learn each other’s names. The Name Challenge was the culmination; I asked the children to hide their eyes and I picked one child to hide behind a blanket, then the children could open their eyes and guess who was missing. The children loved this game and we quickly had to make the game harder by hiding two people at a time!  We ended the game with silliness by hiding everyone under the blanket at the same time. The giggles and smiles as we all hid under the blanket brought a sense of unity within our class.


September has also been about setting the stage for the rest of the year.  The Tools of our Classroom has been a topic at circle time. Each tool has a job and a story to tell. We learn or review how to use each tool and sing a little song to help us remember.   We spend a lot of time in the beginning of the year with Tools of our Classroom to promote independence, build self confidence, and work on fine motor skills.  As a result, the Fireflies respect and learn how to take care of our classroom materials.

The Peace Garden is a new addition to Fairville this year. Teachers and children are both enjoying this new place to explore and learn that peace is more than being quiet or saying I’m sorry. Our introduction to the Peace Garden began with celebrating International Peace Day.  The second week of school, we mixed cement, poured the cement into a mold and decorated stepping stones to be a part of the walkway that leads into the Peace Garden.  Each class made a stepping stone and we held Meeting for Worship in the Peace Garden to share each classes’ creation.  Since then the Fireflies visit the garden several times a week. Before we go in, we spend a few moments to relax; I ask the kids to raise their hands over their heads and breathe out as they bring their hands down to their sides. This simple action tells the children the Peace Garden is a special place and our bodies are calmer as we walk across the stepping stones. The children love the wooden amadinda, the wrench xylophone and the propane tank drum. New benches arrived for the children to relax on and the outdoor easel is popular as well. In the center of the garden are several discovery boxes, where the children can build, investigate and create with natural materials.


I am looking forward  to continuing our Friendship Bracelet activity this week. This project began as a fine motor activity as we cut up straws to make “beads” that will be part of our bracelets. We are currently sorting all the different colors of straws, next we will sit together as a group, each with our own container of beads that contain only one color. As the children put the beads on their  pipe cleaner bracelet, each child will have to ask another child a different  bead if they would like to make a multicolored bracelet. Pictures will follow later this week…