Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Butterfly Paint-My First Guest Blogger

Today I welcome, Lini Ecker, the teacher of the twos program at our school, to be my first guest blogger. 

 My class has been observing the life cycle of the butterfly. Our caterpillars started out tiny, got nice and fat and then suspended themselves from the top of their sealed cup. We got to see them form chrysalises, but unfortunately they did not emerge as butterflies before our last day of class. That did not stop us from talking about the butterflies they would become and indulging in one of my favorite butterfly art projects.

I set out manila folders, paint cups with tongue depressors and foam rollers (which are fun, but completely optional).

The children used the tongue depressors to splatter paint spots around the inside of the folder, then they closed the folder, smoothing it first with their hands and then rolling over it with the roller.

The exciting part is opening the folder to see the symmetrical pattern the colors made as they spread and blended together.

Usually the children like to go back  and forth a few times adding more paint splatters, then closing and rolling it until they are satisfied with the results. The folders are sturdy and can stand up to a good amount of paint without ripping as paper would.

After the paint dried I cut the folders into butterfly shapes and hung them all around the room. Older children can cut them with a little assistance. I buy manilla folders from Costco, they are very inexpensive and great for many art projects.

Thank you, Lini, for this great idea!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 4: Spaghetti Painting

We spent almost all of our last day outside.  Luckily the rain stopped so we could do our spaghetti painting outside.  I have done this activity inside before by plastering the wall, floor and ceiling with large art paper, but outside is much easier.

Of course, my camera died right as the activity began, but one of the parents had a video camera and posted this video of the experience.

This was a family picnic day which is why you see so many adults standing around and hear so much chatting.

To do this:
simply boil a box of spaghetti
drain it
put it into a large bowl
add about 2 cups tempera paint-we used glitter paint-very festive
mix and put out for the children

Just make sure it has cooled down enough to prevent any injuries.
Its great to feel it warm and fresh, but not hot.
I used 4 pounds and made each pound a different color.
We lined our large outdoor easels with paper and let them have a go!  We even had many parents trying it.
Once they've used the spaghetti in the bowls, they can scoop it from the ground and give it another toss.

Ours even made it into the outdoor kitchen and became add ins to the cooking going on there.  Mud pie- spaghetti salad anyone?

Now to prevent any extra visitors from the animal families around the school, we did rake up all of the spaghetti at the end of the activity.

I do know there is controversy about using food in art projects.  I have posted about this activity before and have read and responded to the comments about this practice. I respect the various opinions on this topic.

Our population does not have issues with lack of food and for 99 cents, a box of spaghetti is an affordable art medium providing a unique sensory experience.

Try it!

A farewell to ALL of my butterflies

A little over a week ago, I shared  my last day with my fours class. The last day is such a bittersweet time.

It is a celebration of a fantastic year learning and playing together. But it is also a goodbye to the children and parents with whom I have spent the last nine months sharing my days.

I have a few special traditions that I like to do on this day.

As a going away present each family receives a three ring binder full of art work, documented stories the children have shared, song lyrics of favorite tunes from the year and more than 20 pages of collaged photos from the year.  It also holds the child's placemat, cubby name tag, graph magnet, mailbox label and many other items used in the daily workings of our literacy rich classroom.  It is a highly anticipated present by any parent familiar with this tradition.

We have a family picnic sharing potluck brunch treats and play on our playground-the last post on our messy week is coming soon explaining our spaghetti painting that was part of this play.  Moms, dads, siblings and even grandparents often join us!

The children share a special song-this year as we were just finishing a study on insects, we made props for "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly".

And I read my favorite last day story, The Wise Woman and her Secret which also gets a blog post of its own.

This year we had the bonus activity of letting our butterflies go.  The last of the five caterpillars emerged from its chrysalis just in time to be released on our last day.  I was so thankful that it stopped raining for this occasion as well, as they should not be released in rainy weather.

As the children and I let them go, I could not help but reflect on the growth and changes I had seen in each of my students.  They have emerged from our little red school house-their chrysalis for the last three years for many of them-and are ready to be life long learners.

Because they have experienced learning through play, they have made the connection that learning is fun, that they are valued contributers to their learning and that they can do anything they set their minds to do.

Like our butterflies were on this day, some are hesitant to go and some are ready to soar away.

I wish them all good luck as their journeys continue.

Dear Kindergarten Teacher

This is the letter I would like to send to the next teacher of each of my students.

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

In a couple of months you will be getting the students that I, as a preschool teacher, have listened to, played with, marveled at, nurtured, supported, guided and loved for the past nine months. They are excited about school and learning.  They think it is a magical place where their ideas are heard, their strengths are valued, their abilities are accepted and play IS their work.  They know they are writers, readers, scientists, mathematicians, artists, builders, actors, friends and problem solvers.  They believe that their questions are important and that when they have one, they should seek an answer by investigating, experimenting, repeating, reading, observing, looking on line and talking to experts.

They know reading is enjoyable and brings pleasure as well as information.  They know that when you want to pass along information to someone you write.  They know how to tell a story and are learning to tell these stories with their pictures and their writing.  They understand that math is important because it allows us to do things such as have enough snack for everyone, make sure there is a place for each friend or decide on a choice.  

They know this because we have been writing letters to each other and visitors,  we’ve made lists when we’ve needed items, made save signs when we didn’t want a building knocked down, we’ve graphed our choices every day, we’ve read a morning message and used its information to guide our day, we’ve counted our napkins, our food and our friends.  We’ve done real problem solving each and every day. 

Through our play, these children have increased their vocabularies and language skills reenacting places we have visited or have read about in books.  They have used materials, lots of materials, in creative and innovative ways.  They have learned about pattern, shape, color, symmetry, shading, texture and so much more by touching, taping, gluing, painting, sculpting, mixing, rolling and cutting.  They have learned about balance, volume, area, measurement and cause and effect by building, pouring, sifting, and digging. 

They know the joy of singing and creating music and moving their bodies.  They know that moving often makes them feel good and allows them to focus on their surroundings.  These children love to be outside.  They know that there is so much to discover about the way the world works by looking at nature, and moving water, and mixing mud and running.  They know that they do not melt in rain, and do not get sick by playing in the snow. 

They are coming to you knowing so much.
I understand that your job is difficult.  I taught kindergarten myself for nine years.  The age range is enormous, the abilities vary widely, the previous experiences of your students will differ greatly and the academic pressures are incredible. 

Despite these issues, I implore you to please remember that PLAY should still be the work of these children when they come to you.  Fight to keep your centers, engage them in real experiences, let them touch, take apart, build, express themselves artistically and read and write for meaning.  Get them outside every day.  Keep their days joyful.  They are ready to be life-long learners.  It is now in your hands to keep them this way.  

Your Students' Preschool Teacher

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simple Sensory Table Idea: Pom Poms & Chopsticks

I had been collecting several different plastic trays that had indentations in them of various sizes.

I added them to the sensory table along with a ton of pom poms of various sizes and child friendly chopsticks.

The children had a blast using the chopsticks to pick up the pom poms and then deciding how to use the trays.

  Excellent activity to reinforce one-one correspondence and great fine motor exercise!

Check out other great play ideas at this wonderful sharing site:-)

It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow

Day 3: Ooblick

On the third day of the last week of school, we borrowed the sensory table from the three's classroom to make two huge bins of ooblick.

Ooblick is simply a mixture of cornstarch and water.

I poured in all the boxes of cornstarch that I could find in the school (which, luckily, was a lot since we like to get creative with potions often at our school) and added water.  I probably had about three boxes in each table.

Unfortunately, I added too much water.  The mixture was too watery and didn't get to that stage where it gets a bit hard until you pick it up and then it magically becomes liquid again making it so much fun to use.

We were out of cornstarch and I had eager explorers ready for some goo, so we added flour.
This did thicken things up a bit.

What I wasn't expecting was how much the children loved going from one sensory table to the other.....feeling the two mixtures, adding from one to the next.  I really should have had the two tables directly next to each other.

It was another gloriously messy day learning science through our play.

Note: I did make sure to dump the mixture as well as wash the sensory tables outside as adding the flour made the potion more like a glue which could have caused problems to our plumbing.

Day 2: This time the slime is called Gak

On Monday evening after reflecting on the day’s slimy events, I happened to see a post about Gak from the creative woman behind Tinker Lab.

There are so many recipes for Gak out there, and I knew I had made a concoction before with Borax, but forgot the proportions. The timing on her post was perfect!  Thank you.

We used Rachelle's recipe which was for individual portions and each child made his/her own:

Mix 4-6oz warm water with 4oz white glue in one bowl with a splash of liquid water color
Mix 1 tsp Borax and 1/2 cup water in the other bowl 
Then slowly pour the contents of one bowl into the other while mixing (we used our hands for this part)
Continue mixing until the consistency changes.

The children loved the process of creating the Gak and then continued to explore the substance for a long time discovering ….

that it moves after you make it in to a tall shape on your tray....

that it jiggles in the air....

that you can cut it.....

that it sticks to things and picks them up...

                               that you can make impressions in it....

                                            but then they disappear....

                                            that it is very, very stretchy.....

 that it bounces.....

that when you rub it, it breaks into tiny pieces, but you can squish them all right back together...

and that you can fit it nicely into a sandwich size baggie so it can be sent home for the explorations to continue!  Clean up from this slimy experience was much, much easier than the day before.