Earth Day Activity: Keep it simple

Earth Day:  April 22nd

Earth Day kept simple may be one of the best ways to honor our environment.

In the name of simplicity, I love doing this activity with my children.  There is no stress and the ideas and conversation that comes from it is both bonding and fun.  Like many families, we spend a good amount of time exploring new natural spaces.  Beaches, woods, rivers, etc.  It is done enough that the children often start looking for interesting treasures.  I realize that there is some controversy over taking natural items home.  My approach has been to teach the children about the concept of abundance.  If there are thousands of rocks, for example,  we will not disrupt the beauty or balance by taking a few items.  The children and their connection to the natural world will also be a valuable asset to our natural balance in the future.

Often, when we get home we are excited to lay out our natural treasures.  At times, the fun is all in the sorting and observation of the items.  At times, we get to creating!  We pull our already accessible art supplies and …. see what happens.  A few things we discovered and enjoyed after some of our outings:

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1.  She loved painting the drift wood and some rocks with water.  The natural designs that emerged were enough to entertain her for a good amount of time.

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2011-2013 0752.  Drift wood that is still damp is really easy to carve.

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3.  A natural nesting puzzle.  I loved how this was discovered without my intervention or description….. just exploration.  He decided to paint them for his little sister to play with later.

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4.  Acorns make great treasures.

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After making several acorn treasures, questions started and more ideas came.

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He wondered about eating acorns.  I had forgotten about the whole process.  His exploration lead me to learn more about how to eat acorns and make acorn flour.  We were reminded about the tannins in them and the importance of processing them before eating them.  He wanted to keep exploring.  I let him do it and find the meaty centers.  It was a great opportunity to talk to him about natural items that are edible or not.  We were inspired to collect acorns to later process and we did get our collection.  Making the flour is still on the “to do” list.  What excites me it that we want to do it because of the questions and curiosity that came from this time with natural items.

For more inspiration:

Engaging Children’s Minds

“Children have a strong disposition to explore and discover. The Project Approach builds on natural curiosity, enabling children to interact, question, connect, problem-solve, communicate, reflect, and more. This kind of authentic learning extends beyond the classroom to each student’s home, community, nation, and the world. It essentially makes learning the stuff of real life and children active participants in and shapers of their worlds. “

http://www.projectapproach.org/

Place Based Preschool: Spring Dates

Place Based Preschool: Spring

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I am thrilled to work with children to expand their experience with two things I am passionate about: nature and creativity. Every session we explore together through play, investigations, art, and stories. The place based model helps children feel a sense of place by connecting and learning about the world around them. That can mean the natural world, their local town, the local bird population, or anything around them. The plan with the preschool sessions is to gather once a season to explore a topic within our “place.” I also enjoy asking the children to interpret what they learn through art (inspired by Reggio Emilia philosophy.) I have so much fun that I want to keep the experience; hence, the blog! The blog includes post from the place based sessions or other ways and ideas to share an appreciation for nature and creativity. The program is for 4 and 5 year old children. Enjoy!

Spring Session:

This spring we will have a six week session and meet every Thursday from 9:30-10:30 from May 2nd to June 7th. The class can hold approximately 8 children. We will meet in our classroom area at the Merrymeeting Arts Center or in a local natural area (TBD.) Enrollment is appreciated by April 30th. Families can register with the instructor or by contacting Merrymeeting Arts Center ( www.merrymeetingartscenter.org )

The topic for the spring session is still evolving; however, if you want a taste of our activity please feel free to peruse this blog.

Place Based Preschool Winter: Bird

Birds in the Winter

This week, we ended our winter session.  Spring had essentially arrived; therefore, I thought we could think about a common symbol of spring and also think about them in winter…. birds!  We used the felt rug to build a bird body for the winter.  We talked about their fat content, scaled feet, and feathers.  We also talked about their behaviors to help them adapt to the cold.  The children were able to pretend to be a bird in the winter.  When we moved to our investigation, the children quickly made observations about birds staying warm in the winter.  Features of the feathers and nest were presented to them.

place based preschool winter 2013 033“That must be a small bird”  Emma

place based preschool winter 2013 032Carol showed the children how the feather have the “zip” feature that helps the strands lock together.

We invited them to become a bird and collect nest making materials outside.  After their investigation, they had a good idea of what they wanted to collect.  The art project was building their own nest.

place based preschool winter 2013 036We used clay for the mud ingredient of a nest.

place based preschool winter 2013 038I also wanted them to complete their imaginative bird play by creating their own egg.  First we observed pictures of wild bird eggs.  I asked the children:   “If you were a bird, what kind of egg would you have?”

I should also mention the fun the children had playing “Bluejays and Juncos”

They each used a container to hide in a designated area outdoors.  The container serves as their nest.  One child is the Bluejay that will want to take their food.  This child counts to 25 and then starts searching for the nest.  The Juncos can run to the food source (parents with beans) and collect 5 beans at a time.  They collect as many as they can in a session to put into their nest.  The whole time they are collecting, the Bluejay is stealing from them but can only take 3 beans at a time.  When the game is finished they count their beans.  Three beans is for one baby chick.  How many were they able to feed?

Place Based Preschool Winter: Life under the Ice

Life under the Ice

When I knew that I was going to do a winter session for the Place Based Preschool, I was immediately inspired by thinking about under the ice.  The safest way to do this investigation in late winter was with a local pond.  We gathered near a nature trail in our town and began our session with some fun games and some review from our woods visit last week.  We found more tracks and the children had some immediate thoughts about them because of our investigation last week.

“I think that animal might have a tail because of that long mark.”  Caleb

place based preschool winter 2013 001Although, the children didn’t always get it right.  Their comments and inquiry were what I was looking for at this stage.  I feel the purpose of this class is to get the kids outside and thinking about the world around them.  Their thinking can go in many ways and I love to see what some children find fascinating and others just want to move on.  As long as they are surrounded by that wonderful natural environment and they are curious, I am happy.

After playing with snowshoes and looking for tracks, I introduced the children to a classic game called “Fox and Geese.”  It is a great way for children to enjoy the snow.  The group worked together to make our playing field.

1.  We used a person in the center and a rope to make a circle with our own tracks.

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2.  We used the rope to divide the circle into 6 equal parts.

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When we finished, we invited parents to play this unique tag game.  The hub (center) is safe and all the children are geese except for one, the fox.  As soon as a goose is tagged by the fox, they turn into the fox.  All children must stay on the tracks made.

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After the game, we were ready to take our walk to a local pond.  A friend was generous to let us visit her pond.  As we walked there, the children spotted some deer tracks.

place based preschool winter 2013 013When we arrived to the pond, we got wet feet on the edge, but the children successfully chopped through the ice and gathered some murky water.

place based preschool winter 2013 021place based preschool winter 2013 025place based preschool winter 2013 023If you decide to do this, the ice will be clear or a bit muddy and there will not be evidence of life immediately.  When the water is brought into a warm house, it feels like spring.  Tiny eggs will hatch and critters will appear.  I explained to the children that it is an experiment.  They may need to collect more than one time.  Luckily, my sample did produce a critter for the children to observe the following week.  Can you see it?place based preschool winter 2013 031I invited the children to think about their observations with an art project.

“How do I make so many legs?”  Nicholas

“I made a circle for the body.”  Ella

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“I hope my water gets one of those things.”  Calebplace based preschool winter 2013 030“Look at the head!”
Emma