29 November, 2010

Our Observatory

A long time ago in a classroom far, far away . . .

A group of children were learning about what is beyond the Earth.

To introduce this idea, I would love to have a star gazing night, when parents and children could meet me out in a field somewhere and look at the stars.  It would be chilly for sure, but in my little Utopia, we could all gather together somewhere cozy afterwards, and enjoy some hot chocolate.  Doesn't that sound wonderful?  Well, maybe after the holiday break, I will try out this idea with our principal and see what she says.  Until then however . . .

The children may visit our classroom observatory, 

lie down on the blankets, 

and gaze up at the stars and planets (which of course, glow in the dark!)

They might even spy Ursa Major!  

Whoops, don't forget to close the curtains, so it will be nice and dark in there!

Okay, now close the other side, 

and you're ready for star gazing.


Coming soon:  More outer space activities 
  • constellations on a light brite, 
  • Waldorf kite stars, 
  • painting planets, and 
  • Earth necklaces

Until then, Happy Star Gazing!  : )

28 November, 2010

A creche for the classroom

I have been thinking I would like to have a creche in the classroom.  I do work at a Catholic school, after all.  Honestly however, that wish has taken a back seat to more pressing matters (like our Thanksgiving Feast!)  Now that December is almost here, I found my wish for a creche had moved very quickly to the front burner!

We have a lovely creche at home that my own children play with, but I couldn't think what to use in the classroom . . .


After polling a group of lovely online friends and surveying their responses, I decided that my best bet (due to time and money constraints) would be to make my own creche.  My students may be a bit weary of wooden peg people, but I found them to be the perfect medium for this project!  I used acrylic paints on them, and some wool roving for Jesus' swaddling clothes.  So, without further ado, here is my classroom creche!

Oh, I guess there is a bit more ado.

I don't know if you can tell from the pictures below (because of the flash), but I painted all the people with the skin colors they might have had.  So Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the angel, the shepherds, and one of the kings have medium to dark toned skin.  I used a more "caucasian" color of flesh paint, and then I mixed in some darker colors until I thought it looked right.  The other two kings have a warm brownish and a lighter toned skin.  (I was wondering if they might have come from somewhere in Africa and Asia.)

Okay, so now here it is . . .

Mary and Joseph,

a couple of shepherds, 

the angel of the Lord,

the three kings,

and the baby Jesus (in his swaddling clothes),

and out of them (he might have to have his diaper changed after all)

and in them again, in his manger.

Here is the whole kit and kaboodle!

So bring it on, December!  I am ready!  Well, not really, but at least this one project is finished!  : )

What do you think?  If you celebrate Christmas, what kind of a nativity/creche set do you use with your children?  Leave a comment with a link if you have some pictures!  Thanks!

26 November, 2010

A Thanksgiving Nature Table

We've had a few snow flurries, plus I am compiling some things for our Winter nature table at school, 
so our Thanksgiving Harvest table looks distinctly Winter-ish.  It has . . .

a little owl (thanks to Honey and the nature swap!)  : )

another slightly wacky felt person . . .

a little winter angel . . .

a little Winter princess . . .

a little pink gnome and a felt snowman.  He's actually from Target, but I made the little gnome.

Some tree blocks, fun willow twig lights, and some rocks 
(collected from County Clare, Ireland and The Lake District, England)

I hope you all (Americans) had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I am very thankful for . . .
all my friends, new and old
my family
our sweet Nuala
all of my new readers who put up my wacky blogging : )
and for all the people around the world who are working for children, trying to make their lives interesting, safe, and fun

24 November, 2010

Woof! Woof!



Read this, and consider.

Once upon a time I read an article in an educational magazine about a Kindergarten teacher who brought her dog with her to school every day.  As I recall the article, the dog was a much beloved playmate.  He played with the children at recess, snuggled up with them at story time, and "kissed" away their tears anytime they were sad or hurt.

This is our family dog, Fionnuala.  We call her Nuala.  (For those non-Irish among you, that is pronounced "Noola.")  She looks like she is taking a pretty dim view of being photographed!  : )

Really and truly, ever since I read that article I have dreamed of having a dog in the classroom.  I guess it is important to note that I grew up in a family that always had at least one dog, if not two or three.  I love dogs, but aside from that, I can only imagine how truly amazing it would be for a PreK class to have a dog as a classroom pet.

I have dome some research into this and found examples of dogs in classrooms who help children read.  If a child is a tentative and nervous reader, he can read aloud to the dog.  If a child is lonely or needs to calm down a bit, she can sit quietly and stroke the dog's back.  The whole class can benefit from learning to care for a living being who can emotionally connect to the children. Children can also learn not to fear dogs, and now to correctly approach dogs with or without owners.

Here are two great quotes about the benefits of having dogs in the classroom.  Click on the quote to read the entire article.

According to Leslie Hendelman, a licensed clinical social worker with more than a decade's experience in the New York City public school system, pets in the classroom "link the children and teacher together as a family with offspring, where the tasks of caring can be shared among them.'' She also notes that class pets have a special value for a shy child, or one who does not excel academically, "allowing him or her to come to life as a responsible, proud caretaker.''

I do understand that some children have allergies, but I am still always wondering how I could work out having a dog in the classroom.  Nuala isn't ready quite yet, but I would surely love to train her as a therapy dog, and then bring her with me to school.

Until that is possible however, I will have to content myself with some other "doggie" activities and stories.  One of our class' favorites is Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.  Words cannot express how much my students love this book.  We went to a children's theatre performance of "Harry" and they were thrilled!  In short, boy do we love Harry!

Capitalizing on all this doggie and Harry love, I came up with a little practical life activity . . .


Here it is, ready to go.  The parts of the work are (top row to bottom row, and right to left): 
little jar of liquid soap and a pipette, washing tub, rinsing tub, 
bowl of dogs, tiny pitcher, towel, and "scrubber" (toothbrush)

The children have to go to the water bucket (as we don't have a sink in our classroom), and fill up the tiny pitcher.  They must then pour it into the "washing tub."  They have to then fill it a second time, and pour it into the "rinsing tub" (which is all the way to the right).

Then they have to add a few drops of liquid soap.

Using the scrubber, the child must whip up the bubbles,

wash the dog, 

rinse him, 

and dry him.

The children may wash one or all the dogs, if they wish.  Usually all the dogs are very, VERY clean!  : )

The used washing and rinsing water must then be dumped into our dirty water bucket, the tray must be dried, and then carefully put away.

So until in our class we can do this . . .

we'll have to content ourselves with this little practical life dog washing.

Do you have a dog in your classroom?  Do you know someone who does?  Please share your experiences!  I would love to know more about it!

Here's hoping we all have a day with lots of tail wagging!

23 November, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast

I am exhausted, but very happy to report that our class Thanksgiving feast was lovely and I believe, quite successful.

Centerpiece Masterpiece!

Placecard and lovely centerpiece
In preparation for today, yesterday my lovely assistant and I shoved all the shelving over to the sides of the classroom.  (It was a bit unceremonious, but was certainly necessary in terms of space requirements.)  Then we divided our normally grouped together, 4 tables into 2 long tables.  We brought up some adult sized chairs and mixed them in with the child sized chairs.  We weren't quite sure how many parents were coming so we just gave it our best guess and hoped.

Now I will now dispense sagacious advice on hosting a child friendly Thanksgiving feast.  Not that it is so sagacious, but it is time tested, so at least that is something.  Are you ready?  Tah dah!

Here it is:

1.  If you are a classroom teacher, ask parents to help.  My parents were so amazing.  We could never have done it without them.

2.  Cook all you can with the children, ahead of time!  The day before is very good.  Use crock pots if at all possible.

3.  Prepare (if time and space allow) small stations around the room for the children to show their parents food preparation works they have learned since the beginning of the year.

4.   Use as much "fancy" cutlery, dishes, and napkins as possible.  I don't mean the fancy china, but using real dishes as opposed to paper plates really can make all the difference.  Also use cloth napkins and tablecloths.

5.  Help the children iron the tablecloths and cloth napkins, the day before.

6.  Have the children set the tables.

7.  Have the children use the nature table items and whatever else they wish to use from around the room, to arrange centerpieces in the middle of each table.

8.  A good project for the children the day of the feast is making place cards, one for themselves and one or two for parents or grandparents (or whomever) will be attending.

9.  By all means, finish up your feast with a group song.  I highly recommend John Denver's Grandma's Feather Bed.  My class thoroughly enjoys that song every time we sing it, and as some of the children were headed to their grandmothers' houses for the holiday, the song felt extra appropriate.

Here are some more of the children's lovely table decorations:


Here are the 2 recipes we used.  They are quite delicious and honestly, almost ridiculously easy.  Also they cook in the crock pot for a long time, and this kills any germs that may have unwittingly been spread by coughing or sneezing children.  If you decide to make either of these drop me a line, and let me know how you liked them.  Happy Thanksgiving!  : )

Thanksgiving stew recipe (serves 6)
3/4 pound boneless skinless turkey thighs -- cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium green apples -- cored and diced
2 pounds yams -- peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/4 cup diced onion
1 cup chicken broth or bouillon
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 tablespoon maple-flavored syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup light sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt
Combine all ingredients, except sour cream or yogurt, in crockpot. Cover and cook on Low 6-7 hours or until yams are tender.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of light sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt.
Butternut squash soup
1 butternut squash
2 T olive oil
2 small medium onions, or 2 T onion flakes
4 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
2 small apples, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
The Directions.
Use at least a 5 quart crockpot for this soup.
Cut the squash in half long ways. This is terribly hard to do. If you microwave the entire squash for 2 to 5 minutes on high, the skin will soften, but you will still need to use a pretty powerful knife. If you can find already peeled and cubed butternut squash use that.  (Some recipes say you can roast the squash whole.  Poke a bunch of holes in it, put it in a pan large enough to hold all the juices, then cook it a long time - maybe 45 minutes or so on 350 degrees.)
Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Brush olive oil on the inside of the squash and roast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until you can peel the skin away from the flesh.
Plug in your crockpot and turn to high. Add the broth, and the onion and apple. Stir in the spices. Cover to let heat.
When the squash has finished roasting, add it to the pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 4. 
Blend in small batches with a stand blender, or carefully blend with an immersible wand.


20 November, 2010

And the Winners are . . .

Well?  I've been lounging around in bed waiting for you, Karen, to choose the winners of my Weather Watching Activity give away.  Hurry up, please!  I have things to do!

Wow, I see our meteorologist is getting a little cranky, so I had best announce our winners.  Before I do so however, please know I am working on a digital version of this activity, that will be available to everyone.   I am hoping to have it ready some time after the Christmas holiday.

And without further ado, the winners are . . . numbers 9 and 6!  I am sorry, but I don't know how to post the random number generator site, showing you how I chose the winners, so you'll just have to trust me that I did.  Scouts honor, I did!  : )

So, comments 6 and 9 were made by Holly and me.  Wait, me?  That doesn't work!  I'll have to go and generate one more number!  Hold on . . .

Okay, now it says number 8 which is Lolita, who lives right here in Indiana!  How fun!

So, congratulations girls.  I will be sending you an e-mail asking for your snail mail addresses, so I can send you the Vincent van Gogh Meteorologist packets!

Yippee!  Thank you very, very much to everyone who entered and for your kind comments.  Knowing that you are interested makes posting even more worthwhile.

Friday's Nature Table

I follow a lovely Waldorf blog called The Magic Onions.  It is full of lovely and really inspirational ideas.  Yesterday, I read her latest post called Friday's Nature Table.  Well, of course today is Saturday, but I put together our latest nature table display yesterday, so hopefully she will not mind if I hop in a wee bit late.
: )

So without further ado, here are a few photos of our Friday Nature Table:

I am just learning to needle felt, so my felt people are a little wacky looking, but my students seem to enjoy how soft they are and don't seem to mind their slightly unusual looks.  : )

 If you haven't read Wild Child, I highly recommend it.  It is full of beautiful pictures and the children loved the fact that the wild child was a wee bit naughty and a bit sassy too!

In the back corner of our room, next to our Plimoth house, we have a little nature item, an awesome rabbit pelt, kindly sent to me by a dear friend Sandra.  It has been very interesting for the children to look at and touch.  It also gave us the opportunity to discuss why the Pilgrims and the Native Americans they met, had to hunt animals.  We discussed that people only killed animals because they had to, for food. We also discussed how the skins and fur were used to keep people warm during the cold, harsh winter.

If you have some fun nature table items or a display you'd like to share, you might consider hopping on over to The Magic Onions too!

18 November, 2010

Our Thanksgiving necklaces

Inspired by My Montessori Journey's Thanksgiving bracelet posting, I decided our class should make our own Thanksgiving bracelets.  I found pictures online to go along with the oral version of the story I have been telling the class for almost 2 weeks now.  (I haven't as yet, used any books about the first Thanksgiving as I wanted to tell the story piece by piece, a bit more each day.)  I lined the pictures up on this low table, and taped them down with clear packing tape.  I also taped an example bead along with each picture, so the children would have a definite guide when making their bracelets.

Going along with this version of the Thanksgiving story (much of which you can also find here) our bracelet colors are as follows:

Red:  Once upon a time in Europe . . .  (the red matches our continent color on the map)

Yellow:  there lived a bossy king (with a golden crown).  He thought he was the most important person, and that everyone should worship just as he did.  Some people (we call them Pilgrims) thought the Bible was the most important part of worship, and they wanted to worship in their own way.  The mean king said they couldn't, and even put some of the Pilgrims in jail!  So, they made a very hard decision.  They decided to leave their country.  They were sad to leave their friends and their home, but it was very important to them to have religious freedom.  They packed up everything they could fit into a small trunk and climbed aboard a ship called . . .

Brown:  The Mayflower!

Light blue:  At first, the ocean was calm and the Pilgrims has smooth sailing.  It was a hard trip in other ways, however.  The Pilgrims were very seasick and rooms were very cramped.

Black:  Then big black clouds rolled in.   A huge storm was coming!  Oh no!  The thunder crashed, the lightning flashed, and a huge wave hit The Mayflower!  The Pilgrims were soaked, even in their rooms below the deck!  Oh no!  The ship sprang a leak, but the crew quickly repaired it.  They also used a big iron screw and repaired the mast when that broke!  Phewf!  Then, the oceans

Light blue:  calmed again, and the journey to the New World continued.  The Mayflower arrived in Plimoth.  When they arrived however, there was nothing waiting for them.  There were no houses, no warm food, and no people.  The Pilgrims had to . . .

Brown:  chop down trees and start to build their own houses.  It was very hard work though, and was made especially hard by all the . . .

White:  snow!  It was a very cold and hard winter for the Pilgrims.  Many of them got sick and some even died.  When Spring finally came though, something wonderful happened!  One day in March a Native American man walked into the Pilgrims "town" saying, "Hello!"  That man's name was Samoset and he brought his friend Squanto with him.  Squanto spoke good English and was a great friend to the Pilgrims.  He, Samoset, and their people showed them . . .

Red Heart:  great love.  They showed the Pilgrims medicinal herbs and also showed them a way to mound the earth when planting the "3 Sisters" crops:

Yellow:  corn . . .

Green:  beans . . .

Orange:  and squash.  The Pilgrims were very grateful and thankful for the help of the Native Americans.  They were also very thankful to God for helping them make it safely to the New World, where they could worship freely.  They decided to host a big feast and invite the Native Americans.  They ate corn, beans, squash, and lots of other foods including . . .

Fish bead:  fish at their feast!  We call this feast the first Thanksgiving!

When the first child in our class finished this project she said, "Hey!  I did it!  Look at my Thanksgiving necklace!"  So voila!  I present to you our class' Thanksgiving necklaces!

Maybe you would like to make one too!  : )

Happy Thanksgiving!

17 November, 2010

Land ho! We have arrived!

Our class has surely had a ball sailing on The Mayflower.  We have endured fierce storms (day after day after day), seasickness and other illnesses, tossing seas, crowded conditions, and cold food.  It has been quite a trip!

Today however, we heard our captain, Christopher Jones, call out something we have been waiting and waiting to hear, "Land ho!"

Yes, we have finally arrived in the New World, Plimoth (now spelled Plymouth).  We are so glad to be here!  Imagine our surprise and dismay, however, when we realize there is nothing here waiting for us.  There are no friends from Jamestown (as we didn't actually make it there), no homes, no warm beds, and not much food.  Mostly what we see is snow.  Yes, it is November of 1620, and we have much work to do!  We got right to work building a home.  (Good thing we packed all those tools on The Mayflower!)

First we cut down some trees!  Then we got to work "nailing" them together.  (This was actually lots of banging on the big cardboard box, but the children really got into playing the parts of those hard working Pilgrims.)

One of the students took it upon himself to bring all the supplies we had carefully packed onto The Mayflower, over to our new house.  After about 6 trips, he was satisfied.  He brought over the food supplies (salt horse and dried peas and beans), the ship's bell, the golden cape (his favorite dress up item), the babies, a few blankets, and plenty of dishes and cooking utensils.
What a lot of work!
Here is our Mayflower.  As you can see, everything has been removed from it!

A couple of other boys undertook the task of making the fireplace because they were surely tired of eating cold food.  They used one of the off cuts of the cardboard which they then colored with markers.  They added a hook (with the help of a teacher and a little duct tape) so they could cook food over the open fire.

Later on, the fire burned a bit brighter as the flames were enhanced with a little construction paper and yellow tape.  The inside of the house saw a lot of Pilgrim activity as you can see from this picture.  I also just noticed one of our babies is lying face down in the back left corner of the house.  It must have been some Pilgrim party in there.  : )

I cleaned up a bit after the children went home, and set up a little Pilgrim house scene for the next day, hoping to inspire slightly less chaotic play.  It worked for awhile.  I think once the initial novelty of the house wears off a bit, the children will be able to play in here in different ways.

Our house also has a small window.   The children really like opening and closing it.  That might actually be their favorite part of the whole house.

The children also made a path from tree blocks today, leading up to the Plimoth home.  It was a tricky path to maneuver, but I guess it was worth it to the Pilgrims as hot food was waiting for them once the arrived inside.

My favorite observation of the children building and playing Pilgrim so far, occurred today.  One of our students was sitting alone in the house with a group of forest animal puppets surrounding her.  She was singing and caring for them as they were not feeling particularly "good."  Neighboring Pilgrim tea party goers (eating and drinking just outside the house) was dutifully being very quiet so as not to disturb the "babies."  How sweet.

I'm hoping Squanto may arrive in Plimoth tomorrow, and help the Pilgrims plant some "3 sisters" crops (which include corn, beans, and squash.)  We have role played the arrival of Samoset and Squanto (and the help they and their people gave the Pilgrims) a bit during our Circle time, so hope springs eternal!  Oh well, whatever scenarios the children are acting out, they are actively engaged in learning!

What is your favorite dramatic play activity?