31 January, 2011

How to use 魚拓 to make your own ocean shirts

Our class has been spending time over the last couple of weeks, learning about our world's oceans.  I have found wonderful resources at our local library and online, but what I really wanted to show you today, was how we used a traditional form of Japanese fish printing, 魚拓 or gyotaku, to make ocean t-shirts.

What is gyotaku?  Here is Wikipedia's definition:

Gyotaku (Japanese 魚拓, from gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid-19th century, a form of nature printing used by fishermen to record their catches. There are two methods used in gyotaku. The direct approach is the best way to do gyotaku. In order to make a gyotaku print, one places the subject (e.g. fish, crab, scallop shell) on a wooden bench and paints one side with sumi ink. Modern gyotaku artists often substitute acrylic or other painting material for the traditional sumi.

From my own research, I found out that some modern artists use rubber replica fish to create gyotaku.  These are probably a bit easier to deal with, but for our children the sensory experience of touching, examining, and smelling the fish was too important to pass up.  It is even more important than perhaps it might be in some other parts of the country or the world since the ocean is so far away from where we live.  Many of the children in our class may never have gone fishing in a lake or a river much less the ocean.  So having a real fish for our project was key.

In preparation for the gyotaku, we wanted to make the shirts look like ocean water and waves.  We read a lovely story called My Life with the Wave, and then talked about how the ocean can seem to have moods.  We said it can seem happy when the water is clear and sparkling, sad when it is dark grey or greenish, or angry when it is dark and the water is rough.  We told the children we were going to use dye to try to make the shirts show the ocean's moods.  

We mixed up three colors of RIT dye.  (Looking back, I wish I would have chosen some greens and perhaps greys to use as well, but I guess that will have to wait for next time.)  We followed the package directions exactly, and added salt to the dye bath.  Be sure to do this if you try this project for yourself as it fixes the dye and makes it less likely to run.

Here are our big buckets of dye.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of our tie dying process as my hands were too wet and blue to use the camera.  I did find this great tie dying tutorial though, where you can find step by step instructions on how to tie dye.

After the children finished creating their "moody ocean waves shirts," I took them home and let them dry overnight.  In the morning, I rinsed them thoroughly in cold water (a little bit of the dye did wash out, but the shirts still look lovely) and dried them in a warm clothes dryer.  I folded them immediately, so they would be ready for gyotaku.

We laid the fish out on a plastic tray, and gave the child a paper plate with 3 or 4 colors of fabric paint, and brushes.  Each child could paint the fish as he or she wished.  We simple rinsed the fish off in between painters.  After the fish was painted, I used a damp cloth to carefully wipe away any excess paint around the edges as we didn't want to design of the tray to show up on the shirts.

Next we gently laid the shirts on top of the fish, and gently "rubbed" the fish's outline and form onto the shirt.  The biggest thing to remember during this part of the process is that it does not work like rubber stamping.  That is you must bring the fabric to the object, not the other way around.  That way you can gently rub the fabric and you can also bring the fabric around the edges of the fish.  That is the best way to get a complete design. 

You can also print with shells for lovely results.  Check out these, made by my students!  Aren't they marvelous?

These shirts will lay flat for at least 4 hours and then the paint will be permanent.  They must be turned inside out for washing, but they should have a good long run and will hopefully serve as a good reminder of the many wonderful creatures that live in our oceans.

As a side note, if you are lucky enough to live near the ocean you can print with almost anything you find.  In my travels I have seen gorgeous prints using small rays, crabs, lobsters, sand dollars, star fish, and horse shoe crabs.  Here is the link to one of my favorite places in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Blue Water Fish Rubbings.  It is right next to the town where I spent much of my growing up years, so just looking it their web site makes me feel nostalgic.  Please check it out for yourself!

And good luck with your own 魚拓!

27 January, 2011

A nifty little tip for counting with bead chains

I don't know if everyone already knows this or not, but just in case you don't . . .

It's a nifty little tip I learned from a local Montessori teacher.  When children are counting using bead chains, it might be easy for them to lose their places or miss a bead.  Even 3 year old fingers are bigger than the bead chain beads.  What to do . . .

The little closure pieces from store bought loaves are bread are the perfect size for little counters.  Here's one of mine I just took off a bag.

I cut it in half,

and tah dah, I have two little bead chain counters.  They are just the right size for little fingers, and the half circle opening just fits in the spaces between the beads.

Happy counting!

25 January, 2011

Snow Cream

We have been out of school quite a bit now due to snow days, so today I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you another of my favorite snow recipes.  We made this at school about a week ago, and again at home during a "stay home because of snow" day.

Snow Cream

heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar
vanilla exract
fresh, clean snow

Here is how we made this delicious treat:

First we poured the whipping cream into a large bowl and whipped it well.  When we whipped the cream at school, I took the opportunity to point out to the children that the cream was a liquid, and that by whipping it (which I defined as adding air into the liquid), 

it became thicker 

and thicker 

until it was almost a solid.  (This harkened back to some of our previous lessons about solid versus liquids which you can read about here. ) Next we mixed in about half a cup of powdered sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla.

Then we headed outside to gather some fresh clean snow.  We brought another large bowl and a serving spoon.

My son carefully scraped off the very top layer of snow, to reveal clean snow underneath,

and carefully spooned it into the waiting bowl.

We then carefully folded the snow into the cream mixture (being sure not to stir too hard as this would have melted the snow, resulting in watery cream instead of snow cream.)

We covered the snow cream, took it outside, buried it in the snow to refreeze.

About a half hour later, we unearthed the bowl

and served the snow cream.

It was delicious and tasted very similar to vanilla ice cream.  The children (my students and my own children) loved it and . . .

it was also an excellent way to reinforce some of our past lessons:

solids versus liquids
snow crystals

Practical life:
mixing and whipping
folding (with regard to cooking)

and Class Cooperation:
taking turns whipping and adding other ingredients
sharing the work of creating a dish for everyone to enjoy

And enjoy it they did!  Hope you do too!

19 January, 2011

Latest felting projects

I have a case of the Winter blues.  It has been cold, grey, and wet for too long!  So I am compensating by creating a few figures for Spring nature tables.  Yup, it seems to be time for more felting pictures!

 I hope you enjoyed seeing these.  Thank you for looking and reading!

The Good, Fast, and Cheap Triangle

My husband once told me he begins all his lectures, each semester, with this image drawn on the board.  He is a professor in a college theatre program, and tells all his students that this triangle is one of the most important things to consider when producing a play.  He calls it (not surprisingly), "The Good, Fast, and Cheap Triangle."

The premise of the triangle is that you can have two points on the triangle, but never three.  That is,

Something may be good and fast, but it isn't cheap.
Something may be good and cheap, but it isn't fast.
Something may be fast and cheap, but it isn't good.

And as all you teachers, homeschool-ers, and parents know, this triangle also comes into play with regard to educational materials. Ask any teacher you meet and s/he will most likely say much of his or her paycheck could easily be spent on materials for the classroom.  Every teacher I know tried to avoid this pitfall, but sometimes it is so difficult!  What is one to do?

1.  Plan ahead, so you have time to make your own materials.  Yup, this is good advice even if I don't always take it myself.  I confess that I am forever thinking of great ideas at the very last minute.

2.  Share with other teachers and homeschool parents.   My partner teacher and I swapped all sorts of things last year.  We would trade a few practical life activities (on their trays and everything) and art project materials too, a couple of times a month.  It was wonderful.

3.  Utilize any local groups "traveling trunks."  Our local nature center for example, has traveling nature trunks that are available for check out.  (Here is the link to what they have available.)  Our local Early Childhood Center also has materials available.  Check out libraries too!

4.  Use the internet!  Look for free printable files on blogs and web sites.  (I have quite a few on this blog!  Look for the Free Downloads tab to see the list.)  If you create your own digital files, maybe you could swap one with a friend.  Consider joining an online swap.  (That has been wonderful for me.  I now have some lovely materials and some lovely friends to boot!)

5.  And last but but not least, if you find something wonderful and you can afford it, seriously consider just buying it.  I have, too often to mention, spent more money trying to "make something myself" than it would have cost me to just buy it in the first place.

None of these are perfect solutions to the good, fast, and cheap triangle, but they might make finding the perfect classroom materials, a little bit easier.  Here's hoping!

Good luck with your materials!

16 January, 2011

Language Storage

A few of you have said you are interested in my classroom, so here's a bit more about that.  Today I will show you . . . drum roll please . . . some of our language materials and their storage!  Whoo hoo!

I have some sandpaper letters

and boxes with initial consonant sound cards.  I bought them from Lori at Montessori for Everyoneand sorted them as she suggested.  I bought the little acrylic containers at a party supply store, for $2 each.  They seem to be holding up well.  

Here are my vowel sounds and matching pictures boxes.  They are color coded so that the vowels, in alphabetical order, follow the color order of the light spectrum.  I know this is not the way a true Montessori school would necessarily do it, but I find these colors work well for me and my students.  These cards came from Montessori for Everyone, too.

Here is how I store my language cards and objects for the moveable alphabet.  I also color coded these in the same way as the vowel sounds and matching pictures cards (a is red, e is orange etc.)

a has . . .

  • wax
  • rat
  • cat
  • hat

e has . . .
  • peg
  • jet
  • net
  • red 

i has . . .

  • pin
  • pig
  • lips
  • mit

o has . . .

  • pot
  • box
  • top
  • dog

u has . . .
  • bus (it's that little clear bus on the left) 
  • bug
  • mug
  • gum (the gum seems to be missing.  I'll have to look for it!)

Here are my control sheets for the vowel sounds and picture matching cards, and the vowel sounds books.

 So, these seem to be the only pictures I can find of the whole kit-n-kaboodle, and they are from August.  Not much has changed - except now the control sheets and books share a shelf.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into my room, and my language area!