27 February, 2011

Ta da!

I especially love this little beaver's teeth.  Funny.  : )

After they are sealed with wood creme (which I hopefully will mix up in the new few days), 
these little creatures will be ready for children to use in their imaginative play!

26 February, 2011

Saturday Adventures with Power Tools

After a few hours of working with the scroll saw and the rotary power tool today, I have learned . . .

  • Poplar works better than pine for making little wooden animals.  It cuts a little more slowly and doesn't jump out of my hand as easily as pine does. It also splinters less as I'm sanding it.
  • If I turn the saw a little bit before I think I need to, the cut is closer to line and cleaner
  • Online directions for old power tools make me happy.

  • Dogs like wooden animals just as well as they like sticks.  Both are so much fun to chew!  (Can you see our dog investigating the animals here, just as I was taking the picture of them?  Funny!)

  • Sometimes that project that turns out a little wonky and not quite as I planned, turns out to be my favorite one of all.  I can't wait to see how this little gnome looks after he has been wood burned and painted.
  • Adults make a mess when they have fun, just as children do.  Mess = fun!
I hope you had a messy and fun Saturday too!

      25 February, 2011

      Bird Reading, Writing, Singing, Activities, and Art

      Hellooooooo readers!

      In spite of the fact that today it is pouring buckets and buckets of rain and more is expected for tomorrow - almost 3 inches are predicted - birds outside our classroom window are still quite busy.  This is lucky for my students as they are very engaged with learning about our feathery friends.

      In our Practical Life area we have . . .

      Birds and Their Eggs matching cards

      To make these, I found this great picture.  I printed two copies and cut the photos apart.  I made a stack of yellow cards with pictures of the birds on them, and a stack of purple cards, with pictures of the eggs on them.  The children must match the two using the printed words as a guide.  On the back side of each card is the "answer", either a picture of the eggs or the bird, unlabeled.  This serves as a control so the children may check their work.

      and Little Wooden Eggs

      I actually made these for Easter, but since that is still almost 2 months away, I saw no harm in taking them out for a little while.  These are solid wood eggs, with little animal designs wood burned onto them.  I put very simple rabbit, frog, chick, and turtle designs onto the eggs, and then painted them with water colors.  I finished them with a little mineral oil and some buffing.  The children may grasp the eggs, match them by design, or order them by rainbow colors.

      As a Science activity, we have a little hands-on work involving a ping pong ball bird.  
      Here he is on our felt pond.  I hope he is a water bird!  : )

      This is an activity I saw at a lovely children's museum in Massachusetts, a few years ago.  The experiment is supposed to show how air pressure works, but for my students this actvitity serves as a good way to see how birds use the wind as they fly.  We have been watching a hawk who lives in the park across the street from our school and when we have seen him, he has been soaring and gliding.  The children noticed he hadn't been doing much flapping of his wings and wondered just how he was flying.  We talked about how some birds stretch out their wings to "catch the wind."  In this activity, the children were to take the "bird, "place him into the "wind", and then use the wind to help guide the bird to the safety of the basket.  Try it out!  It is not quite as easy as it looks!

      Our Language learning has included writing . . .

      Here is one of my student's rewriting of a selection from The Best Nest.  
      Notice Mr. Bird's song at the bottom of the page!

      some vocabulary terms . . .

      and some great bird books.  If you need some suggestions of 
      bird books for children ages 3  to 6, check these out:

      This one is excellent and especially good for role playing.  Including a narrator, there are parts for 10 children in the story.

       This one is also good for acting.  When reading it aloud, I always pretend to really cry when the husband bird thinks his wife has been eaten by a cat.  Of course, the children think this is hilarious!
      This is a lovely story about a bat who loses her mother, and then lives with a family of birds.  She learns their bird ways, and later when she is reunited with her mother, sees that although birds and bats are different in many ways, in many ways they are also the same.
      This is a truly lovely book, and with the right group of children, reading it aloud is a serene experience.  My class last year was totally silent during the whole story.  You could have heard a pin drop.

      It is a story about a child and her father who go out into the woods late one evening, looking for owls.  

      This is another very sweet story which is also good for role playing.  Sarah, Percy, and Bill all have distinct personalities that would lend themselves well to character voices.  My children especially love it when Bill says,  I want my Mommy!
      We also created a group art project, Bird Trails.  The idea for this project came from a book I checked out of our local library last year.  I can't remember which book it was, but it had a marvelous picture with trails of colors all over the page.  The idea is to imagine what a patch of sky would look like if birds left a trail of color everywhere they flew.

      Our patch of sky was pretty busy!  This piece of paper looks small in the picture, 
      but it is actually about 4 feet long and includes lots and lots of bird trails!

      Musically, we have been having a ball, a Bird Ball that is!  : )  If you would like to hear and dance to some silly and very fun bird songs, check these out!
      Of course, we love Rockin' Robin.  The children and I crawl around on the floor to this song, using our fingers to make beaks and search for worms, as we tweedle - ee - deedle - dee along.  Yup, it is big fun.

      We also have really enjoyed Chicken Fun, which is on the album of a wonderful teacher and storyteller, Mary Jo Huff.  You can preview some of the song here, but I would be willing to bet that if you bought the whole song you wouldn't be disappointed.  Mary Jo Huff isn't much of a singer, but the song is really catchy and encourages all my "chickens" to really dance.  Bock bock!  (That's my chicken sound.)

      Please come back to the blog again soon to read about bird mobiles, spinny birds, and more bird fun!


      22 February, 2011

      Peanut free bird feeders

      In the past whenever the time came nigh for making bird feeders, I have relied on an "oldie but a goodie" activity, pine cone bird feeders.  I made them when I was a child, and I'll bet you did too.  You choose a big pine cone, slather it with peanut butter, and roll it in bird seed.  Then you tie the pine cone to a branch of a tree, and voila!

      This year, however, we have two children in our class who are allergic to peanuts.  So when it came time to plan for this year's bird feeder making, I started looking for new recipes.  I found one here, that looked fantastic!  I thought it would be another good use for my new bundt pan.  (I used it earlier in the year to make an ice wreath.  Here is the link to that blog post.)

      The peanut free bird seed recipe called for . . .

      1 package of unflavored gelatin
      1/2 cup of warm water
      3 tablespoons of light corn syrup
      3/4 cup flour
      4 cups bird food (we used some bagged seed, but you can use lots of other thing too)
      non stick cooking spray

      It was so sticky!

      We dissolved the gelatin in the warm water, and then mixed in the corn syrup and the flour.  This makes the glue that holds the seed together.  After that, we mixed in the seed.  I had to start mixing this in by hand.  It was really sticky, and at first the children didn't want to help or touch it at all.  The kept saying, "Ewwwww."  Once they got their hands in it however, it was all about the fun and the feel - and the mess!

      After we were finished making the seed mixture, each child selected a cookie cutter in which to press some of it.  This variation on the bundt pan idea came to me by way of my dear friend Sandra.  It was a perfect idea.  Not that I was surprised as Sandra is a genius!

      Here are the children's bird feeders, drying out.  I poked a little piece of pipe cleaner into each one so that we will have a way of hanging them up later.

      Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the completed hangers, decorated and hanging!

      19 February, 2011

      Waldorf Swapping

      Today I am headed to the ol' post office, to send away some felted items I made for a Waldorf toy swap.  The instructions were to make small Easter/Equinox themed toys out 100% natural materials, and send them to the swap organizer.  For as many toys as a person sends, she will receive that many items in return.  How fabulous is that?!  Plus to add to the fun, exactly what you get in return is a surprise!  How exciting!

      So, I packed up my 10 items plus one extra as a thank you for the organizer.  Thank you Jennifer!  Here they are . . . before I packed them up obviously.  : )

       I can't wait to see what I get in return!  

      18 February, 2011

      Nesting and Bird Watching

      The best way I know to get children excited about birds is through observation.  Our class took walks this week, looking for signs of Spring.  While we walked we also, of course, looked for birds and listened for chirping, cheeping, tweeting, and cawing.  We also observed and listened to birds while we were on the playground, and we watched for birds in the trees just outside our classroom windows.  Our windows are up pretty high, so the children are allowed to climb up on this table, three children at a time, to look out.

      The cards on the windows show some of the kinds of birds the children are most likely to see.  These include a cardinal, a house finch, a sparrow, a goldfinch, a blue jay, a robin, and a red tailed hawk.  Yup, our school is across the street from a park where a red tailed hawk has a nest.  How great is that?!?!
      Under the bird watching table is a cozy place where the children may pretend to make or be inside a nest.  It has some blankets for the nesting activities, and also has some Audubon toy birds.  Wouldn't it be fun if we could also make some large paper mache eggs?  Hmm, I'll have to think about that.

      We also have some binoculars for closer viewing, a huge (it must weigh 20 pounds) book with all the watercolors of James Audubon, a couple of other bird identification books, and a little coloring book of the birds on the window cards, My Little Book of Birds.  I made one of these for each of the children.  They can look at the birds outside, check the cards inside, and color and label the pictures of the book to match.  

      Next week we will be adding a more activities to the bird watching area, and working with some of the third graders, the big kids!  I will post more about that next week.  Yay!

      Preparing for The GBBC Part III: Wooden birds

      Whoo whoo!  Whoo loves Holztiger birds?

      I do, I do!  They are so gorgeous, smooth to the touch, and warm in your hand.  Unfortunately they are also between $8 and $10 each, so purchasing more than one or two of them would be prohibitively expensive for me.  So the other day I set to work, creating my own set of wooden birds.  I wanted them to be good and cheap, so I knew they wouldn't be fast.  (Remember that triangle?)  But that was a-okay with me.

      I trekked over to the scene shop where my husband works, and picked through their scrap wood bin.  After selecting my scraps, I used the scroll saw to cut out some bird shapes.  (The wood in the bin was pine, and although I would prefer to use a harder wood next time, the pine worked out well that day especially since it was only my second time using a scroll saw.)  I confess I used pictures of the Holztiger birds as templates, but as I said, I just love them.  Also, I have been thinking about them for so long and trying to figure out how to afford them, I just couldn't imagine using any other designs.  I selected bird species that my students may see from our classroom window: sparrows, robins, mourning doves, and crows.  I also made an owl as I have recently seen one in my yard, only about a mile from our school, and a chicken.  

      Next I sanded all the birds, marked them with a wood burner, and painted them using some German water color paints.  I sanded them again and (all your Waldorf educators may want to avert your eyes here) sealed them with Mod Podge.  I would definitely have preferred to use a natural sealer, but I don't have any at the moment, and pine is so soft.  Mod Podge gives it a little more strength and durability - which turned out to be a good thing today as a couple of the birds had a quick swim in our water table!  Ooops!

      I also began work on a felt play mat - for the birds and other woodland creatures.  It has a little pond with stepping stones, and a little cave where the birds can take shelter from sudden rain storms.  You can see with the birds in the picture above, and below on its own.  I was curious to see how the children would take to it as we have never had any kind of play mats in our room before.  They seemed to really enjoy playing with it, and especially enjoyed sheltering the birds in the cave!

      And even though the GBBC began today, I still have a a few more preparatory posts for you.  If you are feeling bird-ish, please check them out!

      Thank you, and happy bird watching and counting!

      15 February, 2011

      Preparing for The GBBC Part II: Tiny Bird Matching

      This is a little matching activity I made for my class last year, Tiny Bird Matching.  The children really enjoyed it, so I took it out again this year.  It is good preparation for The GBBC!

      I found the set of tiny birds at Hobby Lobby last year, in the dollhouse section.  It contained a set of 12 different birds.  Really and truly, they are tiny!  Each one is about the size of 1 centimeter cube.

      I picked out 9 of the birds I count identify, and made little cards to match each one.  On the left there is a small photo of the bird and on the right is a small box in which the children are to place the tiny bird.  Here are some of the cards with the tiny birds in the boxes.

      It is a simple, but effective activity.  It is good for fine motor skills, detailed observations, and considering all the many colors of different bird species.

      If you would like to access this Tiny Birds Matching file, you can do that here.

      Enjoy, and remember to check out the web site for The GBBC!

      14 February, 2011

      Preparing for The GBBC Part I: How to Make a Bird Call

      This week our class will be learning a bit about some United States presidents, and . . . 
      drum roll please . . . 

      preparing for The GBBC!  

      The what? you ask.  The GBBC stands for The Great Backyard Bird Count!  The web site for this awesome event explains what it is all about:

      The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

      Our class will be preparing for this event by completing some bird works, listening to some bird songs and bird calls, and reading some bird books.  In the next 4 days I will be sharing these with you.

      Part I:  How to Make a Bird Call

      Materials Needed:

      screw eyes
      drill with a bit the same size as the screw eyes
      rosin powder (such as you would use for baseball)

      1. Go to your local hardware store, and pick up a box of screw eyes.  Chose some that will be about the right size for your child to twist back and forth
      2. Grab a branch from your yard, a park, or perhaps if necessary, a shop.  The branch should be about 1 - 2 inches in diameter
      3. Saw the branch into pieces about 3 inches long
      4. Drill a small hole in the end of the branch, the same size as the screw eyes.  The hole should go into the wood about 1 - 2 inches.
      5. Dip the screw eye into the rosin powder, and screw it into the hole.  Twist it back and forth until it starts to "cheep."  You might need to twist it for a bit, but I promise eventually it will work.
      6. Walk around your neighborhood "cheeping," and see who answers back.  Cheep, cheep!

      Note:  You may want to add a piece of yarn to your "cheeper,"so your child can wear it around his or her neck.  I had a piece on mine, but I had to cut it off this morning as it was all tangled up, and I haven't had a chance to put on a new piece yet.

      Tomorrow Part II:  Tiny Bird Matching

      12 February, 2011

      I received a blogging award! Wow!

      Wow!  An awesome thing happened to me yesterday!

      Well actually, three great things happened to me!
      • It was 33 degrees and so I got to take my much beleaguered class of children outside
      • I received some fabulous wooden toys I ordered from Mamakopp on Etsy and . . .
      • I received a blogging award from Sally at Fairy Dust Teaching!  Thank you Sally!!!
      Here it is!

      As my grandfather used to say, Wowie MaDowie!   

      The rules of acceptance of this Stylish award are . . .

      1.  Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
      2.  Share 7 things about yourself
      3.  Award recently discovered great bloggers
      4.  Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

      7 Things About Me:

      1. I have 3 children, a lovely husband, and a slightly neurotic dog.  I adore them all.
      2. I have an Irish maiden name and I love all things Irish - except Guinness.  Sorry about that.  I am going to Ireland this summer, on a walking tour of the Dingle Peninsula, and I could not possibly be more excited!
      3. I am not much of a cook, but I do bake a mean cookie.  
      4. I love to knit, but only if I don't have to use a pattern.  I like the end product to be a surprise!
      5. I have awesome friends which I figure must make me awesome by association.  Right?  : )
      6. My favorite book is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.  I must have read it 100 times.
      7. I want to "grow up" to be just like my mother and my grandmother.  I am so blessed to have such amazing women in my life.
      Without further ado, here are my award winners!  I love reading so many blogs, but these are my top three recent discoveries:

      How the Sun Rose
      The Education of Ours

      It gives me great joy to know that so many people in the world such as these bloggers (and you readers too!) are working to fill children's lives with joy, wonder, and rich experiences.  Thank you for reading my blog and supporting me in my efforts in be a better teacher and parent.

      The problem is with swapping is . . .

      The problem with swapping is . . .

      occasionally I make something that turns out so well I am loath to give it away.  : )

      11 February, 2011

      A quick little Valentine flower

      Here is a little Valentine cutting project I set up in my classroom today. 
       I called it a little Valentine flower.

      To complete this project:

      A child may choose four hearts of any color, from the heart tray.   

      After she cuts out the hearts, she will punch holes in all four of them, and then slide the pipe cleaner through the holes.

      She will then twist the pipe cleaner ends together, and fan out the hearts to look like petals of a flower.


      10 February, 2011

      Sensory Valentines

      This week we began work on a special Valentine's Day project.  The thought process I went through when conceiving this idea went something like this:


      I want this project to be interesting sensorily involving touch and smell.  I also want the end product to be interesting and something a parent can keep.  I wonder if the children could needle felt?  The wool feels so soft and smells wonderful, and a felt heart would be something that would last well.

      I must be crazy!  The needles for needle felting are way too sharp.  Maybe we could wet felt?

      An experiment was certainly in order.

      My students know only too well, I am always up for an experiment.  So before any of us knew it, we were off and running.  We filled up one of our dish washing buckets with warm soapy water and added two drops of lavender oil.  I knew this might make it a little difficult for the fibers to stick together, but I thought the smell of the lavender along with the feel of the warm water and the wet wool would make it worth the risk.

      Th experience of wet felting didn't yield such a fantastic result in terms of the wool fibers sticking together, but it was a lovely sensory experience for all the reasons I listed above.  I brought the four little valentines we managed to make, home and used an old needle felting tool I had purchased last year, to stick the fibers together better.  That got me thinking again.

       Maybe the children could needle felt if they used this tool.  It does have 5 needles and a plastic guard.  If I sat with each child . . .

      So the next day . . .
      The children came over to the table, one at a time, and selected their roving.  They pulled large or small pieces from the skeins and then laid the pieces on top of a felting mat in whatever design they wished.  I instructed the children to put one hand on the table (not on the felting mat) and hold the needle felting tool with the other hand.  I held the tool with each child and together we "punched, punched, punched" the wool until the fibers were intertwined.  Here is a picture of my daughter giving it a try.  She is a little bit older than some of my students, so I let her try alone for a bit.  

      Punch, punch, punching . . .

      The fibers are intertwined here.  See her heart design?


      After the soft and fuzzy valentines were completed, each child added a drop of essential oil.  Most children chose lavender.  Our whole classroom smelled heavenly.   The experience of needle felting wasn't quite the same as wet felting, but the roving was very soft, and the children noticed the smell of the wool as well as the smell of the lavender oil.  

      We wrapped up each of the valentines in some tissue paper for the children to bring home to their parents.  

      Here are a few of the children's "sensory valentines."

      This one has a "M" for my student's name.  Cute!

      I hope you have a very happy, soft, and aromatic Valentine's Day!