23 November, 2011

Food on The Mayflower: Bringing the Story to Life

In preparation for Thanksgiving, our class has been learning about the origins of the holiday.

Similarly to last year, I made our classroom housekeeping area into The Mayflower, and the children have had great fun looking through telescopes for land, putting our classroom babies to bed in hammocks, pretending to be seasick (yes, this is a favorite), and surviving a terrible storm at sea!  We have also spent some time during our morning circle retelling the story of how and why the group of people we call "the pilgrims" climbed aboard that ship in 1620.  I like to tell the story with sound effects (a thunderstorm at sea track), and act out some of the parts such as when the sailors repaired a main beam of the ship which had broken during the storm, with a "great iron screw."

Another way I brought the story to life was with food.  The passengers and sailors on board The Mayflower ate food preserved without the aid of refrigeration.  (This is something my four and five year old students can hardly imagine.) We discussed together what foods the children had at home today, that would keep well without being refrigerated.  They thought of food like crackers and potato chips.  I thought this was good thinking, and it led well into introducing some of the foods people had eaten on The Mayflower!

Okay, people on The Mayflower didn't really eat beef jerky and sardines, but again the idea here is to eat some of the kinds of foods they had.  Our food is listed below, and in parentheses are the foods people actually would have eaten on The Mayflower.

  • dried edamame  (dried peas)
  • dried green beans (dried beans)
  • beef jerky (salt horse)
  • dried apples (dried fruit)
  • hard wheat crackers (hard tack)
  • caned sardines (dried fish)
  • Oh, and I also gave the children water as everything was so salty, but I also explained to them that had they been on board The Mayflower they would have had to drink beer!  Yes, even the children drank beer because the water became brackish.  Yuck!
Almost everything we ate was dried and very salty - similarly to some of the food available on The Mayflower.  We ate without the lights on in the classroom (to represent how dark it must have been below the decks on the ship) while we listened to the sounds of a thunderstorm at sea!

I think this was a great way to bring a bit of The Mayflower's journey, to life.  Hopefully it was a memorable experience for the children - even if it was not necessarily a delicious one.  

Wood Polish!

Dear Readers,

As requested, here is the recipe I used for my handmade wood polish.

I found THIS wonderful and truly easy peasy recipe online.  It is so clear and the pictures made it look so easy, I knew that even I could do it!

I tweaked the recipe a bit.  Jojoba oil was nearly $11 for 1/2 cup, and grape seed oil and apricot oil were $5 for 1/2 cup.  Amber says (in her tutorial) that jojoba oil is good for longer than other oils, but since I had so many items to polish, I figured I shouldn't have any problems using it up before any of the oils became rancid.  So I used . . .

1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/2 cup apricot oil
1 cup of beeswax (broken into small pieces)
about 8 drops of lavender oil (this makes the polish smell heavenly)

Amber also mentions in her tutorial that she stirred the polish a few times over the course over an hour or two when it was cooling, but I found I needed to stir it often over the course of about 1/2 hour or 45 minutes.  So when you try this recipe on your own, I recommend not leaving it unattended.  You wouldn't want all your hard work to go to waste!  : )

Now, what wonderful things can you find to polish, your classroom blocks, your doll cradle, your library bookcase?

Or maybe you can take a trip out to the woods and find some fabulous hidden treasure - as I did!

Happy Polishing!

22 November, 2011

Reclaiming and Recycling: Wood from our School's Forest

Our school playground backs up to a large wooded area which leads down to a creek.  Isn't that fabulous?  (We are working on plans to de-poison ivy as much of the area as we can so that we can spend much more time out there. The planning is very exciting, and I hope to blog about it more extensively soon.)

In the meantime however, I have spent some time after school tramping around the woods. On one of those tramps I found a gem, hidden amongst the wet and soggy leaves.  I wish I had photographed it "before," but I didn't - so you'll just have to accept my written description.  It was a piece of an old tree that was hollow in the middle.  I was particularly intrigued by the holes in the sides.  They seemed to me to be perfect "windows."  So I picked up the piece of wood, and brought it home.

Inside the reclaimed wood piece

I washed it out thoroughly in the bathtub, removing lots of dead leaves, dirt, rotted wood bits, and ants -  oh so many ants!  Then I dried it out in a low temperature oven (with the oven door slightly open so I could check on it often) for about thirty minutes.  Later on in the day, I began working on the wood with my dremel tool.  I sanded and sanded and sanded . . . and sanded.  Then I sanded more the next day, removing loose bark, bits of left over rotted wood, and bits of embedded dirt.  I then sanded it by hand for a long time!  It was hard work, but it was so rewarding so see such a gorgeous piece of wood emerge from that work!  I polished the wood with my handmade wood polish, added a moss colored needle felted roof, and voila!

Don't you just love the windows?

I'm writing a story about a little tree sprite who lives in the hollow of an old oak tree, and this seemed to be just the home for her.  What do you think?

I wonder what other treasures are hiding in the woods behind our school?  

08 November, 2011

What We See and What They See

This quick post is to remind you that what we see is not necessarily what they see . . .

Case in point:  A few weeks ago my daughter discovered this piece of an old, somewhat rotted stump next to my son's soccer field.  She happily drummed on it throughout his game, and then asked if she could bring it home.  After she brought it home I started really looking at it, and noticing the beauty in the wood.  I asked her if I could work on it a bit and "spiff it up."  She kindly agreed so I sanded and polished it, with my handmade beeswax, grape seed, apricot, and lavender oil wood polish. Later, of course, this piece of wood made its way to my classroom.  Not only did the children ooh and aah over it, but I also spied them rubbing the smooth parts of the wood and smelling the nooks and crannies, where bits of the wood polish lingered.  

This old piece of wood that had been sitting in that field for who knows how long has now been . . .

a castle,
a bridge,
part of a beaver lodge,
a cave,
a mountain,
a drum!

And who knows what it will become tomorrow?

What some adult saw as yard work is now a much beloved part of our block area.  

What is lying around your yard, your child's soccer field, or your school playground?  Try to look at whatever you find not only with your eyes, but also through a child's.  

06 November, 2011

How I Bring Nature Inside the Classroom

I recently attended a Nature Explore workshop, at the beautiful Shaw Nature Reserve in St. Louis, Missouri.  The workshop was about documenting children's learning outdoors and how to bring nature indoors, to the classroom!

Here are photos of some of the ways I bring nature and natural elements indoors, to my classroom!

I cover my windows (which overlook the parking lot) with sheers.  They somewhat obscure the cars coming and going, allow the natural light to stream into the room, and also give a good view of the lovely trees and other greenery, beyond the parking lot.

I covered the bulletin board with natural burlap.

We observe, document, and make labels for creatures we bring in from the playground 

I store materials in natural felt bowls

We use natural materials in our art projects

Display natural objects

and use them for other purposes

I have added a bit of nature to our daily sign in sheet area

I added handmade tree blocks to our block area

Here they are in action, along with baskets of burr acorns, and small stones

Plants basking in filtered light add loveliness to this area

Pieces of birch wood may be shaped here, with rasps.  There are also pine cones and sweet gum "gumballs" for other projects.

Bamboo wind chimes make a lovely sound when the weather allows me to open the windows

Rainbow colored felt creatures fly from this grape vine wreath

And a stump outside the door serves as a welcome to our room

We sometimes sing songs by candlelight

And use babies made from all natural wool.  They smell so good!

How do you bring nature indoors?