28 February, 2012

Into the Woods

Okay dear readers, turn on your Stephen Sondheim CDs and hum along with our class as we head . . .

Into the Woods!

Remember this woods?  It is located just behind our school.  Until a few weeks ago it was covered with water!  (Here is a post about this area, Flooded.)

Well, once the water receded it left a flat area full of interesting fallen branches.

They were perfect for balancing . . .

and climbing . . .

The children were tuckered out from so much climbing and had to take a little nap in the sunshine!

Some found fabulous pieces of nature!

The we found a little place where some water remained.  Look at the tree branch that was conveniently lying across it.  How fabulous!

Of course, everyone had to take a turn crossing the bridge.

and then go fishing.  The children caught some lovely pond weed.  

The children loved being outside!  They were completely engaged - without a single toy or any teacher prepared material.  

This is a photograph of all 10 of my students, working and learning.  I had to back up quite a bit to fit them all into one camera shot, but if you look carefully you can see some children are working independently and some are cooperating, to achieve goals.  

What a wonderful class family!

And what a wonderful time we had, in the woods!

21 February, 2012

Bridges between Art and Science: Arches

For the last few weeks our class has been learning about the lovely and very interesting work of Claude Monet.  The children have been especially interested in works containing the Japanese bridge.

After a few weeks of study about Monet (and his bridge), I challenged the children to look at an arch from a different point of view.  This time I asked them to look not with the eyes of an artist, but with the eyes of an engineer!  

Why did Monet choose to make his bridge an arch shape?  True it is a lovely and graceful shape, but with all the  different bridge shapes in the world, why this one? What is so great about an arch anyway?  I am blessed enough to have a parent in my class this year who is an engineer.  She kindly came to visit our class to help us figure out . . .

What is so great about an arch anyway?

Well, an arch is SUPER STRONG!  It has this strength because of compression.  Mrs. A-L showed our class an easy way to see how this works.  

She laced the fingers of her hands together and held them flat under her chin.  Then she rested her chin on top of her fingers.  What happened?  Her fingers broke apart!

But when she laced her fingers together and made them into an arch shape . . .

she could have rested her chin there all day!

Mrs. A-L showed us some photographs of arches that have been around for a really long time.  I told the children these arches had been around since before I was born!  WOW!  That means they have been around a really long time!  Of course the children asked if the arches had been around since before the dinosaurs.  I said they (and I) hadn't been around quite that long.  

Of course, Mrs. AL was referring to some arches made by the ancient Romans.

Like this . . .

I asked the children if they could think of any arches they had seen around their homes or around our school.  Then I asked them if they had seen any . . . in their refrigerators!  Hahahahaha!  They thought that was a silly question until I pulled out an egg.  

What shape is the top of an egg?  

The children agreed that it was an arch.  But then I said, "Wait, but eggs are so fragile!  If you drop it, it breaks!  How could it be fragile and strong at the same time?"

I did an experiment with the children to see how strong the arch of an egg really is.  I found this experiment years ago, in a book I have from The Exploratorium in San Francisco.  The book lists Science Snacks.  I can't find this experiment on their current web site, but it is explained very well here, at the web site of the San Diego Zoo.  

With the children, I carefully placed an egg in a section of egg carton. Then I placed a block of the same height opposite it.  We guessed how many books the egg and the block could hold before the egg broke. The children's guesses ranged from 2 to 10000!  I carefully began placing books, one at a time, on top of the egg and block.  I used exaggerated care and facial expressions.  I successfully placed 6 books on top of the egg, and then it began to crack!  The children began shrieking!  I placed on 2 more books totalling 8, and with the addition of the 9th books, the egg broke!  The last time I did this experiment, it took 23 books!  Maybe I had an old egg this time, but it was still wonderful to see the amazement on the children's faces!  

The only problem with this experiment was that the children didn't get to participate.  I don't know what I was thinking, but if I do it again next year, I will do it outside and let each child try it out for him or herself!  

Here is another egg experiment to try out.  It looks fabulous!  Click on the picture to go to Steve Spangler's "Walking on Eggshells" experiment.

After we did the egg experiment, Mrs. A-L showed the children some other arches that occur in nature.  She had a book with fabulous photographs.  One of them was of a shell like this . . .

See the arches?  The children did too!

After that Mrs. A-L brought out a gift she and her family had made for our classroom!  It was 4 sets of PVC pieces with stands, for the children to make their own arches!  The children went to work immediately, building away!

And of course, we had to use the arches to make a rainbow fort.  

After the weekend, we went on an "Arch Walk" around our school, looking for arches.  The children found so many!  I made an "I Spy Arches" book (from the photographs that we took during the walk) so the children can revisit arches outside of the classroom, anytime they wish to do so.

And my daughter kindly loaned me her Curvy Board

 The children experimented with an arch rocking . . .

 acting as a back stretcher . . .

and as a bridge!  Sorry, this isn't Monet's Japanese bridge.  It is the troll bridge from The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  See the troll under the bridge?  

How do you create bridges between disciplines?  

Feel free to post a link in a comment so we can share bridging ideas!  Thank you!

19 February, 2012

Once upon a time . . .

Once upon a time . . .
there lived a mother who really wanted to write a story.   She wrote and wrote and wrote - ideas, inspirations, and snippets of conversations, in a notebook.   She wasn't much of a painter so she used her daughter as a model for the illustrations.  

She sketched . . . 

and sketched some more . . .

doodling and erasing a lot of the time.

She used watercolors to add color to the sketches she liked,

and then started typing and typing and typing.  

Wish me luck!  

18 February, 2012

Painting with Light!

So . . .

Thomas Kincade may be the painter of light (or so I read), but the children in our class are the painters with light!  I have seen this project on a few blogs, and have been waiting for just the right time to try it out.

Before we began we discussed how a camera works.  I said it works like an eye and the shutter works like an eyelid.  It is closed until someone presses the button.  I said to the children that usually when I take a picture of them, I open and close the shutter quickly!  That makes the image clear.  The children opened and closed their eyes quickly and I asked them what they saw.  Then I asked them what they saw when they left their eyes open for a longer time.  What if their friends were moving around?    This got a little confusing for the children I think because they started to think about video, but I think they got the general idea that by leaving the camera's shutter or eye "open," I could take a picture of something in more than one place.  This time, I explained, the something would be light!

I told the children I had never done this before, so they would have to be patient as we learned together!

We closed all the curtains and doors, and cracked open some glow sticks.  Thanks to the help of another teacher (Thanks, Jay!) I was able to adjust the shutter speed on the camera (to between 3 and 6 seconds) and the children began to "paint!"

They waved and spun their glow sticks

made letters (see the Os?)

and waggled them all around

I was able to show the children the results of their work, on the camera's screen (even if they weren't very big), and this child was particularly happy with her results!  I think it looks like she is visiting with Tinkerbell!

Then we went down to the conference room - where there are no windows!  
We turned off all the lights and  . . .


Lightsaber battle, anyone?

The next day the children worked with a flashlight.  This made even more distinct lines and was a bit easier for the children to manipulate.  It is a big heavy flashlight, and I think its weight made "painting" (rather than simply swinging the glow sticks) easier.

Plus it has a setting which turns the light red!  Cool!

Then we worked with our string our lights!  These pictures are spiffy, don't you think?

 All in all this was a pretty interesting project.  I am going to print all these pictures over the weekend so the children can look closely at the results! 

We worked on this project to practice making Os and circles, to tie in with our learning about different art mediums, and as a way to experiment with light.  This would also be a great way to make rainbows - maybe for St. Patrick's Day?  

Extension Activity for Older Children:  

It would also be interesting to mix colors of light - which mixes differently than pigments.  Red and green for example, do not make brown, but instead yellow!  Hmmmm.  This is perhaps, a bit advanced for young children, but would be a good extension activity for older children.  If you want to try this extension, visit one of my favorite museums, The Exploratorium or if you don't happen to live in San Francisco, their website!  Here is fun page where you can experiment with light!