Friday, June 18, 2010

a watercolor activity run amok

The last few weeks of school I confess I was a little manic about collecting water bottles.*

Barely had my coworkers/family members/friends finished their last sip when I was greedily snatching it out of their hands and squirreling it away into a big box in my closet. 

When I had enough for one child to have about five or more apiece, I started setting up a color making station in the water table which I dragged outside along with the box of bottles. The weather was in the 80's, perfect for a water activity.

I figured we would pour water in the bottles using pitchers of various sizes, and even watering cans. Ironically the hose is located indoors in our atrium, so I dragged that out as well.

Then we would use droppers and pipettes to add liquid watercolor paint which I poured into baby food jars and placed into the water table as well.

When it was time to go outside, I opened up shop.
It was a disaster. I had too many customers and not enough sales clerks or space. Water was spilling everywhere, paint was being diluted. Kids were soaked. It was time to shut her down and regroup. It took me about 45 minutes to set the activity up, and about 2 minutes to have it go to pot. Oh well.

Determined to make this work, I took the bottles and the pouring parts out of the water table and set up a mini station inside on the floor of our atrium closer to the hose (I had to refill those pitchers at lightening speed, though reflecting on this I could have let the children use the hose themselves...headslap). I left the watercolor paint and the droppers in the water table.

Ah, this was more like it. Things flowed much better (pun intended).

Water pouring station

So, after the children filled their water bottle to the top, they added the paint, choosing from a variety of colors. Inevitably they added so many different colors the water turned that purpley-brown color I'm sure everyone who paints with children is familiar with. After they did that several times (I let them get it out of their system), I reminded them that there were plenty more water bottles and when they made the water a color they liked, they could cap it and retrieve another. I also told them if they didn't like the result they could pour the water on the plants and start over again.

I was so busy during this activity that I didn't realize the children were helping each other and working together- one holding the bottle while another added color.

Here are some photos of the final products:

I can't wait until fall when we can put these to use!  


*I personally use a refillable stainless steel water bottle but that is a conversation for another time.
However I will post this image of plastic gathering in the ocean, which is one that haunts me:


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fast trains have lights, they move and move! Following the childrens interest in trains, in a Reggio-inspired way

Every year I have a number of children devoted to trains. This post documents a journey we took two years ago. Of course, I did not do this alone. We had weekly team meetings with other teachers and assistants, and the guidance of our studio coordinator.

Fast trains have lights, they move and move!

The children love playing with trains. It was such a popular activity one year that I decided to rearrange the room and devote an entire area to the trains.

The project started off slowly. First we read books about trains and learned about the different parts of freight trains:

We drew pictures of our trains as a whole and pictures of individual cars with Sharpe markers:

The children told me about trains as they drew:

J: It's a flying train. It goes into outer space in a rocket!

Other's words:

I:  I want to draw the caboose. [Points to the engine] This one is gonna be a hard one. I'm gonna hafta do a tough one...I did it! They are all connected
T.L.: I drew a train stop where everyone gets on the train. I'm blowing the whistle (woo woo wooowoooo)! Everyone all aboard!

We formed trains with our bodies, and negotiated who went were.

J: I'm going to be the engine
D: I want to be the back.
B: The freight car
E: I want to be the coal car
A: Hopper car
B.R: The blue one.
H.L. Tracks and tracks and tracks!

Then we decided where our train would go:
J: the office, by Ms. Maria, the studio, Ms. Karol's class and then back to our room.

Next I set a photo, rulers, thin strips of paper and charcoal on the table and invited the children to draw train tracks.

We then used wire and wire cutters to make three dimensional tracks. Alas, I don't have a photo of that, but here are some words documenting the challenge:

T.L: I give up
I: You can't give up, you have to keep trying!
A: Practice makes perfect!

Finally, two children created a collaborative train drawing:

I hope their interest in trains never ends!

Monday, June 14, 2010

garage sales- treasured memories

I do love me some garage sales. Perhaps it's because I have fond memories of  going with my grandparents as a child. My grandma would call it 'bummin.' As in, "C'mon Erin, get in the car, we're goin' bummin'."

They didn't have a lot of money, and they weren't highly educated. My grandpa, a US veteran of Mexican descent had Parkinson's disease and my grandma, a diabetic, was wheelchair-bound. But what they lacked in money the made up for in quality time, and boy did we sure have a whole lot of fun. I always felt special that I could come home with little treasures, especially elephant knick-nacks (my favorite). And after a hard day of bummin' I'd get a happy meal to boot!

My grandpa, my father, and I

I still love to go bummin.' You never know what you are going to find. Last weekend was the Crete city-wide garage sale extravaganza. I bought a huge pack of hair curlers for the classroom. I'm not sure what we are going to do with them, but for $2, I'll figure something out. 

I also bought this old Kodak camera: 


I don't know if it works, or even how to open it, but it has a nice heft, the knob turns, and the button makes a wonderful clicking sound.

I also bought this:

It teaches multiplication. You depress a spring-loaded button, and on the side of the button above it is the answer (you can just make out the 16 above the 2x8 button). Now, I don't expect my preschool children will learn their times tables. What I'm mostly concerned with is that their are numbers in the environment and that there are objects to manipulate.

The summer garage sale season has just begun, and I can't wait to see what classroom treasures I find next!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

little orb of wonder

This fishbowl is amazing. 

I dug it out of my classroom closet before I left for the summer. It was in there because for a while, we couldn't keep the poor lil' guys alive (I suspect we were adding too much water conditioner). So I cleaned it, washed off the smooth stones and scrubbed the little plastic plant. But the plastic plant bothered me a bit. Everything else in there was natural.

So, while I was up at my parent's lake house for the weekend, I snatched some type of water grass and put it into a plastic water bottle and set it on the mantle to take home. My dad was not happy with me when he took a drink out of it. I, of course laughed and teased him, only to accidentally take a swig out of it myself when I got home. Karma...blech.

While we were skimming seaweed, we also plucked some water lilies for our water feature in the front yard, so it should be interesting to see how they both fare. Especially considering those kinds of plants can cost over $40 at the garden center!

But anyway, back to the bowl.

It is large, round, and is made of (gasp!) glass. It is intriguing to the children. The water is crisp and clear and the stones  are colorful. When light filters through it, it glimmers. It is also intriguing because it magnifies the objects inside: bubbles and scales, fins and eyes.

I place it prominently in the classroom, under a skylight on a built- in, stand-alone bookshelf. From there, the children can see the bowl from all angles. They can press their noses up to it. They have even wrapped their arms around it a time or two for a full bodied tactile experience.

Sure we learn about science from this fishbowl, but mostly we're interested in it because it's a Thing of Wonder. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

exploring the earth movers

Early in September our center received some great news: we were getting a parking lot! To my joy, the construction crew dropped off two pieces of heavy machinery.
The children donned their construction hats and with their pencils and clip boards we headed out. I didn't tell them anything about what they were seeing initially because I wanted to hear what their ideas were.

I don't have photos of the other machine, but here is what some of the children had to say about it:

E: I think the truck is lost.
S: What do the handles do?
D: Is that a car seat for babies in the front?
S.T.: Babies have to ride in the back.
A: The front is for the Daddy, the back is for the baby.

We drew pictures of the machine as a whole and we drew pictures of the various parts: the cab, the wheels/treads, the bucket and whatever other parts caught the childrens fancy.

Some of chidlren never lost interest in the parking lot and continued to build replicas long into the school year!
Construction of the parking lot with a 'parking lot- save' sign

Drawing the bucket and noticing its 'teeth'

Drawing of the loader

Thursday, June 10, 2010

reclaimed mesh weaving project

After my return from one of Bev Boss's workshops, I felt inspired to use recycled materials for future projects.

I found some plastic mesh material in the teacher's resource room. It practically begged for me to use it for a weaving/knot tying project. I brought it and spools of ribbon to the outdoor picnic table. I cut ribbon of varying lengths and colors and set them out. Curious children came over to see what was going on. Some stayed for a minute, others longer and wove the ribbon through the holes.

Those who wanted to tie knots did so as well. By the end of the day we had run out of ribbon and what looked like an underwater sea creature. When I lifted it up, the 'tentacles' blew in the wind delighting the children around me, who asked me what it was. I told them it was whatever we wanted it to be!

As soon as I can get back into my classroom this fall, and figure out where to hang our art, I will post a photo of the completed version.

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