Monday, August 30, 2010

a little play-dough helps ease the separation

Today was the first day of Pre-K. Although it's only eight p.m. and I'm ready for bed, it was a fantastic day. Probably one of the best first days I have ever had. The morning went smoothly just until I rang the bell for for our morning meeting. I think it startled one of my brand new little guys because then the tears started and a touch of separation anxiety set in.

Group time can definitely be overwhelming for the very young ones. It's been my experience though, if you can get them involved in a sensory activity it helps to calm their nerves. However in this instance, the lil guy was huddled in the corner by the door and no gentle persuasion would get him to come out. So I tore off a hunk of our home-made play dough and set it on a shelf close to him. Sure enough, a few minutes later he was happily engaged with the dough.

I went over to check him and found him stepping on pieces of play-dough on the floor.

In a previous life, I might have told him that play-dough doesn't go on the floor, picked it up and moved on. Instead I commented on the designs in his play-dough and invited him to trace them with his finger.We got down really close to examine the patterns and I asked if I could take a picture of them. He agreed this was a good idea. We noted the lines and patterns such as chevron and diamond. Then we rolled the play-dough into one big ball and flattened it out so we could do a large impression. We did this a couple of times.

We made sure to check out the bottom of his shoe as well to make sure the patterns were the same:


After this brief interaction he smiled and felt secure enough again to enter into small group play on his own.  :)

The end!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

our own recycle progress

Previously, I blogged about my disappointment in the Creative Reuse Warehouse Center in edition to the fact that our center is creating its own recycling center.

Here are some initial pictures of the space which is a ten-and-a half by ten-and-a-half foot space.

As viewed from the door:

Northwest corner:

Northeast corner:

In progress pics:

West wall:

North-east wall:

We're low on supplies, but I expect it to be brimming with recycled goodies by the end of the year!

Now I have to clean out the atrium after editing out the closet space:


The end!

The Creative Reuse Warehouse

Last week a colleague and I went to the Creative Reuse Warehouse located on the south-side of Chicago. My husband did not want me to go because it is located  in a not-so-nice neighborhood. But after viewing the pictures on the website, I HAD to go. From the website photos, it looked like there was a veritable treasure trove of goodies I could purchase for my classroom.

Here is the photo from their website:

Because I've been in the Chicago area educational system for 8 years and had never heard of it before, I was certain it wasn't as elaborate as Reggio Emilia's Remida or St. Louis's Teacher's Recycle Center. But I still had high hopes.

We planned a great day. First we were heading to the recycle center and then it was off to Columbia College for the Hundred Languages Exhibit.

Well, we ended up driving right past the recycle center and into a marina off the Calumet River. Whoops! How did we miss it? Perhaps because it looked like this (from Google maps):

We were not sure the building wasn't abandoned. We had to ring a bell to get in and they promptly locked the door behind us. I'm telling you, I wish I had thought to take a photo inside. I think I was too traumatized to remember. There were two areas, the indoor office-type part and a large warehouse in the back. It was filled with garbage, and not the kind I could think anyone could reuse. We didnt want to touch anything because we were afraid of catching a disease. The entire place was full of musty and moldy boxes and smelled accordingly. There were droppings everywhere too. I had a headache for the rest of the day which I attribute to the air quality inside.

Most of the boxes were large and set on shelves too high to see into. The only thing we thought was interesting was a tall roll of bubble wrap but I didn't want to purchase it as I was sure something was living inside and it would have to be disinfected. I suppose an artist could find things of use if they were so inclined to spend copious amounts of time cleaning them (like greasy nuts and bolts), but these items were not suitable for use by children.

I feel like I was misled by the Creative Reuse Warehouse website. I would recommend all teachers to stay home and not to waste their precious time. I feel like I was robbed of what should have been, and could be, a great resource for Chicago area teachers.

On a positive note, our building has a large closet that we are dedicating to making our own center-wide recycling center. I'm hoping to make this happen in the next two weeks.

Wish me luck:

The end!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

:: table top pendulum ::

I gave these Bev Bos plans for a table-top pendulum to my dad to help me build one for the classroom. And here it is.....

I am super-excited to introduce the concept to class and  I can't wait to post photos of it in use. Sqeeeeeeeeeeee!

Friday, August 13, 2010

:: pestle and mortar ::

I recently went to visit  "The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children" Reggio Emilia exhibit held at Chicago's Columbia College.

I get weepy every time I think about not being able to take photographs.
Of the hundreds of ideas inspired by the exhibit the one I am focusing on in this blog post is the use of a pestle and mortar. What a wonderful and authentic tool for the children to be able to crush, grind and mix solid substances. I think about the physicality involved, the science, the aromas released and I know this is a great learning experience.

In addition to the official display, I was inspired by the mock setup of a classroom designed by my former colleague, Kristin Brizzolara.

On a table there were dozens of medium sized clear plastic containers with dividers that held all sorts of "beautiful stuff" of the natural sort. Seeds, rocks, shells, flowers, leaves, feathers and other items of that nature were organized in a way that was visually stunning and impossibly attractive. It was hard not to touch!

Happily I remembered that Marshall's had mortar and pestles the last time I visited so I went back and purchased two. Then off I went with my little basket out into the prairie to gather my own natural materials.

I dug some bowls out of the resource closet and arranged the items inside on my little science table.

I added the mortar and pestle.

Another view of the science area:

I know the kids are going to love this!

The end!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a sneak peak at the new mini-light studio and writing table

They took my classroom apart to wax the floors. It is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because I can change it around and rethink different areas with a clean slate. It is a curse because Ive logged in 60 hours so far in doing so.

But it's well worth it, I think.

I've turned the whole west side of the room into a mini-studio. It includes the 'wet' art area (not pictured as it is still in process), the writing center, and a mini-light studio.

Here is a picture of the empty northwest corner (formerly the dramatic play area). It is now a light studio (the umbrella defines writing table). Comforters hang in between the classroom to help block noise. We should be getting walls by winter break.

I hung the weaving project in between the wet art area and the writing table to help define the areas while maintaing an open feel.

A close up of the light studio:

I've intentionally left wall space empty (SO hard to do) for projector work. I think I can use some painters tape to adhere paper to the wall so they can trace objects they are interested in.

Here are the shelves along the west wall that contain the studio materials: 



I arranged this shelf perpindicular to the 'wall' to also define the space between the wet area and the writing table.

I'm always open to dialouge! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions feel free to post!

The end!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

the shape of wind- a brief look into the children's theories on wind

I brought a kite to school one day for the children to play with outside. The wind was sporadic; gusts would send the kite soaring only to crash a few minutes later. 

At our weekly meeting with the other teachers, we decided to ask the children questions that would flesh out their ideas and theories about wind. 
Teacher: Where does wind come from?
C: from the sun; it pushes the clouds away and then the wind blows
V: wind comes from windy days; from the clouds
L: in the sky
B: the sky makes it move
M: the sky

Teacher: How do clouds make the wind?
V: they make a storm and they make the wind push through
T: it comes from the trees when they shake
I: no it doesn't. Some clouds blow air, some don't. I know all about it.

Teacher: where does the wind go when it stops blowing?
C: it goes away home. It lives in the sky.
V: it goes back to the clouds.
I: on a roof or a plane, at my house or in California
T: it just stops 
L: somewhere else, like when it is long and the door is open, it goes into the classroom.
B: back to the sky
N: in the distance
M: up in the sky

We also asked the children to draw a picture of the wind thinking it would be interesting to see their visual interpretations of a force that mostly be heard or felt.

After the children drew their pictures we offered them wire. They laid the wire over their drawings to help create the shapes of wind. 

This is where the project ended. Revisiting the documentation, I would have explored the children's thoughts on the origins of wind.  I would perhaps go on a walk and search for the wind both indoors and outdoors in particular bringing them past the kitchen where a large fan helps cool the room. 

Where would you go from here?

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