Sunday, April 27, 2008

Young Explorers

Wednesday could not have been a more perfect day for us to go to Central Park and explore. We split into small groups and were able to walk around the park and talk about what we saw. This was very exciting for the children, and when we met as a class for lunch, we were all very excited to see each other and share our stories. Upon returning to school, we examined some observational drawings of flowers made by the children, as well as some items brought back from the park (all were sanitary: twigs, flowers, unknown natural objects).

Each group was equipped with a camera for the children to use, and we will happily display those photos at the Art Show (May 15).
Below are some photos that I took while traveling with my group.

Some things the children noticed, which we discussed at the day's end:
1) The Sun makes you hot
2) Shade keeps you cool
3) There are no dogs or carriages allowed on the track around the Reservoir
4) The Reservoir would not make a suitable swimming pool
5) Male ducks have green heads, females have brown, and some ducks have blue bills
6) The Park has many bridges

I noticed that many children enjoyed using found sticks as tools, to draw on the ground, for example. The next day, we featured this at our sand table, and it was a big hit. Hooray!

We had two special guests on Friday. Amy came in and helped us make matzo balls which we then enjoyed in a delicate broth. Everyone had lots of fun, and we listened to a story while the soup was cooking. Evelyn came in at the end of the day and helped the children with some yoga positioning. The children have been exceptionally receptive to doing yoga, and we are trying to include it more and more in our classroom. What we are trying to emphasize at the beginning is that yoga is a calm, quiet, relaxing activity.

And finally, we decided to change our snack routine in the morning. We now feature a table with snack and a menu on the wall, and the children can come up to freeplay for a bite to eat. Everyone has been learning to wait their turn, and to listen to their tummies for when hunger strikes. After eating, the children write their name on a list, which helps us ensure that everyone had a chance to come eat if they were hungry. So far, this system has been working well. It results in a more leisurely snack time, whereas in the morning it was rather rushed so we could move on to our morning meeting.
And best of all, reading and writing skills are complimentary. On the house!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More seaweed or pickles, anyone??

The children really enjoyed our Smell and Taste Tests during freeplay this week.
The Smell Station had five different smells: cinnamon, seaweed, chocolate, vanilla, and mint. Many of the children were able to identify the smell, or name a related food product. For mint, some suggested dental floss or toothpaste. For cinnamon, they said cookies or french fries, and for seaweed, some said fish. Can you tell which one Daria is smelling below?

We talked about how smell and taste work together to give us clues about something,
and had great conversations about nostrils and their function. The book "The Holes In Your Nose" by Genichiro Yagyu is a great resource, filled with facts and a bit silly (in a good way).

Our Taste Table featured raisins, rice krispies, sliced peaches, pickles, lemons, and cinnamon. These choices covered many different textures and flavors: chewy, crunchy, sweet, sour, tart. The children were asked to wear a blindfold and describe what they thought they were eating, using as many descriptive words as possible. As you might have guessed, the pickles and lemons were only favored by a few students, while the rest expressed their disgust appropriately.

We also made our own toothpaste this week, using baking soda (4 tsp), salt (1/2 tsp),
water (3 tsp), and mint extract (3 drops). The children really enjoyed this activity, and many were excited to try it out at home. We have talked about when is a good time to brush, why we need to brush, and how long ago, toothbrush bristles were made out of hog hair. Yummy!!

We continued to paint with our feet (one child likened the slippery experience to ice skating).

We also had two special mommy guests this week. Sally, a physician, came in to talk to the children about the heart, lungs, breathing, and ribs, among other bodily items. We learned about lungs function like balloons, filling up with air and letting it out, we listened to heart beats on the stereo, and even got to use her stethoscope to listen to each other's hearts in real time. She taught us that a stethoscope can also be used to listen to air going in and out of your lungs. Sally also brought in a device that lets you see how much air your lungs can hold. We were also able to examine a real X-ray of the human chest, with the ribs clearly visible. We discussed how ribs protect the important organs in our chest.

Jen helped us finish our delicious flower pot project. We used cupcakes, frosting, and edible rocks to look like soil, threw some gummy worms on top, and made our own flowers from tissue paper and pipe cleaners. As we were making them, you could see the children trying to restrain from having an early taste of their work, and even saw a
few sneak a quick lick of frosting or a nibble of a chocolate rock. They love their sweets!

See you all at conferences!!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Heads? Check. Shoulders? Check. Knees and Toes...?

In case you were wondering what Wednesday's loud rumblings over 89th Street were, they were a result of our fantastic brainstorming session, where we shared with each other anything and we know about the human body so far. Everything you see written on the board below came entirely from the cerebral cortices of your children. Some explanations that truly amazed me included: the brain is the 'control center' for the body, the heart moves blood around the body, and the tongue has taste buds that work together with the nose to provide information about taste.

We are fortunate to feature in the classroom many different hands-on resources for learning about the body. We have several three-dimensional figures to study, from our build-a-torso to models of the heart and eye that can be opened up to see what's inside. There is also a fantastic (and very popular) puzzle composed of several different layers, each focusing on one of the systems within the body, from the skeletal to the muscular to the digestive.

Many of the children have enjoyed filling in their own traced body with their favorite organs, bones, and other features, including the lesser-known uvula. These may be featured in our upcoming art show (May 15).

Another project, carried out by a visiting student-teacher, allowed the children to recreate their profiles on paper plates, using string, markers, paper, glue, etc. Many enjoyed studying their features in the mirror before beginning their work, as well as observing the features on their friends nearby (Who has red hair? Who has blue eyes?)

We've also got an awesome version of Body Bingo, with many identification cards (this can also be used as a simple matching game), and many magnifying glasses,
which have been popular since Day 1.

And now, a brief report on the Music & Dance scene from Preschool:

Late in March, we had a wonderful visit from a professional drummer (erm....I think his name was Joe....). This guy was super-talented, asked many questions to the children, and featured a great dance party at the end of his workshop. The children were ALL mesmerized by his performance, and really couldn't take their eyes off him and his percussion instruments. As a fellow drummer, I was equally mesmerized, and a little jealous. Photos below, including a short movie of the dance party:

I've since brought in my electronic drum machine for the children to use during freeplay, and they absolutely adore it. It even has some preloaded songs for them to play along to, and this of course inspires dance parties, as well as a moment to rest afterwards.

And yes, that's how I feel at the end of the day.