Ms. Frizzle visits our class!

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It turns out one of my best friends, that I’ve known since childhood, is Ms. Frizzle! You really think you know someone…

(I am in the middle, green shirt/glasses- She is on the far left)

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And now we are all grown up, I am the weirdo on the left. (below)

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The children just loved her! She read them books, and talked about space! (which we had been talking about in class, we even had a mini space projector presentation yesterday!)

Here she is reading to the class.

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After reading she played us space sounds! Some were a bit creepy, but that just made us love them even more! As we listened we drew pictures of space! We were very inspired.

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(drawing above by: Olle)

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(picture above by: Oliver)

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What a wonderful day! We look forward to future visits from Ms. Frizzle!

Dangerous Possibilities!

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When you look at this photo, what do you see? What do you think?imageWhat if I told you this work bench is in a preschool classroom. My preschool classroom.

Some may look at something like this in a preschool classroom an be alarmed. I know I was when I first saw something like this in a preschool setting. The first time I saw this was at Ren’s House in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham area about a year and a half ago. (Which is a phenomenal ECE-homebased center) This was one of the many things that inspired me, and stuck with me from my tour of the center. I remember thinking “OH MY!” wondering how many children have gotten hurt, and what kind of safety precautions would need to be put in place prior to use. Ms. Sharon Dove (director/owner/teacher) told the tour group her philosophy on using real tools and materials, and how beneficial they had been. She even told us that injuries were not a problem for her, and that she teaches proper use of the tools. And the children become very careful as a result.

On the way home I expressed my amazement with my Director. I knew I wanted to try it for myself, and luckily my Director was on board.

This is when I learned about the “Risk Vs. Hazard”  theory. Click HERE for a great article on the role that Risk Vs. Hazard plays in ECE.

I started off very slow in the class I had last year. Using plastic and wood hammers with golf tees and cork board. Coming from a corporate background, I was a bit skittish of taking risks. I instantly felt like the experience just wasn’t enough for the children. Sure it was good for their fine and gross motor development, but it wasn’t engaging them on the level I had hoped it would. So I started introducing real nails. And slowly, over the course of the whole year, I transitioned the wood working station, into a center stocked with real wood, real nails, and real hammers. (that is how we built a birdhouse!)

This year I took off the training wheels, and started the class off with the full woodworking table, nails and all. The older class “gifted” the table and tools to the upcoming class, as to pass the torch. It has been a hit! I have since added screw drivers and screws to the mix for more precise fine motor manipulation and strength building. There are of course safety goggles in the area, along with a tool smock. Since we carved our pumpkin, a wrench has been added to the mix as well. Which they use to pull out nails and screws.

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We started a unit a month or so ago, where we became very engaged with taking things apart.  Children started using all the skills they learn in our wood working center, and use it practically. We took apart all kinds of things!

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Some friends even brought in some items from home to take apart! Here is a part to a dryer that we spent an entire morning dismantling this week!

 

It has been amazing to see the progression this lesson has taken not only with this class, but over the last year and a half. I can’t wait to see where else it will take us. And where else this shift and progression in ECE will go universally!

Project Work Takes Time!

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One of my favorite parts of project based work in schools, is that you are never sure where it will go! My class started their interest in building, making, and taking apart things back in the summer when we built a birdhouse! Since then the children have taken apart clocks, flashlights, intercoms, phones, and calculators. In the middle of all this exploration, we had halloween. I had seen a Pinterest post showing an inventive way to cut out shapes in a pumpkin using a hammer and a cookie cutter. I had planned on letting the children hammer nails into a pumpkin, and later wrap with twine; so this idea seemed like a good extension for them. As well as a great addition to their wood working bench to explore.

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The kids enjoyed hammering the cookie cutters in, I will note that I often had to ‘start’ the process as it can be a bit difficult to keep the cookie cutter still on the smooth pumpkin surface. Once the cookie cutters were all hammered in, the children had to problem solve on how to get the cookie cutters out. We decided to try a wrench, and the children loved it! The task was both challenging and rewarding and kept the children busy through out the day. IMG_0336.JPG

IMG_0342.JPGOnce the Pumpkin had no more space left to insert cookie cutters into, we started wedging them out. We used the lever process, turning anything that worked into a lever. The pumpkin scoop was our favorite. We never had to cut the top off of the pumpkin to get the guts out, there were enough bat and pumpkin shaped holes in the pumpkin, that our littler hands had no problem reaching in and pulling the seeds out! (Some of us enjoyed the mystery, others enjoyed sorting out the seeds) IMG_0350.JPGIMG_0352.JPG

Then we had to decide on how to light the pumpkin. The children came up with all kinds of ideas. We tried most of them… then we had an idea. What if we put a light bulb in the pumpkin? How would we power it? How does that work? We decided to turn to the smallest and simplest version of light we could think of (that wasn’t a fake tea light) A FLASHLIGHT! We ended up taking a few flashlights apart before we found one that had the kind of light we wanted, and the kind of power. And with the help of family support, we were able to create a small circuit to place inside the pumpkin! If we moved the wire a certain way the light would come on, if we moved the wire another it would turn off. We also found that using more batteries meant the light would be brighter!

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This project helped launch the class into an assortment of new projects such as building a Da Vinci Clock, which lead us to telescope exploration, which in turn lead us to wonder about space! You never know where imaginative minds will go!

Preschoolers Build a Birdhouse!

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And I’m not talking about the cute milk carton style birdhouses either. I’m talking about a wooden birdhouse, complete with…

wait for it…

real nails!

A little over a year ago, I would’ve looked at someone like they were crazy if they even suggested giving three/four year olds a hammer and nails. But over the past year I have seen preschooler do some amazing things, all it takes is a little trust and guidance.

Before the start of the school year last year, my supervisor and I took a little road trip to a place called Ren’s House, right outside of Harrisonburg Va. http://www.renshouse.com/ My rockstar CDA advisor was our guide for this mini trip, and promised we would be amazed. She was not wrong. We saw many marvelous things at Ren’s House. My favorite (as you can see from my post on Mud kitchens) was the mud kitchen/ water pump/outdoor sink duo. That entire playground was a wonderland. Butterfly gardens, outdoor easels, simple machines, a music wall, and much much more. One thing in particular caught my eye outside. It was a stump, with hundreds of nails hammered into it. This was my first encounter with the idea of letting preschoolers learn with real tools. I walked around the rest of the tour with the idea in my head. Would that be something I’d be comfortable doing? What a thought!

Later in the tour, inside the classroom, I noticed an actual woodworking table. No way that was for the kids, I thought. No sooner than I thought that, the owner of Ren’s House started explaining that it was for the kids! Then she said the magic words, in all the years she had been running the classroom, with the wood working table, no kids had been seriously injured. A knick here and there, maybe, but not what you would imagine could happen with sharp tools and small children. Let me just note that she had a full tool table, hammers, nails, saws, etc. And no accidents! That was the moment I realized it really is all in the teaching of the subject.

Fascinated, I immediately figured out how to incorporate a wood working center into my curriculum. Hesitant, but optimistic, I set up a table with plastic play tools and golf tee’s to start with. Children spent hours hammering the plastic golf tee’s into the back of our block shelf (that had pre-existing holes). Later I added cork board, and they hammered golf tee’s into the cork. Then I traded out the golf tee’s for small nails, then switched the plastic hammers for wooden mallets. Cautiously working our way into a full wood working experience. Just like the teacher from Ren’s House said, the children did wonderfully with the real materials.

Fast forward to now, as we are talking about camping and the outdoors. We decided to make a bird house. And we wanted to do it using real wood and hammers. So that is exactly what we did.

I pre-glued the pieces together, and pre-started a few of the nails that would be hammered in for the children to help guide them. But I honestly don’t think I  really had to do that, because before too long they were placing and starting their own nails all on their own. In fact I think some of them would be able to build their own birdhouse or similar structure with out my input at all! (color me impressed!) The children were so into the project that we took the nails and hammer outside and started making our own tree stump of nails!

The tree house is not done, I will update this post when we paint and hang it. But here are a few shots of the tiny hands at work!

I am so inspired by this project that I am wondering what we should do next. A squirrel house? Maybe eventually the kids can make their own club house! (ok, don’t get carried away) But you never know!

Retail Representatives Visit Preschools!?

Wait, What? Did you know that some companies will send out their HR reps to schools to help promote their brand? It’s true. And it makes sense, because it is practically free advertising! And the kids LOVE it.

I can’t imagine as a grown up, how exciting a visit from “The Costco Man” is. I can try though. Supermarkets, stores, anywhere other than home… is an adventure. Possibly even an amusement park! Especially places like Costco, who we had visit today. I’m a grown up, and Costco feels kind of like an amusement park. Sometimes there are even kiddie rides there!

We had been talking about our home town and state for about a month, and we discovered that the children had a certain fascination with Costco. So much so, that some children went home and persuaded their parents into buying memberships! So on a hunch one of our teachers called Costco to see if they can send us stickers, or any promotional materials we could use in the classroom. What they offered us instead blew our minds! They said they could do a school visit! Before long, we had the whole thing set up and started telling the children about it. They became very excited. So excited, that when the Costco Man showed up today, their cheers were so loud that we could hear them in the front lobby!

The Costco Man was great with the children. He asked them questions about their visits at Costco, and what they liked to eat at the Cafe. Then he handed out sale flyers for the children to look at. I watched the children identify different items on their flyers and some pretended to talk about buying them and “sales”. Then the Costco man handed out fruit snacks to everyone and promised to bring by stickers for them too!

I am still in awe over how star struck the children were over “The Costco Man” and glad that we were able to align the stars to make that magic happen for them.

I wonder what is next?

Mock Camping for Preschoolers!

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Instead of doing themes for the summer, we decided to use one big over-arching theme or idea to cover our entire summer program. We did this to become more project oriented in our planning, and to provide the kind of flexibility we strive for within our program. (And in my opinion, what all early childhood programs should strive for, we are working with children, flexibility is vital!) To cover all the bases of what we wanted to do and where we anticipated the children would take those activities, we chose the theme “Trek Around Va”. We planned activities that would encourage map skills and early literacy, as well as activities that advocated pretend play and creativity.  The kids had the opportunity to explore different parts of Virginia, and where they wanted to “go”. These places included Luray, Washington DC, the Beach, Roanoke, Richmond, and of course a dozen or so places in our home town. To learn more about some of the activities we did on our Trek, please click HERE or on the hyper-links listed above. (If there are no hyperlinks, please check back as I will be adding them as we go!)

One Virginia centric activity, that everyone seems to do, is Camping! The transition into camping from learning all about the beach was seamless! The underlying connections between the two revolved around fish and well, you can camp on the beach if you want! I love when transitions like these happen, and they keep the activities open ended enough that if we needed to explore the topic of the beach or ocean again, we’d be able to without  missing anything! (always look for a way to enrich the activity!) To start things off we set up a tent on the playground. Not a kiddy tent, a real, fully functional tent. And of course, the kids helped! I let the children explore the tent and a few camping items on the first day, just to introduce the new topic, and they loved it! The next day was water play, so my team and I put our heads together to make a complete camping inspired water play. Next to the tent we added a mock fire pit. This was very easy. You can pick up a grill replacement grate at Lowes for $10! (or maybe you already have one lying around or found one at a yard sale) We layed the grate over two pieces of wood, placed sticks between the pieces of wood and under the grate, then the children and I collected rocks to make a fire wall on either open side of the pit. Here is a picture! CampingFirepit

Once the fire pit was made, we pulled out pots and pans and started using it! Then the children all changed into their bathing suites, because the next part gets messy! Fishing! We made fish out of felt, and added paper clips to the tips so that they could be picked up with magnetic fishing pools. (which we also made, aren’t we just so resourceful!) We put all of the fish into a baby pool, and the children fished them out!

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After the children caught the fish they took them to the fire pit and cooked them up! Yummy! We also added a hanging flower pot hook to the camp site so children could hang a pot of food, a kettle, towels, lanterns, or whatever they wanted from it! Children also brought over logs, buckets, and tires to sit on around the fire! How adorable!

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Preschool, Picasso, and Shapes!

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Today we dove straight into Cubism! The transition from surrealism to cubism was very smooth. I think that the concept of cutting paper to create images, both from the magazines for the surreal faces project, and now with cutting shapes, paired with reading and discussing Eric Carle books and illustration process, really cemented the concepts that we are trying to teach. Just making a note of that for future reference and thought.

The children looked at two different Picasso paintings at circle time, one of which was the painting “Three Musicians”.

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In past years I have used the book “The Three Musicians: A Children’s Book Inspired by Picasso” by Veronique Massenot as a teaching resource. This year I did not have a copy so I continued without it.

The children spent some time looking over the painting and picking out shapes they saw. We made a list of all the shapes we found. Then we pulled out the white board and shape magnets, and together made a Picasso inspired face!

It’s adorable….

I left the board and the magnets out for future exploration.

Then some children were interesting in making some independent abstract art. I put out paper, scissors, and glue and let them create!

Here is some of what they have come up with so far:

Top Left: “My Baby Brother” Top Right: “An ATV” Bottom Left “A Lion” Bottom Right “A Train”

Can you see it?