Story Walk

June was Great Outdoors Month! And my first month working at a library! Coming from a school that spent the majority of their time in an outdoor classroom, (and became the second Nature Explorer Certified Classroom in the State!- CONGRATS LADIES!)  I wanted to keep the “outdoor” momentum going. The Libraries had recently partnered with Virginia State Parks and the Science Museum of Virginia to provide Nature Backpacks- equipped with everything you’d need to explore the great outdoors. From compasses to tarps, and even a parking pass allowing free parking at any Va State Park. (hey-o parents!)  I spent the entire month of June (and July) promoting these backpacks, I even utilized them in a few of my Story Times. (the Adventure story time, and the Camping Story Time) The outdoor classroom is inspired by two schools of thinking. One being “just get outside!” and the other one being “Children need nature.” I mean we all need nature, and we are all inspired by nature. And with that second school of thought emerged a national trend of Natural Playgrounds! Even my little home town built one (and it’s one of the best I’ve seen) See for yourself.

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All of these wonderful things swam in my head for a while, as I tried to figure out how to encourage children to be outside AND read, and maybe even read outside. Then I stumbled upon a story walk. And enchanting way to display a story outside, that combined literacy with physical activity and engaging with nature. It was perfect. We put it together just in time for the outdoor Summer Market. Check out our video HERE. (Our Story Walk)

This is our “Go Outside” display inside the library.

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Until Next time!

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Messy MakerSpaces!

MakerSpaces are wonderful! I am currently obsessed with all the ways teachers can create Makers Spaces in their classrooms, in fact I believe it is possible to make a classroom one big MakerSpace! They foster the idea of open ended/ project based learning and play based learning and creative exploration and much much more! Makers Spaces also utilize loose parts to their full potential. But be warned, I have found that is can make for a very messy room. I teach the children to respect their creative spaces, and help them learn to have responsibility for those spaces. Despite my intentions, our spaces often end up looking cluttered and unorganized. I am currently looking for a solution to this problem, and will share my findings! The NAEYC TYC magazine had a wonderful article on MakerSpaces in their last issue. The article is not available to non-members online, but if you are a member I encourage you to read the article Inventions, Gizmos, and GadgetsOh My! How to Help Your Preschoolers Get the Most Out of Your Makerspace” by Lisa Mufson Bresson and Megan King.

Aside from Makers Spaces being all the rage in Early Childhood Organizations, they are quite popular in many communities! Check these out!

TinkerSmith MakerSpace – Charlottesville Va

Staunton MakerSpace– Staunton Va

TinkerSphere– New York NY

Here are some things currently in our makerspace!

Provocations

I recently discovered the idea behind provocations. I had been making lists of things that interest the children along with objects that encourage exploration. As I introduce those items, I often make notes on their reactions and thoughts so that I can continue the process!

This site explains which items can be used as Provocations, and explains how they are seen as invitations to learn.

The author of the site also has a great Pinterest board dedicated to Reggio Provocations.

Click on the hyper links and explore!

Ms. Frizzle visits our class!

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!

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!

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!

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!