Archive | September 2012

Tomato Tales



The anticipation grew to be too much! The longer the red, round globe pulled at the slender green stalk, sending out a clear, loud message, “Pick me!” eager little hands itched to snatch it off the vine. And one did! While children from other classes had been more observant and patient (Hence, why we were waiting for these young gardeners to return to do the picking.) when it was picked, a quick decision was made and plastic knives and a cutting board were gathered for a tasting party! Several children in the 3 Day afternoon class gathered together to cut and taste the tomato. The review on this harvest: a unanimous delicious!  After taking turns slicing off bites, each of the children eagerly ate the perfect, red, vine ripened tomato.



Okay, what to do about the other classes? Some of those children had really been eyeing that tomato! That’s a problem when you only have “a tomato” growing on a vine. Kendra was very kind and went shopping for two perfect, red, ripe tomatoes. While not a trick, I set one of the tomatoes for the 5 Day Class next to the very bare tomato plant. Sure enough, it was quickly spotted by one of the curious 5 Day children who had been watching it slowly ripen. I explained what happened, but our eager, young connoisseurs of red, ripe tomatoes were not sad or disappointed, they were just happy and eager to have their own tomato party. Plastic knives and a cutting board were already gathered so we quickly joined together to cut open this fruit –if not grown in our own garden – it also had grown from a plant from the ground. Their verdict? Not everybody was a fan. Although eager to cut it open, only a few were willing to taste it. But the lesson was still obvious, tomatoes grow on a plant and then (some) people eat them.




Another Artist is Inspired by the Yellow Book

After the first successful use of The Game of Mix-Up Art (otherwise known as our yellow book/design book) I was excited to see what would happen with the group of 5 Day children who invariably come to visit the Outdoor Atelier each day to paint at the easel. Would any of them be inspired by the designs in our yellow book as they worked at the easel? Or could their attention be drawn to the nearby round table where a variety of drawing and coloring materials were gathered in a tray?

As you can see by the first picture I posted in my previous entry featuring the yellow book, one gifted artist was inspired by the book and created a vivid drawing using large blocks of colors and a squiggly line drawn through it.

After finishing up her drawing, the artist created another piece at the easel. Looking at this composition, I can see where the artist experimented with a variety of brush strokes to get a sumptuous riot of complementary color and line- both thick and thin. I believe the results to be extremely pleasing. Don’t you think?

Image  I  felt honored to have witnessed such fine artistry, and pleased that my purchase inspired our young artists.

Before leaving, I need to share with you my latest purchase, a book I was led to while pursuing the name of the “yellow book.”  My discovery, What Colour is your World? by Bob Gill is a reissue of a book printed over 40 years ago by the same publishing house as The Game of Mix-Up Art. I have to admit, it’s a lot like, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: if you go to Amazon to research one book – you will buy another.

With Joy! Francie

The Yellow Book



Image         I found a little treasure of a book last year in a Japanese market while purchasing calligraphy supplies. It is a flip-book. Each full page incorporates such basic elements of design as line, space, texture, color and form. The idea is to flip the various pages to create a new, original design. I had to go online to discover that the name of the book is, The Game of Mix-Up Art by Herve Tullet. I call it “the design book.”  I love that I was able to buy a copy with the Japanese cover.  I have cherished this purchase, and knew it had some potential for inspiration but I was not really able to incorporate it into the curriculum. It never seemed to grab any one’s attention. Children seemed to be pretty ho-hum about it.

Image    This week I made another attempt to use the book when I noticed one child’s bold statement of color and shape at the easel in our outdoor atelier.  

This artist from the 3 Day morning class had painted a large red circle and filled it in with a soft red colored paint. After filling her brush with a slightly darker tint of red, she repeated her actions by painting a slightly larger circle and filling that circle in with matching paint.Image  The two actions were so deliberate, and the results were so bold and appealing. This young child clearly demonstrated her strong understanding of design. She appeared to be finished but I felt compelled to ask her about her painting and if she found anything familiar in (what I referred to as) the design book. She flipped through the book and focused on the page featuring circles of color.  I asked her if she was done or would she like to continue? As an answer, she added several more circles in various colors.

Read about another fine artist who was inspired by the “design book” in the next posting!

Creativity, Curiosity and Innovation Explodes in The Garden Classroom! (Part 3)





Here are the last  of my observations that took place int The Garden Classroom last week that I just had to share! 

During Camp Hanna, Sarah brought in a tomato plant for the garden. It was planted and lo and behold, we returned to school to discover a tomato growing! Two of our 5 Day boys discovered this lovely green tomato and they were very eager to pick it. Lisa helped the boys determine that the tomato was not ready to be picked by using the small plant marker to compare the color of the tomato on the vine with the red, ripe tomato pictured on the marker. The boys backed away from the plant. One of the things that gardening teaches us is to be patient, so I was pleased to see their willingness to wait.  I am wondering…will they be just as excited to eat the tomato as they will to pick it?

ImageSometimes, we the teachers are stunned by what a child says, does or observes. These final two observations fall under that category. I was entranced as I observed this young child from the Transition Class as he made a discovery.  I was very fortunate to see him as he sat inside the tunnel and traced the seam that connected the two parts around and around with his finger. He was calm, focused and present. I learned a lesson from this young man.

Image       Kendra and I were standing near a young learner from Transition while she rinsed her hands in a tub of water after experimenting with clay. As she finished up this task, she continued to watch the water. After a moment she looked up at us and said, “I see trees.” Kendra and I looked down and sure enough, there was a reflection of the overhanging trees in the murky water. We were delighted that she was so observant.  Another child came over and swished the water around and the reflection disappeared! We all watched as the water once again became calm and the trees appeared once again- like magic. This was a discovery that deserves more exploration.What other reflections can we find? What are the children’s hypothesis concerning what a reflection is and how it is made? Lots of good stuff here to explore and inspire some wonderful creative thinking!

Image        Whew! Now that I am caught up with reporting last week’s exciting events, I am already starting to rub my hands together with anticipation and trying to decide where I will start when sharing with you about this week’s discoveries and adventures. With Joy! Francie

Creativity, Curiosity and Innovation Explodes in The Garden Classroom! (Part 2)

 Here are some more examples of the children’s creativity that I was able to document  as they worked and played in the Garden Classroom last week. Image These 5 Day boys continue to refine their ability to balance the building materials in new and interesting ways as they did last year. They are talking more to each other and showing a great deal more respect for each other’s ideas. I am so privileged to witness such growth and development! The (plastic) reptiles are enjoying a very comfortable and cozy shelter made for them by these master builders.



Image   After a child in the 3 Day classroom discovered a small piece of wood on the ground she brought it to me and declared that it was a “sea otter.” She told me she needed to paint it. After providing her with some acrylic paints, other children discovered their own pieces of wood or in some cases, some eucalyptus bark they discovered in the Art Cottage, Soon, a whole menagerie appeared, mostly identified as sea otters but one was a “sea otter monster.”  and another a “rainbow polar bear.” After painting. the creatures, the children glued and painted seed pods for eyes. The original sea otter grew a “mustache!” You can see the  sea otter with mustache in the center of the picture.  

There’s more! Watch for part 3!


Creativity, Curiosity and Innovation Explodes in The Garden Classroom! (Part One)

The Garden Classroom was very busy last week! The children have become very comfortable and confident as they explored and made many new discoveries. The Art Cottage was filled with artists and other creative and inquisitive minds. Some children have returned to favorite themes of play (The Pirates are back!)  and materials.  They are using more complex language, interesting props, greater collaboration, and problem solving to deepen their play.  Others are leading ME on new investigations and projects. Here are some of the new discoveries, innovations and projects that took place in The Garden Classroom this week. (Note: I experienced a technique difficulty last night while trying to post a rather long entry, I’m trying to see if I can resend it in smaller doses.I will be posting the rest of this entry later this afternoon.)

As mentioned above, The Pirates are back and armed with richer vocabulary, more intriguing and complex plans and the band has increased in size! I’m not sure why, but all of the pirates require clipboards. I quickly went on my own treasure hunt and scrounged up several from other classrooms and the shed.  Each clipboard has a pen tied to it and is ready and available for any pirate (Or scientist, artist and author.)  Now our “executive” pirates are ready to “make lists” (as one pirate told me) and treasure maps or whatever. Aaaargh!

Engaging Minds




 After setting up the Garden Classroom each day, I am delighted when I see one or more children engaged and “working” to create, to build, or solve a problem.  It is through this play/work that children learn. Just this week I watched a group of 5 Day girls who created a family out of little toy birds and plastic insects. They spoke quietly to each other as they solved some domestic issue. Practice for when this situation occurs in real life. Several children from the Transition program worked together to fill containers with water and then pour the water into the large tubs where plastic sea creatures were residing. They were spurred into action when it was pointed out to them that the whales and other creatures needed water for their survival. They were working together out of empathy for the animals: empathy that can be applied to a real animal or even a friend in need.

Image   While many of the materials that are offered in the Garden Classroom (and indoor classrooms) have a specific purpose and goal such as large muscle development or practice sequencing they are also open to each child’s personal interpretation and innovation. When this happens, the child becomes totally engaged and the mind and hand works in ways I never imagined.  I see the child as an absolute wonderful, thrilling, unique individual and future artist, scientist, engineer, and in one case already a musician.

Image Even though this stick was intended for building and the rock was cast aside after being painted, a child from Transition started striking the two objects on the concrete and then the padded wall. His actions were all very intentional. He noticed all of the different sounds and repeated the experience. He was totally engaged. I was enchanted. Next he told me he was playing a song and asked me to sing along. It took me a moment, but I recognized the tune and words to “A,B,C.”


 Eventually, he recalled and recreated a musical experience that he shared with me. He brought the rock to his chest, laid the stick across the rock and started sliding the stick back and forth across the rock. He looked at me and told me, “I’m playing a violin.” He was sharing his knowledge with me using materials in a totally unexpected way. I was filled with gratitude for having witnessed his creativity and more importantly, his willingness to engage with me.