Archive | October 2012

Glass Forest

“Glass is the most magical of all materials. It transmits light in a special way. I’m pleased that my art appeals to so many people of all ages.” Dale Chihuly .

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Each year, the teachers from Room 3 and 4 work with the children to create a legacy gift for Hanna Fenichel. Besides representing the children who may have spent up to four years at Hanna, these pieces also welcome the new children and their families who are just starting their Journey with Hanna. The art lets them know while Hanna is made up of many individuals, we all work together to create a community built upon kindness and collaboration.

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Last year’s art was a collaborative piece made by the Whistling Whales from Room 3 and the Surfing Seals from Room 4. The piece is titled, Glass Forest and it was inspired by the glass artist, Dale Chihuly.  Although all of the individual pieces of Glass Forest are made out of plastic and not glass, the result is quite stunning and deserves to be seen and appreciated!

 

 

After much thought and discussion, Glass Forest has been installed over the sensory table against the back fence in the Garden Classroom. I am delighted to have this beautiful piece of art hanging among the trees, where I can enjoy it each day especially in the late morning or early afternoon when it catches the sunlight and the colors shimmer!  

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It is my hope that all of you will be able to visit the Glass Forest and appreciate the work done by the Hanna Class of 2012 and their amazing teachers. 

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Cooking is a Science!

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I am not afraid to state the truth: I am not a very good cook. I tend to turn up the flame too high because I want to hurry things along. Of course, I end up burning the bottom of the pan. Because I have an apple tree, I try making an apple pie at least once a year. Every single time, my husband (he worked in the campus bakery while in college) salvages the crust for me. I always manage to burn at least one batch of cookies in every batch I bake. It is very sad.

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But I am fascinated by the science of cooking. It is so interesting to watch onions caramelize, soups thicken, and especially how that combination of flour, butter and water turns into the perfect flaky, crispy (and delicious) receptacle for hot, sugary slices of apples.  (Did I mention I love to eat?) So I was very excited to find a recipe that takes just two ingredients and involves no heat! It is a recipe that is supposed to be similar to a very expensive, commercially made product called moon sand. I couldn’t wait to try it out!

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Here is the recipe: Mix 5 cups of flour with 1 cup of baby oil.

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That’s it! And the results? Fantastic! It’s fail proof! And the best part? There is a very dramatic change. Well, it is not quite as dramatic as mixing baking soda and vinegar but it is still very noticeable.

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I made a batch of “moon sand” with a small group of children from each class. As the children mixed the baby oil into the flour and the powdery consistency of the flour changed to a moist texture that, instead of falling through open fingers clung together and held its shape.  The texture is soft and fluffy. It smells just as delightful as it feels. Note: Glitter can also be added. Color doesn’t work because of the oil.  It should be stored in a plastic covered container.

This week we were using silicon cupcake holders and (for the 3 and 5 Day children only) small plastic pumpkins and fall leaves that were intended for table decorations to make “cup cakes” with the moon sand. Next week, I’ll be switching the cup cake holders for small wooden bowls and seed pods and acorns for decoration. I am hoping that the children will discover that they can make an impression in the moon sand while using the seed pods.

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DO try this at home! Please share your results by posting a comment!

Seek and Find

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When visiting Hanna Fenichel Center for the first time, it immediately becomes apparent that our school is a unique and happy place.  Besides noticing the smiling faces,  people notice the  architecture and design elements that reflect the joys of childhood that transcends all ages (hopscotch anyone?) and the nearby ocean.  There are whimsical touches that make us smile.

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While the lower playground reflects bright beach ball colors, sandy beaches and animals from the sea, the upper playground/Garden Classroom has hidden treasures that visitors and even new teachers don’t always notice at first. But these landmarks are just as beloved as the more noticeable elements found in the lower playground. Once someone spots one of the items in the Garden Classroom, an exclamation usually comes out. “Wow! I never noticed that before! I love that!”

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As a way to celebrate the beloved icons and help the children notice the finer details of our outdoor classroom, I created a game called, “Seek and Find.” The game consists of about 12 small photos printed and laminated back to back and hung on a keychain. The photo featured in the keychain is our most well-known and beloved landmark of all – the mosaic “dinosaur” or “dragon” or “alligator” or “komodo dragon” – or whatever a child wants to call it. The key chains are kept in a wood box that can be found on the back fence near the Art Cottage. You can spot it by the sign mounted on the box that says, “LOOK.” The idea is to look at a photo and then find the actual item. The game has proved to be immensely popular and children have been playing it over and over again, especially while partnering with a friend or two. Besides the large mosaic reptile, children look for such familiar items as the ceramic rabbit, blue birdhouse, or “Mr. Tree” our wonderful pepper tree that features eyes, mouth and a mustachioed nose. Harder to spot and less familiar, are several handmade tiles amongst many plastered on the side of the shed and bushes in the mud pit. Besides helping children to be more observant, practice memory skills and working collaboratively with a friend this game will help the children remember their early years spent at the magical place we call Hanna.

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As I watch the children run from here to there looking for an unknown item or revisiting a favorite, I am reminded of the familiar landmarks of my childhood. Most of them are trees. One in particular was a tree with a large shady (at least in my memory) canopy where we gathered together during recess while I lived on Midway Island when I was in the 2nd and 3rd grade. Do you have a favorite landmark from your childhood where you gathered together with friends, offered you comfort or make you smile at the memory?

Sciencing!

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This week, children were observed blowing the bubbles created when a wash basin was prepared for washing paint supplies. I captured the moment when a group of girls took out the beautiful decorative butterflies found in a treasure box and placed them in a small branch on the table. Included in this picture you will also see small, plastic caterpillars (found in the same box) lined up end to end by one of the girls in the same group.  After carefully setting out materials in the “Science laboratory” it was a pleasure to see many children pump colored vinegar into the baking soda poured out on a tray. The result was a chemical reaction that inspired the children to shriek with excitement. After one child pumped a little bit of vinegar and got the baking soda to fizz, he was  inspired  take the pump off the bottle and pour the entire content of vinegar onto the plate of baking soda.This  created an explosion of color and fizz. When another group of children experimented with eye droppers as a way to apply vinegar to the baking soda, it was discovered that the jar of vinegar fizzed and bubbled over when a handful of baking soda was added to the jar. In this case the child exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call a potion!”

 

These are all examples where the children are working with materials in a physical manner that encourages them to become better observers, communicators and classifiers while having fun. These are all types of activities defined (in one of my favorite textbooks from my early years of studying child development and early education) as “sciencing” – a verb whereas “science” is a noun – a thing..

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A sciencing activity can be carefully planned and materials gathered and set up as an enticing invitation. Or what often happens, children are drawn to an informal or accidental event such as a paint spill where we can observe an example of density and gravity in action or bubbles in a bin of wash water. Both planned and serendipitous events are part of our day. Both offer exciting and fun possibilities where we observe, make predictions, articulate a hypothesis, quantify or classify a group of objects.

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What’s next?  With the help of my student teacher Lori, I will be adding display space and storage, new supplies such as test tubes and a variety of basic ingredients and a work table that will help the children do what they do naturally: follow the scientific method. While the children pursue such things as the art of making “potions,” it is my goal to help them pursue such basic science themes as objects are made of basic units, basic units come in three forms: solids, liquids and gas and finally, objects change over a period of time. Happy sciencing!

*Newman, Donald A. Experiences in Science for Young Children