Archive | January 2013

It’s Raining! It’s Pouring!


One of the most frequent questions I get concerning The Garden Classroom is, “What do we do if it rains?” Rainy days are really my favorite days!
Rainy days are the best days to take advantage of the beautiful Art Cottage. I have filled it with what I love best and reflects the spirit of The Garden Classroom. As you walk through the door, objects gathered on my walks and hikes in the city (mostly Balboa Park) and mountains are set up for the children to explore.



Here and there are little treasures that the children have started to bring me from their own backyards and outings. These little items are what I love best! They represent that their appreciation of nature is growing and they will never have to suffer from what Richard Louv describes in his book, Last Child in the Woods as “nature deficient.”



Various pieces of art are displayed representing our current investigation and several explorations from the past.



Being in the Art Cottage on a rainy day means a gathering of friends, surrounded by nature engaged with art, literature and conversation. As the rain drums on the roof and deck, we sit cozily together and make new discoveries about each other and explore our theories concerning whatever topic is “on the table.”

I set up the Art Cottage with 2 or 3 activities and which accommodates 4-6 children at a time.

The light table is entices the children with its warm light. It is set up with an art project or colorful materials that glow with the light.

A rainy day is the perfect time to work on an ongoing investigation such as our current project featuring rainbows. One topic we have been exploring is “What does the color indigo look like?” A committee agreed with Hayley who said it is dark blue. She knew this information because she learned a song about rainbows at her birthday party!


Another cozy activity available in the Art Cottage on a rainy day is a favorite for anyone… reading books.



So if you are ever have a moment, join us, rain or shine in The Garden Classroom!


Natural Scientists


All children are natural scientists. They ask questions, create a hypothesis, test and prove or disprove their hypothesis. Several children demonstrated their understanding of science by experimenting with some kitchen scales that I had purchased from a thrift shop.


Not only did they discover the engineering principals of how the scales worked, they also had an opportunity to refine their scientific vocabulary using words such as small, large, lighter, heavier,  and variations of the terms such as large larger and largest.



On Wednesday I brought in a bathroom scale. My scale is “old school” and features a large dial and numerals. When stepping on the scale, you can watch the arrow as it moves around the dial to land on the appropriate numeral. Perfect for small children as it demonstrates when something weighs more, the arrow moves further around the scale and stops on the appropriate number.



While the 3 Day morning group wasn’t able to identify the numerals on the scale, they still demonstrated their knowledge concerning the concepts of weight.  


After R, J, H and C piled several items on the scales we used a marker and took note that the items weighed 10 pounds.


They wanted to weigh the pinecones. I asked them how many pinecones would it take to weigh 10 pounds, R said, “Many! Many pinecones!”  After reaching their goal (with the addition of a few more items) R and H entered into a timeless discussion of how big their dads were,  Pointing to the highest numbers on the scale, R said, “My dad is this all the way up here!” H pointed to a number a little lower on the scale saying, “My dad, he’s this much!”


When the 5 Days classes came out, A and G immediately came up with a plan! Demonstrating their knowledge about numerals, they worked on getting the scale to register 100 pounds.


After having some difficulty balancing the items on the scale and still not reaching their goal, I suggested that they stand on the scale. Still coming a few pounds short, A looked around and picked up a concrete paver used for building, and after stepping on the scale…the arrow landed on 100. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Such wonderful collaboration! What wonderful scientists!


A Winter Wonderland


It may not always be appropriate to add “snow” to an emergent style curriculum such as we use at Hanna, since snow really isn’t a part of our landscape, but considering that nature inspires so much of what we do in the Garden Classroom, I did think it would be appropriate to spend our last couple of days before starting our winter break celebrating the winter’s solstice. With some help of several girls from Room 3, we experienced some seasonal changes in the much beloved “deer” play tray. (While it really features lots of forest animals, it is the little deer family that gets the most attention.)


The little colored, plastic leaves were raked out and some faux snow was sprinkle on to the forested habitat. The children were invited to paint and glitter some pine cones as a way to enrich and personalize the forest.


I also turned the sensory table into an Arctic play land for little plastic polar bears and other animals that reside in the North Pole. Two of my mentors, Deb Curtis and Margie Carter taught me that something “sparkly…or wondrous and magical” (Designs for Living and Learning, 2003) should always be included, so sparkly silver and blue pom-poms  and glittered,  silver spirals (I cut them off floral picks)  were added along with some blue and white florists stones.

To top it all off, I included a large plastic, party tray that had the appearance of a sheet of ice. This created a whole new level of interaction! The polar bears, seals and whales had parties “underneath the ice.”


While looking at these photos, I can’t help but smile. I know that playing with this material is nothing like playing in real snow Yet, the children’s interactions with the fluffy, white stuff caused a flurry of falling flakes and piling drifts. While this play could certainly be described as educational, (For example, math skills are being strengthened as the children sort, count and create patterns and sets while playing with the plastic animals and social-emotional development is occurring through conflict resolution and negotiating taking turns.) what I find so delightful is that these children are experiencing the same kind of joy that a child might experience on opening the front door and discovering a real winter wonderland while living in say…New England. Their faces shine with a look of wonder and their laughter rings with joy. Children everywhere recognize this weather phenomenon and understand the magic of snow!

Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by. Carl Sandburg

After few hectic days preparing for the holidays, I have started to unwind and appreciate the changing weather and enjoy a slower pace. The cool rainy days that refresh our dry, brown hills and start a regimen of greening also serves as a reminder that we all need to renew ourselves and be aware of new opportunities for reflection and appreciation of all that we have.

As I have gathered with friends and family over the last few weeks and shared with them stories about the lovely relationships that I experience with the children and their wonderful discoveries while exploring The Garden Classroom, I relish the feeling of how unique and precious my life is right now.

As I reflect on the beautiful smiles (and sometimes a mischievous grin) captured in the pictures that I take, I experience a tug at my heart and I’m reminded to cherish every moment while these children are in my life. Just like a beautiful sunset, the moments are brief and needs to be noted and cherished.

Happy New Year!

PS I am still trying to understand the workings of Windows 8 and figure out how to access Microsoft picture manager so I can download pictures into my WordPress account. If I can’t solve this problem in the next day or so, I will crack open my old computer and bring you up to date on what the children are doing in The Garden Classroom.