Archive | June 2013

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle…

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When you were a kid, what kind of adventures did you go on when you played?  Where did these adventures take place? Chances are, many of your adventures took place in a “jungle.” Was I right?!!

There is just something so mysterious, dangerous and still so inviting about the jungle or as we call it now, the rain forest. Those fearsome animals, dark, deep shade created by the thick canopy and the incredible, constant, piercing high sounds induced by birds and insects.

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Of course, my images were all fueled by frequent visits to the old Jungle Ride in Disneyland. Most of my games excluding the stereotypical game of “cowboys and Indians”, definitely took place in this land of danger and intrigue, most common being war games (I played with a lot of boys) and as a very young teen, “missionary nun” who tool care of sick patients in jungle dwellings akin to Deborah Kerr in “The Nun’s Story.”  (I was a weird kid, what can I say?)

For today’s kids, who are so knowledgeable, know the rain forest as a place of wonder and beauty. It is the sacred home of many delightful animals and plants. They are also aware that the rain forest is essential to our existence. Wyatt (Rm 3) told me, “The rain forest has lots of trees. The trees give us oxygen.”

If you walk around the back fence in The Garden Classroom, you will see our own little rain forest. It started out simply with some plastic animals that live in the rain forests of South America and Africa. (I also share with the children that these animals are endangered animals because of the loss of their forest homes. Doing things like reusing paper helps the animals.)

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I have also added other animals over time including some butterflies, frogs and a complete gorilla family. The children are starting to peek in the sensory table just to see what is new. It just so happened, at the same time I put these animals out, the children in Room 3 decided to do a play based on a story that takes place in the Amazon Rain Forest called The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. I became involved with their project after helping several children mix up some green paint to paint the leaves for the prop in their play. (Of course, this segues right into our “Tree Project!”)

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I invited some children to use the left over green paint used for the “great kapok tree” to paint a piece of paper. I hung up some soft, furry yarn and then invited some of the kids to cut out leaves and attach them to “the vines.” I hauled in a branch of an exotic looking tree branch with some interesting seed pods that I found down the street and laying on the ground. I hung it up with the vines. All I need now is to get a recording of wild screeching birds, insects humming and perhaps the rumbles of a jaguar!

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Meanwhile, I kept thinking how several children from the Transition class were on hand while the older kids were mixing up their jars of green paint for the play. I could see how anxious they were to have the same experience.

Inspired by a book I own about the rain forest called The Green Room by Jane Yolen and illustrated (beautifully) by Laura Regan,  I invited several Transition children to help create a green palette. Each child was given their own small  jar and allowed to mix up a batch of green of any shade they wished. Such fun and excitement!

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We looked at the picture, filled with a lovely variety of green leaves, back lit by sunshine. My only instruction on mixing up the green is asking each child, if they wanted to mix a “light” green or a “dark” green. I explained that it is easy to make a color dark but harder to make it lighter so it is important to start out with the lightest color first then add the darker color sparingly, a little at a time. I love the looks on their faces as the yellow turns green when the blue is added and the “magic” happens! Now, children from all three programs are involved with this project.

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We are starting to get many wonderful shades of greens that reflect the great variety of greens in an actual rain forest!

This is a project that has many possibilities and will continue for a long time.

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Please share your childhood experiences in the “jungle” and any inspiration as to where our exploration can go!

With Joy!

Francie

P.S.

Do you have any tropical plants in your yard such as fan palms? I would love any donations if your plants need trimming!

Taking a Breather

 

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(Flowering Dogwoods- Near Lake Arrowhead, CA) 

“Taking A Breather” 

Main Entry: kick back

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: relax

Synonyms: breathe easy, calm down, catch one’s breath, chill out, collect oneself, compose oneself, cool off, feel at home, hang loose, lie down, loosen up, make oneself at home, mellow out, put one’s feet up, recline, rest, settle back, sit around, sit back, take a break, take a breather, take a load off, take it easy, take ten, unwind, wind down

Whatever synonym you want to use, I have been “taking a breather” and stepped away from writing my blog for a few weeks. I spent one weekend camping near Lake Arrowhead with my husband and we spent some of our time with a co-teacher and her husband. I spent another weekend on a retreat where we studied the Rule of St. Benedict. Although the leader of the retreat is a wife, mother and protestant, she is also a lay member of a Benedictine monastery. The most important thing I learned from Beth about the “Rule” is the importance of finding and maintaining balance and moderation. Anyone, with or without a religious background of any faith can appreciate that lesson.

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(“Cherry Tree”, Tempera on Paper) 

So instead of spending the last several weeks writing the blog, I have been spending time creating some new props and materials for the children to use in the Garden Classroom. I’ve been enjoying my time gathering, shopping and creating. (I’ll be posting pictures of the children engaging with these new materials here on the blog and on The Garden Classroom Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Garden-Classroom/272197849581981)

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(The artist studies her subject- “Mr. Tree” our beloved pepper tree)  

Meanwhile, I reflected on my most recent experiences and started mulling some thoughts around in my head and deciding how to spend the last few weeks of the school year with the children-  especially this year’s class of 5 Day children.

While in Lake Arrowhead, we were fortunate to be there when the dogwoods were blooming. They had very pale yellow blooms.  I also saw a pink flowering dogwood in a shopping center. A dogwood is a tree that does not grow in our local San Diego Mountains and therefore, I had not seen it before and was enchanted! It was a stunning sight and made me appreciate, once again what nature has to offer. It also made me think of other trees that do grow locally. Which brings me back to another “rule” and that is to seek stability and appreciate where you are right now. And living right in our midst, in our very own Garden Classroom, is our ever-present pepper tree that we fondly refer to as “Mr. Tree.” 

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(The artist creates “pepper tree leaf green.)

So I came back to the Garden Classroom filled with visions of dogwoods, jacarandas and pepper trees blooming and a new “negotiated curriculum.” I hoped to work alongside the children and create what will become a legacy for those attending the 5 Day program this year and will continue next year with our new class of 3 Day and 5 Day children.

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(After starting to paint the traditional “lollipop: tree, the artist added branches to her rendition of the pepper tree after taking a careful look at our beloved tree.) 

New jars of paints were mixed inspired by the pictures of the trees I had seen near Lake Arrowhead. I also added a picture of a flowering jacaranda tree (Ours weren’t blooming yet.)  downloaded from the internet. We now have tree bark brown, dogwood yellow, jacaranda purple, dogwood pink, and pine tree green. Most importantly, we have started to look above at our own Mr. Tree and creating new colors of paint to represent our favorite tree and its amazing shade, beauty and bountiful and very much appreciated pepper berries! One artist from room 3 has created a lovely batch of “pepper tree leaf green.” I will be inviting other children to create their own “tree colors” to add to the palette.

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(“Tree with Flowers”, Tempera on Paper) 

Several students have already painted lovely trees at the easel and have graciously agreed to allow their paintings to be cut out and applied to a canvas that will be hung in a place of honor where future artists can add their painting of trees to the canvas.

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(This is a really special painting. Without being prompted, 4 girls from Room 3 work collaboratively and painted this absolutely stunning painting of trees that incorporates a rainbow, which was our focus for so much of the year!) 

I will be purchasing a canvas for this project and have our 5 Day artists look at various landscape paintings and have them decide on the background.  The next step will be to have them paint and prepare the canvas for the application of their trees.

As I said before, I took a breather from Reflections from the Garden Classroom but I never stopped from truly cherishing each and every day spent with the children of Hanna in the Garden Classroom. But the year is drawing to a close and I’m incorporating another “rule” in my daily life with the children: that is the importance of hospitality.  Hospitality according to the “rule” means “being truly present to ourselves and each other.” I have always tried to be present for each and every child but knowing that our time together is so limited this rule has special meaning.

With Joy!

Francie