Archive | November 2013

Unexpected Delight!

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As I start each day by opening up the Art Cottage, removing plastic tarps and uncovering the sensory table, I frequently experience a feeling of apprehension. The feeling comes from fear that I won’t have it right. Fear that the materials or activities I have chosen will not appeal to the children. There will be nothing that sparks their curiosity or sense of wonder. It will all fall flat. A total fail.

Well, it is usually not that much of a fiasco!  There will always be an activity that appeals to certain children. The Mud Kitchen or Science Lab will usually draw a crowd.

 

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The challenge is to stimulate an ongoing investigation. An investigation that becomes real learning experience filled with the children’s enthusiasm, ideas and theories.  Such was our Black & White Investigation that took place two years ago. (The culminating project, “Gray Clouds in a Rainy Sky” can be seen inside the Art Cottage.) This was a project truly led by the children and their ideas.

 We are now working on the Monarch Project. This project involves reflecting on our own experiences when we welcomed monarch butterflies to the Garden Classroom, and how to commemorate that wonderful event.

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 So far, our investigation has been interesting and captivating for several groups of children.   We started a collection of art representing the life cycle of the monarchs (using paint specially mixed to create a “monarch palette”) and we are starting to get some ideas about  what kind of home monarchs prefer and where they reside: not  “facts,” but  real creative, inventive type of information that involves some critical thinking. For instance, my friend Colton shared with me that a monarch lives “Up in the sky, flying so high!”

 So here is the challenge. And, my unexpected delight!

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 I want to involve our wonderful and exuberant 2 year old “Trannies” (Transition Class) in a way that is authentic, where the children make a real contribution, and not just a token representation. The challenge is representing their curiosity and intellect in an innovative manner that doesn’t necessarily depend on language or representational art.

 Last week, after careful consideration, I presented some materials to our youngest naturalists. Using a large mirror as a base, I added some flubber (school glue mixed with an equal amount of liquid starch) and my collection of plastic monarch models, some books on butterflies and other elements to make it beautiful and enticing.

 

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 It didn’t fail to attract. The first group of children focused on the flubber and interacted with it in the expected manner by stretching it. Then, one child, and then another, started pressing the butterflies and caterpillars into the flubber.  They noticed the impressions left by the models and reacted with absolute delight! Several children took photos using their classroom cameras.

 

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 Then something totally unexpected happened. Miles brought over a metal set of tongs from the science table where it was being used to pick up corks and other floating objects in the water.

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I was thrilled to see him use the tongs to pick up a butterfly and proceeded to lift it up as high as he could reach and made the monarch “fly.” This was an authentic representation of this young student’s understanding about butterflies and their locomotion.

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As others joined him with their own sets of tongs, I joined in on their laughter and delight as butterflies (and even a caterpillar!) flew all around me.

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I finished the day feeling very satisfied. This was a day where curiosity, creativity and wonder fueled the imagination and inspired me for what steps to take next. Certainly, success and not failure!

 With Joy!

 Francie

Our Journey of Discovery: Monarchs

 

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“The butterfly came down from the cocoon. It probably went on a trip with its family.” ~ Chloe (3 Day PM)

 The last few weeks have been busy, to say the least! For those of you who follow The Garden Classroom on Facebook or know of the activities taking place in your child’s classroom, you are aware that our days have been filled with parades, picture days and parent-teacher conferences. In between those activities, I have carved out little bits of precious moments where I met with small groups of children to reflect on our experiences with the monarchs.  We call these little gatherings the “Monarch Committee.”

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Beginning with our 3 Day programs in Room 1, I made a small presentation inviting them to join the Monarch Committee. I asked them if they remembered when the monarchs came to The Garden Classroom. The event was just as special to them as it was to me. I shared with them the preserved monarch butterfly that was given to me and pictures that were taken of the event.I told the children there were many different ways to tell the story of  their visitation. I invited them to share with me and each other their own version of the story.

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 I was very eager and curious to see, not so much what the children “remembered” about the monarch experience but what was it that caught their fancy concerning the experience. Our time spent together was precious and so fulfilling.

There were some delightful surprises. I love how Davis referred to the caterpillar as a tadpole. Yes, the two are different kinds of beasties but they both share the process of metamorphosis. I felt he brought a new dimension to the discussion.

After reviewing the process of metamorphosis of a butterfly with the same group of children, we decided to act out the process. It took me a few seconds to figure out what the actors were doing when we came to the part where the “Mommy (their description) monarch butterfly laid her eggs.” I had expected them to squat like a chicken. After a moment of hesitation, with Molly as the leader, they pantomimed the process of laying an object on the table! Oh my goodness! Such creativity in spite of not being familiar with the process!

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Several children made references to the butterflies being members of a family. This is such a sweet reference to the children’s most precious relationships. 

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The Story of “The 5 Little Chrysalis Hanging in a Tree” being acted out by Brodie and Max

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After extending the same  invitation to the children in Room 3,Tiffany, Meghan and I were positively floored when Brodie burst out in rhyme as he told us and all his classmates his tale of “5 little Chrysalis Hanging from a Tree.” He was quite eager to join me in the Art Cottage where he completed the poem and later, drew a chrysalis to illustrate it

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Several 3 Day and 5 Day children were quick to pick up on the concept of symmetry and were VERY successful in drawing absolutely, gorgeous, easily recognizable monarch butterflies. As careful observers, the children noted where the eyes were situated on the butterfly and carefully drew the black veins found on the wings. After spending lots of time in the beginning of the year mixing colors in the Art Cottage, our artists were able to successfully mix the watercolors to create just the right colors found on the wings of a monarch butterfly.

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We are now taking that ability of color mixing to our palette of tempera paint available to the children painting at the easel located in the Outdoor Atelier.  After enjoying a tray of colors inspired by fall, several color specialists are working together to create a monarch palette. I love how children are noticing the finer details found on the butterfly. Did you know that there are little white dots that appear on a monarchs wings? It was essential that white was added to the palette.

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“We need an orange and a darker orange.” ~ Sophie 

In the week to come, I will be offering an invitation to the Day children in Room 2 and the children in Room 4 to join the Monarch Committee. What do I expect, want, or hope to learn from the children about the monarch?   Really, none of the above. It is all a wonderful journey, with the destination unknown and new surprises around every bend!  

With Joy! 

Francie