A beautiful blue sky, winter day found Kim working in the garden. I came outside to see what I could do to help and noticed something move just beyond where Kim stood. A young hawk hopped to the ground and walked into the shrubs. All of a sudden, several sparrows flew out of the bushes! The hawk moved slowly out of the shrubs. Look closely, the hawk has excellent camouflage.
He then flew up to perch on the compost bin. This gave him a good perspective as he searched for prey.
He sensed Kim and I nearby and flew to the top of the Cedar Elm tree where he stayed for several minutes before flying off.
Once the building
activity was completed,we still had a large
pile ofvines to address.Since the children had demonstrated creativity by building the nests, I
didn’t want to discard the vines.With
the habitat unit coming up in the next few weeks, I knew we could use them as
asked the class how I could get the pile of vines into a shape that would allow
me to tie a string around them to store them for a later time.After some discussion, they decided that if
it were in a “ball” shape, that I would be able to tie a string around it.
asked how they could get the pile into a “ball” shape?“We could roll it”.
roll they did.
They started by pushing on it to compact the
pile.Then they rolled it across the
grass until it formed a large ball shape.
I wrapped string around the ball several times
and pulled it tightly together.
Then the children carriedthe bundled vines
over to the tunnel structure.Working
together, they hoisted the bundle up as I tied it to the railing.We hung the vines up in the air so they would
dry until we needed them again.
This simple work activityin the garden
demonstrated problem solving, creativity,cooperation, and coordination.It also provided an opportunity for the
children to complete a task that was “real” work and gain pride in a job well
because it is winterdoesn’t mean that there is no work to be done in the gan. This time of year, the garden requires a lot of TLC.The children know that before spring planting begins, we must do a winter clean up.The tunnel is the firstplace that gets their attention.The Hyacinth Bean vine has died down, and the children worked together to pull the dead vines off the structure.It took a lot of upper body strength, as well as, cooperation to accomplish the task.
The vines were gathered into a huge pile, almost as tall as the children.A conversation began as the children looked
at the pile.Some decided that it looked
like a giant bird nest.I suggested that
they could use the vines to create a habitat for an animal.
different nests were created.Two classmates worked together to create a giant nest, big enough for them
to stand in.
Several boys made a medium sized nest.
And the girls made two smaller nests.
impromptu activity is a good introduction for our next project.
the next few weeks,we will be exploring animal habitats to gain an
understanding of the materials and construction techniques used by different
As I plan my lessons, foremost in my mind is how to take the natural approach. Incorporating nature in learning is a cornerstone of our school philosophy. And as the Garden and Life Science Educator, it is even more incumbent upon me to meet this challenge. Holidays pose a unique set of issues. How do I keep true to the spirit of the holiday, while at the same time, introduce a natural element. Well, I go to the children for inspiration. We began our Chanukah exploration with the open ended question, "Tell me what you know about Chanukah?"
One boy said, " You get presents", another answered, "We talk about Maccabees". In response to the question of what you do during Chanukah, answers included, "eat latkes", "play dreidel", and "we light candles on the Chanukiah". I showed them a candle made from a sheet of beeswax. We identified the wick and the body of the candle. They looked at a picture of the inside of a bee hive. I told them that the wax is made by the bees. Some children responded that bees also make honey. I asked what holiday we dip apples into honey and they remembered the sweet taste during Rosh Hashanah. I explained that bees also help us celebrate Chanukah by giving us wax to make candles. The PreK and Three's made candles from sheets of beeswax and wicks. Each child rolled the wax around the wick. They discovered that the wax needed to be warmed so it was soft enough to roll without breaking. They took the candles home to help celebrate with their families.
The Two Year Olds had a sensory experience feeling strips of wax as it was warmed. They pressed the strips onto paper with wicks to create a collage. You can see from the picture that it took a lot of finger strength to get the wax to stick to the paper. It was hard work! Sometimes, we had to help a friend.
We made a few extra candles and created a Chanukiah. Again, we kept it natural by using a branch from the fig tree and slices of loofah gourds from our garden. We used egg shells from our hens and put it all together with a bit of hot glue.
After we had explored candles, I read the book, Harvest Of Light, by Kar-Ben. The photos and words tell the story of the olive harvest in Safed, Israel. At the end of the story, the family uses olive oil to light their Chanukiah.
We did an experiment to see if we could make the oil burn, just like in the Chanukah story. We also tasted olive oil.
The book explained that the green olives were not ripe and they don't taste very good. You have to pickle them before you eat them. We tasted green olives.
We learned that the dark olivesare ripe and full of oil. We tasted the dark olives. One boy said it tasted like, "mmmmm". So, at the end of the holiday, I look back and realize that the challenge can be met. Taking the natural approach can result in meaningful learning experiences. Concepts: Chanukah, Chanukiah, wax, wicks, olives, olive oil Skills: understanding hard and soft, following directions, vocabulary, fine motor, risk taking
During November,we explored dyes made from natural material. We began by relating the concept of how people might have obtained color to dye their clothing if they could not go shopping. I asked, " How could you get an orange shirt if you couldn't go to the store?" Some answers included, "in my drawer", "go to Ikea", and "they could paint it". This answer led to the question of where would they obtain the paint? What was the paint made from?
The children engaged in a discovery session using flowers, leaves, soil, and rocks to color on paper. Integrating this concept, some classes pounded plant pigment and "painted" headbands which were worn at the Thanksgiving dinner. This activity gave them a tangible experience that helped them understand the concept of natural pigment.
Their time in the Gan included discovering the cochineal beetle on a cactus, which when squished, creates a magenta color. They gathered marigold flowers to be used as a dye bath. Dye baths were prepared using the flowers from the Gan, cochineal powder, and bark from the Osage Orange tree, a native Texas tree, and bark from the Oak tree in the parking lot.
The Three Year Olds had a sample of natural wool and they submerged the sample into the dye bath of their choice. The Pre K dyed silk scarves.
One Day a woman visited and demonstrated how to take the dyed wool and spin it into yarn. The children watched as her spinning wheel took their dyed wool and made strands of colored yarn.
She also showed themhow to card wool using big tools that looked like combs.
Last week, our students took the wool that they had dyed and created two different works of art. Each student wove the wool onto the large mural frame. This mural had orignally been created two years ago by another group of ECEC students and hangs in the main foyer of the school. This year, the students added their collection of wool to the mural, enhancing the beauty and adding a new array of colors.
In addition, the Three Year Old cluster used sections of wool to create multi-hued sheets of felt fabric. The children worked collaboratively to combine sections of carded wool to create a unified piece of material using a basic felting process. The students chose a piece of dyed wool, and then used their pincher fingers to gently pull the material until it was thin enough to see through.
Each piece was immersed in warm, soapy water. Then the students placed their material so that it partially overlaid an existing section. They used their hands to gently pat down the material to help attach the fibers.
The Pre K group created felt balls using a similar method. They started with a core of tightly packed wool. Then they stretched a thin piece of wool and immersed it in water. The wet wool was then wrapped tightly around the core. As this process was being done, the students were squeezing and tightening the wool. They continued to build layer upon layer until they achieved their desired size.
New Vocabulary: carded wool, felt, felting process, mural, weave Skills: fine motor, muscle strengthening in the hand assists pre-writing skills, collaboration, following step by step process