Monday, March 30, 2015

A little bit of Easter fun!

Easter is coming, but before we left on spring break, we made these fun baskets.

I found them on Pinterest and the pin led me to FAB DIY:
They were super easy to make and every time those cotton balls and googly eyes went on they took on a personality all their own.

They really were easy!  We filled them with grass and of course...Peeps!
Then I had tons of fun making these!! 
True confessions....I did not make these in my Kinder classroom, I did not make these in my Second Grade classroom, I made these with my grandchildren ages 3, 7, and 8.  Plus one for the baby.  My good friend makes these in 4th grade and asked that I NOT  make them with my students, but she gave me her recipe and let me borrow her molds if I promised to let them stay as a 4th grade project.  They were super easy....much easier than I expected.  They can be messy if you are trying them with a classroom of younger students.  Be prepared for sugar spills. 
I thought I would need more water or glue or spray in the molds, or something more than 2 cups of sugar and 2 teaspoons of water.  But all worked perfectly.  Add the water and the food coloring (go darker, because the color will fade as it dries), mix together with the tips of your fingers (not your whole hand like my one grandson).  Press into the mold, coming to the top and leaving a large dent in the center.  Let dry 24 hours, wiggle free.
Carve a hole in the end or the side (I did this over the sink for easy clean-up).  Add creatures and grass (green coconut might be better, but we didn't have any).  "Glue" together with frosting.  Use decorating tips for fancy frosting designs and other small add-ons for decorations.   Ta-Da!!

From my house to yours...Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bright Ideas....Last Child in the Woods

Hi!  It is time for another BRIGHT IDEA blog hop!  I always get so many wonderful ideas.
I have a great idea for a field trip that won't have you spending money on buses.  Go exploring outside!
It's the first weekend of spring, and I am going to step up on my soapbox for a bit and tell you that I believe in order to take care of our planet we need to reach out and touch our planet.

If there is one thing I am passionate about in education it is getting kids outside.  That's one reason for my tag line....where everyone is dancing their merry kinder kapers.  Movement....Excitement....Curiosity.  Hopefully you can catch the vision and see those little ones "dancing" about outside having a wonderfully educational time.

Richard Louv  affirms all that I believe to be true about children and getting them outside. He is the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  He reminds us that,

"Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.  If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature."

Can we take time from our school day to explore?  Of course!!  Is it common core??  YES!!

Does it need to be work?  Hard? Time Consuming?  No!

"If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection or the chore defeats the joy.  It's a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it's even better if the adult and child learn about nature together.  And it's a lot more fun"

Try a scavenger hunt...what interesting things can you find in your schoolyard?

Can you collect things (perhaps with a camera)?  Can you sort them?  Can you count them?  Is there more of one thing...or perhaps you could compare colors?  What about Kindergarten conversations.....what are your students excited about...are they asking questions?  Are they taking turns, and carrying the conversations on through multiple exchanges?  What did they find...can you help them take their learning in another direction?  Did your students record their findings (in a journal, chart, graph, table)?

Can I do it if I live in the city?  Yes again.

Learn to use the tools of a scientist or naturalist.  Above we were learning to read a thermometer, so we could test which color was the warmest to wear.

Try growing some seeds.  Clear cups are the best for seeing those roots go down.
We planted sunflower seeds ahead of St. Patrick's Day.  My students were so so excited the day they sprouted.  We left them untouched for a few days as they grew taller and taller.  They watched the seed coats fall off and were fascinated!  When we picked up the cups to look closer, my students discovered the roots down the sides of the cups and across the bottom.  They discovered those things.  Now we are learning the scientific words we need and writing our own nonfiction book about plants.  Common Core...yes!

It won't be long and we will be ordering our butterflies.  I order a classroom set because everyone gets a turn to work with the caterpillars, everyone gets their own to examine closely, and I don't have to worry if a few don't make it (there are plenty of extras).

When the butterflies finally emerge I set up this tent and we take turns getting up close and personal with those butterflies.

Whenever we go outside, we do have to have some rules.  It is school after all.  The rules are simple.
1.  It is not recess, so we do not get to run around or yell.
2.  Students must stay close to me or within the boundaries set for the day and activity.
3.  Students must not harm (pick, break, or squash) living things.
4.  Students must follow the directions given.  Sometimes it will be okay to collect many things, most days we collect only 1 specimen (especially if we are collecting living things like leaves or seeds).  
Pears from the trees at school (last September)
Do I need special equipment?  No...You can get outside with none at all.  There are a few things that might make it more fun.
1.  magnifying glass
2.  digital camera of some sort
3.  container for specimens
4.  paper, pencils, and a hard surface to write on (I use our whiteboards and binder clips)
"Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).

What do I use to help me plan our time outside?  Along with the common core standards and our state guidelines, I love using Project Wild and Project Learning Tree.  I also use the books by Joseph CornellSharing Nature With Children is my favorite.  There are so many resources available, many unique to your location.  Each National Park and many state parks have Junior Ranger programs.  The activities are adaptable for most grade levels.  The Forest Service and BLM have lots of free resources as well. 

But what do I really need?  Time, natural curiosity, and a no worry attitude about dirt and bugs.

I will be highlighting ideas and activities I use in my classroom throughout the month of April and stop by Kinder Kapers, or follow me on facebook and see what we are doing.
"We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this earth, and to tell our stories.  These are the moments when the world is made whole.  In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist."
~Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
 For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!
An InLinkz Link-up

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Study:Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites....Chapter 3 Field Trips!!

I have been so excited to get my copy of this book in the mail!

When it came I sat down and started looking through it right away. When I got to chapter three I just got so excited.  I kept saying, Yup, that's me!  and Ohhh, I need to remember that.  Lots of yellow highlighting and notes in the margins so I would remember.

Then Science Fair came,
and this is the first chance I've had to sit down and put my thoughts on paper.  I want to tell you about Science Fair, but that will have to wait for another day (that is however, a short little field trip for the kids to go see all the projects) 

My first thought as I read this chapter was how lucky we are to have an outdoor education area at our school.  The quote from the book that says that just a change of scenery can do a world of good for activating the brain and engaging the child in learning, really struck home for me.  We have this wonderful area that doesn't get used enough.  I love going out there from time to time, but I could use it so much more.
Butterfly Time
Looking under rocks.

Let me tell you a story about what happened today.  We have been participating in The Groundhog Project, where we were trying to decide if the groundhog was a good weather forecaster.  We have been keeping track of our data and posting it online with schools from across United States and Canada.  Today was the last day and we were supposed to vote if our Groundhog was correct.  Our groundhog was, we had an early spring.  So I asked my students how they knew and suggested we go out back to check if we could see signs of spring.  We talked about what we might look for, and then got ready to go.  One student suggested we take whiteboards and paper to take notes (we often use our whiteboards as "desks" when we are sitting on the floor).  Brilliant!!  Of course, what a great idea!  Everybody wanted a whiteboard and some paper, so out we went.  We looked around, observed closely, took notes, shared our findings with our partners, I showed some things I observed (differences in leaf buds), and we gathered on our platform, where we have these table/benches, to share altogether.  Even as we walked back to the classroom we were finding more signs.
When we got back to the classroom, someone asked what are we going to do with our notes.  Well of course, we need to do something....

I suggested we write an essay, a paragraph telling about what we saw.  A few quick reviews about starting with your topic and a good introductory sentence, then following with your details and my students were off to write.  Amazingly not five minutes and they were done....35 minutes and I had to make them stop to go to lunch.  I did have to keep reminding them that we were inside and writing, because they did want to continue their discussions.  I have some wonderful pieces of writing from them!  Authentic writing that they were excited about.

I have used that outdoor education area before.  I can't take my students to a butterfly house at a zoo, so we build one out back, with a pop-up screen porch.

I wrote  about it here.  My students go outside and into the tent to get up close and personal with the butterflies.

Every community has places unique to that community where students can go and get some authentic learning.  In second grade this year we are learning about money.  Our principal has connections with a local bank.  We are going to tour the bank and learn even more about our money, where it goes and why it is important to be able to count our money so we can save and spend wisely.

 No money for buses??....we have walked to our library before, taken a tour, and gotten an application for a library card.

We have a hill close by loaded with fossils.  It is a second grade tradition to go with local geologists and hunt for fossils.

We have a NOAA weather station in town, and fourth grade went on a field trip there just last week....we are having them come to us.  Bringing experts in is a great way to take a field trip without ever having to leave the building.  Our local Fish and Wildlife guys come and do presentations for the classrooms upon request (so does the BLM and Forest Service).  Dentists, Police Officers, and Fireman also like coming to school.  The Lion's Club recently did a presentation for the second grade about the flag and every student was giving a little flag.  That is another benefit to having someone come to you....they often bring giveaways.  Kids love free stuff.

My take away from this chapter....if your students' brains are seeming slow and sleepy, wake them up with a little change of scenery!
For more GREAT ideas about field trips and take-aways from this chapter head over to Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten.  She is hosting this chapter and this linky.  Such awesome ideas!!  You won't want to miss them!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Five for Friday.....Reading Week 2015

What a busy week we had celebrating reading and all things Dr. Suess.  I want to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and Kacey to share some of our fun.

I started the week setting the stage and transforming my room into a Truffula forest, (maybe not a complete forest....but close) and pulling out all my Dr. Seuss books so they are easy to find.  My husband never leaves a Dr. Seuss book on a thrift store shelf, so I have quite a collection.  Kohls always has those cute stuffed animals and taller books, so I try to get books and animals there too.  My kiddos LOVE the animals.

We worked on a book project this week.  Each student was to read and respond to five Dr. Seuss books.  We have a hat die cut in our workroom and I used that to make the pages.  We also practiced rhyming and writing descriptions. 

We of course had dress up days.....on hat day, I opted for being Daisy Head Mayzie.  Friday (dress as your favorite character) one of my students was Daisy Head Mayzie.  Look how cute she is!

Thursday was Read in Your Pajamas Day.  I think that is my favorite day. 
Everyone sits in the hallway, or in a classroom and reads.  They find a stuffed buddy, a friend, a sibling and read....they read or are read to for a whole hour.  It is wonderful!

Friday was Green Eggs and Ham.  Our local Kiwanis and High School Key Club served up breakfast for us.  It is also Dress as Your Favorite Character Day, so I came as the Cat in the Hat and my students were Thing 1 through 23 (actually 17, some were sick and some came in their own costumes)

Hope you had a GREAT week too!