The Detective Post #14

Three cheers: Spring is here! The warmer weather has brought extraordinary change, and the Detectives have been busy taking it all in! From teeny insects to large swaths of flowers in the meadow, signs of the season have been found all around Woodend.

 

The Detectives returned from Spring Break ready to roll logs and find out what might be hiding underneath. We uncovered mud, new sprouts, and an abundance of crawly creatures! Each one lead to a new investigation, with Detectives making observations about the size, color, texture, number of legs, and more. We noticed that some had a few legs, some had no legs, and some even had too many legs to count! To celebrate the discovery of these crawly friends, the Detectives learned a song to help differentiate bugs from insects. To the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” we imagined transforming into insects as we pointed out our head, thorax, abdomen, and six legs!

 

The discovery of these bugs and insects also jumpstarted an inquiry into why we should care for bugs. “Bugs are scary,” exclaimed one child, “and I don’t like them!” This led to a wonderful reflection into our own feelings about bugs. Why are they useful? Do they help us? We set out to find the answer!

The Detectives discussed the importance of bugs as pollinators, and took a visit to our bug hotel, hoping to get a look at some bees. We discussed how the bees move pollen from flower to flower, and even practiced this movement at our pond rug and on our playground.

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Another day of log rolling brought us a family of bess beetles. As the Detectives gently held a beetle, they took note of its hard exoskeleton and the way its tiny feet tickled their hands. They also noticed holes dug into logs by the beetles, providing us with an opportunity to discuss the beetle’s role as a decomposer.

A visit to the compost station gave us an opportunity to talk about our decomposing food, and the worms’ role in helping to break down the food and make new soil. Thanks, worms!

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After finding so many bugs and insects underneath logs, we were excited to continue our search at a different habitat: the pond! Equipped with nets, rain pants, and mud-stomping boots, the Detectives set out on a search for dragonfly larva and other aquatic creatures.

We practiced scooping and sifting as we closely searched the muddy water for signs of Spring. Of course, no ponding day would be complete without a little sticky mud action. We saw gross motor skills and teamwork out in full force as children worked to unstick themselves and others from the muck, as well as construct a bridge across the mud. Calls out “Log coming through!” rang out as groups of children navigated through the forest carrying long branches for building materials. The adventure ended with everyone caked in mud, and full of amazing memories!

Our bug and insect investigation was rounded out by a visit from a bug expert: Kay The Bug Lady! This in-house field trip brought even more bug excitement into the classroom, as children held creatures small and large, familiar and exotic! Empty cicada shells, giant millipedes, and even hissing cockroaches were passed around the rug; while some chose to hold these bugs and others chose to observe with their eyes, all of the children seemed in awe of these amazing bugs! What a wonderful way to end the week!

Books We Read

From flower to Honey by Robin Nelson
Hank’s Big Day by Evan Kuhlman
I Love Bugs! By Philemon Struges
Good Morning Pond by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel

Weekly Top Hits

Dragonfly Life Cycle

Dragonflies have life cycles, yes they do!

Dragonflies have life cycles yes the do!

They lay eggs in the pond

Then they fly out later on

Dragonflies have life cycles, yes they do!

 

Head, Thorax, Abdomen

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen

Two antenna and six legs

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

 

Spring is Here

I see robins, I see bird nests

Butterflies, flowers too

Everything is growing

The wind is gently blowing

Spring is here

Give a cheer…..HOORAY!

 

Never Ever Squash a Bug

Never ever squash a bug

They’re Mother Nature’s friend

Put them in a plastic jar

And let them go again!

 

Spoiler Alert: Next week, we will be planting seeds!

Oaks News from the Wild #13

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The week before spring break brought us a last blast of winter. Finally, snow and school together. The Oaks enjoyed a just-right sledding hill and learned to roll giant snow balls to make a fort. A few children shaped snow into their special animals, including a chomping crocodile, a panda playing with a ball, and a 2D colobus monkey. Snow play is so great for gross motor development, along with all the social skills practice in negotiation, turn-taking, communication and more.

 

We finished up our long-term animal project before break, putting finishing touches on murals and animal books. The children were overjoyed to learn they could take their animals home to KEEP!

 

Inside, stories flow through the children’s minds and into their dramatic play, building and art. Talking with each other and with adults about their stories and ideas is so important to development at this age.

Outside, Hilltop Home is HOME, a place they know as well as the classroom, and a place where they turn to each other in cooperative play. Games that started there a week ago pick up and shift with new ideas. Lava, ice and fire ninjas have given way to Lizard Ninjas. Powerful Cats can be found prowling and making homes here, on the play-yard and in the classroom.

After a week home with family, the Oaks returned to Real Spring.

 

We spent an afternoon at the Children’s Garden, where we planted the kale, chard and lettuce we started from seed a few weeks ago, checked on our pea sprouts, and enjoyed the smells and feel of freshly turned earth.

 

The children love the area around the Tree-Friendly Rain Garden and the magnificent walnut tree. At least two different group games got going involving panthers, lizard ninjas, and many other changing roles and rules. Negotiating these games with each other, without adults directing the play, is so important for both social emotional growth and for language development. The story-lines are rich and completely theirs. And this space is so enticing for both the open space to run AND all the hiding places.

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Decorating the classroom for our Spring Celebration was one way the children thought about symbols of spring. They made flowers for our branch, and created a flower for our window.

Caroline continues to guide the Oaks in weekly mindfulness lessons. She read Anh’s Anger and Steps and Stone to talk about how to calm your mind and body when feelings are overwhelming.

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This week we started a magical tales (fairy tales, myths and legends) unit. We’ll be talking about story elements, like characters, setting, plot. The children will be working together to create their own tales to share with the class.

The Spring Celebration brought families together to celebrate the warmth of the returning sun and the warmth of community.

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Songs we sang:

Books/stories we read:

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henke

Anh’s Anger and Steps and Stones by Gail Silver

The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci

Sleeping Beauty

Signs of Spring (adapted from an Equinox reading)

And many, many more…

 

The Detective Post #13

Spring time has stumbled upon the Nature Detectives here at Woodend! With days full of sunshine, rain and snow, we got to enjoy the last wisps of winter while looking ahead to warmer weather! We observed new plants emerging, birds returning, as well as how the rain and snow effected our creek beds and pond.

Since the Detectives have become experts at being outdoors during school hours, we decided to examine what we might need to stay outdoors at night! With lots of evidence of nocturnal animals all around us, we compared and contrasted what we might need to help us camp! We met our old friend, Felicity Felt, who helped the detectives brain storm gear they might need to bring with them while camping.

We were excited to share our ideas on camping with our Naturalists as well! In the AM class, Ms. Julie taught us more about nocturnal animals, letting the students examine skunk fur before leading a hunt for stripes and spots in the woods! The PM class heard tales of Ms. Gail’s year long, bicycle camping trip around the world! She brought in photos of her trip, as well as gear she had used to camp in all different countries across the globe. What fun!

Despite not getting to hold our campfire at the end of the week due to winds, the students still visited Audubon’s campfire ring and collected different sized sticks with which to create a fire. We discussed that just like cooking, fire needs its own ingredients to be created, as well as how to stay safe when toasting treats!

Inside the classroom, campsites emerged in every interest area! The students went on daily camping trips in dramatic play, as well as built their own tents in the block area. Every student also made a journal entry about what they might bring camping, it was so amazing to see their thoughtful and creative responses!

Since our campfire had to be rescheduled, we took to the woods instead for a story hike! We read the story, We’re going on a Bear Hunt, before taking to the trails to try and spot five bears hidden in the forest!

Indoors, we used instruments to recreate all the noises from the story, before enjoying the different habitats of the story in our interest areas around the classroom!

The classes enjoyed visits from Ann-Mari and Susan during our camping unit! Ann-Mari read the AM students one of her favorite stories titled, We were Tired of living in a House, while Susan brought the PM students camping gear to explore!

On our hikes, we couldn’t help but notice the buds returning on branches, the snow drop covered grounds, as well the return of our American robins! With Spring time upon us, we embarked on an investigation of spring clues around Woodend. However, this would quickly be put on pause due winter’s final snow gust!

One SUPER exciting sign of spring has been our discovery of salamanders around Woodend! We uncovered a beautiful, yellow spotted salamander hanging around our pond! Salamanders lay their eggs in water during the spring, so discovering one by our pond was a very exciting sign of spring for the detectives! We revisited her log, discovering her over a few days, before finding she had moved on to a new spot! We also discovered a leadbacked salamander another log later in the week, further propelling our interest in our amphibian friends!

Indoors, we learned a new salamander song, as well as created salamanders to sit on top of our spring celebration crowns! To prep for the party, the students also created coffee filter rain drops as decorations.

Spring had other plans however, ushering in days of cold rain and snow! While we postponed our spring celebration, the Detectives had lots of fun experimenting with rainy day soups and snowball creations!

Books we Read

Night Lights by Susan Gal

S is for Smores by Helen Foster James

Bailey goes Camping by Kevin Henkes

We were tired of living in a House by Liesel Moak Skorpen

We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

And Then its Spring by Julie Fogliano

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer

Weekly Top Hits

The Camping Pokey

You put your tent up,

You put you tent down,

You put your tent up,

and you gather all around,

You do the camping pokey and you turn yourself around,

That’s what its all about!

(Shine your flashlight up, shine your flashlight down)

(Move your marshmallow up, move your marshmallow down)

 

I’m a Little Salamander (I’m a little Teapot)

I’m a salamander with spots on my back,

See if you can find me, I’m pretty hard to tack!

When the spring is here I go to the pond,

to lay my eggs now that the cold is gone! 

Spoiler Alert: When we come back from break we will be learning about bugs!

 

Oaks News of the Wild #11

During the past 2 weeks, the Oaks class enjoyed daily excursions into the wild and lots of time for creative play, plus a trip to an art show a the mansion, a day in Rock Creek Park, a visit from a corn snake, the 100th day of school, a camp fire with families, and more!zB4KBghPTu+M6rOq22opHw

Outdoor Adventures

After a very windy weekend, the children were excited to discover a fallen tree next to Hilltop Home.

 

We took hikes all around Woodend, including the pond and the children’s garden. We enjoyed a nature math activity with our fabulous intern (Meredith) and enjoyed another visit with Cosi, a goldendoodle belonging to one of the teachers.

 

Playground Fun

 

Rock Creek Park

The class spent one full day outside exploring Rock Creek Park, adding to our map and knowledge of the area.  Together we enjoyed another chapter of The Night Fairy, played at the Purple Playground, climbed a huge hill and had a picnic lunch in the woods.

 

A Visit from a Corn Snake

One of our fabulous master naturalists, brought a snake to the Oaks classroom.  Nancy arrived at school singing “I’m Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor!”  We got to touch the snake, learn about it, and watch it make its way through a maze to get to its food.  This experienced tied into our animal project in which we were learning about how animals including how they move and what they eat.

 

 

Classroom Experiences

The children continue to enjoy playing and engaging in various projects while in the classroom.  In the photos you can see children engaged in creative play, building activities, math activities with manipulative, intricate constructions, reading books and telling stories, imaginative and detailed drawing work, collaborative storytelling with toy ninjas, making clay creatures, decorating toy snakes,  caring for our seedlings, and enjoying a special snack for the 100th day of school, and more!

 

Mindfulness Lessons

We are very fortunate to have a parent lead weekly mindfulness lessons.  Through books and activities, we are learning to use our mindful bodies, eyes and ears.  We have practiced different breathing techniques and are learning how to understand and manage our emotions.

Art Show

The children were mesmerized by the nature art show at the mansion.

Family Campfire

We enjoyed a wonderful Friday night campfire with families.  We enjoyed each other’s company and cooked hotdogs over the fire.  We gathered together singing the song “Flicker” and told the story of “How Animals Got their Tails.”  After that, we roasted marshmallows and snacked on s’mores.  What fun!

Some Books & Stories We’ve Read

The Night Fairy (chapter book)

The Hat

Inch by Inch

“How Animals Got their Tails”

“Lion at School”

The Detective Post #12

Stomp stomp ROAR! The Detectives came back from the classroom to be greeted by some oversized, stomping reptiles: the dinosaurs! Through digging, observing, and of course, playing, we explored connections between the dinosaurs long ago and the plants, fossils, and animals that we see today.

We began our investigation by thinking about what we already know about dinosaurs. We heard lots of museum connections, tales of dino storybooks, and ideas about dinosaur toys. After plenty of thoughts and roars, we all reached a conclusion: we have never seen a real live dinosaur! How, then, do scientists learn about dinosaurs? We set out to answer the question.

The Detectives learned about fossils, and how scientists can use these to investigate creatures from long ago. Complete with our own paleontology dig site in the classroom, we uncovered bones, carefully dusting off sand to reveal the dinosaur underneath. We talked about how fossils formed, and even created our own bubbling volcano. Heads Up: lava alert!

While we learned about the dinosaur clues left from long ago, we kept returning to one question: do we still have a connection to our dinosaur friends? The answer? Yes! We learned about living fossils- ferns, moss, dragonflies, ants- creatures and plants that lived among the dinosaurs. Carrying miniature toy dinosaurs, we stomped through the forest on search of these living fossils and imagined what it might be like to be a dinosaur stomping through the same woods millions of years ago.

We learned about the dinosaurs’ habitat, and discussed how dinosaurs, like all reptiles, were cold-blooded creatures. In order to understand a bit more about reptiles, we dove into an investigation, meeting not one, not two, but THREE reptile friends here at Woodend!

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The Detectives spent time investigating Boris the tortoise, Sunny the bearded dragon, and Stormy the snake, and made connections between the various reptiles and the dinosaurs that used to walk the land.  We felt Boris’s shell, and thought about how it helped to protect her. We made connections to dinosaur skeletons, and how the plates and crests or certain dinosaurs would also work to protect them. In comparison, Sunny was covered in spikes and had a strong tail for protection. “Just like stegosaurus!” exclaimed one child. “Or ankylosaurus!” said another.  We thought about what all of these reptiles would eat, noting the differences in diet between the herbivorous tortoise, omnivorous lizard, and carnivorous snake, and the Detectives discussed how these compared to the different diets of their dinosaur ancestors.

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These connections extended not just to reptiles, but also to our feathered friends, the birds! The Detectives spent time thinking about how all of these creatures build nests to lay eggs in, and even imagined what these nests might look like. Nests small and large, built from blocks, filled the classroom along with exclamations about dinosaurs hatching from eggs!

 

After hearing about so many different types of dinos- two-legged, four-legged, feathered, and scaly- the Detectives imagined dino creations of their own. Pictures were drawn to depict the diosaurs along with their diets, habitats, and other fun facts. Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes, from the ferocious Chicken-Nugget Eating dinosaur to the oversized Tree-Crane dinosaur now line the classroom walls in our very own dinosaur museum exhibit!

Weekly Top Hits

Baby Dinosaur (Itsy Bisty Spider)

The little baby dinosaur climbed up to the top,

Of a Volcano that was ready to pop!

Down came the lava so very, very hot,

And the little baby dinosaur ran home without a stop!

 

Willaby Wallaby (Dino remix)

Willaby, wallaby wou,

A dinosaur sat on you,

Willaby, wallaby wee,

A dinosaur sat on me!

(Insert names for Dino rhyming fun!)

 

Books We Read

If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most

What Happened to Patrick’s Dinosaurs? By Carol Carrick

Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus

Dinosaurs Don’t have Bedtimes! By Timothy Knapman

T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Austen

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner

 

Sneak Peek: Next week, we will be thinking about camping! 

Oaks News from the Wild #11

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Someone asked me recently, “How do you plan lessons that reach all the children, with such a big age and developmental range?” So many thoughts flew through my brain as I figured out my response. Part of me wanted to say, “I don’t plan lessons” and this is both true and not true. We do plan some teacher-directed learning activities that are what would be traditionally recognized as lessons. But mostly, we plan experiences that create opportunities for learning.  We take the children to the garden with a plan to plant peas. We go on a long walk to look for signs of spring. We spend an afternoon at the pond. These experiences create opportunities to wonder, to think, to ask questions, to explore and yes, to learn.

But not necessarily to learn what we plan for them to learn. As teachers, we bring our knowledge and ideas to the children all day long – but we are also listening to theirs. We ask questions, we explore together, we drop new words and concepts into their open minds, we observe and guide. We support the children who need support, we challenge the ones who need to stretch. We know and love the children.

I could have spent several days talking educational philosophy, but instead gave the example of the gardening experiences we include in our spring curriculum. This week, we went to the garden, harvested compost, prepared the garden bed by turning over the soil. We looked for critters in the compost and in the soil, we noted what had decomposed and had not, we examined sprouting pea seeds for roots and shoots, we measured the depth and distance for our holes, we felt the damp soil, we set up a trellis, we planted peas. We also looked at the plants that had made it through the winter, tasted sorrel, imagined what our peas would look like. On the side, rousing imaginary play soared and crashed and soared again as roles and story-lines were negotiated. Some children stayed with every moment of the gardening experience, others popped in and out.

Back on the play-yard, we started some kale, chard and lettuce seedlings in pots. Some children planted two seeds, some twenty. Some wrote labels, others went back to play. To keep track of our seedlings, we made a grid to match our planter and mapped the location of all our seeds with a K, C or L. This mapping component was not planned – the experience called for it. Now we watch our seedlings – planted in soil and in the children’s minds and hearts – grow!

Outside on the play-yard, we set up an obstacle course for the children’s return last Monday. The children, of course, altered the course and added important story elements – a bridge over poison water and lots of hot lava.

Inside, a newly expanded dramatic play structure, new peg dolls and construction materials sparked new play. The Reggio Emilia philosophy recognizes the environment as the Third Teacher. By offering new materials, new spaces or twists on the known environment, we create new opportunities for play and learning.

Our marvelous intern Meredith has been working on math games with the children, which in turn sparked independent math play. Each child also added a page to their animal research project book about their animal’s body parts.

And since the interest in Ninjago is still going full force, some children offered Ninjago drawing lessons. Just in time to make a birthday book that doubled as a Ninjago manual for the birthday girl. (ps, Ninjago is a Lego ninja storyline, brought from home and fully owned and expanded by the children’s imaginations)

We celebrated two half-birthdays in this short week, celebrating the children’s trips around the sun with their families.

Books we read:

Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallett

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz (a new chapter book)

Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch it, Shape it by Dr. JoAnn Deak

And many many books about animals and animal body parts

Songs we sang:

The animal body parts song (to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, and sung cumulatively):

Some animals have very special parts,

yes, some animals have very special parts.

I have fingers, I have toes

On my face I have a nose,

but some animals have parts like their…

teeth – chomp, chomp

fins – swish, swish

wings – flap, flap

tails – wag, wag

We also sing versions of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and Boom, Chicka Boom for each Person of the Day’s animal.

 

 

 

 

 

Oaks News from the Wild #10

What fun times the Oaks class has had in different kinds of weather- rain, ice and sunshine- all in a 2 week period!  We are even beginning to see some signs of spring.

Playground Fun

When the temperature got below freezing, the kids had a wonderful time playing with the ice on the playground.  One day we got out magnifying glasses and directed the sunlight to melt a hole in a piece of ice.

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Dog Day with Cosi

Julie’s dog, Cosi, came to visit the Oaks playground one Friday.  What fun the kids had throwing the ball for her to catch and patting her soft fur.  We read lots of fun books about dogs that day.

Woodend Walks

Every afternoon we walk and explore different parts of Woodend.  We went on our winter journey stick hike, collecting little mementos from nature.

As you see above, the class worked hard to build a bridge across the creek bed after a nice rain fall.  What great team work and problem solving skills!

Rain and Mud Play

We were excited to get some rain and enjoyed water in the creek bed and mud puddles all around.

Rock Creek Park 

The Oaks class when to Rock Creek Park for the second time.  We used a map and noticed landmarks (and stomped in puddles) along the way.  We enjoyed a snack and story and explored a new area for us- a peninsula in the creek with sliding and climbing hills, animal tracks, a praying mantis egg case, and lots of water and mud to enjoy.

While in Rock Creek Park, we read the beginning of chapter 6 in A House at Pooh Corner about the game of pooh sticks.  After the story, the kids found sticks of all sorts and sizes, tossed them off one side of the bridge, and watched them come out from the other side.

Our Mapping Unit

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Valentine’s Day

On February 14, we celebrated love and kindness.  We enjoyed a special snack that included heart shaped cookies and Love Potion # 9 (banana and berry frozen drinks), read the book Plant a Kiss, and make cards for others.  We also finished making our kindness rocks and placed them in special spots on the grounds of Woodend (making the locations on our map).

The Animal Project

We continued our animal project, including learning about the life cycle of animals.  We sang songs and learned about the life cycle of penguins, squirrels and frogs as well as each of the children’s chosen animals.

Nancy lead a game about the life cycle of a frog and told the hilarious story of “The Wide Mouth Frog.”

Classroom Experiences


BOOKS We’ve Read

We read books on the playground, inside the classroom and in locations around Woodend.  Here are some of the whole group read alouds from the past 2 weeks.

As the Crow Flies (Mapping)

Winter Walk

Plant a Kiss

Draw the Line

Always in Trouble (a book about a dog like Cosi)

One Smile

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.  Chapter 6 “In Which Pooh Invents a Game and Eeyore Joins In”

SONGS We’ve Sung

“Life Cycles”

“A Ram Sam Sam” adapted to include each of the kids’ chosen animals as we gather for our morning circle

A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

A rafi, a rafi
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

A rafi, a rafi
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”  with different versions for each of the kids’ chosen animals developed with the person of the day

Ex:  Stingray (with gestures)

Body, flippers and long tail, long tail.

Body, flippers and long tail, long tail.

It has a spine with venom inside.

Body, flippers and long tail, long tail.

“Boom Chicka Boom” with adaptations for each of the kids’ chosen animals as we celebrate the person of the day.  This is a call and response chant

I said a boom chicka boom.  (I said a boom chicka boom.)

(Louder) I said a boom chicka boom.  (I said a boom chicka boom.)

I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom. 

(I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom. 

Uh huh. (Uh huh).  Okay (Okay).

Let’s do it again, the _______________ way.

Ex:  Let’s do it again, the stingray way.

I said a boom swisha boom.  (I said a boom swishy boom.)

(Louder) I said a boom swisha boom.  (I said a boom swisha boom.)

I said a boom swisha rocka swisha rocka swisha boom.

(I said a boom swisha rocka swisha rocka swisha boom.)

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