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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The Detective Post #11

The Nature Detectives finished off our fairies and gnomes unit with celebrations of love and rainbows! With our icy grounds turning to puddles, we also continued our exploration on water flow and what that looks like here at Woodend!

While the past two weeks were spent thinking about ways to be kind to ourselves and others, this week the students shifted their focus to kindness ideas for the earth around us! We embarked on a three day art project to spread our love of the earth to anyone who comes to visit Woodend! First, the students picked up rocks from our creek beds to bring back to the classroom. We then proceeded to paint our rocks, and write kind wishes for the earth on the bottom of each as a special surprise! Once they dried, each child got the chance to hide their kindness rock on the trails of Audubon, to spread our wishes of a clean earth to anyone who visits!

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The rain and warmer weather furthered our interest in water and its many properties! The AM class enjoyed a hike to the compost stations and rain garden, where we learned about water conservation right here at Audubon! The PM class enjoyed a visit from Ms. Gail, who talked with us about the importance of clean water and took us to the pond to investigate!

On Wednesday we have a kindness and love party to celebrate all the things we have learned throughout our fairies and gnomes unit! The children worked together to create a “love potion,” (yogurt and strawberry smoothie) as well as edible toadstools out of apples and bananas! The students also had the chance to write love notes with the help of parent volunteers.

The PM class also enjoyed creating sparkly glitter magnets this week, while the AM class got a special outdoor painting project from Ann-Mari!

We continued our fairy fun indoors this week, by creating fairy dough out of hair conditioner and corn starch, adding toadstool and stump tunnels to our trains, and introducing a new fairy board game!

To finish out our lessons we learned about something magical that water can create- rainbows! The students experimented with water to try to create our own rainbows, as well as created recycled rainbows to hang in our classroom. In true fairy and gnome style, the PM class had quite the surprise! While getting ready for our closing circle at the end of the day, we spied a real rainbow in the sky above us- it was incredible! The students sang our newly learned Rainbows in my Bubbles song and danced under its colors! It was truly an amazing send off to round out our fairy and gnome fun at Audubon.

 

Weekly Top Hits
Rainbows in my Bubbles (She’ll be comin round the mountain)

I’ve got rainbows in my bubbles yes I do!

I’ve got rainbows in my bubbles yes I do!

When I look up towards the sun,

I see rainbows everyone,

I’ve got rainbows in my bubbles yes I do!

Books we Read

Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten

No, No, Gnome! by Ashlyn Anstee

A Fairy Friend by  Sue Fliess

Spoiler Alert: When we return to preschool next week we will be learning about dinosaurs!

 

The Detective Post #10

Gnomes abound! The Nature Detectives have been uncovering fairy magic and gnome homes all around Woodend the last few weeks. With roots in kindness to ourselves and those around us, the fairies have been leaving us notes with mindfulness tips, and we have been discovering different gnomes hiding on the trails of Audubon!

We kicked off our theme with a fairy treasure map designed by our very own Oaks class! The Oaks hid treasure all around our playground, and created a detailed map for the Detectives to follow and find the treasure!

The fairies left us notes throughout the weeks, outlining different mindfulness tricks we can use to be kind to our own bodies. We enjoyed an exciting visit from Boris the Tortoise, who showed us how she uses her shell to take a break from the world around her! We learned how to use our own “tortoise shells” (AKA child’s pose) to help calm down our bodies.

The fairies also introduced us to different types of magical breaths! We learned we can also use these magic tricks to slow down our bodies when having big feelings. We practiced the “take five,” “lion,” and “balloon” breaths, before using our magic breaths to create sparkly bubble art! We also created “emotion potions,” (aka calm down jars) that we used practice mindfulness.

The detectives uncovered both water and river gnomes in the Woods, learning that we can track how our bodies are feeling by checking in with our own “rivers!” Our “rivers” run fast, medium, and slow, which can correspond with running, walking, and being still! We learned a river song which accompanied creek bed exploration.

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The pond gnome and colder weather lent itself to continued ice exploration! We experimented with breaking ice, as well as watching the chilly grounds melt into muddy fun!

In our stories, we noticed that fairies and gnomes are drawn with mushroom homes! The PM class enjoyed a fungi hike with Ms. Gail, learning about the different types of fungi we have here at Woodend. Indoors, we did a spore print experiments- leaving large mushroom caps overnight and discovering spore prints the following day!

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The students also made kindness entries in their journals, brain storming ideas of how they are kind to those around them! We also practiced taking turns in the classroom as fairies in dramatic play, building withe zoobs, as well as creating our own gnome homes in the block area!

 

Weekly Top Hits

Deep and Wide

Deep and Wide, Deep and Wide,

theres a river flowing deep and wide!

Buh, da, da, da, da, da

Deep and Wide, Deep and Wide,

theres a river flowing deep and wide!

 

Books we Read

Rainbow Fairies by Nicola Baxtor

Pinkalicous: Fairy House by Victoria Kahn

Slop by Margaret Read Macdonald

The Rainbow Fairies by Daisy Meadows

 

Spoiler Alert: Next week will be finishing our fairies and gnomes unit!

 

 

Oaks News from the Wild #9

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Woodend continues to provide endless opportunities to explore and learn. From the icy pond to the inside of a giant tulip tree, there is always something new in nature.

Animals, Animals!

We’ve been learning about habitats as part of our on-going animal project. Each child learned about the habitat of their chosen animal, added a habitat page to their books, and created habitat paintings. The paintings were created by looking at pictures in their animal books, then drawing what they saw and imagined of their animal’s habitat. Afterwards, they painted their habitats, then cut out and added collage elements. Next up, life cycles!

We played a few animal games, including one we called Habitat, Habitat based on Mother May I. “If your animal lives in the ocean, swim three times. If your animal lives in the trees, move two times.”  Fox (and Hawk) and Rabbit was fun to play in the tall meadow grass. Rabbits had to decide whether to hide and freeze, or try to bolt for the rabbit warren.

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Our guest naturalist Nancy brought us a real squirrel drey to examine, then we went out drey-hunting on our longest hike to date. The Oaks spotted 15 dreys in the tree-tops on a full-circle hike of Woodend.

Mapping

After mastering 3D model maps, the Oaks moved on to 2D maps on paper. We created a map of the play-yard, and played the treasure hunt game again. The children hid small animals, marked them on the map, then sent their friends off to find them. Pretty soon, they could play the game completely independently. Taking it to the next step, the Oaks created a map of the preschool playground. Each child added elements to the map, talking with the teachers and each other about where things should go and how big they should be. “The stumps are actually behind the play structure.” “Where should this tree go?” Then they hid shiny gemstones for the Saplings to find, added Xs to mark the spots on the map, and got some help from a visiting third grader to write a poem with clues.

After a rain, we donned our gear and decided to hike the creek bed from one side of Woodend to the other. We brought along a laminated map of Woodend, so the children could check our location in the creek bed as we went along and add important missing elements to the map, like the one part of the creek that usually actually has water (or at least mud!).

Next up with mapping: creating sequencing maps of the route from the Oaks classroom to Hilltop Home.

Play!

In the classroom and outdoors, the Oaks continued the real work of early childhood – play! So much negotiation, problem-solving, language development, risk-taking, creativity and imagination.

Read, Read, Read

The Oaks LOVE books, anywhere, anytime, any kind. So we bring along stories wherever we go. We’ve really enjoyed our person-of-the-day favorite book parent visits. Nothing is better than your favorite story read by your favorite person and shared with friends.

This week, we started reading a series of books dealing with social emotional issues. These stories sparked animated discussion and sharing about feelings and how to manage them. We’ll continue with these books next week, giving us a shared language to use when problems arise.

Inside the classroom, the Oaks waited excitedly for the Mr. and Mrs. Penguin to lay an egg. Then they waited patiently for the egg to hatch. After three days, Little Waddle emerged from his/her shell! S/he is being well taken care of by the children, who are fully immersed in the magic.

Mindfulness is part of every day, as we learn to slow our engines down with breathing exercises, visit our sit spots at Hilltop Home, and practice mindful bodies, mindful listening, mindful seeing and mindful breathing.

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Books we read:

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

The Hat from Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (in honor of a class birthday)

Various books on the children’s individual animals and their habitats.

And many many more!