Thank you to everyone who has visited my website since it began a few short months ago! I’m still learning how best to set it up and welcome all comments & suggestions.
In an effort to make it easier to access my blog, it will now appear on my homepage. In case you missed anything so far, here is an archive of my blogs.
1-23-12 Color & Ice
As part of our winter curriculum, my class has been doing several experiments involving ice. We have figured out what melts ice and even conducted races to see how we can melt it the fastest. But one of my favorite experiments integrates science and art as it pulls from the student’s previous knowledge and experience of color mixing and transforming a solid to a liquid.
This is an easy experiment and I encourage you to try it at home!
We started with three containers of crushed ice. I had some children help me crush the ice. We used two large Ziploc bags filled with ice & used child-sized hammers to hit the cubes! It was a nice stress reliever 🙂
Next we filled three dropper bottles with red water, yellow water & blue water. Following picture equations the children used the droppers to add colored water to the ice. They had three choices: yellow + blue, blue + red & red+ yellow. (Dropper bottles allow for nice development of fine motor muscles!)
Lastly, we made predictions about what we thought would happen. The kids were so excited to keep returning to the science shelf to watch the progress! Here’s what it looked like at the beginning, middle & end.
Feel free to comment below & let me know what you think! How do you experiment with ice?
12-24-11 Winter Books
Despite what the recent New York City weather would indicate, it is officially winter! This means it is time to begin planning my winter curriculum. As with all my curriculum units, literature plays a huge role. In thinking about some of my favorite winter books, I wanted to share a few with you here.
While I enjoy the more obvious winter books full of snowmen & the like, I adore the books that touch on winter in other ways. Here is a sampling…
Frederick by Leo Lionni was one of my favorite books from childhood. I still have the same copy that my mother used to read to me. In this story, a group of field mice are preparing for winter. They scurry to gather grain and food while Frederick, an artist & poet, seems to just passively sit by. But when winter comes, Frederick’s value and work is revealed. This book celebrates individuality and shows us the value in the artistic soul.
In The Mitten by Jan Brett, a young boy loses his mitten in the snow and before the mitten can be returned to its owner, a group of animals make it their home! Children love the outrageousness of all the animals fitting together in this tiny mitten. It is fun to predict which animals will come next!
The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson is a great book for younger children; they enjoy the repetitive phrases in the book and enjoy chiming in! I use this book as a novel extension of our winter conversations about hibernation.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is a more grown up story and much longer in length than the previously mentioned books. It is a beautiful story about a daughter and her father who go out looking for owls on a winter’s night. The writing is mature and the illustrations match the words in their elegance.
WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
12-05-11 Mindfulness Part II
Last month I posted a blog about using Mindful practices with children. But don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the parents!
The ideas behind mindful parenting come from the practice of Mindful Meditation. This type of meditation involves focusing your mind, through the help of breathing techniques, on the present. Being mindful is being in the moment, being aware of your feelings/emotions and thoughts. There are many websites & blogs devoted to the practice of mindful meditation if you are interested in beginning this practice at home. You can also check out Itunes for free guided meditations!
But let’s be honest, with young children in your home, it can be very difficult to find 10 minutes of quiet time to focus on your breaths. So what can you do in your everyday parenting life to incorporate mindfulness?
It starts with being aware of your feelings about being a parent, what emotions are you bringing to the table? Acknowledging how we feel in any given moment is a tenet of mindfulness. Next, it’s about being in the moment with your child. This doesn’t mean catering to their every whim, it just means being present with them. Put down your cell phone and go for a 10 minutes walk with your child, notice what is around you as you walk. Sounds simple, but it really is meaningful to your young child. Or how about a family meal: brunch, dinner, whatever fits into your schedule. But really sit down, ask each other about your days, truly engage and enjoy being in that moment with your family.
Lastly, remember this…Mindfulness can be achieved in just 3 deep breaths! If you take the time to breathe in & out three times, you are being mindful. You have taken the time to remember where you are, take note of the moment and realize that whatever you were feeling, you needed to slow down for a moment and breathe. So the next time your child does something that makes you feel anxious or angry, just take 3 deep breaths and then deal!
I often speak of Peace in my classroom. We tell the children we want our class to be a peaceful place, we want our bodies to feel peaceful in it and we often discuss the ways to make that happen. Essentially the message is that peace begins with us.
I recently attended a workshop at Columbia University where Susan Kaiser Greenland & Dr. Suzi Tortora discussed the practice of mindfulness with children. I found that many of the things they spoke of were similar to our practice of peace in my classroom. It is important for children to be mindful and there are easy practices to teach mindfulness that can be adapted for you and your child at home.
One of my favorite daily practices with my class is our Quiet Thought time. After waking up from rest, we do some stretches to wake up our bodies and then sit down to read a quiet thought and take deep breaths all together. Most times this is a quote carefully written on beautiful paper & hidden within a special box. Many of these quotes relate to peace or caring for one another. But recently I have begun speaking some of our quiet thoughts for a more interactive approach based on what I learned at the Mindfulness Workshop. Here is a sample of one (this is not verbatim, it’s just an example, feel free to adapt it)…..
Let’s sit up tall and pretend we are big, strong mountains. Let me see how tall and sturdy your mountains can be. Now when it rains, does the rain melt the mountain? And when a big gusty wind comes, does it knock the mountain over? No, the mountain stays steady & strong, just like each of you.
Sometimes our feelings can feel like the wind & rain that come over the mountain. The rain is like our sad feelings; our tears even look like rain. And what feeling do you think a big, blustery wind might be like? Those heavy winds can be like when we are angry. But even when those feelings come to each of you, you don’t let them destroy you because you are just like the strong mountain. And just like the mountain will sit and watch the storm clouds roll away, we can wait as our strong feelings pass by too. The wind and the rain will always come, and we will always have sad & mad feelings. But we just need to remember that they won’t knock us down and they will pass.
I find that after we talk about these things, the children seem very calm. This is also a great way to get them to start talking about their feelings. Inevitably they like to share how they sometimes feel sad & mad and how this quiet thought can help them remember that it’s okay.
I hope you will try some techniques of your own at home to encourage peace and mindfulness!
Today I was watching the faces of my students light up with joy and discovery as they ran around a community garden close to our school. Around every bend of this untamed wilderness was a new treasure to be uncovered and the children were excitedly leading the expedition. Seeing how proud they were to share their discoveries, I was reminded of what I already knew…sometimes the natural world outside our school walls can teach lessons better than direct instruction ever can. Finding friendly snails, slow-moving caterpillars and watching, very still, as a bee climbed deep inside a purple flower for pollen were touching experiences that my students will remember for a long time.
Soon the weather will turn awfully cold and these precious experiences will need to be placed on hold. I encourage all parents to take advantage of the remaining beautiful days of Fall. Bring your child to parks, gardens and any other urban oases you have at your disposal. Go on a seed hunt, collect fall leaves and make collages, let nature be the teacher! I promise it will be rewarding.
Below are some pictures from our garden exploration.