Rascal Camp Day 4: Ocean

On this, the fourth day of summer Rascal Camp, I believe we laughed the most. Sea creatures seems to be a topic a lot of kids are familiar with- sharks, jellyfish, dolphins, Nemo, etc. So today we did a lot of kid-led discussion and I asked a lot of questions, introducing info nuggets through the day instead of an instruction-focused lesson.

Keeping with routine, we started with the Hello song and a rule review. Our book today is one of my favorite ocean books: Atlantic,  by G. Brian Karas. Written like a poem, this book touches on so many topics and opens up discussion  organically through illustrations. We talked about the water cycle, ocean currents, icebergs, tides, umbrella uses (sun vs rain), sea creatures, abstract art and more as we read. This is a title that was gifted to my family as a birthday gift by a dear friend and I love to pull it out for ocean days. I highly recommend this as an addition to home libraries.

Our yoga practice today focused on creature features. We moved our bodies like jellyfish, octopus and more. Before finishing with balloon breaths, the kids even created their own creature  feature poses, which made us all giggle.

 

Our first project of the day was a movement activity- the Anemone Alphabet hunt! I love a good scavenger hunt- it really works on focused thinking, noticing one’s environment, and attention span. We sang the ABC song to help us remember all the letters we needed to find and set off through the Backyard Ocean. Rascals really worked together this morning and it was heartwarming to see them cheer each other on and distribute letters to each other to make sure everyone had a few letters in their baskets. We came back together when the kids thought they’d found them all and worked as a team to put the letters in alphabetical order to figure out what letters we were still missing. They did a great job, and we only had a few more to find. After round two of the hunt, they all celebrated with high fives when the Anemone Alphabet was complete and in order.

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Next, we talked about pollution and the importance of keeping oceans clean. To demonstrate this concept, two trays of lime Jell-o containing various sea creatures were brought out and each child was given a chip clip. The object of the activity was to rescue the sea creatures from The Muck using ONLY the chip clip (working on grip and hand strength, among other skills) and then place the rescued creature on the table to be cleaned later. Each kid rescued exactly ONE creature before they realized that The Muck was Jell-o and it was actually a delicious snack. Ha! I loved seeing their reactions to this delightful surprise and they proceeded to gleefully complete the rescue and lick the creatures clean (“yikes! Don’t lick a jellyfish in real life!” I said with waggling eyebrows). I was actually admonished by a Rascal for not telling them sooner!

Next, we moved our “cleaned off” creatures to the small world play in the water table: shells, more creatures, and smooth rocks that created an imaginary ocean. [This activity remained available for play through the rest of the morning and the Rascals came back to play several times as their interests led them.]  The kids cleaned the creatures, played and went out into the yard to explore while I prepped snack: goldfish and sea slugs (cantelope slices).

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We moved on to our math work, which was a fairly simple counting project but involved several steps. I normally try to avoid cut-and-paste type of projects that aren’t very meaningful. For this project, and these kids, on this day, I thought something a little more structured would provide some good skill reinforcement. I provided a blank aquarium for rainbow number fish. After discussing gills and how fish breath underwater, I introduced dot markers and gave the kids free reign to choose which number fish they wanted to include in their aquarium, as long as each fish had enough air bubbles! Some kids only wanted one fish, others completed all six. Once they felt satisfied with their work, they moved back to the small world play or went inside to put on swimsuits.

We moved to art next, for which I had three creative opportunities planned. The first had to be done one-on-one, so I made sure to have a blank stretch of paper, tempera paint, and sea creature stampers available for kids to explore as they waited. They were so patient as they waited their turns to make sand art! After a few false starts and spilled grains, we worked out that the sand ended up in the bottle better if I poured, so each child was in charge of holding their chosen bottle steady and naming the colors of sand they wanted within. I used a basic kit, which provided the bottles, sand and a funnel and worked really well. The kids were stoked to create their own rainbows and took care to choose their colors carefully.

For our third creative project, we painted scallop shells! We used all different sizes of paintbrushes and more tempera paint, adding glitter for extra flair. They really turned out well and dried nicely. I’d not done this before, but was impressed with the shell size as it provided plenty of space for lots of paint colors and dried really thoroughly. It was fun to paint on an atypical surface!

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We wrapped up with our most fun activity of the day. With a little help from family, I had eight plain kitchen sponges (without scrubber pads) cut into basic fish shapes. We quickly discussed flying fish, and then we tried to catch some! Basically, I soaked the sponges in a tub of water and threw them to (at) a kid holding a plastic basket (the net) as they tried to catch the fish. This proved to be a hilarious exercise in what it feels like to be slapped across the face by a fish. The Rascals had SO MUCH FUN… and so did I. Flying Fish Catch also gave a lot of kids the opportunity to experience what it feels like to not be good at something the first time you try it- and how practicing can help you improve! Who knew that catching wet sponges being thrown at you could also be a character building exercise? Regardless, my voice is super hoarse after all the cheering and we will definitely be playing this frequently through the rest of the summer. This one is a must-try, pals.

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Objectives and Concepts Covered:

  • Language: letter identification, alphabetical order, basic letter sounds
  • Math: one-to-one correspondence, counting, more vs less, addition to 6, numerical order to 6, sorting by size, size comparisons, volume
  • Science: basic marine biology, aquatic respiration, ocean habitats, sea creature features, ocean conservation, coral reefs, water cycle, ocean currents, states of matter (water)
  • Social Studies: world geography, local geography, bodies of water
  • Motor skills: eye-hand coordination, motor planning, body awareness, spatial awareness, balance, proprioception, bilateral coordination, body awareness, fine motor skill practice, hand strengthening (for grip strength), pincer grasp
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Rascal Camp Day 3: Bugs!

We were so busy today! After our Hello song and rules review, we jumped right in to our book of the day: Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! By Bob Barner. This book has wonderful rhymes and opportunities for counting on each page. I chose it for the bright illustrations but also for the bug comparison chart in the back. We read through each data point highlighting things like number of legs and where a bug might live, adding any knowledge we knew to the discussion as we analyzed. This set the tone for the rest of the day, as the Rascals continued this kind of observation of bug attributes the rest of the morning.

Yoga today included practice of many “bug poses” and lots of imagination. We started with balloon breaths- at which these kids are now masters- and moved right into slug pose. We made pointy stingers like bees, held shells on our backs like snails, then became flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies and fireflies followed by slimy slugs, round ladybugs and wiggly caterpillars. We ended as our favorite butterflies and shared what we would look like by using describing words.

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We spent a significant amount of time with math skills today. Starting by sorting bug counters by color, we then followed a recipe as a team to make bug stew. (“Eeewwww!!”) By practicing listening skills, we each contributed to the stew and took turns stirring and adding ingredients. We then sorted by bug type which organically morphed into creating pairs and patterns. It was my favorite moment of the day and the reason I love child-led learning. They did a beautiful job as a team helping each other create patterns, discovering that everyone had 12 bugs and 2 of each color.

 

The next math skills we worked on utilized measuring worms. Another multi-step project (building attention spans and memory from yesterday), the kids were tasked with finding an object in the yard they’d like to measure. I demonstrated my dump truck measurements with the worms and explained my diagram depicting my object and the worms. We took a moment to compare the different lengths of worms, noting longest, longer, shorter and shortest. We observed that two shorter worms are equal in length to one longest worm. The kids then found items to measure and set to work. They really enjoyed setting worms along edges and counting how long or high their objects were. We practiced writing numbers and creating sentences. When they finished, we took a brain break and they had free play or visited the chickens while I prepped bug snack. (Veggie straw caterpillars, grape beetles and banana slugs)

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It’s not a secret that art is my favorite subject, and I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate the next project into a lesson for a while. Using lengths of butcher paper and painters tape, the kids used tree trunks as easels for crayon rubbings to create bug habitats. This. Was. So. FUN! On a tip from my fave art teacher, Miss Annie (currently director of Family Programming at The Walters in Baltimore) I bought bug stickers by a company called Eyelike. They are photographic, not illustrated, and so the effect is that the art really looks like bugs crawling over (rainbow) tree bark! Process art is so important at this age for continuing to build attention spans and focus. We has such fun with this project today! This also incorporated science concepts like habitats, bug anatomy and identification and life cycles.

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The kids cleared the table for clay play and I distributed small pots of air dry clay and placed the bug counters back on the table. To make our next project, bug fossils, I showed how to gently press the bug into the smooth surface of the clay and pull it free- an imprint! After trying out several bugs (caterpillars seemed to make the best fossils) I passed around several colors and the kids created their own bugs. We discussed basic bug anatomy but generally just had some free creative time. This dough was really interesting to play with!

While the kids explored the bug counters and dough, I broke out a quick phonics game I dubbed “mystery bug.” I’d taken the first letter off of several bug names and written them on a separate card. I introduced my mystery bug and the game would go something like this:

“Here, I have a Rasshopper! The amazing, green, hip-hoppity Rasshopper!”

*Kids giggle and shout out*

“No way, Miss Abby!” “It’s a Grasshopper!”

Me: “wait, what?! But, it says RASShopper, not Grasshopper. What is my RASShopper missing?”

From there we’d figure out what sound, and thus what letter, was missing and make the bug word complete again. The kids would hold up the corresponding bug counters if they had them and we’d move on to the next bug word. (“Look! Look at my IREfly! My UTTERfly! My EE! My NT!” And so on.)

While they played I set up the sprinkler and we ended our day screaming with joy running through the water. Can’t beat that!

Rascal Camp Day 2: Community Helpers

Day two of pre-k summer camp kicked off with another joyful round of Hello (Ella Jenkins) with happy, clapping hands to keep the rhythm. After a quick rule review, we dove right in and cracked open today’s book: Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do, by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook. I love the playful rhymes in this book and interactive nature of the guessing game that encourages kids to think and pay attention. I especially like the diversity throughout ending and how it celebrate

Spreading out the yoga blanket, we took off our shoes and started our morning practice with deep balloon breaths. Today, they were much better at this concept and inflated/deflated their balloons/lungs beautifully. Moving though our poses, we pretended to be engineers building bridges, veterinarians caring for cats, firefighters reaching their hosess to put out fires, zookeepers feeding lions, train drivers through tunnels, and gardeners or farmers planting things for butterflies to pollinate. [poses in respective order as pictured; cards from ThinkFun ]

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Continuing with our theme, our language lessons began with connecting “go-togethers.” These Rascals were absolute pros and demonstrated some early reading skills that knocked my socks off. I set out two columns of words with the instruction to match the words that belong together. I read out the words, and it only took the kids about one minute to match them all. I had counted on much more time being needed!

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Teeth/brush? Sigh. I meant Dentist/toothbrush. They understood, though. 

Next, we stamped some postcards and matched letters. Letter stamps and ink pads were set in the middle of the group and each child was given a small stack of “stamps” (construction paper squares). Holding up a postcard (index card with capital letter printed upon) for the children to see, we would all make the sound of the letter and then they would search the box for the corresponding stamp- capital or lower case- stamp the square, then glue the stamp to the postcard for later mailing at the post office station. This process was four steps long and they exceeded expectations. I only planned to do 5-6 letters but they asked to do several more as they enjoyed the process. We talked about where a stamp is located on a piece of mail and how mail gets delivered.

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Next, for math lessons we brought the abstract concept of community to our table and made it more concrete using a gears set. Everyone built their own community, with each cog representing a helper or member of the community (firefighter, teacher, etc) and chose where in the community they would love, fitting each cog together on their board. We discussed how everyone has an important role to play in our community and how, even if people (cogs) are different colors, each is a needed piece of the puzzle in order for the community to run well. We expanded on this concept a little by then piecing each board together and adding the turning handle, watching how all the pieces worked in unison when the handle rotated. Everyone got a turn rotating the handle. We built different communities several times and worked on being kind to each other (our over-arching theme of the week) while taking turns. We sorted the cogs by color and made sure each color was represented on each board. The more diversity the better!

At this point, the kids were pretty anxious to move on to free play in the stations they had glimpsed during yoga. So, we took a tour of the backyard community stations I’d set up so they’d know what imaginative play areas were available. This also gave me a chance to explain some additional rules we had today (such as “do not cut anyone’s hair, clothes, person or hair. Did I say don’t cut anyone’s actually hair?”) while we previewed certain stations.

Stations:

  • Library: stack of various books covering community topics, individual library cards, stamps and stamp pad. Kids can “check out” books, but must apply the number of stamps to their card corresponding to the number of books checked out (3 books = 3 stamps on card)IMG_20180710_095525.jpg
  • Veterinary Clinic: Lab coat, toy stethoscopes, otoscopes and syringes, various stuffed animals. Animals have come to the office because they have booboos! How can you be kind and help them?
  • Post Office: large mailbox with several slots (cut from a cardboard box and labeled mail), stamp stickers, markers and index cards. Invitation to write a postcard to whomever you like. Don’t forget to apply a stamp before popping it into the mailbox!
  • Market: market stand and cash register. Use your imagination- what kind of store are you running? How much does everything cost?
  • Farm: chicken pen and coop. Help to take care of the chickens by feeding them scraps leftover from our snack
  • Salon: scissors, cardboard tubes with “hair” pre-cut. Identify how each tube person feels and cut their hair according to their needs. IMG_20180710_095635.jpg
  • Cafe: toy plates, bowls, pitcher, cups, pots and pans. Practice cooking skills and take orders- what is it like to be a CHEF? 
  • Fire station: firefighter costume, fire truck ride on toy. Quick! To the rescue! 
  • Construction Zone: mud pit and trucks. What will you build to help the community?

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We took a break for snack- graham cracker, strawberry, raisin and peanut butter fire trucks- devoured by all Rascals who then asked for seconds!

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Today was super messy kitchen process art, which very quickly devolved into a sensory art project involving bare feet. The messier, the better! Unrolled butcher paper, some squirts of washable tempera paint (pink was a big favorite today!) and all the kitchen tools I could find were the only supplies needed. Whisks, various sized spatulas, potato mashers and marinade brushes made for some great painting tools and we had a great time. We talked about mixing colors with our toes, slipped around some and then sang some made-up songs about how messy and fun this was.

 

After rinsing off toes and hands, changing into swimsuits and slathering on some sunscreen, we blew up the pool and took a dip. At this point the morning was coming to a close, so the kids were rotating between the pool and their favorite stations- mailing some last-minute postcards and picking up some items from the store before heading home for the day. What an awesome morning!

 

 

 

Objectives and Concepts Covered:

  • Math: sorting, counting, early money concepts, addition, subtraction, shape identification
  • Language Learning: letter identification, letter sounds, pre-writing practice, grip strength, proper grip, left-to-right orientation, community words (fire, truck, library, farm, police, chef), vocabulary word of the day: Chef
  • Social Studies: community members, diversity concepts, team work, basic geography, identifying feelings and facial expressions
  • Motor Skills: body awareness, motor planning, balance, proprioception, scissor skills, fine motor skills (pinching, writing)
  • Imaginary play! We did lots of pretending, allowing kids to explore their worlds and what it might feel like to pretend to be someone else- building confidence and empathy in the process.

Rascal Camp: Kindness

Rascal Camp kicked off today with a focus on being kind- establishing an expectation for behavior for the week and how to be a good human in general. Our sub-theme today was Water Play.

I followed the lesson plan layout I usually use for Pre-K days: Song, rules, story, activities, snack, play, activities. I find this routine works well and can be really flexible if I need it to be.

We tried a new song this week: Hello by Ella Jenkins. I really like this easygoing melody! The kids picked it up quickly and we beat the rhythm on the table as we sang. We reviewed the rules of kindness: hands to ourselves, listening ears, etc. and added a rule about staying inside the gate.

Our book today was Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller. I loved this story because it outlines what kindness can mean and various ways one can be kind to others. We discussed as we read the ways we have been kind to others today and how sometimes we didn’t even know we were being kind- they were surprised to find out that clearing the dishes to the sink is an easy way to show kindness.

If you’re looking to review the concepts we read about today, I adore this YouTube read-aloud version- read by a kid!

After we finished our story, we spread out the yoga blanket and practiced some poses, focusing our thoughts on today’s theme.  We started in Lotus pose and learned how to take balloon breaths: deeply inhaling to expand our balloons and slowly blowing out our breaths to deflate. We moved into Mountain Pose and thought about how we can be mountains of kindness for others- what small actions we can take to be nice to others. Some examples the kids came up with included using people’s names when speaking to them (an example given in our story today!) and using manners. We then stood and moved into Warrior II pose, thinking about how we can be Warriors of kindness for ourselves- how can we be kind to ourselves? Taking a bath and eating healthy choices were the Rascals’ suggestions! So smart, those Rascals. Finally, we practiced balancing in Tree Pose and focused our thoughts on how to be kind to nature. One of my Rascals said we shouldn’t pee on the grass. And with that, we finished in Lotus and took some more balloon breaths to finish our morning practice.

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Pose Cards from ThinkFun Yoga Cards

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While I prepped the Movement Math activity for today,  the kids sifted through a huge tub of water beads to find letter tiles (I love Bananagram Jr!) and say their sounds. Water beads were a popular item today and I’m pretty sure my driveway is now paved with them.

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Next, we completed a sidewalk chalk obstacle course, counting jumps and steps and spins as we went. This was an easy way to get up and move around but also work on motor control and life skills like talking and walking at the same time. They completed the course continuously throughout the morning as they felt the urge.

To continue movement & learning, I wrote the alphabet scattered across the driveway in three different colors of chalk- each coordinating with the child’s chair color. They wore a matching apron to remind them what color was theirs, and were given a cup of water and a paintbrush. They were only allowed to paint their own color and instructed to holler out the letter as loud as they could each time they painted one. This ended up being pretty hilarious as screams of “F!” and “X!” echoed down the street.

We took a break for apples, yogurt dip, Goldfish and cheese sticks before moving on to art exploration. I’ve always wanted to work with liquid watercolors in my homeschool, so I was anxious to try out our fun water play art! I added an ounce of Colorations liquid watercolor** to a 3/4 full water spray bottle for super-saturated color and adjusted the nozzle to streaming instead of spray/mist. I clothes-pinned color diffusing paper to our fence and instructed to only spray on paper, not people, and off they went! In hindsight, I should’ve pre-hung MUCH MORE paper, as they loved this activity and I wasted a lot of creative time hanging more sheets. Alas, the Rascals showed my kindness by being patient and using manners and we all really enjoyed this creative outlet. The original plan was to let these dry while we ran through the sprinkler and then fold them accordian-style with a pipe cleaner to make flowers to give to people who may need a little sunshine in their day (showing them kindness) but our next activity was such a hit I skipped the flowers and let them play.

After a break for changing into swimsuits and applying sunscreen, the kids had some free play and ran through the sprinkler a bit while Hooligan Papa and I set up our STEM activity.  Going along with our water play sub-theme, we unrolled a long length of aluminum foil down the incline of our driveway and folded up the sides to create a river. we set the hose at the top, flowing at a slow/gentle rate, then provided the kids with Solo cups, craft sticks and small animals to create bridges and dams for the animals to use to get across safely. The kids made quick work of this and rapidly moved on to the next experiment: ice boats. I set out cups full of ice cubes, which they floated down the river, noticing that the craft sticks in the river changed the flow of the water (and thus, the ice boat) and the speed of flow. They experimented with this simple set up for over 45 minutes, adding water beads to the mix too. Then they brought out the watercolor bottles and watched the color make its way down the river, diffusing as it went. They would’ve gladly played with this the entire morning. The adults had just as much fun as the kids!

Objectives and Covered Concepts:

  • Kindness: what it means and how to be kind
  • Motor skills: motor control and planning, balance, proprioception, bilateral coordination, body awareness, fine motor skill practice, hand strengthening (for grip strength)
  • Math: numeral recognition, one-to-one correspondence, counting in order, ordinal numbers, sorting by color
  • Language: basic phonics (individual letter sounds as well as ch, sh, th, ee, and oo), capital letter recognition
  • Science/STEM: bridge building, dam building, water force and power, sink vs. float, osmosis
  • Art: primary and secondary color review, color mixing, watercolors

Africa Resource List

Books

  • Collections:
    • Stories from Around the World
    • National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar and roar!
    • Around the World in 80 Tales
  • A South African Night
  • Africa is Not a Country
  • African Princess: the amazing lives of Africa’s royal women
  • Amazing Africa: projects you can build yourself
  • Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain: a Nandi tale
  • Emeka’s Gift: an African counting story
  • Home Now
  • I lost my tooth in Africa
  • Jambo means hello: a Swahili alphabet book
  • Mama Panya’s Pancakes: a village tale from KEnya
  • Mirror
  • My name is Blessing
  • My rows and piles of coins
  • Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
  • September Roses
  • The Butter Man
  • The Elephant Keeper: caring for orphaned elephants in Zambia
  • The Lion’s Whiskers: an Ethiopian folktale
  • Voyage to the Pharos
  • Water Hole Waiting
  • Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears: a West African Tale

 

Movies

  • Zarafa (highly recommend!!)
  • Binta & the Great Idea
  • The Lion King

TV

  • Wild Kratts
    • season 1: 1, 3, 10, 17, 18, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30. 35, 40
    • season 2: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6
    • season 3: 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22
    • season 4: 4, 5, 23, 24
  • Amazon Prime:
    • New Dimension Media:
      • Nelson Mandela
      • South Africa
      • Ivory Coast: My House on the Ivory Coast
      • Burundi: Nsengiyuma in Burundi
      • Morocco: Djalil in Morocco
      • Ivory Coast: Lasso and his Balafon
      • Senegal: Cheik in Senegal
      • Senegal: Nialle in Senegal
    • Continents of the World: Africa
    • Travel with Kids: season 5 episode 12 & 13 – South Africa
  • Netflix:
    • Planet Earth: Fresh Water. Deserts, Great Plains
    • Queen of Katwe
    • BBC Earth: Africa
    • BBC: Nature’s Great Events

 

Audio

  • Book:
    • Nelson Mandela’s Favourite African Folktales (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)
  • CD:
    • Ella Jenkins: Multicultural Kids Songs (a Smithsonian Folkways CD)
    • Best Multicultural Songs for Kids

We’re Planting Seeds Today!

I had some very excited preschoolers today: it was seed planting day! We kicked off the day with a story by Eric Carle: The Tiny Seed.  The illustrations are classic, captivating and perfect for a read-aloud. We counted seeds (and then subtracted as each seed met its own destiny) and observed sizes, colors and discussed the process of seed dispersal.

Today we incorporated a yoga story into our learning. You’ll find our cycle of poses in the slideshow below, thanks to the image library from Kids Yoga Stories. Like our Eric Carle story, we started as a tiny seed (Child’s Pose) with our foreheads touching the floor. We practiced deep and slow breathing, quiet resting to get ready to grow. We decided what kind of seeds we wanted to be: yellow, green and rainbow. Then I “rained” on these Tiny Rascal seeds with a tickling of my fingers on their back and they extended their arms as their shoot popped out of the casing into the soil (extended Child’s pose). Growing upright into Lotus Mudra pose, we puffed out our chest to try to feel the sunlight then extended our shoots upward, out of the soil as we became seedlings (Fox pose), lifting our bottoms off our heels and stretching toward the sun. As our roots spread into the soil around us (horse pose) we straightened our bodies and felt the warm sun on our stems and wiggled our toes into the dirt. We became trees, resting one heel on the top of the other foot (or for a couple of experienced yogis, full tree pose) then reached out into the wind, blowing our branches gently around. Our branches grew buds as we touched our thumbs to each fingertip in turn. The buds turned into flowers and we moved down into flower pose, remembering the colors we had chosen in the beginning. We took a few deep breaths, moving our petals as we breathed in and out. Then, just like in The Tiny Seed, our flowers died and dropped seeds back onto the ground to grow into new plants as we moved back into Seed pose and finished with another round of breathing.

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Once we’d regrouped from such a nice yoga session, we gathered around the magnet whiteboard to get some visual reinforcement of a seed cycle. We learned that beans are seeds themselves and what a bean plant looks like as it grows from a seed to a pod-bearing adult plant. They each took turns adding a stage to the cycle and worked hard to form a circle to complete the life cycle process. Life Cycle magnets can be found here.

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The completed life cycle of a bean plant.

 

The Montessori seed puzzle was a big hit today. We learned the names of all the seed parts and everyone had a turn to put it together.

 

At this point my Rascals were ready to learn about the microscope. VERY. READY. I introduced the microscope and reviewed each part’s name and function. We discussed the microscope rules and then jumped in. I had four test tubes, each with a different seed inside, on display and ready for the Rascals to study. I used purple cauliflower, carrot, pumpkin and pea seeds for a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. First, we identified without magnification any features of the seeds that were immediately obvious. Then, starting with carrot seeds, I emptied the contents of the test tube into the viewing field and set the eye piece at the least magnification (farthest) setting. Each child took a turn observing at the least and then the highest setting for each kind of seed, noting the differences as they were observed. They were delighted to discover that carrot seeds are oval, pea seeds are wrinkly and purple cauliflower seeds are purple! I love seeing these kids find joy in learning new concepts, and the microscope really set the Rascals’ gears turning.

Our last activity before snack involved seeds we could eat! First, we learned a new song to the tune of Heigh-Ho the Derry-o! from one of my favorite preschool resources for themed chants and tunes.

graphic by HooliganMama

 

I’ve found that the little calendar numbers found at teacher supply stores make great counting aids when learning to count to 30, as they usually have a fun graphic or something easily tied to whatever theme you need. The numbers for this activity have a bee on the reverse side for future insect or pollination lessons! Today we discussed numerical ordering, which numbers come before and after, and then counted roasted pumpkin seeds beneath each number to ten.

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We took a break for snack and enjoyed apples (seeds in the middle) and yogurt-peanut butter dip. While the kids ate I took advantage of the time to read aloud.   I had chosen a few pages in a couple of different books that focused on some information about germination and dispersal to read to the kids while they ate so I knew I’d have most of their attention.  I love to read to kids while they eat- it’s one of the few times you’ll catch them sitting in one place with (mostly) quiet mouths and is a great opportunity to squeeze in a little more learning.  We read excerpts from Lift-the-Flap book of First Questions and Answers: How Do Flowers Grow?, My First Book About How Things Grow, DK Publishing’s Eyewitness Visual Dictionary of Plants and a short passage from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.  One observant Rascal pointed out that both dandelions and sunflowers are yellow, but the sunflower grows its seeds in its middle, which is brown. The Rascals were engaged and especially loved the flap book, mostly when I told them that birds do, indeed, help to plant seeds… by pooping. (Giggles and hilarity ensue!)

 

{The disclaimer is this: I used to sell Usborne books to take advantage of the discounts on their awesome kids non-fiction resources, so you’ll see them a lot throughout our lessons here at H4H. It honestly became something of a necessity because we use them so much here that a discount was needed! I no longer sell, but I am happy to link you to someone that does if you’re interested in anything you see in any of our lessons. The books are truly well made and curated. }

Tummies full and brains re-energized, the paints came out and we turned our focus to painting pumpkin seed pots. We set them to dry while we got to work starting seeds in soil. Each rascal got their very own pair of gardening gloves today! I set up our “water table” (without water) on top of a vinyl tablecloth in the school room and placed the bag of dirt in the middle. Everyone got a scoop and an 18-cup cardboard egg carton and got to work. I gave instructions : one scoop in each cup, then poke a hole with a pencil in each dirt scoop, then one seed in each hole. Tuck the seeds in with another scoop of soil on top, then gently pat everything down to tuck them in. I provided cups of water and syringes to work on a new skill: two handed vacuum suction. It was tough, but after a while, everyone became a master at pulling up water into the syringe and gently pushing it out to give each tiny seed a few drops. Spinach, pea, carrot, purple cauliflower and radish seeds were available to plant today, though I think everyone chose pea and carrot. After our egg cartons were all full and watered, our pumpkin pots had dried and were ready to be planted too. We filled these 3/4 full with several scoops, then dropped 1-2 seeds in and covered them up, watering them in the same way as the tiny seeds.  For only being 3 years old, I fully expected a huge mess but they were very tidy in their work!

 

Once these were done, I had a letter matching activity ready for them to work on until everyone had finished. This was simply made: upper- and lowercase letters on a sun cut-out (again, from a teacher supply store) and then cut apart in different ways so each set was a self-checking puzzle. I used letter stickers for legibility and uniformity purposes. This was a low-key activity but the independence was needed at this point. We had a lot of cooperative and curated lessons today and the quiet, focused way they worked through this simple matching was an obvious nod to their need for some quiet-thinking time.

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I think it’s important to note that while it may seem that we get a lot done, our mornings are just that: A LOT. Some days are more creative than others and involve a lot of free-thinking. Others, like today, involve a lot of new information and me talking for instructional purposes (like how to plant a seed). Sometimes it can be overwhelming and someone will need a break. And that is ok! Rascals are always free step away from the activity and sit by the bookshelf and look through a book if they need a little break, as long as they do so quietly and without disrupting others in the process. Sometimes we have a mama come sit for a little while while a Rascal gets comfortable- that’s ok too! I continue on with the activity and usually give them five minutes, unless they rejoin us before then, before I check in to see if they need any help or encouragement. Whenever they do decide to come back to the group, I’ll acknowledge with a smile or a “We missed you!” or “Thanks for coming back to play” and we continue on about the day. This very thing happened today, and the Rascal did a beautiful job of quietly moving away, choosing a book and regrouping by herself for a few minutes before coming back to plant some seeds. Being three can be overwhelming, its so important to give some space to these little people, too.

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An Orchestra of Rascals

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“Art is about the messy and marvelous business of coming to your senses – and also, to the senses of the world.” -Michael Leunig

A loud, noisy, messy and magical day in the Rascal Preschool today. We learned about the Orchestra! We, of course, started with our usual lively rendition of the ABCs.

Our story for this theme was Boom Bah by Phil Cummings; a fun tale about an animal band. A musical story involving several instances of onomatopoeia, it led to lots of discussion about instruments that can be made from household objects, words that sound like the noise they describe, and introduction to new instruments the Rascals had not yet seen.(“What’s that twirly one?!” “A French Horn.” “It looks like a bowl of spaghetti.”) It has a great rhythm and opportunities for movement like tapping toes and nodding heads.

Next, we consulted the Picturepedia (one of my absolute favorite children’s non-fiction resources)

for an explanation about orchestras and my Rascals made some awesome unsolicited connections between the instruments included in an orchestra and the instruments we use to sing our ABCs from our very own music box. So, we each chose an instrument and then marched out to the piano and took turns playing. The Rascals chose to play fast or slow, quiet or loud, with one hand or two and created their own tunes- accompanied by their friends on other instruments.

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Next, we spread out on the floor of the school room and I introduced instrument cards for each of the major instruments in an orchestra. (Instrument cards can be downloaded for free here.) I then defined the four main classifications of instruments and how you can tell each apart. We learned the sign for musician and music and then jumbled up our instrument cards in the middle of our little circle. The kids would choose a card from the jumble in the middle and we looked it up using YouTube on the tablet to see how each one was held, played and what it sounded like. The favorite instruments were cymbals (another onomatopoeia word: CRASH!) and harp. They really were mesmerized by the quick and nimble fingers of the harpist. As we learned about each instrument, we classified them into their groups and moved our bodies based on the tone and tempo of the music we heard. We also noticed the conductor! We practiced moving our arms to conduct imaginary orchestras- fast, slow, big and small. We’d never used any electronics aside from classical playing in the background so to have a tablet with musical instrument videos at our fingertips was *the coolest* thing.

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Next up: painting dance party! Perhaps one of the most popular activities yet. I prepped for this by taping easel paper for each child to the wall and pre-writing their names to avoid confusion later. I instructed the kids that we were going to listen to several different songs and for each song they could use a different color and paint applicator (brush, stamp, fingers, etc) but they had to wait to change colors for each new song. I’m glad I was explicit in the beginning, it really made the process go smoothly and I was easily able to identify which colors each kid still needed to use- there were six in all: purple, red, blue, green, yellow, orange. When the music first began, I told them that they should feel free to move their bodies if they felt the urge. It was really awesome to watch their processes and how they felt the music through their art.

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BEFORE/ IN THE BEGINNING…

Once they had gotten through a few of the colors, I invited their moms to come observe the activity and the kids were eager to share the experience but remained focused on their work. Our song choices today included:

  1. The Instrumental version of Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre”
  2. University of Maryland Marching Band victory song (this was hugely popular, I had to replay it twice!)
  3. Mighty Mighty Bosstones, “Impression That I Get”
  4. Debussy, “Clare de Lune”
  5. Fitz and the Tantrums, “Handclap”
  6. Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee played on the violin by (the AMAZING) Katica Illényi
When we had finished the six rounds of process painting, they wanted to paint more, so I left on some big band music and cleaned things up a bit, prepping to move outside for our instrument-making activity. And let me tell you, there was (still is, three hours later as I write this) quite a lot of clean up.
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Only a portion of the AFTER
Outside it was chilly, but we’ve just built a new playset and the kids were anxious to try it out. We started by filling plastic eggs with either rice or dry kidney beans to prepare our own maracas (“shaky eggs”) and sealed them with glittery washi tape. I drew attention to the different sounds the beans vs rice made and also that covering the holes on the whistle would change the tone of the sound that played as they blew. I also had musical foam stickers to decorate their own flutes. Once they’d gotten their fill, or when they needed a break, they’d run out some energy or slide down the new slide and maybe find their way back when they wanted. We had some fruit for a snack and eased out of the day.
These three year olds are really growing as we complete more preschool days. I realized that they were self-motivated and quite able to wash their own hands without help now, were very courteous with taking turns when it came to paint choices and brushes, considerate on the playset and their conversations whilst painting were precious. I so enjoy watching these kids grow together. Up next: seeds!!

[I’d like to give heaps of credit to Annie Bobbit of The Walters Art Museum, our very favorite art teacher. My KindyKid and Rascal attended Art Kids class there this week and it just so happened to be themed “Music and Movement,” a happy coincidence to my lesson plan today! She taught us the signs for musician and also contributed to the playlist for our painting dance party today. I mean, who doesn’t love instrumental Dr. Dre!? She is a wonderful teacher and inspires me all the time. Thanks, Miss Annie!]