Category: educational/homeschool

What We’ve Been Up To …

By , March 4, 2012 1:03 pm

Has it really been four months since my last post?  Definitely time for an update!

Teaching in the local Montessori school this year has been fabulous!  I absolutely love it.  The kids are great, my coworkers are wonderful and a pleasure to be with, and of course I am a huge Montessori fan so I feel right at home there.  I recently completed my 3 to 6 year-old certification so now I am “official.”

In a few weeks my fellow teachers and I will be off to San Francisco to attend the American Montessori Society Annual Conference which should be a wonderful experience.  My seminars sound really interesting (it was so hard to choose just a few) and I think I’ll return to school inspired and energized.

The year has been busy with lots of projects, works, and lessons at school.  I had hoped to post regularly on what we’ve been up to, but I find that school, prep, and my family take up nearly all my time.  I think from now on I will keep a small camera at school so that I can at least post some photos.

 

~A small sample of some of our class activities~

Pumpkin Update:

Last fall we cut open a pumpkin and filled it with dirt to see if the seeds would grow in the pumpkin and they certainly did!  Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the sprouts in the pumpkin, but we now have a pumpkin plant growing happily in a pot in the classroom:

Once the plant was large and the pumpkin skin was beginning to soften and grow moldy we decided it was time to bury the whole thing, pumpkin and all, in a large pot.  It is too cold here in the winter to grow anything outside, but in a warm climate you could just plant the whole pumpkin outside and really watch it take off.

At the same time last fall, we also planted a seed in a transparent glass and recently noticed a flower on that plant:

This led to a discussion of what that flower would become…a pumpkin of course!

Mummified Chicken:

Meet King Cutey Patooty, our mummified pharaoh chicken (well, guinea hen actually – much smaller and less time-consuming to mummify):

The King was part of our Africa unit last fall and he is now all wrapped up and resides in a shoe box “sarcophagus” on a shelf in the works storage room.  We’ll unwrap him in a few years to see how he fared.

Kindergarten Class Totem Poles:

As part of our North America unit we studied totem poles.  After talking about how the purpose of totem poles is to tell a story, we learned where they are found, and looked at photos of real totem poles.

I wanted to make this a teamwork activity so I divided the class in to two groups of five, gave each group a pile of construction paper, and told them to come up with a story for their group that they all agreed on.

Once they had a story they had to work together to create a totem pole telling that story.  A group “story teller” dictated the story to me and I wrote it on a paper that we hung on the wall next to the completed totems poles.

Cool Brain Hat!

As part of our Human Body unit we made these great hats that I found at Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop (a really cool site for lots of educational ideas, especially science).  You can download the pattern here for free!  Just print on card stock and cut out.

Since I was dealing with kindergarteners, I thought it would be easier to cut them all out myself ahead of time.  I then outlined each area with the color that they should color it with (it can be a little tricky to see the boundaries).  They colored the hats and then I assembled them.

Assembling ten of these was a bit of a painful process since tape did not stick well to crayon (or colored pencil – I tried that too), but I got it done and they each went home with a hat.  Maybe try marker next time?

PS. I got lots of compliments from parents on these!

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Well that’s it for now.

If there is any interest, I could write up a post about the details of our mummification project.

I’ll try to post more regularly and be better about taking photos!

 

Pumpkins

By , November 11, 2011 6:07 pm

It’s fall and a perfect time to study pumpkins!

First I read the class Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler, a lovely book about the life-cycle of a pumpkin.  The photos in this book are gorgeous.  We talked about the circularity of life.

Next I cut open a pumpkin at school and had the children identify the rind, the pulp, the stem, and the seeds.  We then made little Montessori “Parts of the Pumpkin” books.

I explained to the children that we would not waste our pumpkin and we would be eating the pulp and the seeds.  Several of them seemed somewhat aghast at the prospect.

I roasted the seeds in the oven at school so the children could enjoy the lovely smell and hopefully be more encouraged to try them!  Only one child out of a class of twenty-five did not wish to try one, and of all those who tried, only two did not clamor for seconds and thirds.  This was a huge hit!

I took the rest of the pumpkin home and made pumpkin bread with the pulp.  That will be going to school tomorrow and I think all will enjoy it.

In the interest of scientific research we put some of the pulp and a few seeds in a tightly sealed jar.  I labeled it with the date and placed it on the science shelf.  I asked the children to predict what, if anything, would happen to it.  A few predict it will stay exactly the same forever.  A few said it would grow mold.  I told them to inspect it every day to see for themselves.

(Next year we might try this clever version of the decaying pumpkin experiment!)

We also cut the top of a second pumpkin and filled it with dirt.  We watered it and set it in a sunny window to see if the seeds would grow.  I’ll report back on the results.

NOTE (added March 4, 2012):  This turned out wonderfully!  Please see the next post, What We’ve Been Up To for details and a photo of it now!

I dyed some pumpkin seeds red, orange, yellow, and green and set them out in bowls on a tray with some black construction paper.  They have been making pictures and designs with them.

Finally, I put this simple pumpkin color-by-number on the shelf along with a laminated completed one to use as a guide.   It has been popular.

(Oh, and we also painted pumpkins at our school’s annual Fall Festival!!)

 

Sources

Growing in Pre K – Post: Pumpkins

 

Recipes

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS -

Rinse the seeds thoroughly and remove all pulp and strings.  Spread them out and let them dry on paper towels.  Put in the seeds in a bowl and add just a TEENY TINY bit of olive oil to make the seasonings stick (not too much, or they will be greasy).  Toss to coat them in oil, then add seasonings and toss again.  I use Jim Baldridge’s Secret Seasoning (yum!) but you can use anything you like, even just salt.  Some people do cinnamon and sugar, however I like mine savory and have never tried this.  Spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Try to spread evenly so very few overlap.  Bake in a 250 degree (Farenheit) oven (this is fairly low heat for those who do not use Farenheit).  Check them after 45 minutes, but they might take an hour to an hour and a half at this temperature to be done.  They are done when crispy seeming and crunch loudly when bitten.  NOTE: They might not brown much, but as long as they crunch, that is OK!

PUMPKIN BREAD -

Ingredients :

  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher (ie. course) salt
  • 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup plus 1 and 1/2  tablespoons canned, unsweetened pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin pulp that has been boiled, or roasted in water and removed from the skin)
  • 1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Farenheit, a medium setting for those who do not use Farenheit).  Grease and flour an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan.  Sift together first 5 ingredients then stir in kosher salt.  Combine sugar, oil, and pumpkin in a large bowl.  Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add egg, beating until well-blended.  Gradually add dry ingredients, beating at low speed until blended.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes or until loaf is golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (NOTE – I start checking on it early.  It will be dry if you over-bake.)  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fireworks in a Dish

By , March 6, 2011 4:35 pm

If you have milk, food coloring and dish washing soap on hand…

you can have impressive rainy-day science fun!

Pour some milk into a plate:

Wait a minute for any motion in the milk to settle down, then add four drops of different colors of food coloring.  Place the drops next to each other near the center of the plate.

 

Wait a minute or so until the colors get a bit blotchy-looking:

 

Take a clean cotton swab and gently place it on the colors.  What do you think will happen?

(SPOILER ALERT:  Absolutely nothing.)

Now put a drop of dish soap onto the other, clean and dry end of your swab.

What will happen when you put the soapy swab gently onto the colors?  Look!

It even continues impressively swirling and churning after you have lifted the swab out of the milk!

Try putting your swab in different areas of the plate to see what new patterns form.

NOTE:  It is very important not to stir, just hold your swab still in the milk.

Make sure you have plenty of milk and food coloring on hand for this because your kids won’t want to do it just one time.  This kept my 5 year-old entertained for at least an hour!

Many thanks to Steve Spangler’s Science Experiments for this really fun idea! Steve Spangler has a good explanation of the science behind this colorful display. You can read it here.

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This is my contribution to this month’s Unplugged Project theme of soap.  Can you come up with a soap-themed project?  If so, please join in and add a link or comment to the original project post.  You can read more about the Unplugged Project here!

Magic Expanding Hand!

By , February 26, 2011 7:50 pm

Here is a fun science experiment that will totally entertain your kids AND teach them a bit of chemistry. Great rainy day educational fun!

  • INGREDIENTS:  All you need is vinegar, baking soda, and a latex glove. (Baking soda and vinegar happen to be my very favorite toys!

    You probably have the baking soda and vinegar in your pantry already, all you need to find is the glove (think hospital, doctor, dentist, lab…). We had a cool purple one. If you can’t find a glove, how about a balloon Magic Expanding Head?  This would be even more funny if you drew a face on the balloon first.

  • HOW:  Pour some baking soda into the glove,then carefully pour in some vinegar.

    You can be scientific and test which proportions work best, or just “wing it” like we did (about 1/3 cup baking soda, and 1/3 cup vinegar) . Squeeze the glove tightly closed with your fist, or if you work fast you might be able to tie the wrist up like a balloon. The glove will rapidly “grow” into a giant-sized hand (shake if necessary).

  • TIP:  Pouring in the vinegar is the tricky part since you might have to work fast to close off the opening of the glove before a geyser occurs in your kitchen. Although I know from experience that children are extremely impressed by the geyser-effect, you will be less so. Unless you are a Way-Cooler-Mom than I am, I recommend working quickly and conducting this experiment over a sink, or better yet … outside!
  • LESSON:  The quick answer is that the baking soda and the vinegar, when mixed, recombine to form Carbon Dioxide gas (CO2) and water (H2O).  It is the gas that fizzes, bubbles and expands the glove.  (A more complete explanation can be found here.  And an even more thorough and lengthy one here.)

You can also perform a version of this using a balloon stretched over a bottle or a jar.

World Math(s) Day 2011 – March 1st

By , February 19, 2011 2:23 pm

The annual world mental arithmetic challenge is back! March 1st is World Math(s) Day.

Teachers can sign up their classes, homeschoolers and parents may register their children also.  There are levels for ages 4-18 and your kids can help set a new world record of one billion correctly answered questions!

Kids have 48 hours (as long as it is March 1st somewhere in the world) to complete up to 100, 60 second math games.  Students who answer the most questions correctly will be listed in the hall of fame.

Jealous of your children’s math fun?  This year there is an adult category too (ages 19-119).

There is also the option to turn this into an easy fundraiser with 50% of the earnings going to your school and 50% to UNICEF.  Download a fundraising pack for more information.

Register now to participate.  It’s FREE!!

PS.  If math isn’t your thing, how about joining World Spelling Day on March 3, 2011?

NOTE:  Registration closes the day before on the 28th of February; however, registration is unneeded if already registered for Mathletics, Spellodrome, VmathLive or World Spelling Day as the registration for those will work for World Maths Day.

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