Category: Book Recommendations

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.

Kindergarten Day USA and China (Trish Marx & Ellen B. Senisi) – Book Recommendation

By , January 6, 2011 10:17 am

One thing I enjoy about having a blog is being “discovered” by a publisher whose books really fit my style and interests.  For me, the Global Fund for Children is just that publisher.  Their books are all about diversity and respect for other cultures and people.  I am always delighted and honored to be asked to review one, and pleased to be able to recommend a really worthwhile book.  When the review copy arrives at my house we all pounce upon it eagerly!

The latest treat we received from the Global Fund for Children is Kindergarten Day USA and China by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi.  The premise of the book is basic:  simple text from a child’s point of view and lots of big, colorful photos track a typical kindergarten day in the United States and in China.

First of all, we love the way the book is cleverly set up as a flip book.  One half is the Schenectady, New York class but when you finish that section you close the book and flip it around to read about the Beijing children’s day in the other half.  We also liked that each page has a clock that shows both the time in Schenectady and the time in Beijing.  This gives a real-time sense of what is going on for the children in each country.  Finally, we enjoyed the fact that the China section has some Chinese words sprinkled throughout and briefly explains pinyin, encouraging young readers to try to pronounce the Chinese words.

The authors successfully create a connection between the two classrooms on different sides of the globe through parallel activities.  Each class has a birthday celebration.  There is a slight conflict (being too loud, not sharing toys) that will be familiar to all children wherever they live.  We see both classes eat lunch and have outdoor recess.  Children in each class interact with their friends and work on reading.  And at the end of the sections, both classes mention thinking about the other class and wonder if the other class thinks about them too.

Children will see that although there are some interesting differences in life in the other country (for example we see the American children served lunch in a cafeteria, whereas the Chinese teacher prepares lunch for the children and it is eaten in the classroom with chopsticks), there are actually far more similarities.  Children in both countries laugh and cry.  All the children enjoy friends, playtime, drawing and reading.

My kids (ages 5, 8, and 10) are fascinated by Kindergarten Day and have read it through several times, even the older two.  I really like how the Global Fund for Children’s multicultural books take advantage of childrens’ natural curiosity about other children to teach the important lesson that although we might be different in some minor ways, people are basically the same wherever they live.  If every human could learn this basic truth at a young age, and develop a sense of curiosity about other countries and cultures, wouldn’t the world be a much happier and more harmonious place!

Kudos (yet again!) to the Global Fund for Children for helping to promote international awareness and understanding among children.

Kindergarten Day USA and China is available either directly from Global Fund for Children (hardcover or paperback), or Amazon (also in hardcover or paperback).

My other Global Fund for Children recommendations:

Global Babies

Nasreen’s Secret School

Book Recommendation: “An Environmental Guide from A to Z” (Tim Magner)

By , November 16, 2010 3:08 pm

There are a lot of junky books out there, but every now and then, an unknown gem comes my way and makes me very thankful that I get to review books on occasion!  An Environmental Guide from A to Z by Tim Magner (Green Sugar Press 2009) is just such a book.

Typical A-B-C- books are usually geared towards babies and toddlers and often leave older readers and adults cold.  This book is a happy exception. 

Picture an A-B-C book for older children with each letter representing an environmental or nature-related concept or important person.  Each word is fully explained in easy to understand terms and is beautifully illustrated by Aubri Vincent-Barwood.  “D is for Darwin,” “F is for Fossil Fuels, “  “I is for the Inuit Eskimos,”  “R is for Reduce and Reuse.”

Each letter also has a “Did you know?” section with an interesting fact or two related to the topic.  For example, in the “B is for Bees and Insects” section:  “A bee’s buzz comes from their wings flapping 200 times per second!”

I even learned a few things:  “Q is for Vo Quy,” “L is for Paolo Lugari” (read the book for more information) or “the average ‘piece of food’ travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your mouth….”  How about:  “with solar panels, Germany has nearly cut their use of coal in half” and “Denmark gets more than 20% of its electrical power from wind farms.”  I love it when I find a well-written childrens’ book that actually also teaches me a thing or two.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that it doesn’t just limit itself to teaching facts, ideas and concepts, but it also asks questions encouraging children to think about their own lives.  Each letter has at least one little oak leaf with questions on it, or sometimes activity ideas.  “What’s the biggest tree in your neighborhood?  How old is it?”  Many of these questions will encourage kids to get outside:  “Watching the animals in your neighborhood, can you see how they are built to survive?”

If you are looking for an informative and interesting book that teaches about the environment and “green living”  without being preachy, then I encourage you to take a look at An Environmental Guide from A to Z. Many thanks to Tim for sending me a copy.  This is a review copy that will remain on our shelf to be enjoyed for a long time to come!

Book Giveaway! – “Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream” (Gwynneth Beasley)

By , July 21, 2010 1:26 pm

One of the really fun things about blogging is all the people you “meet.”  Recently a former Unplugged Project participant, blogger and now published author Gwynneth Beasley (hooray Gwynneth – congrats!!) contacted me to see if I would be interested in hosting a giveaway of one of her books.  When she mentioned that it was about the very unplugged activity of camping (unless you are in a 40 foot RV with satellite TV of course, LOL) I was definitely sold.

One night at dinner Zeke announced, ‘I have made a decision everybody.  We are going camping this weekend and no one is bringing the computer, the phone, their mobile, the TV or the DVD.’

- quote from p.1, Zeke, Ky, and the Mountain Stream

Yes, Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream is perfect for an Unplug Your Kids review and giveaway!

Gwynneth kindly sent me two copies all the way from Australia, one for my family to read, and the other to give away to an Unplug Your Kids reader.

I wasn’t able to show the book to my children right away since they were camping for a few days with their father.  A happy coincidence I thought!  When the kids returned from a fun camping adventure of their own, they were ripe to read the tale of Zeke and Ky’s camping trip.  They all enjoyed the book and I found them picking it up and rereading it on their own later, even my older children.

Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream has a large, easy to read font and the vocabulary is fairly basic which would make it a good choice for younger readers who are just transitioning to “chapter books.”  Each page contains just a few sentences of text and a simple photo illustration.  The book length (18 pages) is also great for younger children with short attention spans.  It would make a wonderful read-aloud book too and could inspire lots of conversations about camping, nature, the power of positive thinking, and the value of unplugging once in a while!

Gwynneth Beasley is also the author of five other Zeke and Ky books, all of which involve nature and typical childhood, “unplugged” experiences.  We’ll be getting a few more of these!

You can check out the links to them all below.  Also, be sure to visit Gwynneth’s blog: www.gwynnethbeasley.typepad.com for some inspiring posts and crafty ideas.

GIVEAWAY

  • To enter the giveaway for my free copy of Zeke, Ky, and the Mountain Stream, simply leave a comment with a quick summary of a favorite outdoor or camping activity that you do with your children (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.).
  • For an additional chance(s) to win this book, you can subscribe to Unplug Your Kids (link is in upper right sidebar), and/or to Gwynneth Beasley’s blog (link is in her sidebar).  Just leave another comment here to let me know.
  • The giveaway ends on Wednesday, July 28th at 8:00PM PST.  I’ll select a random winner based on all entries, and announce the winner on Thursday, July 29th!


Comments are now closed. Winner to be announced tomorrow (July 30th). Thank you all!!

Cool Math

By , May 12, 2010 5:34 pm

Do you have a reluctant math student? Unfortunately I have two of them.  My 7 and 9 year-old are stuck in that very tedious phase of math where everything seems to be all about drilling problems.  According to her recent parent-teacher conference, my 4 year-old on the other hand, currently spends much of her time in the “math environment” of her Montessori classroom.  As her proud Mom, I have of course already planned out her future career as an engineer!

The foundation of math can be pretty boring.  I remember that from my school days.  Fortunately I ended up loving math later, and even took it in college.

I keep thinking, if only there was some way to make it clear to them that math can actually be really cool later on, then perhaps they’d be willing to slog through this early stuff until the light bulb comes on for them as it did for me.

Fortunately I recently discovered the math stories by Theoni Pappas.  I bought Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales (that’s some of the cool stuff!) and The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (my kids love cats).

I have begun reading the fractals book out loud with my oldest daughter. We have read several chapters and she keeps wanting more!  Each short chapter has an easy and creative explanation of a different complex, mind-bending concept presented in story format.  Often there are related activities to do, or puzzles to solve.  At the end of the chapter is a highlighted box with more complete information about the concept, usually involving history or practical applications.

The Möbius strip was one of the real WOW chapters that we have read so far (see our photo above).

Will these books turn my children in to math-lovers?  Who knows, but they are fun!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Panorama Theme by Themocracy