"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still Life Art: Through the Eyes of a Child

I often set up still life provocations in our art area using flowers, produce, etc. We encourage the children to look closely at the colors, textures, and shapes and to paint what they "see". 

Part of the process of drawing the children to the activity is setting up a provocation that is both aesthetically pleasing and inviting, something that makes them want to stroll over and check it out. The best way to do this is having all that they need for the project available and displaying corresponding/coordinating colors in the paints available and the paper they will use as their display area.

The provocation to draw them in. I didn't have the water
bowls out for this photo, but they were added later.

The view from above...

Sometimes the results are very abstract, sometimes
amazingly close. The results aren't the benefit, the
process is where all the work is done.

Last week we did an Elephants study and discussed how we can mix black and white to make gray, a tint. Today's discussion was about how to make a shade, as the red paint we had was too bright to match the flowers. After a little discussion, it was determined correctly that mixing black with the red made the perfect shade to match.

What still life projects have you tried with your children??

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We Like to Move It, Move It...

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” -Plato

I've always had an affinity for music. My mom would sing in the house, hum when she rocked the grandkids to sleep, and we were surrounded by hymns at church. One of my absolute favorite things is worship and getting lost in the experience. There's just something about music and rhythm. Plato had it right. They have the ability to touch something deep down in our souls that connects us to the rhythm around us. 

I use music constantly in my preschool class. I have mellow music playing during arrival, exploration time, during lunch, and at departure time. We sing songs during group time and during recess outside. We have instruments available at all times for children to explore and enjoy. The children and myself often burst into song during exploration time and soon the song swells as others join in. When we visit the library we often sing for Ms. Kim and the ladies in the office. We recently added a wooden xylophone to the playground, rock out to the iPod, and often take rhythm sticks and other instruments outside during recess. 

I want to expose the children to a variety of types of music. We play classical, celtic, Native American, African chants, and more. So when I was looking through the listings for this past weekend's CAEYC (California Association for the Education of Young Children) conference, I was so excited to see the workshop entitled, "Creative Expression and Rhythmic Music for the Classroom: Drumming as a Tool for Engaging Children". I energetically arrived early Saturday morning, as I wanted to make sure I was able to get a good seat.

The session began with Norm Jones warming up on his Djembe drum. I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. He began sharing his story and some of the things he said really struck me. He stated that his goals were to "develop imagination, inspiration, and motivation one beat at a time." I loved when he said, "It's not about the performer. It's about bringing something out from the children. It's about confidence." He discussed the life skills that could be learned through drumming, then led our group through an amazing drumming session.

Ready for some fun...

Everybody was ready to do some drumming.

Before we knew it we were drumming, swaying, and dancing to the beat. He encouraged us to act like the children we taught and he handled the disruptions and over-eagerness with humor and enthusiasm. We ended the session up on our feet performing with the pro. What fun!!

I visited Norm's booth, Rhythm Child, got a couple of CDs and ordered some drums to be delivered. I can't wait until they arrive. What an amazing performer with heart and passion for music and inspiring the lives of children and educators. 

Norm was gracious and posed with me for a pic.

I'm sharing his official video below. Please check out Rhythm Child's Facebook page and follow along. You can also learn more at www. rhythmchild.net He's based out of Los Angeles, but will travel to perform for events. 

“To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins.
 Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?” 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our Top 5 Outdoor Musical Activities with Children

"Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule." -- Samuel Butler

What do you get when you combine music, children, and the great outdoors? An amazing experience to behold through sight, sound, and touch. Music draws us together, lifts our spirits, allows us to express ourselves, and is just out and out FUN. In this post I'll share 5 of our favorite outdoor musical activities. 

1. A Wooden Xylophone with Mallets 

This idea came about one day when I was looking around on Pinterest and one of my friends had posted an image with which I fell in love. I clicked until I got to the link and got the details on this wondrous thing, but then wondered, "Who can I get to build this for me?" You've heard me mention my amazing substitute  IA "the other Ms. Barbara" before, who is an amazing seamstress (check out our Dr. Seuss costumes she created for us). She is married to a handy hubby, so I asked her if he'd look at the plans and see what he thinks. The next thing I know she's delivering our very own wooden xylophone with mallets. The instructions can be found at this link: http://www.instructables.com/id/2x4-xylophone/ .  Check out the sound.

The original instructions called for 2 x 4 boards, but he knew we'd be putting the instrument away each day, so he made it with 2 x 3 boards to make it lighter in weight. 

Not only were the children amazed with the sounds, but it brought up some amazing open-ended questions. I asked, "Why do you think each block has a different sound?" One little guy did some experimenting and concluded, "The wood is different sizes. That's how they make different sounds." He then tapped the longest one, then the shortest one and proclaimed, "The shortest one is a higher sound!" How cool was that?

2. A Gathering Drum

Last year I was taking a class at the local college and one of our assignments was to set up the environment in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Our group had lots of ideas of how to do this. One gal brought in several of the instruments she has out at her home childcare, including her gathering drum. I was amazed at the beauty, the workmanship, and the sound. She graciously let me borrow it and we began learning about drum circles, drumming chants, and the like. What an amazing opportunity! Thanks, Ms. Carol.

3. Dancing with Scarves

Last year I began taking my iPod outside with the iHome and cranking up the music to give the children another musical opportunity. Warm sunlight, light wind, and scarves make this a magical event. The children move to the rhythm of the music and love seeing the bright colors of the scarves flowing around them.

4. Rhythm Sticks or other musical instruments

There's just something about the sound of sticks tapping together. You can be listening to music or making your own. Finding the rhythm seems to come naturally to most children. Some days we play to the iPod's music. Some days we create our own musical numbers. Regardless, it's always fun. This doesn't have to be limited to only rhythm sticks. Grab the maracas, triangles, hand-drums, castanets, woodblock, and more. 

5. Shadow Dancing

One of the joys of the time of day that we spend outside is that it's early enough in the day that we have nice, long shadows for the children to discover. One day some of the friends were just enjoying dancing to the music coming out of the iPod and happened to look down and see their shadows dancing with them. What an amazing discovery! They began moving and carefully watching as their shadow twin moved right along with them. What great conversation opportunities arose on this day. 

One of my college instructors always emphasized that almost any activity you can do with a child inside, can also be done outside. What great options present themselves when you have wide open spaces, sunlight, shadows, green grass, etc. available for those treasured moments.

I guess you could say this post has been about 3 of my favorite things and I've merely combined them. That's right: kids, music, and nature. Gotta love it! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Get 'Em Outdoors!! Part 2

The Audubon Nature Preschool
"Children are born naturalists. They explore the world with all of their senses, experiment in the environment, and communicate their discoveries to those around them."

In Part 1 I shared images from the 2010-2011 school year of our preschool friends playing and enjoying the nature around them. This post will show some of our current school year's nature images.

Racing horses all around the playground

Sun, ribbons, and shadows equal happiness.

Kaleidoscope fun

We love bubbles!

Wings from the Dollar Store. My friends were being butterflies.
We had been learning about the anatomy and eating habits of
butterflies. The children would tell me they were off to find
nectar in the flowers and would use their proboscis to slurp it up.

Big bubble fun with the fancy wand

Puddles beckon my friends to play in them.

Perching on a hay bale and chatting with a friend.

Hula hoop adventure

Collecting natural materials

Raking leaves

Ring Around the Roses is always a hit!

Reading, it's not just an indoors activity.

Weaving on the fence

Endless possibilities abound when you look for them and there's always an adventure to be had when you get 'em outdoors.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Celebrating Dr. Seuss' Birthday

We encouraged the children and staff to dress as their favorite Dr. Seuss character and/or bring in their favorite Seuss book. We played games, read lots and lots of Dr. Seuss stories including: The Sneetches, There's a Wocket in My Pocket, Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Had green macaroni salad, spinach rolls, kiwi and pink milk (pink like the Yink that winks and drinks pink ink) for lunch. What a funtabulous day we had!! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kickin' It Old School

Have you ever been doing the rhyming chant "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" and get to the part where "Mama calls the doctor" and you're making the dialing of the phone motion, then realize the kids don't have any idea why you are doing that? I got to where I would only do the phone up to the ear motion during it.

Last week my new friend, Jackie over at Happy Hooligans posted an amazing Wish List that has almost everything you could think of on it. I modified the list to meet the needs of my class and sent it out to my staff and families. My amazing Instructional Assistant, Ms. Annie informed me she had a rotary phone and a typewriter she could bring into the class and today she DID!

First she introduced it to them showing them how to put the
paper in, how to type on the keys, and how to press the
return button to go down to the next line.

Then they began finding the letters in their own names.

It wasn't long before they were able to put the paper in
the typewriter for themselves.

This is some of the results of their hard work.

Our next step is to find a manual typewriter so they can see the effort it took to put the letters onto the page.

We then moved on to her rotary phone. One child exclaimed, "What is that?" Most had never seen one. So Ms. Annie began showing them how you would make a call on it. Needless to say, they were amazed at how long you had to wait between dialing each number or maybe I should say fascinated. She explained how it plugged into the wall and you had to stay by it and not move around the house like we now can with a cordless phone.  The color cracks me up. I remember when we got our first rotary phone and my Dad bringing the card with all the pastel colors on it for us to choose. You don't find many pastel phones anymore.

We did some other cool stuff that wasn't nearly as retro, but still very fun. We pulled out the marble maze for the first time this year and the kids were mesmerized by it.

Here we go!!

Watching the marble travel through the maze.

I love the clinking sound it makes as it goes through this
part of the maze.

Another hit at our place today was yarn painting. Another new friend, Roopa just pinned to Pinterest their latest adventures in yarn painting and it was a great reminder of an activity we haven't done yet this year. The kids got some phenomenal results. 

Paper pre-folded then opened back up. Section of yarn pulled
through multiple colors of paint and placed inside. Paper
refolded and beautiful images emerge.

The top one reminded another teacher of

The bottom one reminds me of images you
see through a kaleidoscope.

What an eventful day we had!!