Monday, March 21, 2011

The Weather

Despite the torrential rains today, I had to take some children outside.  Days that feel the super full moon necessitate some outside time.

Of course, as soon as we stepped outside, it went from sprinkling to utter downpour.

We played for a while but after a few minutes of getting drenched we huddled under the patio overhang, just me and the boys.  We talked about the rain and the weather and I asked the kids if they thought it would just rain or if they thought we'd hear thunder and lightening.  It was a 50-50 split.

One of the kids began to talk about waves and how the rain could make a big wave.  He didn't seem bothered by the possibility of a big wave, but it was on his mind and he was sharing.  "It will rain and then a big wave will come and it will get everything all wet and it might break something."

I wondered what he had seen on the news or overheard adults talking about that made him think this.  I didn't really know what to say except to make sure that this child did not feel a sense of danger.  I said, "You know, it might rain and rain and rain and get everything wet, but we are very far away from the ocean so no waves are going to get us wet!" He looked at me and said, "But a big wave could come because its raining so hard" and I replied, "Waves come at the beach...we're not at the beach!  We're so far away from the beach.  And are we going to go to the beach today?" "No!" he said, almost giddy, and we laughed like it was the silliest idea ever.  I had a feeling that part of his laughter was relief...but that could be me reading into it a little too much.  Either way, we shared laughter together and that alone brought a ray of sunlight into this dark and dreary California day.

Haiti relief fundraiser we hosted last winter--a PJ party!


P.S.  Teacher Tom's post from a few days ago came to mind as I conversed with this child.  I highly recommend it--it's moving.

Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Recap

The treasure hunt (which also turned into a leprechaun hunt)
The tree bark was the best hiding spot because it looked so beautiful!

 Thumbprint and Button Print Shamrocks (sort of)
 A counting chart
 Treasure Finds in the sensory table
 Whoops!  Who's footprints are those?
Fishing for pipe cleaner shamrocks (and pipe cleaner leprechaun beards)
 A variation of this activity

 Garlic and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
The kids did all the work...including ALL of the potato cutting!

Packing Air Bag Prints

St. Patrick's Day Board Story!
Green Sparkly Rice Crispy Treats!
Dancing to Irish Jigs!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stephanie vs. The Television (Part I)

Children get many different messages from television, beyond the "lessons" presented in the programming itself.  (Remember how the GI Joe had a safety lesson at the end of each episode?  Yet all I remember is the violence and action in the show.)

Television exposes children to imagery and information that children must process in order to fit into their understanding of life.  Dramatic play (pretend play) serves as an outlet and safe context through which the children make sense of TV input.  It's hard for children to differentiate real and imaginary, and what they see on television might as well be seen right before their eyes.  A child's brain responds to the events similarly regardless of whether it's pretend or real.

At Beansprouts, it started with Superheroes.  I knew right away who were the TV watchers when a child brought an item that displayed popular superhero characters.  The children who knew the superhero scripts swarmed around the child, pointing out the characters, and subsequently engaging in dramatic play that involved angry facial expressions, loud yelling, donning invisible weaponry in what I can only imagine is the way swords and guns are held on the popular TV shows.

And now the battle is on between me and the television.  While children bring into their preschool lives scripts and ideas from inappropriate television programming made with no other purpose in mind than selling ad time, I feel the constant pressure to offer up an alternative reality for them.  However, I'm a lowly preschool teacher with limited resources.  Mattel, Disney, and the big TV market researchers have millions of dollars to spend to try to figure out just how to market to children in a way that will not only captivate them but hold them prisoner, along with their parents.

Did you know that television marketing for children actually encourages children to nag their parents?  Read this brief article on "Pester Power"'s disturbing.  Children are easy targets  for marketing because they lack the critical thinking that adults have.  And let's face it, as a college graduate with critical thinking skills, I still succumb to the pressures of marketing.

The problem doesn't end with the child who watches graphic television and acts it out.  In fact, the main problem (according to Stephanie) arises when its infectious messages permeate everyone else's play.  Social psychology is a force to be reckoned with, and when a child sees another playing violent superhero games, it looks fun and they want to play the game, too.  Scripts are passed from one child to another ("Let's shoot the bad guy!") and soon the "us vs. them" mentality is on. 

The brain is wired for exclusionary behavior.  Perhaps this capacity for discriminatory thinking helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors decipher dangerous situations from safe ones.  Who knows.  At any rate, it's a human cognitive trait that guarantees that without intervention, children will separate themselves according to the most obvious, visible characteristic (often race because it's the most visual difference).  "Us" versus "the bad guys", the boys vs. the girls, the cool kids versus the's inevitable but also our job to make sure to keep it's impact on the child's thinking at bay.

Assumptions made in the superhero script:
  • Guns solve problems
  • Bad guys are inherently bad rather than good people who make bad choices
  • Pretty girls need handsome, rich, or aggressive boys to solve their problems for them
  • Good guys are strong white males
  • Bad guys are dark complexioned men with foreign accents
  • Bad guys always have a stupid bumbling sidekick (okay, this actually might be true)
  • You can beat someone up or kill them and then walk away, rather than deal with the gruesome reality of what that actually looks like (ambulance, worried family members, police reports and accountability)

Stay tuned for more on this topic and to see what unfolds as I explore the notion of The Bad Guy (with myself and with the children).  It's a losing battle to try to stop children from acting out the "us versus the Bad Guy" mentality.  What I'd like to do with it is take it in a new direction...where we give the kids an alternative to the ending of the story that goes "and they shot the bad guy and saved the day.  The End."


Friday, March 4, 2011

CD prints

Let me start off by saying that I'm not a super huge fan of printing projects.  They tend to generate a mass-production cycle because the kids can make one master and print several pages from it.  I like when other teachers do it, I just tend not to like it myself.  That's why this project started out as a stamp-making project, inspired by Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based Learning (a favorite blog of mine as you are starting to learn!)

We would glue the buttons on the cd's to make our own stamps.  However, I didn't feel like waiting for the white glue to dry, nor did I feel like micromanaging the hot glue guns.  I wanted something a little more instantly gratifying. 

So, instead, with a quick snap of my fingers, the project became CD prints.

CD Prints

Materials needed
  • Junk CD's
  • Paint and paintbrushes 
  • Paper (we used paper that was circular)
  • Lots of space to dry final product
  • Optional: a tray with a wet and dry towel to wipe off CD's for the next person's turn or have a sink or water bin nearby
  • Note: if you place CD's exactly like this, you can fit three on a 8x11 paper (if you want circular prints and to not waste a lot of paper)
What to do
  • Paint CD's
  • Apply paper and press with hands or roller to make a print
Each print is really abstract and colorful and unique.  It was fun to watch the children figure out cause and effect and also to see how vibrant the colors looked on the metallic surfaces. 

Some kids like to stack the prints (there are a couple of stacks in the photo), which is fine with me (these are also the kids who like to fold and crumple up their art...not sure what drives this particular behavior but it always comes up with each group of kids so I'm assuming there is something innate about also highlights the fact that for many kids, it's about the process of creating rather than the final outcome). 


Telephone Tubes

We got this idea from a blog but I cannot find the post!  Thank you, blogosphere, for yet another inspiration behind our activities!

[Edit: Just found the link looking for something else! Read it here at Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based Learning)

A few bucks for plastic tubing at the home store, plus a few empty bottles.  What we did:
  • cut tubing to desired length (we had to use a saw for all of the cutting in this activity)
  • cut off bottom of bottles (you need two bottles per telephone).  If the cut edge of the bottle is sharp, use duct tape to cover the sharp side
  • stick tube through the neck of the bottle and secure with duct tape (do this with a bottle on each side)
  • leave it in the yard and see who discovers it first

Another rendition of this project, using a longer piece of tube and way more duct tape:

Note: when you buy your tubing, make sure it's flexible.  This one is quite firm and since it came in a roll it was really tricky to get it straight.  Also, if you buy clear tubing it will be that much better for water play for when the kids are done using it as a phone.  (Actually they will probably be done using it as a phone because they discover it's usefulness in water play!)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dr. Seuss Day Activities

Green eggs and tofu (and as you can see we had a pajama day, too!):

The kids made a "One Fish, Two Fish" book of their own:

That activity inspired this activity (mixing primary colors on a fish)

 Stripy "Cat in the Hat" collage

Felt stars to take on and off (like in The Sneetches)

Somebody colored in her book, which made me realize how perfectly appropriate it would be for them to write and illustrate their own books...

Cat in the Hat snack fail:

Lots of reading of Dr. Seuss books

Making Thing One and Thing Two

Having this Dr. Seuss birthday party was still a beautiful way to honor the legacy that he left us.  How often I am moved when I read his books, even after so many years of preschool teaching.  Dr. Seuss was a master of writing books with life lessons woven throughout the story line, but without the "teachy" feeling of some books (ahem, I won't name any names, classic Bear family series with horrible illustrations).

An interesting aspect of the day was when children asked when Dr. Seuss was coming to his birthday party.  At first I explained that Dr. Seuss is in the books and part of the books, but they thought I meant that he was a character and they began to look for him on the pages.  Then I told them, "It's kind of like when you draw a picture and you put your love into it...that's what Dr. Seuss did when he wrote these books for all of the children."  This absolutely did not help them understand any better but I liked that explanation better and the children eventually stopped expecting Dr. Seuss to barge through the door.


I linked up at Link and Learn!

Snap painting

There have been a few blogs featuring their trials and successes on this activity.  We just had to try it!  Plus, I had some to-go containers that I needed a use for.

Snap Painting
Inspiration here and here

Materials needed
  • Box
  • Rubber bands (large enough to wrap around the box one time without making the box collapse) 3 or 4 per box
  • Paper to fit inside the box
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Tongs, tweezers, or fingers
  • A wet towel nearby for wiping up spills and dirty hands
What to do
  • wrap rubber band around the box (we used masking tape on the plastic container so it would not cut through the rubber bands)
  • place paper inside the box
  • use paintbrush to paint color onto rubber band(s)
  • using fingers or tongs, pull up on the rubber band in the middle and snap it down by letting go (a teacher or another child may want to help by holding the box in place).
  • watch as paint splats on the paper, the table, and probably all of the faces watching the activity

Wrestling is good for children.

Originally published Sept 2010 Many of our parents seemed shocked when they came to pick up their children from Beansprouts and found the...