Thursday, June 23, 2011

Silkworm lessons

Wow.  We have silkworms coming out of our ears!  Our cocoons, like clockwork, have all hatched in the last few days and the silkworm moths are mating and laying eggs like crazy!  The rapid fluttering of wings is both frenetic and soothing, reminding me that the cycle of life and nature is happening, so visible, right in the classroom.  I'm reassured that mother nature writes in a universal code that ensures order and a level of predictability.

Well, I actually forgot that for a moment yesterday.

Before our very eyes, silkworm caterpillars emerged from their silk cocoons as angelic white moths.  Sometimes they are a little bloody and crumpled looking, but within minutes they are white, with wings spread wide, looking for a partner with which to create new life.  Be and Bl watched for probably twenty or thirty minutes as three cocoons in a row hatched beautiful new butterflies.

Well, there was a fourth.  This little one looked like it was having trouble because the hole that it pushed through it's cocoon was facing downward.  How will it ever get out of that tight little space? I wondered.  So I helped.  "Helped".  That's what I did.  I "helped".  I picked up the cocoon so there would be space between the hole and the bottom of the tray.  It just needed a little space.  But as soon as I lifted the cocoon, the silkworm slid out from the hole.

It laid there, red and too crumpled.  It had come out too fast.  I monitored that little guy for a while, but he did not recover.  I had over-helped...and I felt awful about it!

It made me think of the way I help the children.  When I do too much for them, I am doing them a great disservice.  Children need challenging experiences to create inner resilience and a desire to learn, just as the silkworm moths need time and persistence to push out of the cocoon.  A friend once told me that pushing out of the chrysalis is what helps a butterfly's wings to circulate and become strong, and without this exercise they can never fly.  I have to learn to control my own impulse, to inhibit myself, if I am to be of any real service to children.  Watch, listen.  Feel.  Question my motive for "helping".

I have since allowed many silkworms to struggle, and there seems to be a strong correlation between how long it takes to come out of the cocoon and how white and assimilated it looks when it reaches the outside world.  (If you have silkworms, watch and tell me if I'm imagining this!)

This also reminds me of the importance of play.  Children must play.  Childhood is for play.  The longer and more intensely they play, the more ready they are when they reach the "real" world.  Give them time, give them space.  Give them the right environment.  Mother nature takes care of things.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seed Game

I had extra corn and sunflower seeds so I made a little counting chart, inspired by Counting Coconuts and also by Leslie, who always makes cool little works like this.

Simple, fun, took just five minutes to make, and I learned that Ro can count to fifty with almost no help!

By dividing the chart into rows of ten, I was hoping the kids would pick up on the numeric patterns in the columns.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Some cool stuff: Preschool science and sensory

Blogging has been slow on our end but I wanted to share some of the activities of the last couple of weeks.

 Prints on the foot massage board (acquired from the dollar store)

Cornstarch trays, colored water, a pitcher of plain water, and droppers 

Oil, water, salt, and color in clear containers.  Inspired by Bev Bos.
It was very cool.  I highly suggest making these materials available for children and watch what they do with it.  It was amazing science and sensory!

Cornstarch and water tea time

 Shaving cream trays

 Silly putty (made from white school glue and Borax)

  Silkworm props at the playdough table (white pipe cleaner pieces, sticks, and black pom poms for eggs)

 silkworm eggs w/magnafying glasses

 Condiment bottles with glue colored w/liquid water colors (plus a little cornstarch to thicken).  They were leaky (a dollar from Target, what did I expect) so I added plumber's tape to the rims and they worked like a charm.  We covered the table with white shelf liner and Leslie brought out some straws through which the paint could be blown easily.  This was fun, shiny, slippery, and watching the drops come out of the containers was awesome)

My friend Katy had this great idea: color on tile pieces and white off with damp clothes.  We used highlighters.

A cornstarch bin and an empty bin, with water and droppers

Chair washing...scrub brushes, soapy water, and lots of help from kids.

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...