Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nests: Clay, Paper Plates, and Collective Work

After finding a birds’ nests in the play yard and all of the recent hubbub about eggs (post-Easter dialogues), we wanted to study birds and their habitats. So last week we introduced our bird theme. The theme certainly caught the interest of these children at the clay table.

 Last time we used clay, we used tools like hammers, rolling pins, and presses.  This time, the children’s only tool was their hands. They molded, smoothed, created texture, rolled it into balls, pushed with their thumbs and fingers. They used fine and gross motor movements, small and large muscles.  The best part was that after they made the eggs inside the nest, they broke the eggs open and described the imaginary baby birds that emerged from their carefully crafted eggs.

Now that the discussion about birds’ nests had begun, the children had enough base knowledge about nests to create their first one. Each child used a plate with an adhesive coating to stick natural items to their “nest”. We talked about how we were using adhesive but that birds used mud as their adhesive. Many children hurried to find mud for their nest.

The next day, we asked the children what they know about birds’ nests.
  • “They use sticks and leaves and all of that stuff.”
  • “They put dirt inside to make it stick.”
  • “Birds put dirt and mud and they wait until the sun comes and it’s dry and yellow.”
  • “Birds use paper, cotton, mud, sticks. Water goes with mud.”
  • “Birds pinch sticks with their beaks and put them in their nests.”
  •  “Birds make nests so eggs don’t crack.”
  • “And so other birds don’t crack them.”
On Friday, after analyzing the nest we found in the yard, we worked together to make a big bird nest together. Some children added a few things, and others spent lots of time finding sticks and leaves and mud to add to the nest. A few "issues" came up that the children had to work out among each other. Was it okay to add huge sticks to the nest? Would it be okay to break them into smaller sticks? What will happen if we let one of our friends dump a bucket of water into the nest? Will real birds lay eggs in our nest if we put it into a tree?

The team work was significant and fruitful.

 They were careful to make it soft and cozy for mama birds and their babies.

Don't you just want to jump in and cuddle up???

Next, we will…
  • discuss different types of bird nests and how they are made.
  • continue to discuss eggs
  • begin to talk about different species of birds by finding out what the children know and what they want to learn about birds

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day Gardening

This morning, to celebrate Earth Day, we talked with the children about what they would like to plant in our garden this year.  Here is the list:

vegetable seeds
dirt and flowers

After circle time, it was out with the old, in with the new.

We made room for all of the things we wanted to plant by either moving plants away, or throwing them into our green waste container. These children are transporting a huge plant to the back garden bed, where it will have more room to thrive.

The container garden has seen better days...this brussel sprout plant from last year is covered in aphids! 

There, now it has room for more stuff.

The children topped off the old containers with new soil. 

While the children were napping, I went to the nursery to pick up seeds and seedlings.

The first group of children, Be, Ro, and Za, took out the tulips from the brick planters and replaced them with cosmos, lilacs, and pansies (our compromise for poppies and roses). 

We will save the tulip bulbs for next year. We carefully chopped off the tops and bagged the bulb.

The next group started in on the containers. Here, Sa is planting eggplant seeds.

So helps with zucchini squash seeds.

Ak waters the whole lot.

Next, Ak and Br teamwork on the next container which is to hold the strawberry plants.

Then, Bl, Te, and Ta work on getting the kale plants out of the tire garden to make room for sweet peas.  After all, we have to keep up the food supply for the snails that live under the rim of the tire!

They loosen up the soil and mix in some new soil.

The plant sweet pea seedlings...

...and seeds.

And there is the all important job of watering.

Tomorrow, Gi, Ha and Le will plant the great sunflower garden, as well as our celery and carrot seeds. We have two containers left and I'm so excited to fill them with something!!!


During our story today, we had talked a bit about the ways we can help the earth (an Earth Day discussion of sorts). When we were planting sweet peas, Ta asked how sweet peas help the planet. I thought about what it would be like to live in a place without the natural beauty of plants and flowers and trees.  I also thought about the deep sense of joy that I feel when I have a sweet pea bouquet, or when I examine the tiny orchid-like flowers on a bean vine, or the feeling of sitting among a lush green garden as opposed to dried weeds.  I think it's so important for children to experience these things in their environment. "It's nice to look at beautiful things" was the only reply I could give Tal in the moment, and that's pretty much the bottom line for me!

(Thank you Katy for the gardening inspiration!)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Floral inspired art

This idea originally came from my friend Kim, who may very well have the deepest sense of aesthetics of anybody I know.  She first planted the seed in my mind that aesthetics and beauty have a place in the preschool classroom years ago.  She inspired me by setting up activities and the classroom with beauty and often an unnecessary yet beautiful embellishments like flower bouquets or framed photos.

As most of you know, Beansprouts Preschool occupies half of my home. The most beautiful part of my house is the classroom!  There, I prioritize beauty (colors, organization, arrangement, natural materials) because I believe children deserve (and appreciate) it.

This activity, offering children a bouquet for inspiration but not instruction, and a few paints from the floral palette, will definitely be one we do often during the spring as children develop a connection between nature and art.  We will see how it unfolds in the weeks ahead.

I will post a few photos of our floral inspired art and then bid you adieu until next week, when we come back from our spring vacation.

Happy Easter!

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...