Saturday, August 8, 2020

Play Dough Pill Bugs

The "Camp Tinkergarten" lesson plans have been an absolute Godsend for me this summer, as Zac is craving "doing school" and asks for it constantly where I have been swamped with consulting and curriculum writing as we head into this very unusual school year. I don't have a lot of time to lesson plan for him... but the folks at Tinkergarten have really stepped up to help!


They have different handouts for different age groups (infants, toddlers, preschoolers 3-5 years, school age 5 years and older) and they're also available in Spanish. I am linking to the Preschool/English ones here.

If you sign up for their emails you'll get the links as they come out each week, and you'll be able to download other versions if you wish:


The Great Camp Out/In is a week from today: Saturday, August 15th.


We have finished up through Tiny Friends but I set aside this week to NOT work and to play with him. So we will hopefully have a blast this week with all these new ideas!

Zac really enjoyed Tiny Friends and we had our animals in their habitat for two weeks before we let them go (a glass bowl with a piece of mesh covering the top, grass and dirt and sticks and etc inside, and a spray bottle for daily misting). We began by reading one of my absolute favorite science books for young kids: I'm a Pill Bug by Yukihisa Tokuda.


Then when we went outside to find one (this book suggests making a habitat at the end and collecting some pill bugs for observation, so it was perfect) it was way too dry and they had all retreated under the earth. But we did find a lot of snails! So he began with a snail habitat and we read The Snail's Spell by Joanne Ryder (also excellent).


We kept misting the snails and feeding them leaves and checking each day for pill bugs and finally it rained and we had more luck. Then when Zac went to make his Tiny Friends with play dough, he had been so used to the stillness of a sleeping snail, he set his pill bug on the placemat and went to look for more and it walked away! This was a big surprise for Zac... and we found the pill bug contentedly sitting on a leaf so all was well in the end.

My favorite no-cook play dough recipe is chocolate but I've been looking for another one that we can make in different scents (and which doesn't use up all of my cacao powder), and found this recipe from The Imagination Tree. It uses the same basic method but you can add scent or color as you wish.


BEST EVER NO-COOK PLAY DOUGH RECIPE!
April 25, 2012 by Anna Ranson

You need:

2 cups plain AP flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
1 to 1 1/2 cups boiling water
food coloring (optional)
few drops glycerin (optional)


Method:

Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and oil in a large mixing bowl

Add food coloring TO the boiling water then pour into the dry ingredients

Stir continuously until it becomes a sticky, combined dough

Add the glycerine (optional)

Allow the mixture to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead it vigorously on a piece of wax paper. Knead for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. This is the most important part of the process, so keep at it until it’s the perfect consistency! If it remains a little sticky then add a touch more flour until just right.


We added orange blossom water and orange food coloring to the hot water and got a lovely scent and color. Zac was very excited. If I'd had any dried orange peel in the kitchen cupboard I would have added that as well! It's fun to customize and experiment... but I also like the chocolate one because I don't have to think about it. I just know it will work out perfectly every time!

I already get cream of tartar and kosher salt in bulk for mordanting yarn as part of my natural dyeing projects this summer. Thrilled to see that I could just use those ingredients in this recipe as well!


2 lb cream of tartar


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Friday, August 7, 2020

The Human Body: The Excretory System

We are using the Montessori Sixth Great Lesson analogy of The Great River (click the link and then choose "The Nation of the Great River - Narration and Music - by Lizby Dingus and Kai Engle" to hear ETC Montessori's version of this lovely story; choose "Teacher's Notes" to download the words as a PDF).

This story is a wonderful way to frame our work. In a Montessori Lower Elementary classroom students ages 6-9 would hear this story every year. It is part of the Peace & Cosmic Education subject of the curriculum.

This isn't as rich and hands-on as when I taught The Human Body as a summer camp in 2018, of course, because we are doing social distancing and meeting via Zoom. But you do the best you can with what you have!

With this "Flipped Classroom" approach, students are doing the "Prior to Meeting" activities at home with their families before we gather on Zoom.

Previous Sessions in this Science Club topic were:


Friday, August 7

Prior to Meeting

Review of The Respiratory System
(The Department of Air Quality)

  • coloring pages from Human Anatomy Coloring Book by Margaret Matt and Joe Ziemian

    "Larynx and Trachea" on page 21

    "Alveoli" on page 22


Introduction to The Excretory System


During the Meeting

  • review the results of student at-home activities
  • read the chapter "Cells: Basic Body Bits" from Blood and Guts

  • read Building Understanding #1 on page 119 and "Using the Model" on page 120 of The Body Book

  • read the chapter "Kidneys: Washing Machines for the Blood" from Blood and Guts, stopping as follows:

    after reading "Find 'Em" on page 85, discuss dialysis and kidney stones

    after reading "Amazing Facts" on page 85, look at the interactive website CELLS alive! Interactive HowBig?: Size of Cells and Microbes

    click on green arrows to slowly zoom in/out; click on blue to jump to

      Human hair
      Dust mite
      Ragweed pollen
      Lymphocyte
      Red blood cells
      Baker's yeast
      E. coli
      Staphyiococcus
      Ebola virus
      Rhinovirus


This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

What Goes in the Tote Bags?

Okay, so my big goal for the fall is that distance learning NOT equal time on Zoom. We all were forced into kneejerk reactions in March when this happened quite suddenly... but that was six months ago and all teachers have had time to reconceptualize and improve education at a distance.

How can we be apart from one another and still provide high quality instruction?

If I pack up tote bags for students and drop them off on doorsteps, and they work independently for two weeks, what goes in the tote bags?

This is a wonderful time to explore hands-on learning materials and to promote self-directed education, but there's also another player in this game: Project Based Learning. I just read a really compelling article -- which I highly recommend -- called Living in a VUCA World by Tikvah Wiener, HOS at The Idea School. The Idea School is a Project Based Learning high school.

VUCA (a term coined by Tony Wagner) stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.


Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World
by Tony Wagner


I love the truths about "wicked" problems. I'm looking forward to reading his book... and reimagining what can go in those tote bags!

And I want to put the question out to all parents who read this blog. If the school sent home something that REALLY encouraged your child to happily learn at home, what would that look like? When I first thought about tote bags instead of Zoom I was still stuck in traditional: worksheets, math manipulatives, handwork supplies, and some interesting philosophical questions for family discussion. But it can really be anything. And I have a whole month to brainstorm (and then months after that to tweak what isn't working). Loose parts? Art supplies? Science experiment materials?

In short, I probably can't send home a puppy in a tote bag but beyond that the sky is the limit.

I've talked with one mom about what kinds of books her child would want to borrow from school. In the privacy of your own home, you can read what you're interested in without worrying what the kids around you might think. An early reader that you love? Why not! A thick chapter book that is a huge stretch for you but you're determined to read it? Why not! The dictionary? Why not! My daughters loved to read old vintage textbooks when they were in elementary school.

I'm conceptualizing tote bags & personal projects for students, and daily virtual "office hours" for parents to check in with me and get the support they need. I'd much rather the adults be on Zoom than the children. I can still have Zoom check in time for kids but it would be short and non compulsory. Rather than providing instruction via Zoom, my goal is to promote learning at home with thoughtfully chosen activities and projects, and use Zoom for touching base and providing ongoing support.


This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

The Human Body: The Respiratory System

We are using the Montessori Sixth Great Lesson analogy of The Great River (click the link and then choose "The Nation of the Great River - Narration and Music - by Lizby Dingus and Kai Engle" to hear ETC Montessori's version of this lovely story; choose "Teacher's Notes" to download the words as a PDF).

This story is a wonderful way to frame our work. In a Montessori Lower Elementary classroom students ages 6-9 would hear this story every year. It is part of the Peace & Cosmic Education subject of the curriculum.

This isn't as rich and hands-on as when I taught The Human Body as a summer camp in 2018, of course, because we are doing social distancing and meeting via Zoom. But you do the best you can with what you have!

With this "Flipped Classroom" approach, students are doing the "Prior to Meeting" activities at home with their families before we gather on Zoom.

Previous Sessions in this Science Club topic were:


Friday, July 31

Prior to Meeting

Review of The Digestive System
(The Department of Nutrition)

  • coloring pages from Human Anatomy Coloring Book by Margaret Matt and Joe Ziemian

    "Digestive System" on page 30

    "Small Intestine" on page 33


Introduction to The Respiratory System

  • experiments from Blood and Guts: A Working Guide to Your Own Insides by Linda Allison

    "Percussing" on page 60

    "Charting Oxygen Intake" on page 63

    "Lung Exhaust" on page 65

    "Nose and Throast Connection" on page 67

  • IF you have the book Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, read chapter 12, “Fresh Water to Drink.” How does this go along with our topic this week?

  • make cards for Respiration & Photosynthesis activity

    Each little card should have a large capital letter written on it:

      18 cards that say O

      12 cards that say H

      6 cards that say C


During the Meeting

  • review the results of student at-home activities
  • Show students how to lay out their element cards to make six molecules of water (H2O) and six molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a green piece of fabric to represent a leaf. The water enters the leaf via the roots of the plant and then is transported up through the stems; the carbon dioxide enters the leaf via the stomata (little "mouths" on the underside of the leaf).

    The energy from the sunlight is a "bond breaker" (remember that even with water and carbon dioxide, a plant will still die if you put it in a dark closet; this is because it can't do photosynthesis and so it "starves to death")!

    Break the bonds of your molecules and rearrange your cards to form a molecule of glucose (C6H12O6). What do you have left over?

    The answer is that you have a bunch of oxygen cards. Oxygen doesn't like to be alone, so each one "joins hands" with a partner, forming molecules of O2 and they float out of the leaf through the stomata. Thus the sugar is the product of photosynethesis and the oxygen is the by-product. That is what we mean when we say "Plants take in our carbon dioxide and give off oxygen." It's merely a by-product.

    This lesson idea comes from In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms by Jacqueline and Martin Brooks.

    Use a chime to practice Dancing the Relationship Between Photosynthesis and Respiration (my lesson idea in PDF form).

  • read the chapter "Lungs: Airways to the Inside" from Blood and Guts, stopping as follows:

    for page 62, show model lung and discuss how the diaphragm works

    at the bottom of page 64, discuss surface tension and how to make a fruit fly trap by putting a drop of dish detergent into a small bowl of balsamic vinegar

    at the bottom of page 69, do "Hold Your Tongue" activities #1-3


This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Teaching at a Distance in the Classroom - Brainstorm

Brainstorm Time! I'd love to hear your ideas on this as well!

I think this is going to push all of us to become better teachers, forcing a conversation about what really matters... versus what's an "extra" and can be set aside... and then finding creative ways to keep the essentials alive.

If you're teaching outside & inside & 6 ft apart & having everyone have their own EVERYTHING (for my pod of 5 kiddos I happily already had five staplers, five tape dispensers, five single hole punches, etc.)... what do you do for


Group Bonding / Routines & Games

    lots of improv games at the beginning of the year

    also Adventure Ed and Nature Games


    Cowstails and Cobras 2: A Guide to Games, Initiatives, Ropes Courses & Adventure Curriculum

    by Karl Rohnke

    Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell (PDF)

    for yoga have each child use an old bath towel as a yoga mat; these can easily be washed and I have a ton of them

    carry things outside in crates! Victoria calls these "Curriculum On-the-Go Kits" -- think of everything that would possibly be needed for an activity and have it ready -- I do have many different colored crates

    one crate per activity? or one crate per child with their to-do list for the two days while they are here?

    have each pod leave a surprise for the other pod to find when they come to school... a nature mandala... a scavenger hunt... other ideas? it would be a fun routine and it would help them stay connected as a larger group


Labels for Non-Consumable Supplies

    This is for things where I have 10 of something and each child will be assigned one (pencil sharpener, scissors, etc.) but they are NOT going home with the child at the end of the year.

    Obviously these things are staying with the child all year. And they need some kind of identifying mark in case I find one on the ground. And, unlike previous years, people can't just grab each other's to borrow. But I hate the idea of putting a number on each thing and then assigning a number to a child. It is so impersonal and something kids have negative memories of from public school. But when I put a child's initials on something and then they don't take it home because it is something I need for the following year, a later child would be getting "someone else's" clipboard, so that doesn't feel good. Suddenly realized I could do what they do in Reggio Emilia! Label things with symbols not numbers. A star, fish, sun, crescent moon, etc. I would only need to come up with ten. Then you look for your symbol all year and next year someone else would have that symbol


Individual School Supplies

    purchased -- Aussie Pouch Chair Pockets -- one per child and the kids can take them with them when they work outside, and can set them over their chair backs when they work inside

    happily, the 17 inch wide Large Aussie Pouches will fit our chairs and hold the MLB size the kids are used to, the Mercurius landscape format 32 x 24cm

    they can keep the MLB in the outer-most smaller pocket so that it is protected

    kangaroo pouch larger pocket will need to hold the child's plan book, colored pencils, gratitude journal

    each child also has a little caddy with pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, glue stick, scissors

    write each child's initials on all pencils!


Snacks & Lunch

    set up a consistent outdoor eating area (baby wipes and a trash can)

    children bring change of clothing, lunch, snacks, water bottle, hand sanitizer, mask to school each day in their backpack; set these down outside somewhere at drop off

    I need to have my first aid kit outside and not inside


Art Supplies

    everyone already has a box of colored pencils so we can do a lot of pencil sketching

    for painting outside, I have enough glass jars and watercolor brushes to give each child a set of paints and a brush when we do an activity; wipe down the handle of the brushes afterwards

    I have easels for a rotating activity and I have enough painting boards that each child could have a board they use all year long -- I would need individual rolls of masking tape for stretching the paper

    If it can't be wiped down or sprayed with disinfectant, I need 10

    If it can be wiped down or sprayed with disinfectant, I need 5

    If it is inexpensive or it just makes sense for each child to have his/her own, I need 10

    I would have to either teach a lesson as a whole class or leave supplies out in an area which children can rotate through, each only using the activity supplies organized for them and labeled with their name -- lots of prep there!

    I don't see how clay would be possible, but each child could have a personal piece of modeling beeswax? or we could make lots of play dough for modeling which then just went home with them in a baggie


Handwork Supplies

    sun jar dye yarn so each child can have his/her own colors

    make knitting needles

    start with kitten, chicken, lamb for younger kids

    start with star gnome, doll, diamond washcloth (introduce crochet) for older kids

    no potholder weaving this year because I can't have them rummaging through the basket for their color

    older kids can do counted cross-stitch kits since those are self-contained


Outdoor Work Spaces

    canopy

    straw bales or camping chairs

    card tables on the driveway -- block off the end with a saw horse

    hammocks ?

    picnic tables ?


Outdoor Play Spaces

    mud kitchen

    digging pit

    water pump with a catch basin, that recirculates so you can pump to your little heart's content

    giant bird nest that you can sit in

    pretend "camping" area with benches and logs set up in a fire pit

    climbing tree

    loose parts area / baskets for collecting

    tiny worlds in large flowerpots -- each child would have to have his/her own

    mulch mountain ?

    I could have a big bin of homemade bubble stuff and they could each make a bubble wand (wool yarn wrapped coat hanger idea in All Year Round ) -- again, I could set out the tarp or activity area, with the supplies organized per child, and give a group demonstration for how to make the bubble wand, and then let them come one at a time to the station as part of their choice time

    one of the things I have to figure out is the ratio of teacher-led versus student-led, given that I'm trying to keep my distance from them -- and some of this will have to be learned through trial and error


Outdoor Drama Area

    hang fabric from tree braches to be a "curtain" around a "stage" area of ground

    tie ribbons to the tree branches to make a wall of ribbon

    dye cheesecloth (sheer, inexpensive, lovely) in large gallon sun jars with natural dyes

    use inexpensive rolling garment racks as backdrops for a drama area, paint old sheets and pin them to the garment racks for the "sets"


Outdoor Library Area

    books in mailboxes (watertight!) in a little quiet Reading garden

    let students check books out from the classroom to read at home on home learning days, then quarantine the books for a period of time before another child can check them out (our public library is using a 96 hour quarantine period so we can adopt that too)


Grammar & Word Study Manipulatives

    for the Montessori R&D Word Study materials, students can make their own slips of paper using instructions provided to them and then do the work

    for Grammar they can symbolize sentences from whatever book they are reading for fun

    ETC Montessori is making lightweight plastic materials (termed Personal Learning Products) which are inexpensive enough to get multiple sets, and even perhaps one for each child who needs it, including

    the wooden grammar stencils that we already like from Waseca Biomes are $5.00 apiece, so I just went ahead and purchased one for each child

    I also have to think about being able to teach from a distance, so I got the set of large Grammar Symbol Tiles from Nienhuis (diameter of Verb circle is 50 cm), since the pieces from regular box of paper Grammar Symbols may be too hard for students to see at 6 ft. The Grammar Symbol Tiles are also meant to be a whole body activity, which sounds fun! I've decided that I really don't want to get inexpensive disposable materials. Ultimately, it's more of a waste of money. I would prefer to get things that I will really want when this is all over, even if it is more of an up-front cost.


Math Manipulatives

    I have an extensive inventory of Montessori materials and need to start looking through everything to see what is easy to disinfect

    Mortensen math materials are plastic and can be wiped down (used for arithmetic, algebra, problem solving, measurement, calculus) and the exercise books for individual students can be printed from PDFs

    all of the Activity Sets from Nienhuis are plastic and can be wiped down

    Geometric Cabinet Control Chart is plastic

    Nienhuis Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles are plastic; Metal Squares and Fraction Circles are metal; both can be wiped down

    ETC Montessori is making lightweight plastic materials (termed Personal Learning Products) which are inexpensive enough to get multiple sets, and even perhaps one for each child who needs it, including

    I also purchased two of their new acrylic Coordinate Plane Boards

    we could also use glass gems in different colors for a stamp game or even collect and paint rocks (this might be good for the decimal stamp game, since ETC didn't make one)

    Glass Gem Colors Needed:
    red, blue, green, pink, light blue, light green

    I will have enough glass gems that everyone can use them to make their own "stamp game" and I can demonstrate how to use them with my wooden Stamp Game when I present the lessons. We can also wash them on Wednesdays in water + bleach if it turns out I don't have enough and both pods have to share them (which I don't think will happen). And when all this is over I can use them in crafts


Geography

    no one can use the puzzle maps this year, but I can put lots of maps up on the walls of the garage!


Nature Study & Botany


Philosophy

    time-honored study of inquiry which requires no supplies

    love an article I read that asked, "what if we designed a school year for recovery?"

    social-emotional learning should be prioritized; philosophy combines intellectual discipline with the chance to talk honestly about who you are and how you feel about things


    Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids

    by Marietta McCarty

    my notes from teaching with her book in the past:
    Philosophy Overview

    the list of topics and philosophers:

      Philosophy - Plato

      Friendship - bell hooks, Karl Jaspers

      Responsibility - Rita Manning, Albert Camus

      Happiness - Epicurus, Charlotte Joko Beck

      Justice - Immanuel Kant, Paulo Freire

      Time - Augustine, Alan Watts

      Courage - Epictetus, Mary Wollstonecraft

      Death - The Bhagavad-Gita, Shunryu Suzuki

      Prejudice - Jean-Paul Sartre, Gloria Anzaldua

      God - Thomas Aquinas, al-Ghazali

      Humanity - Soren Kierkegaard, Elizabeth Spelman

      Nature - Lao Tzu, Baruch Spinoza

      Compassion - The Dalai Lama, Jane Addams

      Freedom - John Stuart Mill, Simone de Beauvoir

      Love - Martin Luther King, Jr., Bertrand Russell


Mental Organization

    I need to find some way to distinguish between the different kinds of activities I have in my mind, so I can be sure I'm planning for every contingency in my plan book. And so that I can tell if I don't have enough ideas for a certain kind of activity; there are so many options!

    At Home:
    What gets packed in a tote bag for when we can't meet in person.
    What kids can take to do at home on the days they are not here as a follow up to a lesson they did have here.

    Here / Teacher Directed:
    Kids do it here whole group (5) with distancing.
    Kids do it here small group (2 or 3) with distancing.
    Kids do it here one on one with distancing.
    I set it up as a station and kids rotate through at their own pace.

    Here / Self Directed:
    Completely self-directed.
    Partially self-directed.


Loving the workshops from Victoria at Outdoor Classrooms. They have been really helpful! I'll update this brainstorm as I come up with more ideas.


In the most recent article that I've seen on this idea of moving classrooms outside as being feasible and, even, an important aspect to school reopening plans, the author did actually take the time to list some of the logistical hurdles and how schools would address them. That makes me happy, since it means people are taking the idea seriously! Although I did hear yesterday from a colleague that four families in the SF Bay area are seeking to create a homeschool pod and hire a teacher for their four 6th grade girls -- with a salary of $70,000 for the year -- and that shocked me! That's a lot of money! The article in the Atlantic talked about wealthy parents hiring private governesses and it really is happening. But I prefer to think of a system of tiny community embedded micro schools spreading throughout the country as a way to DECREASE the equity gap, not increase it!

Why Can’t We Just Have Class Outside? It might be the answer to America’s school-reopening problem.
The Atlantic - July 28, 2020


This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!