Wednesday, July 29, 2009

G! O! D!

Today the two older girls hung out and painted suncatchers at the Community House in the morning; Becca went with me to do errands. One of our errands was to find a humane catch-and-release mousetrap for Mousie Mouse who moved into our house while I was on my vacation. This is the second humane trap design I've tried and I hope it works because my patience is wearing thin. But I just keep reminding myself of the Buddhist belief that all forms of life are equal. No one is better than any other. This means that, if I wouldn't want the mouse to kill me because it finds me annoying, I have no right to do that to it. The trap is baited with peanut butter so we'll see if anything happens overnight.

Tonight at VBS we were given the task of coming up with a cheer for our group. You know, like cheerleaders do. I was about to start banging my head on the wall when I realized that I had one absent student (which dropped me down to three) and this gave me a brilliant idea! So I had the kids all crouch down and jump up one at a time and yell their assigned letter.




And then I yelled, what's that spell? And the kids are supposed to shout "God!" Simple. 5 year old friendly. Except that when we went to perform it in front of the church I got




"What's that spell?"

And two of them yelled "God" and Leah called out loudly "Jesus!" I thought it was hilarious. Falls under the category of Close Enough, as far as I'm concerned.

The children were talking in the car about whether God was a boy or girl and I was saying that a lot of people think that God is a woman and Becca corrected me, saying that the baby born in the manger was a boy and he was God so God must be a boy. I thought that perhaps the mystery of the Holy Trinity was a little over their heads and probably not something you should shout over your shoulder in a truck while going down Route 2 & 4, so I refrained. It was a good point, after all.

Tomorrow the Comm. House activity is a day of painting with items other than paintbrushes, which is always super-cool. With the morning activities and VBS at night I'm leery of putting anything in to the afternoon timeslot, so we haven't been going to the beach or the pool all week. This is going to be another summer where I get to the end and realize -- AGAIN -- that Natalie still hasn't learned how to swim.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Duchess Bakes a Cake

Put this in the Berry category:

"She added some eggs, several dozen, well-beaten,
And some left-over pudding that they hadn't eaten.
Bilberries, gooseberries, cranberries, bogberries,
Blackberries, mulberries, burberries, dogberries;
Peppermint, cinnamon, laurel and squill,
Wintergreen, nutmeg, angelica, dill --
Whatever she found she put into the batter,
And what she left out didn't really much matter...."

Peanut Butter and Celery

Teaching your kids to be problem solvers...

So today at lunch (pork and beans, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks with peanut butter) I decided to let the children put the peanut butter on their own celery sticks. I gave each person a butter knife and some celery pieces and handed over the jar of creamy peanut butter. Then I left the room. When I came back I discovered that Leah had used the knife to put peanut butter on her fingers, then was attempting to use her fingers to spread the peanut butter on the celery! If you've ever tried this, you know it doesn't work very well. But I give her credit for

1) not putting her fingers right in the peanut butter (my kids are pretty aware of germs)


2) thinking that a flexible digit might fit in the curve of the celery better than a hard flat knife end

I didn't comment but I think that the ensuing mess (and it was especially hard for her to figure out how to get down from the table in order to wash her hands off) may have led her to conclude that the knife might be a better tool for the job.

Today was Water Day which meant water pistols at the Comm House. Last time we went to Water Day my children suffered from a little culture shock. They hadn't seen water pistols before and were completely in the dark about the idea of gun play. Tidewater doesn't allow it, I don't allow it, and they've never seen anyone do it. Once they got over the idea of attacking someone else, the girls really enjoyed it. Today they went right over to the water pistols and dove into the action. I'm still not entirely certain whether I agree with water pistols but it's such a part of childhood that I'm not going to raise a ruckus about it.

Now it's time for naps. I am going to lie down on the sofa, watch My Fair Lady, and read my cookbook collection. I had gotten two heads of fennel at the grocery store so that I could make Cream of Fennel and Pear Soup (from Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook) but the pears went bad so I now need good ideas for Things to Do With Fennel.

Alaska Berries

Got it!

The book I was thinking of is

Of course, another nice book for a berry theme would be

And the Livin' Is Easy

I never saw Porgy and Bess but I know the song (don't we all?) and I love love love this time of year. It's such a wonderful opportunity to be home with my kids.

Saturday after we fixed the toilet successfully, the girls and I went blackberry picking. I was thinking of blackberry stories; the first one that comes to mind being

Also, for berry picking you can't forget


Then I went on to think, hmmm, if I was still writing newsletters I could do one called "Berry Berry Quite Contrary" and all these other titles popped into my head.




Anyone think of any others? I know there's one about a native Alaskan berry (cloud berries, maybe) but I can't think of it now...

Sunday morning we went to church, then hosted a playdate. We had a friend come over and the girls all ran through the sprinkler, got out the sidewalk chalk, had snack (yogurt, pears, grapes) and sat and read stories. My friend and I were chatting and her little one brought over a book and Karen immediately gave that squeal of excitement that you make when you recognize a book from your childhood. You know that feeling of seeing a really good friend all of a sudden? The illustrations are so familiar and so right. The book was One Kitten for Kimby Adelaide Holl and so I promptly gave it to her. I know that feeling all too well and we had never read the book (I got it from the used book store) so I knew the girls wouldn't miss it one jot.

Monday we went to a playdate hosted by someone else. They had one of the those gigantic blow-up water slides, a trampoline, several playhouses and swing sets, etc. Amazing. Plus they have lambs. The girls and I hadn't brought bathing suits because their suits will still wet and cold from the sprinkler-running the day before so I let them go on the water slide fully dressed and then we just stuck their clothes in the dryer and draped them in towels during lunch. I had told my daughters that they couldn't go on the water slide and they were exceedingly polite about it and didn't complain and only after an hour came to me and charmingly asked permission to stick their feet in the wading pool at the bottom of the slide. I gave my permission and then decided, what the heck. When children are polite about things it makes such a difference. If I had had to listen to an hour of whining, there would have been no way I'd reward that kind of behavior with a special treat. Anyway, it all worked out in the end and they absolutely had a ball. Then we had lunch (chicken nuggets, apple chunks with cinnamon, cantaloupe slices, black bean and corn salad, quinoa salad). What a spread. Delicious! From there it was the pediatrician for Natalie's 7 year checkup, since the health insurance has finally been sorted out, and then VBS last night. I am a team leader, taking the 5 year old team around to their stations. This team consists of three boys and Leah. It's quite a nice little group.

Today we are going to Water Day at the Community House.

I love summer!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fixing the Toilet

Today we fixed the toilet! The toilet in our rental house has been requiring us to hold down the lever and count to 10 or it won't flush. This was fine for a while and we all got used to it, and then the girls started counting to 10 in Spanish for some variety, but still... why not fix it. I talked with a friend to make sure this was something simple that I could do and then I gathered the girls around and told them I was going to give them a lesson on how a toilet works.

I them line up with Leah first, then Natalie in the middle, then Becca on the end. Leah stuck her arm straight out (to be the lever) and held Natalie's hand with the other hand. They kept their hands down. I told Leah that when I flushed the lever (pulled her hand down) she was to raise up the other hand and Natalie's hand with it. Becca was to look for the opportunity and run through the arch they created. Becca was the clean water. So I pulled Leah's outstretched hand down and held it for 10 counts and Becca gleefully ran through. Then we got back into our original positions and I pulled Leah's hand down and then released it quickly, like you would with a regular flush. Becca didn't have time to get through! So I explained to them that that is how a toilet works and then we went and took the lid off the back of the toilet tank. I asked them, does anyone see anything that reminds them of what we talked about? And immediately they pointed out the handle, the lever arm, and the flapper. I flushed it once to show them how the clean water fills up the tank, then I shortened the chain (explaining that now the flapper will lift up high enough for all the water to get out in time) and we flushed it again. Quick and correct. We were all very proud of ourselves.

No more
uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Tonight I am in Tennessee. I drove for 12 hours today, over 750 miles. I should be able to finish up the last leg of my trip tomorrow. The only stop I made (besides getting gas three times and stopping at Whatta-burger in Russellville, AR for some lunch) was to get a birthday card for a friend. I mailed it specifically from Russellville since I think he will get a kick out of receiving a card from a town named after him. Or, rather, he won't notice the postmark at all and I will have wasted an hour of my life. :-)

I am actually starting to get pretty tired of living out of my truck. Today is the first day I thought, it would be nice to have some different clothes. I've been living out of little outfits packed in gallon Ziploc bags. And they are for traveling, so we are not talking High Fashion here. When I walked into the Hilton in downtown Santa Fe, I was wearing the grungy capris that I had worn while wading in the creek in Moab to catch crawdads, a baseball cap, and the fleece pullover from my Admissions Desk uniform at the Calvert Marine Museum. The man behind the counter definitely raised an eyebrow at me. I would also like to do my laundry at someplace other than a laundromat. I also am starting to miss my library, oddly enough. I'd love to sit down and read a book. However, it has been a fantastic trip and I am lucky to have made it such a long distance -- driving solo -- safely. The only time I had a passenger/second driver was the trip from Moab to the Grand Canyon and back. The rest of it I have driven on my own. Today I got pulled over for the first time. This after 5300 miles! I got a warning for following the car in front of me too closely. I was trying to get away from the man behind me who had been bothering me, smiling and waving, and alternating between passing me and then slowing down and following me. He was making me uncomfortable. That's no reason to be unsafe on the road, though, so it was still my fault. Then the man waited for me to catch up to him again after my warning and kept gesticulating. I ignored him and hung out in the slow lane until he got bored. Other than that, I have had no other adventures of the unpleasant kind. I've been very lucky.

Tomorrow I hope to write that I am home safe & sound!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


So here I am spending the night in Oklahoma. I had been hoping to push on into Arkansas but I didn't go to bed until almost 2:30 last night so there's no reason to have another late night. I got severely lost outside of Santa Fe yesterday and ended up nearly out of gas, in the pitch black, with no one around, and a mysterious spaghetti jumble of roads all around me, none of which were on my inset map. When I finally found a gas station and a hotel I was so happy I didn't care that it was the Hilton and paid without batting an eye.

Today I stopped for dinner in Elk City, OK. I thought I'd go to a restaurant full of locals, since the locals pretty much know what they're doing when they choose the place where they want to eat. This was a dandy plan except that when I got into Lupe's Restaurant I discovered that it was all Mexican food, which is a kind of food I know practically nothing about. Ordering was interesting. The food was great, though, and I have plenty of leftovers here in the fridge in my hotel room.

I have gone precisely 1001.0 miles from Moab to here. I figure this means I'm nearly halfway home and perhaps tomorrow I can stop driving so aggressively and start seeing sights again. But part of me wants to hurry home so that I have plenty of time to do laundry and grocery shopping etc. on Friday and then Saturday I get my girls. I miss them so much after three weeks! It will be great to spend time with them again.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Awesome Vacation

I know I haven't written much, which is the sign of a good vacation, right? I just updated my itinerary (to the left). The Grand Canyon took a long time to get to. I nearly ran out of gas in the middle of the Navajo Reservation. But it was a great day for hiking it, a high temp. of only 84 degrees (instead of 101). I didn't have such good luck at Arches -- the temperature there was 102 when I visited and so I didn't do any hiking, besides a little 0.3 mile walk at Sand Arch. I went to Dead Horse Point State Park in the evening when temperatures had cooled down some and that was much better. I recommend the evening for that site since the sun is behind the scrub brush and casting some shadows and shade for you to walk in and it's at your back as you photograph the canyon. That place was amazing! The campground I stayed at was almost completely empty and I had a nice time. No bears there. The only hazard is the soft red sand blowing into your tent at every opportunity.

Today I leave Moab, which became my "home away from home." I hear a lot of people get sucked in to the black hole here (they arrive and never leave) but I am going to muster my resolve and head back East. My plan is to drop down to Interstate 40 so that I can drive through a new batch of states and my girls will have new states to color in on their map when they get their postcards. I thought briefly about trying to spend a lot of time driving to periphery states just to send the postcards so they could color in more on their map -- and it would have been cool to hit California -- but Arches and the Grand were my two must see spots and I wanted to relax and enjoy my trip instead of making it a list of bullet points. I also was close to Wyoming but didn't go over the border. The children are really enjoying the postcards and coloring their map and I'm glad I came up with that idea. It forces me to get to see a little of the local culture, too, which is a nice change from the "90 mile an hour road trip down the interstate" mentality.

I've really enjoyed being in Moab and I'm going to be sad to leave.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The computer can be a handy tool in helping to organize information. For example, I found out through the website that the campground for Arches National Park, Devil's Garden, is reserved first come-first served beginning at noon. This means I have to head there before I drive into or hike any part of the park. I also learned what the fees for the campground and for the park are and checked my bank balance online so I knew how much cash I could pull out at the next ATM. Plus, I learned about the National Parks annual pass called America the Beautiful. 80 bucks for an annual pass seems pretty reasonable to me, considering that visiting national parks is about all I'm going to be doing for the next ten days.

Here's the info:

America the Beautiful Pass - The pass costs $80 dollars and will get you into all National Parks, Monuments and Federal Lands for a year.

America the Beautiful Pass

It can be purchased at the entrance to any of the National Parks or purchased online. Buying the pass at the park you visit, rather than online, helps to fund that park. Eighty-percent of the funds will stay in the Grand Canyon if you buy the pass at their gate. The pass is good for more than the National Parks, it also covers sites managed by USDA FS, NPS, USFWS, BLM and Reclamation. The pass covers the entrance fees and amenities. If you are 62 or older or receive disability benefits, you may be eligible for the Senior or Access pass.

If you have questions about the American the Beautiful Pass call their contact number:
1.888.ASK.USGS - press 3.

Dinosaur National Monument

Yesterday's plan was to drive from Grand Lakes, CO to Dinosaur National Monument. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Let me tell you about this place. First, it has several entrances. Only one of them has the visitor center. And if you leave the highway (U.S. route 40) every time it says "Dinosaur National Monument," you won't get to the right spot. I drove for miles (beautiful drive but it was still miles and miles of the-middle-of-nowhere) into DNM through the eastern most entrance and ended up at the cul de sac at the end of the access road where five pickup trucks were parked on the shoulder and not a human being in sight. The sign, which I finally found, was about survival and all the dangers of camping there. And there are a lot!!!! You can't swim because there are dangerous undercurrents and you can get sucked under. Etc., etc. I didn't read them all, I just thought, this is NOT the place for me. I am in way over my head here. These are serious fossil collectors. Where's the visitor center, the hiking trails, the gift shop? And when I finally figured out that you had to go to Vernal, Utah -- and drove there -- to see those things I was too late and the park was closed. My choices were

1) to spend the night in the area and start my day with that location tomorrow morning

2) write it off and instead spend my time trying to get closer to the next destination which is Arches National Park

I picked option #2 and high-tailed it to Moab. The shortest route between U.S. 40 and Moab is a little road called 191 South. This darling stretch of highway goes through Ashley National Forest. Some facts:

Ashley National Forest is located in northeastern Utah and Wyoming.

It encompasses 1,384,132 National Forest acres, (1,287,909 in Utah and 96,223 in Wyoming). Of the total acres, 276,175 are High Uintas Wilderness.

180,530 additional acres of High Uintas Wilderness is located on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Elevations on the Ashley National Forest range from 6,000 feet to over 13,500 feet.

AND the Badlands of Utah. There is nothing -- I mean N O T H I N G -- on that road. Don't drive it if you have to go to the bathroom. Or if you were thinking a hotel or restaurant might be handy. Or a gas station. Because those things are not there. If you want several elk to wander across the road in front of you, or you have a predilection for the Open Range (this means cattle are grazing loose and they are standing along the highway or placidly in the middle of the road looking at you), you will have a marvelous time. I mean, it's gorgeous but it's not for everybody. However, since I had just driven hundreds of miles to get to a closed visitor center, I enjoyed it tremendously and that stretch of 191 South was the highlight of the day.

The part of Utah that I am in now does have dinosaur-related sights so see so I may yet end up with some photos of bones or footprints to show my girls.

"A Tour of Utah's Own Jurassic Park" by Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times

As I look for photos to share (since I am a terrible photographer and am not doing this place justice) I keep finding great links to road trips, like Into the Red Rock Country.

The downside of finding all these links is that now I am paralyzed in my hotel room, writhing in indecision. Which way should I go? What should I see? So I need to just relax and enjoy myself or this will become a frantic rush to points on a map, and not a vacation. For this reason, I will stop posting my "to do" plan (tomorrow I will...) and instead post my "to did" plan at the end of the day of what I actually achieved. This takes off some of the self-induced pressure to achieve the perfect trip. :-)

Anyway, today is scheduled for Arches so I am going to take a shower, eat some breakfast, and go see some beautiful scenery!

Exclamation Points

You can tell I'm having a good time on my trip because of all the exclamation points!

Check out these pictures of beautiful Grand Lake, Colorado. No Waldorf school there, though. Hmmmm.

Maybe an upcoming project?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park

After the workshop ended, I packed my things into my truck and headed off. First I hiked up Flagstaff Mountain (in Boulder) and then I drove west to Estes. I spent the night camping on top of a mountain and woke up to a beautiful view of Rocky Mountain National Park spread out in front of me. Yesterday (July 13) I drove the Trail Ridge Road through the park and out the west side. I saw a young moose as well as a herd of elk and I got to stop and touch snow! They have it there, even in July!!! The Alpine Ridge visitor's center was lovely and I bought some postcards for the girls and some Native American art.

Then I stopped in Grand Lake, CO to get gas and walked up to the ticket line for the Rocky Mountain Reportory Theatre to see what was playing since there was a whole crowd buzzing about in front of it. Lo and behold, I discovered that Pirates of Penzance was beginning in 2 minutes and there was only one ticket left! Naturally, I bought it and went in. It was a wonderful show!!!

Today my destination is Dinosaur National Monument.

Therapeutic Puppetry

Here are the rest of my notes from the workshop with Suzanne Down.

Friday she showed us how to do a puppet show where one of the puppets was itself a puppeteer! The Mother doll had a little felt sewn Wee Willie Winkie hand puppet tucked over her hand like a glove and she did a puppet show for her baby which she held in her other arm. When Suzanne does a nursery rhyme she always does it three times. She said the rhyme, sang the rhyme, and then hummed the tune of the rhyme. We talked about how the children absorb these nurturing qualities and how in the public school teachers aren't allowed to touch the children at all, so if a child needs extra nurturing one way is through this therapeutic puppetry. Suzanne also told us that the puppetry teacher and the early childhood director at Rudolf Steiner College go to a homeless shelter and work with the mothers using the Mother rod puppet/archetype to provide healthy modeling for them. We also added the rod hand (puppeteer's non-dominant hand) of the puppet -- having added the elastic band hand (puppeteer's dominant hand) already on Thursday. We also made our little swaddled babies for the Mother to hold. We practiced carrying the baby and transferring her -- securely -- from one shoulder to the other shoulder as well as holding her out -- securely -- to see the world, like if you are showing Baby an ant running along the garden path. The whole thing with holding the baby is that you have to make sure she looks like she's safe from the child's point of view, and you curve the felt hands to make them hold the baby in that way.

On Saturday, Suzanne showed us how to do a table play. This is a setup where the puppeteer is behind a low table and the table is spread with silks and other props to create the stage. To soften the edges of the table, she recommends laying a sheepskin down before you lay down the silks. You can also make a lap stage for yourself out of a lightweight piece of wood and curve in the middle a little bit where the puppeteer sits instead of making it an exact rectangle. We talked specifically about Protection stories and adding layers and layers of extra "skin" to add comfort and security. The extra skin is often a vessel, like when the animals take shelter in the classic story The Mitten. However, to add a therapeutic protection element, you wouldn't have the mitten burst at the end and have them all flying out into the snow! In the story Suzanne demonstrated, Mother was out walking in the garden and the wind blew her straw hat right off her head and carried it far away to a field. Two bunnies find it and make it their home. Then a little mouse comes along and joins them and nibbles a little hole in the hat where he could squeeze through and look out and see the world. An actual hole is in the needle felted hat, with a flap behind it of matching wool fleece. When the mouse nibbles, he is pushing aside the flap. When you put the hat on Mother's head before the story begins, you move the flap back to fill the hole so the children can't see it. Then Suzanne added even more of a feeling of shelter and protection with additional silks:

"Autumn wrapped itself around that little house (here she wrapped the hat with an autumn colored silk). Winter flew its frost and ice and snow fell over all the land (here she covered the hat and all around it with a silver silk) and still the hat stayed there.

"Then one day the warm sun shone down (pull back the two silks) and all the little friends started to come outside and the little hat still sat there. Spring came. One day Mother went walking. She walked right past her garden. She walked further and further. Once, twice, three times she saw something in the meadow far away. Could that be my hat? My little hat became a house. She sat and watched the animals for a long time. She decided, I will leave it there. That is a good place for my hat. (Mother goes back home, which is a silk-covered chair standing next to the puppeteer with its back facing the audience) That hat stayed in that meadow for a long time with all those little friends living in it. I wonder, if we walked in that meadow, would it still be there with all those little animals there safe and happy." Then Suzanne covered them again, first with the Autumn silk, then the Winter silk, then a gauzy rainbow silk, then the own silk which had been wrapped around her neck and covering her lap as she sat behind the table stage (this was a thicker rainbow silk), taking one end from around her neck, then the other end and covering the little house, humming the entire time.

We talked about the advantages of a table scene, the restrictions of a table setup (Mother can only go left-right and can't utilize the depth of the table) and we came up with ideas for our own story using a hat of Mother's and needle felted her a hat and some other props we had in mind. My Mother has a mind of her own and strongly asked for a blue and green striped hat which ended being much more of a winter hat than a summery sunhat (which is fine, you can do protection stories in any season) and it quite makes her look like a snowboarder! You want your Mother to really BE the mother archetype so some of that is in her appearance but it is more in how gentle, caring, and loving she is with the baby, so that it brings that feeling of security to the child. Your Mother can be a little on the young side.

Puppetry with adults can be a reminder OR a teaching of the archetype of mother. One day in the beginning (before we made the Mother puppets) we brainstormed the mother archetype and we focused on how Mother makes you feel inside. The question Suzanne asked us was "How do you feel when you think of the lifted qualities of a mother?" These were our words:

filled up

So if your Mother brings those to the child, you have been successful. The Mother archetype is in the soul realm and curves. The Father archetype is in the spirit realm and uprightness. Mother is nurturing. Father is action. They are also connected with the left and right sides of our body.

Feminine - L
connected to the heart
inward, rounding, curving

Masculine - R
out into the world
straight line

We embody all the archetypes within ourselves. This is why fairy tales speak to us so deeply.

By the way, it's fine for your swaddled Baby doll to have a gender. You can call it he or she during the story, not just "my little one". The children will identify with it either way. For the remainder of Saturday, we practiced having our puppet walk along the table edge. Suzanne recommends thinking of the walk as a subtle lemniscate. It is NOT a bouncing motion.

Sunday was the last day of the workshop! We began it with a lesson on how to create stories of our own. Suzanne had us lay blank paper and a pencil down on the picnic table outside, then take a silent walk around the school playground, animal pens, and garden. We walked in silence for about 45 minutes. Our job was to find three things that really draw in our interest and to not only observe them to to observe how our body was when we were showing interest. One of the things that the Mother shows the children is caring interest. When she looks at them to say good morning, for example. So you need to think of how you move your body to show that. Then we were to come back to the table and silently journal our experiences. My 3 were a tight sunflower head which was just bursting to open, the amazing energy of the chickens as they scurried and pecked, and the feel of the wind and the sense of air all around me. I was -- apparently -- the only person who kept my list to three! But I noticed that there can be a lot of things which are lovely in the garden... that's different than something really grabbing you and pulling you in and absorbing all your senses. So I wrote down what was very strong for me. Then we were to draft a written version of a Protection story using Mother's hat which we felted yesterday and incorporating the three things that we saw this morning. Either them in particular (like if you saw a ladybug on your walk you could put a ladybug character in your story) or something which comes from them (like if you saw a worm burrowing into the soil and that makes you think that Mother could be digging in her garden). After we each wrote our stories, we read them to one another. Then we went inside to needle felt any new props that we needed as a result of creating this story. In the afternoon, we practiced our stories and then told them for one another, and then Suzanne sent us off into the great blue yonder and told us to practice them over and over in front of an audience and that we will continue to improve with time, gain confidence, and the stories will grow and evolve and branch out into new stories. The number one thing is to not put your Mother doll away until you feel you are good enough to perform a show. Get her on your hands and give it a whirl! If you wait until you think it's "good enough", you'll never do it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Summer Camp plans for the trip to Battle Creek Cypress Swamp:


Wednesday – introduce topic

This week’s theme is Plants, in preparation for a field trip to Battle Creek Cypress Swamp on Friday. The BCNES naturalist is doing an “Insects” program for the students which will help further explore the relationship of animals and plants to one another. The leaf printing wrapping paper activity would be a good choice for this week’s theme.

These are the parts of the plant we will be studying (in order):

1) Seed

2) Root

3) Stem

4) Leaf

5) Flower

6) Fruit

Activity 1: Seed

Introduce this week’s theme by reading The Tiny Seed (World of Eric Carle)by Eric Carle. Ask students what plants they have seen that spread their seeds through the air. Most will probably say dandelion. Lay out a large piece of plain white wrapping paper and let students color a scene with a river, field, rocky mountain, etc. (all the places that a seed could land). Spread this over the table. Bring out the dandelion and let students blow the seeds over the paper scenery with their breath acting as the wind. How many of the seeds land in a place where they would grow successfully? What seeds would have died?

Activity 2: Root

Further discuss what elements a seed needs to survive (warmth, water, soil, space to grow). Read And the Good Brown Earthby Kathy Henderson. Ask how many students have a garden or grown plants in containers at home. Let students share their experiences with gardening.

Thumbtack a large piece of chart paper to the wall. Ask a student to draw a dot on the paper and label it Seed. Make the dot about 1/3 of the way up the paper. Now, ask students what part of the plant grows next. Most will say Root. Ask another student to come up to the paper and draw a root and label it Root. What direction does a root grow in? Down. Why? So that it can draw water and nutrients from the earth. Ask a third student to take a brown crayon and draw soil all around your plant’s root.

Ask students what soil is. Where does it come from? What is it made of? Allow students to offer their thoughts. Then read A Log's Lifeby Wendy Pfeffer. It is wonderful to think that all plants create more earth when they die, and that is the home for the new baby plants to grow in. Let children discuss other things in nature that are cycles. If no one can think of one, remind them of the Water Cycle studied earlier.

Activity 3: Stem

Ask the children what part of the plant will grow next? The stem. Allow a student to draw a green stem coming up from the seed to the sky. Label it Stem. The stem must be green because all parts of the plant are green when they are young. It is true that many trees have brown bark but their trunks all begin as little light green shoots. Now review with the children what the jobs are of the three parts of the plant they have studied so far. The seed contains the new baby plant and shelters it until it finds a place to grow. The root reaches downward and brings water and nutrients to the baby plant. The stem reaches upward and will soon have leaves on it. BUT before you get to the job of the leaves (which will be tomorrow) ask the students again – what does the stem do? The stem carries the water and nutrients up and throughout the plant.

Science Experiment:

Take two stalks of celery – preferably with leaves – and place each one in a glass. Tell students that each vegetable we eat is actually a part of a plant. Corn and popcorn, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are all seeds. Show examples. Carrots, radishes, and turnips are all roots. Show examples. Celery stalks and rhubarb stalks are the stem of the plant. Show the celery root (celeriac) and tell students that this is what the root of the celery looks like. Lay the root on the table, take the celery stalks out of the glass, and display the plant parts with the celery stalks coming out of the root so students can imagine it as it grows – and so they can see how the water would travel up from the root and into the stalks. Tell the students that in many countries of the world, they eat the celery root as a vegetable but that this is not very common in the United States.

Replace the celery in the glasses. Ask students to predict what would happen if only one of the stalks of celery was given water. Pass out pieces of plain white paper and have them draw their predictions. What would happen to the celery that had water to “drink?” What would happen to the celery that got no water? Place several inches of water in one glass and set the other one next to it. If you can, check back on the glasses at the end of the day or check them tomorrow to see what happens.

(Plant cells, unlike animal cells which are more flexible, have firm walls. Without water to keep the cells full – “turgid” – the walls collapse in on themselves and the plant wilts.)

Thursday – explore topic

Activity 4: Leaf

Review the illustration on the chart paper on the wall. Next, ask several students to extend the stem of the plant higher and add leaves. Label this part of the plant Leaf. Discuss the job of the leaves. They capture the sunshine and turn it into food that the plants use to grow. Depending on the age of the group, some students may know more about photosynthesis than others. Make sure the leaves they draw are green so that they have chlorophyll in them. We are looking at a new plant in Spring, not Autumn!

Remind students of the conversation yesterday about vegetables. Ask them, who can think of a vegetable that we eat that you think may be the leaf of a plant? Some responses may be lettuce, spinach, and cabbage. Show examples. Ask students again about the celery stalk experiment. If the stem of the plant can’t carry water to the leaves and the leaves die, will the entire plant die – yes or no? The answer is yes, because there will be no photosynthesis taking place.

Activity 5: Flower

Ask a student to go to the illustration on the wall and add several flowers to your growing plant. Label them Flower. Ask students to brainstorm a list of flowers they know (roses, dandelions, buttercups, etc.). Ask them if they know what the job of the flower is? The flower attracts honeybees, butterflies, and other pollinators to it and as they are eating the delicious nectar inside the flower a little of the pollen brushes on to their legs. They carry the pollen which is stuck to the fine hairs on their legs. As the pollinators travel from flower to flower, carrying and mixing pollen inside the flowers, the flowers are able to reproduce and bear fruit. Fruit is the final part of the plant and we will discuss it in a minute. But first ask students how humans use flowers – we enjoy them for their beauty and for their fragrance. Some flowers can also repel harmful insects in the garden (such as marigolds) and some flowers are used to make medicines. Because flowers are so beautiful and important to people, they have inspired many stories. Read Snow White and Rose Red(illustrated by Gennady Spirin).

Activity 6: Fruit

Ask a student to add some fruit to the plant illustration on the wall and label it Fruit. Let the children brainstorm a long list of fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, etc. Write it a piece of paper as they list them. Ask which one they think will be the most popular in the group. Then read off the name of each fruit and have them vote on their favorite three. See which one wins!

Humans enjoy many delicious fruits and like flowers they, in turn, have inspired their own old folk tales. Read Three Perfect Peaches: A French Folktaleby Cynthia DeFelice.

What is the job of the fruit from the plant’s point of view? The answer is that the fruit is the home of the seed, to begin the next baby plant.

Cut open a peach to reveal the seed (peach pit) inside. Peaches, and other similar plants, have a tasty fleshy part around their seeds, which actually helps the seed to travel to find a new home to grow. Unlike the dandelion, these seeds rely on animals to take away and eat the sweet fruit and then drop the seeds as they travel. In fact, ANYTHING you find in the produce section of the grocery store with seeds inside it is actually fruit – whether we call it a fruit or a vegetable. For example, a zucchini has seeds in it. So does a tomato. These foods are the fruit of the plant. Show examples.

Some interesting notes:
• The strawberry is the only fruit that has its seeds on the outside instead of on the inside.
• The orange tree is unusual in that it can have flowers and fruit on it at the same time. Most plants have all their flowers first. Then the flowers die and fall off and the plant puts all its energy into growing the fruits.
• If you look at a fruit, you can see which end was attached to the stem of the plant and which end was where the flower blossom used to be.

Stem end of a tomato

Blossom end (other side) of a tomato

Finally, fruits have other purposes for humans beyond just providing food. Many plant materials have been used since ancient times to make natural paints and dyes. Read Blueberries for Salby Robert McCloskey.

First Art Project: Natural Dyes

Set up a crockpot with hot water and a healthy splash of white vinegar in it. The vinegar is a mordant (it helps the color stick to whatever you are dyeing). Have the students add white cotton balls – leave one out so you can compare its color with the color of the dyed ones – and then dump the blueberries out of the container and into the water. Turn the crockpot on and let it sit in an undisturbed corner of the classroom. Occasionally check to see what color the water is turning. You can also take a cotton ball out and look at its color. Lay them on the table in order of how long they have been in the water so that you can see how the dye gets progressively darker. When the day is done, turn off and unplug the crockpot but let the cotton balls sit in the water overnight. Check their color in the morning.

Second Art Project: Natural Paints

After setting up the crockpot, let the students work on the second art project. It can be fun to see what colors flowers can make. Give each child a piece of white 8 ½ x 11 paper and place vases of different colored flowers in the center. Let the children tear pieces of the flower petals off and push and drag them across the page to see what plants make a color. Try different ways of moving the flowers to get different effects. After some practice time, give them a fresh piece of paper and encourage them to “paint” a picture with their natural paints.

Friday – make field trip journals

Read The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forestby Lynne Cherry. This type of book works best without any additional conversation or discussion. Next, let the children make their own leaf stencils. Provide a selection of fresh tree leaves (of various types) for students to choose from. Each child needs to trace his/her leaf onto a piece of construction paper, then cut out the design from the inside, leaving a leaf-shaped hole in the paper. Lay this template over another piece of construction paper (to be the journal cover) and lightly dab tempera paint over the leaf-shaped hole using the sponges. Remove the stencil by lifting straight up. If a handle is needed for the stencil to make lifting easier, bend a small piece of paper into an L shape and glue or tape it to the stencil so that one part of the L is flat on the stencil and the other is sticking straight up into the air like a handle.

Have each child write his/her name on the back of the artwork. Fold and hole punch 8 ½ x 11 white paper, punch artwork to match. Tie ribbons through holes. Have each child write the name of the field trip destination, the date, and his/her age on Page 1 of the journal. Have each child write a prediction of what he/she expects to see and do on the field trip on Page 2. Take the journals and a pencil for each child so that he/she can take notes on the field trip.

Materials List

White dandelion head full of seeds
Large piece of white wrapping paper or craft paper
Large piece of chart paper
Two clear drinking glasses
Two stalks of celery (with leaves, if possible)
Celery root (celeriac)
Selection of edible seeds, such as sunflower seeds or sesame seeds
Selection of edible roots, such as carrots or turnips
8 ½ x 11 white paper
Pencils and/or crayons
Selection of edible leaves, such as spinach or lettuce
A peach
Selection of fruits and vegetables containing seeds, such as cherries, zucchini, and tomatoes
Container of blueberries
White vinegar
Cotton balls (100% cotton)
An assortment of fresh flowers in different colors
Construction paper
A selection of fresh tree leaves
Tempera paint
Small sponges
3 hole punch
8 ½ x 11 inch white paper
Ribbon in various colors

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Steiner Party

Steiner says...

One of the women in our group shared that she knew a lady who taught her parrot to squawk the phrase "Steiner says..." I thought that was so hilarious! Anyway, I was on Amazon looking for something completely different -- books about plants -- and the "you may be interested in" box popped up with a title by Steiner that I didn't recognize. So I looked it over and it looked interesting so I clicked "add to cart" and then all these other titles that I had never heard of before began to pop up. I have a pretty good selection of Steiner's works already but this opened up a whole new world for me, more on the spiritual side than the curriculum side. So I ended up with 14 books in my cart and when they arrive at my home I'm going to sit down with them and have myself a Steiner party!

Here they are, in no particular order: