Thursday, October 1, 2020

Bird Study & Fine Motor Skills

After the Monarch Butterfly project in Kindy (and an overall Insects theme), I decided to do something about Birds with Zac. It seemed like a nice segue from the Antlion to look at other animals that build. I also realized that this topic lends itself to lots of Kindergarten fine motor skills practice! Ultimately, I want to move on to Autumn and spiders and let him create lots of webs with yarn outdoors. The child is constantly tying knots, and I'd definitely prefer that he put that passion to artistic use as opposed to constantly tying yarn onto every doorknob and dresser drawer handle he can find.

Outdoor yarn projects are also a good fit with the acrylic yarn that we have had donated to us. I'd rather use the yummy natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, angora, camel, alpaca etc. for knitting and crochet and weaving (tactile experiences that feel cozy and nurturing, as the children work with the fibers for weeks and weeks to make animals and clothing and gifts with their hands); the more inexpensive and less texturally appealing yarns are good for other kinds of less-permanent projects. And now that we have an Outdoor Classroom, I can use all that extra yarn in new and creative ways!

Here are some notes from our Bird study so far. Because of my high workload right now, I'm doing formal Kindergarten with Zac only three days a week. He's also doing Tinkergarten Circle Time on Wednesdays, so that he has an experience of another teacher and a new set of classmates. We have really enjoyed it, and I'll make some notes here of ideas we've incorporated.

Monday, September 21

    this was still very much a monarch day as -- for the first time -- we actually got to watch a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis!

Tuesday, September 22

  • talk about animals as architects
  • read bird information from We Build Our Homes by Laura Madden*

      Weaver Birds
      Satin Bowerbirds
      Sociable Weavers
      Edible-Nest Swiftlets
      Great Spotted Woodpeckers
      White Storks

  • *the complete list of animals in this book also includes

      Paper Wasps
      Caddisfly Larvae
      Trapdoor Spiders
      Darwin's Bark Spiders
      Weaver Ants
      Gopher Tortoises
      Prairie Dogs
      Harvest Mice

Wednesday, September 23

  • read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

  • do some bird nest sketching and bird nest dissections
  • start to build enormous bird nest sculpture
  • add yarn-wrapped sticks to sculpture
  • sweep up dried grass from the driveway and sidewalks and fill a wagon with it, to add to the center of our bird nest

This week I introduced two new movement verses, bringing us to six in all:

This week was also our first week of Tinkergarten, and the animal that Zac learned about in his Zoom session was beavers and how they build with sticks! So that couldn't have been any more perfect.

The Tinkergarten theme for the Fall is Creativity and not-a play ideas (as in, not-a-stick or not-a-box). Zac had already been using sticks to stir his potions and as a magic wand, so it was easy to play not-a-stick. And making yarn-wrapped sticks is lovely for fine motor practice, and added an extra POP of color to the nest project I had already planned on.

In Not a Stick, the little pig pretends to be holding a paintbrush and the painting shown is Van Gogh's Starry Night. I happened to have an early childhood 24 piece puzzle on hand of that painting, which I hadn't yet given to Zac to do. He was SOOOO excited. It was a fun connection with the book!

~ ~ ~

Monday, September 28

  • finish adding yarn wrapped sticks to nest and fill it with the soft dried grass
  • discuss whether other animals -- besides birds -- build nests
  • read A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston

  • use play dough to make a model of an ovenbird nest

Tuesday, September 29

  • set up Haba Terra Kids block and tackle pulley system to lower pails of "food" to children in the nest who are playing at being baby birds
  • discuss whether other animals -- besides birds -- lay eggs
  • read An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston

  • begin sewing project inspired by the tailorbird (running stitch on burlap with large needle and perle cotton)

    I DO put masking tape all around the raw edge of the burlap

    I DO NOT tie the thread to the needle with a knot

    I DO NOT make dots on the burlap with a Sharpie to show how to space the stitches evenly

Wednesday, September 30

We've continued to find fun points of connection. Zac and I played Monkey Bingo together after we read about the orangutan babies in their nests. I'm not sure he really knew what an orangutan was before. And I really wanted to get some meringue cookies after we read A Nest is Noisy, since she describes a nest as being like a meringue (the nests of African gray tree frogs – described as a “frothy mass that hardens into a meringue like crust”) and I know he hasn't had one. Sadly, none of the grocery stores had them.

In Tinkergarten this week, the not-a was not-a-bowl, so I gave Zac a coconut shell to play with. He enjoyed using it to mix up special potions (and sensory play with coffee was well received). They used their bowls for mud play via Zoom that week. The animal they learned about, which builds with mud, was a house martin. A bird! How perfect for our study! And it was amazing how much mud play took on new life with the simple addition of coffee grounds.

When the Tinkergarten teacher introduces the new animal for the week, she gives several clues and then the children have to guess. It reminded me of a game I played with my girls all the time when they were little. Zac loves it too. It's called "I'm Thinking of an Animal." The trick is that you don't guess the animal right away. You ask more questions that will give you more clues. For example,

"I'm thinking of an animal."
"How big is this animal?"
"Very big."
"What does this animal eat?"
"Leaves and grass and twigs."
"What color is this animal?"
"Where does this animal live?"
"On the green continent [Africa]."
"Does this animal have a very long nose?"
"Is it an elephant?"

It is much more challenging for kids than a regular guessing game because you have to think about categories of information that will be useful to you in narrowing down the aniaml.

In Circle Time this week, I took away the first two verses we have been doing for a while and added in two new ones, which gave us:

Six seems to be the just-right amount of things to remember. And, of course, all of the free play stuff is always ongoing, like

filling pails with flowers
watering everything in sight with the new watering cans

writing on tree stumps with chalk... washing off the chalk
filling a hole in the stump with water... over and over... watching it disappear... where does it go?

potion play... collecting berries and leaves from plants around the yard
using sticks as magic wands... freezing and unfreezing with magic spells

watching a squirrel assiduously burying acorns all over the yard

finding a 5 inch tall baby oak tree that is growing under the magnolia tree (because a squirrel forgot to come back and get an acorn)

collecting acorns
collecting buckeyes
adding old muffin pans and egg cartons to the mud kitchen for sorting work
playing restaurant and making lots of soups and salads and baked goods

making mud with coffee grounds (and reading a Mud poem)

    "Mud, mud, glorious mud.
    Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
    So follow me, follow,
    down to the hollow,
    and there let us wallow in glorious mud."

"I'm going to transport it" (pouring conconctions from one pot to the next)

"smells like spider webs" (making mud with cornstarch)

getting plastic animals muddy and washing them... over and over... this is another kind of play that never seems to get old!

digging in the pretend stream
finding a slug
setting up a "boat" and tying yarn to sticks to go fishing

finding a volunteer pumpkin growing in the compost pile
(which was extremely fortunate because Zac took apart the solo brand-new baby pumpkin that was growing in our intentionally-planted pumpkin patch because he wanted to see what was inside the little green ball)

~ ~ ~

Zac still likes sitting in his Cardboard Box Castle and I gave him an old corded phone so that he can make "phone calls" while he hangs out in there. It struck me the other day when we were making our play dough ovenbird nests that playing at being birds is another safe-feeling play, like being in your own little kingdom was. The kingdom play was about keeping a distance and being able to be on your own and be content. The bird play is more about nurturing gestures and taking the time to show tender loving care.

It has amazed me how many hours he has spent sitting in the bird nest, pretending to be a baby bird, since we built it. And pretending to be a mama bird and lowering the pail of food down to feed someone else. And I don't think it's 100% about the pulley. I think it's about the love.

Building a nest is a careful act of love. Sewing too is about slowing down and taking your time. You are wrapping everything in a gesture of kindness, thoughtfulness, peacefulness. Being nurturing to others is an act that also heals the soul and makes you feel safe. So I'm so pleased that we decided to spend the time on this topic!

Actually, I'm thinking now that it's quite different from the gesture of a spider that builds to trap its food. So I think when we get to that I'll need to give it more of a Celebrating the Beautiful Changing Seasons slant, and not a "you are being a blood-thirsty spider so go and build an elaborate trap for your prey" slant.

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