Monday, May 3, 2021

Week of April 26

Some quick notes & links about our Outdoor Classroom activities this week!

Although we had to pause working on them somewhat and devote a significant amount of time to our gardening projects this week (to prepare for all the Botany in May & June), our current main lesson block topics are:

Jataka Tales
Ancient Mythology: Egypt

Students are still getting individual math lessons on Montessori materials including the Colored Bead Bars and building the Decanomial, the Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles and Fraction Activity Set 1, and the Checker Board.

Language Arts is still going strong -- even in a week of mostly Gardening Projects -- as it is quite a challenge to read long passages of information in gardening books about the plant you are researching, decide what matters most, and write it on your index card in short bullet points. A lot of children are having a hard time figuring out what information is essential and what is extra, and they call me over for help quite often so that we can talk through it together. It has been a nice complement to our larger month-long theme of summarizing legends as opposed to retelling them!

Little mini-lessons happen during our editing meetings for the MLBs as well. The Ancient Egypt students all found it tempting to slip into second person when writing about the mummification process, so that gave me a good opportunity to explain 1st/2nd/3rd person point of view. One student wanted to fill his Jataka Tale summary with dialogue, so we went over how to correctly use commas with quotation marks. These lessons make so much more sense, and students remember them better, when they happen within an authentic context.

Monday, April 26

  • Gardening Projects: read over master list of plants we have or plan to purchase (vegetable & culinary herb garden, medicinal herb garden, dye garden, pollinator garden, fruit & nut trees), have children volunteer to "adopt" the plants they would like to start/plant/tend/ harvest, choose volunteers for non-planting jobs including Map Maker (who will measure and draw on graph paper our garden beds to scale and mark down what is planted where) and Water Captain, lay down pavers to create paths in pollinator garden, list what facts we will need to know about each plant we are planting and decide how to organize our research on index cards, walk around the yard and carefully choose the best places for our baby trees depending on their sun/soil/height/width requirements, get out tree cages to protect our little bareroot trees from lawnmowers and deer, plant pawpaw and black cherry trees, listen to old American folksong "Paw Paw Patch"
  • Nature: observe the honeybees going in and out of the swarm box (we saw the bees scouting last week and the whole swarm arrived yesterday afternoon at 12:50 pm)
  • Early Childhood: read pp.7-11 of Play with Plants by Millicent Ellis Selsam, begin sweet potato vine and celery experiments

    Regrowing Celery: How To Plant Celery Bottoms In The Garden

  • Lower Elementary: work on Watercolor Fruit Still Life paintings of fresh or dried figs (today we did the light table tracing and began the painting with either water-soluble oil pastels or watercolor pencils)
  • Upper Elementary: check on and measure height/width/mass of apple mummies begun last week, begin fish mummy Nefertrouti II (using a dressed rainbow trout and 3 lbs of kosher salt)

Tuesday, April 27

  • Early Childhood: outdoor free play including lots of bug hunting, play Dog Bingo (this also constituted advanced alphabetizing work for the older student who was their bingo caller), dicuss Charles Darwin and his plant experiments inspired by the Galápagos Islands, start seeds which have been soaking in salt water for a little over a week (we will plant a second batch next week which will have soaked even longer)

    ocean water recipe: 3 T salt to 6 cups water
    soak each kind of seed separately in a plastic cup

    we are experimenting with quinoa, corn, daisy, sunflower, cucumber, radish, avocado, and watermelon

  • Nature: the swarm trap was picked up last night at 10 pm by the beekeeper and a new swarm trap set in its place (last year we captured two swarms of bees in that location!)
  • Gardening Projects: set up plant research station (with gardening books, pens and index cards, boxes of seeds, trays of plant starts, and our spreadsheet) and have children begin to research the growing requirements (sun, soil, water, spacing) and companion plants for the plants they have adopted, plant fragrant sumac, begin to hammer in sticks for a woven border around our pawpaw patch

  • Lower Elementary: complete Watercolor Fruit Still Life, hear new story "Flight of the Beasts"
  • Upper Elementary: check on apple and fish mummification projects

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener:
How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live

by Nikki Jabbour

How To Grow Food:
A Step-by-step Guide to Growing All Kinds of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Salads and More

by Richard Gianfrancesco

Cinder Block Gardens:
Finally, Gardening Made Simple and Easy the Way Gardening Should Be!

by Lynn Gillespie

The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener:
A Guide to Growing Your Garden Organically

by Karan Davis Cutler, et al.

Carrots Love Tomatoes:
Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

by Louise Riotte

Wednesday, April 28

  • Unscheduled Wednesday: we are experimenting with a new weekly rhythm which would entail both the gold and silver groups having all of their academic work time first thing in the mornings... so that the afternoons would then be free for a large block of uninterrupted play

    This conversation came about because our previous schedule of "school meeting, play, meet for snack and have a lesson, play, have lunch, play, have afternoon work time, play" was really choppy. I always felt like I was pulling them away right when they got into really deep rich play, and the day just didn't have good flow. When children came to their lessons, the transitions took forever. Plus, they were half thinking about what they would do when they could get back to their games. So, we thought maybe to begin with all of the academic things and then when those tasks were completed the rest of the time would be open-ended and relaxed. As the weather gets hotter, it also makes sense to work in the mornings while it is cool; then in the afternoons when people are hot and feel like being laid back, they aren't being asked to switch into main lesson book mode!

    To balance out the fact that I am wanting to increase their academic work time and fill the mornings with more things, we decided that Wednesdays would be completely unscheduled. Today we tried it!

    Here are some things we got done during our first day of not getting anything done:

    carefully observe the ants in the ant farm

    plant two plum trees (amending the soil first with a bit of sand)

    finish making canopic jar lids out of self-hardening clay

    work on researching plants for our vegetable garden and write notes on index cards (children often worked in pairs to help each other)

    weave sticks into our woven border for the pawpaw patch

    run around in the rain

    collect worms

    mud kitchen play

    climb trees

    play soccer

    sit in the Art Room and chat

    play soccer some more

    measure each other to see who is taller

    help remove broken pieces of the Canteen Tent frame

    organize and pack our Canteen Tent Repair Kit

    read Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin

    check on apple and fish mummies

    discuss our seeds soaked in salt water (if salt pulls out liquid in the mummifying projects, will it render the seeds dry & lifeless as well?)

    play Ravine and Who Pooped? A Matching and Memory Game

    decide on a storage system for our cooling Summer Scarves filled with expanding water beads soaked in ice water (thank you to the parent who is sewing two of these for each person in our group!)

    build a cardboard box fort

    have a School Meeting to sort out the rules and expectation behind "Collaborative Fort Building with Cardboard As the Main Building Medium" versus Boxville

Thursday, April 29

  • EC: check on results of our Darwin plant experiments, read Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George
  • Gardening Projects: work diligently on plant research cards (deadline is this afternoon so that we can start to get plants in the ground on Friday), start seeds, measure our vegetable garden fenced-in area (17 feet x 26 feet) and create a scale drawing of the garden showing the length / width / location of each straw bale on 11 x 14 inch Ghostline poster board, number each straw bale planting bed

    the students seem to really enjoy adopting their plants and learning all about them! the Stinging Nettle person did extra research at home and did a presentation on Stinging Nettle, so now the class is excited to see (and not touch) this unique medicinal herb when it arrives

  • Structured Word Inquiry: revisit the bound base < hydr > and explain that < o > can be a connecting vowel letter and is found in words like < hydrometer > and < hydroelectric >

    create word sums for some words in the family of < fract > which are built on the same base and share the meaning of "break"

    fract + ion

    fract + ure

    re + fract

    in + fract + ion

    do Pattern Play (a worksheet of my own design)

    I have created two versions of this worksheet:
    Pattern Play
    Pattern Play with Examples

    page 2 is harder and can be used for students who are early finishers

    these sheets led to some interesting discussions!

    students wondered what the word sum was for < chocolate > and whether < -ate > was a suffix in that word

    one child wrote < naturalists > for the "base plus two suffixes" pattern... and then was surprised to discover that < naturalists > is actually built on the bound base < nate >

    nate/ + ure/ + al + ist + s

    the slash denotes an < e > which is replaced by a vowel suffix

    this is actually a base plus four suffixes!

    some students took these sheets home to challenge their parents!

  • Script: learn five remaining letters (Diagonal Downstroke Family and the Sibilant Pair)
  • Poem in Your Pocket Day: celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day by reading "To make a prairie" by Emily Dickinson, give students the chance to illustrate this poem printed as a PDF or rewrite it beautifully in Script to carry it in their pockets, read Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World by Jeanette Winter

    when I was a student at Mount Holoyoke College, they were very proud that Emily Dickinson attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (class of 1849)

  • UE: discard old salt and put fresh salt on Nefertrouti II

Friday, April 30

  • Gardening Projects: thank you to the student who carefully laid out all the plant research index cards on the Library floor with me and helped decide where each fruit, vegetable, and herb should logically go according to the Companion Planting notes

    begin carrot top and beet top experiments from Play with Plants by Millicent Ellis Selsam, start more seeds

    first plantings in our straw bales! today we got in the sweet peppers, the marshmallow, and the strawberries

    look at our newest plants from LEAF and do some plant identification lessons since they all arrived unlabeled

    one student was very excited to ID lemon balm
    "I know that's in the mint family because it has a square stem"

    it is fun to hear how excited they are about this topic
    "wait! I just had a small Botany brainwave!"

    turn on the garden sprinkler (to test it) and run under it (for fun)

  • LE: recall and add "The Flight of the Beasts" to MLB, hear new story "The Wise Dove" and consider what the moral may be
  • UE: recall Anubis (God of Mummification), add to MLB a summary of what happens to your body and spirit after you die in Ancient Egypt

    body: the removal of four key organs which are then placed in the canopic jars to be guarded by the Four Sons of Horus, the 70 days of salt, the placing of amulets and charms, the careful wrapping in linen

    Hapy, the baboon, protects the lungs

    Imsety, the human, protects the liver

    Duamtef, the jackal, protects the stomach

    Qebehseneuf, the falcon, protects the intestines

    spirit: the long and difficult passage through the Duat (underworld) accompanied by the Four Sons of Horus, the entering into the Hall of Judgment and meeting Anubis, the reciting of your good deeds before the gods by Anubis, the ceremony presided over by Osiris of testing your heart against Maat (the feather of truth) at the penultimate gate (and having Thoth write down the results and Ammut "the devourer" eat you if your heart is heavier than the feather), the passage through the final gate and becoming a Westerner and reuniting with your loved ones and having all of the possessions which were placed in the tomb with you for your long eternal life in the Field of Reeds

    I also got down the sarcophagus from the Art Room shelf and showed the students my completed chicken and fish mummies (from previous years) which have been carefully dried out and wrapped up and now rest in the sarcophagus along with scrolls of hieroglyphs

  • Community Building: thank you to all of the parents who stayed at pick up on Friday afternoon to help us put up the Canteen Tent once again! we are incredibly lucky to have this 12 x 20 foot screen room as part of our Outdoor Classroom setup and we use it constantly

    I am very grateful that the company is still in business so that I can slowly replace parts which have gotten older and more fragile

    I just ordered replacements of the supporting poles and the shock corded center roof poles (and discovered that the supporting poles are made with a new design now that looks to be more sturdy)

    perhaps over the next year or so, we will have replaced every part and it'll be brand new again! I feel a bit like Johnny Cash

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