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Spring Trees

We continue our Spring focus, noticing the natural world waking up. We shift our attention from eggs to trees. We note the new growth — both foliage and flowers — and we consider the life that trees support — starting with eggs! We laminate the children’s individual eggs from the prior class period and invite them to cut them out. The eggs are now shiny and most children welcome the challenge of cutting the thicker material.

We revisit the Family Share in which children consider a creature that hatches from an egg. Children reflect on their knowledge of hatching critters as they cut.

We decide to make a giant nest for our eggs. A few children team up to draw and cut out construction paper twigs, then glue them onto a large paper. Their collective investment builds as each child adds their egg to the giant collaged nest. 

We center Maya Christina Gonzalez’s stunning book to ground some of our exploration. The colorful illustrations, integrated use of Spanish, inclusion of characters with a variety of skin tones, and gender-neutral references makes this book one of my favorites. No matter how little or deeply children connect with the book, they are taking in life-affirming images, words and messages.

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At circle, we recite a part of the book and create a movement activity as seeds in the tierra (earth), sprout, grow and reach toward the cielo (sky). Offering this kinesthetic invitation deepens children’s investment in the story and brings the book to life. 

 

Making Leaf Necklaces

We gather the leaves from a nearby Camelia tree. Children use hole punchers to create holes in the leaves. They add those, along with pieces of clear straw “spacers,” and colored netting (from produce bags) to create leaf/flower necklaces. We venture outside wearing our new tree jewelry to get a closer look at the nesting robins. The nest is tucked among rhododendron leaves just outside our play yard. We bring a stepladder and children take turns climbing the rungs to take a peek at the robins. When we go on a neighborhood rain walk, we peer into the tree to see if the robins are home. When we scooter-board down the sidewalk, some look to see if they can catch a glimpse of our feathery friends. We’ll continue to monitor the nest over the next few weeks– witnessing the vibrancy of spring in its branches: Baby robins may hatch and those rhoddies will soon produce giant hot pink blossoms. 

 

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Spring Brings New Life!: Nowruz, Eggs and Hatching Critters.

Spring had sprung in Portland! Daffodils are in full bloom, many trees and bushes are sporting vibrant green growth, and the robins are building nests and pulling worms from the damp ground. I spot a robin’s nest just outside our play yard fence, so we take turns climbing up a step ladder to get a closer look. To help direct children’s attention to the earth waking up from winter slumber, our Family Share prompts focus on nests, eggs and new life. Since we have a family in our community with Iranian heritage, we partner together to share a bit about Nowruz, Persian New Year, as the timing corresponds with the spring equinox. 

Family Share

Prompt: We are Celebrating Nowruz (Persian New Year) and Celebrating Spring.

Question: Have you started something new? Or seen something starting to grow?

Responses:

C-The pear tree starting to grow
Z-The grass and pear tree are growing
S-The raspberry bush
C-Lots of plum and cherry trees blooming
A-Pepinos (cucumber)
S-Seeing little flowers growing in the garden
S-We see Flowers!
C-New flowers and blooming trees
C-Flowers
S-Peas
B-Peas
K-I planted a basil plant
L-We spotted bald eagles
H-Daffodils in our garden
F-Flowers
E-Our plum tree
H-Grass
H-I just planted some flower seeds! I can’t wait to watch them sprout out of the ground.

Eggs-Symbol of new life.

We furnish the classroom with books about spring, eggs, and budding life; and we offer many hands-on activities for children to consider the new life they may witness and/or to invent their own stories of new life. We create a matching/sequence card game using photos of eggs and hatched versions of the critters that hatched from them. We intentionally include spiders and snakes to help broaden children’s interest in these critters beyond creatures-to-fear. The magnet board is full of a wide range of birds and we play a cooperative game in which we work together to get the owls safe to their nest before the sun rises. At the end of our mornings together, we search for insect eggs beneath play yard stones; and remind children of our commitment to be gentle with all living creatures and to do no harm. 

 

  

Painting Eggs

There are giant eggs (huevos) outlines drawn on the easel for children to paint and individual paper eggs to sponge-paint. As children paint, we consider who might hatch from each egg and we joke about outlandish things that would never hatch from an egg (like a monster truck!). 

Dictating Nest Stories

We offer children brown playdough along with some nest-making materials such as twigs, grass and moss. Children assemble their own nests and invent stories to accompany them. As they share their ideas, I invite them to more fully map out their story. I ask clarifying questions and encourage children to represent their ideas by drawing elements in their stories. 

S: “Spider gets full on worms: The spider lives in the nest. It’s trying to find a worm. I try to dig in the ground in about 1 million worms so he ate them.”
 

C: “There was one baby spider that wanted a mama and then her dad came in and said, ‘I don’t wanna dad.’ And then the little baby spider want them both. And they little happily ever after. Even the grandpa spider too.”

S: “The worm is trying to eat the bees. It’s going to ask, “Can I eat the bees?’ And he’s going to say yes.”

K: “First the Bluejay heard a sound and it ran to it. And it got louder and it ran the way it came— back to its home. Then it came later when the sound got quieter. It lifted its wings and it flyed. And then it went east and went up into the sky. It went up and it flyed And then it was in its nest.”

W: “The Wren bird built a nest. And it broke when the mama was getting some worms for its babies. And then the mama bird heard them falling. And then she came really quick. Then she let go of them and they started to fly. And then there was a disco party for all the birds they knew. What you need for a Bird Disco Party: Worms, gummy worms, sour gummy worms, coconut cake with worms, dancing, bird decorations.”

S: “Robin and Cheetah Solve a Problem: Robin was flying to get a worm. But then it saw a cheetah and the cheetah wanted to eat the worm that the Robin got. They splitted it and then they shared it.”

Building Playdough Nests

The next school day, we invite children to bring their nests to the block table so they can inhabit the nests with animal figurines. In this way, we support continued interest in children’s creations; and provide children with a hook for deeper story engagement. 

Following last week’s focus on eggs and nests, we’re focusing on Trees this week. We’ll share highlights from Tree week next Tuesday. 

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Love Makes A Family

We continue our focus on rainbows and introduce the rainbow pride flag. Children are immediately drawn to its majesty. We talk about what pride means (feeling good about yourself) and what the flag symbolizes (welcoming  ALL families). While the scope of the pride flag and LGBTQI liberation is broader, we start by sharing that the flag affirms families with two moms or two dads. 

Family Share

We add photos of families waving pride flags and celebrating at past pride parades. We invite children to notice what they like about the pictures. Most can’t resist the vibrant color of the flag or the costumes people are wearing. Lots of children want a chance to wave the glorious flag. I decide to order a bunch of smaller versions that we can revisit and distribute later in the school year.

Activism

We read Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown to honor the activism of “Gilbert Baker, the rainbow flag maker.”  

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I share a bit about the 2015 supreme court ruing in favor of marriage equality eager to share two photos of the white house– a standard representation and one in which the white house is illuminated in rainbow lights in celebration of the supreme court ruling. I name that lots of people worked hard for many years to help influence the change to make things more fair for women who love women and men who love men.

Out magazine's Power 50 list ranks  "the most influential voices in LGBT America."

Photo: Gary Cameron/ Reuters

Building Rainbows

Children access a wide range of materials from magna-blocks, to colored window blocks, to mosaic blocks, to a giant sparkly floor puzzle. Rainbows are constructed out of each medium.

We share some of our favorite books featuring various family configurations and will revisit these in small groups over the next few weeks.

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Here’s a clip of one of our moms reading from the tail end of Families, Families, Families and receiving the ultimate reward from her daughter.

 

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It’s Rainbow Weather!

We’re celebrating rainbow season! The temperatures have risen and we’re delighting in the intermittent rain and sunshine, knowing they make rainbows possible.

Family Share

Morning Question: What is one of your favorite colors of the rainbow? Each child writes their name in the arc of the rainbow color they most appreciate.  We notice who likes the same colors and which friends like other colors. 

   

Once each child has a couple of days to pick favorite colors, we invite children to add puffy clouds. The simple task of squeezing glue bottles and adhering cotton balls engrosses those involved.

Painting

The broad array of color lends itself to some vibrant, energetic paintings. Some children paint by themselves while others partner with a friend.

   

Sensory Table

We invite children to make clouds and rainbows. This mucky experiment combines  ivory soap flakes, torn toilet paper and warm water. It’s thrilling for children to shred the soap, and tear or karate chop the toilet paper. As we add warm water, the consistency dramatically changes and the mush is sculptable. After a class session of exploring the white cloud colors, we add pipettes of watercolors and watch the transformation.

 

 

 

  

  

Collaborative Art

We offer a collaborative class collage opportunity. Together we use dot markers and a range of colored textured fabrics to bring the rainbow outline to life.

Snack

Parents support our rainbow focus by bringing in a wide range of produce. There is so much joy in helping prepare and arrange the colorful bounty the earth offers.

  

  

  

Play Yard

We hang our rainbow “storm streamers” to adorn the sandbox and get out an array of colored dishes. Our rain barrel provides scoop after scoop of water to make mud pies! 

  

At the end of one of our mornings together, we notice that rainbow weather is brewing: the sun is sparkling and dark clouds are on the horizon. Children staying after school for “lunch bunch” abort their outdoor picnic, bringing their half-eaten lunches inside.  They tell me, “A big storm is coming! ” We talk about how these are the ideal conditions for rainbows.  I tell them to keep their eyes out for rainbows over the next couple of days and to let me know if they get to see one.  Later that afternoon, I get a text from T and her mom. They live in SE not far from the school. “We just saw a rainbow! ” complete with rainbow emoji and the photo below. 

Thanks to HFP Alumni parent/Teaching Assistant, Hillary Montouri for her support with Rainbow themed curriculum planning. 

Thanks to teaching assistant, Stephanie Hart, for co-facilitating our rainbow exploration.

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More Snow Stories!

 At HFP we are committed to observing, connecting with, and honoring the natural world. This typically involves mirroring the weather and seasons in our classroom activities. Given the recent snow, we offered a few ways to create snow paintings and prompts for children to dictate their own wildlife snow stories. We also re-visted a favorite winter book: Un Dia Nieve, in which a child makes tracks in the snow and makes some cold “snow” dough for sculpting and inventing stories.

Making Animal Tracks in the Snow

  

As children walk each critter across the page, we chat about where that animal may be going or what they might be doing. These ideas may be fodder for later story-telling.

Dictating and Illustrating Forest Animal Snow Stories

We transform our completed and dry animal snow track paintings into covers for children’s dictated stories. To add to the excitement, children select three northwest wildlife animal stickers to include in their illustrations. As each child tells their story, others listen. Their storylines inspire the content of other writers. C decides to include an apple tree in his story after hearing a friend’s tale, but is flummoxed about how to draw one. That’s when L offeres a solution to the problem: “I know. I could draw an apple tree on a different piece of paper. And then you can draw one.” C is interested and watches L draw his version. C is still a little uneasy. Then I ask L if he is willing to show C how to draw it step by step. “Sure.” Success! Both boys take pride in their connection and their ability to represent their ideas through pictures.

At circle, we read Un Dia De Nieve in both Spanish and English and emphasize that people speak thousands of languages all around the world to gently broaden children’s perspectives. The main character Peter crunches through the snow making various tracks with his feet just as the animals made tracks. Peter varies his tracks by pointing his toes in and pointing his toes out. We pause during the story inviting children to point their toes out and to point their toes in just as Peter does. Children get to use their eager bodies to more deeply engage in the story.

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Sculpting with Snow Dough

   

We sculpted snow people using a cold easy-to-make “snow dough” by mixing these three ingredients and refrigerating:

  • 1 cup of corn starch
  • 1 cup of lotion
  • peppermint extract (optional)

Thanks to Lyndsay Hogland for her ongoing exceptional editing support.