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“Dinosaur Poop Doesn’t Stink!” Rock Talk Excitement

One great thing about our learning community is the range of knowledge and resources within it. J’s grandpa is a retired teacher and geologist so we made plans for Grandpa Tom to share his love of rocks with each of our classes. Part of the plan included gifting each child a rock collection.

In anticipation of our collection, each child decorated their “rock box.”  Inside each lid, J’s mom included a key of the 6 type of stones we would soon learn about. The key included a “polished mystery rock” and an online source to try identify it.

      

Children were mesmerized as “Granpda Tom” led our circle, sharing stories and a wide range of rocks, fossils and geo stones. Tom’s grandson assumed the honored assistant role, as we did a sink or float experiment. We guessed which rocks would dive down to the bottom of the giant jar and which would buoy up to the top. 

 

Tom’s story of a man first discovering the hidden beauty of a rock impressed the wide-eyed listeners.The man wanted a cow to get out of his way and the cow wouldn’t budge. So the man did something unfriendly and tossed an ordinary looking rock at the cow. He missed the cow and instead, the rock landed hard on the ground, breaking open. As the man approached the split rock, he found a geode inside! (And the cow got to graze on at its own pace without injury). 

Tom also shared fossilized dinosaur poop (coprolite) which fascinated the captive audience. Tom named that it was real dino poop that had changed over time and then passed the coprolite around the circle for each child to handle. The first child held it with both hands, looked closely at it with a furrowed brow, and then brought it up to their nose to sniff, discovering, “Dinosaur poop doesn’t stink!” 

Here’s a clip of children sorting their stones to match the corresponding key:

Following snack, we checked out a variety of stones outside. Children used their newly acquired pocket magnifiers to take a closer look. They observed similarities and differences among stones and shared myriad questions with Tom who welcomed their enthusiasm and encouraged ongoing inquiry.

 

   

Thanks to J’s family for supporting HFP’s commitment to loving and preserving the earth– one rock at a time.

Check out Mount Hood Rock Club for more info

Rock Identification website 

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Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere!

Providing open-ended activity prompts and supplying children with materials that mirror the current seasons makes for joyful, individualized and creative learning.

       

    

G independently creates a costume for one of our “bowling bunnies.” We invite G to teach others to share her process so they can join in the fun of costume design. We gather flower petals, tissue, construction paper, scissors, tape and glue in the play yard. We are immersed in the sounds of spring–birds chirping, squirrels scurrying and even a lawn mower buzzing in the distance. Some children assemble costumes for a bunny and others build crowns for themselves. This is a thrilling process. One child even heads home to create a crown for their beloved stuffie.

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We introduced Spider (puppet) along with a cooperative hide n’ seek game in which children team up to find and gather Spider’s eggs (cotton balls), returning them to their nest. Since then, Spider has become a valued member of our classroom community. Spider delights in individual children; jokes with children who are in a funk; and invites children to teach her how to take on the challenges they have mastered– like swinging or sliding, while expressing her own intimidation about trying such things.

E gathers petals to adorn the  home of our pet Spider’s nest of eggs.

 

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Rabbits: Celebrating Spring & Contemplating Immigration

For the past several years, we’ve coordinated a spring visit with an HFP alumni family’s angora rabbits. Getting to visit, hold and pet “real rabbits” elicits great joy. Connecting with a fluffy, living creature will be a precious, memorable experience. I think about a way to build on the enthusiasm of the visiting rabbits as a foray to facilitate interest in a meaningful topic that might otherwise not get the attention, critical thought and support it deserves. I know of the perfect children’s book we can share to support children’s interest in immigration. We can help counter some of the prevalent, misinformed, racist and xenophobic messages that are circulating in the media. We can plant a seed for our daily rabbit themed activities to conjure up a deeper meaning of travel, home, immigration and freedom.

Dos conejos blancos (Two White Rabbits)

We share Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng’s powerful immigration story in which a child and her father journey north to the United States. Along the way, the girl is gifted two rabbits who they ultimately set free.

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 “As many thousands of people, especially children, in Mexico and Central America continue to make the arduous journey to the US border in search of a better life, this is an important book that shows a young migrant’s perspective.” (excerpt from book jacket).

We invite families to reflect on their countries of origin, considering where our non-native families first immigrated from. We also use a Family Share prompt to invite children to consider what travelers would need during their long journey.

Then we introduce a newly invented game in which some of us “travelers” move across the play yard obstacle course to make our way to a new home in the United States. Others are “helpers,” handing out necessary resources — the ideas we jotted down earlier for the Family Share — food, water, cozy blankets, flashlight, beloved “stuffy,” etc. Occasionally  a  “helper” tries to gift a couch or a table— items that we find so useful in our daily lives at home, but are too heavy to bring on a journey; so we explain we need to wait to receive those generous offerings until after we are settled in our new homes. This is a new game for us and the process of playing it a bit allowed us an opportunity to notice what children already know and where some of the gaps in understanding lie. Having an opportunity to use our bodies, assume imaginary roles, and assist others is key. We’ll likely revisit the game and see how we might adjust or build on it to deepen children’s engagement–most likely by sharing more immigration stories or family histories.

Visiting Rabbits

  

    

Mazes

We use dry erase markers on laminate pages. Rabbits make their way through challenging routes to the ultimate reward–delicious carrots. 

 

We build mazes using blocks. We spread out carrots and laminated veggie cards for rabbit figurines to hop and find.

  

Carrot-Themed Snacks

We make carrot muffins; and include carrots with leafy green tops and rabbit-shaped crackers, along with some scrumptious fruits and dips.

  

Marble Painting

We offer rabbit/conejo shaped paper and coloring pages, along with marbles to roll through the paint. 

 

Ears & Tails

We offer rabbit ears and tails for children to don during their daily engagements of sewing animal and flower cards and balancing across the new obstacle challenge we built. 

       

Thanks to HFP alumni families Karin & Zoe (16 years) of Sinfully Soft for sharing rabbits, and Hillari Montouri for curriculum planning support.

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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.