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Outdoor Science School ~Day Two. It’s all about the water! May 23, 2017

Today we had another beautiful day for our outdoor science school ~ blue skies, sunshine, high around 80, but a wonderful breeze!  We walked along the South Fork of the Palouse for a day focused on water.  IMG_3953Our morning base was under our favorite willow tree.  This tree provided us with much needed shade for snack, and our first activity, getting close to something we found in nature ~ a piece of bark, a leaf, a rock, a bug . . . We shared with a friend what we noticed, and what we wondered.  “I noticed this piece of bark has some moss growing on it.  And I wonder where the bark came from?  Did it fall off the willow tree?”

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Someone noticed some very strange fungi growing on the tree, and then we all got up close and personal with our favorite tree.  We found more fungi, spiders and their webs, ants, holes that might be homes for living things . . .

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Next wIMG_3984e worked on a water cycle game.  We imagined we were a droplet of water, and we followed this water droplet through a journey.  There were various stations representing clouds, ocean, rivers, ground water, animals, plants.  We spread out around the various stations.  At each station there was a bag of colored beads and a dice.  We took a bead at our station (e.g. white bead for clouds, blue bead for rivers) and then rolled a dice to tell us where to go next on our water droplet journey.  The dice were loaded in favor of the real water cycle, so we found ourselves spending a lot of time at the cloud and the ocean station.  That makes sense!  There is a lot more water stored in the oceans, than in plants and animals, for example.  This was a fun way to explore the water cycle.( Check out https://www.facebook.com/TheMontessoriSchoolofPullman/ to see a video of  the journey of a couple of droplets of water. We then spent time building miniature water sheds.  We used backpacks, water bottles and rocks, and a black trash sack to build mountains, valleys and lowlands.  Then we used spray bottles to represent rain to see how water would gather and flow, as in lakes and rivers.  We added ‘stuff’ to represent pollutants, and then let it ‘rain’ some more to see what would happen.  The pollutants spread throughout the watershed.  We thought about where we might build a house on our watershed, where we might farm, how we would provide spIMG_3985ace for wildlife . . . We drew our watersheds.

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What a special place for lunch!  We sat on the riverbank, surrounded by the sound of rushing water, and ‘snow in spring!’  The cottonwoods were releasing their seeds, and it looked like snow!

Our afternoon was spent checking out whether the Palouse River was ideal habitat for salmon.  We used tools to measure the temperature of the water, the acidity and the turbidity (How cloudy) of the water.  From a song, we learned that salmon like clear, cold water and fast flowing water.  We also observed to see if there was food (aquatic macro invertebrates like caddis fly) and shelter, like rocks and snags.  Our conclusion was that the habitat would not be ideal – water too warm, for example – but might be possible, but the fish would be stressed.

On our walk home, we noticed that some of our students were really dragging towards the end.  Our last stretch was uphill in the heat of the day.  However, at the end of a full day like this is a strong sense of, “I did it!”

Roll on tomorrow, and another full day of outdoor science learning!

 

Outdoor Science School ~ day one May 22, 2017

Filed under: community,Community Building,nature,Observation,outdoor education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:18 pm

I am very excited to share each day of our first ever four-day outdoor science school.  We are very thankful to our sponsors ~ Schweitzer Engineering Lab in Pullman for a donation of $500, and to one of our grandpas who donated the other $500.  We are also thankful to Sawyer’s family for housing our environmental scientists, and to our families for feeding them during their stay.  Our science educators joined us for four days of outdoor learning from the McCall Outdoor Science School in Idaho.

Each day I will share some of the highlights of the day.  Today, on a gorgeous spring day, with highs near 80, lots of sun and blue skies, we walked to Sunnyside Park.  We enjoyed walking with friends and a picnic lunch, a chance to play on the playground (a game of freeze tag) and also an opportunity to participate in three key learning activities:

Magic Circle

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For this activity, each child chose an area of ground that seemed interesting, and used a rope to circle off the area.  Then they drew and labelled and counted what they saw.  Our educators encouraged the children to keep looking closer and adding details  because these are skills of scientists ~ careful and deep observation.  Next the children were encouraged to classify their findings.  The children found different ways to classify, including in the image shown above – things that are living (bugs), things that once were living but no longer are living (dried pine needles), things that never were living (rocks). I think this activity might be repeated at different locations, with the results being compared.

Web of Life

For this activity, students were invited to draw an element or organism of the ecosystem they were observing.  It could be an organism – a bird, bug, mammal, plant, or an element such as the dirt, the air, the pond.  The children were encouraged to label their drawings.  Then the children formed connections between what they had drawn and someone else’s drawing.  “I drew a bird.  I’m connected to the drawing of the tree because the tree provides me shelter and a place to perch and build a nest.”  “I drew a tree and I am connected to the pond because I need water to grow and I am on the banks of the pond, so that’s where I get my water.”  A child held hands with another child once they had made a connection.  Soon there was an interconnected web of life forming.  Once we had formed a very interconnected web, we then considered what would happen if we removed one element of the web.  “What would happen if we drained the pond to build a new home?”  “What would happen if we removed the bugs?”  “What would happen if we cut down all of the trees for wood?”  This was a great lesson in learning about ecosystems and balance.

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Aquatic Macro Invertebrate Hunt

Vocabulary we learned.  Macro = able to be seen with the eye, micro needs to be seen with a microscope, aquatic = lives in the water, invertebrate = without a backbone.

We got a tub of pond water and divided into two groups ~ the hunters and the observers. The hunters used spoons and a baster to catch aquatic macro invertebrates.  These were transferred to the specimen collection area – an ice cube tray.  The observers used lenses and a field guide to identify the specimens.  Identification was based on questions ~ does it have a shell, does it have wings, does it have legs?  We drew what we saw and identified when we could.  Then the kids swapped roles, and the hunters became the observers and vice-versa.  For the group I was with, our most elusive, difficult to catch and favorite aquatic macro invertebrate was the predacious diving beetle!  We imagined this critter as the bad guy in a comic strip!  Who knew there could be so much life in even a tub of pond water?

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I loved today.  This is hands on learning and community building, memory making at its best.  This experience has made me committed to having at least a monthly out-of-doors learning activity, and to repeating this opportunity in future years.

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Being outdoors and with friends and learning in so many ways ~ science, writing, vocabulary, data collecting, observational drawing, social learning, independence – is the absolute best!

I am so excited for day two!

 

Building Community May 13, 2017

Filed under: community,Community Building,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:24 pm

The values of our school are: child-centered, love of learning, diversity, dignity and community.  I try to keep these values in mind when I am considering everything from planning the calendar to fundraisers to hiring to . . .

One of my favorite fundraisers of the school year (we do three each year) is our annual rummage sale.  I love the fact that it allows so many of our families to participate ~ donating rummage sale items, organizing the sale, working the sale, cleaning up after the sale, baking items for the accompanying bake sale, shopping, spreading word about the sale through social media and in person invitations.  When so many people are working together for the common good, community is enhanced.  And together we raised over $1500 for our school.  We also benefited the larger community, as so many people shopped our Rummage Sale and bought new clothes, new toys, household goods for their families.

 

Math in the Montessori environment March 25, 2017

Take a look at the focus with which these children from the 3 – 6 environment explore with the math manipulative!  All of these students are pre-K

Below ~ an overview of Montessori math materials for the lower elementary years!

Below ~ a brief overview of math materials in the 3-6 year old environment

Finally a brief overview of math manipulatives in the toddler room

 

Stones from the bucket! Coming full circle! February 23, 2017

Filed under: community,Community Building,creativity,peace,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 6:36 pm

Coming full circle!
Recently our elementary kids’ performed a short play called ‘Stones in a Bucket’ to help us all get a better understanding of how our words can weigh someone down or be uplifting. The stones the children dropped into a bucket represented the harshness and meanness of put downs. Afterwards the children then said something uplifting, and they removed a stone from the bucket.
Now those very stones have been turned into mini works of Art, and distributed around downtown Pullman, our community, to brighten someone’s day. If you find a stone nestled somewhere, it might make you smile, or pick it up to look closer and enjoy the art. These stones are like stones thrown into a pond to send out ripples. These beautiful stones are sending out ripples of kindness and joy!

 

Stones in a Bucket ~ A Play about the Power of Words to put down or uplift! February 20, 2017

annikahalienina

Stones in a bucket

The Maple Room kids  wrote and performed a very short play called, ‘Stones in a Bucket’ as a way to show their understanding that words and tone of voice can hurt, as well as make someone feel happy and accepted.  They performed this play for the 3 – 6 year old children, too, so the younger children can learn from the older children about ‘put downs’ and ‘put ups.’  Thanks, Megan, owner of Montessori Children’s House of Lewiston, for introducing me to the concept of ‘put downs’ and ‘put ups.’

One child held a bucket.  The children took turns walking up to her, saying a put down and then dropping a stone into the child’s bucket.  This child’s face and body language showed her weighed down with sadness.  Examples of comments were:

“I don’t want to play with you.”

“You’re not my friend.”

“I don’t want to sit with you at lunch.”

“You’re not invited to my birthday.”

“Who cares?”

The words and the sound of the stones made a big impact on the preschoolers.

Next the children took turns walking up to the child with the bucket and said ‘put ups’ and took a stone out of the bucket.  The child responded, showing that she was feeling more confident and happier.  We wanted to end on a happy note.  Examples of ‘put ups’ included:

“Do you want to play?”

“You’re my friend.”

“I like you.”

“Do you want to sit with me at lunch?”

“You’re nice.”

Afterwards we had a ‘chat back’ with our audience, and asked for the younger children to respond.  They said:

“The stones sounded mean and hard as they clanged in the bucket.”

“The mean words with the stones made her feel sad.”

“When they said kind words, they took a stone away.  Her bucket got lighter.  She was happier.”

“Words can hurt and make people feel sad.”

The actors responded by saying that it was hard to say the mean words and it made them feel sad.  Saying the kind words was easier and made them feel good.

Thanks, big kids, for teaching the younger students a lesson on kindness and the power of our words.

 

Montessori Memories February 18, 2017

Filed under: Montessori education,Montessori memories,Mother,peace,Practical Life,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 6:22 pm

16826004_10208585533099345_3254929054996917078_oWhen I first saw this photograph, recently sent to me from one of the children in the photo, I thought that it was a photo of me, around 1984, working in a childcare center.  And then I realized it was just my back yard. We are dying Easter eggs.  The child, now grown, said that she always remembers doing interesting things at our home.  I think I was meant to be a Montessori teacher!  I loved cooking with the children, setting out pouring games, and our favorite, the doll’s clothes laundry.  Most of the time in Texas, this laundry was set up outside, but on cold days, I would string a washing line up in the den!

Looking back, I realize my first exposure to Montessori was in a friend’s home in England.  She never called her home a Montessori home, but I remember how peaceful and calm it was, and how activities were available in baskets on shelves, ready for the children to choose.  Anna, my daughter, used a knife to cut up her own snack while we were there.  We left England when Anna was two and a half, so she was very young to be using a knife.  That is my confirmation that this was indeed a Montessori home.  There was the right size knife for Anna to use.

My next exposure was at Arlington Country Day School.  I was looking for a preschool for my daughters, Anna, now four and a half, and Elanor, almost three.  Once again, it was the sense of peace that really hooked me in.  I was close to tears when I realized that this is where I wanted my children to go to school, but also because I had found my passion!  I wanted to be a Montessori teacher.  Thirty-two years later, I am still passionate about Montessori education.  The sense of peace and joy remains an inspiration.  I am full of wonder that after so many years children still surprise me with new and unique ways to learn, problem solve and create with the materials.Just look at the variations below!

HeAnna loves pouring games. Love the wellington boots and apron!re are a few more photos from the eighties!  This is Anna, long ago in England, playing pouring games.  When I saw the water works in practical life at the first Montessori school I visited, I thought, “Pouring games!  my children will love this!”

My one year old son washing dishes at the kitchen sink, while big sis helps!