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Responsive Students
Involved Parents

Swan School Mission

Swan School builds strong learners in an environment of academic excellence aligned with creativity and personal expression. We develop wise and compassionate leaders as an investment in everyone’s future.

    The View from Discoverer Room 5

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Discovering the Earth through art


Weekly Update April 10-14

Rock Music

Hala and Kason enjoyed tumbling handfuls of gravel down the handrails of the play structure. They inspired many other kids to try it, too! It was such a satisfying sound, and an accidental physics experiment, as well.

 

What is a Superhero?

On Monday, we began a new curriculum theme – identifying the qualities of a “superhero”. We used the example of Neil Armstrong for the first exploration of this idea, to segway from the realm of outer space, back to our earthly communities. We talked about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk on the moon, and the bravery they needed to accomplish this amazing mission. I asked the kids to tell me their ideas about what defines a superhero – look for their comments typed up and displayed on our bulletin board at school.

My intent is to introduce superheroes that are also ordinary people, to inspire the kids to see the incredible abilities and qualities of character that they possess within themselves. I also will be introducing superheroes from various cultures and backgrounds that give a diverse image of what it means to be a leader that is both wise and compassionate.

On Tuesday, we discussed the life and adventures of Isabella Bird. This incredible English woman became a world explorer in the mid-1800’s, a time when women expected to live a traditional, domestic life. She spent her life exploring America, Australia, Hawaii, and many Asian countries. She was also an accomplished mountain climber, naturalist, photographer and writer. We talked about her bravery and strength as her primary superpowers. I invited the kids to each take a world map, and to draw the route of the journey they would like to someday embark upon. Many of the children also added watercolors to this map project. You might notice a visitor from Loida’s class in the photo below – Nic asked to join us, and we were happy to have him!

At closing circle on Wednesday, I introduced the idea the idea of scat singing. We watched a fun video from the Sesame Street archives, in which Hoots the Owl teaches a group of kids how to sing scat. On Thursday, we talked about Ella Fitzgerald, and her superhero power of creativity. She innovated the form of singing that became scat. We also looked at a video of one of her performances (thanks, You Tube!). We practiced singing scat, with me singing and playing the keyboard, and the kids repeating my phrases (skiddle-de-doo works really well!). Many of the kids wanted a turn to experiment with the keyboard after our scat session. Below, Zoe and Lisa collaborate to make improv music.

On Friday, I tried a new approach to a familiar project. My plan was to have the kids draw self portraits after learning about the artist Frida Kahlo. Rather than giving the kids a lot of facts about the artist (as I did with the other historical figures we were studying), I decided to just show them pictures of her artwork, and let the kids tell me what they noticed. This is the approach I use with older kids, to invite them to interpret the artwork, before telling them anything about the artist. This process worked well with the preschool crowd, and it taught me a lesson, as well! They loved noticing details in the paintings we looked at. We also spent a little time talking about the shape of the face and the features of the face. Then, the art making began.

The kids were so focused, and I was absolutely amazed by their work! These photos show the black outline of the faces, but everyone also added color. Below, Calvin discusses his portrait with Cerise. She was holding a mirror, at his request. You will also see Hala looking at her reflection to create her self portrait.

Spontaneous Science

Now that the weather has brightened a bit, we are planning more outdoor projects. On Wednesday, we took eye droppers out to collect rain drops. Most of these samples turned out to be puddle water, but we also tried to collect drops from the swings and from wet leaves. Later, I brought out the microscope to look at the water molecules.

Post Script
A few more highlights from our week…

Hala and Brooklynn, above, reading ABC books in the spaceship.

I loved seeing Leo’s costume combination, above, as he and Hala worked to set the table.

A very studious Caleb, working intently on block construction.

Best Wishes, Dana


Spring Intersession: March 27-April 7


Weekly Update March 20- 24


The Season, in Bloom
The change in seasons has been gradual, but we are finally feeling the new life awaken out on the playground. Above is a photo of the blossoming plum tree on campus. We are spending more time outside these days!


Alphabet Studies: Green and Growing
The letter G has so many possibilities – we took full advantage of the spring weather to go outside and look for things that are Green and Growing. We also had a taste test – everyone tasted Grapes, both Green and purple, and put our votes on a Graph.

Above, Brooklynn, Lisa, Hala and Jaylan ponder the first dandelion of the season.

Letter H provided us with another sensory activity: writing in sand. I put out trays with beach sand on the floor, and everyone practiced writing letters, drawing pictures, and enjoying the gritty texture of the sand. Below, Cerise shows Leo how to “erase” his sand drawing. You can just make out Jaylan’s letter J in the sand.

After practicing letter writing, Kason, Hala and Caleb moved on to more artistic pursuits. You can see Hala’s amazing face drawing in this photo.

I is for insect! I thought letter I was a good excuse to do some mirror prints. I demonstrated how to make a symmetrical picture by painting half of an insect on the paper, and folding it over. Many butterflies and dragonflies came to life!

I don’t have any good photos of our letter J day! We celebrated J on Thursday, and it was a two-part celebration: the first activity was an exercise in Jumping. We watched a Patty Shukla video called “Jump”, and we bounced along with Joy! I have a bunch of blurry kid photos for that one. The other J-related activity was to eat Jam on toast. Simple, but so satisfying!

Let’s go fly a kite! Letter K reminded me of Kites, so everyone was invited to make a paper kite, and fly it around outside. Above, Hala holds her sea turtle kite.

K is for Kite, and K is for Kason! I think it’s safe to say, Kason was thrilled with this kite-flying endeavor! Most of our students spent much of recess time zipping up and down the playground, their kites trailing along behind.

Post Script
A few more highlights from our week…

I love it when half the class asks me if they can do painting and drawing during choosing time – the answer is always YES! Above, Caleb, Kason and Jaylan work on blending colors and experimenting with various paint brushes. Elliot was drawing a picture, but he noticed that the color Jaylan and Kason created looked just like the planet Neptune.

Preschool Geometry: Elliot noticed that putting two (equilateral) triangles together could make a diamond. If you tilt that diamond, it becomes a square. Two half circles make a circle, and two (isosceles) triangles make a rectangle.

Hala, Jaylan and Caleb were making patterns with colored magnets…they were also making magic wands.

Our last activity, before the intercession: watching the Animal Alphabet. This is a National Geographic video, and it uses footage of wild animals to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. This video is available from our local library, and I highly recommend it! We also had to have popcorn for this event!

Best wishes,
Dana


Weekly Update March 13- 17

Mud, Glorious Mud!

Caleb expresses his love for mud, with hands outstretched! Hala, behind him, is gathering up grass to combine with the mud. Caleb and Hala were making bird nests, inspired by the wonderful sensation of sculpting with mud.


Alphabet Studies: Dragons, Egg Shells, and Feathers
Some things remain constant: there seems to be an ongoing love for dragons, year after year, with my preschool students. On Monday the 13th, we continued with our Alphabet Studies, reading Dr. Seuss’ ABC book, practicing the hand-sign alphabet, and making dragon puppets!

In an effort to connect outer space studies to alphabet studies, I offered some print-outs of Draco, the Dragon, a favorite constellation. Below, Brooklynn carefully takes star stickers and places them along the dots that represent real stars in the constellation.

I enjoy developing art projects that combine literacy, creative expression and sensory exploration. When we celebrated letter E, I invited everyone to take a couple of (clean) eggshells, break them into fragments, and make a collage. Jaylan and Brooklynn, below, begin the process of gluing delicate fragments of eggshell to their papers.

Some students chose to make a letter E with their collage. Kason and Elliot, below, concentrate on attaching the eggshells to their letter E.


F is for feather! I was impressed with the amount of patience the kids had for this activity. They were all given the opportunity to dip feather quills into liquid watercolor and create feather paintings. Kason and Zoe, below, experiment with the feathers as an art tool. Calvin remarked that he was like George Washington, signing the Constitution!


For the Love of Robots
We took a break from our Alphabet Studies on Wednesday and Thursday to delve deeper into our exploration of robots. Loida’s class hosted a viewing of the movie Wall-E, a Pixar film about an extraordinary robot, and how he helps to redeem the human race. If you haven’t seen it, you should! It was fun to gather all the preschoolers together for the movie. On Thursday, we focused our project time on building our own robots. I got out a glue gun and helped kids attach cork, metal lids, and google eyes to boxes and bottles. Above, Calvin shows off his version of Wall-E (it looks just like the original!). Below, a few of our robots are hanging out.
Post Script
A few more highlights from our week…

Elliot asked to do a large painting on Monday, and he told me exactly what paint he wanted. He worked so carefully on each mark, leading to a gorgeous abstract piece of art!

Lisa used the magnetic blocks in a unique way – she laid them out flat, connecting the pieces to make a 2-D structure. She called it a house.

This fabric painting happened spontaneously – I had an old sheet in class that was stained from other projects. We decided to make it REALLY colorful, adding potent liquid watercolor paints to make it more beautiful!

Working on our writing skills…some children have name strips with dashed lines, to help them work towards making letter forms. Brooklynn proudly displays her name, traced in pink. Other children are writing their names independently. A couple of kids in this group have mastered their names and are asking to write other words. We are happy to support each child, wherever they are in the process!Best wishes,
Dana

Weekly Update March 6- 10

Construction Complexities

Kason and Zoe worked together to make this impressive castle. When finished, it was about twice as long! It was wonderful to see them combine their efforts and create something so unique.

Playing with Language

Literacy in our program is playful; it is woven into our everyday activities. We look at language with curiosity and playfulness, noticing names in print, clapping syllables to learn new words, and creating letter forms with tactile materials. On Tuesday, we began our Alphabet curriculum theme, “celebrating letter A,” with artwork, alligators, and apples! Here, Brooklynn displays her alligator painting. I shared apple slices with the kids at snack time.

We are also practicing writing words – I often create dashed-line letters for the children to trace. For kids who are already familiar with writing letters, I support them in spelling out words that they are interested in learning.

On Thursday, we focused on letter B. After brainstorming words that start with the B sound, I introduced a “magic trick” – disappearing letters! I asked that everyone write a letter B on a coffee filter (I provided the dashed-lines for most of the kids to trace). Then, with an eye dropper and “magic potion”, everyone made their letters disappear. Washable markers and drops of water are the secret ingredients! Some kids chose to do several coffee filters, writing and drawing freely before adding the water drops.

To celebrate letter C, we brought out the cotton balls (I also shared a few, highly coveted, sparkly cotton balls with each child). This project was especially satisfying for tactile learning – the kids drew their C on black paper, then traced the letter with glue. Adding the cotton balls gave the project a light, cloudy appearance. Some of the kids loved the feeling of the cotton so much, they took a handful of cotton balls home!

Scientific Sensation

Speaking of sensory materials, we had another delightful experience with oil and water on Monday. This was a follow-up to the oil and water experiment from last week. We gave everyone small amounts of vegetable oil and liquid watercolor to play with on a tray. This gave the kids another way to experience liquid densities, and to manipulate the materials. Cerise and I both had the idea of making prints out of the blobs of oil and color – we helped the kids lay down thin paper over the liquids and lift them off the tray. The paper then becomes almost transparent – like stained glass. We have them hanging up in one of our classroom windows.

Another sensory science activity came to life on Wednesday, when Cerise introduced the idea of combining cornstarch, shaving cream, and paint. The kids explored these three substances with great excitement – it was challenging to make a solid material out of them!

Post Script
A few more highlights from our week…

Another follow-up project to the sensory activity on Wednesday – Zoe plays with shaving cream, water, and a little blue paint. She had a few animal figures swimming around in the bowl, and was telling stories about their adventures.

I created a solar system math game for the class, using scraps from our solar system mural. I have small numbers, 1 – 8, on a black background. Each planet has a number on the back. Some of the kids could put the planets in order by looking at their color and size, while others preferred to match the numbers. Here, Leo is placing Neptune on number 8.

We’ve used marbles for artwork before, but it’s a project worth revisiting! Hala is busy tilting the cardboard tray back and forth, trying to make the marble leave tracks across the paper.

This marble run was the tallest yet – Calving and Kason watch in anticipation as Elliot drops a marble into the top. Elliot spent a long time making that elaborate tower!

Cowboys and cowgirls, unite!

Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update Feb 27 – March 3

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A Party Among the Stars

A big focus for us this week was preparing for the Swan School Concert…Calvin came up with the idea of drawing “a party among the stars,” a lyric that captured his attention from our “Zoom Zoom Zoom” song. Here he is, hard at work! You can see the human figures in gray, dancing on the moon!

13 Planets

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The kids have been asking a lot of questions about Pluto, and I love their insistence that Pluto is a planet! I knew that Pluto had been reclassified as a dwarf planet, but only recently did I learn that there are at least 5 dwarf planets in our solar system. We talked about the idea that a dwarf planet is different from the other planets (mainly due to their size, and lack of gravitational pull). And we watched a short music video about the dwarf planets, which helped us learn more about each one. We then used circle-shaped objects and an oval stencil to draw dwarf planets. Above, you can see Leo, Louisa and Caleb working on tracing around various round objects. Some of the kids were very intentional about which planet they wanted to draw. I cut out Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake and added them to our wall. See if you can spot them next time you come to school!

We Are All Made of Stars

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Our concert prep occurred during project time on Tuesday and Thursday. I prepared outlines of rocket ships and stars, and the kids chose which prop they wanted to prepare. In the above photo you can see Brooklynn and Louisa with their bronze painted stars…Louisa ended up with both hands and arms covered in shimmery paint!

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Caleb and Kason focus on adding a thin layer of silver to their rocket ships. Each rocket ship was personalized with colorful details. Below, Jaylan fills the wings and the rocket fire with sparkly red paint.

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Solar System on a Sidewalk

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On Wednesday, the weather was very mild, so we took advantage of the opportunity and planned an outdoor art project (you can see all the discarded coats in the background!). I invited everyone to work on a chalk drawing of the solar system. The image in the foreground is a giant sun. The collaborative drawing grew to include other suns and planets.

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Lava Lamp Chemistry

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On Friday, we enjoyed another great science experiment, brought by Teacher Cerise. She introduced the project as a method for creating Lava Lamps, and then we both realized that this crew might not know what lava lamps are! Regardless, it was a wonderful way to explore liquid densities. Cerise demonstrated adding oil to water in a plastic bottle. The kids observed the behavior of the oil – how it separated from the water, and seemed to hover on top. Then she asked the group what they thought would happen when adding the blue liquid watercolor. We heard many predictions – and then watched the dramatic result! The color descends through the oil, and drips down to mix with the water. The kids were invited to experiment with this individually. Below, you can see Brooklynn observing the process.

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But this wasn’t the final phase of the experiment – Cerise also offered a “secret ingredient” – Alkaseltzer! Suddenly, we had carbonation bursting through both the water and the oil. Below, you can see Zoe adding some small pieces of the Alkaseltzer tablets to her bottle. It was very exciting! This is a great project to try at home, too!

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Post Script
A few more highlights from the week…

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Caleb and Elliot have created two large collaborative paintings this week…one of them, seen above, had many layers of shimmery paint, applied with paint brushes and sponges. The hands of the children are out of focus, due to the rapid swirling motion!

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Several students wanted to paint smaller rocket ships that could be taken home right away. Above, Lisa and Zoe use their watercolor trays to make these rockets come to life.

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Tyler puts the finishing touches on one of his famous structures! It was Tyler’s last week at Swan School. His mom will be commuting to Poulsbo everyday, and will need a program with aftercare. We celebrated his time with us, feasting on cupcakes (thank you, Amanda!) and presenting him with a book of pictures, drawn by his classmates.

Make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold!

Best wishes, Dana


Weekly Update Feb 21 – 24

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A Moment of Contemplation…

On our way to the Pacific Science Center, I noticed a moment of quiet observation from these three: Kendrick, Elliot, and Nickolas. In all the excitement during our journey, it was wonderful to see these kids focus their awareness on our passage over Puget Sound…Seattle, here we come!

But before we extol the virtues of the Pacific Science Center, let us have a week in review. This was a short week, with Monday off for President’s Day. We returned on Tuesday to visit the 8th planet of our solar system…

Neptune

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The kids have been anticipating this planet, the final member of our solar system, apart from the dwarf planets. Its gorgeous indigo hue is always captivating, and being so far away from Earth, Neptune offers much to the imagination. We’ve learned that NASA did send a satellite (Voyager 1) to orbit past Uranus and Neptune, so we do have some images and interesting facts about this giant, icy orb.

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Neptune is primarily gas, with many layers of alien atmosphere. But it does have an usual physical physical entity within the gas… a kind of ice island among the gaseous storms (this fact I learned from the Planetarium show at the PSC). We talked about Neptune’s properties before working on a watercolor project to create images of Neptune. In the first of the two photos above, you can see Kason and Tyler working on manipulating watercolor across a large piece of paper. Everyone practiced using watercolors on wet paper, like our Uranus project. But for this artwork, we applied the paint with eye droppers, to get a swirly, cloudy effect.

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You can take a look at our new Neptune on the solar system mural. The smaller paintings will be sent home with the kids.

Galactic Goo

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The group had an opportunity to do a chemistry experiment on Wednesday. Cerise brought a recipe for slime, or “Galactic Goo”, and we had some delighted children getting their hands immersed in the sticky blue substance! The mixture was more liquid than we anticipated, but our chemists seemed to think the whole experiment was a great success. It was a great lesson in embracing unexpected results, and it was also a sensory delight!

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I realized, later, that this project fits with our theme of imagining the unknown worlds and foreign substances that may exist in the cosmos beyond our Earth.

Gifts from the Moon

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I don’t have a great photo of our virtual tour of the Lunar Lab, but here is a picture of the crew, looking eagerly toward the ipad in the center of the room. My friend, Erika Blumenfield, works as an artist, collaborating with a team of scientists, to photograph and digitally preserve objects from outer space. She was very generous with her time, showing us several samples of moon rock, and giving us a tour of the Lunar Lab. Erika’s vocabulary was, at times, very technical, so I attempted to “translate” for our preschool audience. It was valuable for the kids to get an actual picture of a place where people study specimens from space, and it helps them to imagine some of the other jobs NASA supports. The moon rocks were incredibly beautiful, as well!

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To extend the idea of collecting specimens from outer space, I invited everyone to use clay to invent their own space rocks, or other imaginary objects. These will be available on Monday for the kids to paint, and then take home. I was impressed with their work!

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Our Pacific Science Center Adventure

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It was a fantastic day in Seattle! Here you can see a few of the Astronauts, waiting to enter the Planetarium. From the left, Ansel (brother of Nicolas, in Loida’s class), Kason, Calvin and Jaylan. The staff at the PSC are incredible. I spoke with the man who programs the Planetarium show, and told him about our curriculum theme. He was also very attuned to what the kids were saying, and he realized that they had a lot of knowledge already, so he customized the Planetarium show for us! We visited the moon, but also Mars, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto (because of the requests from the kids). We learned a lot, and were dazzled by the images of planets and stars.

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I don’t have many photos, unfortunately, but here is one that exemplifies the engaging exhibits at the PSC. We spent most of our time in the building that houses the Planetarium, and there were many hands-on exhibits for young children that centered around the theme of outer space. Here, Elliot demonstrates lifting up soda cans that have various weights. The weights in the cans correspond to the planet (or sun) pictured above. The can from planet Earth feels like a normal can of soda. The can from Jupiter, however, is incredibly heavy. This teaches the visitor about the pull of gravity on objects, and how that can affect weight.

I have to say, the field trip was an amazing experience, and there was so much more to explore! I was very proud of our class – they were engaged, focused, and very respectful! Thanks to all of you for making it possible.

Puzzling

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I set up puzzle stations on Wednesday morning, to give us a focus for the morning, and to encourage collaborative work. We have several space-themed puzzles, and I find that they are often neglected during choice time. So, I brought them out into the center of the room. Here, Jaylan and Kason celebrate the completion of the solar system puzzle!

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Calvin worked hard at this very complicated space shuttle puzzle – it may take more than one morning of class time to complete! This would be a good goal for our group.

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Princess Louisa was most enthralled with the Fairy Castle puzzle! And why not?!

Good evening to all,

Dana


Weekly Update Feb 13 – 16
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“I need more paint!”

That proclamation is music to my ears! I heard it many times last week, including from Kason. In the picture above, he is experimenting with watercolor on large paper during our Uranus study. Kason ended up filling the entire paper with layers of color.

The 7th Planet

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One of the benefits of teaching about the solar system is that we adults are able to revisit the scientific view of our cosmos, learning new facts and remembering what we learned as children. The mural in our classroom is expanding with our collaborative art, and the kids are anticipating learning about the outer edge of our solar system. On Monday, we talked about the 7th planet, Uranus. We looked at pictures of this planet that show a sideways orientation – Uranus is tipped! The thin rings on this planet spin around in a vertical orbit. It is also a gas planet, teeming with methane, and very mysterious.

To imitate the turquoise color of the planet, I demonstrated a method of watercolor painting, combining blues and greens. I showed the kids how to cover the watercolor paper with a thin layer of water before adding paint. This is called the “wet-on-wet” technique. It causes the watercolor to spread extensively across the paper. Brooklynn and Elliot, above, work on blending colors on the large piece of wet watercolor paper. The colors bleed, unlike the paint on the dry paper Kason was using, over at the easel.

Several kids wanted to make a painting to take home, so I offered small pieces of watercolor paper as well.

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Love is Something if You Give it Away….

Swan School has a tradition of each classroom exchanging a large, hand made Valentine with another classroom. Loida’s class surprised us with a beautiful mobile, with a star-shaped valentine for each of our kids hanging from the central hoop. We worked on making a paper rocket ship, filled with hearts for each of Loida’s students. When we presented it to her class, we folded up the “wings”, and counted down from 10…when we

hit “Lift-off”, we opened up the rocket, and shared the love with our preschool neighbors. Inside the rocket ship was a note that said, “We love you to the moon and back!”.

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Zoom, Zoom, Zoom…

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We were invited over to Loida’s class after recess on Wednesday. We all watched a music video called, “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom”. It has such a catchy tune, the teachers now have it spinning endlessly through our heads. And you may soon learn the words and music, because we are planning to sing this song at our March 3rd concert. We are also learning “Hush, Little Alien”. I think both will be delightful concert pieces!

Our focus project for Wednesday began with a discussion of the spiral shape. I drew a series of simple shapes, and asked the kids to identify them. They were quick to recognize the spiral. We then looked at Hubble photos of spiral galaxies, and discussed the idea that galaxies are made up of gas, dust, and millions of stars. Everyone had the chance to work with our new, metallic markers (along with white pencils) to draw their own version of spiral galaxies. Below, Lisa tells me about her moons and stars.

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To make more spiraling works of art, we offered salad spinners, small squares of paper, and paint. If you’ve never tried spinning paint with a salad spinner, I highly recommend the experience! I get inexpensive salad spinners from IKEA, to be used only for art. The kids choose several colors of paint (teachers help to pour it over the paper), and then they can spin to their hearts’ delight. The result (which I didn’t get a great picture of) is the rapid spread of paint across the spinning paper. These paintings were so beautiful – we had to do it again on Thursday!

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I will soon be putting up a display of our spiral galaxy art, as well as sending artwork home in your office files.

Preparing Bodies and Minds

Physical education offers so much more than building muscle – I see the kids practicing coordination, self-control, collaboration and observation, to name a few of the skills they practice every week! Below is another attempt to capture the Astronaut Training Cerise sets up every Thursday. Elliot and Nick, in the foreground, are a bit blurry as they move toward me during this circuit of activities. Leo, in the background, is about to roll down the red mat. Caleb, center, is waiting his turn and watching Elliot weave around the cones.

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Run Like the Wind

It was warmer this week, but often blustery. Kason, Hala and Jaylan were running together all over the playground, keeping their line in order. They were pretending to be train cars, moving together, in sequence. They look like speed trains to me!

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Best wishes for a relaxing weekend!

Dana


Weekly Update Feb 6 – 10

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February Snow!

To our great surprise, and delight, Port Townsend experienced a significant snowfall; significant enough to delay school by two hours on Monday morning. The kids were so joyous when we had recess! Making snowmen, snow angels, and simply plowing through the white blanket with heavy boots on…It was a brief celebration of winter weather!

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Colonizing Mars

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To build on the idea of the necessity of an atmosphere to support life, I brought in a project related to biodomes. We discussed the very real possibility of a human mission to Mars, and we talked about the conditions on that planet. It has a very thin atmosphere, not the kind that can support plants and animals, life as we know it. But, we could construct a home, a biodome, that has within it all we need, including a water cycle.

This seemed like a good time to act out the water cycle with guided movement. We then looked at pictures of an artist’s rendering of a biodome on Mars. We then got to work, using scraps of colored paper to map out our own biodome. Everyone wanted water in their biodome (including swimming pools!), and some students added sunflower gardens, playgrounds, and forests. We finished the project with plastic clam shells, to give the impression of an artificial dome.

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Of course, if we were to colonize Mars, we would need a way to purify our water. Cerise brought a wonderful water filtration experiment to school, and introduced it to the kids at circle time. In the photo below, you can see that she created a pool of “toxic water” (colored with green food dye) and poured it into a large bowl. She then put an empty jar in the center of the bowl. We covered the bowl with saran wrap, and Cerise described how the water can evaporate when it warms up. The drops of water will (hopefully) collect and fall into the jar. We will keep checking on this experiment in the coming days and weeks.

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After preparing our water filtration experiment, Cerise introduced another fantastic concept to the class – chemical reaction! We pretended to make “rocket fuel” with some simple materials – vinegar, baking soda and empty soda bottles. The kids learned how to scoop baking soda into the bottles (teachers helped pour the vinegar). The gas resulting from the mix of chemicals can be trapped and observed in a balloon that is placed at the top of the bottle. The kids did this activity over and over – testing out different quantities of baking soda, and watching the dramatic bulge of the balloon as it filled with gas. We are going to do more “rocket science” in the weeks to come.

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A mission to Mars would begin with a six month trip through outer space. We have seen pictures of real astronauts exercising while on board the space shuttle. They need rigorous exercise to keep their bodies strong while experiencing weightlessness. Our Thursday morning physical fitness keeps our astronauts in shape, and provides both classes an opportunity to learn through play! Below, you can see Cerise giving instructions on how to do a circuit. There were a few familiar animals placed along the balance beam, to make the exercise more challenging!

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After going along the length of the balance beam, lifting up the soft animals along the way, each child had a chance to experience gliding through space on a scooter! Below, Louisa and Olsa zoom across the floor.

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A different set of physical fitness activities were going on simultaneously in Loida’s room. Half of our group worked on fine motor and problems solving skills (such as doing puzzles with rubber gloves on). Hala, Calvin and Brooklynn are concentrating and coordinating their efforts!

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Which Planet is Your Favorite?

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When Jaylan brought his solar system marbles to school, he put each one in it’s place, and named them. The rest of the group eagerly took turns telling us which planet was their favorite. We might revisit this question when we get to the end of our solar system mural. It’s also a discussion you can have at home, sharing with your child your favorite planet (you may have to do a bit of research!) and hearing their thoughts on which planet they love the most.

We added another planet to our solar system mural on Thursday – Saturn! Saturn is a gas planet, and it’s pale golden color is created by a thick atmosphere swirling gas. We learned that Saturn’s rings are unique – they are made up of rock and ice, and they sparkle like crystals. I had two painting projects set up – one was for the planet of Saturn, and the other was to create the rings. The kids chose where they wanted to work. Below, you can see a small group painting the rings with silver. They also added epsom salt and glitter (why not?!) for the necessary sparkle.

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Curiosity and Creativity

A few more highlights from our week…

During choosing time on Friday, Kason and Calvin collaborated on a very large drawing of a trip to outer space. You can see the image of the rocket ship in the center of the paper.

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, not really!), I became the nanny to a little boy named Nicholas. I was a caregiver for him for three years. His favorite lullaby was “Hush, Little Alien”, which is sung to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”. I found the book illustrating this song, and thought our class would love it. Below, Cerise is reading and singing to Jaylan, Brooklynn and Louisa, who are somehow all sitting on her lap!

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After the snow melted and the sun reappeared, the basketball court became a great place for sidewalk chalk drawings. The moisture on the cement caused the chalk to act more like a paint. Below, Caleb finishes up a drawing that both he an Calvin worked on…it is a mighty castle, with a multicolored moat.

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Our circle time on Friday was dedicated to talking about relationships and kindness. I got out the book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”, and read it to the class for the second time. We talked about ways that we can be kind and helpful, and then I invited everyone to paint a picture as a gift for a loved one. Several kids gave their paintings to a friend in class. Many others created a picture for a family member. Lisa, below, holds her picture that is a gift for her Daddy. They are beautiful and heartfelt pieces of art!

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Next week – on to Uranus! Best wishes,
Dana


Weekly Update Jan 30-Feb 3

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Star Charts

I’m learning that there are many beautiful picture books for young children that illustrate our cosmos. The kids are learning to recognize constellations, along with the symbols associated with these star patterns. Above, Brooklynn, Kason and Lisa study and discuss their maps of the night sky.

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Going Deeper into the Cosmos

A few very serious rocket scientists display their work! Jaylan, Caleb and Tyler paused for a moment to show me their rocket ships after a group session of rocket construction. This idea came from Elliot, who built a rocket ship the previous week, using recycled materials and a lot of creativity. Earlier that day, Elliot demonstrated to the group his invention, inspiring a whole team of rocket scientists!

The above photo was taken on Monday. Fast forward to Friday, and rocket construction was still going strong! Caleb, below, is drawing a window on his newest space ship.

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On Tuesday, we focused on learning about the asteroid belt that exists between Mars and Jupiter. I told the kids a story about Halley’s Comet, a celestial event I was very fortunate to witness when I was young. I shared a few images of comets, and we discussed the difference between comets, asteroids and meteors (reassuring everyone that meteors traveling to Earth almost always burn up in our atmosphere!). To make an asteroid belt on our mural, I asked everyone to choose a pair of scissors (fancy craft scissors or ordinary scissors were available) and cut out the number of space rocks that equaled their age. Cutting practice is so valuable for those fine motor muscles, and the kids were very productive in creating paper asteroids! Some of them cut up dozens of pieces of paper. Below, Lisa, Kason and Zoe are hard at work.

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On Thursday, we “travelled” to Jupiter. What a dynamic planet! We discussed the idea of a gas planet (some kids were already familiar with this, much to my amazement!). Jupiter’s atmosphere is a constant swirl of storms, and the colors of this planet are so enticing. I gave each child a long paper strip to paint, thinking that we would combine them to make the entire planet…but Kason and Elliot wanted to keep painting after they worked on their strip, so I provided a large space and much more paint! They gleefully filled this paper with reds and oranges. I ended up using the painting pictured below as the first layer of Jupiter, adding pieces from the other strips of paper to represent the gaseous layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

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Hala paints a cloudy layer, to contribute to our Jupiter collage.

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Our Atmosphere

We returned to our home planet on Wednesday, to focus more on the idea of the Earth’s atmosphere. Cerise planned and led a compelling project using recycled soda bottles and elements from the playground – biomes! She began with describing the water cycle, and the importance of the atmosphere on Earth. She then demonstrated how to build a biome with half of a soda bottle, a layer of rock and a layer of soil. This outdoor part of the project was great fun, and very difficult to photograph, but I have an image of the kids during the next phase of the biome – planting their beans and flower seeds!

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Collaborative Learning

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Our astronaut training continued on Thursday morning, when Cerise surprised everyone with an outdoor session! Loida’s class joined us again, and we strengthened our muscles with these exciting props – the parachute, above, and the giant beach ball. It was such a colorful and stimulating way to exercise! These collaborative activities help strengthen social bonds, as well.

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Friday is our traditional Morning Meeting day, and this week we visited Loida’s room for a session of gaming. Each preschool student patterned with an older student, and these pairs chose from an array of different games around the room. I found Tyler working with Max Galligan-Hong (a Kindergarten student) on dominoes. They were joined by Kai and Sophia, who helped find a way to include all of the dominoes. Great work, all around!

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After Morning Meeting, we were invited to stay a while in Loida’s room, to explore her space and have a circle time together. Below, Brooklynn, Tyler and Calvin are eager to save the rocket ship from crashing into the moon! Almost everyone spent time in Loida’s fantastic dramatic play area.

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Loida prepared another game just for the preschool students – it is a solar system flash card game. Each student held onto a card with a photo of a planet, star or asteroid. Loida asked questions about each of these celestial objects, and the kids

responded with their knowledge. If they needed help, the teachers would jump in, but I was very impressed with how much they already know!

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Full of Wonder
A few more highlights from our week…

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Hala and Louisa worked as such great partners, gently stacking very small rolls of playdough into a tower in the sun…

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Sometimes, you just have to go on parade! I can’t remember who suggested the idea of a parade, but we made good use of the sunny day and took instruments outside, all around campus. I suggested that we go look at the sunflower garden while we were out, and the kids gave an impromptu concert to the fallen sunflower stalks! Louisa was singing lyrics – I wish I could have captured it in audio!

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We had a very special closing circle on Thursday…Loida allowed us to borrow an actual meteorite fragment, on loan from a Swan School grandparent! We discussed the exciting idea of finding pieces of meteors around the world, and then everyone had a turn to touch the specimen. Above, Hala, Lisa and Elliot are eager to see and touch its surface.

This cosmic theme has had such resonance with both preschool classrooms, we are discussing planning a field trip to the Pacific Science Center, to visit their outer space exhibit! We are in the initial stages of planning – let us know if you have an interest in being a chaperone!

Best wishes, and see you soon!

Dana


Weekly Update Jan 23-27

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Future Astronauts of America

Here they are, with authentic NASA patches in hand (or on foreheads)! We wanted to prepare a group photo with the patches, to create a thank you note for Stacey. Stacey (one of our office assistants) generously allowed us to hold onto the patches for a few days, after teaching us about the symbols on the patches, and how astronauts wear patches on their uniforms.

Mission to the Moon

The moon is one of the first celestial bodies we see as children, and it captures the imagination of just about everyone. On Monday morning, I invited all who wanted to go outside to take a trip around the playground to look for “moon rock”. Everyone found a stone that they thought resembled what you might find on the moon, and we took them back inside, to add to our sand table. The sand table has been transformed into a lunar surface!

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How Does the Moon Spin?

We’ve been talking a lot about the idea of an orbit, in the context of the solar system. To make this more concrete, I planned a demonstration and a kinetic activity. In the demonstration, during circle time, I asked Caleb to stand up and pretend to be the moon. He held onto my arms, pulling back slightly, and I pretended to be the Earth, holding him in place. I slowly spun him around, and asked the kids to imagine that our arms were the invisible force of gravity.

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Then, I showed everyone that I had many different orbs (rubber balls, styrofoam balls, marbles, and plastic balls). I told them to pretend that these balls were the planets of the solar system. I put a cut out picture of the sun in the center of each tray or plate that we were using. I took one plastic ball, and rolled it around the cake pan. The ball rotated and spun around the edge of the pan, which was a kinetic way of showing the idea of orbiting and rotating. The kids loved using the plates and “planets” to experiment with this idea. Above, Zoe uses a large blue ball and a tiny marble. Elliot brought a collection of his own marbles to school that day, and he put all of them in the cake pan!

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Exploring Other Worlds

On Tuesday, we spent some time discussing the upcoming mission to the moon, “Moonrise”. This event is scheduled to happen in 2020, and will involve a crew of astronauts sent to collect a large number of moon rock. We looked at pictures (digital renderings) of what the rocket ship will look like. I then invited everyone to paint their own, imaginary planet. We used bright colors to cover the styrofoam balls, and they really do resemble alien planets! Some kids named their planets familiar names, like “Pluto” or “Mars”. Other children wanted to imagine they were creating imaginary planets.

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The Red Planet

The next planet in our study of the solar system was Mars. Mars is fascinating, because it is relatively close to Earth (sometimes visible at night to the naked eye), and we know a lot about it. I shared a book with the kids about the Mars rovers (Curiosity and Spirit). We talked about the purpose of the rovers, and how one of them was successful in completing its mission. We studied what the surface of the planet is like, and how it has polar ice caps, like our planet. Then the kids got to work with red, yellow, brown and gold powdered tempera, to paint a mural of the surface of Mars. I’ve been making them wear smocks – they look very professional!

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The Beauty of the Atmosphere

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We had a another experiment on Wednesday that brought us back to Earth: making clouds release “rain”! Cerise prepared this wonderful project, and everyone was thrilled with the experience. After we discussed the water cycle, and the way that rain falls to Earth, everyone was given a jar with water and shaving cream. The shaving cream represents the atmosphere, with a cloud layer. The kids drip liquid watercolor onto the “clouds”, until they are so heavy, they “precipitate”, and the colorful rain drips through the water. It was quite a beautiful experiment!

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NASA: Engineers and Astronauts

During snack time one day, Elliot had a very creative idea about how to build his own rocket ship. He described how he intended to use his empty milk carton and two toilet paper tubes – the carton would be the rocket, and the tubes would be the boosters. I helped him by offering tin foil and tape. He did all the work! He also wanted flames coming out of the boosters, so we worked together to draw and color paper that he then attached to the boosters. I’m planning on making this activity available to all the kids next week!

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We are finding many ways to act out the experience of the astronaut in our classroom! Covering the arch with white paper was the first step in creating our “space shuttle”. Below, Leo, Louisa and Brooklynn enjoy the ride.

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We are so fortunate to have creative parents in our community! Caleb’s family worked to build our “control panel”, and it was installed in our space shuttle. We also borrowed an astronaut suit from Loida. Leo had been asking for a space suit, and I’m so glad I was able to provide! Below, Leo and Calvin are preparing for take off.

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Sometimes, you need to repair your space shuttle. Elliot, Kason and Calvin (below), used all the tools in the classroom to work on shuttle upkeep!

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On Friday, we looked again at the pictures of the Mars rovers. We discussed the idea that some people who work for NASA are busy building robots on wheels that can go to other planets and explore. I invited everyone to build their own rovers out of Legos. This was a very productive session, and I have a feeling Legos will be a big part of our work next week! The next two photos show this process.

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Blasting Off: A few more highlights of our week…

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Cerise continues to lead our fantastic Astronaut Training on Thursday mornings! Above, Lisa and Zoe gleefully pass a balloon back and forth (not pictured: the balloon), to practice handling objects in zero gravity. Loida’s class joined us again, and everyone had a turn to do the circuit, which included tossing the balloon, riding on “moon rovers”, lifting weights, and many other challenging exercises. I wish I had better photos to show all the activity!

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Hala and Tyler, above, have a mutual love for animal stories and building structures to house their animals. They collaborated on this unique home for a dinosaur, two arctic wolves, and Kitty. Below, Kason combines blocks from several different sets to build one of his signature structures.

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Friday was such a bright day! To celebrate the sun, and to revive the stone arranging activity, I came up with the idea to put the stones in a sun-like pattern. I wasn’t sure if anyone else would be interested in this project, but I had three eager preschool helpers, and one very helpful 1st grader! Below, Lisa, Zoe and Brooklynn work to gather stones and add them onto the lines radiating out from the circle. Dexter (the 1st grader) is counting each stone in its line, making sure there are 9 in each row. I love how this became a joint project, and even involved an older child modeling how to use math to create an even pattern!

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Below: the finished product!

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I look forward to another week of discovery! Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update Jan 17-20

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Getting to Know You

One of the great joys of teaching preschool is seeing the relationships between children develop and evolve. We welcomed Lisa into our classroom this week, and she jumped right into our community ! She and Tyler were working to set the table and have a feast. The children have, each in their own way, worked on communication and building friendships in this new year.

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The Storms of Venus

Our study of the solar system continues with the second planet from the sun. We learned about the extreme conditions on this planet; although it does have an atmosphere, the carbon dioxide and other gasses in the air would be very toxic to human beings. The planet has many active volcanoes, and nearly constant lightning storms. An exciting place! We talked about how we can sometimes see Venus at night, even without a telescope.

After our discussion, I demonstrated how to use a wide paint brush to make swirly patterns with acrylic paint. This was to imitate the cloudy, yellowish layers of Venus’ atmosphere, as seen from Hubble. Above is a photo of Hala’s brushwork. She took a unique approach – she stood her brush upright, and turned it carefully, spinning it, to make dense curls of paint. So inventive! Below, Caleb and Louisa play with texture.

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Astronaut Training, Continued

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Teacher Cerise brought us a completely new set of equipment last Thursday, and set up our indoor gym! We invited Loida’s class over to continue our “physical training”. The kids absolutely love this opportunity to challenge their bodies and expand their minds. I wish I had more photos – the experience is hard to capture! These two pictures show the kids working on balance and coordination – they were invited to “bear crawl” across the spongy rectangles.

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Our Home Planet

The kids have embraced our solar system study with open arms! We discussed some of the attributes of our own planet on Thursday, after recess. The word, “atmosphere”, has become a daily part of our vocabulary. We are learning that because we have an atmosphere, the right kind of atmosphere, we can have oceans, breathable air, and all the diversity of life as we know it.

I invited everyone to make an “Earth Print”; we painted blue and green over an pane of glass. The glass had an image of earth underneath. Pressing paper onto the glass lifts the paint for a dramatic print. Below, the kids are practicing this process. In the second photo, you can see Kason lifting up his print.

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Science Fiction

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Friday was our turn to host Morning Meeting, and we decided to engage all the classes in our study of the cosmos. I explained to the whole group that the preschool kids are learning about the solar system, but we also like to imagine alien worlds. I invited everyone to think about an imaginary planet – what would it look like? What kind of life would it support? I instructed the older kids to help the younger ones with drawing and writing about these fictional planets.

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After recess on Friday, we talked about the first moon landing, and looked at some photos of astronauts on the moon. The kids noticed the footprints in the dusty ground right away. I then introduced a new sensory activity – the “surface of the moon”, in our tactile table. The tactile table now has flour and salt mixed into the sand, to imitate the ground of the moon. The kids enjoyed using little people and “moon rocks” in their play.

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Never Cease to Be Amazed

A few highlights from our week…

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Despite only having three days of school, we were very productive! Above, Elliot, Hala and Zoe decided to get out the rubber stamps, and share art ideas.

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Ever the engineer, Kason (above) tells me about his latest spaceship. They are getting larger, and more complex!

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We have just started creating our classroom spaceship. We are turning the wooden arch into a shuttle! Above, Lisa watches Elliot and Calvin color in the letters USA. They used large stencils to draw the letters. This sign will attach to our space shuttle.

Best wishes, and see you soon!

Dana


Weekly Update Jan 9-13

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The Music of the Spheres

Just before our winter intercession, our classroom received a great gift – a battery powered keyboard! All week, the kids have enjoyed taking turns with the keyboard. There are many different settings on this keyboard, and the children can experiment with various orchestral sounds, as well as rhythm settings. When it was his turn, Calvin told me that he was playing “space music”!

Space: The Final Frontier

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Our return to the classroom, after three weeks away, was a joyous one! We spent several circle time discussions sharing photos and stories from our winter adventures, and then we jumped right into a new curriculum theme: outer space! This idea originated with the kids -I noticed a lot of interest in constructing spaceships and rockets before the holiday break, so it seemed like a natural time to explore this theme in greater depth.

Above, Kason, Caleb, Elliot and Jaylan work on coloring various kinds of spaceships. We had an enlightening circle time discussion earlier that day: I shared some pictures of our solar system with the kids, and asked everyone, “What do you want to learn about?” The questions and comments that followed revealed great curiosity, and I was impressed with how much this group already knows about our cosmos!

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On Wednesday, we began our study of the solar system. We looked at images of the sun in a large picture book, and discussed the idea of the sun as a star. Then, we got to work painting with sun colors – yellow, gold, red and orange. I later cut the painting to resemble the sun, the first image in our new mural.

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On Thursday, we welcomed Lark Hanson into our room for a presentation. She created a model of the solar system (earlier this year), and she was willing to share it with us. Below, Lark is reading from her notes, describing each of the planets in her model. The kids were a great audience, and the visual of the model was fantastic!

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We had another special guest on Friday – Mrs. Wilson, a.k.a. Tyler’s grandma, visited our class. She and Coach Wilson, a.k.a. Tyler’s grandpa, brought us a rocket ship project. Below is a picture of Mrs. Wilson showing the kids her photos from a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. The kids were fascinated! After viewing photos of an authentic rocket ship, the kids were invited to draw on toilet paper tubes, to decorate their pretend rocket ships. Mrs. Wilson and Coach set up a rocket experiment: each child was able to “blast off” using a balloon taped to their toilet paper tube. The air from the balloon shot the toilet paper tube along a “path” provided by a plastic string. There were 8 plastic strings, and each one led to a cardboard planet (attached to a chair). The “jet propulsion” lesson was incredibly dynamic! Many thanks to the Wilson family!

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On Friday, we spent some time learning about the planet Mercury. Our painting of this planet (below) was meant to reflect the many craters on its surface. We used bubble wrap and sponges to try and imitate Mercury’s texture.

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Our Very Own Gymnasium

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Twice this week, we had the great pleasure of doing physical education indoors! Teacher Cerise has vast knowledge about physical development, and she has access to some great equipment (from the Rec. Center). On Monday morning and Thursday morning, we enjoyed hopping, jumping, rolling, balancing and many other challenging activities.

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On Thursday morning, we invited Loida’s class to join us for the indoor gym. Loida told all the children they were preparing for a journey to outer space – they were doing “training” for the mission!

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Puzzles, Gears and Spirals A few more highlights from our week…

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On monday, I brought out a few puzzles that are new to this group. Two of them were floor puzzles, that fit with our study of outer space. Leo, above, works carefully on a geometric shape puzzle. We will keep increasing our time spent on puzzles in the weeks ahead, helping the kids to develop spatial awareness, pattern recognition, and many other pre-math skills.

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On Friday morning, Loida and Marcy hosted morning meeting. The photo above was taken in Marcy’s room, as the kids worked in pairs and small groups. This group was putting together gears. From L to R: Grayson (3rd grade), Elliot, Maxwell (1st grade), Leo and Kendrick (preschool).

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When the new play structure was put into place, a seemingly endless number of stones were excavated. Early in the week, Loida worked with a few students to place the stones in a spiral pattern, like a labyrinth. Above, Louisa and Zoe walk between the stones on the spiral path. Later in the week, the stones became a material for other sculptural projects. Below, Elliot and Brahm (from Loida’s class) work tirelessly to reinvent the stone pattern. They created two conjoined circles, and revealed just how strong their muscles are!

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Happy MLK day to you all! Enjoy the sun! Best wishes,
Dana


Winter Intersession! Dec 19-Jan 6


Weekly Update Dec 12-16

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Celebration

The Annual Swan School Book Exchange is no small event! Here is a snapshot, showing most of our crew from that exciting day. Every child gives a book, and every child receives a book. It’s a wonderful way for a child to learn about the interests and passions of another child. Our kids did such a good job, waiting for their turns to give and receive the gift of literature!

The Gift of Art

You might remember the collaborative art project from Friday, Dec 9. On that day, we used a long length of butcher paper, placed on the floor, and many different kinds of drawing tools to make wrapping paper. This inspired the children, apparently, because they asked to make more wrapping paper on Monday, Dec. 12. They were so focused!

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The above photo was taken before circle time…during circle time, I introduced a new printing tool. I call them “shape rollers”, because each roller has a different geometric shape on its surface, to make a repeated pattern when rolled. We also got out the sparkly paints for this project! Below, Hala and Jaylan experiment with the shape rollers.

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On Tuesday the 13th, we used our morning circle to talk about the tradition of displaying evergreen wreaths during the winter season. There are many different cultures that used evergreens as symbolic decorations, it turns out, but we focused on the Celtic tradition. I showed the kids an image of an evergreen wreath, and asked if any of them have wreaths at home, or if they’ve noticed wreaths around town. Then I explained that, a very long time ago, people would gather evergreens to decorate their homes, as a reminder of things that remain alive and strong, all through the winter. The greens were a symbol of life that continues despite the cold and dark.

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We made our own evergreen wreaths, with paper! You can see Hala, Tyler and Louisa working to design their wreaths, above. Elliot and Kason, below are holding the hole punches. We used them to make red “berries” out of paper, to accent our wreaths.

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One World, Many Traditions

I was thrilled when Kasi, Leo’s mom, offered to bring us a story and project about Hanukkah! In class, we have been talking about the idea that everyone has their own holiday traditions, and not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Kasi brought in a book for us (“Chanukah Lights Everywhere”) to help explain the tradition of lighting the Menorah. She also brought an actual Menorah, and lit the candles for us to admire. We invited Loida’s class to join us for this experience.

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After lighting the Menorah and explaining what each candle represents, the kids were invited to spin the dreidels (actually, many little dreidels) that Kasi provided. We also enjoyed a snack, sweet crackers and apples, with a drizzle of honey (to remember all that is sweet in our lives)! It was such a lovely event!

Winter Solstice, and the Return of Light

Another winter tradition we explored in class was the celebration of winter solstice. During one of our circle times on Thursday, we watched a video that used graphics to explain the tilting of the earth, the orbit of the earth, and the reason for seasonal changes in the light. The video was aimed at an elementary school audience, but the visuals were strong, and it was helpful for us teachers, too!

After recess, I showed everyone images of Stonehenge, and we talked about how people will gather there to celebrate the winter solstice, and the return of more daylight in the coming season. We also set up a solstice sun project. I gave everyone a gold piece of paper with a circle drawn on it, and asked them to prepare the “sun” for the art project. Everyone practiced using scissors, and cutting in a circle (a more advanced skill than cutting straight lines). After cutting out the sun, the kids chose various triangular pieces of gold and yellow paper to make their solstice sun collages. These collages are hanging up in the classroom – I just wasn’t ready to send them home!

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Learning through Play

A few more highlights from our week…

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Above, Louisa, Elliot and Kason are busy tinkering! They are learning how to manipulate small objects, how to use tools, and building strong hand-eye coordination with these projects.

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The kids continue to amaze me with their ability to invent new architectural designs! Tyler, above, explains the construction of his latest building.

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I have about a dozen photos of the beautiful worlds the kids have created with playdough and various manipulatives…Hala, Louisa and Leo are concentrating on making unicorn habitats, fairy landscapes, and putting “treasure” into the bed of dough.

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Did you know we have royalty in our classroom?! Princess Louisa, Jaylan the Knight, and the Unicorns occupy the snow cave/castle.

Happy New Year to you all!
Best Wishes for peace and joy in 2017!


Weekly Update Dec 5-9

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Preparation

With the completion of the polar region murals, our focus turned to preparation for our Learner Exhibition presentations. Circle time became a group practice time, where I encouraged everyone to teach me their knowledge about polar habitats and animals. We also put on our scientific thinking caps, looking at the geography of the region and the adaptations of some of the animals. I showed the group images of the polar regions on Google Earth, which gives us a good sense of the planet as a whole. We also looked at a large 2-D map on the floor, using plastic animal figures to discuss where each animal lives and the relationships between species.

For a sensory activity, we returned to the “blubber glove” experiment; I created our own pocket of fat (Crisco in ziplock baggies) that can be worn as a glove. The kids each had a turn to put their hand in the blubber glove, and put the glove in ice water, to better understand how whales and seals insulate themselves from the frigid polar waters. Later in the week, we had the opportunity to visit Loida’s class, and watch her students give their presentations. The teachers all agree – this curriculum theme has been incredibly fun and illuminating for us, as well!

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Masks and Models

Our preparation for the Learner Exhibition involved a lot of science exploration, but it also involved dramatic play. Everyone created masks or 2-D models of their chosen animal. Above, Hala works on tracing an image of the orca whale. The orca, narwhal and harp seal were better represented by these large drawings on poster board, but most of the kids made masks to enhance their dramatization of a polar animal. Below, Kason and Calvin work on masks, while Brooklynn works on a large narwhal. We practiced using our masks and models to act out our version of “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear”. We invited the Adventurers (4th – 6th graders) to be our audience one day, and they were delighted with our performance! It was a good experience for both groups, the youngest students building confidence and the older students building an appreciation for their younger schoolmates!

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Collaboration, Imagination

As the polar animal theme developed, I noticed an increase in collaborative play, and, in particular, children telling stories together with animal characters.

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Tyler and Hala set up a jungle (above)…notice the parrot, on its nest, balanced so carefully on the yellow water-filled block!

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Hala set up this home for an arctic seal (the large white animal). Kason excitedly delivered orange and purple blocks to Hala, and together they created a patterned border around the edge of the house.

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Elliot, Caleb and Calvin negotiated the construction of this seal pup home. There were so many stories happening, I only captured a fragment of the play!

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Elliot, Caleb and Calvin were inspired by the winter weather, and the snow that almost fell on Port Townsend! They created snowmen with playdough, and I offered buttons for details.

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Below, Elliot, Calvin and Jaylan share some “library time”.

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We used butcher paper to mask off some of some of the shelving during the Learner’s Exhibition. The day following the L.E., we made good use of that paper, creating a collaborative drawing that can be used as wrapping paper (I sent home pieces of this for all of you!). Below, the whole crew works with a variety of drawing tools (pens, dot markers, gel crayons and chalk pastels).

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Independent Focus

Equally as important as collaborative work, independent play allows children time for deep focus on a project or idea. Jaylan and I worked on this marble run, long after the others moved away from the rug area.

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Below, Louisa holds a prism in a sunbeam to create rainbows!

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Spontaneous project: Below, Hala and Brooklynn work on painting their clay sculptures with sparkly paint. Zoe and Leo use sparkly paint on paper. We all love a little sparkle!

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Zoe (below) discovered a box of alphabet cards…she eagerly started lining them up, in order. Several other students helped in the beginning, but she persisted to the end, lining up all 26!

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Happy Winter Break to you all! With joy and peace,
Dana


Weekly Update Nov 28-Dec 2

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The Whole World In Our Hands

Our study of the polar regions helps to stretch the imagination and intellect of our preschoolers…they are endlessly curious, excited by the exploration of distant places and wild animals. They are engaging with books, videos, art work, sensory activities and stories from people who have actually been to the polar regions. I see them developing passion for the diverse creatures we are learning about, and the planet that supports those creatures. With them, through their eyes, we adults get to experience the wonder of, and love for, our fragile Mother Earth!

The Making of a Mural

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We’ve been spending a lot of time on the mural of the Arctic, and we are beginning the process of the Antarctic mural. Above, Caleb traces his drawing of an iceberg, enlarged by the light projector. Below, the crew works on applying paint to one of the icebergs for the mural. We used paint rollers and all kinds of paint brushes to roll the white and silver paint onto the butcher paper.

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After completing the icebergs, we moved onto the Arctic Ocean. On Wednesday, I demonstrated the effects of painting on, and printing with, bubble wrap – very exciting! We also used sponges on this phase of the mural. Below, you can see the bubble wrap

and sponges on the tray…these were abandoned by Zoe, Brooklynn and Louisa, who decided to add their sparkly blue hands to the layers of paint!

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Perhaps the most surprising stage of the mural was the creation of the Aurora Borealis. I have never had the opportunity to make the Northern Lights come to life in my classroom before! I hoped that using spray bottles and liquid watercolor would suffice. We watched a time-lapse video, found on National Geographic, to get an idea of what the Northern Lights actually look like.

Making this portion of the mural was a complicated process, because we had limited spray bottles – only four. So, we had to take turns! We worked on the spray paint mural in small groups, outside. The kids waiting their turn, indoors, used paint rollers to cover butcher paper with blue, black and gray paint for the rocky mountain portion of the mural. Below you can see the sprayers in the midst of covering the paper, with glee!

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Authentic Animal Sounds

There are some events from the past week that I don’t have photos for…such as our work on our retelling of the Eric Carle story, “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?”. In Carle’s version, all of the animals in the book live in a zoo, and there are animals from all

over the globe represented. We are making our own book, with the same title, but we’ve included only polar animals in our story. We are also researching the actual sounds these animals make, and we are practicing imitating those sounds. Quite fun, and funny! We’ve also been reading the book, “North Pole, South Pole”, which is a science book written and illustrated for an early childhood audience.

On Friday, we were fortunate to have some special guests visit our classroom. Jeremy and Julia are friends with Caleb and his family. They have been on multiple trips to Antarctica! They brought with them many photos and a few videos of the incredible landscape and the animals that live in that extreme environment. Jeremy taught us how tall an emperor penguin really is, and Julie invited everyone to make the motion and sound of an Adelie Penguin. We have been so lucky to have experts from both the Arctic and Antarctic visit our room!

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Nothing Without Joy
A few more highlights from our week…

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We are going to have to study outer space soon, because the spaceships, satellites and robots just keep coming! Above, Jaylan and Calvin pause for a picture with their spaceship (Jaylan) and robot (Calvin). Below, Elliot shows me where the astronaut sits in his spaceship.

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Some of the children were playing with our “golden eggs”, which are really stones spray painted gold. We couldn’t find very many (they have been misplaced), and so I suggested we could make some out of clay. This activity inspired several different sculptors to go to work: Zoe, Hala, Caleb and Kason are making birds, eggs and nests (below).

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The light table continues to be a magical place…below, Leo works to balance the magnetic tiles on top of wooden blocks. In the next photo, Tyler builds one of his signature structures!

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Good night, and best wishes!

Dana


Weekly Update Nov 21-23/Thanksgiving Break

Dear Discoverer Families,

As most of you know, we’ve been delving into the theme of polar regions, and focusing intently on Arctic animals. We’ve been reading books, doing art projects, watching videos and playing games around this theme. Today I had a circle-time discussion with the kids about these animals, and they looked at several different books with a partner before choosing a favorite animal to focus on.

On Dec. 8, we will invite all of you to come to our Learner Exhibition. The entire school will be studying different extreme environments, so you can visit each classroom to see what they have been working on. In our room, we will have two big murals (the Arctic and the Antarctic) and each child will make a mask representing their favorite animal. We will be sharing what we’ve learned with you!

During this weekend, if you have time, you can start reading about and researching your child’s animal. Here is a list of the animals the kids have chosen:

Brooklynn: Emperor Penguin (Antarctic animal)
Kason: Arctic fox
Tyler: Arctic cod
Calvin: Arctic wolf
Jaylan: Polar bear
Louisa: Polar bear
Elliot: Reindeer/Caribou
Hala: Orca

If you child was absent today, no worries. Talk to them about what animal they might want to study. Here are a few more Arctic animal options to choose from: narwhal, beluga, snowshoe hare, walrus, musk ox, puffin, snowy owl (and many other birds). And the Antarctic animals include: several different types of penguin, albatross, and Wendell seals.

Thanks for the great discussions during our conferences, and have a wonderful holiday! Keep in touch, and we’ll see you soon!

Dana


Weekly Update Nov 14-18

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The Brilliance of Dramatic Play

It was a moment of unity, collaboration and creativity: it began with Calvin asking me to make a lasso out of a scarf. He wanted to be a cowboy. I offered to provide cowboy hats and a cow – we happen to have a stuffed animal calf! Hala became the mamma cow. Louisa, Calvin and several others became cowboys and cowgirls. Here, Louisa is holding her “guitar”, Hala is protecting her calf, and Calvin is waiting with appropriate caution for the moment when the calf will inevitably run away and need rescuing! This drama created an opportunity for storytelling, collaboration, problem solving and some fine handiwork with lassos and guitars!

The Arctic Landscape

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Icebergs

On Monday, we began discussing the polar regions in greater detail. We are currently focusing on the Arctic (soon, we will learn more about the Antarctic). I asked everyone, “what do you know about the Arctic?”, and I was impressed, as always, with their knowledge! We identified the Arctic circle on the globe, and discussed the polar environment. We watched a short documentary video with great footage of icebergs and arctic animals. I then demonstrated one way to draw an arctic landscape, and invited everyone to draw and paint their own landscapes. The back wall of our room now has an iceberg gallery on it!

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Science, Sensory Play and “Snow”

On Tuesday, we read a science book about the life of polar bears, and then did an experiment to make a snow-like substance. We added water to cornstarch, noticing how it collects and hardens, like a solid substance, and then partially mixes with the water to become a liquid. It’s such messy fun, and wonderful for tactile learning. I introduced some polar bear and Arctic wolf figures to add to the sensory tubs of cornstarch.

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Embodied Learning

I came across an idea online that promotes kinesthetic learning AND Arctic animals – yoga postures, renamed to reflect Arctic animals! All of us enjoyed acting out Caribou, polar bear, seal, and more. Good for the body and the mind!

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Arctic Ice and the Properties of Water

I prepared some “icebergs” for our water tub on Tuesday evening. This requires bowls of water, silver and white paint, and a freezer. Wednesday morning, we had some decent icebergs for the polar bear figures to float around on! The kids helped make more icebergs for the next two days. They are playing in the “Arctic Ocean”, learning about liquids and solids, freezing and dissolving, and telling some exciting stories about predator and prey!

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Arctic Inhabitants

On Friday, we began identifying more arctic animals, beyond the well-known polar bear, seal and seasonal orca. We studied a page from my book, “Animals and Where They Live”. We named quite a few creatures – walrus, beluga, narwhal, arctic fox, and puffin. I asked the kids to look at a copy of this page with a partner, and then circle or color in their favorite animal. This group of kiddos clearly LOVES all kinds of creatures – many of the kids filled their papers with color!

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Nothing without Joy
A few more highlights from our week…

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New light table! The activity around this luminous box was incredible – above, Elliot and Tyler create a complex pattern with the magnetic tiles that was home to many creatures. Below, Brooklynn teaches Louisa how to build 3-D houses for little critters.

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Structures! Kason, below, is the happy architect of this symmetrical house (I believe it was a spider home). You can see Elliot and Tyler’s house off to the left, constructed with magnetic tiles. The following picture shows Calvin, Elliot and Kason at work with a set of tools that include a preschool version of nuts, bolts, hammers, screws, and boards.

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Morning meeting on Friday was hosted by Loida and Marcy. The kids worked with older partners to practice cooperative play. The teachers set out a variety of games that require taking turns. Below, Emme and Elliot alternate adding a block to the tower. The final picture shows Samantha and Brooklynn playing a memory game with our Arctic animals flashcards, all grins!

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Best wishes for a great weekend! Dana


Weekly Update Nov 7-11

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Our weather in Port Townsend has been incredibly warm for early November, and we’ve been spending extra time exploring outside. Here you see Louisa, Jaylan and Leo spinning joyfully on the tire swing, and examining tree seeds in the brilliant sun.

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Migration

We’ve been talking about PNW animal behaviors during this season, as fall progresses into winter. On Tuesday of last week, we learned about the migration path of gray whales. We watched a short video that described their migration route, and then we took advantage of the warm weather to do an outdoor activity. I brought out sidewalk chalk and a tape measure, and we asked each student to lay down on the sidewalk, head to toe. They worked in partners to draw a chalk line around their partner. End to end, all of the students that day equaled about 24 feet of length. An adult gray whale is about 50 feet long! We used the tape measure to mark the 50 foot line on the sidewalk. The whale is so long, it couldn’t fit in our classroom!

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On Monday, we discussed the migratory paths of three creatures: Canadian Geese, Rufous Hummingbrids, and Painted Lady Butterflies. I have a map in the classroom that shows North and South America; I cut out strips of paper to show, in different colors, the migratory route of the creatures we are discussing. The kids are learning about the concept of migration – they know that some creatures migrate “to a warmer place”. In fact, all the creature we’ve talked about go to Mexico for the winter (Baja, in particular). The kids have enjoyed using watercolors to paint images of each of these creatures. We have a lot of rainbow hummingbirds, geese and butterflies emerging from these creative kids!

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The pop-up counting book is a favorite among our students! Hala, Brooklynn and Louisa count the butterflies.

Hibernation

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On Wednesday, we focused our circle time discussion on hibernation. We read the book, “Time to Sleep”, by Denise Flemming (a favorite of mine). This story exposes readers to the habits of many familiar hibernating creatures – a bear, a ladybug, a skunk, and a turtle, for example. After recess, we painted some hibernating creatures that are native to the Olympic Peninsula – Black Bears and the Olympic Ground Squirrel.

On Thursday, we read the book, “Winter is Coming”, which is a beautiful story, told from the perspective of a little girl who spends long hours observing animals from her tree house. We also played animal charades, taking turns acting out the behavior of various animals, which was great fun!

After recess on Thursday, we got out the earth clay, and I demonstrated some hand building techniques. I showed the kids how to make a cave, or a den for an imaginary hibernating animal. The students were invited to create whatever they wanted. I wrote down their ideas next to their creations – check it out their work

Nothing without Joy

Here are a few more highlights from our week…

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Gears! I borrowed this set of plastic gears from Marcy. I knew some of our engineers would be excited about this activity, but it turned out EVERYONE loved working with the gears!

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Cerise and I were so impressed with the children’s innovation, collaboration, and problem solving skills as they worked with these playful tools.

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Collage name tags – we worked on this project during the first weeks of the school year. A few kids started but didn’t finish their names, and we’ve added a couple of new students, so I got out the materials again. Surprisingly, many of the students wanted to do two or three collages, and, pretty soon, we had a table full of glue and “treasures”!

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Some students wanted to use the glue independently, and others asked for help to trace their letters with glue. All of this practice is great for fine motor skills, letter recognition, and creativity!

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I really don’t have a caption for this – the picture says it all!

Have a great weekend! Dana


Weekly Update Oct 31-Nov 4

Dear Discoverer Families,

I hope you had a chance to soak up some sun today! My husband and I made time to hike around Ft. Worden, making the most of the warmth. Last night, we went to Art Walk. I thought I would mention that if any of you step into Getables, the gift shop downtown, you will see some Swan School artwork from the 4th-6th graders. I show student art there on a regular basis. I haven’t shown preschool art there, but with the amount of artwork we are doing this year, perhaps I should make it a new tradition!

There is one project that I did not get a photo of that I wanted to describe…on Thursday, we spent morning circle talking about the behavior of animals in fall, as they prepare for winter. We used the book,”The Nature and Science of Autumn” to see photos of some common NW animals. After recess, we stayed outside a bit longer to collect Madrona berries. We took this collection inside, and practiced making patterns with the berries, pasta shells and dried beans. Some chose to make an ABAB pattern, but I also saw AABAAB and AABBAABB. We glued the berries and things to construction paper, so these patterns can go home with you.

Reminders: We have a 4 day week coming up – no school on Nov. 11, to honor Veteran’s Day.

Elliot worked to harvest all the remaining sunflower seeds from our Russian Mammoth dried bloom.

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Our field trip to Colinwood Farm: choosing a pumpkin is serious business!
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Continuing our celebration of fall, we created collages with harvest colors, including orange glue!
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We began talking about animal behaviors in fall and winter. Many kids were familiar with the Canadian Goose…we watched a National Geographic video on goose migration, and discussed why the geese make a journey south every year. The kids also enjoyed painting images of geese.
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Friday was the last day to use up the pumpkin spice salt dough. I shared some of my plastic leaf impressions with them, and several kids pressed them into the dough. We also saw salt dough apples, hand prints, and corn kernel mosaics.
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Best Wishes,

Dana


Fall Intersession! Oct 17-28


Weekly Update Oct 10-13

 Dear Discoverer Families,

I’m grateful for my cozy home this evening, as the high wind warning goes into effect! We still have power in our neighborhood, and I hope you all do, as well. At my house, we currently are dependent on electricity for all appliances. I was planning to purchase a butane stove, but all local stores were out of stock today. We stocked up on cereal instead!

Announcements:

Our two week intersession comes at a good time, I think. During the break, I will be in and out of school, organizing supplies and preparing for the return to school. We come back on October 31 (Halloween)! Swan School has a policy of not celebrating Halloween at school (there is more info on this in your parent handbook), but Loida and I are planning a walking field trip for that day…we are walking to Colinwood Farm, on F Street. We had a similar field trip last year (although this year we won’t do an extensive tour, just a walk and a chance to pick up a pumpkin). More details to follow!

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Summary of the Week:Monday: I’ve seen so many exciting things happening in the block area! I’ve seen castles, space stations, train stations and many other architectural wonders that the kids are coming up with. I see often collaboration, negotiating and problem solving, and tons of creativity!At circle time, I wanted to see how everyone is doing with their scissor skills. I had some paper leaves photocopied ahead of time, and asked the kids if they would help me cut a few more leaves for our apple tree mural. They eagerly got to work, and then wanted to add color, so we quickly set up paint trays. I also had some paper apples available for painting – lots of surreal color choices on this project!
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Tuesday: I love projects that are interdisciplinary – apple taste testing is one of my favorites! Here we have math, visual discrimination, name identification and a sensory experience all in one. I prepared three different kinds of apples – a Rosalynn (red), a Granny Smith (green), and a Gala (orange, on our chart). And I prepared a chart, with the three apple types along one edge and the names of all our students along the adjacent edge. Everyone was invited to taste the apples, eating slowly and really thinking about which sample was their favorite. Then, they each voted for their favorite, with a fingerprint, and we counted all the votes. We noticed that the Granny Smith and the Gala apple had the same number of votes (5 each – teachers voted, too!).
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Wednesday: We took a very short walk to the community garden on Wednesday, and played a game of I Spy while we were there. We noticed many things still growing, artichoke, pumpkins, squash, kale, and, surprisingly, a few berries. Many plants were at the end of their season; we witnessed a bird picking seeds from a withered sunflower.After our mini field trip, we had a circle time to introduce the kids to a series of activities that all relate to fundamental math concepts. We simply call it, “Math Choice”, but with these activities, the kids are practicing one-to-one correspondence, counting, number recognition, sorting, patterning, and spatial relationships. Zoe did animal dominoes and Elliot, Caleb and Louisa did the “Beachcomber” game (the child rolls the dice, counts the dots, and then picks up that many shells from the box, transferring them to the “beach”). The Beachcomber is a favorite with all – I was impressed with how willing everyone was to take turns and watch their classmates – another great way to learn!
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Thursday: I was out sick – a nasty cold virus. I hate missing school, but so glad Cerise was there to take over! They had an indoor gym! A fantastic idea, and I’m sure we will be doing more gross motor activities in the future!
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Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update Oct 3-7

 Dear Discoverer Families,

Looking at the large collection of photos from the last week, I remembered the spontaneous activity we all participated in after recess on Friday…when we lined up to go inside, Calvin asked that we go look at the robot drawings he and Caleb created (using sidewalk chalk, on the basketball court). We all walked over to the concrete, and found their impressive (huge!) robot drawings. The kids also noticed the etchings in the concrete (which must have happened years ago, when the concrete was still wet, and the students carved simple pictures into it). I think it was Calvin who started coloring over the etchings with chalk, to highlight them, and then began interpreting the images as clues to finding treasure. This was very exciting, and engaged all the kids in looking for more etchings, more clues, to the imaginary treasure. We also made a connection to the Jack and Annie book I’ve been reading at lunch time – in that story, the kids are introduced to Egyptian hieroglyphics that are carved in stone. This experience on the playground made the concept of hieroglyphics much more accessible, in a playful, collaborative activity! It was great fun for us all, and I’m so glad that we have the opportunity at our school to pursue such rich moments for learning

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Reminders:We have a four-day week coming up. On Friday, I am going with Karen and Marcy to an educator conference in Tacoma (and really looking forward to it)!Summary of the Week:Monday: On Monday morning, we were treated to a musical performance by Angie, a steel drum musician! She gave a very educational presentation, and explained a lot about the history of the drums (which are actually called “pan drums”). She performed several songs for us, and the kids were enthralled (so were the teachers)!After recess, we looked again at the apple prints from last week. I invited the kids to add color, with soft pastel or watercolor, or both. The experimentation with color and texture was wonderful to see! I will eventually put all this artwork on display before handing it back to you.
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Tuesday: There are many ways to celebrate the autumn season…we’ve been taking advantage of the glorious weather at recess time, collecting leaves, noticing the transformation of the world around us. I also love to celebrate fall with autumnal art. I borrowed this idea from Loida – providing the kids with a simple tree image, and then giving them the opportunity to mix paint to make colorful leaves on the trees. At circle, we discussed how to make green, orange and brown. I was impressed with the number of children who already knew how to mix green and orange (and Zoe declared that red and green make brown, which is exactly right!).At recess, the kids have been making good use of the empty boxes from last week’s cider making party. Many towers have been built and knocked down in the process – and this is such good opportunity for learning about construction, as well as working collaboratively with others.
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Wednesday: On this day, we decided to go to the sunflower garden again, to check on our flowers and harvest some seeds. Before heading outside, I led the group in the process of acting out the life cycle of the sunflower. We are now focusing in the idea of seeds being released from the flowers, to generate new flowers in the spring. We found many sunflowers fallen in our garden, and brought some back into the classroom for study.After recess, I brought out some lovely pumpkin and leaf stickers that I bought at the art store downtown. We talked about how pumpkins grow (on a vine, on the ground, in a garden), and I demonstrated drawing a pumpkin patch. When I demo such things, I always make sure to tell the kids, “You can draw whatever you like on your picture. This is what I’m choosing to draw”. I present an idea, but want to support each child in choosing their own form of self expression. I gave out the stickers and enjoyed watching the artwork that followed – some was very abstract, and some very representational.
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Thursday: We were invited to attend a poem performance in Karen’s class on Thursday morning. The Navigator students memorized a lengthy poem about animals in a mountain environment. Although it happens early in the day, at 9:05, it is valuable for us to visit other classes and gather with the whole Swan community for these wonderful student performances.After our field trip to Finnriver Farm, I decided we needed an apple orchard in the classroom! We talked about the parts of the tree, and what we would need to make an orchard mural. I had prepared a cardboard tree trunk and branches ahead of time, and we painted the cardboard with a mixture of liquid and powdered tempera paint.
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Friday: This was Loida’s day to host Morning Meeting. She read a story called “The Invisible Boy”, which sparked a great discussion among the student body about being aware of the needs of others.After recess, I had paper leaves prepared to add to our apple tree mural. The kids enjoyed painting with three kinds of paint (watercolor, powdered tempera and liquid tempera), mixing colors, creating different textures, and, making messy art!
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I hope you are having a lovely weekend! See you soon.Dana

Weekly Update Sept 26-30

 Dear Discoverer Families,

I had the great fortune today to go whale watching with Puget Sound Express…it’s been 11 years since I’ve been on a whale watching trip, so this was quite a treat! We had excellent viewing conditions, and we were thrilled to see so many orca whales! The captain was very knowledgeable, and I learned a lot about our resident orca pods. We also saw sea lions, and got a glimpse of the elusive minke whale. I took photos and video – I am excited to show these to our students tomorrow!

Announcements: No school on Oct.14. Most of our staff will be attending an educator’s conference in Tacoma on that day.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: I borrowed some big leaf maple leaves from Loida…she laminated them years ago, and they are wonderful specimens for leaf rubbings. I demonstrated, at circle time, how to use chunky crayons to make a rubbing. This is excellent for fine motor development, and the pictures turn out beautiful!

We also had a spontaneous project, inspired by Emma. She came to school with a home made butterfly mask, and it inspired many other mask projects!

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Tuesday: As a continuation of Monday’s leaf project, we did an experiment at circle time with watercolor over the crayon leaf rubbings. Before applying the paint, I asked the kids what they thought would happen to the image of the leaf. One person said, “It will change color”. Another thought that the crayon would “dissolve”, much like the gel crayons we experimented with before. Lo and behold, the crayon resists watercolor, making this a fun science and art lesson! The kids painted their leaf rubbings, and I will be making a gallery of them soon!
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Wednesday: I led an outdoor circle time on Wednesday, right after recess. We sat out in front of the school, and read/sang the words to a book that describes various deciduous trees and how they transform in fall. The words of the book are sung to the tune, “London Bridge is Falling Down”, and I will type up the lyrics to send home to you. After the song, I asked the kids to find three different types of leaves: maple, birch and oak. I had paper cut outs of each shape for them to refer to. They enjoyed frolicking in the autumn sun (don’t we all!), and finding leaf samples.
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Thursday: I set up a leaf sorting activity on the big tables Thursday morning. I have color copies of the three types of leaves we have been learning about: maple, birch and oak. I spread them out over the large table. I used tape to create three sections, and labeled each section with a paper cut out of a maple, oak or birch leaf. The kids worked individually to sort the leaves, and then I helped them count all of the leaves on the table.Along with learning about the season of fall, we’ve been talking about apple trees, apple fruit, and the apple orchard of Finn River Farm. After recess, I demonstrated how to make an apple print.  I had several apples pre-cut into halves (an important concept in math, as well). I got out my printmaking supplies, water soluble printmaking ink and brayers. I showed the kids how to roll the brayers (teachers distributed the ink) and how to roll the ink onto the apple. It was incredibly messy and fun, and the prints that were created are amazing! I am going to make copies, so that the originals can be preserved. We will add color to the copies in the coming week.

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Friday: Our field trip to Finn River Farm was a great success! Our tour guide, Cameron, was wonderful with the kids. He prepared several activities for us, including harvesting grain from wheat chaff, analyzing soil samples, feeding geese, feeding sheep and picking apples. It was a glorious day, and I’m so glad we made the trip! Loida and I are excited to plan more field trips.
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I noticed that Finn River will have an apple festival next weekend. This might be an event to put on your calendar, especially if you were unable to make the field trip.Best Wishes,Dana

 Weekly Update Sept 19-23

Dear Discoverer Families,

Announcements and Reminders:

We have an early release this Wednesday – pick up at 12:30. Teachers will be spending the rest of the day doing professional planning.

Field trip this Friday! Even if Friday is not your normal day with us, feel free to join us for this farm tour at Finn River.

We welcomed Zoe Harold into our classroom this week! Her big sister, Ava, was a preschooler at Swan a few years ago. It’s great to have our circle growing!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: We returned to the name collage project on Monday – it seemed fitting, because we have several new names to add to our bulletin board. This activity challenges kids to use their fine motor skills, and helps them build name recognition. It’s also great fun to sprinkle sequin stars all over one’s name!

I also captured some great balancing acts on Monday – Emma stacking fairies and unicorns in a fantastical tower, and Elliot and Kason working on a complex wooden block structure!

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Tuesday: We’ve done handprints before, but I recently ordered some lovely new stamp pads for our art program, and wanted to add to the collection of preschool hand prints. We set up a foot printing station, too! Everyone was invited to make bold, black foot prints (and some declined, which is just fine, so we traced the outline of their shoes). You will get the original prints, and I made copies of all of them. I will laminate the copies, and tape them on the floor beneath our coats. When the rain boots come out, we will have a “placemat” for each child’s footwear.

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Wednesday: During our morning circle, I did a demonstration on how to use soft pastels. As an art educator, I love introducing new media to the kids! Many of the hand prints from the previous day became layers with soft, dusty colors from the chalky pastels.
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Thursday: We visited our sunflower garden again this day…several flowers were at the end of their life cycle, so we harvested those flowers, bringing them into the room to study. Everyone enjoyed “dissecting” the blooms, looking for seeds and other flower parts. I have a chart that shows the botanical names for the parts of the sunflower, which is very helpful. At the easel, I put out sunflower colors for painting. At our closing circle, I showed the kids some images of sunflower paintings by Van Gogh, which they found fascinating!

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Friday: It was our turn to host Morning Meeting, and we were ready with a song performance. Our class sang “Shake and Move,” a rhythmic music & movement piece by  Patty Shukla. You can find a video of this song on YouTube. After singing it once through, we invited the rest of the student body to join in.

After recess, I did a demo on using watercolor trays. Everyone had time to experiment with their individual trays, and the resulting work was beautiful! I am collecting many pieces of student art right now – I will send home a pile of it with you at conference time.

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Best Wishes,

Dana


 Weekly Update Sept 12-16

Dear Discoverer Families,

This is, perhaps, my favorite time of year…the sensory experience of fall is delightful! We have begun exploring the art and science of fall, and soon we will be studying the life cycle of apple trees. Our student seem to be loving this season of harvest and transformation!

Reminders:

Parent Meeting this week! Wednesday, at 5pm, we will meet in my classroom for a discussion about our program and upcoming events. Definitely put this on your calendar!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: Continuing our pendant flag project, Brooklynn gave her presentation at morning circle, letting us know all about her favorite things. We have had new students arrive, and the flag project helps us develop a sense of classroom community.

After recess, we talked a bit about the Wooden Boat Festival, and then we set up a science experiment outside on the grass. This is a simple but very engaging activity that you can also set up at home – Sink or Float! We had a big tub of water, and a basket of objects. I held up each object, and asked the kids to give me their predictions, or ideas, about what would happen when the object was dropped in water. Each child was able to test an object while the group waited eagerly to see the results! We also collected natural materials from around the campus to see how or if those things would float.

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Tuesday: This was Louisa’s day to present her pendant flag – I’ve been impressed with all the kids thus far, sharing their flag and favorite things with clarity and confidence!
We also practiced making patterns in a very kinesthetic way – with body movements. I showed the kids an example of a movement pattern – lift arms up, then touch knees. Arms up, touch knees. Each child had a chance to make a movement pattern. We are attempting to play with patterns in many different modalities – with art, music, manipulatives, geometric shapes, and, now, movement.After recess, I talked about recognizing patterns with color. I introduced the drawing tools called “Dot Markers”, and invited everyone to produce an A-B-A-B pattern. I was intrigued to see some of the kids make 4 or 5 drawings with the dot markers – everyone is practicing patterns, and we will continue to work with this concept as the year progresses.
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Wednesday: I brought one of my favorite books to school – “A Seed Is Sleepy”. This gorgeous picture book describes many characteristics of seeds, and illustrates hundreds of beautiful seed types. I read the book at circle time, and then asked the kids to curl up in a ball, like a little seed. We acted out the germination and growth of an imaginary plant, all the way to the blooming stage.After recess, we visited the Community Garden, which is right across the street (on the 23rd street side of campus). We brought drawing boards and colored pencils, and everyone loved exploring the well-tended garden. We looked for what was bearing fruit, what was dying, and we attempted to find ladybugs. We will continue these visits throughout the school year.
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Thursday: This was picture day, and so we delayed our circle time. After recess, we gathered in circle to discuss our practice of recognizing kindness – we have been putting glass stones in the “Love Bucket” for several weeks. Our Love Bucket filled up this week, so it was time to celebrate! Everyone had a chance to stretch out a piece of pizza dough and cut it with cookie cutters into a (sort of) heart shape. We called it “love bread”! Cerise helped glaze the bread with honey, and we gobbled up the treat after lunch. We also had heart shaped stamps (along with an array of other rubber stamps) available for a love themed art project.Friday: This was an exciting day – all Swan School students participated in the UGN Day of Caring – even our preschoolers! We gathered in Loida’s room to discuss our activity. A small mountain of bath products sat in the center of the circle. Loida and I explained (to the best of our abilities) that these bars of soap and bottles of shampoo are going to be gifts for people who don’t have any, people who don’t have any money to buy such things. The kids were very motivated to help sort the items into various piles. A few students kept working after the sorting was finished, packing the items into gift bags. Many of the preschoolers also created note cards that will go with each gift bag. The ladies from UGN were delighted with our work!
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After recess, we had an outdoor circle time (on a glorious, sunny day). I read the book, “Hands are Not for Hitting”, which always sparks a good discussion among the kids about ways that we can and cannot use our hands. One wonderful way to use our hands is to make hand prints – I offered several colors of thick paint for the kids to use to paint their hands and make colorful prints on the sidewalk in front of the school. Everyone wore their artist smocks, and we all enjoyed the messy art!
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Best Wishes,Dana

Weekly Update: Sept 6-9
Dear Discoverer Families,

I’m sending this out later than usual…busy weekend! I enjoyed hosting friends from Portland who came to attend the Wooden Boat Festival. I decided we should do a sink/float activity tomorrow, while the boat theme is present in our community!

Announcements:

Picture day on Thursday. If Thursday isn’t one of your usual days, come anyway!
We have a class photo that will be a great keepsake. The company that provides this service does a great job.

We welcomed two new students into our room this week: Leo and Emma! We are now a group of 10!

Summary of the week:

Tuesday: During our morning circle, I introduced an art material that was recently donated to Swan School…gel crayons. This is a new product for me. They are very similar to watercolor crayons, but they are large, and in plastic tubes, which makes the crayon easier to manipulate for little hands. I presented the project as both an art project and a science project. I showed the kids what the gel crayons look like when used to draw lines. Then I asked them the kids what would happen if I brushed water over the lines with a paint brush. One person said, “it will dissolve.” Another said, “it will changer color.” Good predictions! The gel crayons blend with water, and the lines become fluid, essentially dissolving!

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Wednesday: Our focus activity this day was to add watercolor to our pendant flags. I intentionally gave only the primary colors to everyone, to provide the opportunity to mix colors. The flags look really lovely! Each one will have a photo and the description of “our favorite things”.At closing circle, we talked about creating patterns with music and rhythm. Everyone took a turn to make a pattern with a movement, or a series of movements, such as: clap, wave, clap, wave, etc. We will keep revisiting the idea of patterns in many ways, providing the kids with opportunities to make and see patterns in various materials and experiences.
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Thursday: We visited our sunflowers on this day, and enjoyed observing the changing garden: blooms opening, others dying, bees pollinating, and insects eating the leaves. Over the weekend, I came to water the garden, and found one of the sunflowers at the end of its life cycle. I brought it into the classroom for us to study on Monday.
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The kids requested blowing bubbles again at recess, and I was happy to oblige! This activity drew in students from every grade level – it was great community building! I found it challenging to photograph…but caught a few bubbles in action!
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Friday: Our day began with Morning Meeting in Loida’s class. We will participate in this every Friday, and every other week our classroom will host. Some of our students collaborated with an older partner to build a structure with manipulatives. We call this “Buddy Building”, and it always delights me, to see the mentoring and partnership of the older kids with the younger group.After recess, we had an outdoor circle, and discussed the changing of the seasons. The kids have noticed many aspects of the changing weather and foliage. I invited everyone to collect leaves, and to try and identify which trees they came from. This is the first of many autumn activities we will do – and we will be outside as much as possible!
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Cerise and I are having a wonderful time getting to know this group! We are off to a great start this year!Best wishes,Dana

Weekly Update: Aug 29- Sept 2
Dear Discoverer Families,
Announcements and Reminders:

Lunches: Make sure and pack some protein rich food in those lunches…I know packing lunches can be challenging, so if you want a list of food ideas, let me know. We will also be talking about this at our parent meeting, September 21.

If you haven’t done so already, bring in your answers to “Our Favorite Things” questions. The answers will go on the back of our classroom flags. Each flag will be painted this coming week, and I have photos of all the kids to paste onto their flag.

No School on Monday, September 5th. If you have an adventure over the weekend, feel free to send me a photo, and I can print it out. The kids love to share stories at circle time!

Picture Day is September 15! We have packets for you to take home (look in your child’s cubby). Plan on sending your child that day, even if it isn’t a normal school day for him/her.

Summary of the week:

Monday: Our circle time on Monday was devoted to a follow-up discussion of last Friday’s morning meeting. Last Friday, Loida read a book called “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”. We reflected on this book, and talked about the idea of treating others with kindness, and filling up their “Love Buckets”. I have a small, tin bucket that I labeled the “Love Bucket”. I also have blue gem stones that I placed in a bowl. I explained to the kids that we can acknowledge the love and kindness we show to each other by placing stones in the Love Bucket. Each child was given a stone, and they brainstormed ways to be kind, helpful and caring. When we fill our Love Bucket, we are going to celebrate! The kids have requested cake!

Also on Monday, we found a terrified spider in one of the baskets. I managed to trap it in a bug container, and the group spied on the spider through the clear plastic. We observed this spider for several hours, and then I released it!

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Tuesday: We’ve been talking to the kids about their “Bubble Space”. This is a concept I learned many years ago – I ask the kids to imagine they are surrounded by a magic bubble. This bubble cannot be popped by anyone or anything. It protects them, giving them personal space. It is a good tool for teaching safe and appropriate behavior, particularly when we are in a crowded situation (like lining up to go out to recess). So, we discussed our “Bubble Space”. And then we we enjoyed the making of real bubbles! I borrowed some powdered bubble solution from Loida, and we mixed it up in the classroom. The kids each made a pipe cleaner bubble wand. We took our activity outside, and everyone was thrilled with the production of bubbles, including the teachers! It was a humid day, which helps bubbles stay intact. We will do more with bubbles, both in science and art, in the coming week.
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Wednesday: One way to get to know one another is to ask the question, “What do you like to do with your hands?” I opened up this discussion at our circle time. We talked about safe and kind ways to use our hands. We then got messy with our hands, making hand prints with a mixture of powdered tempera paint. The kids have requested more hand print opportunities, which I am very happy to provide! We will revisit this activity in the next couple of weeks.
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Thursday: We welcomed Brooklynn into our classroom on September 1st! Brooklynn’s older brother, DJ was in my class a couple of years ago. We have two more students (possibly three) starting next week, so we will be doing more relationship building and focusing on classroom culture. Our community is growing!Instead of an indoor circle time, I planned an outdoor focus activity for Thursday. After recess, we sat down on the basketball court and I read a science book about the life cycle of sunflowers. We then marched to our sunflower garden, to notice changes and find new blooms. Every child has a flower named after them, and about half of the flowers are still young (planted late in the season).
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Friday: On this day, our class hosted Morning Meeting. It is lovely to have the whole Swan School student body in one room for these weekly meetings! I read a picture book titled, “Help! A Story of Friendship”. Feel free to look at this book when you drop off or pick up your child. It was an engaging story for kids of all ages, and I enjoyed hearing the older students offer interpretations after I was done reading.We had our circle a little later that morning. I introduced pattern blocks, and asked the kids to help me solve a pattern problem. I put out an ABAB pattern (yellow hexagon, blue diamond. Yellow hexagon, blue diamond, etc). The older students were quick to tell me what shape followed in the pattern. We then did an ABC pattern, and an ABCD pattern, to give the kids practice noticing the sequence of patterns. Each child then was given a tray and a bunch of pattern blocks to make their own patterns. We have a wide age range in our class, and many different developmental levels. Not everyone is ready to make patterns independently, and that is just fine! Cerise and I helped them notice shape, color, and repetition, regardless of age and skill level. All of it is good practice.
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I hope you all have a great weekend! I’m not leaving town – I am taking an online class (about developing art curriculum – very stimulating), and need to do homework. I also will be attending Art Walk on Saturday – this can be a great family activity, if it works for you to be downtown in the late afternoon, early evening.Best Wishes,Dana

Weekly Update: First Week!
Dear Discoverer Families,

Our first week is complete, and we are off to a fantastic start! I will compose these updates every week, including announcements, reminders, and information about our curriculum. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reply. Or give me a call.

Announcements:

No School September 5th, Labor Day.

Summary of the Week:

Tuesday: Our circle time consisted of a favorite name recognition song (Hickledee, Pickledee Bumble Bee) and an invitation to decorate large name tags. I got out a variety of “treasures” for the kids to collage onto the letters of their names. They worked so carefully on this project! In all activities, we are working on getting to know each other, learning interests and strengths, and developing a caring classroom culture.

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After recess, we took a tour of the campus, including visiting Russ in the Adventurer’s room and Karen in the Navigator’s room.

 

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Wednesday: We have a sunflower garden for our preschoolers on the 23rd street side of campus. This was a project we began last spring. We planted a variety of sunflower species, and every child has a sunflower named after them. I made sure and put name tags out there, for the children who are new to Swan this year. We took a walk to visit the garden, notice the growth of the sunflowers and enjoy the blooms.

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Thursday: Thank you for doing your “homework”, and writing down your child’s answers to our “Favorite Things” questions! At circle time, we had two children present their flags and discuss their favorite things with the group.

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Friday: On Fridays, the preschool kids host Morning Meeting – a gathering of all students and teachers, this is a time for sharing information and building community. Loida hosted our first Friday Morning Meeting. She read a book that has become one of my favorite – “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?”. This book is a great social/emotional piece of literature. The author shows the importance of kindness and respect, using the metaphor of filling up a bucket with love. Next week we will return to this book, and discuss ways that we all can be “bucket fillers”. I have a small, aluminum bucket that will be our “Love Bucket”, and some gem stones that can serve as symbols for the acts of kindness we witness in class.

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Have a great weekend!

Best wishes,

Dana


The View from 2014-2015

The View from 2015-2016

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