Passionate Teachers
Focused Learning Environment
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


Discovering Spring

Last Week

Last full week photos…

My final weekly update for the 2014-2015 school year! Very late, because of the week’s activities. It was wonderful to see some of you at the graduation and potluck yesterday – this was a good opportunity to learn from the graduates (6th graders going on to Jr. High) what they experienced during their time at Swan. They each gave insightful speeches, with lots of gratitude to teachers and friends. Our preschoolers were such great audience members! We also had lots of time to play, eat great food, and connect with each other. This was a good closing ceremony for the school year.

We made clay eggs to go in our paper nests. The kids wanted to do clay every day for about a week – I was more than happy to accommodate them! We delivered another batch of coffee grounds to the worm bin, and the kids gazed with great curiosity at the worm bin ecosystem – so many worms, centipedes, rolly pollys, fruit flies, and other creepy crawlies! We went into the community garden to explore…and talked about if birds are harmful or helpful to gardens.IMG_3778

If you couldn’t make the field trip, you should consider doing this walk on your own this summer! It was a great opportunity to view birds and other wildlife. We saw a great blue heron glide over us, three distinct times, with such grace and strength. We also had the pleasure of viewing a cedar waxwing mama bird in her nest (thanks to Mike’s keen eyes!). Each child had a chance to see her (she sat still as a statue!). We saw many more shore birds and crows. It was fun, and about the right length for this kind of adventure. I plan to spend more time on the Larry Scott Trail, now that I know about this enticing spot!


In closing, I want to offer my deep thanks to you all, for being part of this very unique and precious community we’ve built. This was an incredible year, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to know each of you, and to serve your children. I feel a tremendous sense of joy and love when I think of the year we’ve shared! I look forward to a summer of relaxation, creative work and travel, and I hope to keep in touch with all of you. Contact me any time.


Best Wishes,


Week 39 – July 6-10

Dear Discoverer Families,

These last days of school have been so wonderful to witness – the kids have formed a very cohesive group, and there are so many ways that they reveal their connection to each other.  We are now in our last full week of school, and it is hard to believe the school year will soon end!


Next week, we will have two days at Swan School, then the last day of “school” is actually not on campus. We gather at H.J. Carol Park for a pot-luck and a graduation ceremony honoring the 6th graders. Typically, the children run and play for the first hour, then we have graduation (preschoolers are not expected to sit trough the whole thing – but it is very engaging for adults. There are 3 graduates this year, and they will each give a speech, describing their time at Swan School). Finally, we eat delicious food at the pot-luck and the clean up. It usually wraps up around 1pm. Hope you can make it!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: We spent our morning circle talking about how birds prepare their nests for eggs. I asked the kids what kind of materials birds might want to have in their nests before the eggs are laid, and the kids had very perceptive answers, including mud, leaves, grass, feathers, and wool. Fortunately, I had some real wool and leaves, along with some shredded paper and feathers that the kids could use to soften their paper and glue nests.


After recess, I brought out the first nest project that we started last Monday, June 29. These were frames for nests that the kids made with sticks and leaves gathered on the playground. Several children spent a lot of time placing sticks in position and tying (with some help) twine around the sticks to hold the frame together. We became aware of just how hard it is for people to make something as beautiful and functional as a nest!

Tuesday: The kids have been enjoying the bird stencils, and I’ve seen a lot of swans and woodpeckers appearing lately…At circle time, we talked about how to continue with our mural on the back wall, and many of the children decided to make more birds to add to the mural project.

After recess, we had our second sprinkler party, this time with just our group of kids. It was wet and wild, and the kids did not mind the cloudy, cool weather one bit!

After drying out and getting fresh clothes on, we celebrated the letter P. The kids are getting so skillful at identifying letter sounds and guessing words that begin with that letter. You can definitely keep up this work at home!

Wednesday: I decided to skip Morning Meeting (it was hosted by Karen this day), and just have a quieter morning in our home room. We needed to study two letters to keep on schedule (and finish our ABC study before the last day of school!). So, our first circle focused on the letter Q. We talked about how to identify this letter, how to write a capital Q, and the sound it makes when combined with U. There were some great suggestions for words that start with Q. I often give the kids clues to words that start with the particular letter sound we are studying, and this helps keep the sense of anticipation going! It also helps them to recognize letter sounds in familiar words.

After recess, we focused on the letter R. We have a wonderful volunteer who is with us on Tuesdays, whose name happens to start with R: Rinnah. She is such a natural teacher, even at age 19, that she led this activity! The kids are really enjoying her.


Thursday: We began making clay eggs this day, after looking at various egg types in the bird books. The kids were impressed with the book that shows an ostrich egg next to a hummingbird egg. We spent so much time working on this project – and taking it much farther than I expected! Andrew decided to put clay along the inside of his paper nest, to imitate the mud in a robin’s nest. He also made a clay bird. Such great ideas!

Friday: We continued with developing the paper nests – some students added leaves, wool, feathers and paper strips to their nests, and then all enjoyed working with clay again. Some kids have 20 + little eggs to pile into their nests! Two more students were inspired by Andrew’s clay bird, and they made their own clay birds.

After recess, we focused on letter T. This ABC study has been a good excuse to keep returning to our stack of ABC books, and reading through up to the letter of the day. On this day, I brought out a book that I bought at our PT Marine Science Center – it has paper cut illustrations that I love, and all of the pictures are from the Pacific Northwest environment. T was for “tide pool” in this book.

Stay tuned for announcement about a bird watching field trip – I’m going to do a little research on a spot recommended by Marcy, and let you know soon about the details!

Best Wishes,


Week 38 – June 29-July 2

Dear Discoverer Families,

What a warm and wonderful week we had! Here are the highlights…

Monday: We began the day with a discussion about bird’s nests. I asked everyone what they know about bird nests, how they are built, where they are found…and the answers were so interesting. We looked at a video of a ruby throated hummingbird making her nest – fascinating! We later collected things on the playground for building our own nests…twigs, leaves, grass, primarily. The letter we celebrated that day was L, and after making our list of L words, the kids went on a scavenger hunt for the L items in our classroom: toy llamas and sprigs of lavender!


Tuesday: We mixed things up a bit, and focused on our letter of the day at morning circle. M was the letter to celebrate, and we continued our listing of words that start with M. We also listened to a song called “Alphabet in Motion”, by Hap Palmer. It guides the kids in body movements that go with each letter, such as A for arch, B for bend, etc. This was fun and good for our physical coordination!

After recess, the sprinkler party was a blast! We had the towels spread out on “Swan Beach”. I tried to get photos of all the kiddos, but it was definitely a challenge; so much running and jumping!


Wednesday: We hosted morning meeting this day, and invited the other classes to participate in Buddy Building. We did this last fall, and I asked all of the older kids to notice how skillful the preschoolers now are with constructing things and manipulating materials. After recess, we celebrated the letter N. On Wednesdays, I provide a small treat to go with the letter of the day. N was tricky, because one naturally thinks of nuts, and I am so allergic that I shouldn’t handle most nuts, so I got Nut Thins! Crackers! They were a big hit.


Thursday: The videos of birds constructing nests are really intriguing. We watched a robin making its nest, and repeated the humming bird video. The kids then began a project with paper strips, making nests that simple, but hold together really well. We dipped the paper strips into a glue and water mixture, then molded the paper over glass bowls. They look really cool when dry! We will later add soft material to go in the nests, and clay eggs. After recess, we continued the alphabet study, focusing on letter O. This is such a fun letter – it has 3 different sounds!

We got a lot done this day…we delivered coffee grounds, collected from the school, to the community garden across the street. The kids were thrilled with seeing the worms in the worm bin, and I am thrilled that we are saving the coffee from the trash, and contributing to the community garden!


I hope you all had a splendid 4th of July – it was a joyful one for me! See you soon!


Week 37 – June 22-26

Dear Discoverer Families,

Today I found the box in the garage that holds my bird nest collection. I have hung onto these nests for many years; they are very intact and are each quite different. I often wonder if I really need to be saving such things, or if it is time to detach from some of my old “treasures”…but now that we are studying birds in our classroom, I am so excited to drag out the next collection and show all the kids! We will soon be doing some nest building of our own…


No school Friday, July 3rd. Maybe I will see you at the fireworks show at the Fort on the 4th!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: At morning circle, I introduced feather quill drawing. This was very intriguing to the kids, and they created some beautiful art, which required great patience on their part! After recess, we celebrated the letter “H”. We brainstormed words that begin with H, and then I invited the kids to look through a vast collection of dress up hats (one of Loida’s collections!). They were so adorable – and I managed to get photos!


Tuesday: It was months ago when I began making woodpecker stencils at Ansel’s request, and I realized that I could make a variety of stencils for the kids to trace, to help develop their fine motor skills, and giving them the tools to draw their own birds. I read from a science book about birds around the world, and then I invited everyone to look through the bird books and choose their favorite bird. We had requests for golden eagles, puffins, mourning doves, blue herons and the exotic sun bittern! A good challenge for me as an artist…

After recess, our Swan School neighbor, Libby Palmer, visited our class (she was a visitor last fall, when we studied South America, and she brought many musical instruments to share with the kids). This time, Libby came as an expert gardener. She brought with her some worms from the worm bin at the community garden, which she helps to care for. The kids were fascinated. She gave a great presentation on how the worms eat our food compost and turn it into rich soil. We walked over to the garden with her, and took coffee grounds to the worm bin. We are going to begin doing this weekly – saving the coffee grounds from our Swan School coffee pot, and gifting them to the garden.

Wednesday: This was our day for Morning Meeting, and Loida hosted the kids in her room. Each class took a turn to stand up and sing the songs that they had prepared for the concert. Our Discoverers did a beautiful job! We enjoyed hearing all the other children sing (and Karen’s kids recited a poem). After recess, our alphabet letter to celebrate was “I”. The kids are getting really good at thinking of words with the long I sound. I promised them a serving of ice cream to be enjoyed after lunch, so I think I will remain a popular letter!


Thursday:  At morning circle, we talked about various kinds of habitats, and I taught the kids a habitat song. We focused on the forest floor habitat, and the grass, logs, mushrooms etc. that make up this home for insects, snails, and salamanders (to name a few). Then we worked with a variety of paint brushes to paint the forest floor of our mural, which is looking very grassy! After recess, we focused on the letter “J”. I had the kids look for the letter J in all of our ABC books, and they spent a lot of time enjoying the words and pictures in the collection of books I have (most are from the public library, and will have to go back eventually!).

Friday: I am sorry to have missed school on Friday. I believe the cold virus that was in my system last week came back with a vengeance after the severe allergic reaction I had last Friday…But Brynn provided them with a wonderful day of discovery, taking the group to the community garden. They observed flowers blooming, and then drew flowers from memory back in the classroom. They also studied the letter “K”. We have just enough days of school left to get to Z!


It’s looking stormy outside at the moment…I wonder what tomorrow will bring? I look forward to the adventuring!

Best Wishes,


Week 36 – June 15-19

Dear Discoverer Families,

There is an early release this Wednesday, so we will end school at 12:30pm that day.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: During our morning circle, I read the book “About Birds”, a good introductory concepts book that shows birds in many different habitats. I asked the kids if they knew what a “habitat” was. It was challenging to come up with a definition, so I brought out some props: a toy bird in a nest, a cup of water, a bowl of bird seed, and a “tree” (just my bamboo plant, pretending to be a tree). A habitat requires food, water, shelter and a place for animals to reproduce. Then I asked the kids what kind of habitat they wanted to make for our new classroom mural. Several kids wanted a forest habitat, for birds and fairies! And perhaps an ocean habitat, one person suggested, for mermaids!

After recess, we focused on the letter “D”. We brainstormed some words beginning with D, and I wrote them on the white board. I hid a number of small items in the room that start with D, so that the kids could do a scavenger hunt.

Tuesday: At morning circle, I read the book “The Best Nest”, by P.D. Eastman. This story has drama and suspense, and is a great choice for provoking student responses. I stopped reading about half way through, and asked the kids what they thought would happen. It was fun to hear their different ideas (although two kids knew the story and knew exactly how it would end!).

After recess, we celebrated the letter “E”. Some good brainstorming of E words, followed by a scavenger hunt for puzzle pieces that have the letter E on them (all of our puzzles have elephant as the image for E – a bit surprising!). I loved seeing the pretend writing happening on the white board after this activity.

Wednesday: We hosted morning meeting, and invited Loida’s class to stand with us at the front of the room, to practice singing for the concert. The rhythm and timing were a bit challenging, but they sang beautifully, and the crowd was very imprssed!

We had a late circle that day, and we began a discussion about our circle time expectations. This exercise is part of an approach to literacy that all of the staff at Swan are exploring, thanks to the influence of our literacy specialist, Ardith Cole (Satya’s grandma!). We talked about how to listen to each other, how to be respectful, and how to share ideas. I wrote down our circle time promises. All the kids put their handprints on a poster to be a reminder of these expectations.

During lunch, I read a book that details the life cycle of mallard ducks. This was in preparation for a very special treat – Gerry brought us duck shaped cookies! They were incredibly cute. And she taught us a song about a duckling spashing in a puddle.

Thursday: After looking at the book, “A Northwest Forest Scrapbook”, we discussed our understanding of habitats again. I wish I had recoreded the conversation – the kids offered such great thoughts! We then went to work painting evergreen trees for the mural.

After recess, we celebrated the letter “F”. We did our usual brainstorming of words, and then I gave each student a chance to hide a feather for the rest of the group to hunt for. This gave everyone in the group the chance to be in control of the game.

Friday: I was out with a raw sore throat, but Brynn worked with the kids on creating more bird puppets and paintings. She also continued our ABC routine, celebrating the letter “G”.  We’ve also been learning the sign language alphabet, and have been practicing each day our hand signs for the ABC’s. I will put out copies of a chart that shows images of the sign language ABC’s, so you can practice at home.

A very full week, one of joy and discovery. I love these slower-paced, sunny days.

Best Wishes,


Week 35 – June 8-12

Dear Discoverer Families,

What a splendid, sunny weekend! I hope you all had some relaxing, outdoor time. I spent some time at the Ft. on Saturday, during their Open House event. Today I’ve been on an urban adventure in Seattle, exploring the Greenlake area. I like these urban getaways, but I love returning to our quiet home in Port Townsend 🙂

Swan School Concert this Friday, at 6:30pm. We will be at the high school auditorium again. We’ve been singing Zip-ah-dee-do-dah and The Garden Song with great heart and soul all week! I have song lyrics to hand out, if you don’t have them already.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: After an intercession, I always love to hear the children’s responses to the question – what did you do during your time away from school? I wrote down their diverse responses (and collected more stories on Tuesday and Wednesday). We had stories of swimming and camping, visiting family, going to museums, and…eating oatmeal! These stories are posted on the bulletin board when you enter the class – take a look!


After recess that day, we focused on a new theme that I saw building earlier in the spring…we are looking at birds and bird habitats. The children love the soft toy birds we have in the classroom, and they were using these props for such great storytelling before the break. I thought we could take this interest into a curriculum theme that crosses science, art, and literacy domains…so we began by asking the question -“What do we know about birds?” The ideas offered were fantastic. I recorded our first conversation, and we will add onto this list of ideas as we explore this theme. After the discussion, we went outside to look for evidence of bird life. The kids were so great about staying focused on this activity out on the playground. We looked high and low, and thought about different places birds could live. We all caught sight of a robin, and watched it ascend from the ground to a tree.

Tuesday: I decided to get out some animal puppets and open up the puppet theater for the dramatic play area. During our morning circle time, I did a demo of using the puppets and telling a story – I used the Eric Carle book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” as an example, but substituted all of our puppets for the animals in the story. The kids enjoyed collaborating with partners to tell their own puppet stories, while all the other children formed the audience. We even served imaginary popcorn!

Wednesday: Loida’s class hosted us all for Morning Meeting, and the kids had the opportunity to do partner reading with an older student. We chose books from our collection to take over for this activity, and it was fun to see the older kids work so kindly with our little ones! After recess, we began a new literacy project…celebrating the alphabet, one letter at a time. We looked at a few familiar objects and people, such as an apple, an acorn, and three kids with A names, and we talked about the “voice” of letter A. I wrote down all of these words on the white board. This is a fun way to help the kids practice beginning letter sounds. I also sent them on a scavenger hunt…I had hidden around the room 10 photo copies of the A page from our various alphabet books. Each child found one note, and then matched it to the original book. The kids are showing a lot of curiosity about printed and spoken language!

Thursday: Our morning circle centered around the Lois Ehlert book, “Feathers for Lunch”. This story follows the unsuccessful efforts of a house cat who attempts to catch back yard birds. It is so beautifully illustrated, that it inspired me to draw some simple bird shapes (and a cat outline) so that we could paint them and make paper puppets. The kids were so careful with their watercolors…the results were beautiful! And the paper puppets have been very active in the puppet theater 🙂 After recess, we celebrated letter B, with a similar discussion and scavenger hunt.


Friday: After more bird and cat puppet making, we spent some time celebrating letter C. During circle time, I gave the kids some verbal clues so that they would name objects that began with letter C – all things in the classroom, such as cars, carrots, and cats. I wrote down all these words, and more that we came up with. We talked about the voice of letter C, and how it can say “sssss”, as in celery, or “ch”, as in chard. The scavenger hunt this day was a bit different – the kids hunted for various objects I had hidden around the room. Novelty is important at this age!


We also had a chance to visit the school garden, which is a project led by the Navigator’s class (2nd and 3rd grades). They had a fabulous selection of greens, and we harvested enough to make salads for everyone to try at lunch time!

It was a lovely week! We have been lingering a bit longer on the playground at recess, and
find more reasons to do activities outside. All of the classes have felt this same need, to enjoy our outdoor environment, and learn through the process of wonder and exploration!

Best Wishes,


Week 32 – May 18-22

Dear Discoverer Families,

Reminders: We still have a lot of volunteer opportunities, in our classroom and around the school. If this intercession is a good time for you to do a project, let me know. I will be in PT most of the break, and can give you projects to take home or meet you at school for a quick intro to work projects there.

Monday: The VERY LARGE drawings you’ve seen hanging up around the classroom came down on Monday and Tuesday, so that the kids could have an opportunity to enhance them with color. We used sidewalk chalk for this, because it can cover large areas and is soft enough to not overwhelm the pen lines of the drawings. The kids created these drawings by first drawing onto transparencies, then projecting them onto the paper pad with the light projector. A fun, creative way to play with light, art and magnification. The sun came out later that day, and we had great fun making shadows outside on the basketball court. I’ve included a few in-action photos here…we also played Shadow Tag, which gave everyone a great workout! I was impressed with the ability of the kids to understand the concept of the game and to act with great sportsmanship!

Tuesday: We repeated the light and reflection experiment from last Friday, so that everyone would have the opportunity to see how glass can be both transparent and reflective. Let me know if you would like to replicate this experiment at home. We also spent more time coloring the large projector drawings. I’ve included some spontaneous projects and creative work in the photos…the small, square art table has been a busy place, with dragon coloring, independent drawing, cutting and collage, and many watercolor paintings, all student-led projects.


Wednesday: We hosted morning meeting this day, and had all of the Swan students as guests in our class. We paired up each preschool or Kindergarten student with an older child, and gave them time to read together. Many of the older kids brought books to share with us. After recess, we read the Robert Lewis Stevenson poem, “My Shadow”. I borrowed a picture book from Karen that illustrates the poem beautifully. We talked about where shadows come from, and how they are created. I showed them photos from Monday’s shadow pictures, and asked if they could identify the person making the shadow. We then went out side for more “shadow portraits”!

Thursday: We’ve done two trips to the community garden this year, and I decided it was time for another. Before going to the garden, we read the book “To Be Like the Sun”, in which a child plants a sunflower seed and wonders at the capacity it has to grow into a giant flower. When we arrived at the garden, we noticed many flowers in full bloom – Iris, columbine, and others (how wonderful that this community garden is beautiful as well as practical!). We found strawberries, raspberries, broccoli, artichoke, carrots and many other veggies growing. The kids were very respectful of the plant life. Later that day, I gave everyone a list of simple shadow drawings, and they proceeded to search for these  particular shadow shapes on the playground. Another game of shadow tag was requested, and they chased shadows with glee, until everyone was tired and it was time to go eat lunch.


Friday: I offered a sweet treat to the kids on this last day before the intercession…but it was really a math activity in disguise! Before offering the treat, we reviewed what a repeating pattern looks like, and the kids suggested several different color patterns (I had a few skittles on my plate to demonstrate). At the big tables, I had skittles separated by color into different bowls. The kids were asked to pick 10 pieces, and then make a pattern on their plate before eating the candy. They did a great job with this. We also worked to take down the “color mosaic” project that was displayed on the back wall of the room. I included a photo of the whole piece, so you and your child can look back at it and get a sense of how the parts contributed to the whole.

I hope you all are enjoying this long weekend…I went on a “field trip” to the Tacoma Art Museum, and was thrilled to see the collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings they now have on display! As always, let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to the stories from the kids after our break from school.

Best Wishes,


Week 30 – May 4 – 8

Dear Discoverer Families,
What a busy week! I hope you all had a celebratory Mother’s Day…I attended the Wearable Art Show this year, and realized it would be the perfect event for my mom to see with me (must plan for next year)!
There will be an early release this Friday, May 15. All students will be released at 12:30. This is to prepare for the Children’s Parade – Swan School always has a colorful presence in the parade – I am looking forward to it! Hope you all can make it, and walk the parade with us!
Weekly Summary:
Monday: Having sorted the natural materials and the human-made materials, we began the process of selecting favorites and planning photos for the Mother’s Day cards. This was a beautiful process to watch. It led to open-ended, artistic play with the many objects in the collections. There are a few photos here – but so many more images of creative designs with these materials! After recess, we continued work on the Alphabet Cards. Most of the kids have gotten to Z! They have worked dIMG_3014iligently on this – I am so impressed with their interest and abilities!
Tuesday: After seeing the kids work with the “loose parts” of the collections, I decided to show the kids my Andy Goldsworthy book. He is a remarkable artist who uses natural materials, found on site, to construct temporary art instillations. The kids loved seeing his photos, and I think it was a good provocationfor further exploration with materials we have in the classroom. We also had the awesome opportunity to hear a professional opera singer perform! He is a friend of our Drama/Choir teacher, and he entertained the children beautifully. He sang Puff the Magic Dragon and Zip-a-dee-do-dah, among others. He was very engaging. I took a short video and am happy to show any of you at drop-off time.
Wednesday: We hosted Morning Meeting, and showed off our dancing moves. I played the Bob Marley song, “Three Little Birds”, performed by Elizabeth Mitchell, and the kids delighted the audience with their scarf dancing. They know the words, and sing it well when we are at circle time, and not in the spot light! We invited all of the audience members to dance with us, and a few joined in. After recess, we set to work making paintings for Teacher Brynn. I wrote down all the messages the kids had for her, and delivered them that evening, along with a bouquet of sunflowers. She was uplifted and so grateful!
Thursday: We worked on enhancing watercolor paintings from last week…this was inspired by Loida’s class. The students looked at artwork by Loida’s students before using the same technique on their own pieces. I invited the kids to use black sharpies to outline the colorful shapes in tblocksheir paintings. The results were quite diverse and beautiful. Several students decided to make their paintings into maps.
We continued to work with the collections, and the structures became more intentional, more complex. After reading the Butterfly Alphabet, the kids have been requesting that I make butterfly shapes out of paper for them to color. I’ve made a stencil that they can trace, and I love seeing the wing designs that the kids come up with! This has been a great way to talk about the life cycle of the butterfly, as well as the symmetry of butterfly wings. We’ve also made quite a few paper birds. The last photo in this batch shows the “dragon family” that I have seen almost every day out on the playground. It is so wonderful to see the children gather in


 their “dragon cave”, making space for everyone, finding a role for everyone, and playing in such a communal, imaginative way!
Time to say good night….see you all soon!
Best Wishes,

Week 29 – April 27 – May 1

Hello Discoverer Families,
So, we have week 29, week in review here:
Monday: The innovative book, “Press Here”, has become a favorite of mine. The kids love following the narrator’s instructions on each page – they are invited to press dots of color, or clap, or blow, or shake the book to alter the size and position of the dots. We created collages with tissue paper  to imitate this book. As part of our study of color, we have been talking about light reflection and refraction. WPress heree talked about these ideas before I have everyone transparencies to draw on. Thishas been a fun way to use the light projector – the kids drawings can be projected onto large paper, and then traced.
Tuesday: One of Loida’s art projects inspired me recently, so I borrowed some of the artwork from her class to share with our group. The project involved painting small watercolor pictures, whatever the students felt like painting. Then, the kids would draw over their watercolors with a black sharpie, outlining colors and defining shapes. We began  our watercolor paintings on this day.
Wednesday: We have been gathering coins for several weeks now, and I brought in my
pot of coins to add to the collection. At our Wednesday morning circle, we talked about

Ansel:Lilaidentifying the coins, and then we worked on sorting them into quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies. This took a lot of attention to detail. We will ask some older kids to count the change! We had an early release this day, so that staff and teachers at Swan could receive a training on emergency procedures and use of a fire extinguisher. Now, we are prepared for anything!

Thursday: We returned to our color collages, and our discussions about the feelings colors evoke. We celebrated blue this day, and I loved seeing the concentration the kids had for this color meditation and art project! After recess, I brought out the various materials that the kids have brought in to school as part of our Collections project. We talked about how we could sort these materials, looking at like things and dislike things, comparing and contrasting. It was a great session of categorizing – so helpful for those math concepts that are on the horizon!
Many of our students love purple, and we were happy to arrive at our “purple day”, constructing the last row of the rainbow mosaic on display in the classroom. I’ve been mixing liquid watercolor with the glue for each of these projects, so we had purple glue to use, which is great fun (but may not be visible after it dries on the black paper). After recess, we continued sorting collection materials (and I added to the bounty with some items from my own collections – feathers, seed pods, cork, shells…).
It was a joyful week! I have to mention that the city building, along with train track construction, continues to draw in every child, and there is so much richness in this play…story telling, decision making, negotiating, problem solving, experimenting with balance and symmetry…we had a lovely dinosaur/train/dragon playground at one point!
Best wishes,


Week 28 – April 20-24

Dear Discoverer Families,

I noticed the rapidly changing weather last Friday, and as I left the co-op, I thought, “there must be a rainbow somewhere”…over the weekend, I saw a friend of a friend post some amazing rainbow photos on Facebook. I will be showing these to our class and inviting rainbow-chasing stories on Monday!


This Wednesday, April 29, is the last day for our Coin Challenge at Swan School. I have a small cauldron of coins I am going to bring to class (we will sort them and talk about value, then dump them in the jar). Bring your loose change this week to help contribute to scholarship money for our many students who apply.

May 2nd and 3rd are the dates of the Plant-a-palooza. This is always a festive event, and inspires gardening of all kinds (I am a balcony gardener, and I always get a few succulents at this plant sale).

If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, let me know! I have jobs for you!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: We worked on creating red and organge color mosaics last week – this week, it is yellow and green. I read the “What is Yellow” poem from the book, _Hailstones and Halibut Bones_. The kids laid down and closed their eyes for this “color meditation”, and then we talked about what yellow feels like. The mosaic art is hanging on the back wall of the classroom – a new kind of rainbow. We also had a spontaneous art project happen  after recess: Audrianna brought a dandilion puff to school, and we all blew the seeds away at recess. Then, Max and Ansel wanted to collect lots of dandilions. We took them inside, and used them (the yellow blooms and the seedless heads) to make prints. They are so cool! I loved seeing the color, texture and patterns created with this artwork.IMG_1915

Tuesday: The green color mosaic was our morning project. The kids have also been doing some amazing block construction, almost every day. I have a couple of photos…this is almost always a collaborative project, with many children contributing to a city, castle or farm. The structures are getting more complex, and the communication between the children has been a joy to observe. Good planning, problem solving, and imaginative play. After recess, we poured out the change we’ve collected in the giant jar, and sorted out all the different coins. I talked with the kids, briefly, about the worth of pennies, nickels, dimes and quaterers, but the math that they understood was counting each type of coin and noticing the physical differences in the coins.

Wednesday: We attended a very special morning meeting this day – the Navigators (2nd and 3rd grades)IMG_2805 were performing a dress rehearsal for their play, “Lulu and the Brontosaurus”. Everyone thoroughly  enjoyed the performance! Later that day, I read a poetic book about color, titled _Red Sings from Treetops_. I then gave everyone a clip board and sheet of paper with the color words written along the left margin (rainbow colors, plus brown and black). We all went outside to go on a color scavenger hunt. The children enjoyed identifying colors in the garden beds and trees in front of the school. Several kids took a lot of time to draw the flowers and trees they were observing. At our closing circle, we’ve been working on singing a rainbow tune, and practicing sign language with each color, thanks to our expert sign language teacher, Talitha!

Thursday: At morning circle, we read a classic book that has become a class favorite – _The Color Kittens_, by Margaret Wise Brown. This is a good book for many reasons – descriptive language, IMG_2815rhyming words, color concepts, and the color words integrated into the illustrations. Each student chose a color paper doll, and I invited them to hold up their color when they saw it in the pages of the book. We were also glad to have Ardith Cole, a literacy specialist and Satya’s grandma, joining us for this circle! The other guests in our classroom happen to be four very good-natured snails. Ansel brought three of them, and Elsie brought one, and it has been great fun (and great experiential education) to have the snails in our class! I checked out a couple of snail books from the library to further our understanding of snail science. After recess, I gave everyone a stencil of a simple human figure, and the kids worked on tracing the outlines, then filling in the figure with watercolors to extend our “color feelings” discussions.
Friday: At morning circle, I read the fabulous book, _Press Here_. This is an interactive book about color. The kids loved following the directions of the book’s narrator (pressing on the colorful dots, clapping hands, and blowing on the pages). We then made collages with red, yellow and blue tissue paper circles inspired by the book. We will do more with this project in the coming week. After recess, I introduced the kids to transparency sheets (used on the light projector). Everyone was invited to draw on the transparencies, and then see how the light projector transformed their drawings. We will return to this project on Monday, with large paper for the kids to trace their own projected drawings.IMG_1961
What a full week! It has been a joyful spring, and I look forward to more adventures and discoveries in the days to come.
Best Wishes,

Week 27 – April 13 – 17

Dear Discoverer Families,

We began our mosaic project on Monday. Last week, we sorted a big collection of art supplies (from my endless stash). Monday was the celebration of Red. We also set up a new playhouse, completed puzzles, worked on keeping a steady beat with rhythm sticks. We also made patterns with bingo chips on the light projector…each pair used dot markers to make a pattern on paper, and then each partner worked to make the pattern with bingo chips on the projector. We had picnics and spontaneous scarf dancing and all in all had such a fun week!
Thanks to all of you for making it so.

Best wishes,


Week 26 – April 6 – 10

Dear Discoverer Families,

The abundance of spring blooms has begun to make its way into our classroom…as the children arrive each morning, I am often gifted with a flower, a leaf, sometimes a writhing worm or baby slug! On the playground, the children have been collecting petals, dandelions, daisies, pebbles, and many other fascinating objects that spark interest in the collector. To expand upon this impulse of gathering up the precious things in our lives, I would like to invite all students and families to begin making a collection at home. The children will bring home a brown bag and a collector’s poem to help inspire this process.

As you help your child find items for collecting, feel free to engage in a discussion about the contents of the collection. What kinds of objects does your child gravitate towards? How does he or she describe these objects? Are they “trash” or “treasure”? Do these things have interesting textures, shapes and colors, or do they tell a story?

These collections can be quite diverse and open to interpretation! Encourage your child to collect items that he or she will be willing to share with the class. We intend to use these materials for discussions, for sorting projects, and for art projects. Here are a few examples of good items to collect:

* feathers,  shells, small stones, leaves

* fabric scraps, paper scraps, ribbons, beads, buttons

* bottle caps, plastic caps, old jewelry, old keys

 A Poem for Collections

I look. I search. I hope to see

Something that appeals to me.

Something unique – or maybe not.

Buttons, milk caps, straws – the lot.

A blue-green shape just caught my eye;

I don’t think I can pass it by.

Whatever it is, it makes me glad.

And so, I’ll put it in my bag!

By Rita Harris

IMG_2527What a great week we had! Sometimes the week after an intercession can be a bit rocky, but our class showed a tremendous eagerness to be back to school, engaging in new projects and exploring new themes.
 Hopefully you are finding opportunities to gather materials in the collection bags we decorated last week. If you have misplaced your bag or left it at school, not to worry. Bring your collections in next week in any kind of bag or container that works for you. We had two students share collections at circle time on Friday, which gave us a chance to see the kinds of “treasure” Piper and Lila value most! If your child has a collection of something that is too precious to give up for our upcoming collage projects, they can still share these items at circle time.
You may have noticed the big, empty jar on the shelf above cubbies…every classroom is collecting pocket change in an effort to contribute to the scholarship fund. I noticed that the Adventurers have collected over $60 already! I will be talking to our class more about this fundraiser in the coming week, but consider putting your pocket change in the jar when you drop off or pick up your child.
Plantapalooza – May 2nd and 3rd. If you love gardening, potted plants, or festive spring events, this is the weekend to come to Swan School! The Plantapalooza is a plant sale and fundraising event that completely transforms the playground into a garden nursery. Gorgeous potted plants, garden plants, and succulents will be available for very reasonable prices.
Summary of the Week:
Monday: I like to collect the children’s stories of their intercession experiences the day after a break from school. We heard lots of stories from Easter!  We also began singing a name-game song (to the tune of Bingo). The kids each spell their names as we go around the circle. Max brought a couple of beautiful blooms to school for his teachers – thank you, Max! We put them in a vase and looked at the parts of the flowers with magnifying glasses. We will do more with this as the season progresses.
Tuesday: The kids began making ABC cards. This is an extension of the alphabet writing we started before the break. I am making dashed lines of each alphabet letter for each child. I have asked them to work on 3 cards at a time, but many of the kids have the attention and desire to do more! Everyone in class was excited to create letter forms, some of them for the first time. To quote Lila: “This is an exciting day!” We also began painting our own rainbow scarves. The kids had a chance to do some scarf dancing with their ribbon-like scarves several times this week.
Wednesday: I showed the children several examples of mosaic art with found materials. I was really inspired by some of the artwork I found while searching online – mosaics made with toy cars, a color wheel piece with beads, glass shards and buttons, and an outdoor installation made of recycled bottle caps. The kids were very impressed, and I told them, “We can do art like this!”  I am always collecting materials, so I have quite a stash for this kind of work. I put all the stuff out, and the kids worked on sorting the materials by color. We will begin our red color mosaic on Monday. After recess, we decorated our collections bags to take home, and talked about adding their materials to our color mosaics.
Thursday: We hosted morning meeting this day (usually we do this on a Wednesday, but it was rescheduled this particular week). I invited all the kids to think about the changes happening in our environment this spring, and to do a small drawing of their favorite signs of spring on a strip of paper. We linked up theses strips, and made a very lengthy paper chain! It will soon be hanging around the wall of the office. While outside, I began taking photo portraits of each student. The kids chose where on the playground they wanted their picture taken. These are close-up photos of each child that we will print out in black and white and add watercolor to next week.
IMG_2463Friday: We continued our Alphabet cards project, and I was so impressed with the interest and concentration they had for this work. After recess, we painted more rainbow scarves and had another spontaneous dance party!

IMG_2462Some of the photos show the kids exploring the materials from the “Rainbow Station” that I put together in the back of the room…I’ve seen some wonderful experiments, artistic designs  and joyful play come out of that area. We have new materials to put on the light projector, and the kids are learning about transparent and opaque objects. They are working with prisms and mirrors, looking through the prisms and shining light on the mirrors to experience refraction and reflection. We are really enjoying this theme!


I hope you all are having a good weekend. I had the good fortune to see a vivid rainbow on Friday evening, about 7pm, when I was downtown. Maybe some of you caught it too?  Happy collecting, and happy rainbow hunting!

Best wishes,

Week 25, March 16-18

Dear Discoverer Families,

I hope your March spring break has been fun and relaxing. I’ve enjoyed offering art camps for our K-6 Swan kids, going on two field trips to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and then developing art projects inspired by the exhibits. The museum (BIMA) is well designed and very welcoming of families. There is no entrance fee – it is funded by generous donors and an annual auction. The current group show on the lower level is especially enticing to young children – it is called “Cut and Bent”, and features artists who work with tin as their primary medium. Port Townsend artist (and acupuncturist) Loran Scruggs has many pieces in the show.
Today I am sending a few photos of our classroom experiences before the break, and some short captions to provide a bit of context. I also wanted to make the exciting announcement that a new student, Kaylee, will be joining our class! Welcome Kaylee, and her mom and dad, Tana and Rick.
Summary of the Week:

Photo #1 – The Discoverers continue to work on our rainbow mural, painting the orange and yellow bands Monday morning. They blended yellow and red paint (a variety of water color, powder paint and tempera) to make orange.


Photo #2 – Connect the dots…practice writing the alphabet. I put these sentence strips on the table on Monday, not knowing how the kids would respond, or if they would find interest, but this became a very sought-after activity, and the kids asked me to make many more ABC strips!


Photo #3 – Elsie working on a 1 to 1 correspondence game that I called “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs”. Kids could roll the dice, count the dots, and then collect the “golden eggs”, transferring them from a nest to the basket.


Photo #4 – Counting and sorting activity – we have been doing a lot of pre-math conceptual games and activities. For this one, the kids counted out the number of colored blocks that corresponded with each numeral on the pad of paper, 1- 10.


Photo #5 – Library time – I chose a bunch of new books from the county library to supplement our book shelf. These are all ABC, pre-literacy and counting books. Here, Ansel and Andrew are reading a very artistic and fun book that changes words by removing one letter, so “without the A, Beast becomes Best”, and so on.


Photo #6 – Always time for nurturing our classroom “pets”! I can’t wait for the kids to see the new toy horse barn and horses (donated by a Swan alum) waiting for them in the dramatic play area!


Photo #7 – Cutting, coloring, and stenciling. Sharing ideas, strengthening fine motor muscles, lots of good work going on here! I’ve added several boxes of colorful scrap paper to the art shelves, to enhance collage and cutting projects that the kids often instigate.


Photo #8 – We are working on number recognition and sequencing with games and puzzles. Ansel is working on a number puzzle, putting together numerals with the same number of dots. Max is finding dominoes that match end to end.


Photo #9 – Color meditation – I asked the kids to lay down and close their eyes, and prepare for listening to a poem about color. I read from the book “Hailstones and Halibut Bones”, a favorite from my childhood. The author is blind, but has written these incredibly descriptive poems about how colors feel. We read the poems about blue and purple. I then asked the kids to tell me what these colors feel like to them. They did a great job listening and responding – I recorded their discussion – some of the responses for blue included cold air, ice, winter, a drink. And for purple – cozy, afternoon, a sad color, a color in the sunset.

I’ve made some changes to the dramatic play area, and bought some new materials that I am excited to share with the kids…It will be great to see you again next week!
Best Wishes,

Week 24,  March 9 – 13

Dear Discoverer Families,

What a deluge that was today! After doing lesson planning at Pippa’s, I was walking around downtown for a little while (I bought a beautifully designed set of alphabet cards for our class) and got thoroughly soaked, even with the rain coat. Rubber boots tomorrow! We might have to do a rain dance at recess time!
Reminders and Requests:
We have a short week this week – no school Thursday and Friday for conferences.
Does anyone have baby doll clothes they could donate? Or if you know of a source for decent baby doll clothes, both Loida and I (and our naked babies) would be most grateful!
Summary of the week:
Monday: Our study of weather and the water cycle has shifted into an exploration of water and light, and the nature of color. We began Monday’s circle by answering the question: What makes a rainbow? We had some very factual answers: Sun, rain, the sun and the rain…I asked IMG_2239the kids if we could make a rainbow in the classroom. They suggested we draw a rainbow. I got out the dot markers, which was an exciting new art tool for everyone. Several students maderainbow designs, and others just enjoyed experimenting with the dot markers. We also looked for a rainbow on the light projector, and found that glass on the projector does bend the light, making a thin rainbow appear (difficult to photograph!). Later that day, I read the story “Little Cloud”, again. I asked everyone to close their eyes, and imagine themselves as a cloud…I asked them what shape they would be if they could transform into any shape. The answers were wonderful – a princess, a dragon, two faeries and a train cloud…you can probably guess which image belonged to your child! We spent some time drawing these images, or tracing stencils, to depict these cloud shapes.
Tuesday: We returned to the story, “Spilt Milk”. I wanted the Tuesday group to experienceIMG_2256 reading this book in the over-size version. The words are so repetitive that the children can tell the story with me. We then made Spilt Milk art with some new (good quality) tempera paint. After recess, we looked again at our home-made water cycle model. Those mountains needed more color. We added some earthy colors to the sculpture. The next step will be to cover them in a polymer gloss, and drip water onto the model, like with the plastic model we used in the Learner’s Exhibition.
IMG_2247Wednesday: We attended a very special Morning Meeting – the Adventurer’s class (grades 4-6) were doing a dress rehearsal (in their home room)  for theirmusical theater performance. The whole school (and a few parents) attended. I have a picture of our students gazing with amazement at the performers. Our group was such a good audience! It was a fun performance to watch, and those kinds of events always help strengthen the community spirit of our school. Later that day, we worked on a delightfully messy project (both art and science) – bubble prints! This involves making a bubble solution in a paper cup (we used water, dish soap and powdered tempera), blowing colorful bubble structure, and then capturing it on paper. We had the primary colors all bubbling up at the same time, and some kids did multiple prints with different colors. The prints are quite beautiful. The kids helped clean up the many bubble explosions and spills all over the table!
Thursday: We returned to the discussion of rainbows during Thursday’s morning circle. I asked this group about how rainbows are created, and what they know about rainbows (the answers were imaginative and diverse – I will type them up and display the discussion!). We looked at a science book about rainbows (“What Are Rainbows?”) that describes the basic idea of light shining through raindrops. I had the kids stretch out their arms to pretend they were beams of white light, traveling in a straight line. I explained that when the light shines through a raindrop, it bends, or refracts, and I asked the kids to bend their arms, and imagine that they were seeing rainbow colors bending through the raindrop. Fortunately, we had natural lightIMG_2269 streaming through the windows that day, so when we took a rainbow science experiment over to catch the sunbeam, it really worked! We used a jar of water with a small mirror inside to refract and reflect the light. A thin, pale rainbow appeared on the wall. Then, I offered up my prism collection, and each child was able to really see bright rainbows hovering and spinning over the white paper. This was fun for all of us!
Friday: I wanted the Friday group to have an opportunity to make rainbows, so we took the prisms over to the wall, and I shone the flashlight behind them (not enough sun to filter through the prisms). We talked about how raindrops and sun work together to make rainbows. Later that day, we focused on the color red. We enjoyed reading “My Many Colored Days”, by Dr. Seuss, and I asked the kids to think about the color red, and to tell me how it makes them feel. Warm, happy and hot were some of the responses…The children chose their paint type and paint tool, and worked together to paint a large, red paper arch. We are working towards a new Rainbow Mural. 
That’s about all for this week… I look forward to more rainbow art, new literacy and math games, and many unexpected moments of joy in the coming week!

Week 23 – Mar. 2 – 6

Dear Discoverer Families,
Thank you for supporting our Young Scientists during last week’s Learner’s IMG_2220Exhibition! This experience was very stimulating for all, and I enjoyed observing the many ways the children interacted with the materials and communicated about their projects. I loved sharing our “Peace Like a River” song and acting out the water cycle for the audience! We definitely explored a lot of ideas and processes during this curriculum theme – I look forward to integrating more science into our school year. Be sure to share photos or videos if you have them – I would like to add them to our class album.
Conferences next week, March 19 and 20. If your schedule does not allow you to come to conferences during those days and times, let me know and we will schedule a conference another time that works for you.
Summary of the Week
Monday: To continue our investigation into the different forms of water, I read a science book called “It Could Still Be Water”. The text is simple, but the photos in IMG_2212the book are intriguing, and it is a good preschool-level discussion of water as a solid, liquid and gas in our world. We then talked about how we might make our own model of the water cycle (inspired by the plastic model we’ve been observing). The kids worked to make clay mountains as the first step. Later that day, I offered a bead collage and literacy project – I brought in some beads in shades of blue, and had prepared their names on card stock.
The kids glued beads along the letters of their names (with various levels of independence), strengthening those fine motor muscles, recognizing letters, and enjoying the beauty of beads. We also began practicing, in small groups, our project presentations for the Learner’s Exhibition.
Tuesday: At morning circle, I read the story “Little Cloud”, by Eric Carle (a favorite of mine). I then brought out my white oil pastels, along with gray and blue water color. The kids have done wax resist art before, but we used this project to connect with our weather theme. I drew cloudy shapes with the oil pastel, and demonstrated the resistance of the watercolor to the drawing. The kids were invited to explore this process, and you can now see this artwork on display. We later constructed more mountains for the water cycle model. The air dry clay is smooth and malleable – they love sculpting it, and the mountains all have a unique feel!
Wednesday: We hosted morning meeting on Wednesday, and used the opportunity to share our music and movement with the older kids. Our students did a fabulous job in front of this peer audience – they sang “Peace Like a River” with gusto, and then acted out the water cycle. Teacher Marcy and others led the older kids in a water cycle song – we will be learning this song to enhance our knowledge of evaporation, condensation and precipitation. Also, the kids have been really enjoying acting out the role of the vetrinarian, and taking their sick animals to the hospital.
Thursday: We have been documenting the weather since Feb 17, noticing each day what the weather looks like and we take turns then drawing a sun, cloud, rain drops or combo, on our weather calendar. This morning, we counted up the number of days for each type of weather. The kids volunteered to draw symbols for each category, and we charted the results. A good math activity, as well as giving the kids some factual information about our environment. Later that day, we looked at photos of the Olympic Mountains and paid attention to the colors of the landscapes. Then we worked on painting our clay mountains. This project wasn’t ready for the Learner’s Exhibition, but we’ll keep working on it!
Friday: I borrowed an oversize copy of the book “It Looked Like Spilt Milk”, a classic preschool picture book that fits perfectly with our weather theme, but adds a creative perspective to the idea of noticing cloud shapes. I invited the kids to make their own spilt milk images, using folded blue paper and white paint. They painted designs on one side of the paper and then made a mirror pint by pressing it onto the other half. I wrote down all the interpretations the kids had of their cloud shapes. After recess, we got caught up in another messy art project – bubble prints! We experimented with capturing bubble shapes on paper – the kids mixed powdered tempra (everyone wanted red this time!), dish soap and a bit of water into paper cups. They each had a straw and blew the mixture into dramatic bubble structures. The prints look really cool – we will continue this next week, with multiple colors.
I hope you had a relaxing weekend, maybe a nap to help with the daylight savings, and lots of outdoor time…I’m looking forward to new adventures tomorrow!

Photos from the previous week…had to share these! Below are brief notes to give some context to the photos.

Monday: field trip to the Marine Science CenterIMG_2137
Tuesday: preparing colored water for a condensation experimentIMG_2147
Wednesday: Buddy reading during morning meeting…adding water to our water cycle model and watching condensation formIMG_2159IMG_2161
Thursday: Absorption experiment with soil, sand and stones.IMG_2170
Friday: Repeat absorption experiment (no photos of this, unfortunately)…amazing block city and dance party!IMG_2179IMG_2176

Week 20 – Feb. 9-13

Dear Discoverer Families,

I am busy planning projects that explore the water cycle, looking at the transformation that water undergoes when it moves from a liquid, to a vapor, a vapor to cloud condensation, and then back to a liquid (rain). I had all of these rainy day ideas for next week  – but it looks so glorious outside, the rain may seem like a distant memory tomorrow!
Preschool open house this Thursday! This event is for prospective families to come check us out, from 4-5:30pm. There will be a Kindergarten open house on Thursday, the 26th, also at 4pm. You can visit with Marcy, and see what her program looks like.
Field trip on Feb. 23rd to the Marine Science Center! Sign up to drive in the office.
Learner’s Exhibition on March 5th. Bring your lab coat! You can also look for protective eye wear – like a professional scientist would wear.

Summary of the Week:

On Monday, we continued to work with liquid densities, but this time we tested and observed how oil and watercolor would behave in an art project. The kids used eye droppers to squirt vegetable oil and liquid watercolor onto large pieces of paper. They loved seeing the oil and watercolor resist one another, and they loved the process of dripping, bubbling, and drawing in the paint with the eye droppers. After recess, we continued a music and movement activity that we began last week – circle dance. The kids each make up a movement to a song (I played a cd by musician Elisabeth Mitchell). We all do the movements, one at a time. Then, we go around the circle again, and the kids try to remember what each person’s movement was. We try to keep rhythm with the music. When all the movements are put together, we’ve created a dance!
Young Scientists

Young Scientists

At Tuesday‘s morning circle, we began talking about the water cycle. We looked at an illustration in a science book, and then gathered around the activity tables to watch a demonstration of cloud condensation. This experiment was one that the kids observed, because it involved boiling water. I took a hot kettle and poured about 2 inches of water into a jar. I had the lid ready, upside down and with ice cubes resting in it. The ice cubes imitate cool air in the atmosphere. I set the lid on the jar, and we watched droplets immediately form on the jar. Then, I quickly sprayed aerosol hair spray in the jar, to give the water molecules something to attach to. The lid goes back on, and suddenly a cloud forms in the jar!  Actual clouds form when vaporous water molecules condense around dust particles or other kinds of particles in the atmosphere. When we took the lid off the jar, we released the swirling white cloud. The kids loved this, and we did the experiment several times. We also acted out, with guided movement, the process of water evaporation, condensation and precipitation as a kinesthetic way of learning about the water cycle.
On Wednesday, we got to work on a new mural – the water cycle mural. We recycled some of the winter animals mural for this. The kids volunteered to paint sun, clouds, rain, or ocean water. It’s looking great – and it gives the kids a large, clear visual to help explain the science behind the water cycle. After recess on that day, we had Piper’s mamma as a special guest. You may know that Talitha speaks through sign language, but you may not know she is also a skilled sign language teacher. She taught our class how to say “good morning”, and “how are you?”. She taught us how to respond with signs for emotion – good, bad, happy or sad. She also introduced the sign language alphabet, and the kids practiced making the letter signs for their own names. This was a great lesson, and we will keep building on it throughout the year. Thank you, Talitha!
Thursday gave us another opportunity to work on the water cycle mural. We had a few guests from Loida’s class come join us, as well. After recess, we talked about water as a solid – and explored the properties of ice. I asked the kids to remember last week, when a couple of students were trying to glue ice cubes together to make an ice tower. I asked the kids how we could actually make an ice tower. I then demonstrated how to pour very cold (but not freezing) water onto ice cubes to make a frozen “tower” of ice. The kids got to try this, and had success pouring the water very slowly to allow it to “grow” from the ice cubes into a frozen structure.
On Friday, we participated in a Swan School tradition – making a giant Friendship Card and exchanging it with another class (we exchanged with Loida’s class). Each class participates in this activity, and it is great fun for the kids. I asked our students how they wanted to create their friendship card. Everyone contributed an idea, and we got to work. I found a photo of our class singing a song with Loida’s class, and we glued it onto the center of the art work. The kids put a lot of time into this activity, and it was a great gift to offer the other preschoolers! After recess, we attempted the ice tower experiment again. However, we could not get the ice to build towers successfully. We talked about why this might be. The water in the bottles was probably too cold. It needs to be a precise temperature, I think. We also talked about what scientists can do if their experiments don’t work – “try again”!
I hope you are all able to get outside and soak up some sun! Enjoy, and see you soon.

Week 19 – Feb. 2-6

Dear Discoverer Families,

 Although we live in a mild, temperate climate, I am very aware of the winter weather…I was grateful yesterday, as my husband and I made our way to the Seattle Art Museum, that the rain let up, and we could walk around with ease. Preschoolers have a much greater tolerance for the wet drizzle! I anticipate more rain in the coming week, which may lead to more indoor activity, but we will get outside as much as possible.
     The Plant-a-thon was rescheduled to Feb. 14. RSVP with Bonnie.
     We are hosting a preschool Open House on Feb. 19 for prospective families. We have notecards to hand out, or a digital version (it was posted on the Swan School Facebook page). Spread the word!
      Our field trip to the Marine Science Center is on Feb. 23, a Monday, starting at 9:30am. You are invited to this field trip, even if your student is not signed up for Monday! Talk to me for details.
Summary of the Week:
Monday: Our adventures with the scientific method continue – we are exploring the properties of water. Our first experiment of the week involved the science of floatation – testing different objects in water to see if they would sink or float. The kids chose an object at circle time and made their predictions. We tested each object, and then the kids had time to play with the objects in the water, make observations, and to find other objects around the room. We put these objects on a chart to record our findings.
Will it sink or will it float?

Will it sink or will it float?

Tuesday: We reviewed the sink/float experiment from Monday, and noticed that many different kinds of objects could float – wood, leaves, sponges, and plastic bottle caps. However, other kinds of plastic objects consistently sunk – all of the animal figures, for example. Why is this? We went back to the experiment with just plastic things, but objects of all shapes and sizes. We found that shape and weight were very important. Some objects would float unless they filled with water, then they would sink. We put those objects on the chart, right on the line between the sink/float categories.
Wednesday: We hosted Morning Meeting, with all Swan Students attending! I introduced a partner activity that relates to our school-wide theme of scientific inquiry: each preschool, kindergarten or first grader would be matched with an older student. The older students would model for the younger ones how to ask a scientific question.  They wrote down all questions for the teachers to see. It was wonderful to see this mentoring among our students!
After Morning Meeting, I brought out the water tub and a box of tin foil sheets. I invited all the kids to create boats or rafts that could carry the animal figures across the water. The children worked on this for a long time – shaping the tin foil, testing it in the water, and seeing just how many animals they could carry before sinking the boat! A fun extension of our earlier experiments.
After recess, we worked with the idea of dissolution – attempting to dissolve various ingredients into water. Each child had a jar of water and a substance (salt, flour, cornstarch, baking soda, Emergen-C, cinnamon, and oil). All of the powder substances appeared to dissolve (although cornstarch never truly dissolves). But the oil behaved differently – it rose to the top of the water, and would float on the surface of the water. Try as we might, we could not get the oil to dissolve or mix with the water.
Thursday: To extend the liquid densities experiment from Wednesday, we tried out a science project that was both beautiful and educational. Each child had a jar of water. I asked them to remember the oil and water jar from the day before. I poured some oil into each jar, and we watched it separate from the water. Then, the kids used eye droppers to drip purple liquid watercolor into the jar. The results were intriguing – small drops of watercolor would hover in the oil, like beads. With enough watercolor, the drops would sink below the oil, mixing with the water. They loved this experiment – and worked so carefully on it!
Friday: We repeated the liquid densities experiment from the day before, to give the Friday group a chance to explore the watercolor in oil and water. The kids noticed the watercolor would sink, while the oil continued to float. They are becoming very skilled at this process of making predictions, testing ideas and observing results!
There are many other spontaneous and child-led activities going on every day – the kitchen area has transformed into a store, bristle blocks have inspired construction and story telling, and paper collage has been a favorite choice for some artists! I look forward to another week of discoveries and surprises…
Best wishes,

Week 18 – Jan. 26-30

Dear Discoverer families,

On the eve of a new month, I am reflecting on how rapidly the year is progressing…when the children gather at our morning circle, we always look at the calendar, taking note of what season it is, what month it is, and placing a magnet on the square that represents what day it is. We count the days sometimes, when anticipating a special event. We sing a simple “Days of the Week” song to learn the sequence of days, and to learn the way we measure time in weeks. The children are absorbing these concepts of chronological time. But, when the children are busy investigating, imagining and making discoveries, I marvel at how timeless the world seems – being with these amazing kids helps me remember the value of living fully in the present moment.
Announcements: We are putting on our scientist “thinking caps”, asking questions, making predictions, testing our ideas and observing the results. We will be presenting science experiments and the knowledge we’ve gained at the Learner’s Exhibition on March 5. To help prepare for this event, you can go thrift store shopping for a “lab coat“, or a white button-up shirt, for your student to wear. I will get some library books that have good photos of scientists in lab coats!
Also, we will be going on a field trip to the Marine Science Center on Feb. 23. This field trip will include a guided tour of the lab where the interns work, behind the exhibit space and touch tanks. Our students will be allowed to look in the microscopes and get a hands-on experience of scientists at work! Let me know if you are interested in driving.
Summary of the Week
Monday: The absorption experiments from last week were just the beginning of a new process to explore. We talked about the way that scientists work, by using the scientific method to make discoveries. I reviewed the idea of absorption (reminding them of the experiment with sponges in water). Then, we asked the kids to find out what other objects (common things from our classroom) would absorb water. The kids were invited to choose from a variety of objects on a tray: Glass pebbles, cookie cutters, crayons, pieces of driftwood, fabric, paper, and plastic rings. They worked with great concentration to test these different materials. We made a graph of our findings, which is posted by the coat hooks.
I also brought in some animal puppets that I made out of card stock. They relate to the story, “Time to Sleep”. The kids colored the puppets and suggested we use them to make shadow puppets. We now have a shadow puppet theater that supports story telling and cooperative play, as well as allowing the children to explore light and shadow.
Tuesday: Absorption experiments can also lead to artistic experiments. I asked the kids to what would happen if we dropped liquid watercolor onto napkins, paper plates and wax paper. We talked about Monday’s experiment, and then the kids made predictions – they expected all three products to absorb watercolor. We did our test – and the predictions were right! Even the wax paper absorbed some watercolor (much to my surprise)! These colorful specimens will be on display soon.
Wednesday: We joined the rest of our Swan community for Morning Meeting. Loida hosted, and helped organize Buddy Puzzles. Each student was matched with another, older student and they worked in pairs or small groups to complete puzzles, some of which were quite challenging!
Later that day, we again made artwork out of a science experiment – sponge painting with four different types of sponges, testing the absorption of sponges and paper, and noticing the textures and patterns created.
Thursday: I introduced a project called “snow cube construction”  – also known as sugar cube construction! The kids worked diligently on their structures, gluing cubes into walls and towers. This project was the first step in an experiment we did the next day on absorption and dissolution. At the easel, I set up butcher paper and three spray bottles filled with diluted liquid water color. The kids loved spraying colors onto the paper, watching the colors blend and noticing the movement of drops traveling down the paper (onto towels on the floor)!
Friday: Preschoolers never cease to amaze me – and our crew is becoming a skillful group of scientists! I asked the kids what they thought would happen when we dripped liquid watercolor onto the “snow cube” constructions. Every answer was a logical prediction, and described some part of what actually happened! The children guessed that the cubes would change color, that they would absorb the watercolor, that they would fall down and that they would melt. We did this experiment at circle time, and then they each did their own version of the experiment. They were able to observe the sugar cubes absorbing the water color, and then dissolving. Brynn wrote down all of these ideas and observations, and these will be typed up and displayed in our room.
Enjoy this quiet winter weekend – with or without a football game! I am not a fan, usually, but I have to admit, I love catching the last quarter of a Seahawks game! See you soon.

The View From 2015-2016