Monday, October 13, 2014

A Sukkot Harvest

Sukkot is my favorite holiday, even though it presents challenges for the school gardener. With the school year starting at the end of August, and several school day closings due to the High Holy days, it is a race to get the garden planted.  It is an even bigger challenge to produce a harvest in time for Sukkot. 

But, we managed with the grace of cooler temperatures and lots of rain. 

Our school friends spent the days decorating classroom sukkot with real fruits and vegetables. As always, gourds were a popular choice. During the Gan class time, we discussed the purpose of Sukkot. What is the holiday about and why do we decorate the sukkah with fruits and vegetables.

The garden friends explained that we celebrate Sukkot to give thanks for the harvest. But, they didn't always know what the word "harvest" meant. So we set out to discover the meaning of the word. 

Out to the garden we went. We located vegetables that were ready to eat. Each friend picked one or two items from the garden beds to add to the bowl. We even chose a bright marigold flower to add to the swiss chard, kale, pak choi, arugula, and basil.


Then we rinsed and tore the leaves to create a delicious salad. Fresh orange juice and olive oil dressed the variety of greens. Grapes and cucumbers added to the flavor. 

As we sat down to enjoy our community salad, I asked the friends what they had done to collect the ingredients. They said " we picked" in the garden. I explained that they could also say that they "harvested" in the garden. Harvesting and picking can be the same thing. So on Sukkot when we give thanks for the harvest, we are giving thanks for the food that is picked and eaten. 

We said a blessing for the food from the earth and ate our harvest salad. Some friends liked the "crunch" and some friends liked eating the flowers. 
We all decided that the harvest gave us food to keep our bodies strong and healthy. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Seeing Shapes

The ability to identify basic shapes is a skill that is often used to check for developmental progress.  Shapes exist in familiar places such as books and puzzles.  But, they also exist all around us if you just stop to look.  That is what our friends in the three year old classes and the Pre K classes discovered.   To initiate the conversation about shapes, I presented a piece of paper with printed shapes.  I asked my friends to tell me what they saw on the page.  Each shape was identified; heart, square, circle, rectangle, and triangle.  Next, I asked if shapes can be found anywhere in the classroom.  My friends offered a variety of answers including.......
a circle
squares on a rabbit hutch
an oval shaped egg
triangle teeth.
Then, I asked if they thought shapes could be found outdoors.  Some friends shook their heads in the affirmative.  Others were not so sure.  I showed them two posters with photos of natural items and asked them to tell me what shapes they saw.  It was easy to find the heart shaped flower, but harder to see the star shapes reflecting off of the water. 
My friends went to our garden to search for shapes.  Individually, they slowly walked through the outdoor space looking at parts of the building and plants to see if they spotted a shape.  And they did! 

a heart shaped leaf

Circles abound.


And triangles
One friend drew a triangle after seeing the scored pattern in the concrete sidewalk.
Circles are found in the shape of a flower.  Lines are seen in the stem of a poppy.  This experience required the children to take existing knowledge, i.e. what is a shape, and apply that knowledge to different settings and contexts.  In order to complete this task, my friends had to move slowly through the environment, looking at all details, both large and small.  Finding shapes in nature is abstract thinking, while maintaining a tangible, concrete framework.

One friend brought laughter to the group when she proclaimed, "look, a bagel in the water".

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Treeday

Composting is an everyday activity at the ECEC.  Each class fills their green compost bucket with organic snack and lunch waste.  Most classes have a compost helper, the shomer adamah, who will bring the bucket out to the garden with a teacher.  Some classes will incorporate this task when they come to the scheduled Gan class once a week.   This week, we began our conversation sharing our knowledge about Tu BiSh'vat.  Most children understand this holiday as the "birthday" for the trees.  I asked if anything else celebrated birthdays.  Of course!  People do.  I asked what happens on their birthdays.  "Eat cake". "Have a bounce house and balloons".  "Get presents".  I told them that they had been making a gift for the trees since the beginning of the school year.  And, this week we were going to give the trees our gift.  I showed them the rich, dark humus collected from the compost bin.  This humus is the gift made from all the composted waste that they had brought to the garden.  I explained that the humus was like super vitamins for the trees.  In order to collect the humus, we needed to filter the finished product from the compost waste that had not yet decomposed.  Teams were formed and the process was explained.     

Two different sized screens were used to separate the humus from the unfinished waste. The children worked cooperatively to process the humus. The material that was too big to pass through the screens was returned to the main compost bin to continue the work of decomposing.

Presenting the gift

As children walked through the garden gifting the rich humus, they offered a prayer of thanks.  Thank you for

"apples to eat"
"for climbing"
"for food"
"for flowers" (the Pomegranate tree)
"a home for the animals"
"wood for beaver dam"

Thank you