Sunday, December 16, 2012


During November,we explored dyes made from natural material.  We began by relating the concept of how people might have obtained color to dye their clothing if they could not go shopping.  I asked, " How could you get an orange shirt if you couldn't go to the store?"  Some answers included, "in my drawer", "go to Ikea", and "they could paint it".  This answer led to the question of where would they obtain the paint?  What was the paint made from?

The children engaged in a discovery session using flowers, leaves, soil, and rocks to color on paper.  Integrating this concept, some classes pounded plant pigment and "painted" headbands which were worn at the Thanksgiving dinner.  This activity gave them a tangible experience that helped them understand the concept of natural pigment.

Their time in the Gan included discovering the cochineal beetle on a cactus, which when squished, creates a magenta color.  They gathered marigold flowers to be used as a dye bath.  Dye baths were prepared using the flowers from the Gan, cochineal powder, and bark from the Osage Orange tree, a native Texas tree, and bark from the Oak tree in the parking lot. 

The Three Year Olds had a sample of natural wool and they submerged the sample into the dye bath of their choice. The Pre K dyed silk scarves.

One Day a woman visited and demonstrated how to take the dyed wool and spin it into yarn.  The children watched as her spinning wheel took their dyed wool and made strands of colored yarn.
She also showed them how to card wool using big tools that looked like combs.

Last week, our students took the wool that they had dyed and created two different works of art.  Each student wove the wool onto the large mural frame.  This mural had orignally been created two years ago by another group of ECEC students and hangs in the main foyer of the school.  This year, the students added their collection of wool to the mural, enhancing the beauty and adding a new array of colors.

In addition, the Three Year Old cluster used sections of wool to create multi-hued sheets of felt fabric. The children worked collaboratively to combine sections of carded wool to create a unified piece of material using a basic felting process. The students chose a piece of dyed wool, and then used their pincher fingers to gently pull the material until it was thin enough to see through.

Each piece was immersed in warm, soapy water.  Then the students placed their material so that it partially overlaid an existing section.  They used their hands to gently pat down the material to help attach the fibers.

The Pre K group created felt balls using a similar method.  They started with a core of tightly packed wool.  Then they stretched a thin piece of wool and immersed it in water.  The wet wool was then wrapped tightly around the core.  As this process was being done, the students were squeezing and tightening the wool.  They continued to build layer upon layer until they achieved their desired size.

New Vocabulary: carded wool, felt, felting process, mural, weave   Skills: fine motor, muscle strengthening in the hand assists pre-writing skills, collaboration, following step by step process

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coloring With Flowers

Our conversations in the Gan often focus on the beautiful array of colors.  Colors of nature surround us and inspire us.  The Two’s cluster explored the garden and focused on the colors of the plants.
We started the guided discovery experience by giving each child a color sample to hold.  They were told that we would walk through the garden looking for a plant that matched the color on their sample card.

The children had to walk slowly and carefully while they looked for a color match.  Self control and the ability to focus were skills required for this stage of the experience.


When each child found a match, they announced to the group that they had found their color. They took great pride in their accomplishment.

To extend the discovery, we gathered back in the Blue classroom, and looked at a collection of leaves, flowers, bean pods, and wood chips that had been collected in the Gan.  I asked the children if they had ever used a crayon to color on paper.  They demonstrated with their hands how they would move the crayon to put color onto the paper. 
I asked them if they thought the color from the plants would make color on the paper.  Some said “no” and some said “yes”.

I asked how we could find out.  The answer was “press it” on the paper.  We tried.  We got a smudge.
I asked again how they move a crayon and then a child tried moving a flower on the paper in the same way.
It worked!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Family Reunion

Fall has arrived and the markets are filled with Halloween pumpkins and acorn squash.  Talk turns to family activities such as carving a jack-o-lantern and the family Thanksgiving dinner.  In the Gan, our conversation turned to a particular family, the Gourd family.  Our students heard the story of Pepo's Family Reunion.  We learned that Pepo (an oversized berry with a hard rind) has many cousins, and aunts and uncles.  Uncle Turk wears a turban of many colors and Aunt Chioggia must have been really old because she had bumps all over. Pepo even has a cousin named Banana squash!  One of the students  said Aunt Chioggia had "a billion bumps".

The students took a few minutes to meet Pepo's family.  They found out that some things were the same and some things were different between all the family members.  We also talked about how they have brothers and sisters, or cousins that might have the same color hair or different color eyes, but they are still part of their family. They said Pepo was "smooth like a popsicle" but another family member was "scratchy in my hand".   It was interesting to use the sense of touch to feel the different textures.

We even got to look inside and see the seeds.


Then the children went to visit one of Pepo's cousins that lives in the Gan. Cousin Loofah looks like a "cucumber" or a "pickle". It even "feels like a cucumber".  But it is "not round like Pepo".  And it doesn't have a hard rind, it is softer.

When Loofah gets old and dries out, the fiber turns into a sponge - a loofah sponge! And you can use it in the bath tub to scrub clean.  There was so much to remember about Pepo's family that the students documented their discoveries.
Do you know Pepo's family?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Nature of our Holidays

As the Garden Educator, I used to approach the High Holidays with trepidation.  Just as the month of Tishrei begins, I am faced with finding time to plant the fall garden at school.  So much work and so little time.  How do I balance the planting schedule with holiday experiences.  After all, as the Garden Educator I should be focusing on gardening, right?    Well,  I realized that the holidays have a lot to do with gardening.  During Tishrei, the gan is buzzing, literally, with pollinators.  The students witness the bees collecting pollen and nectar.  They understand the source of the honey that they taste when they dip apples during Rosh Hashanah.  In Dallas, we are fortunate to have local beekeepers, The Pollards, who visit with an enclosed beehive  and educate the children about the importance   of bees in our world.                    
The children spent months watching the pomegranate tree bursting forth with bright red-orange blooms.  Then  some time in the late summer, the blooms turn into fruit.  During Simchat Torah, they learn about the midrash that says there are 613 seeds in the pomegranate to help us remember the 613 mitzvot in the Torah.  They also learn that pomegranate is "rimon" in hebrew and the finials, or crowns, on the scroll are often called "rimonim"
And then comes the harvest festival of Sukkot.  Is there a better place to honor the holiday than in a gan?  In Gan Shalom, we have post holes that have sleeves and a cap.  Each year, we remove the cap and have ready to go post holes!  The children work together to bring the corner posts to the building site.  They carefully slip the post into the post sleeve.

Soon, all four corner posts are in place and we are ready for the walls.  Eventually, the roof is in place and the children make sure that they can see the sky through the openings.  This sukkah is built by the children and is just the right size for them.
 This year, I tried something different for sukkot.  Instead of just building and decorating the sukkah, the children participated in a dramatic story.  The story  helped the children understand the original purpose and use of a sukkah.  Please watch the video and hear the story of Ezra and Rivka.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Spring - an experience in immortality"
Henry David Thoreau

As Thoreau suggested, Spring is about renewal of life and spirit.  In Gan Shalom this month, we are experiencing first hand new life all around us.  Our Director prepared the coop for the arrival of our new feathered residents.


Our white Silkie is a favorite with the children.

Our children can't wait to see our new friends.

We also have five chicks that are not ready to move into the coop.

We were looking for insect eggs and discovered these on the cardoon plant.  As the children looked more carefully,  they saw the larva and pupa of a lady bug.

The children documented the life cycle of a lady bug as witnessed in Gan Shalom.

Do you know what this caterpillar really is?  Our students will tell you that it is the larva of a Fritillary butterfly.  To celebrate Spring, we made tissue paper butterflies.