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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Winter brings colder weather and longer nights.  Our conversation began with the question, "what do you do when the moon comes out?The unanimous reply was, "go to sleep".  Parents, you might beg to differ, but honestly, that was the answer.  Using a visually stunning, wonderfully repetitive story book titled While The World Is Sleeping, the children discovered that while they sleep, some animals wake up to eat and play. 

A corner of the Living Science room had been transformed with the addition of a life size tree constructed out of a discarded branch.  Leaves and paper bark were added.  To finish the display, an assortment of Folkmanis animal puppets were placed in real life poses.  The puppets represented nocturnal animals that the children might see in the area.  To enhance the experience, we also covered all the windows with black craft paper to create a "night" environment. 

When the book was finished, the children watched two videos introducing nocturnal animals.  After the videos, the children were asked to watch the tree.  As they watched, a spotlight would shine on an animal, and the specific animal's sound would play over the speakers.  Each puppet was highlighted accompanied by the individual voice of the animal.

One of the favorite experiences was learning about echolocation.  As the children sang and danced to the video, they learned how bats locate their food while flying in the night sky.  Several parents commented that their child had been singing the song at home and teaching the parents about echolocation!

Another exciting display was the live scorpion that glowed under the black light.  Very cool!

To strengthen understanding, the children discussed which of our classroom animals were nocturnal.  They discovered that we have a total of 4 nocturnal animals that live in our room.  

For the children, this learning experience developed new vocabulary, and an understanding of behaviors in the animal world, which lead to a new awareness of their world.  The information was delivered in a differentiated learning style so that each child found their pathway to understanding.  One teacher commented that she felt like they were at a museum and they never left the building.

Here are some of the wonderful websites used in this exploration.  But, I'll warn you..get your dancing shoes ready for the Echolocation Song!
Interactive game  
Night Noise Game 
Youtube video about nocturnal animals 
Video of night noises 
Echolocation Song