Saturday, May 31, 2014

Social Studies or more accurately “Global Experiences” is presented throughout the curriculum and across all domains.  One practical example of Government and the Democratic process is the practice of establishing Kindergarten classroom rules and making decisions by a show and tally of raised hands (math enrichment sneaks in here as well.)

The Kindergartners wanted a safe and tidy classroom.  We also agreed that we needed to treat each other kindly and respectfully and that everyone should participate in clean up times.  The results came about from a vote. 

Cultural commonalities are discovered through classroom discussions,  stories, visits and presentations about family traditions and  holidays.   We find that "sameness" sometimes outweighs our differences.   We also found that just about each culture has a creation story, a fairy tale, and a trickster tale of sorts as well.  We noted that we can celebrate each others differences without compromising our own.

 Periodic units on Geography allowed us to compare, study, and locate the Kindergartners' vacation destinations, identify their "Flat Stanley"  travels, and learn how to read maps.  

The dry-brush technique attempted in Art class allowed for bright, vivid, pure color application,  the ability to see the "hand"  of the artist, and mimicked the French inspired Fauvist and  Abstract Expressionistic techniques used by artist Clementine Hunter.   At right, "Flower Garden" (Abstract), 1963.

As stated, Global Experiences  give us an opportunity to experience various cultures through Language Arts.  Studying myths from around the world gave 1) insights into thoughts about deities and belief systems, 2) showed how regional architecture (including dwelling places is very different from say, a Frank Lloyd Wright House.   We compared an Indian adobe (Coyote story) or a Japanese pagoda (The Stone Cutterand 3) told how varying climates and terrains determined  the presence of certain animal and plant life (Papagayo- Amazon Rain forest.)    

Alice in Wonderland,  Clementine Hunter.
Global studies helped us realize that artists from all over the world and at varying times were inspired by the same literature. The Roman myth of "Romulus and Remus" not only assisted us with learning how  Rome was named,  but was also the subject matter for artist Alexander Calder's  wire sculptures (also studied in our Art classes.)    We discussed how both visual artists Salvador Dali (Surrealist) and Clementine Hunter (Memory/Primitive Artist) thought to use, in very different ways,  "Alice in Wonderland" for each of their  own painting's subjects.

Examples of Surrealist Salvador Dali's illustrations for his version of Alice in Wonderland.

Kindergartners played ancient Greek games in Math class while studying Greek (and a bit of Roman) Mythology.   A puzzle that dates back to ancient Greece involves strategically placing numbers 1-9 in a grid of nine squares so that the totals of each row of numbers when added together in any direction (vertically, horizontally, diagonally) added to the number 15.   This provided a great challenge for Kindergartners.  The Greeks did it first!

Our classroom game of Pylos (seen at right) involved stacking wooden balls to create a balanced pyramid.  This is also said to be an Ancient  Greece invention!


When we examined instruments from the Congo with Papa Titos Sompa,  we found out that the tin milk can shakers he made were similar to the cans we have been collecting in Math class for our canned food drive.

(At left, a musical instrument made of another recycled and plentiful material in the Congo, cola nuts!)   

All during our Global Experiences lessons, Kindergartners were led through critical thinking exercises to develop their thoughts and opinions about various topics. While photographing bones and sketching detailed flowers, we also discussed what it must have been like to be Georgia O’Keeffe at a time when not many female artists received recognition for being"real" artists.  When we studied artists Clementine Hunter and Grandma Prisbrey, we were able to compare primitive/untrained artists with the formally educated and sometimes well- to-do "Masters."  We delved into several social issues about artists who were:
1)  well-aged citizens who may have possibly been taken advantage of financially
2)  homelessness at one point in their lives
3) those who experienced  discrimination and racism and not allow to exhibit or see their art during museum hours and
 4) affected by issues related to the controversy of the relevancy and validity of environmental “art.”   

Kindergartners were allowed to silently ponder, agree/disagree, express outrage, and strategize ways that they can strive to impact our future Global Society.   Ks used the rest of their energy to create- as it should be!  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Reflecting on Reflection's Night Prep!

"The Big, Bad Wolf" by Carol Diggory Shields from the book Lunch Money:  And Other Poems About School.

The big, bad wolf was picking his nose,

The little pig's tail fell down.

Rumpelstiltskin forgot his name.

Cinderella tripped on her gown.

Goldilocks knocked -the door fell in.

Papa Bear started to cry.

Rapunzel pushed Pinnocchio,

The blackbirds got stuck in the pie. 

Little Red Riding Hood sat on Miss Muffet,

Two billy goats ran the wrong way.

It was a great show.  We all shouted, "Bravo!"

For the Kindergartners' play!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Real (Weird) Science

Shan Science (every Monday and Thursday) is a time for Kindergartners to put on their science detective hats and explore the scientific method, learn vocabulary, and practice problem solving and critical thinking skills.  This week, for instance, Kindergartners received relevant information regarding tornadoes.  Ks first brainstormed the kinds of unpredictable weather Spring brings-rain, snow ( Can you believe that we are still not out of the woods yet?) and storms.  Teacher Shan spoke in more detail of  thunderstorms, storms of high wind, and the meeting of cold and warm fronts that result in tornadoes.  Kindergartners discussed not only the cause of this kind of weather condition but also its characteristics-a sudden quiet and calm, a dark and/or greenish sky, and a sound of many trains whizzing by.  Ks also learned about the difference between a tornado watch (weather conditions are ripe) and a tornado warning (sightings.)   Kindergartners were eased of fears regarding the likelihood of a tornado in Ann Arbor (this would most likely occur on the outskirts of town) and received empowering information  on ways to stay safe at school and home.  Safe places at home were noted-basements or shelters, closets, and even bathtubs.   They were also given possible shelters if outdoors or out and about, like in office buildings or ditches.  It is always good, by the way,  to have an action plan and  practice locating safe places at home as well.  Some children mentioned already having emergency radios and food and water reserves in their basements. 

Kindergartners were also reassured that the probability of experiencing a tornado was rare and that they were safe but it is good to know what to do just in case.  It was continuously stressed that the     Kindergartners were the most important "thing" to worry about in case of emergency far above their shoes, coats, or toys.    Their safety is always the priority!   Afterward, Kindergartners used their chemistry skills to assemble their own simulated "tornado in a jar" using vinegar, dish soap, and water.  They practiced the circular swirling motion of the jars to create the spiral and were able to identify the vortex or eye of the storm.  They then journaled about tornado terms, illustrated a spiral, asked additional questions, and reflected on all of their newly acquired information.  

The Science lesson concluded with a trip to the bathroom to practice a "tornado drill."  A mock tornado "warning" was announced by Shan, everyone lined up quietly at the door, and ventured to the first restroom on the  right near the water fountains.  Shan took attendance and then had every Kindergartner practice a safe body posture of sitting with their back to the wall and heads down in their laps.  They also discussed how important it is to stay calm as much as possible.  Traditionally, a story, toys, or games are in tow just in case the stay gets lengthy.  The children were told that weather conditions are updated by administrators with the aid of the Weather Channel app on cell phones and an "all clear" would be announced when it is safe. 

Today's tornado sighting near Gregory, MI. 
Coincidentally, about an hour later,  the culminating conclusion of the lesson involved a real life sighting of a tornado near Gregory, MI..  Kindergartners were prepared, calm, and cooperative as they were quietly ushered into the bathroom designated for us.  We heard Madeleine (in Spanish no doubt) read by Spenser's Dad; recited our "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" poem by Robert Frost for Dad and brother Nic;  played with Tinker Toys, Legos, and Uno cards; had a light snack (I know, don't think about it) and witnessed some of the most amazing Kindergartners on the planet sit for 1 hour and 36 minutes!!!!!!!!
All in all it was an awesome display of team work by kids, parents, and staff!  Thank you to the many Parents and Care Providers who came in and did whatever needed to be done to make sure our SK babies were comfortable, reassured, and fed.  Ks were very prepared!!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Georgia (O'Keeffe) on our minds! (Part 1)

Kindergartners continued our more modern Mythology Unit with more trickster tales by Gerald McDermott.   We observed the beautiful illustrations in Coyote:  A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest and discovered that "coyote had a nose for trouble and found it."  This, we noticed was a type of creation story and "explained" why coyotes have a black tip on their tails.  We admired the pastel drawings of the landscape of the southwest plains with its jewel tones, sparse plant life, and looming plateaus.  We also discovered that the illustrator used a lot of symbolism (found in each of his books) that mimicked jewelry and clothing designs you might find in Native American collections.  The gorgeous desert scenes  propelled us into a study of another artist- one who knew the desert of the southwest very well and  often included glimpses of it in her own paintings! 

Georgia O' Keeffe, (American) who was very striking but rarely photographed smiling even as a child, was encouraged artistically by her parents.   Kindergartners speculated why she never smiled in her photos with varying opinions.  We also read that Georgia was always one to pursue her own passions and follow her own mind throughout her life.  O'Keeffe was often offended when she was told that her artwork was good for a woman.  She often wondered why her artwork was not "good" because she was a "good" artist.   We then discussed what it was like to be one of few known female artists in the time that she lived.  
We also read that although O'Keeffe was born in Wisconsin and lived  and studied art in New York City, her heart was drawn to Texas then New Mexico where she eventually made permanent residence and died there at the amazing age of 98 years old.    O'Keeffe is best known for her detailed depictions of the close up images of flowers and animal skulls as her subject matter.  She often painted several pictures per day.  Museums (including the one in New Mexico) house her vast collections all over the world.

Kindergartners began our art lesson probably much like Georgia O'Keeffe would.  They prepared charcoal paper with  shaded tones then sketched out compositions of animal skull  shapes using art erasers.   We rotated between erasers and charcoal to create high and low lights, shading, and detail.  We finished with stained sleeves (and faces), a patina on our table surface, and an amazing collection of drawings marveled by all who see them.   Some of us even practiced our solemn O'Keeffe expressions.    


We later introduced a different medium to our O'Keeffe study-digital photography!  One of Georgia O'Keefe's mentors and eventually husband, Albert Stieglitz, a renown photographer, photographed O'Keefe hundreds of times!     Kindergartners, however,  were given an opportunity to capture close ups of our skulls only three times each!  A special thank you  goes out to Manon's family, Lily and Sean's family, and teacher Elaine for loaning us their specimens.   Three times was all it took!  Amazing!

Please visit our Kindergarten O'Keefe Collection and SK Art & Music displays of all grades  on "Reflections Night"