Saturday, March 21, 2015

Walk (Talk, Draw, and Build) Like an Egyptian!

Our current theme is "Book Journeys. " A book of a journey, The Voyage of Osiris:  A Myth of Ancient Egypt  by Gerald McDermott, serves as a launchpad for our studies of Ancient Egypt - very exciting stuff to Kindergartners! Science, math, language arts, social studies, and art, are all brought alive through project-based learning and play. Kindergartners learn through doing, enacting, making, reading, talking, and playing, continuously developing social skills and empathy as they do so. 

Kindergartners process learning best when their bodies and their imaginations are engaged. Our archeologist activity helped the kids practice focus and fine motor skills as well as stimulating their ideas.
Kindergartners acted as archeologists, digging through plaster casts for buried treasure and artifacts.
We discovered that it takes a keen eye and a delicate touch to avoid damaging our finds. Children delighted in being very careful.

Through The Voyage of Osiris, we learned of the story of Osiris, ruler of the underworld (depicted as a god wrapped like a mummy with  green skin to represent the earth) and his wife Isis.  Since then Kindergartners have perused tons of books about Egypt and learned interesting and sometimes gruesome facts and tales. Kudos for great research skills, my kindergarten friends!

Kindergartners reported out their findings so far:

Shabti artifacts 

"Tut's brother only believed in the god Ra. He destroyed all of the monuments his dad (Akhenaten) had built."  -Femi & Roxanne. 

"Some body parts fell off during the mummification process."  -Isaya
"There were three pyramids and one 'great' pyramid - Giza."  -Esh 

"The organs were taken out (of the mummy). They put them in canopic jars.  They sucked out the brains and threw it away."  -Daniel and Leland

"The sun god Ra was actually the god of death.  -Andrew

Ks "shabti" servant dolls

Other comments:

"There were booby traps inside of the pyramids."-Femi

"The mummies were laid inside of a special box called a sarcophagus."

"The mummies were also laid with 'shabtis' which are little servant dolls for the afterlife."  -Anika

"Pharaohs were said to travel to the afterlife in a boat.  They buried the boats also."  -Eli

"The beams cracked on top of the pyramid."  -Eli and Edison

A sketch of the Eye of Anubis, by Edison, drawn on the way home from school.
Kindergartners practiced deciphering hieroglyphics using rubber stamps and decoded and added Egyptian numbers 1 (a stick),10 (shape of a heel bone) and 100 (shape of a coiled snake) in Math class. (We also incorporated these symbols in our artwork.  Mini art lessons were given on an Egyptian style of drawing, bringing math into art and art into math.) Our observations about the pyramids also surfaced in our Math lessons.  What is the best stacking formation to create a sturdy pyramid foundation?  We learned that the pyramid builders used "sledges" (sleds) to haul large blocks of limestone up the outer sides to create the various levels of the pyramid structure. It was very dangerous work, and getting the math right was crucial.

Kindergartners worked as a whole group and with partners to problem solve.  Our "Minute to Win It" challenge was eagerly taken on and conquered.  (Okay, maybe it took 5 minutes.) We reported out our findings about the task; talking and reflecting on our work is an important part of the process. Kindergartners decided that trying, failing, and trying again were effective strategies.  

Some of our building strategies were also implemented during Choice Times.  Various media were selected.  Kindergartners described some of their structures as pyramids complete with burial chambers and false entrances.

This article does a great job of explaining the importance of continuing Block Play in Early Education classrooms.

(On a side note, Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was inspired by Friedrich Froebel's (the inventor of Kindergarten) sets of unique building blocks that he used during his childhood to design plans for his renown Arts and Crafts  style of furniture and buildings.  Wright's School of Architecture in Arizona continues to use this method even today.  Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife's original school in Wisconsin had the motto of "Learn by doing.") 

Femi continues our Egypt studies with a mathematical board game.

As well as building pyramids in Math, we are learning about place value and practicing identifying one, two, three and more digit numbers. We use number of digits as a clue to identify mystery numbers  on our 100s chart.   Additionally, board games allow us to practice reading words and numbers, one to one correspondence, taking turns, and good sportsmanship.

During Language Arts activities, Kindergartners recited poetry about Egyptian and other characters.  The ability to identify sight words, text memorization, use of pictorial prompts, and an encouraging audience are all good ingredients to make for a fantastic reader.

"Tiny Baby Sphinx" by Calef  Brown from the book Flamingos on the Roof:  Poems and Paintings.

Tiny Baby Sphinx.
She looks at me and blinks.
I offer bits of cat food,
the kind that really stinks.
I wonder what she thinks about
at night time when she slinks about,
inviting other sphinxes out
to gather in the moonlight.

Kindergartners transformed themselves into royalty while designing their own Pharaoh masks. We learned that King Tutankhamun (King Tut) may have been wearing a borrowed mask.  Egyptian Pharaohs did not generally have pierced ears like his famous mask suggests.   

Ks are also learning how to sketch side views (frontal views of royalty were not allowed) and full (8 heads tall) figures to depict those found in Egyptian murals.

Mache mummies!
Kindergartners concocted and applied a shredded paper maché technique to create their own mummies during Art class. They are also in the process of using various salt solutions (table salt, baking soda, and Epsom salt) to mummify apple slices in Science class with Teacher Shan. They will examine the best technique to substitute for the Egyptian's original natron salt solution in a week or so.

Isaya is carefully prepared for the afterlife. 

It was only a matter of time before someone was mummified during Quiet Time.  We were inspired while listening to CDs of Magic Tree House: Mummies in the Morning and  Flat Stanley: The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery.

Kindergartners are still buzzing about Egypt, so the studies continue! We're planning a big installation in the Kindergarten room - please stop by and visit soon. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

March Dates at a Glance!

This Month's Theme:  Bugs!

Sunday-Tuesday March 1-3  ISACS Accreditation Team visits!
Monday March 9th                 No School-Teacher Professional Development day
Tues.-Fri. March 10th-13th    Parent/Teacher Conferences
Friday, March 13th                 Music & Art Cafe for Middle Schoolers, 5:30-8:30 P.M.
Thursday March 26th,           Trip to Wild Swan Theater's  "Ugly Duckling," 9:30 A.M.
Monday March 30th              Trip to see "Mary Poppins,"  Canton, MI.

Fri. April 3rd-Sun. April 12th  School closed for Spring Break! 

Flat Stanley's Adventures!

According to the delightful book Flat Stanley:  His Own Adventure by Jeff Brown, "Stanley" was an ordinary little boy who was accidentally flattened by a bulletin board that happened to fall on him while he was lying in his bed.  He was okay though, and found that his two dimensional state made him just right for traveling by mail.  His family began sending him via envelop to different parts of the world. Stanley had extraordinary adventures and then was mailed home after each trip to share them with his family.

Kindergartners were strategically introduced to Flat Stanley right before the holiday break with the hope of Stanley traveling with them to create some new adventures.   Stanley was also sent to loved ones and friends with the hope that they would be sent back to SK so that adventures could be shared with the class on his/her return.  We were thrilled when Stanley showed up in our mailbox within just a few weeks after having some amazing times.  
Our first Stanley came from Daniel's family and friends in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Boston Massachusetts, North East England and Cincinnati, Ohio.  This Stanley shopped for Pittsburgh Steeler's football gear, visited Daniel's cousin Nate on the campus of Harvard University, and scaled New England's Roman Wall.   Stanley also stopped at Gateshead (above) to see an angel on the way 

The next Stanley traveled to Burt Lake, MI (considered a part of the connecting waters of Northern Michigan's "Inland Waterway")  to visit Andrew's family.  This Stanley spied Chickadees at a bird feeder, admired authentic American Indian regalia for Pow Wow dancing and even adorned a smudge of sage as a part of honoring the ancestors while sitting with Andrew's uncle enjoying a campfire.  We also received gorgeous postcards that depicted a 'creek that never freezes' and a stunning sunset on the lake.

Our next "Stanley" adventure, however, contained a bit of serendipity!  While reading our collection of trickster tales by Gerald McDermott (see previous post) we came across his book called Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i.  This book mentioned landmarks, traditional dress, and of course, Hawaiian folklore.  Oddly enough, we also received mail in that same week from, where else?  Hawaii!  Edison's Grandmother sent a bundle containing a "Stanley" adorned with a traditional flowered shirt, a ukulele (our instrument of choice in Music class lately, by the way) and a necklace made of cola beans. Other sent items included postcards, much desired Hawaiian clad Lego figures, a scrapbook, and even a Hawaiian newspaper article about our President and Mrs. Obama on a visit to his hometown!   (Above right) Edison adorns a flowery Hawaiian shirt from Grandma! His Flat Stanley returned from Hawaiian wearing one as well!)

Our class created folders, are scouring the classroom's globe and collecting various maps depicting our Stanley's adventure spots.  We are learning about the different continents, the proximity of various U.S. states to one another, and investigating more about our wonderful state of Michigan.  We will also be practicing directions using a compass rose and other map symbols.    

The Flat Stanley project is a great way to extend our learning about each other, our families, our country and world.  This activity is perfectly suited to our weekly "Global Experiences" activities and gives us an opportunity to increase our understanding and mutual respect for ourselves and each other.  It allows us to explore our differences and increases our understanding of how much we are actually alike.  It also allows us to have adventures that may not otherwise be possible!  Kindergartners can not wait to see where Stanley visits next!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book Journeys are Trickster-business!

The "Book Journey's-Author/Illustrator" theme tends to be one of the most popular and exciting times in Kindergarten literature Circle Times.  There is nothing like a good story and especially if it has the right elements-adventure, humor, intrigue, and a satisfactory ending.   Beautiful illustrations are icing on the literary "cake."  The fact that we are able to explore a collection of stories that all contain these elements is even better still.  Kindergartners experienced just that while listening to several books by author/illustrator, Gerald McDermott.  Mr. McDermott hailed from Detroit, Michigan and studied at both my Alma mater, Cass Tech High School and (at only the age of four) the Detroit Institute of Arts -better known as The DIA.  He had a gift and a passion for the genres of the folk tale and mythology and spent his career searching for and masterfully retelling and illustrating these stories from all over the world.
Our book journey, however,  oddly began with a different author/illustrator Eric Kimmel, a master author and illustrator in his own right.  We listened to the antics of Anansi the Spider and described the "trickster" as 'one who plays tricks or pranks on others.'  We found, however, that sometimes the joke was ultimately on him instead!   The lazy arachnid often attempted to avoid work as much as possible, took things that did not belong to him, and created a lot of trouble in general.  The Ks were not happy at his flawed character traits and often and eagerly expressed this during many readings.  (Five year olds have a strong sense of justice!)   We began our readings with  Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock, Anansi and the Magic Stick, and Anansi Goes Fishing all adapted by Mr. Kimmel. The children cheered when Anansi received his come-upance  and thought his punishments to be fair and deserving.   This was a perfect opportunity to discuss how we desire to be treated as well and how each of us has a part to play in a community and that it is necessary for everyone to do their part.  We also talked about which of us likes practical jokes.  The class was split on this.  Prankster status was desired above "prankee." 

Anansi the Spider:  A Tale of the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott gave us insights into one of the spider's  more endearing character traits, one as a dad.  Kindergartners listened attentively to a tale that expressed Anansi's need for assistance from each of his talented sons.  Each of his offspring collectively used their particular "gift" and ability to rescue their dad who had once again fallen into certain peril.  Ks seemed to identify with Anansi's son "Cushion" the most (and who wouldn't want a safe place to land.)  During Art class, the children also used scraps of brightly colored paper to create their own "spider" son or daughter and gave them a unique character trait and ability.

Kindergartners explored the globe and maps to determine the home of the Ashanti people and discovered that they reside in West Africa (although tales of Anansi the Spider are told throughout the entire continent.) This investigation proved to be a perfect lead in to our Global Experiences lessons and discoveries about several of our stories' content.  We discovered that the "Anansi" character can take many forms (a man, a coyote, a rabbit -Brier or Bugs Bunny, for examples) depending on where he weaves his tales throughout the world.  We later began a series of stories by Gerald McDermott and found that various cultures of the world were depicted.  We also learned details of each culture's terrain and climate (e.g. rain forests, pacific northwest, southern plains), its indigenous animals, and local customs. We also learned that a book can be a cheap vacation!

After a series of tricksters, however, we listened to The Voyage of Osiris:  A Myth of Ancient Egypt also by McDermott that told of Egyptian mythology and history in a kid friendly way. We noted the unique graphics and watercolor-papered style of the illustrations of this book versus the others in the series and the similar use of ancient gods and deities like in the other stories.  This story was also a great introduction for our trip to the Kelsey Museum.

(Left) A mummified bird sets right next to a revered household companion, the cat.  (Center) Our wonderful and knowledgeable docent Jean explained the craftsmanship and symbolism in the interior of a sarcophagus.  (Right) A mummified child is a unique addition to the exhibit.   (Top) Jean also explained that the acquisitions by Mr. Kelsey's excavation team revealed a whole village and it's wares-pottery, sandals, household furniture and even intact vases made of glass.

During an Art activity, Kindergartners used various types of charcoal to create stunning pieces of artwork inspired by McDermott's other story, Musicians of the Sun.  We discussed the terms "tone", "value", "highlights" and "shadow" during our lessons.  As and idea for subject matter, Kindergartners were challenged to draw "a creation story" of their choosing that was "monochromatic" and used only shades of grey. They were afterward asked to create a second piece of artwork using the charcoal but also introduced a hint color into their world for the first time like in the story.  
Our inspiration piece- A detail of McDermott's illustration from Musicians of the Sun.

Kindergartners discovered that shaving cream is the perfect activity after creating charcoal drawings.  It cleans both hands and tables at the same time!

"Spider" stories and trickster tales even surfaced on our field trip to Wild Swan Theater! 
The bird puppet and Actors even sang a Happy Birthday to Isaya!

A perfect beginning to Winter Break-an all school SK Ice Skating party at Buhr Park!