Thursday, January 21, 2016

Impromptu visit to see U of M's Space Rock!

During our theme unit on Space, Kindergartners listened to a story that described the Moon as large, round, and full of craters.  I happened to mention that there was an actual piece of Moon rock right here in Ann Arbor so we spontaneously decided to go see it.  We hopped on our school bus (just one of the many advantages of having three buses, a chauffeur's license and a small class)  and rode over to North Campus.  While on our way, we discussed how  there is a piece of artwork created by a Chinese American woman architect named Maya Lin.  She is also known for designing The Vietnam Wall.   The U of M sculpture was designed to celebrate fallen aviator Francois-Xavier Bagnoud and was intended to simulate the movement of "air waves."   We were surprised by both the medium of art used in the sculpture and the actual moon rock on display inside of the adjoining building.  We found out that the massive sculptural tribute was actually a piece of environmental art called "The Wave Field" and that the moon rock was only about the size of a skipping stone. 

Kindergartners ever so quietly tiptoed into the building filled with a sea of Engineering students and staff.  We observed U of Ms impressive collection of flight replicas, engine parts and an actual airplane in the lobby.

We watched a movie clipping of a space exploration on the moon and noticed how much research was being done on the moon's surface while they were there.  We also saw how the astronauts maneuvered themselves in an environment of limited gravity.

We found out that due to this lack of gravity, the United States' flag "waves" only with the help of wires and is actually lying down on the moon's surface because of the force of the liftoff  when the space craft returned back to earth.

The actual piece of moon rock is a bit flat, grey, porous looking and more resembles a piece of ordinary cement.

Other space memorabilia included models of various shuttles, patches, and lots of pictures.  Our favorite item observed, however, was a set of multicolored golf balls! 

We had to run the Wave Fields' crevices and mounds several times just to get the full affect of its size, heights and depths.   It appeared to resemble a romp on the Moon I would imagine.

Our field trip and research will definitely assist the Kindergartners with their desire to create their own classroom Space Station!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Our Families' Traditions during Global Experiences!

Our Global Experiences last month did not take us to Space but instead across the globe to Poland!   Mila's Mom came in on Tuesday to share with us her family's tradition for the Christmas season. Mom shared  her memories of setting up and lighting the advent wreath (although hers was much fancier than a traditional wreath.)  Mila's family's came complete with an intricate wind chime and a carousel.

Christmas in Poland also includes displaying a manger scene of Jesus' birth and the distribution of presents.  Mila's family also celebrates a pre-Christmas event of receiving small presents from St. Nick in dutifully cleaned shoes and boots approximately three weeks before Christmas.

Traditional Polish holiday  sweet treats include yummy crepe pancakes and delicious poppy seed bread.

We were also honored with a visit from our beloved Rachel who shared her family's Hanukkah tradition with us.  She showed us how to light the menorah and read  a story titled The Only One Club about a girl who discovered that she and her classmates were all 'the only one" of something.  The little girl's gift was that she was the only Jewish person in her class.  Afterward, the Kindergartners discussed their 'only one' characteristics and found that they were "the only child," "the only sibling" and "the only one that had a three legged dog" among other things.  We also learned how to play the dreidel game and did so for our Math lessons and Choice time activities.

Global Experiences allow for opportunities to learn and appreciate each other, aids in building tolerance and respect of others and hopefully enriches each of our own lives.

All (Solar) Systems GO!

A lot of times, teachers can have an idea about lesson plans and topics of study that they would like to pursue with their class.  If, however, we are open, perceptive, and indeed progressive, we will find that the children have much better ideas.  For our new, "Systems" theme unit, I initially thought that our next area of study would be the human body (and more specifically,  the digestive system-little people love talking about bodily functions) but the kids took the subject in a whole other direction.

When I  introduced our new school-wide theme and chatted about types of systems (a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole) and when or where we would have heard the word 'system',  the Solar System was enthusiastically added to our list and sparked a lot of talk about planets, the moon, stars, and of course astronauts, aliens and space travel.  That cinched it. Space it is!

We  began reading several books including a collection of poetry And then There Were Eight on the subject and landed on the topic of the declassification of Pluto to 'dwarf' planet status.  The Kindergartners passionately expressed their feelings about this decision made back in 2006 but with the same appalled outrage.  We then investigated the reasons for the change and came up with a general (but apparently unsatisfactory) reason.  We apparently still do not agree with the decision.

To help inspire and inform us further, we took a trip to the Natural History Museum Planetarium and saw a showing of "Musical Night Sky." It  depicted the Solar System's night revelations that included the eight planets, their moons, and the various constellations.   Our docents were very friendly and knowledgeable and were able to clarify many of our questions about the Solar System and its rejected Pluto.  I think we are still feeling slighted, however.

(On a different note, we also had a bit of a surprise just outside of the planetarium doors! We encountered a model of the Caves of Lascaux complete with miniature cave drawings.  We also took a browse through a section of models and displays on DNA.  These exhibits were both very nice follow ups to our previous "Identity" theme unit.)

Later in the week, we created space journals and wrote about some of the information that we have gathered so far.  We are currently designing our own planets and collecting data to make each of them inviting and sustainable.

During our Art lesson shortly after beginning the unit on Space, we began our study of  Spaniard Joan Miro.  I thought him to be an appropriate choice for an artist to study because of his 'out of this world' images and obvious inspirations from outer space.  After viewing several of Miro's childlike pieces that even included one titled "Constellations", we listened to a CD called "The Planets" while creating our artwork.  The children designed pastel drawings enhanced by black sharpies that resembled solar systems, galaxies, aliens, and other UFOs to the sounds of music that simulated blast offs, turbulence and the quiet peacefulness imagined there in space.

Joan Miro

January 2016 Dates at a Glance!

This Month's Theme:  Systems

Monday, January 4th     School Resumes
Thursday, January 7th   SK Open House for area Preschool Staff, 6:30-8:30 P.M.
Tuesday, January 12th  Yoga with Dom 2:00 P.M.  (Also 1/26)
Monday, January 18th   No School-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Tuesday, January 19th  SK all School Event for children, Assessment writing for teachers
Wednesday, January 20th  Open House for perspective families during the school day!