Friday, February 26, 2016

Our Hearts Can Not Sit Down!

Throughout African American History Month, Kindergartners listened to  touching stories about people in various countries in Africa that have been triumphant over drought, famine, and other deficits in resources.  Each story's problem, however,  was solved in a unique and innovative way!

 One story, titled Yatandou by Gloria Whelan, told of how a little girl and the women of her village used their various talents to earn money to make it no longer necessary to work for three hours at a time to complete a task.  The book shared an African tradition passed down from generation to generation of women using a very heavy instrument called a pounding stick to grind the millet corn for their village.  The Kindergartners also observed materials depicting this common tradition.  We discussed the technique of batik-ing (using a wax resist process while tie-dying fabric) that is found in a lot of traditional Indonesian and African clothing.  We also inspected a wooden carving of a woman with baby and pounding stick and noted its textures, weight and composition.  We speculated about the origin of the African sculpture.

Another book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, explained how an actual teenager in Malawi made it possible for his fellow villagers to work their farms into the night because of his witty invention.  A third story, My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff provided a surprising twist of the "helper" versus the "one in need."  A child in Africa hears of a problem in the village of New York City during the Depression era and rallies her village to assist them.  This story is a perfect followup and catalyst to our bottled water drive for the families of Flint, Michigan.  Please see the previous February blog, "Would You Drink That Water" for more details of our journey.  The Kindergartners desire to collect a total of 1000 bottles of water to donate to the residents of Flint, MI.

Our African American history month began with a story titled A Patchwork Path.  This story told of a little girl who learns of a family tradition of sharing secrets embedded in bed quilts.  She finds that the brightly colored geometric squares hold more than swatches of her family's outgrown garments but also contain a secret code and a map to freedom.  Kindergartners later used brightly colored paper to create their own patchwork square with an embedded code.  These will be used as patterns for an upcoming batik dye project on fabric.

Secret codes and "Underground Railroads" were not the only witty inventions used during the time of slavery.  Other stories we read, Henry's Freedom Box:  The Story of Henry Box Brown by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson and  Freedom Song by Sally M. Walker  each told of a clever way that a slave solved his problem of desiring to escape the cruel conditions imparted onto Black people in the 1800s.

Kindergartners also attended Wild Swan Theatre's production of "African Folk Tales" this month and were treated to a time of celebration of African American culture prior to abduction and slavery. Oral stories, tales passed down like pounding sticks and patchwork squares, were yet another way to share history, tradition and culture.  The most famous of this stories are the "Spider" or Anansi Tales found throughout many countries in the continent of Africa.  This clever character, sometimes depicted as a man or rabbit as well as an arachnid is a notorious trickster who sometimes gets tricked himself.  We also heard other Anansi adventures and will continue to read about fellow tricksters and myths into March, National Reading Month.

Kindergartners will be accepting bottled water donations beginning Tuesday, March 1st.  Please stay tuned to dates for our other water fundraising efforts!

March Dates at a Glance!

This Month's Theme:  Innovations

March Dates at a Glance

Monday, February 29th  Bill Harley Concert (K-4th), 9A.M.  (in lieu of A.M. Meeting)
Wednesday, March 2nd  Dr. Seuss' (Theodor Geisel) Birthday!
Friday, March 4th           Each Friday is Waste Free Lunch Day!
                                  SK Music and Art Cafe, 6:30-8:30 P.M.  (K Art on display)
Monday March 7th         EBs 12:30-1:30 P.M.
Tuesday, March 8th       Yoga with Dom, 2:00 P.M.
Wednesday, March 9th  Last EB of the Session, 2-3 P.M.
Wed. March 16-23         Kindergarten Spring Parent/Teacher Conferences
Friday, March 18th        Field Trip 9:00 A.M., details TBA
Sunday, March 20th      Celebration of Kindergarten for Perspective Ks, 2-4 P.M.
Tuesday, March 22nd    Yoga with Dom, 2:00 P.M.
Friday, March 25th        No School!  Parent/Teacher Conference review (Ks) day!
Thursday, March 31st   Val presents at the MiAEYC Conference, Grand Rapids, MI

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Shared Space (Exploration)!

Project Based Learning and shared expertise is vital to the learning process. Kindergartners and all of the SK-ers come to school each day with a wealth of prior knowledge just waiting to be shared! Such a sharing took place a when Kindergartner Mila taught her class how to make hand-held planetariums.  She and her family attended a workshop during a weekend and Mila enjoyed it so much that she desired to  demonstrate  to Kindergartners how to make a planetarium of their own.

Kindergartners practiced plotting constellations using push pins, diagrams and black paper during a previous activity.  They assisted each other so that no stars were missed along the path.

Even Yoga instructor Dom got in to  the act and provided a very planetary back massage to each resting heavenly body during one of her bi-weekly sessions.

Our 7/8 Grade Karl Buddies used their weekly Work Crew time with us to assemble the "bones" of our classroom's first phase of our "Space Station."  Kindergartners also watched video footage on the computer of actual astronaut explorers on the International Space Station to glean authentic information about it's appearance, content and structure.  Afterward,  Ks constructed several lap top computers, control panels, portals, and even a domed ceiling out of recycled materials.

Buddies in Chris' 3/4th Grade class came by one Friday and put the dust and icing on the 'freeze dried' cake when they helped us make an interstellar ceiling out of marbles and CDs, telescopes from egg cartons, a card board rocket ship with captain's chair, a bath tub (complete with a reserve tank and virtual running water from the spout) and a double potty using actual toilet seats.

Our station was also equipped with realistic looking solar panels, a satellite dish and a musical instrument with attached drum sticks and speakers.

Aluminum foil lined our domed ceiling and several control panels adorned the inside of one of the outer pods.

There was a tremendous amount of collaboration of ideas, compromises, trial and error, and risk taking with this massive project. Multi-aged groupings provide endless opportunities to not only share knowledge but to mentor, build confidence, establish friendships,  develop a sense of pride,  ownership, and accountability, and to build trust.

Phase three of our space project will begin very soon! 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Would you drink that water?

As you may already know, Kindergartners (and the rest of us) in Michigan were surprised by unseasonably warm weather that boasted in the 50s this past Wednesday. These balmy temperatures beckoned the Ks outside for a good chunk of the morning.  They were intrigued by the fact that our wade pool, usually a miniature skating pond, was nearly all melted to liquid.

 The kids retrieved containers from inside, christened our new liquid measurement set and filled every available vessel with pool water.  I watched as children poured cup after cup of liquid into the jars and strategically haul and place them on our garden wall.  Some children began announcing that they were store keepers and started selling their water to passersby.  Other children claimed that the water was "chocolate  milk" and asked if I would like some.  Still others just seemed to enjoy the fact that the water cascaded down the containers or they spent time marveling at the sensation of wearing a very soggy snow suit.  And then it hit me.

The next day at Circle Time, I reminisced with the children about how nice the weather was the day before and mentioned to them how much fun it looked like they were having playing with the water from the wade pool.

And then I asked them, "Would you drink that water?"  

Alex spoke up immediately and said that he would not because it had mud in it. The children began chiming in with what they did do with the water instead.  Dillon announced that he dumped his water out back into the pool.  Oliver said that he got the water from the pool and made a "Free Market." Lila informed us that she made the dirty water look like potion and hot chocolate then put it in a pretend maker and warmed it up.  Others mentioned that they had a store where they sold their water.

I asked again a few moments later, "But would you drink that water?"

I briefly told the children about the problem with the water in Flint.  I expressed to them that there were some children that had to drink cloudy water because they did not have clear water to drink.  I explained that some kids in Flint also have to take their baths, wash their hands and eat foods cooked with cloudy water because there was a  problem with the water.

Then I asked, "What could we do about the water problem in  Flint?  The Kindergartners immediately shared their ideas.

"We could  fill up all of our playground containers with clean water and take a bus ride and bring it to them."

"We could buy filters."

"We could raise money so that construction workers could make the water better.  Yeah, they could put different pipes in the ground."

"For the kids who already drank the water, we could buy them medicine."

"We could do things to give us money and buy fundraisers.  We could have  fun things like balloons and carousels."

"We could make people pay to give use their boxes (for our Space Station project) so we could have money."

"We could have a sale of baked goods and give the money to Flint."

"We could bring in our books that we don't want and sell them and give the money to Flint."

"We can sell fruit in bowls and take shifts."

"We could buy them some water."

"We could make cool snow flakes.  We could make and sell pictures and sell the books."

"We could have a table with foods like homemade pancakes and fruit salad."

"For those who could not eat the food, we could sell water...and lemonade...and orange juice."

"We could make hot chocolate,"  someone said. 

"We could get water and buy bottled water....a whole bunch and bring it to people." 

Coincidentally, the week prior to this discussion, some of my SK colleagues and I attended a fabulous Professional Development at EMU.  The SEMIS (South East Michigan Stewardship Coalition) sponsored a conference for Educators, Administrators, and Community Leaders to support  place-based, project-based and social  justice efforts especially in schools.  One of the afternoon's  breakout sessions included a Town Hall type meeting to discuss the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  The goal was not to find fault or point fingers but to instead brainstorm solutions to the problem and make action plans to implement.  When this serendipitous event happened a few days later, it was exciting to me that the Kindergartners, when faced with a problem,  were eager to get to work,  think of do-able solutions and are now willing to take action.

Got clean water?

Learn more about SEMIS at

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Message for the Man in the Moon!

Kindergartners listened to a charming and exquisitely illustrated book titled, The Man in the Moon by William Joyce.  This story told of the original 'Guardian of Childhood.'  The other guardians are The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and The Sand Man.  The Man in the Moon or MiM for short, had a special friend from childhood that had a special ability. We learn that the Man in the Moon had a special ability as well.  He could hear the hopes and dreams of the children back on Earth!  The story explained that when a child loses or lets go of his or her balloon, their wishes and dreams float away with it.   It is said that the Man in the Moon gathers up these stray treasures and listens to each one of them.

(The Man in the Moon with his listening device)
We thought about what we would said if we could send our hopes and dreams to the MiM.

"I wish that I always get lots and lots of presents."

"I really wish that I am healthy."

"I want a toy car.... any toy car as long as I don't have it yet."

"I want Lego Star Wars."

"I wish 'Hi'.  'Hi' is in my own language.  It means, I wish you have good luck."

"I wish to grow up healthy."

"I want a real pet cat."

"I would tell him that I like him."

"I wish that the Moon could hear what I said when I let go of it.  I wish that I could get the balloon back."

P.S.  Spoiler alert:  The friend's special ability (His name is 'Nightlight') was being able to dispel the darkness and get rid of  fears, especially nightmares.  The Kindergartners and I had a wonderful discussion and they shared how they sometimes have nightmares.  They now know that they can look to the MiM (or use the moon's light) to dispel the darkness in their minds at night.

During P.M. Recess time, Kindergartners were able to attach their thoughts and dreams to star shaped balloons the Hubby so graciously surprised us with.  Even he couldn't resist staying and watching our silver dreams float over the fence and toward the corner, however.

The initial launch experienced a bit of a delay when it became entangled on the sign post.

During its second attempt, the bouquet floated up and quickly became camouflaged behind the tree across the street.

Our balloon made a giant ascent on a big gust of wind and sailed toward the west carrying our thoughts and dreams... and hope.  I wonder if the Moon is listening?

February Dates at a Glance!

Happy Valentine's Day!

This Month's Theme:  Systems!

Monday, February 1st       No School!  Assessment Review Day!
Tuesday, February 2nd      Stories with Madame, 11:00 A.M. 
                                    Every Tuesday is Sharing Day!
                                    Zumba with Alex's Mom, 2 P.M. 
Thursday, February 4th    Library Story Time, 2:00 P.M. (also February 11th & 25th)
Friday, February 5th        Space Station creation w/ Chris Buddies!  12:40 P.M.
Tuesday, February 9th     Yoga with Dom, 2:00 P.M. (also Tues. 2/23)
                                    Meet & Greet with New HOS Fall 2016, 7-9 P.M.
Thursday, February 11th    Trip to Wild Swan Theatre- African Folk Tales, 9:30 A.M.
Friday, February 12th        Valentine's Day Party 8:40-11:30 A.M.
                                    K-4th Grade Skating Party at Buhr, 2-3 P.M.
Mon. Feb. 15-Fri. 19th        No School!  Mid-Winter Break!
Monday, February 22nd    EBs begin this week! Times TBA
Friday, February 26th       SK Systems and Innovations Science Fair

Monday, February 1, 2016

It Is Rocket Science... (and Math)

Use keen observations skills. Check.
Develop logical reasoning skills. Check.
Demonstrate spatial relational awareness.  Check.
Improve Fine Motor development. Check.
Practice counting and grouping objects in a set, read and write numerals from 1 to 10, 20, 30 40 or 50 and beyond.  Check.
Understand number order and know that larger numbers describe sets with more objects. Check.
Use concrete objects to determine the answer to an addition problem.  Check.
Apply the rules of balance and symmetry.  Check.
Build and illustrate your own original design so that others may one day copy its specs from a manual and duplicate your rocket.........Check!
Take risks and handle structure failure like champs.  Of course.
Combine ideas with small groups and then the whole class to create the best rocket ever.  Yes!

                                        We are ready for lift off.