Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Special Announcement

I noticed one of our just-turned 3-year-olds (O.P.) quietly observing the class.  He must've noticed that several children were wandering about the room, trying to choose an activity.  He boldly stepped into the center of the classroom and announced:

"Now let's go people.  Let's get to work!"

He then walked back over to his mat and continued the lesson he was working on.  A few children noticed his announcement and took it quite seriously, moving to the shelves and finding work.  Our oldest student looked at me with a smile, shrugged, and said "I guess we better work."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Polishing Product

I could not have been more excited when I opened up this season's Montessori Services catalog.  They have a new product to accompany the shoe polishing work.  Shoe polishing is a very popular Practical Life activity in my classroom.  It is considered a "Care of Self" activity and is used to develop order, concentration, sequence of an activity, and responsibility for the care of self.  Well, the shoe polish I've been using crumbles after the fifth or sixth use.  The children get frustrated when chunks of polish fall out of the tin; not to mention, the tin itself is very difficult to open.  Well, it made my day when I noticed this new nontoxic polish in the catalog:
As I mentioned, it's nontoxic, but it's also environmentally friendly and biodegradable.  Supposedly it smells nice too---now that's too much to ask!  I'll order it and let all of you online Montessorians know whether or not it's worth the $7 for 2 ounces...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our New Furry Friends

One of my students mentioned that his babysitter owns guinea pigs.  I've always wondered what guinea pigs were like in the classroom, aside from the Wonder Pets character of course, so we gave them a "test drive".  They were wonderful!  One of the guinea pigs, Charlie, did not feel like being held, but the other one soaked up the attention.  We picked up the other guinea pig--Colby-- and each child had the choice of either a) holding him b) petting him or c) holding the big plastic exercise ball containing Colby.  I'd say the class was split in thirds.  Some were very eager to hold him, others were not so sure, and the rest flat out refused.  Colby certainly had his favorite students and just about fell asleep in my daughter's arms!  We had loads of fun and I'm so thankful for D.A.'s babysitter for sharing her babies!

Some interesting tidbits about guinea pigs...
  • They originated in South America, in the Andes.
  • They are not pigs, they are rodents.
  • The Incas domesticated guinea pigs.
  • Guinea pigs need to gnaw, otherwise their teeth will grow so long they won't be able to eat.
  • "Cavy" is the official word for guinea pig!
The verdict is still out about whether or not we'll purchase two cavies for next year.  I think we may need to pass for this coming year because of the vet bills.  These little guys are considered "exotics" and need special vets to care for them.  Hopefully in the future, we'll be able to welcome two of these furry friends into our classroom permanently.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all of you moms a Happy Mother's Day!

For our mom's gift this year, the children made flower-topped pencils.  They were a fun and easy craft that you're child can make at home for friends or relatives. 

  • colorful, unsharpened pencil
  • rubber band
  • 2 coffee filters
  • washable markers
  • spray bottle
Here's what you do:
  • Color the front and back of the coffee filters.  Be sure the edges are covered with colors.
  • Stack the filters and fold them in half.  Fold them again so you have a cone shape.
  • Place the eraser end of the pencil into the corner of the cone.  Wrap the filters tightly around the pencil. 
  • Fasten the filters to the pencil using the rubberband (a ribbon might work nicely too).
  • Spread apart the filters into the shape of a carnation.
  • Lightly spray the flower with water so the colors blend together.
The flower dries in about 20 minutes.  I love this craft because the child can do most of it himself, and it looks so elegant when it is complete.  My daughter made one for me in class on Friday and I've been using it ever since.  It puts a smile on my face when I'm writing out the grocery list!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


This past week we enjoyed studying the history of kites and kite-making.  Kites originated in China and spread to Indonesia, Japan, and on from there.  We discovered that kites were used to offer prayer requests up to the gods.  Certain symbols represented particular requests, such as a dragon for wealth and power or an egret for good luck. 

On September 9th, Chinese families celebrate The Double Ninth Festival (Ch'ing Yang), also called the Festival of Kites.  On this day, kite-flying is a symbol of rising higher and higher, being better and better at everything one does.  Chinese families enter this contest hoping to win first prize- a cow, second prize- a pig, or third prize- a sheep.  Unfortunately, after doing more research, we discovered that some contestants treat their strings with powdered glass.  The glass strings can cut the strings of other kites, causing them to fall.  We followed up the conversation by discussing sportsmanship, honesty, and fairness. 

The children showed interest in making their own kites.  Our year is winding down here, so we are not able to make kites in school.  If you would like to make your own kite at home, here are some directions found in the book Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly up to the Sky:

Supplies you'll need:
  • lightweight paper, 3' x 3'
  • 2 round wood dowels (1/8" thick); one 36" long and one 32" long
  • kite string
  • thread
  • glue twist tab (optional)
  • paint
  • scissors
  • tape
  • ruler
  • reinforcement rings (for use on binder paper)
  • crepe paper
  1. Take the lightweight paper and lay it on the floor.
  2. Paint a big picture on it that can be seen from far away. Let the paint dry.
  3. Cross the shorter dowel a quarter of the way down the long dowel.  The longer dowel is called the mast, and the point where the two dowels cross is called the joint.
  4. Fasten the dowels securely at a right angle with kite string or thread and glue, or with a twist tab.
  5. Outline the kite with string tied to the four dowel ends.  Don't pull the string so tightly that the dowels bend--they should be straight.  Hint:  Making a notch at the end of each dowel will help to hold the string in place.
  6. Place your kite frame on the back of your picture, and hold it in place with tape.  Hint: There should be at least 1 inch of paper beyond the frame of your kite.  Trace the outline of your kite on the paper.
  7. Make another outline 1 inch wider all around so you can fold the paper over the outlining string, and paste it down.  Spaces must be cut in the paper where it matches up to the wood dowels.
  8. To attach your flying line, first make two holes in your kite diagonally across the mast: one above the joint, one below the joint--use reinforcements on the holes to prevent the paper from ripping.  The string should go through the other hole.  Tie securely so that the knot is visible from the front of the kite.
  9. Adding a tail will help balance the kite so it will fly straight.  Cut a hole on each side of the mast, just above the bottom hems of the kite; again, use reinforcements to keep the holes from ripping.
  10. Now you are ready to make the tail.  First cut a piece of string that measures 10 ft. to 12 ft.  Then tie 6-inch crepe paper bows along the line, one per foot.  Now tie the tail string through the holes you made at the bottom of the kite in Step 9.
  11. Stretch the kite tail on the ground.  If the wind isn't at least 8 miles per hour, you may need a friend to hold your kite up off the ground to get it airborne.
  12. Run into the wind with your kite behind you.  The wind will catch your kite!  Let it fly!  Let the string out so the kite can go higher--hooray!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Panda What?

We are now deep in the heart of our Asia unit.  We've counted to ten in Mandarin, thanks to the help of some former students fluent in the language, we've also drawn some chinese characters, and today we discussed the Giant Panda.  Did you know that some scientists believe pandas are related to raccoons??  Take a look at the Red Panda and you'll see why:

Some other interesting tidbits: pandas are considered carnivores even though 99% of their diet is bamboo.  They also have five fingers and a thumb to help them grip the bamboo.  The children wanted to see the pandas in action, so we logged on to the San Diego Zoo's PandaCam to see what they were up to:

After China, we'll venture over to Japan to discuss origami and kite-making.  I'll be putting our Japanese Sand Garden out on the peace shelf for all to try.  It's a wonderfully therapeutic activity that adults enjoy just as much as the children:  Sand Garden.  Then on to Tibet and India.  Any moms from my classroom interested in teaching us how to wrap a Sari?