Monday, February 25, 2013

Nature Club - Birds of a Feather

Take a sprinkling of fairy dust,
An angel’s single feather,
A dash of love and care,
Then mix them both together.
Add a sentiment or two,
A thoughtful wish or line,
A touch of stardust,
A sunshine ray,
It's a recipe...
truly fine.

 This week in Nature Club the children and I learned more about feathers.  We passed around samples of all different types of bird feathers and talked about their similarities and differences.  I then asked the children to sketch a feather in their nature notebooks, being mindful of each part they saw on their sample, and after learning about each part of the feather, the children labeled their feather correctly with the new terms they learned.

 As a special surprise I gave each child his and her own peacock feather to take home.  This was a huge hit and did not go unnoticed :) 
 We made our own feather masks and talked about what type of bird we wanted to be.  We talked about whether or not we thought penguins had feathers (they do) and why it is important for feathers to be light.  
 We learned that feathers grow by absorbing blood through the base called the 'inferior umbilicus'.  It was pretty cool when one child mentioned that the word umbilicus sounded like umbilical cord and we talked about why that might be.  Amazing how smart our children can be, isn't it?  After the feather is fully grown it stops taking the nutrients from the blood and is called a "dead" feather.  When feathers get worn out, the bird's body goes through a process called molting which replaces old feathers with new ones.    
These children range in age from 5 years old to 12 years old and they were all united with the same level of interest and enthusiasm.  It gave me the chills to witness the huge amount of learning that took place in only one 2 hour meeting.  I learned things I had never known and we all retained the information without the need for multiple choice tests or memorizing index cards.  We remember it because we were excited about it... we touched it, we drew it, we laughed about it, we played games around it and it was FUN.   Learning can really be fun and easy.  
I feel so honored to be able to do this work.  I hope I am able to get a full class for my spring session to continue our fun together as the weather warms up.  Next week we will be planting our very own tree to take home and learning about life cycles.  

I can't wait.  :) 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Coin Rubbings for Presidents Day

Today was Presidents' Day and this is a wonderful activity from our February 5 Day Program for those of you who homeschool or wish to bring a bit of math and history fun into your child's life this week.  
Using Beeswax Block Crayons, rub coins to see the image of each President.  Learn about these particular men.  Talk to children sharing some information and thought-provoking questions during circle time, such as:

  • Do you know who the current President is of the United States?
  • Which President is on the face of a penny?
  • How many Presidents can you guess there have been so far?
  • In the United States, we have a President who is the leader of our country.  
  • There have been many Presidents before the one we have now.  Our coins have the faces of many previous Presidents on the front of them. 
  • Today we will look at the different coins and use our crayons to do coin rubbings to see their faces on our papers.  
This is a fun way to introduce young children to the basic concept of money.  Older children can use the idea to work with addition facts or learn more about which leader is associated with each coin.  

Some more ideas:

Write down an amount and ask your child to rub the correct coins to make the value.
Dictate addition or subtraction facts and have children use coin rubbings to demonstrate the problem and solution. 
Rub coins on paper and cut them out to play store or practice math facts!  

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Fairy House Contest

We were snowed in another day here at Little Acorn Playgarden and boredom was setting in with my girls.  I decided to take out the sweet book Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane and challenge them to spend their afternoon making the most beautiful Fairy House they could create.  I presented them with a flat surface and a cardboard box and the rest was up to them.  They ran around the house gathering all of the other supplies they could think of and it was beautiful to see them working together and sharing ideas.
 It amazes me how creative children can be.  Our fairy house comes equipped with a food cabinet (with food in it!), bedroom, bathroom, climbing tree, flower entrance, dining room, kitchen, balance beams, sitting area and all of the seashells, gems and flowers you could imagine.  The girls even went as far as to make a small jump rope for their fairy friends to use.  
The fairies often come to these sweet homes leave behind a lot of clues!  Sometimes they even leave notes, small gifts or just a plain mess!

I wonder what they'll leave tonight....

I'd love to challenge you to create your own Fairy House with your children.  Indoor or outdoor homes are more than welcome.

Our random winner will receive a FREE Beeswax Crayon Holder from Little Acorn Learning 
(a $21.95 value!)

How to enter:

If you are a blogger, please share a link to your Fairy House below in the comments section of this post and also share a photo of your Fairy House on our Facebook Group to inspire others and share your creations!

If you do not blog, please leave a brief comment on this post below and share a photo of your Fairy House on our Facebook Group.

**Please note that you must enter to win in the comments section below - posting your photo to our Facebook Group alone will not enter your name into our drawing. **

Our special winner will be picked randomly here on our blog and also announced on our Facebook Page on Valentine's Day!

Best of luck to you and have so much fun!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chinese Foil Snakes

I Am a Snake

I have no legs. I have no arms.
(arms down close to body)
I can take off my skin.
(pretend to pull off skin)
I wiggle my tongue.
(like this wiggle tongue)
I’m very, very thin.
(hands on ribs, slide them down)
I can open my mouth so wide.
(open mouth)
And eat my dinner whole.
(rub tummy)
I can curl up nice and tight,
(squat down low)
Or stretch out like a pole.
(stretch up tall)
 Happy Chinese New Year!

This year is the year of the snake so the girls and I spent time today creating these very easy and pretty foil snakes.  We had foil origami squares left over from another project but simple aluminum foil can be used also (the large snake above is made of it).

We experimented with different designs and cuttings:  Folding our pieces like an accordion, cutting with scissors first and then folding and our very favorite technique was wrapping the strips around a pencil resulting in coil-type snakes that we added faces and tongues to.

The Chinese New Year is also thought of as the Spring Festival.  I find this so fitting right now as I am currently working on our latest festival book focusing on Springtime.  Similar to our custom of spring cleaning, the Chinese New Year is traditionally a time to cleanse the house and make room for new luck.  It is also a time for honoring ancestors.

The Chinese New Year is actually celebrated for 15 day so you have plenty of time to share this special time with the children!  Regardless of the timing, never feel like you missed a special festival or holiday because life gets in the way, just bring the celebration into your home or school as time permits and enjoy it fully.

We are praying for health, love and happiness this new year and wish the same to you!


Friday, February 8, 2013

((this moment))

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Nature Club - We're Going on a Tree Hunt

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow." ― Hermann HesseBäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Nature Club today had us exploring the silent magic of the tree.  When we put our hands on the trunk of a tree, to know that it is full of life yet it is so solid, still and strong sends conflicting messages to our senses.  To realize the complexity of it and how its strong roots reach deep into the ground to bring life-giving nutrients to its leaves is truly amazing.  To know how it withstands the most severe weather conditions, changing surroundings and other living inhabitants without budging or flinching is the reason the symbol of a tree represents strength and life to us all. 
After learning about the different parts and types of trees, we headed outside in the 20 degree weather of Connecticut to explore.  Our first challenge was to find one tree with rough bark and one tree with smooth bark and to record it in our Nature Notebooks by doing tree rubbings on each.  
One little explorer who is so extremely enthusiastic each Saturday morning about our nature discoveries found this very interesting branch that wound itself through the school gate.

We also looked for the tallest tree in our surroundings and the shortest tree.  We looked for evergreen trees and deciduous trees.  We found berries, bark and lots of ice and then we realized how very cold we were, so we found our way back inside.  
Inside we created our own tree bark pendants (I'm not calling them necklaces because we have so many boys in class).  The children worked so hard on them and they came out beautiful.  Each child quickly put their necklace pendant on and visited each one of their friends to see what other children came up with.
We had trees and butterflies, suns and even a salamander pendant.  
Then we played a game of 'Old Oak' which is played the same way as Old Maid.  Each card has a match and the correct tree name for the type of leaf on it.  It is a wonderful way to begin introducing children to tree identification and they LOVED it.
They made me promise to bring the cards again next week.
And so I will.

Go on your own tree hunt!

Can you find:

A tree with rough bark?
A tree with smooth bark?
A tree stump?
A branch in the shape of a Y?
A branch with leaves?
A branch without leaves?
An evergreen tree?
A deciduous tree (looses leaves in winter)?
A nest in a tree?
A tree with a hole?
A baby tree?
A very old tree?
A tree with sap?
A dead tree?
A fallen down tree?
Roots of a tree?

Have fun and please share your adventure with us! 


Friday, February 1, 2013

Candlemas Bright

"This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. Candlemas is a traditional Christian festival that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of her son Jesus.  On this day, Christians remember the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple.... In pre-Christian times, this day was known as the 'Feast of Lights' and celebrated the increased strength of the life giving sun as winter gave way to spring."  ~ From All Year Round 

 Oh, Candlemas... this beautiful festival I knew nothing about before coming to Waldorf Education.  Most of us in the United States grew up celebrating Groundhog's Day on February 2nd.  Some of us may know a bit about St. Brigid's Day or Imbolc (especially if you were raised Irish Catholic like me) which falls on February 1st.  St. Brigid was one of Ireland's patron saints.  Imbolc is said to have been an ancient pagan festival marking the beginning of spring in honor of the Goddess Brighid.  Are you seeing any similarities here? 

Regardless of your religious background, this sacred time of year can bring us all together as one in hope and anticipation of the light of spring and new beginnings that are around the corner.  It is a beautiful thing to celebrate this time with the children in your care.  It creates a feeling of reverence, certainty, love, hope, and confidence in your environment.  Something humans need more of for sure, especially now.  

Steadfast I stand in the world
With certainty I tread the path of life
Love I cherish in the core of my being
Hope I carry into every deed
Confidence I imprint upon my thinking.
These five lead me to my goal
These five give me my existence.
~Rudolf Steiner
 If I am very honest, my week has not been filled with as much light as I am telling you to ignite in your own home or school.  This week has been harder than most.  With the normal stresses of life and some new endeavors that are taking their toll on me being the main caregiver and working mom.
In addition, one of my daughters has been to the ER, to the doctor and back to get bloodwork all within two days because of an allergic reaction or autoimmune issue she has been having.  We are going to the allergist early next week but we are tired, worried and the laundry, house and work are piling up knee deep.  I have been eating bad and not exercising as much as I should.  As a result, I'm feeling pretty yuck.
I tell you this truthfully so you will know that in blogland things may look pretty and simple, but real life is not.  I hope to inspire you to celebrate life and the beautiful seasons with your children so my photos may look clean and pretty but life... well, it's messy, glorious and painful.  We ride the ups and the downs and we sometimes sink a bit.  But what is beautiful and true is that we keep striving.  We look ahead to the light within our grasp and remind ourselves, with confidence, that if nothing else - things always change.
And sometimes that's a really good thing to know.

A friend brought me dinner this evening when she came to pick up her daughter from daycare.  That simple act took my breath away.  To be honest, it is not often that I am taken care of... and sometimes I really need it.  For her to know that means so much to me.  These people are the gifts in our lives.  

The photos from our February Photo Contest have also kept a bright light shining in my life this week when things were harder than usual.  The theme was Flames and Shadows and the winners were chosen this evening.  To see the beautiful souls that fill our Facebook Community is so heartwarming.  Just take a peek for yourself.

The world is filled with goodness.

Do you celebrate one of these festivals?  Let us know how.