Thursday, August 27, 2015

sunflowers: flower study part 2

Elise and I have spent the past few weeks doing a "flower study."  Read part 1 here!

I've decided to try dedicating a little space in our classroom
each month to a special song or poem.
(Yes!  Elise has her own classroom now - I'll share more soon!)
From the classroom window, we are able to see dozens of sunflowers
and watch goldfinches and chickadees feasting on their seeds,
so it only seemed natural to learn a sunflower song.

Sunflower by Sanford Jones
Sunflower, sunflower yellow and round.
You are the prettiest flower I've found.
Tall, straight, full of grace...
I love the light in your bright yellow face!

This song can also be played on the Montessori bells.  

We are using this homemade sunflower puzzle
to learn the names of the parts of the sunflower plant:
roots, stem, leaves, and flower.
(An older child may enjoy labeling the parts or matching 3 part cards like these.)

The puzzle pieces all button together,
which is great because Elise is in a sensitive period for buttoning!

One morning, after buttoning the petals to the seed part of the flower,
we decided to go investigate some real sunflower seeds...

See?  We've even got sunflowers growing out of the sidewalk!

We watched bees drinking nectar and gathering pollen...

And observed that some of the flowers were missing seeds
- could it be the goldfinches?!

We chose a few flowers that were done blooming to cut and bring inside.

We spent the afternoon pretending to be birds,
using tweezers to pull out seeds!

This was always a popular lesson in my classroom 
and it has been so much fun sharing it with Elise,
who eats all the seeds on the spot, of course! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

flower walk: a flower study intro

One of my favorite things about summer is the all the flowers.  I often find myself completely lost in thought over a sunflower - seriously, Hubs thinks I'm crazy!  It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how long or cold the winter, those plants wait patiently to burst into bloom for a month or two of summer - just the blink of an eye, you know?

Elise seems equally intrigued, so I decided to engage her in a little deeper exploration of our colorful environment. We kicked off our flower study with a simple, sensory experience - a flower walk around the neighborhood.  After filling a bag with snacks and supplies, we hit the sidewalk!

flower walk supplies:
  • field guides
  • notepad
  • magnifying glass
  • string for measuring plants and scissors for cutting the string
  • an assortment of markers, pens, and pencils

Of course, we ended up using our senses the most!  We smelled, touched (gently!), and delighted in all the different colors and shapes we observed.  Bees buzzed around us, and we pondered the orange powder coating their legs. Could it be the same stuff sprinkled on the inside of those blossoms? 

As we neared home, we stopped to suck the nectar out of few climbing honeysuckle blooms.  While we would never pick flowers from someone else's yard - gasp! - these are growing on a power line in an alley.  Totally okay, right? Anyway, we'd done this once before, but this time we were shocked to find that the flowers were empty!!!  Not even a tiny drop of nectar to be had!  We pulled out the Rocky Mountain Gardener's Guide and began to read about climbing honeysuckle.  Just as we got to the part about hummingbirds drinking the nectar, we heard a buzzing sound, and there was a hummingbird sipping from a flower right above our heads!  Oh, I so love moments like this!

Stay tuned for more flower adventures...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

busy hands - toddler edition

opening and closing

piecing together the layers
of a much loved human body puzzle

young and adult animal cards

putting together the pieces 
of a floor puzzle

red - the beginning of a scavenger hunt
inspired by Color Box 2

searching for green items around the house
- dressed in green, of course!

the epic results 
of the Color Box 2 scavenger hunt

observing dairy calves 
at the county fair

going on camping adventures 
lots and lots of camping adventures...

washing dishes,

writing on a rainy afternoon
(making "E" for Elise for the very first time!),

hitting the trail 
with the whole fam,

and filling her heart 
with the wonders of nature!

^^ photo credit to Elise! ^^

... speaking of full hearts - SUPRISE!!!
Another little person will be joining our family in a couple months!
We are beside ourselves with excitement!!!  :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

matching pictures to pictures

As you may remember, we do A LOT of matching around here...

Elise first matched objects to objects,
and now she's been busy matching pictures to pictures.

Just the thing for strengthening the visual discrimination 
of a little person who's becoming more and more curious about letters and numbers!

Matching picture activities are pretty straightforward to put together - 
all you need are six (ish!) pairs of identical images (less pairs for beginners, more for those wanting a challenge). 
Montessori Printshop and Montessori for Everyone offer many free or inexpensive sets of cards to download and print.  Postcards, concentration/memory game cards, and photographs are also good options.  

OK, ready for our favorite matching picture activity?


Please tell me you hoard old calendars, too, right?!  
Some are just so lovely, they're hard to recycle at the end of the year...  

Anyway, now you can put those old calendars to use!  Cut out and laminate the sample images from the back of a calendar to create little cards.  Attach small pieces of sticky back velcro, and put the little cards in a basket.  

Next, cut apart the main calendar pages and attach the opposite pieces of sticky back velcro to the lower, right corners.  Hang the calendar pages all around the classroom/house/wherever.

Ready, set, match!!!

Elise loves running around the house, looking for matches -
it's kind of like a scavenger hunt.  :)

Want to see a blast from the past?
This was a popular activity back in my teaching days - check it out here!

Happy summer, friends!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

making tracks: a plaster cast tutorial

One of our favorite things to do on walks is look for tracks.  Since most wild animals are active during the early morning or evening - times when we're usually cozy at home - tracks are one of the best ways to observe who's been there and what they've been up to.  

A few weeks ago, we discovered several sets of deer tracks on the sidewalk outside our house.  We had so much fun following the tracks, imagining the family of deer that walked by while the neighborhood slept! 
I decided to build on this interest by making plaster casts of a few tracks with Elise that we could bring home. Something to actually hold in our hands and study!  

Here's how we did it:

What you'll need:

  • plaster of paris - we made 4 tracks and used about 2 pounds
  • water - we used less than our 32 oz bottle held
  • long strips of poster board - ours were about 3 x 18 inches 
  • paper clips - for fastening the poster board strips around the tracks
  • disposable bowls - for mixing the plaster
  • spoons - also for mixing the plaster
  • not pictured:  paper towels (this project is NOT as clean as I've made it look!!!) and bags for cushioning and transporting the finished casts 

^^ Find a track - the deeper and more well-defined the better! ^^

^^ Bend a strip of poster board into a ring slightly larger than the track, secure with a paper clip, and push securely into the ground. ^^

^^ Use a spoon to measure the plaster of paris into a bowl - we weren't too exact!  ;) ^^

^^ Add water and mix well - the ratio should be about 2 parts plaster of paris to 1 part water. ^^

^^ Gently pour the mixture over the track - an inch or so will do. ^^

^^ Have a snack - the plaster of paris will take about a half an hour to set. ^^

^^ We had hoped to make a Rosie track, but she was not cooperative - imagine that! ^^

^^ Use the trowel to loosen the soil around the track, and lift it out - wow!  ^^

^^ We let our casts set completely overnight before giving them a good scrub! ^^

^^ Guess that track!  We've been using our field guides to identify the tracks and read about the animals who made them.  I haven't done it yet, but I've been thinking about making a set of animal cards to match with the tracks...  I'll be sure to share them if I do! ^^
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