Friday, February 24, 2012

Mid - Winter Break Reflections

As the school is off for mid-winter break, I have time to reflect on recent events to offer a glimpse of what will be some of our main focal points upon our return.  Thank you to all of you for making Valentine's Day such a wonderful one.  We loved the parent drop off and help with Valentine distribution in the morning;  it was great to have balloons and Frank Sinatra and coffee and goodies.  Everyone really came together to make it such a lovely experience.

As part of the botanical study that has been an underlying theme in the North Room this year, the inspiration for our P-patch purchase, and the subsequent inspiration for further research, the children studied the origins and dispersal of vegetables.   We discussed the evolution of the seed itself, an investigation that goes back into the time before the dinosaur.   Eileen commented that as the children researched at the Miller Botanical Library on the University of Washington campus, they posed a question to which they did not find the answer:  "How  did seeds begin?"  But, as children in the North Room are learning about life on "pangaea" before the dinosaur, a slide show from the Burke Museum (also on the university campus) provided insight that brought both rooms' investigations into play:   early plants related to today's conifers boasted one cone per plant.  Flowering plants appeared later as the result of eons of evolutionary progress.    The study of seeds is an example of how truly exciting the thematic curriculum can be, because, as it takes hold, adults learn with children.  Together we come to see just how basic--an ordinary, everyday object--the seed--and still how profound--how advanced the flower and the fruit it generates really is.  Children from both classes can share in the interchange of knowledge. Thus, parents and children from the Big Room are especially invited to sign up to help with the P-patch.  We look forward to everyone participating in growing our spring garden.  

Soon after our return from break, the Big Room children will be exploring paleontology in a way that will get them as close to a "hands-on" learning experience as we can create.  We are making an artificial "Dinosaur Dig" which will be housed in the Big Room dramatic play area.  Children will excavate fossils from plaster of paris.  Donations needed:  plaster of paris, plastic dinosaurs, Vaseline, toothbrushes, very small hammers, as we know that children in both rooms will be excited by this activity and will want to participate.  

We have been involved in two wonderful read-alouds which were finished right before our last trip to Hyak.  Eileen read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H., a complex tale that involves a lot of scientific and ethical reasoning.  You may want to read it again to your child as a second reading offers much to consider.  A good companion book, although somewhat dark, is Russel Hoban's The Mouse and His Child, which makes another compelling read aloud.    I read two of Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books, a real treat for me to read aloud as this year's kindergarten was especially able to listen to nuance and plot.  I was impressed by how much they understood and enjoyed these two volumes and would really recommend reading a book of the same at home.  Now, our attention is turning to other stories.  Eileen will be reading A Single Shard to the North Room children;  some will be reading it in a literature group with Tom's guidance.  This book will be featured at the next Seattle Children's Theater's presentation that the North Room will attend;   I will begin an exciting chapter book about a dinosaur hatching in modern times, The Enormous Egg.

A Single Shard has tie-ins to Korea and to pottery.  Our attention will turn to both these themes and we will be working with clay as a natural aspect of this exploration.   

We had such a successful Winterim at the Berg Haus.   Thank you to everyone who made the effort to rent skis, drop off a child early on Fridays, deal with our snow vagaries, find boots, etc.  It was well worth it.  When I think how rewarding it is for children to learn a life skill such as cross coutnry skiing while in early elementary school, I am indeed grateful to all those who made the experience happen:  Tom McQueen for organizing the event, beginning over a year ago, Katrina and Robert Hawking for hosting us, Eileen Hynes and her neice Hannah Mumford-Hynes for coaching cross country skiers of various levels, Laura Barnes and Tom for help with sledding, Rosa Lazzarini for her supportive work with all of the children, Isabella Pagel who gave our staff and children amazing volunteer support  in all aspects of our winter adventures and Steve Morrisey for his, as well.    We have wonderful memories; each Friday we were transported to such nearby beauty which is, without the effort, just beyond our reach.

A quick update: our hats and scarves auction netted us a tidy 137.00 which we will turn into Orca cards to help transport us to and from the P-patch.  Thank you to Sally Chong for her generous gift to us.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Center for Urban Horticulture Field Study

You can learn more about the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium here.

You can learn more about the Elisabeth C. Miller Library here.