Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Forest is Your Home and Other Gnome Tales

Children in the North Room sewed gnomes, created habitats and wrote stories about them as an extension of the conifer study.  Below are some of the stories.

The Forest is Your Home
By Anya
The forest is my home.
Lo loooo lo lo lo lo lo loooooooo.
You are my gnome.  Dad gnome and little gnome and baby gnome.  They are a happy family.  All was happy in the forest but one day a fox came and wrecked their home.  Oh what were they to do?  So they ran and ran and ran.  Suddenly a house appeared, well a log.  For them they were happy. 
But then a troll!  Oh no!  They were all running around in the forest and cutting down trees.  Then the little one had an idea.  What they needed were a pine cone, a rubber band and a stick.  They started making a sling shot and throwing them at the troll until he ran away.
They found there home and they were happy.

The Gnome Family
By Chloe
One day a gnome family went for a walk.  Along the way they saw their friend Asia. 
“Hi Asia”, Sage said.  “Let’s go to the park”.
“OK, Sage”, Asia said.  “Let’s go”.
“Ahhhhhhh, it’s a troll!” Allie said.
A bear came and chased the troll away.
The end

My Gnome
By Tate
My gnome is named Fred.  He really likes sports.  He especially likes football.  He has a pet mouse.  His name is Bingo.  Fred’s football team is named the Snoqualmie Forest Raiders.  His team is very good.
The end

The Three Gnomes
By Sadie
Once upon a time there were three gnomes.  Daughter gnome, father gnome and mother gnome.  But they didn’t have a HOME!  So they walked and walked and walked.  There were no open houses.  Soon they came to a village but there were no houses available.  Soon they came to another village.  There was a place for a HOUSE!  So Daddy gnome built a house.

Mr. Moustache’s Story
By Dutch
My gnome is named Mr. Moustache.  He lives in a cool house!  He lives near the water.  Mr. Moustache has tons of friends.  Mr. Moustache loves sports.  He especially loves soccer.  His soccer team is named the Charging Wolves.  Mr. Moustache is very good at soccer.  He scores tons of goals.  Mr. Moustache works for chopping wood.  He has a pet mouse.  His pet is named Woody.  Woody eats nuts.  He is a cool pet. 

By Roham
I saw gnomes in the bushes.  They were called Mr. Moustache They came in the house.
The End
By William
The gnome lived in a really good house.  He was wet.  The gnome was taking shelter from the rain.
The End
Gus’ Family
By Gus
Once upon a time there was a gnome named Gus.  He lived happily in the forest.  “Weee”, the gnome said.  He hopped and hopped.  He hopped home.  He cried out, “Daddy, momma, Mackie”.  Then they had dinner and went to sleep. 
The next morning Gus and Mac went out to play.  Mommy and daddy took Frodo out for a walk.  Gus and Mac were playing ping pong when dad and mom got back. 
The end

The Woodcutter’s House
By Katie
Once upon a time there was a woodcutter gnome.  One day, he was out cutting down a tree in the forest.  When the tree fell down it hit his house and half of his house fell down.  He went to the shop and he bought pieces of wood to fix his house.  Half of his house was made of stone and half of his house was made of wood. 
The end

My Gnome
By Eamon
My gnome has a trampoline and a bed and a diving board. 
 During the dark days of December we also grow Paper White Narcissus bulbs to remind us of our garden and the promise of spring to come.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lake and Park School Celebrates December

When it comes to the month of December, there are so many ways we can go with our curriculum.  We wish to honor the children's interest in the approaching holidays and at the same time respect all of our families:  for some, the season has specific religious meaning and children wish to express that as a natural expression of a significant part of their world.   Each year, we choose a specific way to honor the children's seasonal reality and teach a unit that has a curricular benefit, as well.   Because increasingly, many of the children stay at the school for three or more years, we wish to choose from our themes so that material is fresh for everyone.

In the past, we have looked at folktales about gingerbread men as well as at the Humperdinck opera of Hansel and Gretel.  The story emphasis allowed us to learn of variation in tale as well as to make gingerbread cookies and even gingerbread houses, in conjunction to the witch's house of candy and cookie.  Other years, we have focused on astronomy, studying constellations and the turn of the earth about the sun.  Those years, we found reference points for Greek myths, as many of the constellations are named for major Greek myth characters.  We learned of other traditions from other cultures.  We particularly made awareness of the darkening days and of the joy of seeing the sun return, bit by bit, to fullness.  In such a study, we looked at Stonehenge and other edifices to the sun.  From there, it is a natural connection to explaining a commonality among all the winter holidays--points of light in darkness:  the menorah, the advent wreath, the candle floating on the water.    One memorable theme is to study the Nordic characters of trolls and Tomtens (elves who take care of the barn animals), to imagine living in such darkness at winter time, to look at the story of Louhi, the witch whose skis flew through the air and who stole the sun and moon, as well as to study the pagan and Christian roots of Santa Lucia.

This year, we made a departure from all of the above, although we will likely find aspects of the former themes making themselves known to us as we move on into December.  We are looking at the class of plants called conifers.

A wonderful way to begin the study of conifers is to hear "C is For Conifer" by  They Must Be Giants.  What a great way to celebrate the range of species!  The evergreen tree, so central to Christmas, can be especially appreciated this time of year.  Yet, its importance and meaning is yearlong.  It gives us a comparison to the deciduous tree, it allows us to learn beginning taxonomy--to classify a spruce or hemlock.  The trees are a part of our daily "here and now";  the cones are on the ground; the needles are on the ground, too.  There are cedar boughs that turn red and fall and make a spongy place for us to walk under the trees at Triangle Park.

Literature and poetry are easily brought into this study.   Beginning readers are learning to read "little tree' by e e cummings.   Many of the words are initial sight words, those the young readers learns to recognize;  we look at the lack of punctuation, not even capitalizing "I", but finding the one punctuation mark--the question mark.  That leads us to look for question marks in other reading.  The poem couples beautifully with Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Fir Tree";  we gather a group of children to act out the story while it is being read.  This is called "Story Theater".  Later, they paint a mural about the fir tree.  They show it is the forest.  Two suns are in the painting.  We can draw comparisons between the poem and the story, as in both cases, the tree is anthropomorphsized.    I don't know if Cummings was aware of Andersen's story, but he may well have been.  "who found you in the green forest and were you very sorry to come away?"    The fir tree so wants to grow up and leave the forest.  Discontent with life, it ignores the days of sun and wishes to be felled and taken away.  This is a poignant tale, not unlike other Andersen stories.  The children enjoyed taking all the parts, being the woodcutter, being the trees as they are being felled, being loaded onto horse cart, and, of course, being the horses that pull the cart away.

The real content of this unit is to look at one class of plants in depth and to extrapolate from that a sense of the range of plant life--to compare--find similarities and contrast--find differences.  From that awareness comes an understanding of the biome that a coniferous forest is.  We, essentially, as residents of western Washington, inhabit a coniferous forest.  Our five year olds, now aware of what surrounds them, can better imagine the region before it was settled.  The role of the cedar tree as a key supplier of material for lodging, clothing, and other needs for the Northwest Coast peoples is now made more clear.  When we look at a cedar mask, canoe, clothing or basket, we now recognize the tree as a key conifer and we see its pivotal role among the early cutlture here as life sustaining.  We look at another common tree, the Douglas fir, and are beginning to learn about David Douglas a Scottish naturalist who worked for the London Horticultural Society after whom the Douglas fir is named.

We see conifers as early seed bearers in the general evolution of plants.  Last year, as we began our p- patch garden, Eileen's group planted vegetables and studied their origins, most of them stemming from the fertile crescent.   They gathered seeds early in the fall of 2011.  From such a basic experience, gathering seeds as plants around us go "to seed" came an awareness of how complicated the flower is.  Camille's class of winter 2012 was engrossed in study of the prehistoric world, focusing on before, during, and after the dinosaur eras.  Each era was explored independently;  we looked at the rise and fall of various species and at natural extinction cycles.  When Eileen's class took a trip to the Botanical Library at the University of Washington to research their vegetable projects, they were taught about plants whose propagation is simpler than the seed.  This dovetailed to what the younger children were learning about prehistoric life:  the gymnosperm preceded the flower.  We went on, all of us, to look at Darwin's analysis of specie-al change; it gave us an opportunity to put in context what we were learning, to see evolution as an ongoing process.

Now, almost a year later, our work zeroes in to one simple idea:  the cone bearing tree.  From that, we see broadly and deeply--how easy it is to go out and gather branches, and yet how much more to know than we may have thought at the beginning.  We will soon be putting salmon eggs in our tank to raise to the stage when they will be released in the wild.  When we let them go, we will look for a stream with sufficient shade for water temperature and protection from predators;  we will see the role of the cedar tree and Douglas fir in keeping our salmon alive.