Wednesday, June 17, 2015

May 2015 » Mt. Denali: "May" the Force Be With You

Happy Mother’s Day!
What better way to start off the month of May than by celebrating mothers! Working hard to keep our Mother’s Day surprise TOP SECRET, the children showed off their writing skills by practicing letter recognition through making heart tags with the words “Love (and their name.) To make the task easier, we used shrink paper that allowed for the children to write in normal size while challenging their fine-motor skills to stay
within the lines of the heart. Once decorated, we heated the oven to 350 degrees, slid our heart tags inside, and watched as the paper shrunk within minutes. Wanting to create something for our moms that would give them some much needed R&R, the children rolled up their sleeves and went to work making a lavender sugar scrub. To do so, the children labeled and measured three key ingredients: sugar, olive oil, and lavender essential oil. Developing basic math skills through number recognition, each child carefully measured every ingredient by identifying the numbers on the recipe and the measuring utensil. Using gross-motor skills to stir the mixture, we had to keep reminding ourselves that we weren’t going to be able to eat the scrub. Once our scrub was no longer liquid, we scooped it into individual mason jars to package up for our moms. Then, quizzing ourselves on how well we know our moms, the children answered a questionnaire that required them to think cognitively and recall previous information. We hope you all enjoyed your special gift and shared a few laughs as you read through our “All About Mom” fill in the blank sheet. Happy Mother’s Day!

With our alphabet-inspired curriculum all wrapped up, we noticed that the children had taken a great interest in robots and decided to explore the topic further by integrating math, science, and art through a variety of hands-on activities.
Collecting recycling materials from home and school, and reading a class favorite “Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit,” by Chris Van Dusen, the children were inspired to build their own giant robot using three large cardboard boxes as our base and body. Determining how wide and tall to stack our boxes, we wanted to make our robot as realistic as possible and measured ourselves
against it to make sure it was life-size. Then, using glue and tin foil, the class broke up into three groups and glued foil over every exposed area of the box so that our robot was “covered in metal.” Once our robot skin was ready, we rummaged through the recycling material we collected and used our inmagination to bring our robot to life. Adding pie tins for ears, bottle caps for eyes and buttons, and plastic tubing for arms, we had our very own robot!

Wanting to reintroduce our manipulative area and give the children the opportunity to create robots through the use of multiple manipulative materials, the class was given free reign and one-step instructions to create a robot using however many legos, conncecting cubes, and zoobs they needed. In doing so, the children were able to explore different textures, manipulate different shapes, and develop fine-motor skills. Along with 3D representations, the class also worked cognitively to create 2D robots identifying shapes and constructing their own robot from shapes cut out before them. In doing so, the children used these pictures as a platform for narration and created stories for their robots, narrating where they came from, what their job was, and what emotions they were feeling. Who knew robots had feelings too! And better yet, who knew they could taste so good! As a special project to stimulate creativity usingdifferent mediums, we made robots using large marshmallows, pretzel sticks, raisins, cheerios, graham crackers, and white frosting as our “glue.” Challenging ourselves to piece together a robot using all edible materials, the children went above and beyond as they created their robots with ease and overcame the challenge of making their robot stand without falling. Some robots lost their arms and buttons along the way and suspicion has it that they may have ended up in a few friend’s stomachs. Hopefully some of these robots made it home in one piece!

Practicing basic math and cognitive skills, the children were quick learners when it came to playing a game of dominoes where instead of matching numbers, we matched robots. Laying all our dominoes out on the table, the children took turns adding to our domino line, understanding we could only match one domino at a time. When a turn came around when we did not have any to match, we practiced good sportsmanship passing up our turn and cheering on friends who had matching robots. After awhile of teacher-guided facilitation, the children were able to facilitate the game on their own, following rules and instructions along with teaching the game concept with new friends joining the game. Way to go guys!

Star Wars has made a comeback and is all our friends have been able to talk about! Overhearing conversations about Yoda, R2D2, and Darth Vadar along with multiple Share Day items revolving around Star Wars, we decided to explore the topic further, with the exclusion of weapons of course. Curious about starships and what they look like, we recalled on previous information from Star Wars books and used our imagination to create our own 2D representations of a starship on paper. Once all the arms, legs, controls, and traps were added to our starship design, we used our handy thumbs-up technique to cut out our starships and glue them onto black paper to represent “space.” Posted up inside the classroom, the children were able to use these 2D pictures as a blueprint for the construction of 3D starships out of legos for “Racing for Freedom” race. In this race, the children tested out two locations, inside and outside the classroom and quickly discovered inside the classroom was not big enough. Practicing balance and control, each friend was able to participate in “Racing for Freedom” outside in the big yard running laps individually and with partners. But what is a starship without a pilot! R2D2 to the rescue! Using fine-motor skills and following 3-step instructions to create our own R2D2 puppet, the class had to first identify shapes and sort which shapes they needed to complete all of R2D2’s body parts and controls. Once sorted, the children worked in pairs to glue and piece together their puppet, coming up with different functions for every “button” on R2D2’s body. Noticing our puppet was too large for our starships, we constructed our own star station out of wooden blocks and created our own Star Wars scene for friends to act out and narrate. May the force be with you!
Happy May!

With Love,
Ms. Lisa and Ms. Keri

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Camping attempt

Friday-night post-work camping trip in Tennessee Valley is apparently wildly ambitious. Not until pulling into the parking lot at 9:30pm did we realize the full extent of the feat before us. A half mile hike to our campsite, too much stuff to carry or roll in bike trailer , one child sound asleep and the other telling us his legs were too tired after just getting out of the car. We are now driving back home. I am laughing at our attempt and wondering what about this idea sounded good enough to us that we set out in the first place. Chalking it up as good learning for our second attempt. I know! It was waking up in the outdoors. Now to pitch the tent in the backyard!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Noah's White Board Inspiration

When your son visits your office and entertains himself while you try to finish up "just one more thing that will be done in a minute" It would be wise to make sure that the permanent markers are not within a four-foot radius of your white board.

This white board has been stationed near my desk for months. We had high hopes for this board's ability to hold inspiration and help us track on things that might otherwise be forgotten. Alas, most of the time it exists only to isolate us in our open and "collaborative" (never distracting...oh no) work space. So when Noah drew his beautiful design on the board my first reaction was "oh shit, where did you find a permanent marker?" The real question needing to be asked was how would I not suspect he would find a permanent marker.

So in a world wear nothing is permanent I have decided to be thankful for Noah's creativity. It is the most creative and inspiring this silly white board has ever been.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Live from Boston

Noah and I are on our first trip of just the two of us. So far his living the dream on the plan. No brother to compete with. Non-stop six hours of cartoon network and Momma handing him food to sustain him. He has hardly said a peep. So different from Eric who asks questions about everything going on and how much longer.

Noah became a big kid on his birthday. He turned five. When Eric was fiver years he got to go on a work trip with Momma too, also around the time of the Boston marathon.

This will be a brand new experience for Noah. He will have undivided attention of both me and Grandma, not to mention Nana and Auntie Janice who he last visited at nine months old. Younger siblings don't really even know that undivided attention exists.

I am heading to work at the Boston Marathon. Grandma is meeting to hang with Noah while I work. It is going to an adventure for all of us. Clif Bar is the official organic sports nutrition food of the Boston marathon for the first time ever and it is a huge activation.

Noah is really ready for something new other than pre-school. His frustration with learning  and trying to do things like write letters, numbers, and read without yet having been taught is just like when he was learning to articulate with words he didn't yet have to express what he wanted to say.

I know he senses the transition to kindergarten is near and he has no hesitation but it probably not soon enough.

Soooo good time for his first big kid work trip with Mom! It will be interesting because Eric is such a good big brother, Always watching out for Noah and giving him direction and answering for him before he gets a chance to speak. Sometimes I think this makes Noah a little less outgoing because brother is always there to lead the way.

Let's not forgot to mention that "Mom-of-the-Year" is sitting two rows behind us on the plan with two little boys who we have not heard a peep out of the entire flight. I just keep hearing her bitch, swear, scold, put down, and ridicule these poor little boys who are doing nothing than being 2 and maybe 4 year olds on the plan. Very well behaved. The ask her lots of questions and have a lot of needs and I get that she has been traveling with them on vacation for a week and is desperate for a break but that doesn't make up for the fact that she puts them down. Listening to her reminds me that even on my worst day I am never that bad and that my worst days will now have me thinking back to how hurtful her parenting was to her children and how I don't even want to come close to that!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Marching through Mt Denali

Clif Base Camp

March 2015 » Oh, the Places We Went in March!

This month, we got to celebrate an honorary friend's birthday, Dr. Suess! Very familiar with his work, the children were excited to explore and celebrate literacy by reading a few classics and adding a few new stories to our collection. Among one of our favorites was “Ten Apples On Top” where the children were given the opportunity to integrate both literacy and math into an art and gross-motor activity. Warming up our fingers and working on fine-motor skills, the children practiced signing numbers 1-10 in ASL. Curious how someone could possibly balance ten apples on top of their heads, we decided to test out the theory and see how many different types of objects we could balance on our heads. Using various books from our library, each friend took turns making predictions and estimating how far they could walk before the book fell off their heads. Realizing we needed to come up with a strategy, it didn’t take long to discover that the slower we walked, the farther we got before the book fell. This challenge was harder than we thought! Afterwards, we decided to step into the illustrator’s shoes and create our own representation of the story. Using imagination and creativity, each friend drew their own Dr. Seuss character and using one-to-one correspondence, we counted and numbered 10 apples. Then using basic math skills, we practiced numbered sequencing and glued 10 apples on top!

Of course, we couldn’t celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday without dressing for the occasion! After reading “Fox in Socks” and noticing all the crazy clothing and antics the characters were up to in the book, we decided to experiment with mixing colors and dye socks! Using a homemade recipe, teachers mixed together three colored packets of koolaid with vinegar to create three bowls of red, purple, and yellow dye. Once the koolaid packets had dissolved, the children practiced using fine motor skills by pinching droppers into the dye and releasing drops onto theirsocks. Curious how well this homemade recipe would work, the children were excited to see what colors the dye made once they mixed together. Then we bagged up our socks, laid them to dry in the sun and washed them to see if the dye would stick. Sadly, once all the pairs of socks were bundled and mixed in water, the red dye dominated the mixture and turned all our socks a pinkish red. Here, the children were able to make predictions about cause and effect observing what would happen once we dyed and washed our socks. On the bright side, the koolaid made our socks smell great!
As we move closer to the end of the year and taking that next step into Kindergarten, Dr. Suess provided us with some helpful advice for the future in "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" Here's a look at where to find us in the distant future as each child was asked what they want to be when they grow up:
Colt: "I want to be a garbage man!"
Noah: "I want to be a football coach."
Owen: "I want to be a veterinarian."
Eli: "I want to be a garbage man too!"
Reza: "I want to be Lightning Man!"
Silas: I want to be a dump truck driver!"
Lilian: "I want to be a mom."
Taavi: "I want to be a football coach too!"
Cruz: "I want to be a motorcycle race driver."
Jackson: "I want to be a garbage truck driver."

A little bummed that St. Patrick's Day was on a Tuesday, we decided to go ahead and get into the holiday spirit by exploring leprechauns, shamrocks, gold, and Irish culture. Discovering mysterious footprints all over our classroom, Denali detectivesjumped right on the case and grabbed their magnifying glasses to search for clues in the classroom and figure out who could’ve left them. Noticing clover-like footprints, we realized it could only be one thing, a leprechaun! Not only did the leprechaun leave behind footprints, but he also left behind some gold coins on his way out of Base Camp. Decorating pots of gold to use on our hunt, each friend took turns hunting for treasure outside on the yard. Once there were no more traces of gold, we counted how many gold coins we found using one-to-one correspondence and discovered the leprocaun left behind 50 pieces! Good thing we were there to clean up after him!

Among some of our favorite green day activities was exploring shamrocks through the use of beads and green bell peppers. Practicing fine-motor skills and basic math skills to create patterns, the children prepared themselves for the “tickles” coming their way in case they forgot to wear green on the big day. While creating patterns, we noticed that even though all the beads were in the shape of a shamrock, they were also all different colors and sizes. So, to help classify the beads, each friend worked in pairs to sort by color and size using our sorting trays. Afterwards, we made a surprising discovery when we noticed that slicing a green bell pepper in half created a shamrock shape, and were even more surprised when we realized that we could use a bell pepper for a new art medium! Dipping each half in green paint, the children made shamrock prints and added a stem by finger painting with one finger.

Curious to learn more about Irish culture and food common to the region, we decided to make our own Irish Soda Bread to share with families for Family Picnic. Working together as a team, the class helped one another label and list ingredients, identify measurements, and mix together all the dry ingredients to make the bread. Developing both fine and gross motor skills, the biggest challenge was being able to knead the bread and shape it into a loaf. But, three loaves later we had our very own Irish Soda Bread! We hope you all enjoyed it as well!

Happy March!
With Love,
Ms. Lisa and Ms. Keri

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

February 2015 » Love in Mt. Denali

February 2015 » Love in Mt. Denali

Boy, could we feel the love in the air this February! Ready for some Valentine’s Day fun, the children wasted no time getting their hands dirty in art projects, planning secret surprise gifts for moms and dads, baking yummy treats, and of course, tracking down those mysterious footprints all over our classroom! Love wasn’t all we brought to the classroom, a mysterious “love bug” seemed to be playing in our classroom, leaving red heart footprints all over our tables, floors, and furniture! We never were able to catch the love bug in action, but it sure prompted questions regarding its identity. While we tried to unravel the mystery, we got to workspreading our own love by creating “long-distance hugs” to share with friends and family. With moms and dads often leaving on work trips or heading to the office for the day, we realized they must miss us like crazy. To help fill their bucket, we painted our hands and made two red handprints on white paper. Once the paint dried, teachers helped cut them out and use our fine motor skills to tie strings between each hand. Suddenly, hugs were being given out left and right! We hope you all got one of your own!

Afterwards, we began working on our TOP SECRET surprise gifts for moms and dads. Wanting to show them just how much we love them, what better way than to give them our hearts! Figuratively, we mean. Decorating heart shaped keepsake boxes with heart foam stickers andsequins, we decided a long distance hug just wasn’t enough, we wanted to make something our moms and dads could take with them everywhere, our hearts on a keychain! Using special shrink film, each friend traced a heart shaped stencil and decorated it with sharpie markers. Once their drawings were complete, we took each heart and baked it in the oven for approximately two minutes on 350 degrees. To our surprise, the shrink film shrunk to more than half its original size and now our hearts were the size of the palms of our hands! Attached onto keychain rings, we were able to decorate two hearts, one for mom and dad, and place them inside our heart keepsake box as a special surprise. We hope you loved them!

Of course, we couldn’t end the week without baking someyummy treats and passing out our valentines! Working on recognizing ingredients and identifying measurements, each friend was responsible for one ingredient. Using basic math skills and fine motor skills to handle measuring cups and spoons, we used a basic recipe to make delicious Valentine’s Day sugar cookies. Visualizing cause and effect as certain ingredients were added to our mixture, we tested the dough periodically to see if it was ready to be molded. Once “doughy” enough, we took turns rolling the dough into balls and flattening it to be able to use our heart shaped cookie cutter. Once placed onto the cookie tray and baked, we made our own frosting from scratch and added pink food coloring to turn it pink. With frosting ready to go, we began decorating our cookies, adding sprinkles to add to our sea of frosting, occasionally having to lick the frosting that kept getting on our fingers. Looking too good to pass up, we decided to dive in and “test” our cookies. Just to make sure they were safe. Hopefully you all got to “test” them too! And if you didn’t get to hear all about our Valentine’s Day at school, here are a few pictures to get you caught up!

For you, Noah!For you, Noah!Who's ready to pass out valentines? Me!Who's ready to pass out valentines? Me!

 A valentine for you!A valentine for you!And you, too!And you, too!

Check out this cool valentine!Check out this cool valentine!Look, I made something for you!Look, I made something for you! 

Thank you Taavi!Thank you Taavi!Whoa, how awesome!Whoa, how awesome!

Along with all the love going on in Mt. Denali, we decided to integrate kindness into our curriculum and revamp our kindness heart concept. Creating new kindness heart buckets to resemble heart pouches, we reintroduced kindness hearts and ways we can earn them. Hanging them up in our circle area, we will take a moment each day during morning circle to highlight kind acts our friend have earned, hoping to encourage more kind acts to follow. At the end of each week, our friend will be able to check their buckets and take home all the hearts they earned that week to show moms and dads. For each kindness heart earned, Ms. Keri and I will write what kind act that friend initiated or was a part of. Our goal is to build positivity both inside and outside the classroom and encourage kindness in any way we can. From the simplest acts such as grabbing a pencil for a friend to helping a friend in need. Let the kindness begin!
Happy February!
With Love,
Ms. Lisa and Ms. Keri

Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Birthday to Our Noah

Today Noah is five years old. Yesterday we discovered his two lower, front teeth are loose. He was so surprised. It is a true stepping stone of growing up. He has watched his older brother loose teeth all the time with extreme curiosity. Now it is his turn and he is fascinated. He reminds of when he started walking the day before his first birthday. He took this first two or three steps and had the same big eyes and surprised look as he does now looking at himself in the mirror making many various "Noah Expressions" while wiggling the teeth. The tooth fairy will be coming and this time for Noah's teeth because he is now five.

Thinking about writing this post I thought it would start by saying "oh, I can't believe he his five already", but the truth is I do believe it. My baby is five. Don't tell him I called him a baby. He hates that but of course our children are always our babies in our hearts.

For some crazy reason, I have been awaking every morning at 5am for the last month. My guess is that my need to write is waking me up. This morning I woke up and my first thought was today Noah wakes up and is five years old and he is going to be so excited.

Now Noah is five. He has a tender heart and a mind of his own. He is stern and direct with his feelings and willing to speak the unspoken feelings for the whole house. He loves to be held close and snuggle up. Even fifty-pounds heavy, Noah prefers to be carried, but understands when he can't be. He trusts his brother to teach him well, but doesn't let him rule his world. His best friend since they were five months old is Taavi , whose parents are wonderful and now also friends.

Noah is a child that has forced me to face many fears in order to better parent. This has helped me grow as a person. He challenges me in ways only Noah can, and while this does wear me down, each time I learn from it. He has opened my eyes to a tenderness that I believe all grown men have, some just have no idea how to express it because they didn't have the confidence or were never shown how. Noah you are a sweet, strong, and beautifully blonde boy. I love you and promise to always give you hundreds of big, wet, and sloppy kisses and some good back scratches.