Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Super heros are here to save the day!

We recently inherited a large collection of super heros and villains which the children very quickly fell in love with. They wanted me to answer all sorts of super hero questions like: who are they? what are their super powers? How do they fight the bad guys? Alas I am only a girl and I wasn’t really allowed to watch much T.V. as a kid, so I really didn’t have very many answers for them. I told them what I knew about Bat Man and Spider Man, then I encouraged them to imagine their own super powers. They were pretty content with that for a while but as they imagined questions kept coming.  

Since they were so interested I decided we should consult the internet to to a little research to fuel their imaginations. 

Mostly we searched for the early versions of super hero cartoon trailers in hopes of avoiding anything too violent or scary. The kids were in love with all the cheezy 60’s jingles and they were awed by the super hero costumes. 

During our youtube research we watched as Wonder Woman received her magic bracelets and tiara from her mother then Captain America demonstrated his ability to toss his shield in the air to stop evil doers and Spider Man shot his webs to swing from rooftops and catch thieves. My personal favorite were the wonder twins because they could turn into anything and they used team work to solve problems.

The crowd favorites are spiderman, batman and Wonder Woman (otherwise known as Womanlady by Will).

During one of our group discussions the kids revealed what they already know about super heros and this is what they had to say: 

As superhero is someone who saves someone else - sam

Sometimes bad guys will fight em’  - Jackson

Woman - lady pushes bad guys. - will

Super heros save the day! - Logan

Wonder woman spins and turns into magic. - Sam

She has magic bracelets and a magic bathing suit.  Will

Captain America has a magic cape. - Will

He has magic shoes and a magic mask and a magic had and floppy ears.  - Jackson

Spiderman sprays houses with his magic webs. - Logan

Spiderman swings form his web. Then he shoots the web from his hand then he swinged on it. Then he jumped from one building to another. - Sam

Then he saved a car. - Jackson

Addie and Carmen did not have much to say on the subject but they thought the songs and woman - lady’s sparkly go go boots and “swimsuit” were pretty cool.

As we talked about super heros I introduced some new concepts and words to spark their imaginations. We talked about lairs and fortresses, ways to capture an evil doer and the many ways a super hero could rescue a victim ensuring justice is served. 

After our group discussion and research about super heros we set up a super hero play scene so the children could continue developing stories of their own. As they worked they built lairs for the evil doers, fortresses for the good guys and tissue paper fireballs to toss between the two. They were very animated and involved in their play but not once did anyone so carried away with their characters that they actually hurt anyone. 

When it was all said and done I asked the children, “What were you imagining in the super hero area?”

Logan - I made a big tower for batman. The bad guys knocked over his house and Batman yelled at him. He has wings and he flies.

Sam - I was building towers for bad guys and super heros for them to knock down. The only superhero I like is superman - not superman but spiderman. Spiderman is my favorite superhero.
Spiderman was fighting the bad guys so they don’t do any more evil stuff. 

Will -  I was building a bad guy and I knocked the bad guy down and I screamed at him. Cuz he was pushing me. 

I asked the children, “Does hitting and screaming at people solve problems in real life?”

“No, they will get hurt.” - Sam 

“If somebody pushes you and hits you in real life you will walk away.” - Logan

“You can just fly up you can change into a rocket ship and fly away from the bad guy.” Jackson

“I would say No! I don’t like it.” -  Addie

 “And when somebody hits you I not hitting somebody. I say I don’t like it!!!! and get patience.” Logan

 “If somebody is hitting me I would say apologize!”  - Sam

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spin Art

We are eagerly awaiting spring! If it can't be springish outside we will make it spring inside with spin art.

Materials: baby food jars, small spoons, white, blue, red and yellow paints, Salad spinner

First we mixed up our own pastel paints by adding white to the primary colors and stirring them in baby food jars. As the colors mixed, the children watched the paint became lighter and lighter with each extra glop of white paint until it was a lovely shade of pastel pink, pastel blue, pastel yellow or pastel green. 

We took turns placing a piece of paper in the salad spinner then dropping scoops of paint in the center of the paper.

The children all gathered around to watch as the colors splattered on the inside of the spinner leaving a lovely striped pattern all along the outside of the salad spinner. It took a lot of upper body strength to push the spinner down! 

Once we were finished, our projects had a beautiful marbled effect. 

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day Two: Working with Mosaic Tiles

Yesterday we worked with mosaics and the children figured out how to use a square and a triangle to create a house. One house turned into a neighborhood, one neighborhood turned into several neighborhoods and the final result included backyards, garages and an ever evolving story about the people who lived there. 

Taking a cue from the kids work, I decided to continue their understanding about shapes and patterns by setting up stations to practice replicating more complex patterns. I knew the task was going to be pretty tricky for them because it involved a lot of complex mental work. First the children had to determine the kind of tiles needed, then they had to choose correct number of shapes to complete the project. After that they had to take the image apart in their minds and then recreate it on paper. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that thinking!

Before starting the project I asked the children not to take the teacher made designs apart so that everyone would have a chance to try all of the designs. I also set up a few other projects so that they could choose to work somewhere else if they needed a break from our complicated task. 

Our original set up:

Watching the kids, I discovered that some of the designs were too difficult for them to recreate so I reconfigured them into simpler designs. When the children got stuck in their work I talked them through the process of recreating the design. 

Some of the questions I asked to provoke their thinking included:
“What shape do you think you will need next?”
“How many triangles do you notice?”
“Hmmm it looks like your design is not quite the same, what do you think is different?” 

Some of the children were really into the project and they were focused like laser beams in their work. Other children floated in and out of the area working for a while, then moving on to try something else. When one of the main builders in the mosaic area had a breakthrough, the others came flocking back to see the new idea or experiment with the new information.

While Addie was working on this rocket ship she became frustrated that she couldn't quite figure it out. She paced around the table rubbing her eyes, and wringing her hands as she puzzled over what was wrong with her copy of the design. She walked away from the table for a few minutes looking pretty frazzled. Since she seemed to be working through her frustration on her own I sat back and let her to her figure it out on her own. After a few minutes she came back to take another look at the two designs. Sam watched Addie then studied the two rockets for a moment. A look of surprise crossed his face as he realized the problem. He offered to fix her trapezoid so that she could complete the design, Addie accepted his help gratefully then continued her work. 

Once everyone had decided they were done recreating patterns, I opened the area up to allow them to generate their own designs. I found it interesting that all of the children tended to choose one or two kinds of tiles to work with. I wondered if they were trying to gain a better understanding of how to use specific shapes, or perhaps they were continuing the sorting project we had done the day before.

Carmen seemed particularly interested in the green triangles. As she worked she stood them upright - this was unlike any of the work the other children were doing at the time. She accidentally knocked them over several times as she reached for more triangles, then she patiently stood them back up again and counted them by placing a finger on each one, saying random numbers.

Logan watched her for a moment then added some standing mosaics to his work.

Sam watched Carmen and Logan then decided he wanted to make a “domino” game.  
After some experimenting with standing tiles, all of the other children moved on to various different projects and Sam was left to continue his work alone. 

Using what he had learned from our force and motion projects, Sam devised a domino game that involved shooting a marble at a row of dominoes. He tried straight rows and then curved rows. As he worked I overheard him saying things like “Grrrr!!! I keep knocking them down but I’m not going to give up Ms. Geraldine.” 

Eventually Sam’s hard work paid off and he created a cause and effect game in which the marble pushed a row of dominoes, that pushed the end domino off the table and into a bucket. When he was finally successful, he enthusiastically shared his discovery with all the other children. 

Everyone came running back to the table begging for marbles and buckets so they could recreate the domino project for themselves. Sam offered to let the other children try his “invention”, then he taught them how to set their dominoes and buckets up for themselves. He also helped the other children figure out what went wrong when their projects didn’t give the desired dropping in the bucket grand finale.  

As for Carmen, she watched all the excitement for a few minutes then settled in for a nice quiet story time with her baby - completely unaware of all the domino fun she had instigated with her upright green triangles. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Colored Mosaic Tiles

Shape sorting

Materials: Colored mosaic tiles, lazy susan, sorting tray, smaller trays, 6 sheets plain white paper, one piece paper for recording the number of tiles in each group

Set up:

  • Place sorting tray in the center of the table on top of the lazy susan and place one mosaic piece in each compartment. 
  • Tape piece of white paper in each work space and set out a marker.
  • Place a small container with a few handfuls of tiles for sorting.

Step one: Sort

We worked together to sort the mosaic pieces according to color and shape. As the children worked, they needed to be patient with peers and take turns to spin the lazy susan to reach the compartment they needed to put their pieces in. We also worked on identifying each color / shape and reconfiguring the shapes to make larger shapes.

Step two: Count

We emptied each collection of tiles into a container and counted them. When we were finished counting, I placed a tile on a piece of paper and wrote the number next to it. As we worked the children made guesses as to which pile contained the most or least numbers of tiles in it.

Step three: Design and Draw

Each child had a piece of paper taped on the table in front of them to create designs and a marker to add details. The theme most of the children chose was “bad guy traps” - a carry over from something they were working on with larger building materials during free play. As they worked a story about bad guys unfolded in which the bad guys needed to be trapped. 

Some of the children had other ideas about things they would like to create with the tiles, but they were interested in the bad guy trap story and asked questions as they worked on their own designs. 

Sam made a fox and a lotus flower.

Carmen sorted her pieces into loose piles around her paper and colored between the tiles. She also worked on naming the colors and shapes on her paper.

Step Four: take a break and revisit

After concentrating for quite a while, the children moved on to jumping, running and dancing around the room. (This is a very important part of their work children because it gives them a chance to process what they already learned so that they can come back to the activity focused and ready to learn more.) 

Later Sam looked interested in building again so I showed him how to build a house using the mosaics. He came up with an alternate plan using one square and one triangle, then he added “driveways” by drawing two parallel lines in front of the “houses” and “garages” on his page.

Step Five: Teach a friend what you know

After watching Sam’s work I called the other children over to see his plan for buildng a house. We talked about how a collection of houses is called a neighborhood. I asked Sam to explain what he was doing so that other people might be able to make houses if they wanted to. Sam walked the other children through the step by step process he used to create his project, then he recreated some houses on the paper of the children who were still confused by the process. After watching Sam’s demonstration, the girls decided to make some houses for themselves. 
Logan, Jackson, Will and Carmen on the other hand, were engrossed in their animal dress up game so they decided they didn’t want to make any more houses. They did stick around to watch as Sam worked with the other children. Later we all took turns counting the houses on each paper and we compared the numbers of houses to see who had drawn the most in their neighborhood.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shadow Screen

Our shadow screen project just popped into my head out of the blue. I’ve been trying to cook up an idea for a shadow screen so that the kids can trace shadows without having the shadow of their own hand interfere with the outline of the image they are tracing. I also wanted something upright and small enough so that the children could work on the project independently. The idea for the shadow screen has been flittering around in the peripheral of my imagination for at least a year now but something else always comes along and snatches my attention away before I can piece the thing together.

This morning while we were at breakfast Sam and I were talking about how he wanted to draw a dinosaur. He’s become quite obsessed with drawing over the last few days, all the other kids have been inspired by his work. As Sam works he sometimes asks me to draw pictures for him. I remind him that if I draw the picture it’s my picture but if he draws it it’s his. We’ve worked out a system in which I ask Sam questions about the object he is drawing to help him think about it as he works. For instance he wanted me to draw him a shark so I asked him “What do you know about sharks?” “Where are their eyes?” “How do they get around in the water?” “What do sharks eat?”
Our little drawing project drew quite a crowd, the other children wanted to see what Sam was drawing and they wanted share ideas they had about sharks. 

Sam came up with this image.

Both boys had a difficult time figuring out how to draw the oval for the shark's body. Jackson is just learning to put cuves and lines together to make picture so I demonstrated the process by tracing shapes slowly with my finger as he watched. Jackson replicated the motions on his paper to make the sky, waves and shark body.

Once he was done with his shark scene, Jackson wanted to draw one too. He asked me how to draw a shark and I encouraged him to look at Sam’s picture for ideas. We had a discussion about what Jackson knows about sharks and what he saw Sam do when he was drawing his picture. Everyone watched as Jackson showed us his ideas and he was pretty proud of his picture. 

After our experience I was trying to conjure up some way to help the kids get a more detailed outline of their pictures so we decided on using dinosaur models since Sam wanted to know how to draw them. I had three or four ideas rumbling around in my head but then all of a sudden all of the bits of the shadow screen had finally come together.

I immediately put down my breakfast ran out into the snow and frozen mud to get the Ikea chair frame we used from our summer painting projects.
The rest of our screen was made from the following materials: a diffusing light panel (made from an old storm window), the Ikea chair legs, packing tape and a spotlight.

(Believe it or not that old Ikea chair leg has been a fantastic find, we’ve used it for at least five different things, and to think someone was going to toss it in a landfill!)

I taped the light diffusing panel onto the Ikea leg frame with packing tape positioned a spotlight behind the panel and voila! A shadow screen was born. 

Working with the shadow screen had the added benefit of helping the children further their understanding of light and shadow. Our previous light / shadow projects involved simply projecting light onto a wall so as the children moved closer to the wall, shadows the shadows changed size and shape. Working with our new screen the shadows only changed on one side of the screen, regardless of how close they were to it.

It was a lot of work for the children to figure out how to position the dinosaurs properly in the ring of light. Everyone had ALOT of ideas. They set their dinosaurs on the floor and were perplexed as to why we couldn’t see a shadow on the other side so they tried different dinosaurs, lots of dinosaurs and less dinosaurs. Some of the children became bored so they experimented with the light by putting their hands behind the screen. Through their finger play they realized the object needed to be in the ring of light to cast a shadow, not just on the same side of the screen as the light. 

They realized the dinosaur needed to be higher. 

As they worked they tried several things to get the dinosaur to the proper height. Bins were too tippy and books were not stable enough either. Finally they tried cardboard blocks. They worked together to stack the blocks up so that the dinosaur would be in the ring of light. They also discovered different dinosaurs were better than others for casting a dinosaur shaped shadow. They also learned that the dinosaurs positioned so that they were facing the screen head on did not yield an outline that looked like a dinosaur; it just looked like a bumpy blob so they positioned the dinosaurs in a side profile.

Yoli decided to draw an outline of her doll :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spotlight Shadow Play

Invitation to Explore a Projectors:

We are fortunate enough to have have come across three different kinds of projectors and the kids love checking them out. Our first investigation of a projector was opening up the old school projector and taking a look inside, if you want to check out that project here it is.

Our second projector is a handy little view master projector that the kids LOVE to work with on their own. They like to set up "movies" in the building area with the Disney reels or create shadow puppet shows with some hand puppet tricks Josh taught them.

Today we are exploring a third projector on loan to us from Lori. This projector is the kind you can stake out in the yard to project holiday themed images on the side of the garage. It's pretty handy for making a large spotlight on the wall and it's perfect for shadow play.

Before starting our spotlight project we took the projector apart to examine its parts. The children noticed there was a magnifying glass, a light bulb and a small transparent disk with an image mounted inside of the projector. We discussed how the light moves through the transparent image and the magnifying glass to cast a larger image on the wall. After examining all the parts of the inside of the projector we plugged it in to see how it worked.

While investigating the projector I positioned it in front of the magnetic board to create a makeshift screen. We slid the projector back and forth across the floor, as it moved the children noticed that the image became larger or smaller depending on it’s proximity to the screen. They also noticed that we slid it too far or too close to the screen, the image became distorted and difficult to identify.  

Materials for Spotlight Shadow Play:

Spotlight, color paddles, transparent letters, small acrylic mirrors and large acrylic magnifying glass

After seeing how the projector worked with the transparent disks we decided to experiment with the projector as a spotlight. The children shadow danced and experimented with size by making their shadows larger or smaller. They looked for the letters of their names in the transparent letter collection and cast colored shadows on various different objects with the color paddles. They noticed that the colored shadows showed up better on lighter images and that they colored shadows disappeared completely on black surfaces.

We experimented by bouncing light off of mirrors, passing light through magnifying glasses and creating colored shadows different surfaces.

They noticed a prism effect on the magnifying glasses as light shown through them and they moved their rainbows around the room.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Funky Fun Foto Booth

A few weeks back we read a story about some kids who were going to a party dressed in their party clothes and a few of my little ones have been obsessed with “party clothes” ever since. Well today the twins were brave enough to come to daycare dressed in their party clothes. I took it as a message from the universe to finally do that funky foto booth and try to capture them in their super cute outfits. 

All of the items for this project were collected for one of our parties a while back. I found some great things at Party City, The Dollar Store and the bottom of the dress up bin. Sadly the project never came to fruition because I was too busy jaw jacking with all the parents to shoot the kids. (Funny how I always get a creative itch that requires LOTS of adult set up when I have ALL the kiddies and NO extra adults. Seriously I couldn’t have chosen either of the two days this week when I had extra help?) 

Anyhoo the kids were super patient while I got everything set up and they were awesome about not knocking down the studio lights or the teetery backdrop. They couldn’t wait to play with all the dress up items and check out the new photography gear. They wanted to know how the lights worked, why I used a reflector and what diffusers do. They wanted to pose and see pictures of themselves so they could repose themselves or switch up their costumes. 

After they satisfied their curiosity we cranked up the music, played dress up, took turns jumping with pointy things and dumped EVERY BIN in daycareland. It was a super fun time and totally worth it! Look how cute they are?!?

After we cleaned everything up, they explored diffusing light with flashlights and the sheer fabric on the backdrop while I made lunch. I didn’t manage to get that super cute shot of the twins in their party clothes but we still had a great time.