Visiting a Pet Store

The visit to the pet store yesterday went perfectly. Well, maybe not perfectly, but we all had fun, found some pets, and behaved ourselves.  We had a bit of a wrinkle when 12 hours before our trip we found out Seahorse, Inc. did not have anyone staffed to open the store for our visit.  Oops.

(Think quick, Marie.)

Who knew there was another pet shop right next door? What luck! So we changed our plans a bit and went to Burton’s Total Pet instead.  When life gives you lemons, right?

Total Pet had exactly what we wanted to see.  We inspected the fish tanks, ogled at bunnies,  and drooled over a huge, all-inclusive rat cage with two female rats, (Ok, that was just me, but they were cute!)  The children were drawn to the Black Lory as it traded very loud squawks with them in a constant chorus of cacophonous noise.

A consensus arose and we decided to purchase one beta fish and three fiddler crabs.  If you haven’t already stopped in to see our new pets, you are welcome to do so.

We will be voting on names for our new friends later today. Wonder what silliness we can come up with?


What happens to garbage?

Our students are currently conducting an experiment to see what happens to garbage when it gets buried beneath the soil. They have placed a tomato, pepper, leaf, and plastic grocery bag in a clear compost container and covered each item with dirt. The students will be observing and  journaling about the decomposing process, or lack there of, over the course of several weeks.

How to make a bouncy ball

With the students’ growing interest in everything round, we decided to try our hands at making our very own, homemade bouncy balls. We found a simple recipe online and decided to give it a shot. The ingredients include borax, glue, cornstarch, lukewarm water, and some food coloring. We discussed how the recipe tells us what ingredients we will need and when/how we need to add them.


Many of the students wondered how the ingredients would eventually become bouncy balls. “How is it going to be round?” one child asked. “It will just look like water!” another child exclaimed. But sure enough, when we added all of the ingredients together at the end, a slimy gunk started to form at the bottom of their bowls. Once they couldn’t stir any further, the students pick up the gunk and started to shape it into a ball. Before they knew it, they had made their very own (sort of round) bouncy balls!


The only problem with the project was that the bouncy balls had the tendency to take the shape of whatever they were placed in. They flatten on a drying board, become square-shaped in an egg carton, and cone-shaped in a plastic baggie. Thankfully, they can be reformed quickly with a little bit of extra shaping before the bouncing can commence. The recipe does suggest placing the ball back into it’s zip-lock bag when it is not being used. All students will be permitted to bring home their homemade bouncy ball once they have completed the project.

Happy bouncing!

Spooky Study

With Halloween approaching jack-o-lanterns, witches, monsters and ghosts have been making an appearance in oral tales at lunch.  The hubbub has caused a rash of curiosity about all things spooky, creepy, and silly.

Following this wisp of thought, we began to chart theme specific activities for each area of the room.  This is an ongoing project and we expect the children to add ideas as inspiration hits.  Below you will find the main areas of the classroom,  each with ideas for connecting them to our Halloween study.

  1. The Store
    1.  webs
    2. spooky toys
    3. Halloween pictures
    4. potions
    5. creepy animals
  2. The House
    1. spooky house
    2. cob webs
    3. ghosts
    4. dress in costumes
  3. The Office
    1. Halloween office
    2. books of spooky stuff
    3. fortune-teller
    4. decorating center
    5. make nightmares
  4. The Workshop
    1. make spooky toys
    2. haunted house
    3. build candy collectors
  5. Fancy Nancy Restaurant
    1. spooky hot dogs
    2. cauldron
    3. witchie stews
    4. make icky menus
  6. The Studio
    1. paint bats
    2. make slime
    3. make scary faces
    4. have a laboratory
    5. make potions
    6. make costumes

The first project of the bunch included plastering the doors with a multitude of jack-o-lanterns.

100813_0037Next came the decision to enclose the loft, or “The House”, in spider webs.

100813_0032Both of these projects required fine motor skill coordination, planning, and cooperating.  Language skills were bolstered while we discussed shapes, strategies for creating shapes, ideas for web placement, and conflict resolution.  Polite words were practiced when waiting to talk to someone else, asking for help from a teacher or friend and when explaining/listening to others’ visions.

So far the other classroom areas are a bit low on Halloween cheer, but we’ll just have to see what comes tomorrow.  Sparks of ideas are flying everywhere right now, so it could be anything…

Horses or Egypt

For our new unit of study, our students have actually selected two different units. One group of students decided they wanted to continue learning about horses, while another group chose to learn about Egypt after a student inspired half the class to dress up like mummies. The students choose each day which subject they would like to work on, but may choose differently the next.

Both groups have discussed the facts they already know, what they would like to know, and how we might find the answers to their questions. Now, our little researchers are beginning to delve into their resources to find out more information.

Take some time to check out the information we have thus far.  (Please click on the image for a larger view)

Horses KWL Web

Egypt web 2

Road Rally!

After all of the hard work creating our eclectic vehicles, we simply had to host a rally. Last week’s introduction to road signs provided us with the perfect inspiration to create our own road worthy signs.  Once constructed, a lovely chalk road and parking lot provided a backdrop for our debut.  As you will see in the slide show and video, the children certainly persevered, thought flexibly, made connections (one child finally did realize that holes for her legs were required to make the vehicle “drivable”), used critical thinking to decide how to make their car/plane/train move, took on a myriad of challenges, and were obviously participating in self-directed, engaged learning.



Have we been invaded?

An alien creating a spaceship diagram.

Early morning play this week has included a lot of alien discussions, costumes, and interviews.  A couple of children initiated the play by throwing filmy fabric over their heads and declaring themselves visitors from Mars.  Our loft was opened for use yesterday afternoon and quickly became the preferred spaceship zone.  One of the aliens claimed that her ship was broken and drew a schematic to help us repair it.  We’ve since hung the drawing up in the flight deck so workers can plan their repairs. (Alien ships are so very different from planes on our world, you know!)

In another part of the room, some children were examining our discovery bottles.  These are tubes and bottles that contain a myriad of runny, gooey stuff that we can shake and experiment with without getting messy.  After a quick discussion, the students decided that it would be helpful to have a label on each describing what was inside.

When our aliens witnessed this new labeling ritual, they too wanted to make signs.  Many signs stating, “Do Not Enter Spaceship” were designed and hung immediately.  A few more diagrams regarding the operating and maintenance of the craft were added as well.


Today I was reading excerpts from Robots: From Everyday to Out of This World written by the editors of Yes Magazine.  One of the first concepts in the book is explaining the differences between machines, computers, and robots.  The authors state that unlike machines, robots can be programmed to complete a task.  I explained that this meant that a person, or human, can tell the robot what to do and then it will do it.  Robots differ from computers because they have moving parts.  We clarified by repeating that a robot must be able to follow directions and have parts that move.

The next conversation was about  jobs that we might want a robot to do for us.  Together we came up with the idea that if we wanted to explore a cave, but didn’t have a light, we wouldn’t want to do it ourselves because we might trip on a rock or a log.  We could tell a robot to go into the cave and explore for us first.  The robot might be able to put lights in the cave for us or might come out and tell us if the path is safe.  (We also discussed the idea that if we were grown-ups that did have a light and the right equipment, we could go and explore for ourselves.)

Talking about jobs that robots can do that we cannot or don’t want to do, I asked the children if any of them had a couch.  Of course everyone raised their hand.  Then I asked if they had dust bunnies under their couch.  You’ll be happy to know that they are not giving away any of your secrets! According to them, almost no one has these little fuzz balls in their home!  After admitting that I, of course, do have dust bunnies under my couch [long-haired dogs simply won’t vacuum for themselves!] I suggested that an easy way to clean them up might be to use a robot vacuum like a Roomba.  We looked at some pictures of one and then the children asked how it knows where to vacuum.  We realized that many of the children were familiar with Zhuzhu Pets, so we explored the idea that the robot vacuums and the Zhuzhus were similar in that they turned around when they encountered a wall.  This then led to lots of human Zhuzhus scooting around the room, changing course when their noses bumped into things.

Hmm…this got my brain churning….

Should we bring in all of the robotic hamsters we can find and create some robot mazes for them?  After a quick poll, it looks like we have enough Zhuzhus available for us to create trials and mazes for.  If your child has any type of Zhuzhu, they are welcome to bring it to school next week for our first official Robot Week!  Let’s experiment!

A Horse Transformed

You might remember that a few weeks ago one of our students was inspired by our box-0-saurus and created his own horse.  Along a seemingly unrelated vein, some of you also might have heard that we’ve been working on writing a play. (I was über inspired by Teacher Tom on this one!) Today, the horse took on a new job and personality.  He has been dubbed a “War Horse”.  Since we were trapped indoors due to the weather, we had a lot of time for tinkering today.

Just in case you don’t remember, here is how our lovely horse began:

Our play, which will be unveiled in the next few days, underwent some rewriting today.  We added new characters, changed the plot a bit, and added an ending.  Though it was quite fun to act out our third version of the script, I wasn’t sure if this project was making it into the collective mindset of the students.  I was shown just how influential the idea has been when a group began making “props” for the play during our inside “recess”.

"We need a War Horse so our town can be safe from enemies."

While this project was being constructed, I was attending a fashion show on the other side of the room.  When I realized there was some major construction going on in the block area, I sidled over to find out what the hubbub was about.  I was amazed to find over half the class working on this project.  Some of the children wandered in for short periods of time, adding just a few details, while others spent over an hour (throughout the day) on it.

"It has music so that it doesn't get bored when it wants music."

I, of course wanted to know why we needed a War Horse.  Why, for the play, of course! Silly me.  I guess the fact that there is not actually a war in the play is not really a good enough reason to skip having a War Horse.  With all of this focused work, I wanted to know more about the design.

The bottle on the back is so he can squirt at people who are behind him.

Although at first glance, it looks as though the children haphazardly taped random pieces of cardboard together, they describe it with much more intentional thought.  They pointed out a row of pipes that make music, a small cannon at the front, armor to protect it from Army Men, rear defense systems, headphones, and speakers.  I find it interesting that the ability to listen to music was considered paramount to at least two separate students.   Who knew music was a prerequisite for a War Horse?

"I added the hair and the teeth. He's an armored horse because he's a bad horse." (Across the room: "No! He's a good horse!") "I mean he's a good horse."

Watching them build this creation as a team is inspiring.  They’ve gone from creating their first dinosaur with Mrs. Allan (where they built what she told them), to building an Ankylosaurus with me (where I built what they told me), to this.  Here, they built what they decided upon without any input from adults.  The previous experiences gave them just enough practice to feel confident and ready to experiment with the tools in their own way.

A War Horse with all the musical trimmings.

Layers Upon Layers

Our dinosaur environment mural has grown in-depth this week.  Two more sets of children worked on different parts of the picture during center time.  The first group added all things green in our world for dinos.  They began with green paint with a small amount of yellow floating on the surface.  I was curious to see if they would blend it together or simply allow it to streak through the green as they painted.  Instead, one child carefully dipped a paint brush in only the yellow and made a sun slightly above the tree trunk painted by the last group.  Then he mixed in the green and painted more of the picture.   The yellow sun was later painted over with green while I was told that, “sometimes the sun is green when it goes down in the morning”.   (Note to self: Let’s talk about sunrise, sunset, and morning vs. evening.)  The other child methodically painted tree parts with her green paint.  When the first child created green dots on her end of the paper (flying leaves) she took it with great calmness and simply made her tree taller and wider.

Our next group was in charge of the lava.  This was a much-anticipated section of the mural.  At first, lava began streaming from the top of the volcano.  Then, one of the children decided that the nearby tree trunk should really be red, not brown.  Thus adapted, the trunk now looks as though it is heated in the glow of the hot lava.  Some of the lava made it into an arc above the volcano.  One of the children is hoping that he can eventually finish it off with the rest of the colors of the rainbow.  As you can see, by the time this group finished, almost the entire volcano was covered in red, hot lava.  We’ll have to work together to come up with a plan for where the dinosaurs will be able to stand safely.  We wouldn’t want them to get toasty feet!