Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

A peaceful outing in the woods near our home reveals the beauty in nature to the delight of the children (and mom and dad too!).

 The first find of the season!

Checking out the moss - nature's carpet!

This is what happens when mom's hands are too full to carry a jacket... ;-)


                                          Is there a better way to spend a weekend morning?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekly Photo Round-up

Making mosaics with beans and seeds.

Working together with the Third Color Tablet Box.

Exploring shapes with the Geometric Solids and extension work with sorting cards.  You can read more about this lesson here.

Strengthening hand/finger muscles with Pin Pushing - This month, I put out animal shapes (from Montessori Print Shop) which the children can sort into land, air or water animals.  I thought this would be a fun way to incorporate the Planet Earth theme...

Planet Earth craft with Do-A-Dot Painters (read more about it here).

A classic Montessori lesson - Opening and Closing boxes, lids, etc.

Building words with the Moveable Alphabet.

Comparing heights with with Knobless Cylinders.

Reviewing letters and beginning sounds with the Sandpaper Letters.

The always in use Polishing Wood activity.

Printing/Stamping with recycled items.

"Planting" a daisy garden - I saw something similar at My Montessori Journey a while back...

More Addition with the Golden Beads - this lesson is so much fun that sometimes the children hug me afterwards!

Writing practice with the Sandpaper Letters.
 The children were also engaged in the process of making their Mother's Day gifts and cards this week.  I will be posting more about that next week as I don't want to give away too much too soon!   

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More Earth Day Art

The children are loving this art activity which I came up with while putting together other Earth Day lessons.  I came across some 3 inch circles which I had saved from a craft we did at Christmas time (yes, I am a saver of things...).  They came from the inside of paper plates which we had used to make wreaths.  At the time, I decided to save the remaining circles for, "something down the road."  Also, I had saved the scraps of black card stock from when I cut the "frames" for our bean mosaics (which you can see here set up on the shelf).  The thought came to me that we could use chalk pastels on the white circles in green and blue to represent land and water.  Once the Earth part is complete, the child can then paste it onto the black card stock.  Voila!  Recycled Earth art made from scraps - they are beautiful. 

Materials:  White circles and black card stock (in shell-shaped napkin holder); small jar with light-colored crayon (to write name on black paper) and gluestick; wooden bowl with green and blue chalk pastels.

This is what is in the shell-shaped napkin holder...

Using the chalk pastels with the materials set up at a table (the newsprint protects the table).
 Most of the children had to wash their hands from the chalk pastels before gluing their Earth to the black paper.  Many of them enjoyed the simple process of blending the colors together with their fingers.  Here is what they look like hanging in our hallway (with the Earth Day Craft).

My favorite part about the entire activity is that such beautiful art was created using items we already had!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Earth Day Craft

I wanted to share with you a small change I made to one of the Earth Day crafts I recently placed on the art shelf.  Some of you may recall the following photo from this post:

I added a few more items to the tray and placed them in a green basket.  The items added include a small, black 'crayon rock,' a dish with star stickers, and another small dish to collect the sticker remains.  This way, the child can add "space" around the earth by rubbing the crayon and then add star stickers for even more interest.  I thought these additions would not only promote greater use of the pincer grasp (while crayoning with the black 'crayon rock') which enhances writing skills, but also would further develop their understanding of the cosmic world!  Here is a photo of the material, with the additions, in use:

The children are very much enjoying this activity and have repeated it many times.  We are saving these "Earths" to hang in our hallway - a perfect reminder of celebrating Earth Day everyday!

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Life for our Geometric Solids - Thanks to Montessori Print Shop!

I must admit, use of our Geometric Solids in the classroom has been sporadic and a bit uninspiring.  For quite some time, I have been meaning to add some extension work to the material such as a set of matching cards.  Enter the wonderful products at Montessori Print Shop!  I was recently provided the opportunity to review some of their products in exchange for a blog post which was an opportunity I did not want to miss.  I have always been pleased with the quality of their materials, so I decided to try their Geometric Solids Sorting cards.  This is a set of cards depicting each of the Geometric Solids with three corresponding photos for each shape.  You can view more details of the product here.  As always, the process of making the set is just as much fun as watching it in use by the children!

Anytime I make materials for the classroom, I make sure keep consistency.  For example, these beautifully illustrated cards come with convenient cutting lines where I am sure to cut on the inside - that way, there is no risk for the black line to appear on the cards themselves.  Also, I took time to measure and cut black card stock to mount the cards onto.  I think this gives the material a finished look and adds a certain depth to the photos.  For control of error, I used color-coded dot stickers on the back of the cards.  For example, the cards with a picture of  a sphere had a red dot as did its three corresponding photos.

During the lesson, I first re-introduced the names of the solids.  Then, I introduced the the matching Geometric Solid cards and the child matched the cards to the shape as seen in this photo:

Once the child was successful with the first set of pictures, I then invited them to sort the remaining photos underneath:

Sorting in progress

Sorting completed.

Control of Error - matching dots on the backs of cards underneath each Geometric Solid.
I was surprised with the visual impact the cards created once they were all laid out with the Geometric Solids.  In fact, throughout the lesson, several children in the classroom came to see what the "new work" was and I heard more remark, "Oooh, what's that?  I want to do that!"  It was heartening to see a new interest develop in the Geometric Solids sparked by this quality set of cards from Montessori Print Shop.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paschal Greetings

From our home to yours,
Sending warm wishes for a joyous Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Everyday is Earth Day!

I truly appreciate the fact Montessori classrooms instill a sense of awe and wonder toward the Earth from and early age.  In fact, Montessori settings provide unique opportunities to cultivate the child's curiosity and respect of the world around him - everyday!
One fundamental Montessori lesson is the Land, Air, and Water activity which demonstrates to the child that the Earth is composed of these three elements.   In our classroom, the materials consist of a set of 30 picture cards and three clear containers.  The cards are divided into groups of ten with each group depicting either land, air, or water.  The containers are for the child to collect the three different elements.  Once the child understands the differences of land, air, and water, they can then sort the picture cards underneath the corresponding container. 

Our Land, Air, and Water materials on the shelf.  The picture cards are behind the three clear containers.

The material in use.
Children in the Montessori setting also gain an appreciation and understanding about various cultures and environments through the use of the Continent Folders.  This materials is composed of seven folders each containing photos unique to one of the seven continents.  Not only does the child have an opportunity to learn more about the Earth and the names of the continents, but he also is able to nurture his curiosity about the world which surrounds him. 

Our Continent Folders in the Geography area of the classroom.
While these materials reflect only a fraction of the Montessori geography/culture materials in the classroom, I feel it is important to emphasize the fact that the Primary Montessori classroom provides numerous opportunities for the child to explore and appreciate the world in which we live.  Ultimately, this brings meaning to the children of how important it is to be responsible stewards of the Earth.

During the coming weeks, in appreciation of Earth Day, we will be incorporating concepts of 'The Earth' throughout all areas of the classroom.  I am have been preparing  lots of materials during our Spring Break and have spent time in the classroom setting up these lessons.  Here is a look at some of the Earth-inspired activities waiting for the children when they return from the break:

Practical Life: Spooning - stones in wooden pails

Practical Life: Tweezing - Sorting beans and peas.

Art - Bean Mosaic materials.

Do-A-Dot Earth Painting - similar to the one seen here.

Painting/Stamping with Re-usables/Recycle-ables:  glass jar, plastic container, and a small cork. The  clear box contains a damp sponge with paint to be used as a stamp-pad.   The paper is on a cutting board covered with a towel - I hope the padding will bring greater success to the stamping/painting process. 

Stringing wooden and glass beads on hemp strings for necklaces - Talk about 'eye-candy!'  I love the way this looks on the tray!  I pre-cut and wound the lengths of string and clipped them together with the small clothespins.  The children place the clip on one end of the string while threading beads to prevent the beads from slipping off. 

Happy Earth Day, everyday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Kulich and Pascha

"Every Russian Easter table, from the most modest to he most lavish, has as its center - Kulich and Pasha - the most awaited and special of the traditional Russian foods.  Each family has a treasured recipe for these delicious treats which are first sampled on Easter Night and may be served only during the Easter celebrations."  (From Babushka's Kitchen)

As I wrote in this post, thanks to my mom, who has already sent us a Kulich, we only had to make the accompanying Pascha to complete our Easter Table. 

Key ingredient - Farmer's Cheese.  I love how the price tag indicates, "Russian Gourmet!"

Mixture of Farmer's cheese, sugar, and butter - and next to it, my 'secret recipe,' hand written by my mom.

Mixing the heavy cream...

Adding the best part - vanilla, straight from the bean!

Lining the wooden Pascha mold with cheesecloth...and realizing that we used only 1lb. of Farmer's cheese and not 2 which this mold requires. So...

...a variation on a theme - Clay Flower Pot!  Now, the Pascha will drain for a couple of days while setting in the clay pot (which conveniently already has a drainage hole in place!). 

You'll have to wait until Easter to see the finished product on our Easter Table!  In the meantime, I know three very excited children who, "just can't wait 'till Easter!" to take part in this festive tradition.

Easter Eggs

We've been busy in the kitchen today.  First, we dyed our eggs in the Eastern Orthodox tradition using a red egg dye.  Then, we used "shrink-wraps" to create Slavic style Easter eggs. 

And after all was said and done...

These eggs, along with the traditional kulich and pascha will be featured at our Easter table on Sunday morning.  Now, onto  making the pascha...