COUNTRY FUN

an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

May 16, 2015
by countryfun
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We Have a Mini-Hoop House!

I had hoped to involve the children in helping to construct the mini-greenhouse for the garden, but found it was better to get it made over the weekend myself. It was not a structure that little hands would have supported the construction of. Instead we’ll explore it together and use it together as we plant, tend and harvest through the winter.

I started with a garden area that would accommodate a 4′ x 6′ mini structure. This size will allow us to work from both sides 2′ in which works fine. That means I needed 2 – 4′ and 2 – 6′ pieces of cedar 1″x6″ to make the box frame.DSC06569

The frame was supported with corner bracing that left space for the 3/4″ pvc piping to fit behind.DSC06571  DSC06572

There are to be 4 hoops spaced 2′ apart with the ends held in place with the bracing that left the 2 middle hoops to be held in with clamps. DSC06573

It was easiest to get everything that needed nails or screws together in the garage, carry the finished frame out to the garden, place and fill with soil before placing the hoops. DSC06574

Next it was time to cover the ends with clear 6mil plastic. I used clear plastic we had on hand, although special garden plastic is suppose to last more years. The end plastic was stapled to the frame and then taped up and over the end hoops.

I then cut a length of plastic to cover the whole mini-hoop house. This was laid out and a 6′ piece of strapping was used as the ridge pole laying it over the plastic covered hoops. I screwed through the strapping and plastic into the hoops. This will not only help hold down the plastic, but ties the hoops together and adds stability to the structure. The hope is it will also help hold up to the snow we get.

I cut the plastic oversized, so I could attach 2″x3″x6′ board along each side. I rolled the plastic around the boards that were laid tight to the frame and stapled the plastic in place. DSC06578 This will both hold the plastic down tight and allow for it to be easily rolled up the hoops to make working within the hoop house easier. It will also allow for keeping the hoop house open once summer weather gets hot. I’m also trying out black foam tubing for clips to hold the plastic tight. If this doesn’t work I’ll be hunting for something like chip bag clips.

I’m thinking we’ll plant the cucumbers in here to start the season. They are suppose to like the enclosed environment. They will also be done growing in time for a fall seeding of kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, beets, spinach. All these crops should be able to handle the winter cold and provide a fresh harvest. Maybe we’ll also add a tomato plant or two when we do the cucumbers……..

 

April 28, 2015
by countryfun
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Another Round of Planting

Today was a perfect day for planting another group of seeds to be started inside. We’ve charted the frost date for May and have counted back the weeks it takes the seeds planted inside to be ready for the outside garden. Working from our list, this week it’s time to plant the cantaloupe, watermelon, cuccumber, baby bell peppers, and 3 types of cabbage. We’ve already planted kale, brussels sprouts and 3 kinds of tomatoes, which have already sprouted. We’ve been thinning out the kale sprouts and enjoying as salad for our lunches. DSC06489

All you need is a container for water to wet down the potting soil before filling the containers. Small hands are perfect for mixing and filling.

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Then we talked about what we expected the seeds to look like, as we eat these foods all the time and know their seeds. We noticed the seeds were dry, but looked like what we expected. Then we planted multiple seeds per section. One kind of seed was planted in each 6-pack.

The 6-packs were labeled using alphabet stickers, so we can know what they are when they sprout. A matching sticker was placed on the seed pack.  DSC06503DSC06504

Everything watering in well and placed on the bottom shelf of our new homemade grow light station. This was made using some of the money from the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 Opportunity Alliance grant we received this year. This is the first year we have really grown our own seedlings. The baby gate has been repurposed to protect the lower growing shelf from curious toddlers and cats as it’s located within our program space.

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Now we’ll count down the days to germination for our newest plantings, watching and discussing what we see happening.

Once done it was outside to repair the row cover that the wind was blowing off.

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We restaked the long sides. We also took time to check out the kale seedlings already planted under the cover and found it was warmer under the cover than outside. Also under the cover are carrots, swiss chard and beets directly seeded.

 

April 13, 2015
by countryfun
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3rd Booking Across the USA for Us

Booking-Across-the-USA-Trip-3-300x300So glad we got involved in this book project the first year out. It has opened us up to so many interesting books and activities.

This year the 3rd Annual Booking Across the USA hosted by Jodie at Growing Book by Book is about choosing a children’s author or illustrator that was born in, lived in or currently lives in your state. After reading a book of theirs we are to create an activity or craft to compliment it

Our state is Maine and we are so lucky to have connections to many wonderful authors and illustrators of children’s books. Many of these books are enjoyed on a regular basis in our shared reading times.

For this activity I decided to look for an author I had not read with the children as often. Chris Van Dusen caught my attention when I saw the title: The Circus Ship. Last year in our study of Maine and reading about the islands off our coastline there was a story about a circus ship catching fire off an island. I wondered if there might be a connection. There was! In looking farther into his books I found many would also fit nicely into the focus on rhyming books we had in March.  The children really enjoyed the Mr Magee books: Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee and Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee. They were silly and based on experiences many of them are aware of or have done.

Chris Van Dusen was born in Portland, Maine, 3/16/1960. As a child, he would spend hours drawing with his brothers. He loved the work of Dr. Seuss for the rhythm of the words and Robert McCloskey’s (who also lived in Maine) detailed illustrations.

After college Chris started drawing cartoons and illustrations for a magazine for teenagers. He worked as a freelance illustrator for 10 years specializing in art for kids with work appearing in magazines like Nickelodeon, Family Fun and Disney Adventures. His first book, “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee” was published in 2000 and he has been busy writing and illustrating children’s books since.

Chris lives in a town on the coast of Maine with his wife and two sons. Many of his books are pulled from his experiences in Maine.

Chris has a really nice website with links to his books, bio informaton, and a blog. It is worth checking out especially if you are going to share some of his books with young children. I’ve always found children love learning more about the authors and illustrators of books shared with them. We enjoyed the FAQ sections where we found out the idea for The Circus Ship came from a magazine article he read. The book was inspired by the historic event of the wreckage of The Royal Tar, which sank off the coast of Maine in 1836.

Now for more on The Circus ShipDSC06286

  • 2009 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award Winner
  • 2009 Lupine Award Winner
  • 2009 Minnesota State University Moorhead Comstock Honor Book
  • 2010 Read With ME book

A circus ship on it’s way to Boston for a show runs into some bad weather and runs aground off the coast of Maine. The circus owner (Mr. Paine) and ship’s captain row to safety on the mainland, but the circus animals are left behind. They make their own way to shore on an island. The local islanders were not sure what to make of the circus animals viewing them with suspicion. Somethng happens to change that and the islanders help the animals in return.

When I preread the book I realized this was going to be an interactive book for my current group of puzzle lovers. We do lots of puzzles, mazes and I Spy activities here and there is one section of the book when it is open which works perfectly for an I Spy activity. I had a pile of unifix cubes on hand and when I got to the correct page I asked the children to count out the animals using their fingers as I read the story. I then stopped and we counted out the right number of unifix cubes. Now it was time for the children to find the animals that the island locals had helped to hide on the island when Mr. Paine returned to claim them.

DSC06374 The children placed a cube wherever they found a hidden circus animal. We then got to practice our counting again as we uncovered the animals and put the cubes away. Can you make out the camel in the hay field, bear on the bike and giraffe as a flag pole?

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After finishing the story we talked about what you might see at a circus. Popcorn was mentioned a couple of times and I took that into a rhyming activity for another day.

Using rectangles of read construction paper and gluing on strips of white I made a popcorn box.DSC06353 I added labels that had worked with word families we have been doing other activities around.

DSC06354 Then it was just a matter of using yellow scrap paper for cut out popcorn kernels and writing letters on them that the children could pull from a bowl and make a word with. Once used the kernel was placed with it’s container. At the end we had groups of rhyming words.

I later made more kernels and wrote out words for different word families. This allowed the children to sort out the words to the right popcorn box. For one of my children who is really into words this was a nice extension and had her reading.

The book is back to the library and the popcorn boxes and kernels are into our activity drawers for free play choice.

April 10, 2015
by countryfun
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Unexpected Lesson: Birds vs Ducks

We are always open to taking advantage of the unexpected events that happen around our space, especially in our outside environment. Today was no exception. I was checking out the birdfeeders, when I did a double take because I thought I saw 2 ducks out there eating seeds and corn. IMG_2125

Now each Spring a dip in the field next to us floods with the melting snow and ducks come in before heading to area lakes and ponds, but I’ve never seen them at the feeders. I think the unexpected multiple inches of wet snowfall left the field pond slushy and here was an alternative food source.

DSC06434I immediately let the children know we had special visitors at the feeders and they came quickly to the window. When I asked them who the visitors were they answered “Ducks.” I began asking questions to stretch the learning from this event. Questions like:

  • “Where did the ducks come from?”
  • “How did the ducks get here?”
  • “How many ducks do you see?”
  • “What is different about the ducks?”

Their answers lead to other questions like:

  • “Why can’t ducks sit in trees?”
  • “Why do you think the smaller duck is brown?”
  • “What do ducks and birds both have?”

Their answers were so thoughtful and leading to further learning.

Mallard Pair from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

While watching the ducks until they left, I decided we needed to get the points from the conversation down, immediately thinking Venn Diagram. Two items with common and different parts we could compare and chart while keeping the conversation going.

DSC06435I asked if they wanted to make a science chart about what they know about birds and ducks. With a strong “Yes!” I got some paper and markers and we settled in as a group.

I explained this chart has 3 parts where we can write down about birds in one, ducks in another and what both have in the middle. I also told them this special science chart was called a Venn Diagram, because I think it’s important to expose them to mathematical and scientific terms when we can.

As you can see we filled in our chart quite nicely with all our observations about what is similar and different about Birds and Ducks ~DSC06438

I also had some help with the writing by my inquisitive 1 yr. old. Cap on so help welcome.

Now having the markers out lead to wanting to use them for drawing, so it was off to the art tables. I got out a variety of coloring tools and paper before I hung up our Birds vs Ducks Venn Diagram.DSC06439 DSC06441  DSC06440

Now this pair of ducks visited us multiple times over the day, so we had more conversations about them being a pair and that became “mommy and daddy duck”. At the end of the day we decided to see if we could see their footprints.

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* Update: 9am Friday and the ducks are back at the feeders. Will need to get some more seed out after they leave. Wonderr where conversations will lead today?

March 5, 2015
by countryfun
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Colors and Shapes are Starting

There has been a lot of random labeling of colors and shapes within our play recently. By random I mean the children are just trying out the labels without correctly applying them. This is a group that also gravitates to puzzles. To observe the knowledge base, I pulled out an activity using these interests that would provide me with a chance to see color and shape working together.

I video taped all interaction during the activity. Here’s a chance to see our starting point. I’ll be reviewing and pulling goals for future activities.

(warning this video is around 12 minutes in length)

M4H06326 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

March 3, 2015
by countryfun
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Learning Without a Lesson

I’ve always believed that learning occurs from whatever activity you are involved in. I believe that for young children especially the best learning occurs naturally whenever they are engaged. I also believe it’s about the process, not the product.

I have always made materials to use for lessons and activities here. I have also often let the children help in the making of the material. Why I do this is for that “learning without a lesson”. There are important lessons that can not be taught in what we think of as school lessons or play.

While observing a visiting specialist’s lesson an idea was triggered and I went on the hunt for CVC cards which I would be able to use to work with both beginning and ending sounds and word families. I could make myself, but I figured I could probably find some online and save time. I did just that. On TPT, I found CVC Phoneme Segment cards by Lavinia Pop – 76 cards to download for $3.

I decided to print the cards off this morning the children were playing. I wondered if it would draw any attention. If so I intended to get the children talking about the pictures that were printing off. What image? What was beginning sound? What letter makes that sound? Could they figure out the last letter by it’s sound?

The 1 Pre-K here today came right over and our conversation started. Other children came and went. I also decided to write in the letters for each image, as I thought would provide more ability to adapted the material for later usage. “R” handed me the printed sheets and named each letter as I silently wrote them out. Not only did this provide reinforcement of letter recognition, but she saw we engaged in writing out words composed of letters – reinforcing that concept.

Once done it was time to cut apart and laminate. “R” got out the laminator and sheets, but waited for me to plug in. Allowing to help in this way supports independence, self-esteem, and also safety practices. Next “R” asked where else she could help.

I showed her how to place the cut cards, telling her only 4 to a sheet and she proceeded to problem solve that – 2 rows of 2. DSC06314DSC06312 She also put the sheets through the laminator.

M4H06315 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

I had to reshow her how to push in until the rollers grab. We talked about why it worked that way and what a laminator does. Learning here includes following directions, expanding language, fine motor, math, science, value of tools, following through with project start to finish. Working with an adult.

Again others were in and out, but “R” was completely engaged.

DSC06316Last part was sorting out some bulk letter tiles I have. We worked together to sort into uppercase/lowercase. To start, we will be using the lowercase to play with the cards as I wrote the CVC words out in lowercase.

With the help of one willing learner our game material is completed and waiting for use for other lessons to be learned.

March 2, 2015
by countryfun
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Future Engineers?

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We have tons of building materials always available here, and recently my 2 – 4 yr olds have been taking a pile of recycled cups and stacking “mountains”. This activity shows a skill growth over just stacking legos or our large cardboard blocks.

I’ve been observing this team work and process and today finally was able to get the activity on video. (There are 3 separate videos to cover the activity to provide easier viewing.)

– Watch how they know cups might need to be moved to get the correct distance to allow for the stacking.

– Watch how they are cooperating as they stack on opposite ends.

– Listen to the conversation during the building for language and vocal intonations.

We also had some inappropriate interaction that was handled through removing of self and off camera reflection on better way to handle response. I also redirected a younger child to find other play. This younger child is not at a developmental level with their play to be engaged in the building with these materials. Although wanting to be part of the activity it ended up interfering and I felt it was important to support the effort of the 2 builders.

M4H06304 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

M4H06305 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

I supported the problem solving in this child-directed activity by explaining and modeling a solution. You will also see the children problem solving solutions as they ran out of stacking materials.

M4H06306 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

So much learning demonstrated through this play as demonstrated through the Maine Early Learning Guidelines:

Approaches to Learning Domain

A) Initiative and Curiosity

  • Expresses an eagerness to participate in and learn about a widening range of topics, ideas, and tasks
  • Finds more than one solution to a question, task, or problem
  • Recognizes and solves problems through active exploration, including trial and error, interactions and discussions with peers and adults

B) Persistence and Reflection

  • Persists in and completes an increasing variety of tasks, activities, projects, and experiences
  • Sets goals, develops plans, and completes tasks
  • Demonstrates a capacity to maintain concentration for a meaningful period of time on a task, set of directions, or interactions, despite distractions and interruptions
  • Applies prior experiences, senses, and knowledge to new learning situations
  • Considers and implements different approaches to carrying out a task
  • Alters approach to tasks when initial approach does not work
  • Recognizes and solves problems independently through trial and error and by interacting with peers and adults
  • Seeks help appropriately from another child or an adult when encountering a problem

Mathematics Domain ~

Mathematical Decision-Making Domain

  • Uses planning to acquire a desired outcome (e.g., selecting appropriate types and quantities of materials)

Patterns

  • Begins to recognize, copy, extend, and create simple patterns

Personal and Social Development Domain ~

A) Self Control

  • Seeks adult help when needed for emotional support
  • Recognizes own and others’ emotions
  • Describes own and others’ emotions

B) Self Concept

  • Explores and experiments with new interests
  • Develops a growing understanding of how own actions affect others
  • Accepts the consequences of own actions
  • Expresses pride in accomplishments

C) Social Competence

  • Interacts appropriately with familiar adult(s)
  • Interacts with one or more children
  • Interacts respectfully and cooperatively with adults and peers
  • Participates as a member of a group through sustaining interactions with peers
  • Listens with interest and understanding to directions
  • Listens with interest and understanding during conversations
  • Uses compromise and discussion in play, and resolution of conflicts with peers

Science Domain ~

B) Scientific Process

  • Explores and experiments with different materials, objects and situations
  • Identifies problems and proposes ways to solve them
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