COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

October 12, 2017
by countryfun
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Beans Stalks in Our Future?

Last week I posted a picture of an experiment we set up to see if some bean seeds would grow. Well, we’ve been watching and they have grown.

It was time to take the experiment apart, examine results and expand our learning:

  

  • How the outer shell splits and comes off the bean;
  • Where roots begin to sprout from;
  • How a shoot begins to grow;
  • How you can see the green bean split and leaves start;
  • How the green beans wrinkles (dries up) as the leaves grow;
  • How the roots spread out;
  • How all look alike!

Then we got to plant the beans to see if we can grow some bean stalks. 

Another chance to observe over time………….. Who says gardening is only for the Spring 🙂

October 6, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Fall Lessons continue……..

Fall Lessons continue……..

We’ve worked in Apples and Pumpkins through daily activities, stories, snacks and lunches, exploration boxes and just general conversations. Most of the interest is currently on seeds.

Tied seeds and apple work together to make a book that compressed the life cycle of an apple. Our life cycle was seed – blossom – fruit – harvest. This group has an understanding that plants grow from seeds planted in the ground. That plants need water and sunlight to grow. That the food grows from a flower. That the food has more seeds inside it and these will grow into the food they came from if planted.

To make the book we colored a large sheet of drawing paper using the colors of apples we had to explore.

   

This sheet was then folded to make our book. The children glued the pre-cut images into their books. I added words with our discussion on the images and apple cycle.

   Of course the books headed home.

Then our seeds exploration headed outside to gather different seeds. The Fall is actually a great time for this because it’s when plants and trees are loaded with seeds.

We brought the seeds inside to explore further. We had seeds from weeds, grasses, trees, herbs and a couple of the beans for drying that were not dry yet.

First we took the beans out of their pods and set up a growing experiment: glass jar, paper towels, water and beans. We’ll be checking to see if the beans sprout on the south facing windowsill.  

The rest of the seed heads were handled, checked with magnifying glasses, shaken in small tubes, smelled, hammered, blown …………..

 

Still checking maple pods to see if they contain seeds while outside at play. More acorns keep finding their way inside also.

September 17, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Learning Happens from “Can I Help?”

Learning Happens from “Can I Help?”

I spent Saturday in the company of a diverse group of professionals and parents that are interested in where early childhood education is heading nationally, but especially in Maine. It was interesting to talk with a Montessori Preschool teacher, public school Pre-K teacher, center director and staff, parent ambassadors, College professor, and Head start teachers, about programs. A good amount of discussion was around structured curriculum with planned activities done on schedule, but wanting to be flexible to go where children lead. Research supports the importance of play in a child’s learning and the value of child directed activities. As teachers we also have options about how we approach our roles to support, encourage, challenge, and expand a child’s learning.

I shared how I’ve got unit/curriculum plans developed that work with the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards, but I see the ultimate learning for young children as coming from involving them in normal daily life activities. Dramatic play is fine, but real life is best. Our dramatic play reinforces the learning experienced in the real activity. I think back to what I experienced as a child. I played outside, exploring my environment and my place in it, all the time. When inside I had free access to art/craft supplies, puzzles and books. Today, I take the experiences of my childhood and add in my teacher skills to reinforce the learning opportunities that occur just as part of our normal day. I do get to pull in some of those planned unit activities that are on file in the reinforcing and expanding.

I believe that children learn best through their play, guiding us in what they need, but they also benefit from having any learning opportunity expanded. It’s having that balance of leaving it up to them to guide and finding the opportunities to expand learning that is always the fun challenge for me.

Here’s the example I shared in the discussion:

I have always hung laundry out to dry in good weather. Not an activity many of today’s children are exposed to, as most families use the dryer today. Whenever we head out back to play and the children see a clothes basket at the clothesline they want to help me. I don’t think about that it will take longer, I immediately think about which child is asking to help and what learning can I support.

  • Do we count clothespins needed to hang clothes – 2 shirts means 4 clothespins, 2 for each item = 2+2 = 4, then it’s counting out the clothespins to me. For some it also means sorting clothespins to find matches, as I have 2 different kinds of clothespins and they want them to be the same. It doesn’t matter to me.
  • One helper always wants to practice clipping pins, so I make sure to hang pants up first. Pants they can reach the bottom of to clip to. There isn’t much better fine motor with some science thrown in than working clip clothespins.

 

  • We sort out socks, sort colors, etc.  I now also hang different types of clothes on different lines for even more sorting.
  • We talk about where you wear what. This leads to expanded story play with what we call the “Ooops” book (Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton which is a daily read within our space and can be retold easily). It’s fun to talk about wearing pants on our head,before I hang them. That always gets an “Ooops” and correction on where to wear them. You never know what will be worn where. Young children are creative and love “silly”.
  • Language expansion with color names, labeling body parts, and when a preschooler tells you the clothes are all “twisted” – expand that – what is meant, how are they, other descriptive words for “twisted”……
  • Science of why hang the clothes?, what dries them?, with it be fast today? – sun and wind
  • Counting the items – in total, by group, by color, on each line
  • Compare number of items hung on each line, why more or less
  • Weight of wet clothing

The children come and go with helping as they want and need. All this learning isn’t forced. It’s chosen by the child. It also includes teamwork, self-esteem, sense of responsibility, sense of accomplishment, self control and aware of abilities that are important developmentally for young learners.

My goal every day is to have this type of learning happening all day long.  A Head Start teacher stated she would so liketo be offering the same type of learning opportunities, but is required to have written plans that are done ahead. We actually did a bit of brainstorming to see if there might be ways to write out skills/standards met by everyday daily life activities that could be linked to on her plans, so she could move her program in this direction.

I appreciate that the families here understand how their young learners are being supported through including the children in what are normal life activities and expanding learning within those activities.

 

September 6, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Apples, Apples and Apples

Apples, Apples and Apples

Rainy day, so no stick collecting today. Perfect to make applesauce and do some of the apple activities I have gathered for Fall lessons.

It all starts with observation of our apples:

  • numbers 1-12, one-to-one correspondence
  • shape: 2D circle and 3D sphere
  • parts:
    • stem (“hangs from a tree”)
    • blossom
    • skin
  • compare size and weight
  • color:
    • red
    • green
    • yellow

Then it’s off to the kitchen to make a simple applesauce. We used my apple peeler. This simple machine peels, spiral cuts and cores the apple safely allowing the children to participate.

    

When the cores snap in half we also get to see the “star” (another shape) inside each apple. The children immediately observed the seeds within the star. Another chance to count.

After getting the apples onto the stove we enjoyed some painting. Red and green paints on manila (yellowish) paper.

    

Also used the broken cores to stamp stars onto our apples. The children had earlier observed that the Paula Red apples had dots all over their skin. The star gave a little of this look.

While the applesauce cools down, we read:

  • Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson
  • Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington

We began to learn an action song: “Two Little Apples”

Way up high in an apple tree,
2 little apples smiled down at me.
I shook that tree as hard as I could.
Down came the apples,
Yummmmmmm, were they good!

Back to the kitchen to taste test the sauce. Success!

Perfectly tasty plain, but will add a bit of cinnamon sugar for lunch today. We’ll keep the rest plain to use for some baking later this week.

Finished up our morning exploring the new flannel board. We sorted red, green and yellow circles into 3 separate baskets. Then it was about putting them back up on the tree, sort, place back.

     

This activity will be openly available to use during the day.

The books will also be available for reading with our iPads and QR codes.

September 5, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Monster Puppet, Sticks and Onion….. not Apples

Monster Puppet, Sticks and Onion….. not Apples

I have the Fall preschool unit on apples and pumpkins all ready to go, but right now the children have different ideas. Since I believe that children learn best when they have a strong interest the planned lessons will keep and we’ll follow their lead.

Go Away Big Green Monster has been a favorite book over the years and it is one being continually read on just now. One preschooler early this morning found an old green monster puppet I had made years past and wanted to make one themself. No problem… this “envelope” puppet style is very simple to make and I always have material for it on hand.

Take a sheet of construction paper, holding the long way, fold both ends in until just overlap. Glue the overlap. Take the top end and cut down both side about 1″. Then cut across just the paper that that has been overlapped. This will provide you with a flap you glue and fold over. You now have what I think of as an “envelope puppet”.

Following the construction of the green monster we cut out the needed facial features. Once glued in place the puppet was ready to use.

Then, it was all about a “stick” collection. Well, we have plenty of sticks, so all we needed was a box for collection. We’ll find ways to compare size, work with idea of shortest to longest, count, observe and describe. Thinking might be able to do a bit of crafting stick figures the next day or so ………

It’s also time to harvest the garden and a favorite vegetable for young children to harvest is the onion. Especially when the last weeding of the bed was missed. The onion bed is looking pretty green, so we needed to hunt for all the dried leaves. Once found it’s all about pulling the onions out. Pulling and pushing are important concepts for young children and having opportunities for these actions on a variety of levels is important.

harvesting onions from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Our onion harvest means lots of teamwork as we have lots of onions to clean, sort, count and prep for winter storage.

sorting onions from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

……… So no apples or pumpkins today, but lots of learning right at the appropriate level for each child involved.

 

July 3, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Why Garden with Children?

Why Garden with Children?

I am often asked why I garden with young children.

First, I garden in my personal life and I think it’s important to share my interests with the children I care for. Second, I think it’s important for children to learn to care for growing things. Third, gardening offers learning experiences that support all the different developmental levels of the children here.

We start gardening here with seeds and follow them through harvest. What better way to learn that living things have life cycles. We also know that when children are hands on they are more open to trying new things. With our garden that means trying a large variety of vegetables and the meals prepared with them.

The gardening is really starting to show changes, so today we had a garden hunt where we went looking for: different kinds of leaves; blossoms; and any vegetables growing.

Here’s what we found: Pie Pumpkin, Pickling Cucumber, Zucchini (yellow italian) all growing behind their blossoms. Blossoms on the tomatoes, but no tomatoes.

 

 

We were also able to see how the leaves of these plants were similar in shape, but the size was different. Comparing leaves the children found the pumpkins were the largest leaves.

 

 

 

 

We did find one group of vining plants with blossoms (no fruit yet) with different leaves – darker green and more curves on the edges. Do you know what it is? 

We also found pea pods finally fat enough to harvest. Of course we needed to count the pods, arrange by size and even count how many peas were in some of the different pods as we taste tested.  It doesn’t get much sweeter than freshly picked raw peas!

  

Here are some of the different leaves we found:

How many plants did you recognize by their leaves?

~ onions, cabbage, dill, lima beans, lettuce, kale, tomato, carrots, rutabaga, sunflower ~

We also found bugs making dinner of the leaves of the eggplants ~

And Broccoli! That’s one common vegetable that everyone here knows the name for.

What’s fun is learning that when we eat broccoli we are eating the flower blossoms before they open up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All that learning from the garden, as it begins to provide us with more than mixed salad greens for our lunches.

It’s fun to be in the garden daily seeing all the changes. Reinforcing lessons learned and experiencing new ones.

We’ve also been harvesting the herbs. Which is a totally fun sensory experience!

 

May 25, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Some Rhubarb Recipes…….

Some Rhubarb Recipes…….

Rhubarb Quick Bread ~ (note I use my flour blend for any quick bread: equal parts reg. flour/whole wheat flour and wheat germ ~ I make up a large batch and keep stored in the freezer)

Beat:

  • 1 – 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 C salad oil

Add:

  • 1 C sour milk ( regular works – I add a good dash of white vinegar to sour it)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2-1/2 C flour

Mix well to combine. Add in:

  • 1 -1/2 C fresh rhubarb, 1/2″ dice (about 2 good stalks)
  • optional – 1/2 C nuts of choice or raw sunflower seeds

Mix to combine. Split between 2 grease loaf pans. BAke 325 oven for 60 minutes or until tests done.

Freezes well.

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Rhubarb Muffins ~

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin.

  • 1 cup sour milk (I use 1% with 2 tsp reg. vinegar added)
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla (real, not extract)
  • 1 -1/2 C brown sugar
  • 2 -1/2 C flour (I use my baking mix – equal parts reg flour, whole wheat flour and wheat germ)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
  • 3 (generous) cups chopped rhubarb (I like pieces at 1/2″ or less for baked goods. I find the flavor is more pleasant and children are not always fans of larger chunks.)

To save on pans and utensils for easier clean-up we mix everything in the order presented here in one pan. If you mix all the wet ingredients, then the brown sugar you will not be over mixing the flour which leads to a firmer baked good. By sprinkling the salt and baking soda and powder over the flour they will blend in well when mixed.

Mix until just blended/moistened. Now fold in the rhubarb.

We fill the muffin tins for smaller muffins, so no more than 2/3 full. Bake 10 – 15 minutes. Cool before eating as the rhubarb chunks hold the heat a bit.

This batter provides for a couple of dozen muffins this way or as we often do – make 1 dozen muffins and bake the remaining batter off as a quick bread – oven of 350. I start checking after 1/2 hour. The baking time will depend on how deep the batter is in the (greased) loaf pan.

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