COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

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

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 🙂

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.

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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 24, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Rhubarb is Here!

Rhubarb is Here!

For many, when they hear “learning”, they think structured lessons. All the “learning” occurring in the everyday activities of our children is so often overlooked. For me, being able to combine gardening and baking together offers multiple opportunities to be taking advantage of “learning” from an everyday activity.

Here’s a quick look at some of the “Learning” I see happening when I’m in the kitchen with children:

  • Demonstrates increasing capacity to follow rules and routines
  • Develops and communicates a growing awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, preferences, and rights
  • Interacts with one or more children
  • Expresses an eagerness to participate in and learn about a widening range of topics, ideas, and tasks
  • Applies prior experiences, senses, and knowledge to new learning situations
  • Uses basic personal hygiene practices and understands that those practices help to maintain good health
  • Matches a number of objects with written numeral
  • Counting
  • Understands that numbers have multiple uses
  • Identifies problems and proposes ways to solve them
  • Observes, describes and investigates changes in materials and cause and effect relationships
  • Demonstrates the knowledge and skills needed to perform particular jobs and tasks
  • Identifies tools and technology used at home, school and work
  • Knows and discusses where some products come from

To start any cooking together, we talk safety, cleanliness and then gather the supplies needed (includes tools, recipe and ingredients). We then discuss things like: how to sit/stand so all could be involved; how to count as we measure (not until pouring or adding to mix); and review the different tools for purpose of usage. The real engagement happens once we actually start baking.

As each item is added to the bowl/pan we: looked at it’s texture; smell and/or taste; talk about where or how it grows; color; shape; past experiences with; etc. As we continue we discuss the changes as each new item is added – why changed, how changed, etc.

Whenever possible the children pour, mix, et. as we work through the recipe. Turns are taken with awareness of the different abilities for participation.

All done prepping and into the oven, then everyone helps with clean-up putting everything back where it should be.

Every group I have had here loves time in the kitchen!

With the garden starting to provide a harvest we will be spending even more time in the kitchen. Right now a good bit will be working with the rhubarb harvest.

The bed is lush and producing way more than I can use this year, even with canning, so if anyone would like some for home use please let me know. I’m happy to share.

Rhubarb is an excellent source of many vitamins like C, K, A and B-complex. It is high in dietary fiber and is a good source of calcium.  Rhubarb is low in sodium and saturated fat. To get the best nutrition from rhubarb, it is suggested that it be baked or stewed for a long period of time.

Besides using Rhubarb for sauces and jams think quick breads and muffins. Also a healthy side dish when cooked with apples and oranges sprinkling with cinnamon and/or ginger. This is a nice change up with pancakes or waffles.

 

Tomorrow I’ll post a couple of separate posts of recipes we are baking up with the 2017 rhubarb harvest.

 

August 10, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Zucchini Jam?

Zucchini Jam?

Our zucchini seedlings germinated really well this year and I find it hard to throw seedlings on the compost pile. I gave some away to families to plant and the rest ended up in our garden. With the weather this year the zucchini plants are really producing. We’re baking, dehydrating, freezing and eating both raw and cooked. There is also only so much zucchini you can give away, so…… what else can we do besides the compost pile? Have fun with a zucchini recipe online search 🙂

I found a couple of interesting ideas and settled on Zucchini Jam. After watching YouTube videos and comparing recipes I combined with my other jam recipes and settled on the following:

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini – I left on peel, seeded completely and shredded with multiple grating plates to get a variety of sizes/textures.
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice – I always have this on hand vs fresh lemon
  • 1 – 20 oz can crushed pineapple (with natural juice) – do not drain
  • 6 oz regular jello, any flavor works – I tried strawberry first as I know it’s liked by everyone here. Does have food dye for those with allergies.

Placed everything, but jello, in a saucepan that would hold ingredients with an extra 4 inches to cover splatters as it boils. Boil for 20 minutes. Stir almost constantly to prevent sticking and browning. Also cuts down foaming. Zucchini goes transparent, but maintains texture.

While cooking zucchini mixture get canning jars and lids ready. (Loving my electric water bath canner. Heats quicker and maintains temperature really well. Also frees up much needed stove top space.)

After 20 minutes remove zucchini mixture from heat source and add in jello. Stir it in really well and get it into hot jars. (I used a mix of jelly jars that I had on hand.) Process in water bath for 5 minutes.

jam

Always seem to have a bit left over whenever I make jams, relishes, and pickles so we enjoyed this new jam this morning on homemade whole wheat toast. Texture was more like a marmalade and not too sweet. Will definitely make more of this zucchini jam. It was super easy, reasonable cost and pretty healthy for a jam – zucchini and pineapple.

June 7, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Anyone Want to Make a Mess?

Anyone Want to Make a Mess?

All I have to do is ask if “anyone wants to make a mess?” and my young group comes running.

2016_06_07_IMG_0171The seed boxes for our mixed lettuce and kale germinated so well that we have a lot of leggy seedlings. Not the greatest for planting out directly into the garden, so we needed to thin them out and repot in 6 packs. (For “we” I mean “me” for the actual repotting. These seedlings are needed for food this summer and fall. Little hands love to help, but are not always gentle.)

2016_06_07_IMG_0172Thinning lettuce is a perfectly messy inside activity for a rainy day. (Kale is more pull up and replant, so no real mess.) Doing this inside means my young learners can get their hands into the dirt for a different purpose, put magnifying tools to work, ask lots of questions, and explore a plant’s structure (Roots on a lettuce seedling are many and easy to explore.),2016_06_07_IMG_0175 all while coming and going throughout their morning play.

Seedlings into the 6-packs and ready to head back under the grow lights. We’ll be monitoring to see how they do. A good bit of counting: 1 tray, 6 packs in 1 tray with 1 pack left over, 1 seedling per cell. 7 x 6 means we have a lot to count. 42 seedlings repotted.

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Then it was time to pick up our mess and get ready for lunch.

It also means we have fresh mini/micro greens for our lunch salad after pinching off the roots, rinsing and spinning dry. Spinning vegetables dry is always fun, great muscle work and allows for natural exploration of centrifugal force. 2016_06_07_IMG_0176(The roots were added to the compost pail.)

May 23, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on 2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

Last year I received a grant from Opportunity Alliance for extending the gardening season. With it we built a seedling grow station, a small hoop house and purchased row covering materials. We also purchased materials for supporting a lot of tomato plants. Everything except the hoop house worked as hoped for last year. The hoop house didn’t take us through the winter as hoped, but it did lengthen the season some. This year I changed up the usage of these materials some to really support growing our own food source and not just experimenting.

Decided to grow only seedlings we had success with last year and ate: cabbages, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squashes, kale, lettuce and herbs. I’ll support our local farmers with some seedling purchases of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and early crop of lettuce.

2016Garden

Some seeds were early into the garden and sprouting under row cover. Our warmer weather seedlings are hardening off outside during the day and in at night this week. They’ll make their way into the garden shortly, as frost date is past and warmer regular weather. Also have a good variety of seeds that like the warmer soil and onion sets to get in the ground. The onion sets and larger seeds are very small hand friendly for my young planting helpers. The herbs are into the hoop house this year to see if we can lengthen their harvesting season.

We also have last year’s leaves to mulch the rows with, mixing in newspaper we’ve recycled and been using for scissor practice.

Gardening with children of any age offers so many learning opportunities. At the preschool age the following indicator areas of the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS) are supported:

  • Emotional Development – self concept, self-regulation
  • Social Development – building relationships with adults
  • Approaches to Learning – initiative & curiosity, engagement & persistence
  • Early Language and Litaracy – comprehension & collaboration, presentation of knowledge & ideas, vocabulary acquisition & use, integration of knowledge & ideas, research to build & present knowledge-writing
  • Physical Development and Health – nutrition, fine motor, gross motor,physical health status
  • Math – mathematical practices, counting & cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, geometry, measurement & data
  • Science – earth science, life science
  • Social Studies – civics and government, economics, geography, history

May 16, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on It’s Rhubarb Time!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

We’re back in the garden! Harvesting from the rhubarb bed has started. That means lots of kitchen time with the children here. We’re using some of our favorite recipes which you can find in postings on Countryfun is Cooking. Just search “rhubarb”.

This morning we made the Rhubarb Muffins to have for our afternoon snack.  A quick, easy and tasty recipe that also freezes well.

I enjoy being in the kitchen with the children. So many learning opportunities and there is usually something unexpected. Let’s start with Reading – idea of written directions in a recipe, names on ingredient containers, alphabet identification

Team work – gathering of materials, positioning to watch and help, working with peers and adult

Language – ingredients, tools, techniques, questions raised and answers provided

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Math, science and social studies –  measuring ingredients and counting. We also compare measuring tools and talk fractions. Smell for vinegar and vanilla. Taste brown sugar.

Where do eggs come from? Love getting the store as an answer:) More discussion on eggs coming from chickens with the farmer bringing to the store. Even better answer of “Ducks!”

More science as oil and milk blend. Then brown sugar dissolving in liquid. Flour going from dry to wet as we mix ingredients together and finally the baking. More math when we set oven temp and time the baking.

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Did you notice we used 3 different sized spoons in today’s baking? One of the children did. Thankfully he commented on the difference size handles, so I could take advantage of the observation for more learning. So of course we had a closer comparison of the 3 spoons for bowl size, handle length and a discussion on why they worked better for the reasons used for today. Largest for mixing. Middle for scooping dough for muffins. Smallest for scraping dough off scooping spoon.

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Last counting for this morning equaled 24. The recipe made 2 dozen muffins loaded with rhubarb – one very healthy and underused early spring vegetable.

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