COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

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.

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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!

 

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, 2015
by countryfun
Comments Off on We Have a Mini-Hoop House!

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
Comments Off on Another Round of Planting

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.

 

September 18, 2014
by countryfun
Comments Off on Beans! Not Apples

Beans! Not Apples

It’s Fall and that means the apple orchards around our area are open for pick your own, cider and many apple goodies. It also means I’ve gathered many appropriate apple lesson ideas – ready to pull together as indicated. This year however, apples seem to be of little interest just now.

Since I believe in taking advantage of what we are involved in and where the children lead me we found ourselves setting up a simple bean growing activity today. Most would have this in the Spring, but we now have a jar with sprouting beans on the south facing windowsill.

How did this happen?

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A Canadian cold front means there might be a frost tonight, so my young helpers and I headed to the garden to gather some of the warmer weather fruit still growing. We harvested the bell peppers, remaining tomatoes, watermelons and dill.

The children asked about the beans and seeing many dried on the bean tower we gathered those too. We needed mashed potatoes for lunch, so I dug up one end of our potato row to see what we might find. Digging potatoes is fun with children as it’s always a surprise.

The children wanted to know what I’d be doing with the dried beans, so I asked if they wanted to help me shell them explaining that shelling meant we needed to open the dried bean pods and find the beans inside. I had 2 excited helpers.

shellingWe sat outside shelling, counting, finding beans that popped into the grass, and exploring the different textures. While shelling we found some beans that had started to sprout in the pod. Throw them into the compost basket or opportunity for additional learning?…..

Now we also had to put the good dried beans away for later use. Taking advantage of this opportunity – fine motor, volume, auditory/sounds, language, math……

Beans, Beans, Beans from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

We have beans on the windowsill that we’ll be following, so guess that answered the compost or additional learning question. 🙂

grow

 

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