~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

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

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.


* 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?

May 14, 2014
by countryfun

Travels with Charlie: MAINE Footprint Lobster #bookingusa

We so enjoyed being involved with Booking Across the USA (Trip 1) last year. It was fun to connect with others from across the other states. So many new books and fun activities to explore. So when Booking Across the USA Trip 2 was announced we jumped at the chance to participate again.  50 bloggers sharing activities related to their state with all ideas being inspired by a new series of books! What’s not to like about this?

We got our learning started with a new book: Travels with Charlie – Travelin’ the Northest by Miles Backer. Who says you have to start every book on the first page? Not me, so we started the reading with our own state of Maine and continued through the Northeast comparing these other states to ours. (Future Venn Diagram) This series and discussion opens up a way to develop an understanding of the USA in the preschoolers here.

My original idea was to combine reading this book with all the questions that have been raised as we prepare to head off to various schools for K next year. I figured we could start from the big picture – Earth, heading to USA, to Maine and then our homes in our towns. We are still doing that, but will be expanding into making personal books about Maine.

This simple activity takes coffee filters, markers (not sharpies), white art paper and water.


  1. Color, scribble is best, onto the coffee filter with the markers. We viewed the earth as seen from space on our iPads to figure out the colors and what those colors represented. – Our choices were: blue, green and brown. the empty spaces would give us white.
  2. Place filter in middle of the white art paper (we used drawing paper, construction paper and copy paper all worked fine), start spraying with water. Really get the coffee filter wet. You will see the colors start to blend and parts of the filter will lift (do not push down). Leave everything in place until it dries.
  3. Once dry lift up filter, reposition on the paper and spray well again. Let dry. This can be done multiple times, but we only needed these 2 color areas.
  4. Using a clear circle shape place where you like the Earth image, trace around. Cut out saving remaining paper for the USA outline to come.

We have completed the earth and background for the USA outline, but the discussions have shifted our focus just now. The children want to know more about Maine.


In answer to their interest I headed to the library in search of books about Maine. Little did I expect to have such a large and varied collection of titles to explore and chose from.

Needless to say the idea I had for the initial project has also evolved and will not be completed in time for the link up today (the 14th). I will definitely link up once done or you can check back here or on one of the other social media connections I use.

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Allowing the children to direct what books we explored next, they chose the Moose stories. DSC04510 (Never imagined I’d find a use for the jar of dried moose droppings we have sitting on a book shelf. It was fun to show the children, discussing size, shape and how we could see the fibers from the plants that moose eat.) However, it’s been the books about lobsters (Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar, open below) and islands that have engaged the children the most.  DSC04517 islands

I pulled together materials for a simple and fun activity I’ve done in the past – a footprint lobster.

PS- Live lobsters are brown. They turn red once cooked. The children chose to do red, not brown. That is the color used most in advertising here, so they think of lobsters as being red.


  1. copy paper (we’ll be cutting out), thin red paint and wipes
  2. paint bottom of one foot
  3. place carefully on one short edge of paper, pressing down firm. (Watch out that the toes are to the edge.)
  4. wipe foot clean
  5. paint palms of both hands
  6. position hands over heel area, finger together, thumb out, place and press down
  7. wash hands
  8. let dry
  9. cut out lobster


Chose background paper (we used 9″x12″ blues from the textured paper stash). Have book open to the page with clear example of the lobster’s body.

  1. lobstercut out rock shapes (more textured paper)
  2. glue down rocks then place and glue down lobster
  3. color arm section where claw attaches to body
  4. glue on eyes and antennas (cut into 2 pieces, does not stayed glued as well when folded)
  5. add 8 legs (“L” shape)
  6. lines for tail section
  7. label body parts


These will be added as a page to our Maine books.


November 18, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Finishing Up with Pumpkins

Finishing Up with Pumpkins

We have finally finished up our lessons with pumpkins. Over the years I have found that pumpkins are great for learning about a plant’s life cycle and plant parts. There are so many uses for pumpkin and lessons can go in many directions. It all depends on interest and taking hold of opportunities.

This year there has been a lot of prior discussions on recycling, composting, and rotting. Now I know what a wonderful mess a Jack-O-Lantern turns into, but most children do not see theirs once Halloween is done. Our garden pumpkins were not great this year, but definitely good enough to do a bit of exploring with.

To top our lessons off I found this new book while on my lesson search. It was a perfect fit with it’s wonderful real photos and scientific information. For me this book was a non-fiction find, even though it’s story is told in 15 voices. These voices added to our discussions and knowledge gained.

Here’s the cover of this new book. Can you see why I knew it would catch the children’s attention from the start?


November 6, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Exploring Pumpkins Online

Exploring Pumpkins Online

As part of our exploration of the pumpkin it was important to understand it’s life cycle. I have the paper sequence cards, the color sheets, etc., but I really like using youtube resources to support this type of lesson. The children are engaged observing, listening and questioning. They see all the stages in a short time period and can relate these to what was observed from our backyard garden.

Our first video is about the life cycle and shown for open discussion within the group. This one was chosen because it wasn’t about “Jack-o-lanterns”, but just the pumpkin.

The next video again shows the life cycle. There is a song accompanying the slides which involves the children in a totally different manner. We use a lot of singing to reinforce what we are learning. Music and children just go together.

By using these different videos, exploration of real pumpkins, books and paper activities we have a pretty solid understanding of a living items life cycle and needs for growth.

June 21, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on An Obstacle Course = Learning

An Obstacle Course = Learning

So much learning occurs while children play.

They may not realize it, parents may not realize it, but I find myself always checking off in my head what learning I see happening. Maybe this is because I totally believe that play equals learning.

The obstacle course today was a great example of this. The videos here only shows a small part, but I hope you get a view of what I mean.

During this play I observed communication, listening, personal/social development (self control, self concept, self competence), problem solving, initiative, persistence, reflection scientific process, creativity, motor skills.

Science with ring toss, frisbee throw, balance, body movement, figuring out speed vs points.

Technology was with the usage of their personal iPods for timing and music. Mine was the iPad for photos/video.

Engineering was how they set up the course to take advantage of the space and equipment available. Building a tower of cardboard boxes as high as could.

Math really came into the activity for the older children with the timing and point tallies for each run. These were then averaged out to see how each did. Following multiple runs the numbers were compared.

May 20, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Sunny Means Lessons Change

Sunny Means Lessons Change

Last week was one of those Springtime weeks made up of really nice, sunny days. That means we were outside pretty much all day every day. That means no projects, which is ok, because around here learning occurs from whatever we are doing. I had planned on doing lessons on self and senses. They got shelved and it became all about Dandelions and Bugs.

dandelions The fields around us are loaded with dandelions which means lots of bouquets to go home at night. These sunny yellow flowers are a child magnet. A good chance to talk about sharing with someone you love, best ways to pick, length of stems, color, plant parts, life cycle of the dandelion.

and grub Grubs are easy to find in the newly weeded or turned gardens around here. The white grub is the larval form of the Japanese beetle.  A good time to learn how some insects and bugs are not of benefit and ok to smoosh. Another life cycle to learn about.

and June Bug This large beetle lets one get a closer look at the parts of a bug. We know these as the May or June Bug. It is a large (about 1″ long), slower moving bettle that we could see the hair on the legs, antenna and mouth parts. Yes, we smushed this one also, as they eat foliage and the grub larve eat roots of plants. Not good.

Checked into the sprouting garden. peas up 2013 DSC03107

and managed to get lots of pretend play in around camping. campfire DSC03108

May 1, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Passing on My Love for Worms

Passing on My Love for Worms

Yes, I said “Love” about worms. Some of this gardener’s best friends.

Worms – Our Underground Gardeners

As I told the kids I think worms are incredible, wonderful and very important to the health of our planet.

Do they feel slimy if picked up? Of course, but slime does not equal dirty. Our skin would feel slimy too if it was always moist, so we could breathe, or had to always be moving through tunnels of dirt.

If an earthworm dries out it will die.

Worms are the underground gardeners. They are the ones who work and tender the roots and soil that all our living plants grow in. Worms help aerate our soils. They mix it up through their eating and tunneling. They supply a very rich fertilizer.

Worms have no ears, eyes or nose, only a mouth. They tunnel by digging with their mouths. Thus they really dig and eat at the same time.

What does our body do with the extra waste from our foods? Well worms do the same. Unlike us however, their poop is wonderful fertilizer.

My favorite place to find worms is in my large composting piles. Worms mean the composting is healthy and working. Now it’s hard to find worms during the day, unless you dig one up. That’s because worms come above ground mostly at night. remember they do not want to dry out.

Speaking of Composting….

We followed up our reading of Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser with a visit to the garden’s composting bins. 2 bins got totally turned and screened this weekend in time to start loading up again with dry, raked material. This will be mixed with our fruit and vegetable scraps and peelings. I left one bin so the children could see how the screening works and also see the different layers. There was also an almost full wheel barrel of compost waiting for use that we could inspect and explore. 

It was fun to pick out very small pieces of peanut shells, eggshells, leaves, etc. 

The compost on top was warm and dry, but as we worked our hands into it it became cooler and damp. The children all seemed to enjoy the feel of the material. Very light/airy. 

Worm Poop!

The last part of this was showing the children what worm poop (“castings” for those that want a more refined label) looks like. Luckily I have a nice flower garden area where there is a lot of worm activity.

That means piles of poop.

That means lots of laughing kids.



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