Each season in New England, where I live, brings a different type of outdoor play. Fall brings the crisp, cool days good for hiking and biking and playing in fallen leaves. Winter is full of building snow people and snow caves, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and ice fishing, sledding, and hiking. Spring takes us outdoors to enjoy sunning and fishing, kayaking in full rushing rivers, canoeing on lakes in newly melted waters, and playing in mud! Summer lets us rest by the lakeside, take trips to the ocean, bike, hike, and picnic.
When we can’t “go somewhere”, the city streets may look boring to some kids, but in my city neighborhood I see groups of kids that really love playing outside! Some have unicycles that keep them happy going up and down the sidewalk. They’ve gotten really good at it! They also have a permanent hopscotch pattern made on the street. A boy and his friends roll a basketball hoop onto the street and dunk baskets for hours. Smaller children seem to enjoy endless hours of tossing a ball back and forth.
As this beautiful spring season brought the kids outside, I got to thinking about all the wonderful street games there are to play. At our library we have a terrific book, Go Out and Play!: Favorite Outdoor Games From Kaboom. It is published by Candlewick Press. I recently discovered Kaboom which is an organization dedicated to getting kids to play! Check it out! Here’s a terrific list of games to play: Streetplay.com: The Games
Getting outside doesn’t mean you have to be active either. Just being outside can bring its rewards. Watching the spring flowers grow in my garden has been a wonderful activity for me lately. The Oak Meadow science curriculum has many assignments that lead students outside for observation and study of the natural world. One 6th grade student just sent me her leaf prints in the study of leaf venations. She wrote that she had so much fun looking at the different types of leaves she found, and also observing how they grew on the stems before picking them. Another student, in the study of Helen Keller in 7th grade social studies, spent a day outside blindfolded with noise canceling headphones on to simulate being blind and deaf. His reflections on the experience were amazing to read.
So, get on your sneakers, get a bike, a ball, or a nature journal, and head outside! I hope you all have a chance to play today!
This week, May 6 through May 12, is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I would like to show my deepest gratitude for the very important role all of you are performing. Whether you are the main home teacher, a co-teacher, or a provisional teacher, you need to be acknowledged, honored and thanked. You are sharing an amazing gift with your children/students!
Parenting and teaching children may be two of the hardest jobs ever experienced. It’s not always easy to share knowledge with enthusiasm. It’s not always easy to provide guidance with inspiration. It can be difficult to promote self-confidence when we may not be feeling completely confident in ourselves. It can truly be challenging to instill the love of learning and to offer wisdom while helping to prepare children for living to their fullest potential.
Journeys are never completely easy. We will be challenged with hard times and frustrating moments. However, amid the challenges, we will also experience those shining moments of complete joy and satisfaction. If we approach our teaching skills by developing a quality relationship with our students, then we will be approaching our teaching as a positive, transformative journey for all who are involved.
Not only do we need to honor our role as teachers, we also need to honor our children, for children can be our greatest teachers. They allow us the opportunity for personal growth. Children help us to remember our dutiful role in continuously providing the best and offering the most we can in every learning moment. We need to find that crucial balance between a loving heart and a determined mind. Being the best teacher is not the goal, because we are all humanly imperfect and incapable of such a title. However, if we strive to do the best we can, then we are being the best teacher possible in that moment. This striving is a strong testimony to the Oak Meadow’s educational philosophy of the process vs. the goal.
In all my years of teaching and guiding students, I have discovered that the most important lessons we can instill in our children is the joy of learning, the balance of life, and to never give up just because it’s hard.
I was recently reading through Oak Meadow’s guidebook, The Heart of Learning, written by Oak Meadow’s founder, Lawrence Williams. It offers such amazing insight, inspiration and guidance. If you haven’t read it lately, I highly recommend perusing it. If you don’t own a copy of the revised and updated 40th Anniversary edition, it is available through the Oak Meadow Bookstore.
The “green things growing” whisper me
Of many an earth-old mystery.
–Eben Eugene Rexford
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on or near April 22nd. This special day was created and first celebrated forty-eight years ago in 1970. It was founded by Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson, who strongly believed in the need to support environmental protection and to provide environmental awareness.
2) Up-cycle trash into an eco-friendly craft by creating a craft from recycled material.
3) Take a family hike or bike ride.
4) Build a bird feeder and feed the birds.
5) Open your windows to the fresh spring air and listen to the sounds of nature.
6) Get outside, pick up trash, go on a scavenger hike, or plant some flowers.
7) Cook with local produce and grow your own vegetable garden.
8) Conduct a science experiment that teaches about the greenhouse effect.
Celebrating Earth Day is a beautiful way to demonstrate your love for the planet. Remember to make every day Earth Day, and teach your children the values in recycling, reusing, and reducing. Practicing the three R’s of the environment helps to restore and replenish this beautiful world in which we live. No matter what the ages of your children might be, loving and protecting the planet is one of the most important lessons we can teach to them. Oak Meadow offers nature-inspired art and craft projects in the book, Oak Meadow Crafts for the Early Grades, such as the “Leaf Print Tiles”.
I’d like to leave you with a story that offers inspiration to me. It is called “Being Green“. This is a lesson in conservation that we all need.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
She was right — our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.
So they really were recycled.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.
But too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
These looms are the perfect way to connect nature and art, and a lovely nature craft to celebrate Earth Day! Earth Day is a day that was created to promote awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment and occurs each year on the 22nd of April. It is the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide! Earth day was established by Gaylord Nelson in 1970 (we’ll be posting more about it on Sunday!).
“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.” Gaylord Nelson
-Sticks for loom base
-String, yarn, twine, rope, cable, fiber, anything you can use as a cord. We used kite string.
-Nature hunt items- flowers, twigs, grasses, bamboo, stems, leaves etc.
1.) Make your loom.
I had my boys go out and hunt for sticks. Once we had a good pile of sticks, I showed them how lash them together. I had them twist and turn our kite string around and around two sticks to make them perpendicular. My children are a little younger so I explained that we would be making the letter L with the sticks. This was much easier for my 7 year old, it was a bit frustrating for my younger son so I made one for him while he was happily playing around us while we made our L shapes.
Once we had two L shapes I told my son we were going to connect them to make a square shape. He connected the two L’s and made a square. You can make your loom any shape you prefer, any shape works!! We ended up making another one with a curved stick we found. We tied on in the middle, my son held it up while I wrapped and wrapped string around until we thought it was perfect. (see pictures)
Once you have your shape, tie a piece of string to one of the corners. Make sure to give yourself enough string to make plenty of loops for your loom. You will then wrap around and around the square to get your loom ready for weaving. (A tip to keep the string from sliding is to wrap it around the stick twice before moving on to the next line. We didn’t do this and our strings were not anchored and would slide around, but still worked great!) When you are happy with how it looks tie it off onto one of the sticks to anchor. I let my son do this independently so it is not perfectly straight or very taut but it doesn’t have to be, as long as you have a way to weave in and out it will work. I love how his turned out and he was so proud of it. I was worried it wasn’t going to be taut enough for the treasures to stay put but it all worked out. I was there to lend a hand if he needed it. I did have to help a bit with tying them off and holding the base while he wrapped but he did great!
Your loom is ready for the next step!
Nature hunt!! Go outside and play, collecting treasures as you go. We collected bamboo, big leaves, little leaves, flowers, twigs, grasses, shells, feathers, rocks anything that caught their eyes. While we were nature hunting we also picked up trash. It still amazes me that people litter?? I just don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. We make it a point to pick up trash every time we go to a park and I encourage you to do the same. It only takes a couple minutes and you leave the environment better off than when you arrived, it feels good. Just make sure to wash those hands when you are done!
Once you have your items start weaving them throughout your loom. The results are wonderful. We made a couple looms and once I was done taking pictures I hung them outside so that we can continue to weave in treasures as we find them.
I have seen these looms a couple of times and always was a little intimidated by them but don’t be. We made the looms one day and did our nature hunt the next day. My sons couldn’t wait to put in their treasures!
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into spring and many of us are looking forward to growing vegetables in our own summer gardens. In my state we have a Cooperative Extension Service that provides lots of information and offers activities about farming in my area. With snow still on the ground, I’m dreaming of planting my garden. Since I’m in the city, I’m planning to start small this year with a few tomato plants in big pots, and some spinach and onions in a small bed. I look forward to my tiny harvest of spaghetti sauce!
We know that human activity does pollute the environment and that it can cause climate changes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one way of helping to limit climate change. We also now know that driving a car is a major cause of climate change as the car emissions release carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. One way greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced is by growing one’s own food so that driving to market doesn’t happen so often. So, planting seeds is a great start to reducing the pollution of our planet!
Wishful thinking doesn’t make my garden grow, so first I have to buy some seeds and soil. Since my growing season is so short, I have to start my plants indoors. Many of you using the Oak Meadow science curriculum are planting seeds, recording their growth, and also exploring and reporting on different types of soils. This website from the Smithsonian National Museum of History is awesome: Dig It! The Secrets of Soil. I compost vegetable and fruit matter so I have some good soil to start with. I’ll also purchase some organic soil from a local landscape supplier to mix in. You may have studied the plant kingdom in the Oak Meadow 6th grade science curriculum and learned the difference between gymnosperms and angiosperms. I’ll be planting some angiosperms! My south facing windows will be a perfect place for starting my plants.
This student found a good spot outside to start the seeds!
If you are planting your own garden, and when you have a break from your farming, here’s a fun game to play to maintain a sustainable farm that grows healthy crops and reduces emissions! You might also enjoy reading Thor Hanson’s book The Triumph of Seeds. Visit his website to learn more about this.
What are you planting? What are some ways that you help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your community?
I woke UP this morning, and after getting UP, watching the sun come UP and drinking UP my cUP of tea, I began thinking UP words. UP on top of my list was the word, UP. “What’s UP with UP?” I asked myself. If you look UP the word, UP, in the dictionary, you will discover that its origins come from Old English and its first known use was before the 12th century. It can be identified as a noun, a verb, an adverb, an adjective or a preposition; and as you can tell from reading this blogpost, it can also be used as an idiomatic expression.
There are so many ways to use the word, UP, in your vernacular. Here is a fun blogsite that brings us UP to date with all the ways we can use the word, UP. Now it’s your turn to come UP with your own playful word. It’s totally UP to you, but what I know is that this two-letter word has brightened UP my day! So start UP your day by smiling UP to your ears. Look UP and read UP on your favorite word of the day. Then load UP The 5th Dimension song, “UP, UP and Away“, pull UP a chair and write a poem with your UPstanding children using the UP word family – or – you might even come UP with the idea of playing a word-building board game such as “Scrabble” or “UPwords”!
Words can be FUN and weird, especially in the English language! The Oak Meadow coursework offers a variety of ways to have fun with words. There are also many books to share with growing readers, such as My Fun With Words – 2 Volumes: A-K & L-Z , written by James Artel and illustrated by Geoffrey Brittingham. “The Book of Pooh – Fun with Words” is a sweet movie about words with all our favorite A. A. Milne characters. There are also enjoyable games and word exercises to strengthen your children’s reading and writing skills, such as the 10 Word Games for Kids.
So, thumbs UP for the words that keep us UP on top of the world!
Who else is ready for Spring?!? We have some fresh blooms and it is so exciting, beautiful, and awakening! It inspired us to make a flower craft. A great Easter gift, Spring craft or even a Mother’s day card!
“Came the Spring with all its splendor, All its birds and all its blossoms, All its flowers, and leaves, and grasses.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Cardboard egg carton
Paint – we used washable tempera paint
Background paper – we used a previous art project that was done on watercolor paper. It’s best to use a thicker paper will hold weight better
Construction paper – for stems and vase
1. I cut the egg carton before giving them to my children because its kind of tricky and I have smaller kiddos. Great hand work for older kids, even for me!! Cut off the round part of the egg carton so you just end up with the oval/bowl portion. I cut mine off and then cleaned them up after I had them separated from the whole.
2. Paint your egg carton bowls to your hearts desire. We had fun mixing red, pink, and purple with peach and then added two yellow flowers for a pop of color. This part gets a little messy for the smaller children so we did it outside but a drop cloth would also work!
3. Construction paper for stems and vase. You could even have them design their vase to their liking. We left ours blank because of the busy background. Another option would be to use another previous art project. I have a pile of art that I love to pull from. Of course I didn’t think of that until too late but in hindsight I would have used an old project for the vase! We may have to make another one…
4. Background- we used a previous project for our background. I’m always looking for ways to use previous art because I have a ton of it! This particular background was on watercolor paper and worked perfectly because you need a heavier weighted paper. I didn’t try but I’m sure a good cardstock would work as well. If you don’t have any previous projects to use this would be a fun activity in itself! Design a background for your flower vase.
Bluebell Field in England (photo used under Creative Commons license)
Happy March Equinox Everyone!
Humankind’s imagination is as vast as the solar system we live in! Out of our imagination comes tools for working, farming, and building. If we let our imaginations soar we become inventors. In fact, inventive thinking and problem solving is something we do everyday. We see a problem and come up with a solution. In the Oak Meadow 5th grade science curriculum, students study technology and design and work on their own inventions. It’s so much fun to see what they imagine and bring into the world! They construct things that help with a job around the house, create toys for pets, and design many other practical and useful items. Humankind just seems to long for answers to questions!
Long ago astronomers sought answers to the many questions about the universe. When an answer wasn’t in sight, they imagined and created stories or guidelines for their lives. They imagined stories about the stars they saw in the night sky, imagined the sun went to sleep each night, and imagined the world was flat. In future years we have come to understand more about the universe through observation. In observing the rising and setting of the sun, astronomers imagined a great dome over the Earth’s sky and called it the celestial sphere. They imagined the celestial equator as being in the middle of the north and south poles and right above the Earth’s equator.
During the March equinox, when we have twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness, “the sun crosses the celestial equator, to enter the sky’s Northern Hemisphere. No matter where you are on Earth (except the North and South Poles), you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth. And that’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west, for all of us, at the equinox. The equinox sun is on the celestial equator. No matter where you are on Earth, the celestial equator crosses your horizon at due east or due west.”
St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time – a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.– Adrienne Cook
Every year, on March 17th, people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day don their greenest garb, search for four-leaf clovers, eat corn beef and cabbage, dance the Irish jig, march in parades, and search for the leprechaun and his pot of gold. There are many famous Irish sayings and blessings that come to mind. One of my favorites Irish blessings is: “May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.”
Whether you are Irish or not, it can be a joyful occasion for both young and old. As a child, my favorite part of this celebration was wearing a bit of green (so I wouldn’t get pinched). I also delighted in imagining how a leprechaun might appear, as well as hearing the legend of this mythical creature.
Since St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, there is the expectation of extra revelry. One of the oldest worldwide celebrations is a parade. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States was held in New York City in 1762, which was before the Revolutionary War and prior to its independence. If you’d like to join one in your area, here is a list for every state and throughout the world.
If you prefer to enjoy a quieter celebration, perhaps your family would like to host a gathering that includes educational games and fun-filled activities. You could have a treasure hunt to search for a “pot of gold”. Instead of playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, you could have a geography lesson by pinning the country of Ireland onto a map of Europe.
Playing group games can be a lot of fun, too. Here are the rules for “Leprechaun, Leprechaun! Where’s Your Shamrock?”
One child is the leprechaun, who sits in the middle of the circle with eyes closed.
One of the children in the circle hides the shamrock behind his/her back. It’s suggested to have an adult distribute the shamrock so everyone gets a turn.
Circle children say: “Leprechaun, Leprechaun! Where’s your shamrock? Somebody has it in their pocket! Guess who? Maybe you? Maybe a monkey from the zoo! Come on, Leprechaun, find your shamrock.”.
Leprechaun opens eyes and has 3 guesses as to who has the shamrock.
Child with the shamrock becomes the next leprechaun.
A St. Patrick’s Day gathering could also include a healthy green treat, such as a Mint Patty Shake that will delight the palette of all your guests. Here is a simple recipe:
1⁄2 cup refrigerated coconut milk
1 pint mint chip ice cream
2 cups packed baby kale
In a blender, combine coconut milk, ice cream, and kale. Cover and blend until smooth. (Makes 2 – 8 oz. servings)
While you are sipping on your green beverage, you could share some St. Patrick Day jokes and riddles:
Q: Where can leprechauns always find gold on St. Patty’s Day? A: In the dictionary!
Q: Why are leprechauns so concerned about global warming? A: They’re really into green living.
At the end of the festive day, you might enjoy reading some special books about St. Patrick’s Day. The site, Fireflies + Mud Pies, has an excellent source of books that will be a delight to story readers and listeners, alike.
I’ve just walked down to the path by the river and through the woods near my house, which I haven’t walked since before the winter hit. It’s sunny today, and another snow storm is coming tomorrow. This is what late winter is famous for in New England – the drastic flip-flops back and forth between warm sun, more snowfall, more sun. But I love that about New England. I love that we have no control over nature’s actions, that we must work with what we’ve got. I love how, in late winter, we can’t tell yet what the outcome will be. Everything feels in-between.
In New England, we call this time of year mud season (right around sugaring season!). I love mud season for all it represents–an uncovering, a messy digging, mucking through confusion and uncertainty. I love uncertainty because I love writing, and writing is about mucking through questions. It’s about walking the same old familiar path until you come to a clearing you don’t recognize, even though you’ve been there before. You suddenly feel lost, though you are standing still. You wonder how you got here. You wonder if you will ever find your way back.
Maybe it’s mud season that’s made me notice my students’ questions more lately–both the questions they ask over email, and the questions they include in their essays. Often over email, they will ask me direct questions that seek one clear, direct answer. But one correct answer is not typically what I send back. When the question relates to how they should approach a writing assignment, I can’t give them one correct answer because there is not one correct answer. I am looking for their own curiosities, their own questions, their own uncertainties. As a culture, we’re so uncomfortable with uncertainty that it has filtered into the way we teach writing–we’ve come to see essays as a space for demonstrating expert knowledge, instead of a place to write through one’s questions in order to discover truth.
When I walk in the woods in New England in late winter, I think about the essays of Thoreau, and Emerson, and Diderot, and Rousseau. Their essays straddle autobiography, educational philosophy, and reflections on nature. They are firm in their opinions and beliefs, and express them strongly, but through writing and walking, and walking through writing, and writing through walking, they often found themselves on the next page believing the opposite of what they’d said before–expressing some new opinion they never imagined they would express.
This is what I hope my writing classes can be for students–a late winter walk in New England, through snow and mud and sun, crunching through dried leaves and brittle twigs beside a frozen, yet melting, river. That in-between space. And so, it is this landscape that I try to conjure when my students ask me questions. Instead of telling them the one right way to write their essay, I try to conjure up the landscape that will help them come to find and see it on their own. Often, I don’t hear back from students after I have sent them my response. I wonder how they’re doing. Then, a few days letter, I receive their essay in my inbox. I open it and begin reading. In the essay, I see them walking, perhaps hesitantly at first, then more steadily, as their feet press into the leaves on the ground. A paragraph begins, and I see them standing in a familiar clearing, speaking to me. After a while, I see that we are somewhere new, somewhere I haven’t been before.