Friday, January 28, 2011

Duck Mosaics and Fishing Poles!

We started Thursday with duck mosaics.  It was fun to glue on the tissue paper and watch the duck grow "feathers!"  We split up yellow and blue for our hiking exploration, all the while looking for the perfect place to find sticks and make fishing poles.  Yellow ended up going to a new stream created by the high water, out by the tall grass.  The kids really concentrated on finding the right fishing place and pretending to catch fish.  We "fished" for a long time in the grass before trying our luck in another of our favorite stream hideouts.  We had a mini-science lesson as well about salmon and salmon eggs and fingerlings and how they could be in the stream right now.

The blue group hiked up over the bridge and found a spot newly created by the park district.  The maintenance crew are in the process of making an outdoor classroom (of course, our TOP classroom is the entire forest and farm) complete with benches made out of fallen logs.  I'm sure our TOP kids will be enjoying this area soon!  Then the blue group found a fishing hole in an area the kids call the "slide".  There is a steep slope with only dirt on it that runs down to a bend in the stream.  There the kids like to sit and slide down the dirt/mud.  This is good clean fun!

During lunch we read some classed fish books:  Swimmy and The Rainbow Fish. If you don't have these books-they are great to take out of the library.

F was a very fun letter.  Next week we'll be talking about G.  You can talk about F and G words during the weekend-help us out and have the kids bring in ideas of what in nature begins with G!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

F is for fish, fox and frog!

Teacher Jen wasn't at TOP today because of a sick kid at home so a big THANK YOU to John's mom who helped out today.  And a THANK YOU to Delaney's mom, 2 weeks ago.  Since we don't have much back up help for TOP, we really appreciate those parents who can come and help out if one of us isn't able to be at school.  Please let us know if you would like to do this (I totally understand if you have kids at home, a time conflict or any other reason that makes it impossible to come to school.)  If you would like to come and help out someday-I will put you on a list and try to let everyone have a turn.  Just a caution though....Being a helper at TOP is often, dirty, wet, busy, a bit overwhelming and lots of fun!

This week we are talking about the letter F.  We began the day by coloring in a picture of a fish and tracing the letter F.  Some of the kids heard the story The Rainbow Fish.  We began today's excursion with a look at a large backhoe that was moving an old building near the barn.  We got the chance to talk to the workers a bit.  This was a big hit!  We then looked for the piglets, which are no longer at the farm (and wondered where they might have gone...)  We petted Daisy the cow and stayed away from the big billy goat, who smelled awful! 

On our hike we stomped on molehills, balanced on fallen logs, found a miniature waterfall, hunted for jewels, pretended to fish and ran down the paths with abandon.  Many kids stomped in the mud, splurting mud everywhere-and some people liked that very much and others not so much.  We practiced telling others, "I didn't like getting mud on me!"  And "Please, could I have a cup for my jewels." 

We ended the day singing "Happy Birthday" to John who turned 4 over the weekend.  He brought in a fun book about helicopters and fruit leather.  Yum!

Update on TOP:  We continue to work on listening to instructions from the teachers. Some of the big ones are when to run ahead and when to stop.  When and where to play with sticks and when to put them down.  How to treat found spiderwebs-(look closely at them, but don't destroy them so the spider has a way to catch their next meal).  How to not pick mushrooms so forest animals can eat them if they want. How to keep our voices down so the animals don't get scared.  How to ask a friend to play with you.

Everyone is working hard toward these goals as a class.  We see new friendships beginning every day and children taking new chances with climbing, exploring and talking.  It is a very exciting place to be as a teacher! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fun on the Run!

Today we continued with the letter D.  We read a funny book about ducks before hiking with our color groups.  As teachers we have found that we can explain the science in the woods more easily while we have our smaller groups.  The Yellow group spent a great deal of time watching the farm animals in the barn.  Two roosters were crowing back and forth and one of the piglets was snorting and grunting.  The goats were very friendly today also.  Perhaps they remember that we feed them sometimes!  Our group also hiked through a muddy field to a long trail through the woods. 

The Blue group began in the field of mud also and spent time crossing the streams and watching the water flow.  Then the two groups were able to meet up on the trail and have snack and a story by the big, downed tree.  (see photo)

We ended the day with lunch and watching Bubbles the Cat climb up the wall! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Climbing a tree, fishing in a stream and look for "D" words!

Today was the 3rd week of the new session.  Last week we began going through the alphabet-without the vowels.  Words that begin with vowels are difficult for children to pick out, so we are going through the alphabet, one week at a time, while leaving out the vowels. This week the letter is D.  We began the day drawing on a picture of a donkey.  Then we got to go out and see the donkey, Eeyore.  Eeyore was very accommodating-he hee hawed for us and came up and said hello to the kids. 

We began something else new this week.  We are going out in our separate color groups.  Yello with Teacher Ann and blue with Teacher Jen.  The groups each went their own way for part of the day and then we met up at the tire swings after the groups had either pretended to fish in the stream, make a campfire stomp in puddles, climb a moss covered tree or pretend to be deer and lions in the grass.  You can ask your child which activitiy they did!

We ended the day with lunch in our color groups and painting a picture of a duck (another D word!)  We will continue with D this week and then move on to F next week.

The kids often get hot while walking and playing so we are constantly taking off and putting back on layers, gloves, hats etc.  Please label your child's clothing as much as possible so we can determine who belongs to what.  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Water, water everywhere...

The theme today was water.  We began by singing our TOP song and talking about where water comes from.   After that we were on the hunt for frozen, running and falling water.  We found mud at one of our favorite climbing spaces and a bit of snow where the snowman had once stood. Both were made with some type of water.  Since the sun was shining we were able to go out and investigate the tall grasses and in there we found a stream that we had never seen before.  We talked about why there would be a stream this time of year.  (Lots of extra rain and snow) and then we followed along the stream, through the wet grasses, as far as we could.  We were careful not to throw anything into the stream to make it more shallow.

We also found ice crystals growing in the mud around the mole hills.  Some kids investigated what would happen if we put ice crystals in our hands.  (it melted)  After that we still had time to play on the tire swings and to look for jewels in the gravel.  Lunch came after and the reading of a book on penguins. 

We'll continue to learn about how penguins live in Antartica and what they do to survive.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Old snow, rushing streams and new friends!

We have another new student today.  That gives TOP three girls!  Yeah! Today we welcomed our new students and practiced names and the guidelines for staying safe.  Everyone did really well with remembering and following directions. 

We began with a hike to our new favorite spot at the meeting of 2 streams.  The children were very happy to put sticks and leaves into the stream and watch them flow downstream.  Some of the sticks got stuck and we discussed the reasons why it might do that.  Some flowed easily downstream and we discussed why that might have happened too. After climing on the branches and up into the tree trunk it was soon time for lunch.  During lunch Teacher Ann read a very funny book about a Dog, a boy and a frog.  The kids were laughing really hard about the frog jumping around.

We still had some time to go and dig in the woods with small shovels.  Some of the kids made a "chocolate cake" and some made just chocolate and some just dug into the dirt.  But everyone got good and muddy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A new TOP session and a new friend!

We started the year with snow on the ground and temperatures in the upper 20's.  But this didn't bother the TOP kids at all! We began by greeting our new TOP member, Jason.  Everyone was able to say their own name loudly and clearly as a welcome.   Then we went over to visit the "baby" pigs or piglets.  They are really big now! Everyone enjoyed seeing the rabbits, goats, chickens, turkeys and sheep as well.  The kids were a little worried about Daisy the cow because her water was frozen solid!  I'm sure that Farmer Pam will take care of that. 

Then we went on a hike to see if some of the puddles had frozen over.  We ended up playing on the giant fallen tree for the whole rest of the class!

Teacher Jen and I are both so impressed by how much the children have advanced since the beginning of the year.  Today the children were playing with their friends at school, many at imaginative play.  There was a group building a "fire" to roast marshmallows.  There was one child with a magic wand and many children asking each other if they could play together.  The children found that climbing on a fallen tree is challenging and fun!  Many scraped the snow off the tree and had it fall on those of us below creating "snow".  Some kids were using the log as a balance beam.  All the children were working on their large motor skills.

Studies have found that children who have good large motor skills (full body movements) are better able to learn and master fine motor skills (i.e. writing with a pencil.)  Another area that The Outdoor Preschool help your child to excel