Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bikes in Kindergarten

Under the leadership of the room mothers the class made a book about their favorite things about kindergarten. It's a fantastic book and it will be up for bid at the silent auction on Pasta Night coming this Saturday.

We'll make a chart tomorrow to see the results, but a first look at this book left me with a strong impression that bicycles are a favorite part of the week for our kindergarten students. Many mentioned bikes as being their favorite thing about kindergarten.

I think it is unusual for a kindergarten class to have as many two-wheelers as we do here. Sometimes people will ask me how it is that I got so many bicycles. When I arrived here in 1981 kindergarten had no bicycles nor tricycles. It took me a couple of years to get the first trikes for kindergarten. Ten years later when my daughter outgrew her first bicycle, (a red Giant Animator) I brought it to kindergarten. You should have seen the eyebrows go up! "Bicycles are too dangerous!" I was told, but with the promise to review their use after several broken bones, I got to keep it.

Since that time, 1995 or so, there have been a number of bones broken, but none of them have involved bicycles. In almost twenty years of five and six year olds riding bikes we haven't had any serious injuries—nothing more than just the same sort of scrapes and bumps that kids get from falling while running across the playground.

After that first bike I decided we needed more so I set aside $75 of my own money and bought three similar bikes at thrift stores. Those original four bicycles were the seed for donations from families outgrowing bicycles. Bikes have come in steadily since that time.

Today William Z's family donated a fine new bicycle to add to the fleet of smaller bikes for riders who are just starting out. Thank you, William & family.

Because of the popularity of bicycles, I contributed a framed original drawing (at the top of this post) of my playground bike for the silent auction at the pasta night event coming up the day after tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday February 27, 2013

Ten years ago Mr. Rogers died.

He was definitely an influence on me and I miss him. His optimism was open-eyed and open-hearted. He certainly knew the darker sides of life and he talked about them to his "television neighbors" with honesty and respect for their young and developing hearts and minds.

Here's one of many Youtube tributes to one of the greatest figures of children's television.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ryder Rides/Sonoma Wildlife Rescue/Swingsets

I keep telling the class "I need a bigger bucket! You guys are filling it up and up and up."

And it's true. Everywhere I turn I see something that fills my bucket with happiness. In these two days I've been delighted by so many things: singing practice for the Pasta Night,  Zoobs patterns of surprising complexity, kids showing me good mastery of the color, number, and calendar sight words, the entire class listening attentively to a presentation by Sonoma Wildlife Rescue, William Z. and Ryder learning to ride a two wheeler for the first time, Mary and Mariana learning how to pump a swing. That's to mention just a few.

Here's what got in the camera:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Music in Education

I'm reading a book by Ralph Shaw called the Ukulele Entertainer. It's a good read.

Here's a quote from it that I thought readers of Mr. Kindergarten might enjoy reading:

Music has been shown over and over again to be the most beneficial thing for a child to learn. Forget math, languages, sport and science. If you really want to develop your child's brain, you need to get them hooked on music. The understanding and presentation of the musical art helps to develop the brain/body connection in ways that no other school subject can.

There is the mathematical understanding of the musical rules as they pertain to melody, harmony, and rhythm. Learning to superimpose on this the artistic nuances of dynamics and feeling adds a multi-dimensional aspect to the skill.

At the same time that all of this mental work is going on, the body is performing astounding feats of both grace and skill. Fingers, arms and even feet move independently of one another to make the necessary sounds. Playing music is a full mind/body workout leading to tremendous and satisfying rewards which, if not financial, may be spiritual or personal in nature.

Musical people generally live longer, are less stressed and live healthier lives. I can also personally attest that musicians as a whole generally tend to be kind, warm, intelligent and inclusive people.

I agree with Ralph here and I guess you can tell when you visit here that music is something that weaves its way into each and every day here in school.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bring Me Sunshine

The news got you down?

If you don't like what is on the news, turn it off, pick up your ukulele, and paint the town.

That's my whole philosophy right there.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mr. Gurney's Famous Play Dough Recipe

I’ve been asked to share my play dough recipe. 

I’ve tried a bunch of different recipes from the internet and this recipe is the result of my experimentation with those. I’ve tweaked this recipe to make it cheaper and last longer. It’s good enough that I don’t feel any need to develop it further.

Play Dough Recipe:

You'll need:

  • 1 cup white flour. Get the cheapest flour available—no one will eat this, hopefully.
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoon cream of tartar* Find it in the spice section.
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • food coloring—add last, just before stirring
  • for the nose: cinnamon or other aromatic—add while kneading

How to mix the ingredients:

Mix all ingredients in a cooking pan except the aromatic. Stir over medium heat until smooth. This will take a couple of minutes or so. It doesn't need to get too warm—just so it's a pleasant, soothing temperature for kneading.

Remove from pan. Coat your hands in cooking oil to prevent dough from sticking to your skin. Knead until smooth. This is good therapy. We all knead good therapy. Get your kids involved. They knead it, too.

Add cinnamon or other aromatic while kneading. I usually use to cinnamon because it is familiar, cheap, and, well, I just like cinnamon. If you’re feeling frisky, try others very finely ground smelly powders: coffee, finely ground cloves, allspice all come to mind as worth trying. I've also used aromatic oils. 

Store in airtight plastic container and it will last a long time.

*Cream of tartar is a fine white powder found in the spice section of your supermarket. It’s expensive. Cream of tartar, more technically known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, is a fine white powder with many culinary applications. It is a byproduct of the winemaking process as the powder forms inside wine barrels during fermentation. It comes from tartaric acid, a naturally occurring substance in grapes and some other tart fruits that in the principle acid in winemaking. It helps to help control the pH of fermenting grape juice (wine) and that also acts as a preservative for the wine.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tree Notebook/Family Math

In the science center, students have started a notebook about trees.
Here's a page from several of them:

In the domestic play area, I asked one of the girls to tell me about the family they were pretending to be.

"Well, I'm the mother, she's my oldest daughter who is 11 and she's her younger sister who is 9 years old."

"How old is the baby?" I asked.

"She is nine months old." I was told.

"Ah, a family of all girls. And you? How old are you, mother?"

"I am 23." she said with confidence.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rainy morning weather greeted us as we returned from the 4-day weekend. I hope you all had a good time away from school.

The day began with using rods to make little constructions at the tables. It's a familiar activity at this point in the year and not too interactive. This allows everyone to readjust to being together in a low-key, low-stress, and low-demand way. Better than the tears that can come from other approaches.

William made this tower which I found worthy of a photo.

At centers Curtis made a great little man, but for some reason my camera could not take a good photograph of it. Every picture I took was blurry. But it was a good likeness of a human figure. He also made this well-fed snake.

Madilynn's mom was over at the gack center. I was not aware that the stuff resembles chewing gum in its ability to be inflated. Here's Jennifer adding a few final breaths before it burst. Pretty impressive bubble.

Over the weekend Mary was up in Cloverdale at the Citrus Fair. She raises Cavies (known to the rest of the world as Guinea Pigs) and shows them. Here is a ribbon she won last weekend for her efforts.

Yeah, Mary!

See you all tomorrow.

Be well.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

We enjoyed a nice day of Valentine's celebrations. Our fifth grade buddies came over after centers to help us decorate our Valentine's Day bags and then make Valentine's cards for our buddies. It was the only time I got the camera out and I managed to take four pictures.

After recess we had our weekly drama lesson with our drama specialist, Dana Davis. We went through our first actual rehearsal (with the fifth grade narrators) for the show at the Pasta Feed. We'll be ready by March 2. We squeezed snack in after drama.

By the end of the day, it was time for the Valentine's card delivery. This fine spring-like weather permitted us to use the outdoors, so it went smoothly enough. I was helped, too, by the fact that Rachael Zell volunteered to stay all day to assist, and the extra adult supervision and moral support made it all the nicer for everyone.

In spite of the green shirt I wore today, the kindergarten class did not get out to ride bicycles this morning. Luckily we were able to ride yesterday. Still, I promised to try to make up our lost bike time next week on Thursday. I'm sure they'll remind me.

We have four days off. I hope you all enjoy the mid-February mini vacation. See you Tuesday.

Be well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Volume Play

While exploring volume by pouring colored water into our clear plastic forms Aidan discovered today that the forms could be used together in interesting ways.

He inserted a pyramid into a cube full of colored water. When he aligned the base of the pyramid with the open side of the cube he could turn the whole thing upside down and surprise! the water trapped between the pyramid and the cube does not run out.

You would think gravity would quickly pull the water down and out to the floor. It is very counterintuitive that it stays inside.

The pyramid can be lifted easily out of the cube when it is turned over.

A similar effect can be done with a cone and a cylinder, as Robert shows here.

And, oh. It's fun, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pajama Day Tomorrow/Green Bacon


Tomorrow is Spirit Day for February. This month, show school spirit by wearing pajamas to school. Two things to note:

1. Your child may bring a stuffed animal and/or a blanket as long as it all can fit inside their cubby.
2. Remember to bring safe, sturdy playground shoes. We'll probably ride bikes & will definitely go outdoors on the playground to play.

It was Ryder's day for story today and he brought as his read-aloud an old favorite by Dr. Seuss–Green Eggs and Ham. As I mentioned yesterday, my center involves making bacon. So today when Grace came over from the play dough center I was delighted to see what she had come up with: green bacon.

It looked pretty good, too.

Sam-I-am would approve.

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Centers for February/About Valentines

We started some new centers today:

I was makin' bacon with the kids at Table 1. I love cooking in kindergarten and am savoring this opportunity before going back into "assessment mode" later this month as we approach the end of the winter trimester.

Photo courtesy of Janelle Petersen

Rachael Zell brought in a science center making a lava lamp. She'll stay throughout this round of centers to lead this center.

Photo courtesy of Janelle Petersen

We also had a center where the students explore solid geometrical shapes. We have them made in transparent plastic, the better to see them fill. Here, students fill them with colored water.
Photo courtesy of Janelle Petersen

Table 4 got to concoct "Gack" a modeling compound similar to play dough, but different. They used white glue and borax.
Photo courtesy of Janelle Petersen

By mid morning it was so warm some of the students wanted to wash the bikes. I supplied buckets, sponges, soapy water, and towels and they went to work.


A note about Valentines:

We will exchange Valentine's Day greetings on Thursday. Please have your child write his or her name on the backs of the card, but do not address the cards to anyone specifically. This makes delivering them much easier for us. Thanks.