"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Preschool Math Using Seasonal Trees

As we enter the holiday/winter season, I wanted to incorporate some activities that while fun, were still skill-based. The two ideas I'm sharing today meet that criteria and were able to be put together rather quickly and easily.

The first activity focuses on number recognition and one-to-one correspondence. 

Materials needed are: a dice with numbers on it, a container to keep the dice from ending up on the floor after an overly-zealous throw, pom-poms, and a game board. 

I created the game board by using a copy of an evergreen tree, making circles on the tree similar to the size of the pom-poms to be used, copying it on green paper, and laminating it. I created four of these pages so several friends could play at the same time. 

The child would roll the dice and attempt to identify the number facing up after the roll. If they weren't able to name it, another child or myself would help them. After identifying the number, the child would count out the matching number of pom-poms and place them on their tree.


Each child would take a turn then pass the dice and container to the next friend until they successfully completed decorating their tree. Often the children would name the number they needed to roll in order to complete the tree, which is another concept. A teacher was available to assist with the game for a day or so, then the children often pulled the game out and played it themselves.

The next activity we presented was a sequencing one. We had strips of paper cut into five different lengths. There were three different colors the children could choose from.  

After choosing the color they wanted to use, we encouraged them to line up the pieces with the longest at the bottom and getting smaller going up. Most were successful in this venture without any assistance. After determining their place on the paper, each child glued down their pieces.

After gluing their pieces down they could be finished or were given the option to add additional materials to their tree. We had die-cuts of star shapes and also punched a variety of colors of circles.

It was great seeing their blooming math skills flourish through game play and paper piecing. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whooo's Having an Owl-Fall Lot of Fun at Preschool??

Sorry for the play on words. I just couldn't help myself. This past week we completed our GEMS: Tree Homes unit and learned quite a bit about owls, so I thought I'd share some of our adventures.

We learned about some basic anatomy of owls and then did a science activity to reinforce the new knowledge. Note: I am not calling this an art project. The goal of the activity is to explore the newly learned knowledge: an owl has a main body, two eyes, two tufts of feathers on top of their heads, a beak, two wings, and two legs.

The children began assembling their own owl and though it was a science lesson, each child's individuality came through.


I love how each of them have the same basic body parts, yet each are uniquely created.

The next day each child had the opportunity to create their own owl nest complete with straw and two eggs.

The excess centers that had been cut out for the nests, were placed in the art area. It wasn't long before the kiddos discovered them and decided to make more owls. LOVE IT!

I always try to include photos and video clips to enhance our learning, especially if it's about something that I couldn't bring into the classroom. My instructional assistant, Ms. Deana was sent this photo and shared it with me. I thought it was perfect to share as we were learning about owls, eggs, and owlets.

This image was also sent to me, but I don't recall the original source or would give credit to them. I showed it to the kids on my iPad as we were dismissing to go outside. Look carefully. Talk about amazing camouflage! What a great example of camouflage to share with the kids.

Owls swallow their food whole, but they aren't able to digest the fur, feathers, and bones. These things are thrown back up, similar to a cat throwing up furballs. It's in a compacted mass called an owl pellet. (this owl pellet was sterilized prior to dissecting) The children watched as I began breaking apart the owl pellet. We discovered lots of fur and lots of bones. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see jawbones and sharp front teeth among other bones.

We were able to view the chart above to determine the types of bones we were discovering. By our count, the owl dinner consisted of several rodents.

We also learned about opossums and how they would "play dead" when a predator, like an owl would come after them. We role-played the scenario. I was the owl and they were all opossums.

The activity continued outside as the kids took turns being the owl and "playing opossum".

Early the week before, we constructed our "tree", complete with a paint job and adding our leaves to it. Each day we learned about more animals that use trees for their homes and then would re-enact the scenarios with our stuffed animals.

I found a really cool activity for making an owl out of pine cones and thought we'd give it a try. Not originally being from California, I didn't realize that all the pine cones in our area were really prickly. My amazing staff were willing to help make my dream become a reality as they divided up the pine cones for our 23 kiddos and used nail clippers to snip off the prickly parts. The photo above is the provocation for the activity. The original activity that inspired this can be found at http://artexperiencesfortots.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/this-is-a-craft-snowy-owl/

Each child chose a pine cone, then began filling in the spaces with pieces of cotton balls. Each child then chose googly eyes from the variety of choices we possess and those and wings were attached to them.

They turned out so cute and it was a great fine motor activity as they had to push the cotton in to make it stay in the grooves. 

We then placed a variety of leaves and some images of art created using leaves on the table for inspiration. This friend chose to create her version of an owl after viewing the images. 

Children love nature and though we aren't able to bring a live owl into the classroom, we are able to help them learn about the animal through information, images, and lots of hands-on activities. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

To Be a Tree: Preschool Autumn Adventures


We continued our tree study this past week. We continued talking about the parts of a tree and did some hands-on exploring to make it more meaningful. 

We had a discussion of the things we like about trees. Different children shared their reason for liking trees. As I wrote down their responses, I alternated between writing in green and brown. We've been talking about patterns and this provided an opportunity for many of them to notice that we were making an AB pattern in our data recording.

We had taken paper grocery bags and cut them into vests. Each child was then taken outdoors to do a bark rubbing on a local tree on our playground.

Our next project was to make leaf crowns. We displayed three different colors of leaves and the children chose the leaves they wanted to use to make a pattern.

We used our new cool temp glue gun for the first time and loved the results. It made it possible to safely use the glue gun with the kiddos to ensure the leaves would stay on the construction paper strips, without worrying that the kiddos would get burnt.

After the leaf crowns were completed we moved on to making acorn necklaces. Ms. Myrna and her husband drilled holes in collected acorns and the children got to choose between using large acorns, small acorns, and acorn caps in this patterning activity.

We even did some dramatic performances portraying the life of a tree. In this photo the kiddos were seeds curled up in the soil soaking in the water from the rain. 

In this one they were beginning to grow and their branches began reaching out to the sun. 

We completed our week by wearing the tree costumes they had worked on during the week: tree bark vest, leaf crown, and acorn necklaces. We did a Tree Parade as we walked around the school campus and answered questions when asked about the tree parts. 

It was so much fun and the kiddos got to take the costumes home with them on Friday. We were able to incorporate nature appreciation, science understanding, and math patterning skills along with dramatic play with the one concept of Trees. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Preschool Shape Hunt...in the Great Outdoors

I recently attended a Train the Trainer session for Project Learning Tree. It's a nature curriculum to engage children in outdoor activities and experiences. For the training, we were able to do some of the activities we would later be able to do with our children. We began with a Shape Hunt. When we arrived we were instructed to take one of each of the shapes provided and with a straw section between each shape, place them on a yarn necklace. 

We went outside and were instructed to see if we could find things outdoors and in nature shaped like the images on our shape necklace.

We successfully were able to find all the shapes we had on our necklaces.

We just began a unit on Trees and Tree Homes so I decided to incorporate the Shape Hunt into the study to encourage the children to look more closely at their surroundings. When they arrived I had the provocation set up to entice them to come over and create their own shape necklace. I chose to use a neutral color for all the shapes and straw sections in shades of green with brown yarn. I wanted to highlight the shapes by placing them in wooden receptacles. My goal in using these colors and display materials was to keep things neutral and natural.

The provocation worked as each child readily began stringing their shapes onto the yarn necklace. As they were stringing, they were identifying the shapes.

We divided the class into three groups of seven children in each group and they began searching. Some items found were man-made, while others were items in nature.  


Even children who normally aren't eager to participate, were looking around and identifying shapes around them. We returned to our playground and they continued identifying shapes. Several even carried the activity to their home and did shape hunts with their families. What a great way to pair up shape identification with the great outdoors.

Project Learning Tree has been around for a long time and is a great way to engage children and nature. Now that I have been trained, I'm able to conduct trainings myself and plan to do so in the future.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall Explorations with Natural Materials


It's my ABSOLUTE favorite time of year: Autumn, Fall, Color Extravaganza, or whatever other beautiful and colorful term you may choose. We live in northern California, so we don't get to experience the leaves changing as quickly as when I used to live in North Carolina, but there are definite signs of Autumn beginning to emerge. One of them is the sudden appearance of acorns, pine cones, and the like and what do children naturally begin to do? Collect! 

Following the lead of the kiddos I pulled out a bunch of baskets and said, "Go for it!" The wandered all over the playground seeking, finding, and collecting nature's treasures. 

We have a very tall chain-link fence around the perimeter of the playground and I knew lots of goodies would be found on the outside of the barrier since when I pulled into our parking lot each day I had begun to hear "pop, pop, pop!" as acorns crunched under my car tires. 

I took six or so kiddos with me and we began exploring beyond the boundaries. We reviewed all the safety rules and they were ready to go. 

After a few groups had traversed and collected to their hearts' content, we made our way back onto the playground to spread out our bounty.

We discussed the treasures that had been found. How they were alike and different and they began naturally sorting the items: acorns with caps, acorns without caps, acorn caps without the acorns, pine cones, and more.

We even discussed some found items that weren't from nature and we determined those were man-made materials that we either saved or threw away. 

We explored some bark that was found and tried to determine which of a few trees on our playground, where we believe it originated.

Today I pulled out our mortar and pestle we purchased last Spring from Costco and the kiddos began grinding up their finds. They quickly determined that it was more difficult than they originally thought. We had a discussion about how Native Americans in the area we live used to grind up the acorns for a variety of food items and how much work it must have been to prepare a meal back then.

Some friends mixed a variety of items creating nature stew. We saved all the ground materials and plan to use them in art projects.

We may pursue nature frames like we did a few years ago. The possibilities are endless and always new and exciting!