Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Very Hungry Squirrel

Our inventive school librarian had another brilliant idea when she began immersing our students in the works of children's book author and illustrator Denise Fleming.

During this author study one book entitled Lunch caught the fancy of our students. In this book a hungry mouse eats his way through lots of delicious foods.

Using this book as a model the children decided to write their own story in the style of Denise Fleming.  The result is a book about a squirrel who eats his way through lots of delicious foods (sound familiar?) They titled the story The Very Hungry Squirrel.  

When the writing was complete we took this project to our artist in residence from The Children's Museum of the Arts.  Together the children created drawings to accompany their story using different materials and requiring skills 5-and-6-year-old children need practice with - like cutting.

On Monday we went back to the library where Sara (the aforementioned librarian) introduced us to VoiceThread.  Using VoiceThread we were able to record the children reading their book in both voice and sign.

Great job kids!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trash Talk

Lauren and I have started talking trash with our kindergarten children.

This is due to the fact that we are beginning an exploration of our local environment with an eye towards fostering a sense of responsibility in our students. A realization that Mother Earth (Gaia) is a beautiful, wondrous place and we all make choices that maintain her beauty or accelerate her destruction.

Our investigation began by asking the students two leading questions;

"What is trash?" 
"Where does trash go?"

Their answers to the first question involved a lot of references to food.  The list included banana peels, apple cores, orange peels and old food.  The answer to the second question allowed us insight into the environmentally conscious little girl who stated that we didn't need to throw away everything because some things can be made into different stuff. However, most of the children didn't mention recycling but chose to answer the question in a more direct fashion informing us that trash was put in the garbage can "so the man can take it away to the dump".

Following our discussion we all bundled up to take a walk around our block to see where some of the trash really goes.

New York City is a mess at the moment due to the heavy snowfall of late.  It does not make for a beautiful landscape but it did provide us with excellent fodder for our trash walk talk.

We spotted a feather boa and coffee cup in the newspaper stand,  bottles, gum wrappers, Christmas trees, cigarette butts, a pair of shoes, hubcaps, napkins, brown paper bags, plastic gloves and a couch all strewn about the streets. This in addition to the mounds of large plastic bags of trash.

We also noted the garbage cans and large trash compactors brimming with debris. At one garbage can a woman was pulling clothing out and holding it up as if she were shopping.  Sadly, perhaps she was.  This is recycling of a different nature.

When we returned to the class all of the students were invited to write and draw about what they saw and share it with one another in a lively discussion.

This is just the beginning of our investigation into trash.  It is our hope that by the end of this unit the children will have a more developed sense of what it means to care for our planet and a deeper understanding of what happens to "trash" once it is thrown away.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What's Cookin' Mom?

Every Friday afternoon our young chefs happily gather around a large table to mix, measure, roll, dip, stir, sprinkle, mash, poke, pour, pound, whisk, spoon, shake and taste.  The occasion is Kindergarten Cafe - our weekly excursion into "fun with food".

This can manifest with such simple delights as hot chocolate on a wintry day or popcorn made in the hot air popper (a truly exciting experience for the under six set!).  Or it can entail more complex fare such as Oreo turkeys (at Thanksgiving).  Whatever the outcome, it seems to be the process that keeps 'em wanting more.  Learning how to peel a banana or squirt whipped cream out of a can is sometimes enough to satisfy our energetic tykes.

Two brave moms offered to lead the Kindergarten Cafe cooking class recently with hands-on recipes designed to maximize student interest.

Barby taught the kids how to make Vanilla Snowballs with a recipe by Anne Coleman.  These are easy no bake treats that require little preparation.

Vanilla Snowballs

1 12-ounce package white chocolate chips
4 cups popped popcorn
2 cups fruit flavored O's cereal (Fruit Loops)


1. Microwave the chocolate chips in a bowl for a minute or two.
2. Put popcorn and cereal in a large bowl and mix together
3. Pour melted chocolate over cereal and popcorn and stir until coated well.
4. Drop by 1/3 cup into cupcake liners.
5. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes until hardened.

This was a roll up your sleeves and dig in activity.  It was also very sticky due to the fact that we had to substitute the white chocolate chips with marshmallows because of a child with a severe nut allergy (Note: be sure to read all labels carefully. Although some products do not contain nuts they are manufactured on equipment that also processes nuts and can cause an allergic reaction).

By the end of the lesson we were calling Barby our very own Rachael Ray due to her easy go-with-the-flow style and quick wit.

Several weeks later Dana volunteered to teach the children how to make Cake Pops also known as Lollipop Cakes, Cake on a Stick or simply Cake Balls.  It is evidently the latest sensation and quite fabulous.

Cake Pops


1 box cake
1 container of frosting
Confectioners sugar
Lollipop Sticks


1.  Bake a cake, cool and crumble.
2.  Add in frosting and mush it all together.
3.  Roll the mixture into little cake balls.
4.  Place a lollipop stick into each ball.
4.  Dip the balls into the confectioners sugar and water mixture.
5.  Decorate.

This recipe required some in-advance preparation, Dana had to bake the cake beforehand, but everything else was done with the class.  Each student had a specific task to complete which seemed to include lots of jumping up and down with excitement and anticipation.

Dana provided a few options for decoration but these culinary masterpieces didn't last long enough for much adoration.  How many bites does it take to reach the center of a cake pop?  Evidently only one!

We send out a huge thank you to our fun, patient and generous moms for sharing your time and talents with us.  You make kindergarten even more fun!


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