Friday, 18 December 2015

High Rotation Reads: Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani was one of those flip the pages library finds I had last year around this time.  I originally picked it up because the teacher for the Music Class Little Tree is involved with had focused on Jingle Bells for the season and I thought the illustration style was beautiful. 

It was with surprise and delight that I realised this book is a whole lot more than a recounting of the classical song.  Using the classical melody of Jingle bells it touches through the cultural traditions of Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Italy and Kenya for the "Christmas season".

For the last two years the main attraction of this book, to Little Tree, has been the fact that I sing the text and he plays along with a Christmas bell on a ribbon.  That said this year it prompted the question of "Why do Italian Children get presents in their shoes? Leading to the research that La Befana, who got lost following the Three Wise Men, leaves presents in the shoes of Italian children one the eve of Epiphany, January 6th.  Needless to say I am delighted at this first, and I expect not the last, exploration into differing cultural practices prompted by this book. 

I was more than a little distressed when it seemed that someone had decided to prune it out of the local library's Christmas collection.  For us I see this book as being one of those books we will read as a tradition so in the end rather than race around the catalog trying to find a copy at another library this year I just went out and bought it.  That way I know that we can share it whenever we for as many years as it piques Little Tree's interest and captures his imagination.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Around Here - Creating a Culture of Making

Little Tree has a couple of little boys who he has known since he was around 16 months old.  They met at a newly formed playgroup and all us mums appreciated each other enough to keep things rolling.

Now that my boy is getting ready to turn 4 he has known these friends for more than half his life.  To say they are tight might be a bit of an understatement.  They know each other well enough to be happy to share, when they're in the mood, or push each others' buttons with wild abandon.

Meaning they either play beautifully or it's all out war 

Needless to say these are Little Tree's, chosen, heart people so I knew Christmas should not go unrecognised.  

It was with that thought I approached this because I really wanted his gift to have some of him with it.  I wanted it to be something he had spent some time on and had a real level of choice about.  It was with these thoughts in my head the stencil T-shirt he made himself earlier this year popped up.  

My criteria was met as wanted something made not just bought and the end product was useful.  Over and above that he could have full freedom of choice as to the mix of colours, who got which design  and it is likely to appeal to a 2-4 yr old so hopefully he will get a couple of smiles when the wrapping paper comes off.  

He's done the making as part of his advent activities.  I got a couple of surprises along the way as I assumed he would choose the vehicle stencils again he but definitively chose sea animals for each person.  He also put quite a bit of thought into who got what stencil by relating it back to something in their life.  One of his little buds loves orange and has the goldfish locker at preschool,  the other loves turning over rocks looking for soldier crabs when they play at the estuary (so he chose a crab stencil).

This quick easy activity hasn't required much in the way of time.  It is totally forgiving when it comes to accuracy, a plus as precision is not the way Little Tree rolls, as long as you use a nice wide tape to tape the stencil down to the shirt.  Best of all it has produced an end result that Little Tree has been proud of and his happy to give people he loves.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Around Here - Cheap and Cheerful Colour Mixing

Colours and colour mixing is something that I keep presenting.  Up until this point it's all pretty much been pouring liquids and mixing them to make colours.

That's all well and great.  Over the months we have done a lot of those activities and he really enjoys them.  He is also starting to get the gist as the last time I asked him what two colours I needed to mix to make a third he got it right.

That said I wasn't confident that he truly understood that whatever the form of the colour that you would end up with the same result.  I really wanted an activity that underlined colour not form.  Thus I have been eyeing off colour paddles for a while but I just couldn't justify the expense so I have been putting it all in the too hard basket.

Then I saw Kylie at How We Montessori print on transparencies so it got moved to the maybe basket.  The problem was I didn't know if you would get the same result from a laser printer (I don't own a personal printer so my resources are done at the local print shop) and I didn't know if they would be happy printing on transparency given the price, for them, if it all went wrong.  Thus it again got shelved.

Some time in the last week I had a flash of inspiration - cellophane.  That said not straight cellophane because that would last 3 seconds in this house - laminated cellophane.  In the end I also decided that borders were useful.  I found they really differentiate when the sheets are overlapped making it really clear that the new colour is a mix of two by creating a firmly defined window.

How will these last?

I honestly have no idea.  As I used photo sized pouches they are pretty strong with regard to accidental damage.  The problem is I am not at all sure if sustained sunlight will wash out the colours in the cellophane.   Once you have bought your cellophane though the cost of repeating is basically a few cents for the laminating pouch.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Life cycles - Not Just for Animals

I've been itching to do some more life cycle work with Little Tree.

The one artwork he has done in the last 6 months that I would say is considered and age appropriate was when we were reading a book called Boobook, about Boobook Owls, and he decided he wanted to map the life cycle as it followed through the book. 

It wasn't just his normal expression of lines.  It had an Owl with a face and claws.  It had the nesting hole with some eggs along with some other features that although totally unrecognisable without explanation were actually a considered attempt to visually represent something solid. 

We have done matching cards on the life cycle of a lady bird and it got at least a few uses, over about a week, before he decided he was done. 

The one time I have seen really solid repetition from him was when I introduced the frog life cycle puzzle.  He must have done, pulled apart and redid that puzzle at least 3 times in a row when it was first introduced.  Then there was varying amounts of the same over about 3 or 4 days until he decided he was done. 

Thus I knew there was an interest so the question was how to cultivate it.  He had already done chickens from eggs at preschool so I didn't see any point repeating it.   I couldn't find any easy source of the normal options (ladybird, silkworm, caterpillar, etc) available here so I started nut out what we did have available. 

We had plants so I decided to run with it.

I had grown one quite unusual heirloom variety of eggplant last year.  It got started late and when we around mid year the plant with about 3 fruits got quite badly damaged.  The eggplant survived but failed to set any further fruit and in the chaos of the move got firmly neglected. 

It was around September when I looked around and decided I needed to do something with that pot.  The eggplant was alive and kicking, despite the neglect. Unfortunately the damage meant it wasn't going to be something that would run for a second year so I harvested the fruit with view to seed saving then replaced it with a small rosemary seedling that needed a more visible position and a much bigger pot if it was going to make it through this coming summer.  

The first step in making this about life cycles was to harvest the seeds from the fruits.  One afternoon we both sat down with an eggplant each and pulled it apart.  He only lasted about 10 to 15 mins and took about 7 or so seeds but it was the concept of harvesting seeds I was aiming at not necessarily the execution.  After carefully sorting the seeds from the flesh and leaving them to dry for a few days I put them in a storage container in view to planting them soon.

Um.. well, two months later the first lot went into soil.  Then failed to germinate.  Now eggplants like things hot and we haven't been cold but we also haven't been hot so I was mildly concerned but not totally ready to give up.  In the end I decided on the "throw the kitchen sink at it approach" and planted about half the seeds we had collected all in one go.  I figured that if the fruit had rotted down that is the type of dispersal that would have existed.  To say it was overkill for the box is being circumspect but I was a bit desperate for at least a couple of seedlings to demonstrate.

Thankfully in the last week two have germinated. 

One is looking pretty so, so.  It wasn't strong enough to unclamp the seed casing off it's seed leaves. This is something I have generally found a bad sign but it was the first, and at the time only, one so I do something I don't normally do and unclamped the casing using my fingers. About a week later the seed leaves are tiny and a yellowy green so I don't hold a lot of hope.  That said I am of the firm belief that plants want to live, so generally try and give them a good feed and see what happens.

The second one that turned up in the last 24 hrs is looking good.  No sign of the seed casing, beautifully stretched toward today's drizzly sky.  I'll be a lot more comfortable once it moves into producing true leaves but I think I have a goer here.

They've both been potted into a nutrient rich soil mix to try and get some size on them then into the garden they will go.

My plan is to go from seed harvest to seed harvest this season.  When I put the seedlings in the garden I want to add a little laminate life cycle card to highlight the stages and bring steps we have already done to mind. 

As this project will have been going around 6 months at the point of completion I think this is going to be crucial to give it a solid foundation in reality. 

6 months really is a long time when you are 3 :-)