Monday, November 24, 2014

beans fabulous beans!

 Beans have continued to take on a wide appeal in the studio, offering opportunities for mixed media sculptures, categorizing, counting, cooking and more.  Several children spontaneously began grading the beans by size.
Which offered a perfect segue into some of the Montessori grading works available in the classrooms.
 We soaked garbanzo beans and made hummus in both the morning and afternoon class.

We also mashed pinto beans for burritos and cooked black eyed peas for sampling.
Overall, the children gave it a big thumbs up...way up!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

seeds glorious seeds!

So you may recall the seed study that began earlier in the year, well it's back!  T was in the studio examining the seed chart when he asked, "Angelina do you know how many seeds there are that you can eat?", I didn't!  So we decided to do some research!
A few others became interested in the question as well and soon we discovered a lot about the various seeds we eat, things I had never really thought about myself.
Like, did you know that beans are seeds and grains are seeds and of course nuts are seeds and corn is made up of seeds and coconuts are seeds and more.  Wow!  We were astonished as we considered all the different foods that are composed of seeds.
They recorded their findings on paper and then I remembered that I had a stash of beans tucked away in the studio.  What luck! I pulled them out of storage, much to the enthusiasm of my friends who eagerly examined the different kinds of seeds/beans.
J asked where the beans came from?  I said I didn't know that answer either.  We researched it together and again we excitedly discovered new things about seeds, like: black eyed peas are from North Africa and Mung beans are from China and the beans found in the Americas appear to have originated in Peru.  We discovered that people have been eating beans for at least 7,500 years. WOW!  Eager to communicate their new learning the children wrote down the name of each variety of bean and its place of origin.  J offered to draw the continent of origin and then he went to his classroom to procure the soft globe to examine and photograph the various regions to further our bean identification.
As class came to a close, they made the decision to host a seed-celebration in the studio!  So next week we will be making and tasting beans from various regions and we will be making corn bread (from other seeds!) and inviting other friends and classes to join in our enthusiastic seed study!
This study is a beautiful example of Reggio and Montessori working together in tandem.  The children's comfort with symbols, writing and classification along with their experience researching and expressing themselves with various tools of representation allowed this study to progress at a rapid pace.  I didn't ask them to write, they asked for paper so they could write.  I didn't ask them to find countries and continents, their experience with geography in the classrooms provided them with the necessary foundation on which to build their study.  I can hardly wait for next weeks seed celebration!!!

emotional awareness and feeling

The "self-portraits of emotions" that we began while Amy was visiting, took on a wider appeal during the days that followed.  The children eagerly drew feelings like: happy, sad, angry, mad, missing, jealous, hungry and others.
Their drawings reflected time spent examining features and characteristics of various emotions.  As they worked they chatted with friends about stories that were evoked by drawing a feeling: the time a dog died, getting Halloween candy while trick or treating with friends, etc.
As others passed through the studio, children often engaged them in looking at the colors in their eyes, or the expressions each emotion evoked on their faces.
When portraits were complete, many lined up, picture in hand, to share with me the words behind their feelings and waited patiently as I transcribed their words for them.
Here are a few collections of their poetic expressions:
Sad feels like an empty house.  
Sad feels like not having food in the night time.  
Sad feels like leaving my Grandma’s house.
Sad is a feeling.  When I’m sad I need a tissue, a sip of water and a big hug and kiss from my grandma, my mama, my dad or my big sister or baby sister.
Sad is okay.
Happy feels like having stars in your bedroom. 
Happy feels like my big brother hugging me.
Happy feels like chicken nuggets. 

Happy feels like when my mama laughs. 

Happy feels like smiling.

Happy feels like going to school.

Happy feels like, “I love you”.

Happy feels like love.
Happy feels like pizza with cheese.  
Happy feels like singing.
To feel happy you have to take deep breaths.
When I’m happy I only need love.
When I’m happy I don’t need anything else.
When I’m happy I need to take some space so I stay happy.
When I’m happy I just need food.

When I’m happy I need a hug.

Jealous feels like wanting to do stuff funner and better than anybody else.

Jealous feels like a tight tummy.

Jealous is green.
When I’m jealous I need to feel like I’m enough.
I drew mad.  

Mad feels like when I can’t go play outside.

Mad feels like when no one wants to play with me.

That’s sad too.  Mad and sad can happen at the sametime.
When I’m mad I need a hug, to be able to be mad, stay away from whoever was being mean til I’m not mad anymore. 
When I’m mad I need a hug from my brother and some time for myself.

The children humble and inspire me daily, with their courage and openness, depth and enthusiasm. Did I mention that I LOVE MY JOB.

Amy in the Studio

Last week we welcomed Amy into the studio and the children worked with both of us, Amy in clay and me with mixed media self portraits that became feeling portraits.
There were some beautiful overlaps, as children expressed themselves in both two-dimensional and three dimensional media.
Of course, in the studio themes emerge (like portraits) but there are always a great many other discoveries going on.
These two boys busily built a castle out of clay.
While many children just explored the properties of the media, guided by inner questions like, "What happens if I do this?" and share their research and discovery with the group.  In this way our collective understanding of the "language" of clay, or paint, or wire or any other media continues to develop over time and so does what we are capable of expressing through a given media.  This is one of the a many reasons that we celebrate mixed age classrooms and the Reggio/Montessori combination.  Everyone is researching personal and shared questions, sharing them through action, words and effect with one another.  Through this ongoing dialog our conversation evolves in unexpected ways, with depth and shared understanding.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


These last few days have presented many gifts from nature's creative hand.  We have stood transfixed with wonder, looking at the changing leaves, weather and more.  As adults working with young children we feel it is our responsibility to give the children transparent access to our own experience of awe.  The children are always forthcoming with theirs.  As we speak aloud our observations, curiosity and respect for the natural world we validate the child's own natural experience and affirm our own interconnections with the world around us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

another challenge

My son Bodhi recently loaned his two beloved rats, Henry and Taffy, to the studio and the children have shown their gratitude with an enthusiastic welcome.
This week while watching the children building with blocks in the block area, I wondered how I might offer another cognitive knot in the block area to stretch thinking, collaboration and creative problem solving.
And what better inspiration than rats!  The children are busily attempting to build rat mazes and habitats to contain our furry friends.  Once they feel confident in their creation we set one of the rats loose and watch his journey through the labyrinth of blocks.
Thus far, the rats escape within the first minute of exploration.  I will keep you posted as the building projects and ideas continue to develop.