Tuesday, September 29, 2015

potato harvest: from garden to table

•   2 lbs. potatoes (5 to 6 medium), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
•   1 cup Just Mayo mayonnaise (delicious)
•   2 T vinegar
•   2 T mustard
•   1 1/2 t salt
•   1 T chopped basil
•   1 T chopped thyme
•   2 T chopped parsley
•   1/4 t ground black pepper
•   1 cup thinly sliced celery
•   1/2 cup chopped green onion
•   3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped (optional)
Cover potatoes with water in 4-quart sauce pot (first wash and scrub them really good if you dig them out of; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
Combine mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, herbs, sugar and pepper in large bowl. Add potatoes, celery, onion and eggs and toss gently. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Corn exploration

We have a marvelous opportunity for our children to make corn tortillas with one of our toddler parents whose family is Peruvian on October 19th.  Wanting to create a more in-depth encounter for the children, we began an introduction to corn.  Bekke (the best story teller I know) volunteered (okay I may have begged but she was very willing) to come to each of the primary classes and tell the traditional Native American Story of the Corn Maiden.  
Following her story we had corn on the cob sampling and warm corn tortillas with butter and salt.
I also place dried corn in the studio for a provocation.  Several of the children noticed that the corn kernels could be pried off the stalk.  This was a great pincer activity and source of joyful concentration.  The children eagerly brought me their handfuls of corn kernels exclaiming over their great work.  As they did I asked how many kernals there were.  This resulted in some serious counting and more prying and more counting.
The final count was 236 before the music box announced the end of class.
The corn also inspired several beautiful drawings as well as gustatory delight.
On Thursday, we shucked corn and cut it off the cob before adding it to corn bread.
We gave the used cobs to our guinea pig pals...
But kept the corn bread for ourselves.  YUMMMMMMMMMM.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Amy joins the studio

Amy has been in the studio with me all week long, introducing mark-making on clay slabs while exploring clay as a medium of expression.
The children eagerly engaged in the process, expressing themselves and their ideas with tools and sculpture.
At the same time I had a table set up to explore observational drawing (an idea brought to me Monday morning by several children on the playground).
The children moved back and forth between two dimensional and three dimensional expression.  Vygotsky put forth the widely accepted learning theory that our understanding solidifies as it is expressed.  In most academic settings, expression gets funneled into verbal or written contexts.  In our program we know how important expression is for a variety of reasons and we strive to support the many languages of childhood (and humanhood) and thus deepen learning.

We will welcome Amy back in the studio during the second week of October.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

playground discoveries

What is it? 
Our enthusiastic WHAM and XP teacher, Vida, rushed over to where I stood in the backyard.  She had the intense breathlessness of a child and announced, "ANGELINA, COME QUICK, WE HAVE A MYSTERY!"
Of course I bounded over (as she knew I would) and was quickly led to a large group of children gathered around a discovery of an unknown origin.  What WAS it?
The children engaged in a cycle of inquiry worthy of Sherlock Holmes.
 I carefully recorded their observations and discoveries:
Addie              I think they are fairy shells or one might be a fairy dress.  Shells are very cozy for fairies
Aiden              I think they came from the top of the tree in a nest.  Maybe they are squirrel eggs and bird eggs.
Tatum.            Maybe there was a storm and the eggs crashed down from the nest and somehow the eggs broke.  I think it's from a baby animal or baby birds of a really different size.
Iliana              Eggshells.  Yep, eggshells.
Kate                They are like eggs you eat at home but different.
Sloane             They broke from a baby egg.  But look it's bumpy on this piece and smooth on this one.
Matthew         I think it’s stuff from a tree.  This one looks like a branch.  I think there was a lightening storm and lots of stuff fell down.
Addie-             I think that over night the fairies accidentally dropped all their things maybe they were trying to move so they could have a cozy home.

Cooper-          I think it’s a mushroom.  NO!!! It’s like a pumpkin.  It’s not a pumpkin but it’s like a pumpkin.  See you can tell right here (points to the bottom and to the shape).
We brought our nature finds back to the studio to record our observations and extend our conversation.
The entire process reminded me how much we can learn when we open to life with a sense of wonder and follow the mystery of discovery.  AND it's FUN.  Really, really fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An XP introduction to Observational Drawing

I love working with the XP class, year after year, partly because I have known most of the children since their first arrival to school as toddlers and partly because the XP teachers are amazing (Bekke we miss you as XP wunderkind but we are thrilled that you are now our brilliant head of school!).  Last week, Vida invited me to join the class on a nature observation walk and we decided to end the walk with an introduction to observational drawing.
Not only do the teachers lead the children around the neighborhood with the intent of experiencing nature in their own back yard, but they are also experts at modeling a spirit of wonder, discovery and enthusiasm.  Children will respond to our level of engagement. The joy displayed by the teachers invites everyone to slow down, delight in the details and observe the wide world all around.
Once back at school, the children collected their science journals and we set to work observing and drawing the trees in front of the school.
Observational drawing differs from free drawing.  We slow down and really look at the subject, noticing its shape, lines, texture, size, color, dimension and more.  We then use our drawing tools and paper to carefully record our observations on paper. We continue looking at the subject and avoid resorting to the easy route of drawing from a preexisting idea of a tree.  This deep looking is a mindful practice that slows down the drawing process and facilitates learning and discovery.  As we draw in this way our ideas about a subject are challenged by our experience of it.  This results in what Piaget called disequilibrium and learning inevitably follows.
It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Reading and writing in the studio: A Montessori and Reggio collaboration

Montessori employs a "write to read" approach to literacy.  We introduce symbols phonetically rather than naming them ("a" as in apple rather than saying the letter name, "A") and use the sandpaper letters to leverage the sense of sight, touch and hearing.
In this way children are often writing before they read and reading emerges spontaneously.  

This process is thrilling to witness in the life of a child.  I have experienced it alongside many children, including my own.  It's the moment when the letters c- a- t suddenly make sense as a coherent word!  It is often followed by a great burst of enthusiasm and a confident pronouncement of "Cat!  That says cat!"  The joy belongs entirely to the child.  We didn't "teach" that child to read.  We provided all the necessary support to make reading possible.
A similar approach is going on in the studio, where children explore symbolic representation, writing, story telling and more...all the time.
Many children draw pictures or zig-zag lines to depict words, thoughts, ideas and experiences.  Lines or scribbles drawn on paper (which may appear random to a bystander) often provide a visual record of a story unfolding from within the child.
When a more deliberate approach is required in order to convey a clear message, I use the same copywriting strategies we offer in the classrooms
Writing is a form of symbolic representation.  It's a system of symbols that we collectively agree upon for communication but it is symbolic.  
In my work as studio teacher, I am equally inspired by the original symbolic languages of childhood and their creative expression as I am by the acquisition of the written and spoken word.  They are each important aspects of human expression and I feel strongly that it is our job as teachers and stewards of childhood, to champion and nurture the diverse languages of expression.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The studio is open

Walking to school from my jeep on Monday morning, I felt like a celebrity as children hung out of car windows asking if Studio was open yet and former students rushed over to steal a hug in route to new schools.  I was every bit as eager as they were to begin our year in the Studio.
The children, new and returning, didn't skip a beat.  They arrived, donned aprons and began exploring the new set up of their familiar environment.
It astonishes me how often they learn a new skill when exploring materials and mediums. These new skills expand their ability to express themselves in a variety of creative languages.
 I  am excited to learn alongside them in the year ahead.  Stay tuned to follow our journey together.