Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some fun painting from the week

At school, we paint almost everyday.  Usually there are either water colors or tempera paints at the easel (although sometimes I will switch out paint for oil pastels or I will tape something textured to the easel and give them peeled crayons to make rubbings). In addition to this, several days a week I will put out some "art materials" for painting, collages, or other art opportunities on the table.  Sometimes they are minimally teacher directed, other times they can just walk up and start working.  In any instance, while they seem perpetually interested in painting on the easel, it is still important for them to have a wide variety of art experiences.  Thusly, I am always searching for new ways to paint (and perhaps you are too).

Here are two hits from this week:
Ice cube painting
to create these paints just use half liquid water color and half water in ice cube trays and freeze with popsicle sticks

This class did not like this as much as classes in the past.  A few of the children grew impatient with waiting for the ice to melt so that they could paint.  In years past, however, the children typically would paint until we were out of ice! Every class is different, though.  At the end of the day they asked if we could do it again, so maybe we will have a second go of it on Monday.

We have been experimenting with ice for the last few weeks, so this is another cool way for them to experiment with ice.

Painting on aluminum foil
I truthfully have not done this in the four and fives class before, although I did do it almost four years ago when I was teaching the threes! Fours and fives seem to enjoy this just as much, however.

Even children who are not usually remotely interested in the art area, (except occasions when we are painting with cars), did a few paintings on foil like this one to the left.  You can see a "stage of scribbling" in his painting.
Some of the children also created some really cool textures when painting this way, although they were as much interested in the sound that the foil made when the hit it with the head of the brush, as was required to make this kind of texture.  Some of them also liked the sound of the foil when they went around and around the sheet with their brush, while others were simply fascinated by painting on the shiny surface- making this an overall interesting sensory activity as well as art.    

For some more ways to paint see these entries as well:

If you have some suggestions for painting, I'd love to hear them!  Feel free to leave a link to your blog post about painting in the comments section! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A important lesson from Ooblick (and how to make it)

I am almost ashamed to say it; I have never used Ooblick in my classroom before! I know, I know, everyone and their neighbor has used Ooblick in preschool but I never have.  Terrible.  Maybe it is because all of the descriptions I have red of it have been non discrpt and somewhat blasé to say the least.

(the yellow color is from food coloring)
The Basics
If you have not used it before, do not underestimate the awesomeness of this substance.  Ooblick is part corn starch and part water a good batch is comprised of about equal parts corn starch and water but it can vary.  The batch above needed  You will read here, and virtually everywhere else, Ooblick (sometimes spelled Oobleck) is a non- Newtonian fluid;  This means that it exhibits characteristics of both a solid and a liquid.  When there is pressure applied to Ooblick from any angle it acts as a solid, but when there is little or no pressure applied it acts like a liquid.  When using your fingers or a spoon to scrape the bottom it feels like playdough (sort of) but there is no trail left behind your spoon or fingers, no indent made, because the portions of the liquid that pressure is not being applied to move freely just like water.  It feels, with your hand submerged, as though you could grab a clump of it and shape it into a ball, but as soon as you pull it out it runs through your fingers! Children find this fascinating and I am not ashamed to say that I did as well; I perhaps enjoyed it just a tiny bit more than they did.

What can be learned from Ooblick
Let me warn you that the next part is wordy and lengthy, but I beg you to stick with me so that perhaps this rant will be useful to you:
This project was really an eye opener to me about the importance of having EXPERIENCES FOR CHILDREN TO ATTACH WORDS TO (a premise that I was first made to understand completely by Bev Bos).  Now,  am I doing this to teach children who are four years of age to walk around talking to other adults about "non- newtonian fluids?" No. Although, I am not loathe to the idea of throwing that word out to them, still, I do not expect them to pick it up.  BUT, more importantly I am CONVINCED that having this experience will be valuable to them down the road.  When I took chemistry in high school, (which seems like ages ago although it has not yet been a decade),  I remember learning about Non- Newtonian fluids and in theory I suppose I knew what they were, I knew by description what they were and I even knew to give the examples of quick sand and something called Ooblick that I had never touched.  By experience I somewhat knew what quick sand was like; I grew up on a farm so I knew that in the spring when I stepped "mud," (which on farms consists of water, dirt, cow manure, pieces of cow feed, and other odds and ends that the cows have stomped together),  that was very wet and ankle deep (sometimes deeper),  my boot would often get stuck in a "vacuum" which could be quite difficult to navigate.  I also knew that when shoveling this substance that it fell off the shovel easily.  However, I never played in it (for obvious reasons) and hence never took time to examine or ponder these qualities or associate them with the term "non newtonian."   I never understood until the other day (THE OTHER DAY WHEN I PLAYED WITH OOBLICK!) the complete meaning of a non newtonian fluid;  I understood more characteristics of non- newtonian substance and had an expanded understanding of the meaning of viscosity (I will spare you definitions in interest of relevance) and finally was able to equate non-newtonian substances with a colloidal suspension (something I should have been able to do by simple memorizing, but neglected to memorize...).  However, experience would have saved me memorization and ultimately how much do we retain that we simply memorize anyway?
This brings hope to people like myself and I am sure other teachers who are looking a research on brain development and saying to themselves "and if I didn't get enough of this kind of experience as a child, will I ever be reconciled to the missing piece?" In this instance, yes, it is not too late! However, we, generally are looking to give our children a "head start," and what better way to do this than to lay a foundation for future learning.
Have you ever seen the shows where they have to transfer the weight of an entire house so that they can create a strong foundation because the original one was ill built and is crumbling?  How much easier would it have been to built a strong foundation in the first place?
This is one activity and one example.  It is only one, and yet that is something.  President Obama, in his State of the Union address, recently called and expressed concern over the need for a better education system to yield brilliant scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to better serve our nation and society; This is where it starts, in Early Childhood Programs;  It starts by giving children EXPERIENCES that are real to them and that set a foundation for their learning NOT by teaching them to learn and memorize things that they have no real understanding or experience with, but lasting experiences.  

And besides all of this, it's fun!

Some pointers for using Ooblick in your class
1.  Don't cover it, if you are keeping it.  Just leave it open and add more water in the morning.  If you cover it, then it will mold (Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey Handbook)
2.  This makes some children's hands very dry- I had a little bit of baby oil on hand that we usually use for sensory play that I gave them on their hands to rub around to help moisturize them.  I had parents bring in lotion for little hands that dried out after the first day, and gave gloves to kids whose hands were severely effected by it.
3.  I plan to need at least 5 cups of corn starch for this project.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Five Uses for Muffin Tins

One of my favorite "things" to use in the classroom is a muffin tin (or five).  There seems to be no end to the uses for a muffin tin in a preschool room and you can often find them for just a dollar!

Use #1:  Sorting or holding beads or other small craft items:
We used them for this just today.  A couple girls sorted the beads by colors, one of them spent the entire time just sorting! The other children used the tins and other containers to hold the beads so that they could pick through them and get the ones they wanted. 
I also often use these in the sensory bin when things like mixed beans are in it because they encourage sorting (and dramatic play) and they also love the sound of the beans hitting metal. 

Use #2:  Palates for painting and mixing paints:
See this post for more about paint mixing.

Use# 3:  Ice mold for sensory bin or ice painting

Use #4:  Molds for crayons

I first heard of this from Bev Bos's book Don't Move the Muffin Tins.  The instructions are simple; take peeled old crayons in muffin tins and put them in a 300 degree oven.  Keep an eye on them and when they are completely melted turn the oven off and let them set for a few hours (I usually just let mine sit overnight) and when they are completely cool break them out of the tins then color away!  

Image from Triangle Mommies

Use #5:  Make bath bombs 
These are great for sensory tables or to make with kids (probably not a project for toddlers, but three and up would work) to give as gifts.
There are great directions for this from the Science at Home site.  

Image from Science@home (site link above)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coming in for a landing!

When searching for some new run-around-indoor-games when I stumbled upon "areoplanes and airports" on this website.
In stead of hoops, I used some orange "circle bases" we had around the room.  The game is simple; have fewer "bases" than children.  These bases will be your "airports" and the children will be the airplanes.  Whenever a child comes in for "a landing" the child on the "airport" has to move and go "land" in a different airport.  When demonstrating the first time I said "coming in for a landing" and so they did the same thing each time, and after this the game became know as "the landing game" to them.
Simple, fun, and takes the edge off of cabin fever.

If you like this game you might also like builders and bulldozers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In the Heart

"Here the heart may give a useful lesson to the head, and learning wiser grow without his books." -William Cowper

One of my children started painting the other day.  She painted one painting, she painted two, three, four, five, and continued painting until nearly the entire drawing rack was full.  What she learned from this I do not know, but if she only learned to love creating all the more, then it has served enough of a purpose. (Enjoy the sampling).

"a giant Valentine"


You may also enjoy reading: