Welcome to Paula's Primary Classroom! This blog is where I share ideas for teaching and learning with families, friends and other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Field Trips, and why I love them

I love field trips with the kiddos, I really do.  They are probably the biggest reason I've continued to teach from home, rather than go back to the public school setting.  I love public schools too, don't get me wrong!  My own children attend or attended public schools, and have learned a lot, and done well.  It's just that the students only got to go on one field trip a year. ONE!
 There is so much they can learn by getting out into the world around us, hands on and experiential learning that can't be mimicked in a classroom, even a really great one.
 One of the trips I took this week was to the FW Botanic Gardens.  I took the oldest few kiddos, and they walked and explored for 2 solid hours.
 We started with the Texas boardwalk, going through trees on the raised boardwalk, and stopping every few minutes at the learning stations that are scattered along it. We admired the leaves in different colors, shapes and sizes.
 We climbed on a fallen log, and counted the rings to find out how old it was when it was cut.  The children could see fat growth rings that represent years of plenty, and thinner rings for drought years.  Even cut and on the ground, it was home to roly pollies, spiders and ladybugs. 
 When I told them we were going to go to the Botanic Gardens, they started talking about how beautiful it is there.  Five year olds, and pleased to go somewhere beautiful?  Oh yes!
 We literally stopped to smell the roses - over and over again.  These young children compared the different scents, while watching for bees and other insects.
 Of course we had to take some sweet pictures to show our families! 
 They found peaceful spots to pause.  I have to admit, they had already been walking and running for over an hour at this point, but it was still lovely!  We also paused by a pond for a long time, watching turtles and koi fish, and they noticed that one turtle was different than the others, a different species.

 One child insisted I check out this "bee" - which turned out to be a clearwing sphinx moth.  It hovered like a hummingbird, but looked like an oversized bee.  Amazing!  Something I had never heard of before, but now we all know what it is.
 Of course, kids are going to be goofy.  They had a fine old time sniffing these fallen trumpet flower blooms, then laughing when they could sniff no more, and the flowers fell.

 I planned to take the rest of the children to the Botanic Gardens too, but due to crazy traffic, we ended up at a local city park instead.  It's easy to see that the Botanic Gardens could be a place of learning, but what could they learn at the playground?
 Cooperation and communication to start with.
 Gross muscle development, all kinds of physical skills.  This child learned how to climb up through these rings and back down again safely - and was so proud.
 Pretend play is important too, and each group of kids I've ever met has used this kind of play space to "sell" something.  This group was buying and selling hot dogs, but the following day the wood mulch pieces were sold as chicken nuggets.  Imagination!
 Don't forget the power of sheer joy!  We spun and climbed, slid and rocked, ran and laughed for hours!
 I have a wonderful backyard play area - so why do we need to go to a park?  Variety!  By playing on different equipment, the children are using different muscles in different ways, and it's just more fun to change things up sometimes.

 They get to interact with children they've never met before, or sometimes catch up with an old friend.  On the way to any field trip we talk about our safety rules - #1 rule is "We stick together."  One of the 3 year olds also told me that we talk nicely to the other kids, and if someone bothers you, you ask them to please stop.  What great social skills!  Don't you know some adults that could learn from that small lesson?

 While there are many, many things I could say about our trips out into the world, many things that we can learn, I'm going to end with this one: confidence.  The world is an engaging and wonderous place, and by learning to handle new places and new situations, children learn that they can, indeed, handle new places and situations. 
That's some heavy stuff, for a city park, a garden, or a museum.  And that's why I love field trips!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Baby Chick Count book and game

 Today we finished making a really cute counting book, which the kiddos are loving!  We did this with our Easter and Spring activities, but it would also go well with a farm theme, or could be modified to go along with a counting rhyme, like Five Little Ducks.  I want to share, it's so adorable!

I saw the idea on pinterest, and even although the original site is in Russian, the pictures communicated beautifully. 

 To follow up, I wrote numerals and number words on index cards, and added yellow dots to the back to make it self checking.  I put the cards in a basket with a large orange pompon (momma hen) and a dozen small yellow pompons (chicks).  The kiddos loved it!  Some of our preschoolers need to practice counting with 1-1 correspondence, as well as reading numerals.  The older kiddos who are reading worked with number words.  We'll keep this center out for a while!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bluebonnets, Museum and Lots of Fun at Home

It is spring time in Texas, and the bluebonnets are in bloom.  I took 3 groups of kiddos on field trips to take photos in the flowers on the way to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.  They were so sweet in their group pics!

The museum offers so many fantastic learning experiences for the kiddos. My personal favorite is the giant foam blocks.  The kiddos love the physicality of moving the huge blocks, and creating structures.  They have to think about how to fit blocks together and how to make their buildings strong.  They love looking through the holes, or filling the holes with cylinders that can attach to other blocks too.
 Of course, if you play in the foam long enough, your hair builds up a static charge.
 There's a pretend grocery store...
 Giant light play activities...
 An ambulance and hospital area...

 Cool water play...
 Things to manipulate and put together...
 And a giant train set.

At home one afternoon we were tickled to find a momma duck with 8 brand new ducklings!  We were surprised by how well they could climb up the dam, and how far from momma duck some of them ventured. (There is a creek behind my house, which we can observe through the fence.  The egrets and herons are also starting to show up again now that it isn't so cold.)

 We also enjoyed parachute and bicycle play outside, and although I didn't take photos of it, we had new Easter and spring themed learning centers inside.  I'll have to post pictures of those next time!

Happy spring!