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!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Learning about insects

I don't know about where you live, but here in Texas, spring is just around the corner.  In the last 10 days our first daffodil has bloomed, and the trees are covered in leaf buds.  They aren't opening yet, but there is definitely a promise of spring in the garden.

Spring is best enjoyed outdoors, and it's a great time to learn about all the little critters that share our world with us. 

While some children are lucky enough to experience nature in a big way every day - I'm thinking farm or country life, or frequent nature walks - not everyone is. One kind of animal almost every child gets to see up close and personal is insects.  All those amazing things that creep, crawl, and all too often "bug" us!

I can't tell you how many times I've taken children to the zoo, only to have them all oo-ing and ah-ing over a beetle or a roly poly.  Sound familiar?  There's a couple of things that make all those little critters so appealing: they're tiny, and kids seem to love tiny things, they move, and that's pretty cool, and there are so many of them that you can almost always find one to check out!

Sometimes it's best not to touch.  I never could identify this particular caterpillar (if you know what it is, I'd love you to leave a comment!), but I try to have the children leave hairy, spiky caterpillars alone. 
I try to teach my kiddos to be safe, without being scared.  Bees are scary to a lot of children, whether because they've been stung, heard about stings, or because their family members are afraid.  Instead of teaching the children to fear them, I like to talk about how to be safe around them.  I teach the children that bees are attracted to bright colors - like flowers.  If our clothes are brightly colored, a bee may want to investigate us, even land on us.  But as soon as they realize we aren't sugary sweet like a flower, they'll fly off.

It's amazing to see the relief on children's faces when they realize that bees aren't out to get them!  We also talk about how a bee's stinger is part of her body, and that she dies if she stings something.  If we aren't a threat - batting at her or bothering her, then she most likely won't bother us either.

 If you have a garden area, even a small one, you probably get lots of insect visitors that you can observe.  Try giving children a pencil and a notepad and encouraging them to draw what they see. 

 Check out the aphids on our cabbage plants!  (Yes, it really is cabbage.  I let them go to flower, and then we watch the insects come, and we also like to nibble on the tasty cabbage flowers ourselves - although not if they're covered in aphids!)

It's no surprise to find ladybugs crawling on the cabbage, and we often find ladybug pupa too!

 We also learn about insects a lot of other places.  With books, of course, but also on field trips.  We saw "Critter Man" at one of our local libraries over the summer, and he had some SERIOUS insects to show us!
 This looks like a bee, but it isn't.  On a trip to the Botanic Gardens one of the children pointed out the "big bee" by the flowers.  I was able to snap a few shots, and upon closer inspection realized it was a moth.  Cool!

I've blogged before about seeing the butterfly exhibit at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, but I'll mention it again anyway.  If there is an opportunity for you to walk through a live butterfly exhibit, I hope you will - unless your children are scared of them.  Last year I took 3 different groups of children to the exhibit, and the first 2 groups LOVED it.  There were 2 kiddos in the last group who didn't like bugs getting too close to them, and it didn't matter that they were harmless and beautiful.  I should have prepared those kiddos better for our trip, or let them skip it.  20 years of teaching, and yes, there is definitely still more for me to learn!

 Can you see the butterfly on the left using its proboscis to suck up sweet juice from the fruit?  How cool is that?!

If you don't have a garden area, and you can't get to an exhibit, you might consider raising butterflies.  I've had a lot of luck with painted lady butterflies, which I've ordered from Insect Lore before.  There are other companies too, that's just the one I've used.  The first time I raised butterflies I had them in a cardboard box enclosure with plastic side windows.  Please, please, don't use that!  It wasn't big enough for the butterflies to fly in, so they'd launch from one side, crash into the windows, and unable to hold onto the slick plastic, slip to the floor.  They were able to climb up the corners, between plastic  sheets.  Sad!  After that I made a wire frame that fit inside a large plastic bin, and added a fine mesh cover.
 Our butterflies only stayed in it a few days before we released them, and it was a much better arrangement!

I've bragged about Bella's book club at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas before too.  Check out the fun insect learning activities we enjoyed at one of their story times.  If you are in or near Fort Worth, I highly recommend joining them!

Of course there are times when you need to take the learning inside, and if you are a teacher, there are times you need paper and pencil activities too.  

 If you are interested in insect themed arts and crafts, please check out my Insect board on Pinterest,

there are so many people with so many amazing ideas!

I've put many of my best insect photographs into a fun sentence-picture matching activity.  (It is $3.50 to buy from my TeachersPayTeachers store).
A complete literacy and/or science center, Insect Photo Sentence Picture Match comes with 12 close up photographs of common insects, and sentences to match. With a focus on commonly used nouns, preprimer and primer words, these simple factual sentences will teach your students about insects including butterfly, dragonfly, katydid, ladybug, praying mantis, wasp, beetles, ants and bumblebees.
I used a lot of preprimer and primer words, and designed the activity for student success.  I tried it out with a former student, and as you can see from the look on her face, she was ecstatic  to discover she could really read all the sentences.  If you're working on early reading, or you have a junior entomologist on your hands, I hope you'll check it out!

If you'd like to see all my insect themed resources, just click here!

Have an awesome spring!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Chinese New Year dragon blower

Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year

Last year I found a really cute Chinese New Year's dragon craft, and tried it out with the kiddos.  I found it via Pinterest.com, at two different sites: http://blog.kangarooboo.com/2011/01/ and http://babyccinokids.com/blog/2012/02/14/fire-breathing-dragons/. The children really enjoyed it, and got quite a fine motor workout making their dragon!  As a bonus feature, blowing through the dragons is a deep breathing and calming activity - something most teachers of  3 - 5 years olds will welcome!

This project was completed over a couple of days, as we had to paint the cardboard tubes and then let them dry completely before decorating them.
Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year
 I helped hold the rolls still while the children put on two large spots of glue at one end, added pompoms, and then clipped a peg on to hold them in place while they dried.  We added wiggly eyes very carefully!
Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year
 Clothes pins provide a great finger workout for little hands!  We repeated the process on the other end of the tube (minus the wiggly eyes), to make large "nostrils" for our dragons.
Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year
 We taped some tissue paper streamers inside the mouth end, and let them dry.  It's so hard to wait!
Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year
The next morning we were able to enjoy our dragons!  We discovered through trial and error that when the children put the tube right up against their mouths, the tissue paper didn't move much, but look at it go when we pursed our lips and blew from a short distance back!
Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year
 I think these dragons will scare off any evil spirits that may be lurking around! 
Fire Breathing Dragons for Chinese New Year
 I will admit, this was not the children's favorite activity for Chinese New Year.  I bought some special red envelopes, and followed the Chinese new year tradition of giving money.   I only put a quarter in each envelope, and the children had to tell me "Gung Hay Fat Choy," which means Happy New Year, in order to collect their envelopes.  Would you believe, they all really liked that best?!   They also liked the ginger chicken stir fry and rice that we had with lunch... and the fortune cookies.  (They're smart kids!)

For those of you who are working on sight word reading, and want a fun reading activity for Chinese New Year, here's a link to a fun activity I created recently.  I hope you like it!
Chinese Zodiac Animals Sentence-Picture Match
Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year!