Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with 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 23, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day with Natural Materials - part 2

I wrote last week about some ways to celebrate Earth Day with natural materials - and this week we implemented those ideas at our library story time.  Here are the results!
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

We (50 children and their caregivers!) took a walk around the library, collecting natural treasures as we went.  In our plants themed learning earlier this month we learned that plants breathe through their leaves, so we didn't want to pick any living leaves or flowers off our plants.  The children were incredibly respectful, choosing fallen leaves, petals, sticks, seed pods, bark and more, but leaving all the living and growing things outside where they belong.
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!
 It was an absolutely beautiful day for a nature walk! 
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Back inside, we provided blank pages for the children to arrange their treasures, but instead of giving them glue or another way to stick everything together permanently, we made our creations temporary works - and encouraged our families to teach their children how to use camera phones to capture their pictures!
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!
There was a lot of counting and lining up of materials, as well as some beautiful arrangements!
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Here a grandmother is teaching her little one how to use the camera phone, and to email it to mom and dad at work!  This is age appropriate use of technology, a way to use it to connect children and families.  I LOVE IT!
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Our caterpillars arrived this week, and we'll be watching them grow and metamorphose - we had out caterpillar books and magnifying glasses today.
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

We also put out a lovely natural sensory bin for our little ones to explore.  I recently trimmed my rosemary bushes, and saved the fragrant leaves to use as a base for our bin.  We added pretty pebbles, pine cones and shells.  As the children searched through the bin, the rosemary leaves separated from their stems and released a beautiful scent.  This was a sensory bin in more ways than one!
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Small children seem to love collecting tiny things, and this group was no exception.  They carefully collected every pebble, shell and pine cone from the rosemary, then sorted and explored them.  (The long conical shells at the top of this picture turn out to be "unicorn horn shells".  Who would have known?)
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

Seeing the kiddos sorting, we grabbed out some trays and had them work together to separate all the materials - wonderful for us, because we were planning to sort it all out to put it away when the children were done.
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!
Fun math and art activities celebrating Earth Day - lots of great ideas and projects for preschool and kindergarten kiddos! I love the technology tie in!

There was one more fantastic learning opportunity today, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to capture it well: we introduced the children to maple seeds.  If there was a maple tree anywhere in your neighborhood as a child, you may remember them as "helicopter seeds" - when tossed in the air they spiral down like little helicopters.  I had collected hundreds of them while walking this last week, and the children were, of course, fascinated.  There were 8 - 10 children at a time on the carpet throwing seeds up in the air, and laughing and jumping as they watched them spiral down.

Natural materials like these are free, just laying around at our feet, waiting for us to remember the wonder of being a child scientist, to joyfully explore and discover.

May all our days be filled with helicopter seeds, unicorn horn shells, and the laughter of children!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Slugs, Snails, A Puppy Dog Tale, and What Things Are Made Of

We had some rain Wednesday evening, so when I was out with my dogs on Thursday morning, I wasn't too surprised to see a snail slithering along on its silvery slime trail.  I thought the kiddos at story time might be interested, and I had a spare plastic bag with me, so I picked it up and continued on my way.  Not 100 feet further along, I found a slug.  What a great opportunity for the children to compare a slug and a snail - so into the baggie it went too.

Back home I rescued a large plastic food container from the recycling bin, added some spinach leaves, and put the snail and slug in their new, temporary home, and off we went to the library.
Our plan for the day didn't involve slugs or snails, but young children are scientists, always up for something interesting to investigate!

This week we read books with an engineering theme, of children constructing and creating to make "wonderful things".  Our follow up was an engineering experience: deconstructing things!  We offered a lovely assortment of old electric and electronic items that had seen better days: broken radios, hair dryers, calculators, toys, toasters, computers and keyboards, some donated by our library patrons, some from staff, and still more from a local thrift shop. We offered real tools, and asked our families to support their children in exploring what is inside of all our gadgets.
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!

The children used screw drivers... 
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
...pliers...
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
...wire cutters...
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
...tape measures...
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
... and fingers to investigate.
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
The most popular items were probably the cassette and VCR tapes that were unwound and explored.
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
Children worked alone, in pairs or teams, with parents helping or watching, supervising to keep them safe, but allowing them to take the lead.
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
 We found all kinds of cool bits and bobs inside of stuff, and even saved some of it for a future "build it" session.
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
Afterwards, more than one parent mentioned that they were going to do this activity at home with their child the next time a gadget broke down.

So what about the slug and snail?  They were also a hit!  Some children wanted to look but definitely NOT TOUCH, others couldn't wait for a turn to hold them.
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!
 If you look closely at the slug, you can even see its breathing pore on the side of it's body!
Awesome STEAM activities for kids! See how some old junk was transformed into learning for this group of preschool children!

Next week we're going to have critters again.  Want a clue?  They'll be small and wiggly when they arrive, but after they eat and eat, they'll change into something beautiful.  Stay tuned for more learning fun!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day With Natural Materials







Earth Day is just around the corner, April 22nd.  #Kinderfriends, a group of early childhood educators, decided to do a blog hop to showcase some of the fun ways we've found to celebrate Earth Day - thank you for stopping by!

I like to use natural materials with my kiddos whenever I can, so I thought I'd share some ways to use free, natural items from your environment to teach important concepts!  The only item you need to provide for this is a way for students to contain their collection - a lunch sack or reused grocery bag works really well.  Take a walk outside, and see what natural items your students can find!  Have them make a collection of treasures.
These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.
My collection includes a variety of leaves and fallen flowers, plus some seed pods - but your collection will vary, depending on where you live.  Your students might find rocks, sticks, pine cones, sea shells - what ever you have around your school or home will work!

Have students sort their collections into piles of similar things - they're working on sorting and classifying skills.  How many different ways can they sort them?
These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.
These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.

Natural materials make excellent counters too.  I found a lot of acorn caps in pairs - time to count by 2s.  How about making groups of 10s and 1s, then figuring out how many items you have?
These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.
These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.

Maybe your students would rather make a design, like this mandala - and practice symmetry while they are at it. 
These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.
For slightly older students, counting the individual items in a mandala will reveal multiples of the number of axis it has.  For example, this mandala has 6 leaves, but 12 pink seeds and 12 crepe myrtle seed pods - because everything is in multiples of 6.  Can they add items in another multiple of 6?

These natural materials are beautiful and free, and just right for teaching math concepts too! I love the Earth Day tie in, and that anyone can do this with whatever natural treasures they can find.
Designs don't have to be math inspired - check out these insects!  While they are all symmetrical, this is also a great way to show understanding of other concepts that you've covered - such as insects have 3 body parts, antennae, and 6 jointed legs.

There are so many ways to use natural materials in our teaching and learning, I'd love to hear how you and your students integrate them into your Earth Day celebrations!

For more Earth Day ideas, continue the blog hop and check out the free ideas from our clever #Kinderfriends!  Next stop: Class of Kinders
Class of Kinders

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dogs and Cats themed Stories - Fun!


Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Includes Pete the Cat color walk and groovy button counting)
This week Ms. Debbie and I thought we'd have a dogs and cats themed story time.  There are so many awesome children's books that star our furry friends, the hard part was choosing which books to read!  To make this day even more special, we had visitors from our local shelter join us - 2 cats and a dog, and all available for adoption!
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs.

Real furry friends is a wonderful start, but if you've been reading this blog, you know we like to offer a LOT of fun learning experiences.  This week we also counted the letters in some popular dog names, and put the corresponding number of doggy bones into doggy dishes.
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs.

Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs.

We also counted buttons - groovy buttons - to put on Pete The Cat's shirt.  (I drew the Pete shape, made copies, and wrote numbers 3-9 on them.)  Fine motor and counting skills anyone?
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the Cat groovy buttons)
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the Cat groovy buttons)
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the Cat groovy buttons)

The library has some beautiful doggy counters, so we put those out with a suggestion to find ways to sort them.
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs.
Of course, some friends enjoyed pretend play with them (I think they are kissing!),
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs.
some friends lined them up (another common way for young children to explore materials),
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs.
and some sorted them.  I feel so sorry for this little blue dog - it looks like the yellow dogs aren't playing very nicely!

Our final activity was another super messy one, but SO incredibly worth it.  I know I've said before that something was my favorite, but.... this was really my favorite! 
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the cat color walk)
 We reenacted the story of Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes, by James Dean and Eric Litwin.  If you haven't heard it performed by Eric Litwin, you are missing something special!  In the story, Pete steps in strawberries, blueberries, mud and water, and his shoes change colors each time.  We chose to use paint instead of fruit and mud, but the results were similar!
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the Cat color walk)
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the Cat color walk)
Between the trays of paint and bucket of water, I rolled out some paper for the kiddos to walk on and make their own little foot prints.  They loved it so much, and repeated it so often, we saturated and tore up not only the first set of paper, but a second as well!  There was much washing of feet, and a few families even came prepared with a change of clothes - and there were so many smiles!  Even better, perhaps, was hearing our families talking about doing this again, at home!  (To see how I did this activity in my home-based preschool, check out this blog post.)

After the kiddos left, Ms. Debbie and I snuck out for a quick play in the paint too.  I truly thought that would be the end of this particular story.
Fun preschool or kindergarten activities and ideas for learning about cats and dogs. (Pete the Cat color walk)

Post Script: When I got in the shower later that day, I discovered blue tempera paint under my toe nails.  If that's not proof that I'm an early childhood teacher, I don't know what is!  But like Pete says, "It's all good!"