The Birthday Committee
Each day we see evidence of the strong relationships that the children have been building in the Rainey Room. We see cooperative play as the children "work" in the restaurant they have imagined in Dramatic Play. We see collaboration as they build elaborate structures in the Construction Area. Recently, we have seen collaboration on tempera paintings at the easel as well. Children are making messages for their friends to show that they care. All of these interactions are spurred by the trust that they have in one another. While these instances of collaboration, cooperation, and caring are a daily occurrence, the additional work of participating on a birthday committee provides an even greater window into how deep these friendships have become.
The birthday committee also gives children a chance to think like an engineer and work through the engineering design process at an early age.
The story of Charlton's birthday gift starts in the outdoor classroom with his love of dramatic play involving science fiction (Star Wars, Boba-Fett and The Mandalorian), and superheroes (Spiderman and the Black Panther). Thus it was fitting that we conducted the birthday committee's interview during Backwards Day. Karen asked, "What do you think we could make for a gift for Charlton for his birthday?"
Bailee: I know. A Stars Wars Cake.
Ford: I want to give him a skateboard because when he is at my house, he asks for a skateboard scooter.
Charlton: I lost my skateboard. I have a scooter and a Kylo Ren.
Ford: Charlton, what’s your favorite thing to do?
Charlton: Hmmmm. Can you make a Boba-fett costume?
Whit: I was wondering about that. If we could make you a costume.
Ford: I was going to say that, that we could make a Boba-fett.
Whit: We could have flat clay and the shape of it and then we could color it.
Ford: When it was my last birthday, you guys did an awesome job on my present.
Bailee: A skateboard.
Charlton: Black Panther colors. Just follow the colors. Follow black and gray for Black Panther and blue, silver and yellow.
The birthday committee set to work making Charlton a costume as he requested. They had to imagine how they would make the costume and plan what materials they would use. The children had to think creatively and critically, considering which materials would be appropriate for fashioning a wearable costume. Charlton also requested that the costume "follow the colors of Black Panther."
Mimi: I knew it was Charlton’s birthday because I saw this Batman (photo of the Black Panther).
Bailee: Maybe a Spiderman.
Mimi: We can’t eat cake at school birthdays. We have to eat cupcakes because they don’t have a knife (at school).
Bailee: No, we can sew so for Charlton.
Karen, Bailee and Mimi revisited the birthday interview in which the children discussed making a costume for Charlton and suggested different materials that could be used to make the costume.
Mimi: Charlton would get dirty with clay (to make his costume). No, because it gets hard and it would be so hot!
Bailee: Maybe we could make something soft.
Mimi: Maybe something soft, because he (Charlton) could wear it... Black and black and black.
Karen: Charlton also said “Black Panther colors. Just follow the colors. Follow black and gray for Black Panther and blue, silver and yellow.”
Bailee: Wire. Blue and yellow and silver wire. We can make them (the black panther costume) with wire. Wire is inside.
Bailee and Mimi searched the atelier for the wire that the birthday committee would need to make Charlton’s Black Panther Costume.
Mimi and Bailee asked to draw Black Panther before moving on to their next plans for the day. Mimi clearly depicted the that the Black Panther’s Claw Necklace in her drawing. We now had a plan to follow for the creation of Charlton's birthday gift.
Making the Gift and Problem Solving
Now that we had a plan, we began creating Charlton's gift. Creating the gift in the image of the Black Panther's Claw Necklace asked children to think critically and solve problems. As the children fashioned the claws, they tested their ideas while making the "inside" of the claws. Some of the children created two dimensional "triangles" from the wire pieces, while others created three dimensional "insides" as Bailee called them. Once the "insides" were made, the children began wrapping iridescent foils around them. The final touch was to add "the colors of Black Panther" by intricately wrapping, blue, yellow, black and silver wire around the foil .
Bailee: This is so hard. I wrap it around. Wrap the foil. Wow, this is kinda weird. It’s (the wire) is poking out here. It’s kinda rainbow-y.
Whit looked at his “claw.” That’s not a claw because it’s flat on top. It’s a triangle.
Bailee: Look at mine. I need more blue or black or silver wire.
Whit: Wire. I wrapped it.
Ford: How can we make the wire stay?
Bailee: Put more wire on top of it.
Whit: We could make a hole and put this (the string) through.
Mimi wrapped wire around the wooden triangle: Easy peasy, lemon squeezey.
Ford looked at the photograph of the Claw Necklace and counted the claws. Then he looked back at the "claws" the birthday committee had created and began to count them. Mimi joined him in counting and declared, "Eleven!" showing an understanding of counting and cardinality.
Mimi: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Eleven.
Ford pointed to the last "claw" that he and Mimi had touched as they counted and then made a decision based on his understanding of mathematical operations.
Ford: No. We have to get that one off the team because we already have ten.
The Final Design of the Claw Necklace
It was now time to finalize the design of the necklace. Bailee and Ford worked through a few different ideas for its design. As they worked through their ideas, they explored sorting objects by the attribute of size, sorting the "claws" into three distinct piles. Once sorted, they began to discuss the pattern they wanted to make, taking design and aesthetics into account.
Ford: Little, big, little, big, little, big…
Bailee: Big, big, big, big, big…
Ford: This one is the medium size. That is small one, then a medium one.
Bailee: This big one I did.
Ford: Big is before small. If this one is the biggest it should be in the middle.
Once they settled on the design, Ford and Bailee had to decide how to construct the necklace
Ford: We could use glue. We could use wire.
Bailee: Now it's time to tie it to the rope.
Ford: We need to break the teeth apart. We need a little wire.
Bailee pointed to one end of the rope and then the other end:
We need to connect it to the other side.
Ford showed Bailee how he connected a claw to the rope:
You wrap it (the wire) around the claw. See I’m doing it Bailee.
Celebrating Charlton with his Friends and Family
For Charlton's special birthday treat, the Rainey Room children enjoy pretzel thins, plantain chips and "brookies," a magical combination of chocolate chip cookies and brownies. After our snack, Addison and Eliza shared two of Charlton's favorite storybooks:
Circus Ship and We're Going on a Goon Hunt.
The Rainey Room Children sang our class birthday song to Charlton and then he walked around the birthday candle four times to signify his four turns around the sun before blowing the candle out. When the candle was extinguished the members of the birthday committee presented Charlton with his gift which they had painstakingly made themselves, a Black Panther Claw Necklace.
Good afternoon, Rainey Room families! Due to the Early Childhood Educator Series today, we will have just one blog this week posted on Thursday. In the meantime, we encourage you to revisit recent blogs with your children and listen for new observations they may have about their learning. Have a wonderful evening!
What are we grateful for?
Leading up to the Thanksgiving Feast we had been reading stories centering Native American voices and traditions. Indigenous voices are not always heard during this time of the year even though their history is very much intertwined with Thanksgiving. One book we read was titled We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell who is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. The book centers the Cherokee community and the blessings they are grateful for and the challenges that each season brings. While reading the book, the children were inspired to share some of the things they are grateful for.
"The wind because wind does not blow everytime. It makes air." - Seon
For each part of the Thanksgiving Feast the children were involved. To prepare for the feast, the Rainey Room families and children had the task of chopping zucchini and celery. Meredith, Amba, and Paige joined us in the classroom and supported the children with the chopping. Children thought about what we would be doing with the vegetables and shared their observations as the vegetables changed shape.
"The vegetables are for the thanksgiving feast." - Mimi
Setting the Table With Centerpieces
Stirring the Soup
The vegetables chopped in the morning were brought downstairs to be added to the big soup. The soup was a vegetarian winter minestrone recipe from Ina Garten. The children were again involved in the making of the soup. Each child had the opportunity to stir and smell the soup. The soup truly embodies the love that connects our St. John’s community.
Before it was time to feast, St. John’s children and families joined together in the Sanctuary. The Rainey Room children rang bells and invited everyone to take a moment of silence. The Tucker Room children lit the candles.
We began singing our chapel songs and then we were joined by a special guest of the St. John’s church, Rev. Gini Gerbasi, who read The Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague.
With our hearts and souls full, we headed to Blake Hall to fill our stomachs with the Thanksgiving Feast.
The children were so excited to share their centerpieces and place settings with their families. We were joined by moms, dads, siblings, and even grandparents. A bowl of the soup we had all worked so hard to make was waiting for us at the table. Louisa’s dad, Greg co-organized the making of the soup and also brought in delicious muffins. The sound of conversation and laughter filled the hall. We are grateful for all of the help and support to make the Thanksgiving Feast such a wonderful day and memory for the Rainey Room children!
As we prepared for the Thanksgiving Feast, one of the children's tasks was to create centerpieces for our tables. Following the children's interest in nature, we decided to incorporate natural materials into our centerpieces. First, The children hammered nails into white birch logs. Then they wrapped wire in fall colors around the nails to create a base for their construction. The third and final step of the process was to add natural materials (wood, pinecones, seed pods, and feathers) to the wires, giving height to the centerpieces. As this project progressed, the children were challenged both physically and cognitively.
Hammers and Nails
The task of hammering nails into white birch was an exercise in hand-eye coordination. As each child hammered their nails, they had to look carefully at their target and then complete the swing of the hammer.
Cal: Hammers go up and down to go around to twist to go together.
Whit: I need a screw for this. The screw twist-ses! The hammer bams!
The children also thought deeply about the task. Some checked the nails to see if they were sufficiently hammered into the logs after each swing, while others would check after only multiple swings.
Ford: I might need a little more on this one (nail), because it’s a little bit loose.
Charlton: Now this one needs a little bit more. Screech (the Nationals mascot) is going to play here.
Ford: I like Screech too! (A nail that Ford had been working on fell out of the log). I need to do this one again.
Ava: I think it (a nail) needs a little more tightening.
Ellie: That one (nail) fall out, so I need a bigger one.
Ava: Good it's all tight now. I’m going to do another one.
The task of hammering nails is often seen as a "grown-up" job, but the children were up to the challenge. They beamed with pride as they hammered and saw the fruits of their labor.
Charlton: I have used a screw before, but not a hammer.
Ford: Whoa! I haven’t used a hammer before, but at my grandpa and grandma’s they have a special truck with a screw.
Mimi: Oh, that’ so cool, because I never did that (hammering nails) before....Where’s the space to put this one? This one can’t get out because I hammered it in!
Isabelle: No one does this, because my mom’s not strong enough, My daddy’s not strong enough...because my hands are strong.
Wrapping Wire and Adding Natural Materials
Wrapping wire also gave children another opportunity to develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor strength. The small muscles that wrapping wire engages are the same muscles that are used for a number of other tasks like snapping snaps, buttoning buttons, painting, drawing and writing. The children all approached the wrapping of wire with their own unique eye for design.
-Fay and Ford wrapped wire from nail to nail in one horizontal line and then repeated the same sequence on a parallel set of nails.
-Seon wrapped wire on two side-by-side nails and made repeated layers of different colors on each pair.
-Mimi made "bracelets" of individual wires and then fit them around the nails.
-Isabelle wrapped wire around wire and then added it to the nails.
-Whit created a zig zag from nail to nail.
After wrapping the wire around the nails, it was time to build the height of our centerpieces by adding natural materials. The children perused the materials and carefully chose their items. It wasn't just a matter of choosing materials though, as they also had to hypothesize about attaching the materials to the nail and wire structure they had already built. This required mathematical and scientific thinking.
Seon: I need to think about it. I’m going to put the wire first and then the pinecone later. First I need to find some red wire. Oh, this is too long. I need to find a shorter piece. I’m trying to stand up the wire. Look I am doing it... I’m standing this one up by twisting the wire. I’m standing the wire up. I twist it very hard because it is thick. I put the pinecone under the wire. I connected the wire to the nail.
Isabelle: Maybe a little one (bead) for the little wire.
Mimi: I want to add it to this one. I actually made it!
Our Thanksgiving Feast Centerpieces
"I know why the leaves turn red and orange. Because it’s fall. Because the snow day is coming." - Bailee
Leaves have been of ongoing interest for the children. They have noticed them falling to the ground outside. They have discovered them on their way to school and brought them in to share with their friends. They have noticed the changing colors of the leaves, particularly on the vibrant orange Persimmon tree outside of the studio window. Following their interests, leaf experiences continue to be incorporated into our days both indoors and outdoors.
Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
Joci, our pedagogical coach who works closely with our class, had been noticing the children’s interest in leaves and brought in a book by one of her favorite artists for the children to view. The book titled, Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature included photographs of Goldsworthy’s art in nature. His intricate designs use a multitude of natural materials including but not limited to leaves, ice, rocks, sticks, clay, feathers, and bark. The children noticed Goldworthy’s unique style and attention to detail.
Cal, Charlton, Ava, and Mimi observe Andy Goldsworthy's nature art with Joci.
Inspired in particular by Goldsworthy’s arrangement of leaves, Joci and Karen took a small group of children to the front of the school where hundreds of colorful leaves blanketed the grass and sidewalk. The children began making arrangements by clearing a space in the leaves.
"Clear all the leaves. All the leaves. Let’s make it very long and clear. " - Cal
Cal, Charlton, and Ava clear spaces in the leaves and enjoy their abundance.
The children then chose leaves for their arrangements and decided how to compose them.
Ava counts the leaves in her design.
Just as Andy Goldsworthy preserves his art with a camera, the children used the camera on the school iPad to document their designs.
Mimi and Charlton's pictures of their leaf designs.
The children were overjoyed to be surrounded by leaves with the freedom to explore their crunchiness and squishiness. One of the best things about the fall.
Later in the outdoor classroom, the children applied some of their new knowledge and discovered they could make prints with leaves in the sand. An interesting idea that we may apply to clay and print making in the near future.
Observing Leaves from the Window
There are hundreds of different images of the child. Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child. This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child.
The idea of the Image of the Child is one of the key tenets of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Everyday we think about changes we can make in the environment and in our relationships with the children to strengthen our image of them. One way we did this recently was when they were noticing the changing colors of the leaves out of the windows. They were grabbing chairs to try and stand on, but couldn’t quite get the view they desired. Observing this, we provided them with step-ladders to position them up higher. The children were hesitant at first, as ladders are usually only something adults are allowed to use. But our image of the children trusts that they are capable. Once they realized they could freely use the ladders, they fearlessly climbed up and had so much to share about what they saw.
Some of the children felt inspired by what they were seeing out the window and decided to draw.
Drawing Autumn Leaves and Forests
Observing the leaves from the window led to curiosity about the various colors of leaves and where leaves can be found. We found images of fall forests and the children used an array of paper and mark making materials to create their own.
Leaves Under the Digital Microscope
Part of the beauty of fall is the impermanence of the leaves. Their color on the trees only lasts for so long before they fall. But, what if there were a way to preserve that color for a bit longer? One way we found was by using beeswax. The process of preserving leaves provided opportunities to explore ideas such as liquid vs. solid, hot vs. cold, wet vs. dry and living vs. non-living. The children collected fresh and colorful leaves and carefully dipped them into warm beeswax. After coating them in a thin layer, they watched as the air quickly dried the wax.
Their conversations gave insight into some of these new ideas and observations:
Choosing Leaves to Preserve
Fay: This has a different color in it. A little green.
Whit: This one has a little dirt on it.
Whit: I see the sides. It’s getting boiled. It smells hot. It’s like it’s soup.
Fay: It’s like a pop. I’m going to do this red one.
Whit: This is getting hot. I’m doing all of the gingko leaves.
Ford: That’s the first time I did a small one.
Watching the wax melt
Bailee touching the hard wax: I’m gonna break it so it melts.
Whit: This is sticky.
Bailee: It’s starting to melt. Turn it turn it turn it.
Dipping the leaves and letting them dry
Bailee: It’s still dripping. Only the leaf can touch it (the hot wax). It doesn’t hurt the leaf.
Ford: How did it (the wax) dry so fast? What if we hold it in there too long>
Charlton: I put wax on it and it dripped off.
Mimi: It’s not dripping anymore. It’s a very beautiful one. Is this one I already did dry?
Mimi touches the leaf: Almost. This one is wet. It’s so slimy (touching the dried leaf with beeswax on it).
Fay: It’s so tiny (the leaf). Maybe we should look at it with the microscope. After it dries.
Fay: Okay it’s dry now!
Sewing Preserved Leaves
Now that we had preserved the leaves, we asked the children what we might do with them to be able to display their beauty. Recent sewing projects were top of mind.
"What should we do? Should we sew them?" - Ava
Leaves after being preserved in beeswax.
The children's leaf sewings are hanging in the window in the studio. The light shines through in the morning to reveal the colors that have since begun to disappear from the trees.
The children's preserved and sewn leaves.
One day while we were exploring leaves under the digital microscope, Fay suggested an idea that she had done at home: leaf rubbing. We found tracing paper and placed them over fresh leaves. The children rubbed crayons over the paper, revealing the shapes and patterns of the leaves underneath.
Seon: It’s still not working.
Seon: You rub it on the side. I’m doing it. I’m rubbing the leaves.
Seon looked at Charlton's leaf rubbing and identified his leaves: Ginkgo, gingko, sweet gum. And a ginkgo!
Charlton counted his leaves: 1, 2, 3, 4…..4!
Seon: We both have the same, but they are kind of different. His are big, mine are small.
Charlton: I only love leaves. Ginkgos don’t have veins up. They don’t.
Seon: Look at mine. It’s so beautiful.
Karen: It’s so vibrant.
Seon: What’s vibrant?
Karen: Vibrant is bright.
Charlton: Mine is bright, too!
Ellie: I want a different leaf.
Ava: Look at this one (holding up a single leaf).
Karen held down the tracing paper over Ellie’s leaves.
Ellie: I do the stem. Watch out for you hand Karen.
Ellie looked at her work: This one too darky (brown).
Ford joined the table.
Ford: It’s a lot of leaf rubbing.
Ford: I need another crayon, ‘cause I need purple.
Ellie: I put one red in the middle. No, I need orange now.
Ford: I’m making a line (the main vein of the leaf was prominent in the crayon rubbing).
Ford looked at his paper: How did I do that?
Ford added two more leaves under his paper and continued to use the crayon.
Ford: I made three lines.
These leaf rubbings will be another way to preserve the beauty of the leaves in our classroom after all the leaves have fallen outside.
Please find our projection for next week below. Also, the blog for Thursday will be coming soon as it is a bit longer than usual and we wanted to incorporate a activities from yesterday and today. Thank you for your understanding and we hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Sewing, as a studio experience, asks children to engage in a number of learning concepts. While sewing, children are building social skills and emotional intelligence. Sewing also provides a unique opportunity to develop fine motor strength and hand-eye coordination. While sewing, children engage in deep cognitive processes as they work out the process of sewing and the designs that they intend to create.
Building self-confidence, persistence, and patience
Charlton: This is how you sew. I know how to sew.
Ellie noticing the threads are tangled: It’s tricky. I’m sewing! It’s stuck. It’s a spider web.
Seon: I do it on my own. What is this (picking up a fabric square) for? This is my favorite color. Red. It's kinda red and orange. I’ll find the same spot. I’m starting to pull it. I’m making something. I’m gonna keep sewing.
Ford: I string beads.
Ava: I’m making a spider web. I use the needle.
Bailee: It’s tangled.
As the children sewed, it was evident that they were focused on the task at hand.
Many of the children showed persistence, returning to their sewing projects over the course of several days. They began with simple stitches and then as time went on, the combination of their stitches became more complex, layering over earlier stitches. The addition of beads, pieces of fabric and tassels added even more intricacy to the designs.
Fay's Sewing Project from Beginning to End
Communicating thoughts and needs
While sewing, conversations naturally arose between the children.
Whit: I need another color (of thread).
Fay passed the threaded needles to Whit: I got it for you.
Whit: She passed it to me. Thank you!
Fay observed Whit sewing: Whit, you’re a doctor.
Whit: No. I want to be an artist...I need a tassie (tassel). I don’t like this (the tassel) there. It’s too low.
Whit looked at his piece reflectively and decided to adjust the position of the tassel by moving it lower within the sewing hoop. When he was satisfied with the placement, he declared: I would hang it up in my room.
Fine motor strength and hand-eye coordination
Sewing is a team effort for the child's body. It is a partnership between each child's sense of sight and the small muscles of their fingers that make each stitch.
Mimi: I pull it through and it go around here.
Ava: I made a big big tambourine. I use the needle. I poked it and I poked it and I poked it.
Sewing involves complex mathematical thought. Children are estimating the length of each stitch they can make with the thread that they have. They are estimating the number of beads that can be accommodated on a length of thread. They are making critical decisions regarding spatial awareness, size, shape and pattern.
Rawls noticed that Cal was adding large beads to his piece:
I want the big beads, like Cal’s.
Ellie added a variety of beads to her sewing. When she had added enough beads, she looked at the string before making her decision: I done, Karen. I need to cut it (the string).
Sewing has been such a popular activity that we're excited to see how we can incorporate it into our upcoming days and weeks.