Painting our Trees
On November 15th, we had a beautiful (albeit cold) morning on the front steps observing and painting our gorgeous maple and gingko trees. There were a few options open to the children: tray mixing for creating paint colors to match the trees, painting with pre-mixed fall/leaf colors, drawing, and easel painting under the gingko trees.
Playing in the gingkos
The Thanksgiving Feast
As you will have seen in our previous blogs, we've been thinking about the Thanksgiving Feast for quite some time. The children have created elaborate table scapes and served many rounds of "persimmon jam". They also spent quite a bit of time decorating a fallen gingko branch with wonderful wire creations (including birds, nests, etc.). Then, as the day approached, we created an invitation and chopped our vegetables.
By November 22nd, we were ready to stir the soup, make persimmon jam, and set our actual Thanksgiving Feast Table.
Stirring the soup
It was such a wonderful treat to be all together for chapel! It definitely made some of the adults emotional.
For months now, some of the children have been talking about how we "used to go down there" with our families. Whenever we would take a group to the printer/copier, they would look down into the church and talk about it. Many of them remembered their older siblings being with them, or their parents. When we announced that we would have chapel there again, some of them asked how we get down there, so we went on a tour. We started by going into the balcony to look at it from above.
Saying "See you soon"
Chopping Vegetables for the Thanksgiving Soup
In preparation to gather together around a warm bowl of vegetable at our traditional Thanksgiving Feast, we got out our chopping muscles and cutting skills to do our part in getting butternut squash and zucchini ready to go into the big pot!
"It smells like pumpkin pie!" -Jane
"It feels hard." -Maxon
"It smells like pumpkin! Like a pumpkin if you scooped it out. Wait what if it is a pumpkin that you scooped out?!" -Marley
"I want you to teach me how to use a knife." -Jack
Creating an Invitation to Our Thanksgiving Feast
We thought it would be a special touch to create an invitation personally and cordially inviting all of you to our Thanksgiving Day feast. We are so grateful for all of our loved ones!
When we began having intentional small group conversations with the children about the black and white areas, we heard quite a few children refer to the black area as night (e.g. "It's night and day! Night and day!" - Nora, 5.0 years). The white area had some variation (day, snow, etc.), but after these conversations, and listening to some of their dramatic play in that area, we decided to start a bigger conversation about night.
Jen, Melanie, and I sat down to think about questions we would ask the children about night. We thought about what we would ask to expand on this initial idea. The first, and most obvious question was, "What is night?" We wanted, however, to expand our own minds about what that might mean, and how we could truly dig into the children's thoughts and imagination.
The first small group included Lucia, Reed, Lochie, and Jane. We did sit down in the atelier to talk about night for a few minutes before we started watercoloring, drawing, and painting, and their thoughts about night were thoughtful and divergent.
Here are some highlights from the conversation:
What is night?
"Night is night." - Reed, 4.7 years
"Night is when it's all dark." - Lochie, 5.0 years
"Yeah, you have to use a flashlight." - Lucia, 4.5 years
"Of you sleep. Or you just turn the lights on in your bedroom then you look outside." - Reed, 4.7 years
"[...] I was looking at a star, and I looked out and there was a moon and one single star." - Lucia, 4.5 years
"Right now it's day, so that's what day is, but sky might change. It just changes itself." - Lucia, 4.5 years
How do we know then it's night?
"When it's all black." - Lucia, 4.5 years
"Black is black." - Reed, 4.7 years
"And white is light." - Lucia, 4.5 years
What happens at night? What do you do at night?
"Eat dinner, that's a really good one." - Lucia
Small group #2
For the second small group, we had a very large tray for all four children to do tray mixing after the initial part of our conversation (thank you to the Rodriguez family for that kind donation). The beautiful thing about working with our hands as we talk, is that ideas expand as we create. The children's conversation was constant as they worked. Their colors gave them new ideas, but also seeing what the other children were doing; they inspire each other.
Here are some highlights from that conversation:
What is night?
"Night has black on the sky. Night is when it's black on the sky, and there's a moon, and stars, and sometimes you see the planets. Sometimes the moons come in different shapes - a crescent moon, a half moon, or a full moon." - Elle, 4.11 years
"But the moon glows." - Giacomo, 4.11 years
"And the stars shine." - Elle
When is it night?
"It comes when the day ends." - Giacomo
"It's many hours, and then after those hours, it is night." - Sylvie, 4.10 years
What happens at night?
"Well, what happens at night is that creatures like owls come out." - Giacomo
"Bats come out." - Elle
What does night feel like?
"It feels spooky." - Giacomo, 4.11 years
How big is night?
"Right now the day is shorter." - Sylvie, 4.10 years
"When it's night in a different part of the world...in Washington when it's night...in a different part of the world it can be morning." - Giacomo, 4.11 years
"Right now my cousins are in Japan asleep." - Nora, 5.1 years
"It's as big right now as...the sun will be shining on all of...every single part of Washington. Why is it night on a different side, and morning on a different side? Because this side is facing the sun, and the back is facing no sun. So, it will be night on the other side." - Giacomo, 4.11 years
Are there colors of night?
"Black!" - Elle
"White!" - Giacomo and Nora
"Yellow." - Sylvie
"Yellow for the stars, and white for the moon, and black for the sky." - Elle
"Dark yellow. You see the yellow on the house if you look at it. If it's dark enough, you can't see the yellow." - Giacomo
"In the night time, if it's light, it's not night. In the evening, if it's gray, it means it's the evening." - Sylvie
In early November, we began having conversations about our upcoming Thanksgiving Feast. Their memories of our past feasts (yes, we do have memories from Brown Room -- "When all of the stuff was on the tables down there.") and their experience with table settings (particularly in KW), led them to create a Thanksgiving Feast of their own in between the low table and black and white area. Materials and loose parts from both of those areas of the classroom came together to create our original Tucker Room Thanksgiving Feast.
An invitation to recreate the feast
"We need it to be beautiful." - Jane, 4.11 years
Jane, Reed, Violet, and Janie were initially working on the set up when Sylvie and Maxon decided to join. Together, they had each place setting ready before sitting down. Then, a new idea was introduced (at the end of this video):
As you will undoubtably hear, Persimmon jam was a popular condiment being served at our feast. Therefore, we plan to make persimmon jam as part of our Tucker Room feast for next week.
What did we miss? What steps do we need to take?
Sylvie's observation (heard in the video above) that we had forgotten a table cloth made us (as the teachers) stop and think about how we can revisit this feast process; how could we slow down a bit and make a plan so that perhaps we didn't forget something the next time. This also offered us an opportunity to expand on a conversation we've been having with the children about revisiting, revising, and adding complexity and layers to our work.
The drawings also opened up a conversation about layering our drawings. Reed was concerned that if she drew plates on top of her colorful table cloth, you might not be able to see them. We decided that perhaps a darker color for the plates might allow her to add them on top.
As we began to put our plan into action, reminders to slow down and focus on the details of their plan were needed. For example, they decided that simply placing the fork, spoon, and knife on top of the napkin was not to their liking; they wanted to roll them up into the fabric. This needed to be completed for each place setting before moving on to the next step.
The children used so many materials and once again, truly collaborated on each piece of their Thanksgiving Feast arrangement. Then, with some encouragement from Melanie, they began to carefully arrange the food on the plates for "feast arrangements" inspired by our snack time work.
Plating our food (making arrangements)
Setting the feast for the parents
The work of the past week (or so) was evident in their careful arrangement of the plates, silverware, drinking glasses (with ice of course), serving dishes, etc. Their signs only enhanced their work.
The Thanksgiving Feast is an ongoing process in our classroom (even as of today, the 16th). The children find joy each day in setting it up, sharing the space, inviting family to eat, and more. It has also been a time to observe the leadership of children who seem to love this kind of work. Jane has been very vocal and taking on a strong leadership role throughout this journey. Along with Janie and Reed, they have drawn in almost all of the children in Tucker Room. It has been a really beautiful journey to this point. We cannot wait to see how they arrange the tables for our Thanksgiving Feast next week.
Changing Our Calendar
We had a trick-or-treat weekend, and then, when we returned to school on Monday it was not the month of October anymore. It was November! This meant we had to change over our classroom calendar to accurately reflect the month of November. In order to do this, we needed to rearrange our numbers and add the significance of symbols indicating events and routines. The green circle indicates the day of, we have a silly symbol for our backwards days, a birthday celebration symbol (Lochie's birthday), a sing along symbol (today the ninth), and a pumpkin to mark our Thanksgiving Feast celebration. Lucia, Nora, Reed, and Sylvie invested in this work and set the change in motion, one number at a time, with an official calendar to reference the placement of the numbers.
Hold on... Is this the direction that our numbers go on the calendar? The children continued placing numbers, from the end of the first week and top row of the calendar, in correct numerical order, following from five to ten. However they direction switched from row to row, sweeping back to the beginning of the next row after reaching the end of the previous row, to going downward, filling the column. This was a learning moment! We went back to our formal calendar and checked for accuracy. Reed and Nora relocated the number 7 from the second Saturday position, and placed it where it belonged on the second Sunday. From here, Nora persisted to place all remaining numbers all the way to number 30! Finally we looked at our All School calendar to indicate dates of events.
The Persimmon Tree-(going backwards to share)
Though we shared a bit about this work during classroom stories, we wanted to take a minute to go back and share a bit more about the process. While the physical structure was reflective of their persimmon tree knowledge (mulch surrounding it, branches, a variety of persimmon colors, persimmons on the ground, etc.), this process also required a lot of patience and willingness to "try again" when things didn't go according to plan.
Some of the chosen persimmons were very heavy, while others were lighter. This lead to a discussion of counter weight/balance and how we could "even out" the sides so that the structure did not fall (again). They each took turns adding pieces and taking them off when needed so that the branches would balance.
With each crash of the tree, they seemed to feel a bit disappointed and frustrated. After some initial encouragement from me (Elyse), they began to encourage each other whenever the structure fell. They really got into a "keep going/altering/trying" attitude.
As you saw at Classroom Stories, Lucia, Reed, and Audrey shared their work with the rest of the children the next day! Lucia walked everyone through all of the pieces of the structure, and you could see the pride in their eyes as the other children recognized each part of the tree.
“That’s the persimmon on the top, and branches right here, and more branches. This is the mulch, and this is the persimmons on the ground.” - Lucia
“Are these also the persimmons?” - Maxon
"Yes." - Lucia
Do you remember why or how you started this work?
“Because we wanted to make a persimmon tree. We have one in the outdoor classroom.” - Lucia
The children all went to the window to see the persimmons.
I remember that you had a reason to build the rainbow near the tree.
“We know. We just put it there because of Nora’s thing (theory).” - Lucia (pointing to Nora’s theory drawing)
“There’s electricity that is invisible.” - Reed
What does it do?
“It makes it orange.” - Reed
11.8.21 - Into the actual persimmon tree
On Monday, 11/8, we spotted some possibly ripe persimmons in the tree. What's the best way to know if this is true? Go into the persimmon tree of course!
While we (teachers) were up there, we found a rather odd persimmon and picked it for the children. We then gave anyone who wanted a turn, a chance to climb up and see the persimmons, persimmons leaves, etc. up close. They were thrilled (and safe).
At the easel
Lochie and C.C. began a painting a few days ago. Their first step was to paint the background. They asked to leave it until it dried. Two days later, they came back and added the rest.
As we've talked about before, nothing is done; everything can be a work in progress. One of our goals is for the environment to shift and change to meet the needs and interests of the children. Thursday morning, we made some choices on how to rearrange some of the furniture, and the set up of the tables. The children noticed immediately, and there was so much excitement.
The Persimmon Gradient
The studio table changes regularly, but the children were full of joy when they saw "all of the persimmons" on the table on Thursday.
"It [the paper] is the same size." - Sylvie, 4.10 years
"We could do all of them." - Reed, 4.7 years
On Friday, the persimmons were moved to a smaller table near the light table. This allowed us to set up something new at the studio, while still being able to invite the children to observe the persimmons, squish them, draw them, etc.
Black and White patterns
On Wednesday, C.C. and Lochie began drawing black and white patterns in the message center. We decided to provide additional materials to build on this initial work.
Light Table: Layering, Colors, Tints, Tones, and Shades
We know that it must be hard to not see the environment every day, so here is the "bigger picture" of what the environment looks like at the moment. The blue table has materials for "story telling collage" inspired by C.C. and Lochie's birthday committees. The round table (message center) has the black and white pattern materials (and message center materials and sewing on the shelves). The studio table had wire, beads, and other materials along with our gingko branch as we begin to think about our Thanksgiving centerpiece; we also wanted the opportunity to intentionally explore wire for the first time in Tucker Room. The low table was set up to inspire a Thanksgiving Feast based on the children's dramatic play earlier this week; they used a lot of the loose parts, benches, and trays to create a Thanksgiving feast on Tuesday. There will be more about this in the blog next week. The atelier was also set up for open exploration with the gadgets and machines on the table (they love these). Drawing materials were also nearby.
For now, the environment and a sneak peek at the feast!
In the Atelier
Wire - nests, birds, decor
Feast Sneak Peek
Group Snack outside, Photos, and a Cedar surprise!
Introducing Tint and Shade
It soon became an exploration of gray...
How did the black change when you added white?
"It gets a little more light." -Jack
So if we keep adding white?
"It will get as light as the white." -Sylvie
Now are hands are gray! And they're so sticky, right?" -Jack
"It's because our favorite color is gray right?! Haha!" -Reed
C.C. gradually adds black to her white paint, and little by little she observes the change in tint.
"It's getting more darker!" -C.C.
One thing that we've been discussing quite a bit this year is that plans can change; artists can change or alter their work for meany reasons. Perhaps they have a new idea, or the want to enhance the original piece. The work doesn't ever have to be complete. When one direction for something doesn't work out, it's good to come back together, discuss it, and try new things and ideas.
The interview and first plan
Lochie's committee (Elle, Giacomo, Sylvie, C.C., and Reed) already knew a few things about him by the time we sat down to interview him.
"His favorite color is blue, and his favorite animal is a giraffe." - Elle, 4.10 years
But, we still had questions and plenty of things to learn about Lochie that would help us plan his birthday gift.
"So, do you like dolphins?" - Giacomo, 4.11 years
"No, I only like the message center. I also like giraffes." - Lochie, 4.11 years
Do you have a favorite kind of paper?
"The heavy...not the thin paper. I like the heavier paper." - Lochie, 4.11 years
What's your favorite thing to do with paper?
"Fold them into paper airplanes, and swirls." - Lochie, 4.11 years
"We could make a sculpture." - Elle, 4.10 years
"We could make swirls with them." - C.C., 5.0 years
"I'm not that interested in structures. I don't like structures because they're so tall. I don't like tall things. I like flat things. I don't really like anything medium [sized] or like towers. I just like things made flat. I like something pointy. Like something spiky." - Lochie, 4.11 years
This information led us to our first plan:
“Maybe we can make him a message!” - Elle, 4.11 years
“That is on small paper.” - C.C., 5.0 years
He also used the word “pointy”.
“So, pointy paper.” - C.C., 5.0 years
First step: Pointy/Spiky paper
What is pointy or spiky paper? How do we make it?
"You could get flat paper and spike it." - C.C., 5.0 years
"Then shape it like a triangle." - Giacomo, 4.11 years
"You cut it, like this [begins cutting the edges of the paper]." - Sylvie, 4.9 years
Step 2: The first plan
The first plan was a set of beautifully collaged message that would be flat with pointy/spiky paper that they started working on the day before..
For this next part of the process, the children measured our collage base (the corrugated cardboard), created small/medium/large pieces for our collage by cutting from our blue palette, and considered how we might arrange them.
Step 3: Revising the plan
One of our goals is for the children to find joy in the work that they do, and while there was initial excitement around creating pieces for a collage and layering them for a message, the enthusiasm was not sustained. After observing them throughout this process the day before, we discussed what questions we might bring to them that would open us up to new ideas.
Knowing that we would be using paper and collaging (including the pieces that they had cut) for a message, combined with the fact that we have some excellent story-tellers in the Tucker Room, we asked the questions:
What if we use our collage to tell a story for Lochie? What if it is a message that tells a story? What story would we tell?
"Maybe we take the spiky paper to tell the story of a dinosaur because the teeth can be spiky." - Sylvie, 4.10 years
“It could have Lochie in it [collage] and the T-rex.” - C.C., 5.0 years
“And it could pop up.” - Elle, 4.10 years
“The dinosaur should be eating Lochie.” - Sylvie
“Ahh...it’s just gonna scare Lochie.” - Elle
“Lochie could have a sword to cut it and get out of the dino.” - C.C.
"All of us has ideas, so we could each make our ideas. Maybe we could be on teams." - Sylvie
The children spent time looking through our paper drawers (seen below) for additional pieces that they might need for the collage; this is where they discovered the hedgehog paper that inspired part of the story. We also needed some spikes for the dinosaur's back, which they all agreed to cut into triangles. Sylvie cut the shape of the dinosaur head, while Elle searched for eyes.
As they were working, the idea was brought up once more about how Lochie needed to feel safe, and so C.C. began to create the sword using transparency paper, silver paper, and some paper we found in Tucker closet that has wire in it. She layered it together with a golden handle to create Lochie's sword.
On this day, the committee also expressed the idea that we should use photos of Lochie instead of trying to make a "collage Lochie". So, we printed some to bring to our work the next day.
Step 4: The Story Expands and the pieces are created
“The story is that Lochie was walking around, and then the dinosaur ate him, and he had a sword to cut him. I mean, he was riding on his hedgehog, and then he fell off his hedgehog. Then a dinosaur ate him, and then he had a sword so he could cut out of the dinosaur. And the smile on his face is like, ‘I’m safe’. Then, the one where he’s like “this [moves eyes]’ is...is him looking at the dinosaur.” - C.C., 5.0 years
Step 5: Creating the background and adding the pieces
As part of the discussion about the background on the previous day, Giacomo and Sylvie decided that it should be the ground and the sky. They each cut strips in shades of brown and blue for these. When Reed joined the committee, she had the idea that a tree should be planted in the ground ("A gingko tree. We know it's St. John's because of the gingko tree." - Reed), and Elle added that there should be flowers (roses). Elle searched through the paper drawers to find the colors she wanted, while Reed chose materials from our classroom message center for her tree.
[above, Reed is collaging her tree, Elle is creating flowers, C.C. is designing the dinosaur body, and Giacomo is in search of the adhesives for our collage; he was choosing them from the shelves].
"Since we have so many (strips and story pieces), we can layer. " - Elle, 4.10 years
hav"On the message, we might need to write Lochie's name and our names." - Sylvie, 4.9 years
Our final steps were to add all of the pieces, attach velcro to the back to hold the sword (it was simply too large and mighty to fit on the front), and write their names (and have the children shrink them on the copier).
"It's going to be incredible." - Elle, 4.10 years
Celebrating Lochie was so sweet! Katherine, Lochie's mom brought some fun photos of Lochie (from when he was a baby all the way until Tucker Room). She also shared two books that Lochie had chosen, and they brought cupcakes (with fun purple icing).
Once the committee presented him with his gift, and Katherine kindly read one more story (The "Lochie getting eaten and freed" story), Lochie walked around the candle five times and we sang happy birthday! It is truly such a joy to celebrate each of the children! Happy Birthday Lochie!