Saturday, November 14, 2020

Feeling Kinda' Spacey!

 Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

We're going to the Moon

Zoom, zoom, zoom

We're going to the Moon.

If you want to take a trip,

Climb aboard my rocket ship.

Zoom, zoom, zoom

We're going to the Moon!

Young Fives ventured off to the great beyond and had a serendipitous encounter with an actual  International Space Station (ISS) shuttle launch that occurred right in the center of our classroom universe. Another internet search included an investigation of the Egyptian Pyramids' "booby trap" chambers discussed during a math lesson on geometric solids.

We took several "supply" trips to You Tube to find out about actual life on the ISS, the various countries that collectively work there and some of the Science experiments that are conducted in its labs. We were surprised to discover the varied sleeping positions and private quarters locations of astronauts and that special foods, lovies and treats are sometimes sent up to astronauts during their approximate 6 month stay. We even listened to our Circle Time story read by one of the astronauts! The class heard several other books that included Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryan, Captain Invincible and the Space Shapes by Stuart J. Murphy and Dmitri the Astronaut by Jon Agee. The best part of our study (I think) was that, although the view from Space is spectacular, there is truly no place like home.

Our International Space Station (ISS) Designs

Our Space Race fit in snugly with our unit on Geometric Shapes and Solids during Math class. We transformed our 2D schematics into 3D structures like rockets, telescopes and shuttles using blocks, Magna-tiles, paper netsand  eventually cardboard boxes- lots and lots of boxes!

Y5s simulated constellations using trails of push pin holes on black paper and with a classic Light Bright

tubular telescope

We even wore identification badges on our Y5-ISS to distinguish us from intruders.

Speaking of unfamiliar guests, "alien- like" critters emerged at the station due to a discovery of very large magnifiers!

Young 5s found out that over time, we were not the only ones that had their eyes on all things celestial! Our Art explorations landed us with two artists who were also seeing stars-Vincent Van Gogh and Joan Miro. Young 5s studied the circular, broad brush strokes that created its radiant glow in Van Gogh's Starry Night. We also  studied shapes and lines while imagining alternative life forms in Joan Miro's Constellations series.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

November Dates at a Glance

Tuesday             November 3rd                      Election Day!
Thursday            November 5th                     Young Fives Virtual Family Meeting, 6-7 P.M.
Friday                 November 6th, 13th, 20th   SK All School Meeting, 11:00 A.M.
Monday              November 16th                   "Pet Met Meet" with Jack, 1:15 P.M.   
Friday                 November 20th                   Pajama Party! Wear your P.J.s today!  
Mon.-Fri.             November 23rd- 27th         No School Y5s-8th! Thanksgiving Break!
Monday              November 30th-Dec. 4th     Begin Virtual Learning this week! 

Daily Specials

 Mondays            Art with Teacher Val, 11:15 A.M.-12:00 P.M.
 Tuesdays           Physical Education (P.E.) with Teacher Hunter, 11:15 A.M.-12:00 P.M. 
 Thursdays          Music with Teacher Josh, 11:15 A.M.-12:00 P.M. 
 Fridays               Latin with Madame/Magistra Imogen, 11:15 A.M.-12:00 P.M. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Organic and Geometric Shapes and Solids represented in exquisite works of art September 28th-October 2nd

This week, Young 5s class observed two female artists- Japanese American Sculptor Ruth
Asawa and British Iraqi Architect Zaha Hadid. Both artists' stories were introduced through beautifully illustrated picture books about their lives. The World is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winters and A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa.  Each book tells of Hadid and Asawa's keen observation skills and reveal how they were both inspired by nature and the world around them. Although these artists had very different upbringings (Hadid birthed into a wealthy Iraqi family, Asawa's family forced to live in an interment camp in California during World War II), they both used their surroundings as inspiration for their amazing work. 

Hadid, sometimes appeared to see a need to erase "hard lines" in her works while dominating a mostly male-oriented field of architecture. Asawa, surrounded by barbed wire during a portion of her childhood and  taught basket weaving during a  trip to Mexico "re-purposed" the medium into "soft-looking" organic hanging spheres. Each artist fulfills their assignment in the earth and leaves behind awe-inspiring visual jewels for the viewer. Zaha Hadid's floating staircase can be found as close as the campus of Michigan State University in Lansing, MI. Ruth Asawa's pieces (and an art school for inner city youth and renamed in her honor) can be found in San Francisco, CA. 5s created paper chains (like the chained linked spirals demonstrated by Ruth Asawa throughout her work) from scraps of paper left over from folding and cutting 2 dimensional geometric shapes from a single sheet of paper during Math class. Wire- infused pipe cleaners have also been our math medium for several weeks now as we configure numbers, letters and shapes from this very flexible tool.

Later, Y5s were challenged to build architecture that included an inclined plane (featured in Square) using blocks. Afterward, they tested out their ramps and slides using marbles and wooden spheres. 

Circle Time stories told of three friends- Circle, Square and Triangle. Each story, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassan was masterfully yet simply drawn with charcoals and only glimpses of color. The stories though, were profound and clever and had the Young 5s questioning, predicting, relating to characters and laughing at their antics while problem solving and sometimes tricking each other. Concepts like, "How does it feel to be teased?", What does it mean to be a friend?" and identifying with another's fear of the dark all sparked lots of conversation with our class.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Welcome October! Crafting with Sub Teacher Chris !

What better way to spend a calm, relaxing afternoon after a high energy and very active morning? Sub Teacher Chris had the perfect solution. Just like every fantastic teacher, Teacher Chris still has a plethora of "bag of tricks" supplies still in her home after a joyous teaching career. All that was needed was a trip to her basement to pull out all kinds of treasures- stickers, craft paper, die cuts and even picture frames!  Y5s were focused and engrossed in making their choice of representations of out new month, October! Chris mentioned the fond memory of doing this activity with her own children as well and still pulls their frames out as part of her Fall decor. I think that the Y5s will too based on their very proud faces!

"I just glued leaves on and drawed grass and a tree and a pumpkin..."


"(It's a) spooky garden so it can freak everyone out!" 

"We made a cloud"

"I drew on the back... a rainbow... not a curved rainbow... like a square."

(fall tree with falling leaves behind a fence)

Have a colorful, cozy and crunchy Autumn!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

October Dates at a Glance!


Friday, October 2nd            SK All School Friday Morning Meeting, 11-11:15 A.M.

                                   (Also 10/9, 16, 23 & 30) 

Mon.- Fri. October 5th-9th Young 5s' Parent/Teacher Conferences. Please sign up here. 

Monday, October 12th        No School! Parent/Teacher Conference write up day. 

Thursday, October 29th      SK Community Meeting

Friday, October 30th          "Pumpkin Painting Party" After School-                                                                                     An SK PSN (Parent/Student Network) Event!

Friday, October 30th           Scholastic Book Orders due! 



A Case for Teaching Social Justice in the Classroom- A re-posting of an excerpt from my previous (SK Kindergarten Capers) blog

The class listened to and discussed the story The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud. We heard about special quilts that depicted hidden symbols like flight patterns of geese that revealed landmarks, strategies and instructions for runaway slaves to use in order to escape to freedom. These special codes were ideally only known by a select few and would be woven into blankets that served as road maps. The quilts were sometimes displayed on laundry lines, in windows, or on porch rocking chairs in full view of weary travelers. Today, these tapestries are prized possessions and special heirlooms to families whose stories are meant to be remembered and passed down to the next generations.

Another Circle Time story included Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winters. Afterward, this conversation was sparked and overheard during snack/choice time while Ks were busily sitting around the large table.

Child 1: “Let’s play slavery.”
Child 2: “Yeah, _ is the slaver and _ is the dog.”
Child 3  (sitting across the table): “Why didn’t they (the slaves) just put on white skin?”
Child 5: “Yeah, like a costume.”
Child 2: “Michael Jackson put on white skin and died.”
Child ?: “...and played basketball.”
Child 1: “Michael Jackson?”
Child ?: “No, that was a different Michael Jackson.”
Child 6: “Michael Jordan.”

I would like to put this conversation into a context. First, please give yourself permission to laugh a bit and take the words expressed as just that, funny. These are Kindergartners grappling with a huge concept with their 5 and 6 year old body of knowledge. We may choose to read this and become instantly offended, or feel guilty, or horrified- which is probably exactly what we should not do. Children, if given the opportunity,  express themselves with an frankness, innocence and candor that is unmatched. I can’t tell you how many times my own 4 young children said something while out in public that I wish they hadn’t. In my quest to not look like a bad parent, I scolded them or worse, pretended like they hadn’t said anything, or even worse than that, had them apologize to a perfect stranger who may not have even been listening.

Kara Walker, Silhouette Artist. porcelain vase.

There is a lot jam packed into that one conversation so we will have to save the other branches for another time. Now, one might ask, should you even teach about slavery in Kindergarten? My personal answer is, 'Of course.' It is as much a part of history as any other topic that I teach or have taught in the past-Ancient Egypt, the Titanic, the Flint Water Crisis, etc. Should I teach responsibly? Absolutely. Literature and activities are carefully selected to reflect age appropriate information without gruesome depictions to scare a small child out of their wits.
Time is set purposefully set aside for both the children and I to ask and answer questions, make comments, and express feelings. Do you give a child context for the information being read?  Of course, as with any other information that you would teach. Do you ask other people (and seek out sources) knowledgeable on the subject for help about the content? Yes,  otherwise a little or incorrect knowledge can be dangerous. Ignoring or avoiding is worse.

Grandma's Twynnes. Paper collage. 2016
My students often create scenarios for their free choice time activities based on 
the books they have just heard. Ks decorated a picturesque carton after studying The Caves of Lascaux, acted out a puppet show after listening to the story of The Mitten,  and wanted to joust and erect cardboard castles after hearing tales of knights and kingdoms. 

I was glad that my students felt comfortable enough to express themselves and regurgitate some of what they heard. So, one might ask, ‘Why didn’t the kids choose to create freedom quilt square designs or pretend to drink from a ladle instead?’ They did. Well, why didn’t they hone in on the talk of the North Star and constellations that we had been discussing? Did that too. At the heart of it, I believe, Kindergartners also found yet another way to tell their classmates what to do and made plans to pretend like they were powerful and puppies, just like they always do. Now, it is my responsibility as their teacher, to follow up and revisit this topic of slavery with as much care, compassion and age appropriate teaching that I can. To ignore or abandon this subject now is one of the the most harmful things that I can do, especially in a time when information about slavery and race in America and American History is often distorted, avoided and muted. I can, with hopefully my life experiences and my relationship with others (including my students), educate them.

(Far right.) Detail from Memory Artist Clementine Hunter's African House Murals. Natchitoches, LA.

Former Ks "patchwork path quilt" patterns

My Mom's college graduation portrait. 
My  own parents chose not to have the "slavery" conversation with me. This negatively impacted me because I was basically ignorant of the subject until my early teens. (My sisters may have had a different experience, so I will ask them.) I assume that my mother and father thought that they were helping me by not telling me. I can also imagine that that topic was a very difficult one to have. Anyway, considering that they were in the midst of experiencing the Civil Rights Movement, Detroit Riots, housing and job discrimination, and other forms of Jim Crow while raising seven daughters, they had to pick their battles. Additionally, my own mother, a young scholar, didn’t share until she was well in her late 70s, how she was denied the opportunity to pursue her dream to become a pharmacist and instead redirected to become a school teacher because she was black and living in the South. I, in turn, feel that I did not adequately prepare my own children, to a certain extent, while raising them with my husband on the south side of Ann Arbor. My reasons varied, but ultimately because I didn’t understand that I should.

We, as parents, have a responsibility to follow up with our child about, ‘What did 
you talk about at school today?’ just like any other day. It would greatly benefit each child to have an age appropriate conversation with their loving adult about these topics of slavery and racism. Also, we should continually educate ourselves and reflect on your own experiences, biases and opinions. The longer we wait to address this difficult but necessary subject, the more challenging it may become. The undercurrent of life’s background noise will become more prevalent and drown out our parental influence and potential for growth.

Here are some final suggestions:

Overreacting to your child’s comments, like when a student tells you that you are fat, is not helpful and may discourage a child’s innate need to express themselves and willingness to share in a safe space. Over explaining runs the risk of information overload and disinterest. They’re 5 and 6. Avoid operating in guilt. No one can undo or edit out the past. Don’t panic when you don’t know. And actually, it is helpful to tell your child when you don’t. And a great opportunity to seek out information to learn and grow -together. Have your child share and restate their knowledge about slavery and  race and guide them through the process of acquiring new knowledge and understanding what each really means. Lastly, don't wait too long, someone else will expect your child to form opinions about slavery and race sooner than you might think.

(Above, The Washington Monument reflected in the side glass panel of the Smithsonian's African American Museum of History and Culture. Washington D.C., 2016

You can’t get mad at ignorance." -J.G.

“The legal system can force open doors, and sometimes even knock down walls. But it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me.”

                                  - Thurgood Marshall, First Black Supreme Court Justice

If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on Earth.”

                                  -Roberto Clemente, Baseball Legend

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
                                 -from The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

Select quote from the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument and Memorial wall,
Washington, D.C.

Recommended Reading:

Let’s Talk About Race, Julius Lester. This book was recommended and given to our class by our Head of School, Walter.

The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe Feagin.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Young 5s' Ketchup (Catch- Up) Part 1 Simple to Complex Patterns, Artist Alma Woodsey Thomas

Young 5s' first Math Unit on Patterns included creating, repeating and extending object sequences. We reinforced our understanding  of patterns through songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." We worked on our rhythm and coordination by clapping out the syllables in our names and other words and practiced fine motor skills while creating AB, AAB, and AABC arrangements using small beads.


Later, Y5s were tasked to use their critical thinking skills and knowledge of patterns to invent four different ABCD pattern sequences using 4 different attributes-a feather, a pom pom, a pipe cleaner and a bead.  They carefully arranged items by using the process of elimination. They then recorded their findings on "data collection sheets." 

During Language Arts, Young 5s became designers like Roberto the Insect Architect by Nina Laden and were challenged to build a house out of sticks (skewers) or straw (paper) or bricks (unifix cubes) like in the tale of Three Little Pigs.

One-on-One times with me have been geared toward practice with letter recognition and letter formation. 
Some of our favorite letters to make, of course,  included the first letters of their names. 

One of our inspiration pieces- Eclipse by Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978) 

Young 5s began the year in Art Class with a scavenger hunt around the playground looking for "nature's color wheel." We specifically sought out the primary colors from which all other colors are derived. Our first Art/Artist exploration included a piece by American painter Alma Woodsey Thomas. Ms. Thomas' vibrant Abstract Expressionist style was cultivated from a small child until well after retiring from a career as an Art Teacher.  She, like so many artists, is said to have been inspired by nature as is reflected in her work. Alma Woodsey Thomas has the distinct honor of being the first person to receive a Fine Arts degree from Howard University. She is also the first African American woman to have had a one-woman exhibition held by The Whitney Museum of American Art. Alma Woodsey Thomas' painting titled Resurrection is among the White House's permanent collection and is noted for hanging in the Old Family Dining Room during the Obama Administration. Additionally, the piece is the first artwork by an African American woman to hang in the public spaces of the White House.
       - from Alma's Dream written and illustrated by Obiora N. Anekwe

Feeling Kinda' Spacey!

  Zoom, Zoom, Zoom We're going to the Moon Zoom, zoom, zoom We're going to the Moon. If you want to take a trip, Climb aboard my roc...