Building a House

Yesterday the kids decided that my house burned down and I need a new one. What followed was amazing.

They started talking about what my house needs and of course, since they are four boys, the main focus was bathrooms. As of now, my new house has 18 of them (one of them being inside of a dump truck to make it easier). But that’s not all. I now have ‘pool noodle electricity’ installed throughout my mansion, along with a hose so that my house does not burn again… I have three beds, an attached restaurant and a lot of things to play with, including a fish and a monster. I have a high-tech security system that will scare all bad guys away and I have a very flexible roof that can be removed as needed. Honestly – what more can I wish for?

From a professional point of view – they worked on it for two hours, cooperated, helped each other, planned and estimated how what will support the weight of the logs… they measured and counted how many items they used. They wrote messages around the house practicing their literacy skills. They were so engaged, it was truly inspiring.

Melting Cups

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 We decided to bring some color to our windows.

I have always wanted to try the melting-cups-into-suncatchers idea. And yesterday we finally decided to give it a try. It was super easy and the results were amazing.

We used colorful sharpies to decorate our plastic cups. I read that plastic #6 is the best one to use so I searched for the right cups and found them in a local grocery store for about $5. The kids loved decorating them! They were pretty sturdy so it was easy to draw all over them.

When we were done, we covered a baking sheet with aluminum foil and placed the cups on it. Then it was just a matter of minutes. The oven was heated to 350F and within a minute the cups looked like Chihuly’s flowers. Within 3 minutes, they were flat and we took them out. The kids were able to handle them almost immediately. They loved them. They kept swapping them to see which one is the most fun to look through… I think they will make an excellent addition to the lighting table as well. We may make more in the future just for this purpose!

I also saw that you can get jell-o shot cups that are plastic #6 and I am thinking about using these next time. They would be even easier and faster to decorate and we could make a LOT of tiny little circles, which would be perfect for the light table. I’ll keep you posted ūüôā

Printing Valentines with Love

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Printing Valentine pictures with love (and a lots of ink)

Printing is one of my favorite art techniques. And Styrofoam printing is such a great way to let even three-year-olds experience it – with wonderful results. Sometimes we use new Styrofoam plates, sometimes we use recycled ones (I feel much better about using these but it takes a while to get as many as you may need).

For this projects, I let the kids draw their flower with a pencil. It cannot be too sharp or they will poke a lot of holes in the Styrofoam. But they loved it! We talked about flowers, lines, patterns and repetition a little bit… and then I let them draw whatever flower they wanted. They even helped with the printing!

Great thing about this technique is that you can print it as many times as you wish! And if you want to use another color, just wash it off and do it again.

How to print?

After you have your picture ready, spread a little bit of block printing ink on a smooth surface (we use old placemats) with a hard-rubber roller. When you get an even layer of the ink on your roller, spread it onto the picture. Place a blank sheet of paper on top and go over it with another roller. 1, 2, 3 and peel the picture off. If you are not happy, do it again!

You can watch this video I made some time ago about the printing process (for a little bit more complex project that I did with my elementary-school-aged students):

 

 

 

What is a Provocation?

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arTree preschool takes some of its inspiration from Emilia Reggio, including the provocation station.

What is provocation? It may sound unfriendly but it is quite the opposite: it provokes thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity and ideas. 

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How does it look like? 

In May we talk about flowers and Claude Monet. So, our provocation station may look like this: a small table filled with artwork by Monet, wooden and glass bowls filled with small green gems, flower buttons, artificial leaves and wooden ladybugs. There may also be empty picture frames to provoke kids to fill them in.

It does not come with any directions. It is up to the kids to create what they wish. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s about imagination, creativity and exposure to new materials.

We do not glue our creations down. We just take pictures and play again. That way the kids do not feel pressured and the materials can reused as many times as they wish. Plus, we have a visual record of our transient creations that we share with the families and friends.

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But these provocations go even further.¬†They may encourage kids to learn more about dinosaurs: dig up dinosaurs our of plaster, explore real fossils or match dinosaurs with their skeletons. They may ‘ask’ kids to read words, do letter-based puzzles or spell with aplhabots. They may provoke them to practice their pre-algebra skills or to create an ocean scene with shells and beads. Possibilities are endless and we change them every day!

Do you want to try setting up these stations at home? An Everyday story has a wonderful guide you may find useful. Have fun!

Environment: Third Teacher

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In arTree preschool the environment is the third teacher.

What does that mean?

Teacher and kids are the first two teacher. But we also believe that the environment is an important aspect of any early childhood program. We are designing our space so that it enables children to develop relationships with the world around them, themselves and each other.

How? 

We provide a lot of natural elements in the classroom: wooden furniture and high-quality educational toys, including a large selection of blocks and building toys. We design our space so it changes along with interests of the children. We recreate our pretend play area every couple of weeks: our grocery store becomes a vet office, kitchen or a fire station. 

We bring nature into our classroom with a large science area filled with rocks, gems, fossils, live fish and many other treasures (including a huge wasp nest from soaring Eagle park).

We encourage kids’ creativity by providing a large supply of artist-quality paints, pastels and clay.

We have a large selection of age-appropriate books in our cozy reading nook. Kids engage all of their senses with our sensory tub, art provocations, light table and in our kitchen area.

We are very excited to get started! Stay tuned for more pictures from the remodel.