Monday, 22 December 2014

A Visit From Santa

Last Thursday we had our annual holiday party at our little yellow school.  Just as we were getting ready to sit down for our holiday feast, one of the teachers told us she heard something on the roof.  Could it be?  Yes, it was Santa!  SANTA!

Santa's here.  Can you feel the excitement?

The children were so happy to see Santa and had many questions for him.

We are so thankful that Santa visits us each year.  This is a very busy time for him.  The children came up with the idea of buying Santa a present.  He always brings presents for us, but who brings presents to him?  We got together to brainstorm.  What should we give Santa?  The children unanimously agreed Santa would really like cookies and milk.  After thinking about it, we thought it might be difficult to keep the milk cold once it was wrapped up.  We finally decided on cookies and hot chocolate.

All of the children signed their names on a card for Santa.

The present was wrapped.

A Present For Santa

Now we needed a volunteer to give Santa the present.  Four and a half year old M. volunteered.  I asked her "Are you sure you want to do it?  Are you afraid of Santa?"    M. replied "I'm not afraid of Santa.  I've met him three times already!" 
We had our volunteer.  Santa was so surprised and happy to receive a present!

M. With Santa

Unfortunately, it was time for Santa to go.  Thank you for visiting us Santa!  Now it was on to our feast!

Our Holiday Feast

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Wonder Of The Holidays

At our little yellow school, the holidays are always an exciting time.  Our holiday fun began with the decoration of the Christmas trees.

Checking Out Some of the Ornaments

Let the decorating begin!

The half days did a wonderful job decorating their tree.

To celebrate Hanukkah, E. brought in some delicious jelly donuts (sufganiyot).  They were absolutely heavenly!  She also brought in some Hanukkah treats for her classmates.

E. with the sufganiyot.

Hanukkah Treats

Mrs. M. told us a little about Hanukkah.  E. helped her.  E. and L. brought in their menorahs to show everyone.

E.. and Mrs. M. 
E.'s and L.'s Special Menorah

E.'s and L.'s Special Menorah

We also learned the reason why Christians around the world celebrate Christmas.  We read a very simple story and set out a nativity that L.'s family gave the school years ago.  It is beautiful.

L. with the nativity.

The Nativity

We made some lovely crafts.

Snowman Ornaments

Christmas Trees

We even made a special present for our parents.  It's a secret. We can't tell.

The half day children with presents for their parents.

Now the only thing left to do is party!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

We Have A Snag

In February 2014, a pileated woodpecker started pecking holes in one of our towering pine trees.  This was not the first time a pileated woodpecker had done this.  The same tree was visited two years prior. 

Our Pileated Woodpecker

For a few weeks we watched as the woodpecker tirelessly pecked holes in the tree.

Pecking a Hole

Watching The Woodpecker - February 2014

The wood pieces became souvenirs for the children.

Collecting Wood Pieces

We watched as the hole grew bigger.  When the woodpecker was finished, the hole resembled an oval. 

The Finished Hole

We did some research and discovered that oval holes are nest cavities and small round holes are feeding cavities.  You can see both in the photographs.  We became very excited and waited for the spring.  Perhaps the woodpecker and his mate would come back and lay their eggs in our tree.

We waited and waited, but the woodpecker did not come back.  As winter turned to spring, we became worried about our tree and consulted an arborist.  Unfortunately, the ice storm of December 2013 coupled with the holes pecked by the woodpecker had compromised the structure of the tree. It would have to come down.

In May 2014, the tree was cut.  

Cutting Down the Tree

After reading an article in the June 2008 Cottage Life magazine called Welcome to Dead Wood, we decided to save the lower portion of the trunk.  Our decaying tree is now known as a snag.  

Our snag in progress.

If you have ever gone for a walk in the woods, you will have come across a snag.  These decaying trees provide homes and food for a variety of insects, birds and mammals.   As we watch the fields and woodlots in our community become subdivisions, the wildlife that live here are losing their homes. Where will they go?

A Weathered Snag in A Forest

Our snag is receiving lots of visitors.  We have seen small birds enjoying our snag.  Our little red squirrel is also making use of our snag. 

What's in the snag?

In the fall, our little red squirrel began storing pinecones in the snag.  I hope he remembers where they are this winter.

Pincecones In Our Snag

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Sensorial Materials ~ The Sound Cylinders

The Montessori casa classroom is organized into five disciplines or subjects - Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Arithmetic and Culture.  Each discipline has a number of interesting and attractive activities which follow a sequence. Activities in each discipline are organized from the earliest/easiest activity to the most complex.

The activities found in the Sensorial area of the classroom help the child sort out sense perceptions.  Maria Montessori created many varied activities which highlight sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing.  The Sound Cylinders are one such activity which help develop the child's auditory sense.  It is a very popular piece of material in our classrooms.

The material consists of two wooden boxes, one with a red lid and one with a blue lid.  Inside each of the boxes are six hollow cylinders made out of wood with non-removable lids. Each cylinder contains granular material that make a different pitch and volume of sound when shaken.  Each cylinder in the red box has an identical match in the blue box.

The Sound Cylinders

When a child works with these materials, the red cylinders are placed on the left.  The red cylinders act as the control. The blue cylinders are placed on the right and are matched with a corresponding red cylinder.  This work can be done on a mat or on a table.

The child is ready to begin matching the Sound Cylinders.

The child chooses a red Sound Cylinder closest to him.  He holds it a few inches from one ear and gives the cylinder two sharp shakes downward while listening to the sound it makes.  

Shaking a Red Sound Cylinder

The child then takes a blue Sound Cylinder, holds it close to his ear and gives the cylinder two sharp shakes downward. The child is trying to match the sound of the red Sound Cylinder.

Looking For a Match

The child continues shaking the red Sound Cylinder and each blue Sound Cylinder until a match is found.

When a match is found, the child places the matching pairs in the centre of the two rows of cylinders.

Pairing the Sound Cylinders

All Sound Cylinders Are Matched

Matching the sounds is the first exercise presented with the Sound Cylinders.  There are many extensions that can be done with the Sound Cylinders  - grading the cylinders from loudest to softest and vice versa, placing the cylinders on two separate mats in the classroom a distance away from each other and isolating one sound, isolating sounds and asking for the next louder or the next softer.

In Winter 2014 we graded the Sound Cylinders during our circle time.  Twelve children were given a Sound Cylinder.
The children with red Sound Cylinders lined up on one line and the children with the blue Sound Cylinders lined up on the other line.

Each child is holding a Sound Cylinder.

In the photograph, E. (who recently graduated from our program and is currently in grade one) is looking to match her red Sound Cylinder with the corresponding blue Sound Cylinder.  She shakes her red cylinder in front of a child with a blue cylinder.  The child with the blue cylinder shakes his/her cylinder.  She continues down the line until she finds a match.  When a match is found, the children stand in the centre between the two lines.

Looking For a Match

All of the Sound Cylinders have been matched.

All of the  Sound Cylinders have been matched.

We all had a lot of fun that day working collectively with the Sound Cylinders.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A Hauntingly 'Howl-rific' Halloween!

This past week was the lead up to our Halloween party at our little yellow school.  The week started well, but as the day got closer, the children got louder and louder and more energetic.   No one was able to focus on anything for very long.  They were so excited!  Interestingly, as the children's energy levels increased, the energy level of the teachers decreased.  What would Halloween day be like?

In preparation for the party, each classroom carved a pumpkin.

On Halloween morning, Snow White, Captain America and an astronaut were the first to arrive.  Snow White and Captain America are two of this year's graduates and quickly got to work setting up the tables and chairs for our Halloween banquet.  This was the first Halloween party at our little yellow school for our astronaut.  He also helped get things ready.

Setting Up For The Banquet

The children were absolutely precious in their Halloween costumes!

Our little Iron Man kept flying all morning and I couldn't resist taking an action picture.

The children handed out some Halloween treats to their classmates.

Both classes of children got together for the Halloween banquet.

Happy Halloween!

Surprisingly, the children were very calm and polite on Halloween day.  The party was a delight and we all had a lot of fun.

Here's hoping your Halloween was hauntingly 'howl-rific' too.