Thursday, 30 January 2014

Pirate Boats

I've spent the last two days gushing over how cool our February theme of transportation is and I'm not even close to being done. There are so many good things happening at STA right now, it's such a fun place to be.
Because of the higher ASD diagnosis ratio of boys to girls we always have a program dominated by little boys. This year we have 3 girls in our classrooms and 27 boys. Our girls are all adorable and sassy and very much into things like princesses, animals, dolls, and admiring their own beauty. We love them and they always keep us smiling. This theme, though, has our gang of boys over the top excited. Our boys have lots of interests but if you have to pick one things that unites all of them it's transportation. Thomas is always a hit and we have lots of fun playing with trains, there are a couple of kids that can identify the make of your car from your keys (not impressive when their teenagers, but when they're 3-5....), there's kids that like construction vehicles, and even one little guy that love love loves airplanes. Long story short, this is a really fun group to explore transportation with.
One thing that's not always fun to do with this group is crafts. We have some kids that are rock stars and love doing crafts, we have some kids that require a little redirecting but are generally ok with crafts, and we have a few kids that hate, and I mean really hate crafts. The plan (fingers crossed) for this month (and really every other month...) is to come up with some really cool transportation crafts that might motivate the kids to complete their work. We have a few lined up that actually turn into toys, like this one...
Pirate boats!

We start with these pre-made boats. Each is made of 3 recycled corks and a straw all hot glued together. I learned when looking for supplies that you could spend $30 on new corks at a wine making store, or you could simply mention that they're for a preschool craft and get recycled ones for free! We have a store just down the street from us that collects old wine corks and then donates them to schools for crafts or experiments. How cool is that? Alternatively you could open a bottle and collect your own - all in the name of education of course :)

The kids get busy cutting out one or two sails for their boat. This peanut decided to do two. Then they decorate them. Crayon is best for decorating as it doesn't run if it gets wet.

Once the colouring is finished we cut some small slits in the top and bottom of each sail and pushed them on to the straw. How amazing is that superhero/skull and crossbones combination?!

When everything is in place we take them to our water table (I told you it would pop up again) and give them a sail. The corks float beautifully and because they are glued in a row of three the boats don't topple over.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Now Boarding...

As part of our transportation theme we built our very own West Jet terminal in the imaginary play area. Not only is it amazing (thanks to Sarah in speech for all her hard work putting it together!), but it's super functional and a lot of fun for the kiddos!
To start, pick a role, are you going to be a pilot or jet-setting off to Mexico for a tropical vacation. We have costumes for the flight crew and suitcases for the passengers to pack full of sun glasses, swimsuits, and souvenirs. 

Once you arrive you need to check in at the West Jet desk. We're doing things a little out of order and practicing handing over our passports to get them stamped at this check point. There are some fake tickets and boarding passes to be handed out here as well.

Next step is the baggage drop. Just like at YYC we have a scanning area for the suitcases to go through. You never know what these kids might sneak into their pockets or bags.

Then it's through the security gate and into the waiting area.

Our pretend airplane sits 4 passengers as well as a pilot and co-pilot. A West Jet employee was nice enough to donate some barf bags and emergency procedure directions, you can find those located on the back of the seat in front of you.

 For our kids this is a great opportunity to go through the different steps that are involved in travel. Some of our kiddos are very familiar with the airport and others have never been so imaginary play is a great way to practice old skills and learn new ones. Needless to say, this airport set-up is a huge hit with the little ones. On the first morning we had one kiddo take off to Mexico 3 times before lunch!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Transportation Station

We, like everyone else in Calgary right now, are a little over this ridiculous winter that we've been having. We decided to switch things up a little early and yesterday, during our staff PD day, we did a full theme rotation in our classroom. Out with the snowy winter and in with transportation!
This theme comes with a full toy rotation as well, every toy that was on a shelf in our classrooms went back downstairs and we brought out a ton of new transportation toys to play and learn with.

The biggest hit of the morning was this Hot Wheels ramp that we mounted on a classroom wall. There was lots of arm-flapping, giggling, and excitement, and that was just from the staff! I saw some awesome stuff happening with these ramps - lots of independent turn-taking and spontaneous commenting and conversations with peers.

One of our sensory tables has been turned into a water table with boats. This will be very exciting for the kiddos that missed water play so much last month. We'll also be featuring this water table in a cute new craft very soon.

Every room features at least one floor mat with roads, rails, and rivers.

This floor mat has been paired with parking structures and some very cool ramps.

Our second sensory table has been filled with moon sand and construction vehicles for the kids to dig, push, and pile the sand. You can also make pretty cool tracks in the sand with the tires and belts on the trucks.

Our book shelves got a make-over too. This month features plenty of transportation related material plus the occasional lovey-dovey valentine book as well.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

X marks the spot

We are eXtremely eXcited that our Animated Literacy letter for the neXt two weeks is X! This week, to help us eXplore X a little bit we watched this great video:

After learning about some eXamples of X words like X-Ray and Xylphone we did an X themed craft.

These are "X marks the spot" treasure maps! (the photos of kid examples don't seem to want to load properly today so you'll just have to practice those coping skills and put up with the teacher example for now, sorry!)
To create these maps the kids used wax crayons on card stock paper to draw out their map. To start we drew a big red X on each piece of paper. We encouraged the kids to generate some ideas about what you might see outside so our maps ended up with lots of houses, cars, and trees, one even features Grandma waiting at home! Once they had drawn out a trail to follow we took the maps and scrunched them up - this was hilarious as the kids didn't know what to expect and gave a look of "oh my gosh, this lady is ruining my craft." To add the finishing touches we opened up our now wrinkled paper and used some orange pekoe tea bags that had been soaking in warm water to dab or rub over the entire piece of paper to give it that weathered look. Some of the kids were a little hard on the tea bags and ripped them, we learned that this made it look like there was dirt on the map so we left it there because it just looked too good.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Canine Gibbs

We had a couple of very special visitors at STA this week, Fire Investigator Tony Bund and his companion, Canine Gibbs, along with a couple of other members of the Calgary Fire Department stopped in to teach the kids a little bit about fire safety.

Before Canine Gibbs came into the room the kids answered some questions about fires and fire safety. They had great answers for "What does a fire truck sound like?" "What does a fire alarm sound like?" and "If we want to put out a fire what would we put on it?"

In addition to learning about fire safety and getting to meet some Community Helpers the kids had the opportunity to hang out with a dog, which is super exciting and doesn't happen everyday for a lot of them. Because animals can be scary and unpredictable our kiddos don't always know how to react or respond to them. Gibbs was super calm and welcomed lots of little hands to give him scratches. 

 We learned a lot about the CFD during the visit and found out some really cool stuff about the canines that they work with. Canine Gibbs is an American black Labrador Retriever and was born in Indiana in March 2012. Originally he was being trained to be a seeing-eye dog but was recruited to train as an accelerant detection canine. We learned that his first job was investigating a fire at an elementary school in the same community as STA. When Gibbs isn't at work he lives with his handler, Fire Investigator Tony Bund. Gibbs has his own Fire Investigator badge and number and is considered senior to anyone who has a lower badge number than Gibbs (this includes people!). 

The Fire Department was generous enough to give each of the kids a little souvenir. They've been working through activity books in the classrooms and will each be taking home their own little fire dog today.



The last weeks of our winter theme are upon us, it feels like this one has gone forever as we had a break right in the middle. This week we're talking all about mittens in Kids Club. Our craft is a good one, one of my personal favourites so far. We're making our own patterned mittens!

We start by each kiddo picking a colour for their mittens. Our paper is all folded in half and pre-cut into the shape of a mitten thanks to our wonderful EITs. The kids each paint one half of their paper, or one mitten.

Once the painting is done we fold the mittens in half, press them all over, then open up and have 2 matching mittens. A perfect pair.

Cut the paper in half and add some string as a finishing touch and these one of a kind mittens are ready to take home!

We've also been reading The Mitten by Jan Brett.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Soccer Skills

This week (and last week too!) in Kids Club we are working on some soccer skills. Last week the kids practiced kicking the soccer ball towards the net to knock over all the bowling pins. This week we are practicing kicking towards the goal again and then practicing kicking towards a partner and passing back and fourth. The kids get to have some fun and practice balance and coordination. We just may have some future stars on our hands here.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Arctic Animals

This week we've been making Arctic Animal silhouette art in Kids Club. The craft is great because we get to break some of the rules that we work on all the time and have the opportunity to be flexible with our rigidities. The supplies we used were animal cut outs (we have wolves, penguins, hares, seals, walruses, and polar bears), white paint, blue construction paper, and toothbrushes.

 The kids first get their paint shirts on, a few of them practice buttoning up the shirts too, then put their name on their work and begin with the art!

Next we use masking tape to secure the shapes to the construction paper and then paint over them with the white paint and toothbrush. We get to bend the rules by making a huge mess and paying no attention to lines. Once the paint is dry we remove the animal shapes and have some beautiful frosty looking silhouettes. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Turn Taking

I took a  break today from planning and prepping to play a game with a couple of our kiddos that are practicing turn-taking. We played a Smurfs game that is similar to CandyLand. The premise is that you are trying to make it to the finish line first and get there by selecting cards that show you what colour of square to move to next.

 The game went really well. We each took turns selecting a card and moving our little Smurf the to the appropriate spot. There were some moments at the beginning when little hands had to be reminded to "only flip over one card," or "pick the card on the top of the pile." There were also a couple of opportunities when a little help was required to figure out which blue square was the next one. But in the end everyone got the idea and was able to play pretty independently!
I won, and in my 25 years of board game experience did so with class, but my little friends did an incredible job losing. That seems like a weird comment to make but it is important for our kids, especially the ones that understand the concept of success, to learn how to cope with losing. I got two happy high fives and a "Wow! Claire, you win!" The best prize was being able to see these two peanuts learn as the game went on, they all always impress me with their skills.

Monday, 6 January 2014

New Year, New Crayons

Happy New Year!!

Today was our first day back from the winter break and it was a good one. Two full weeks off gave our kiddos (and staff!!) a much needed break to relax and unwind from a busy fall. The best part about our first day back was that it was like a first day again. All the old toys became new after two weeks of neglect.

Today, we also made the old crayons new again with a crafty little science experiment that a couple of kiddos did.

First we collected all of the old, broken crayons that were in our craft boxes, offices, and classrooms. We peeled them and rubbed off any extra glue which turned out to be great fine motor practice for the little fingers.

Next, we took all of our broken pieces and sorted them into colour coded and labeled cups - great practice for sorting, colour identification, and reading!

Then, and this is always my favourite part, we took a few of this colour and a couple of that colour and put them into a muffin pan as carefully designed groups.

All of this went into the oven for about 10 minutes at 350ยบ so we played a game and read a quick story. When we went back to check on the crayons we talked about how they used to be solid but were turning to liquid because they were heating up.

When all the crayon pieces melted into a nice liquid with uniform consistency we put the whole thing into the freezer to cool down and once solid popped them right out of the pan.

Now we have this beautiful assortment of rainbow crayons to choose from. Way better than throwing out all of those old, small pieces.