May 2016 archive

Behind the Scenes

The week was a scorcher! Suddenly, it truly feels like summer is fast approaching.  We took the opportunity to spend lots of time outside, including having two picnic lunches and extended Garden time.

Some of that time outside was spent filming our *top secret* special project, code name: Project ‘Paw of the Leopard’.  On Monday, the Beavers created their costumes, complete with homemade tiger masks, tails made from stuffed socks, scrap fabric, and donated t-shirts.  It was truly a collaborative effort on the part of the Beaver families, the students, and the teaching team, so thank you to all for providing the materials!

Costumes in hand, we set out to record some B Footage throughout the school.  Locations included Imagination Station, the front steps of Packer, the Kindergarten classrooms, the Garden, and much more.  Although we can’t reveal too much (in the name of preserving secrecy, and all), here is a sneak peak into our behind the scenes action:

A HUGE thank you to Jalen’s Dad, Christopher, who generously dedicated his time and expertise to help us record our very own version of a *certain* favorite song for a *certain* special project.  The Beavers belted it out, and we got it all in one take!  It was so gratifying to hear all of our hard work and practice come to fruition.  We can’t wait to hear the final cut!

In an effort to deepen our learning within our special project, we read some nonfiction selections about tigers.  We learned many interesting facts, including special information about the patterns of tigers’ stripes, how old they are when their canines come in, and at what age tiger cubs leave their mothers to venture out on their own.  We also learned about how tigers are an endangered species, and the Beavers were saddened to learn that much of this is due to the illegal practice of poaching, as well as the destruction of the tigers’ natural habitats.  Being the kind, caretakers that they are, the Beavers have begun the conversation of how to help to preserve the species. They are interested to learn more about Project Tiger, a natural conservation effort to save tigers all over the world.

We visited the International Fair today, and the Beavers were thrilled to see our Buddies in action!  The Beavers enjoyed some international treats, and got to watch the performance of dances from around the world, performed by the Fourth Grade classes.  Bravo to all!

We celebrated three more summer birthdays this week! Two Beavers, and a teacher!

Lastly, a huge highlight of the week was our class trip to Yankee Stadium.  Once again, a HUGE thank you to the Jeter-Martin family for not only organizing the trip, but accompanying us through the stadium.  Thank you, as well, to our parent volunteers.  Here are just a few of the photos from the trip, but please check the Google Photos page, as there are many more to be seen!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!


Eye Of The … Beaver

The Beavers fascination with the Underworld has sustained. On Monday, we began to transform our Dramatic Play area to truly reflect the Beavers’ visions and hypotheses about the Underworld.  Looking at our notes of the children’s conversations, as well as or observations of their outdoor play in Garden, we gathered that the Beavers envision the Underworld to be a dark place, full of places to hide, magic, treasures and rainbows.  Using the collaborative murals we created last week, we covered the walls of Dramatic Play.  We then created a tent with a few pieces of fabric, and gave the children flashlights to investigate and explore.  As it is also the first week of our Conserve-A-Thon, we serendipitously have had the lights off for most of the day, so the Underworld was truly a dark space.  During Garden on Wednesday, many friends discovered they could draw rainbows on large rocks with chalk, creating the “rainbow rocks” and “rainbow treasures” they imagined they might discover by continuing to dig and dig and dig.  After many friends volunteered to scavenge for rocks, we set up a center at Choice Time complete with an array of paint colors. As they painted, a dialogue emerged about the powers of these rainbow rocks.  

Steelo: [My rainbow rock] can grant any wish you make. It came from the Underworld.

My next one has all different powers and all the elements -like fire, water …

Ezra: Look at how the colors mix! Mine has the elements too. They’re really great.

Alex: My rainbow rock has a yellow sunflower and the pink is lava.

Téa: My rainbow rocks have special powers -they turn into fairies.

Harper: Mine turn into cats.

Vivian: Mine have volcanoes.

Arjun: Mine has all the special powers in the world.

Ruby: Mine has special powers. It gives people colors like rainbow eyes and skin. It’s from Mexico.

Ezra at sensory table: I’m doing an antidote to help worms.

Cate: It comes from New York. It has special rainbow powers.

Jake: Erica, every time you say rainbow rocks, I think of the My Little Pony movies.

Charlotte: Whenever you look at my rainbow rock, it looks back at you and then you fall asleep.

Harry: It has powers to turn everyone into a lamb.

Ava: Mine is from Long Island and it has special vinegar powers which we have in our body.

Asher: I’m painting my hands first then painting my rock with my hands to give it powers.

Once dry, the Beavers arranged the rainbow rocks in Dramatic Play and the fantasy continued.  With this transformation, Dramatic Play has become a place of discovery and magic, reflecting the Beavers’ own ideas about the Underworld.

Over the course of the year, the Beavers have been lucky to build relationships with our neighboring classrooms in the Garden House.  To provide the children an opportunity to spend more time with the greater school community, we decided to co-host a shared Choice Time with Mrs. Montero and Ms. Copeland’s class, the Kindergarten Trains.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Beavers had a choice of activities throughout the two classroom spaces.  Each center included friends from each of the classes to ensure all children an opportunity to mix with new friends. New activities included sensory play with the compost and the sensory bin, paper-making, the light table, puzzles & games, and building with Hollow Blocks and Unit Blocks.  Over the course of the two days, everyone had a chance to explore each space.  New friendships were made, and it provided an excellent opportunity for the Beavers to work alongside new friends (in anticipation of next year!)  As always, the Beavers proved to be open, inclusive and enthusiastic.  We know they will be so successful in their new classrooms with new friends!

Another fun exchange between the Beavers and the Trains came when the Trains new compost bin arrived!  We felt great pride knowing that our composting initiative had officially impacted a classroom to join our environmental efforts!  Given the learning curve, the Beavers knew that there was lots of knowledge that they could share with the Trains.  After seeing their new wormies and helping them as they set up their bin, at Choice Time, many friends decided to make an “instruction” book for the Trains.   They worked together to decide the most important composting facts and got to work! Next week, we hope to finish and present their guide to the Trains.

On Thursday morning, the Beaver teachers and the teachers of our Buddy Class coordinated a surprise date for the two classes.  Our Fourth Grade buddies met us in the Garden for some quality time running, playing, and some “Scatterball” – a new game that the fourth graders taught us that has quickly become a class favorite!  The Beavers loved the extra time outside and always enjoy an opportunity to play with their Buddies.

As we approach the end of the year, a sense of nostalgia is all around.  The children have started to reflect on their dwindling days in the Beaver Lodge and this realization has brought up many questions about some favorite traditions. After finishing another round of Teacher of the Day, the Beavers wondered: Is there enough time left for us to start another cycle? Always concerned with fairness, they thought:  Will everyone to have a turn?  As a class, we looked at our calendar and assessed how many days really are left in school.  After talking about the need to eliminate the last week of school and our field trip days, we counted the remaining number of days that were possible for a Teacher of the Day turn: 12 days is all we have….. Sigh!  Given that there are 21 Beavers, we posed the question: How can we proceed with Teacher of the Day to ensure that everyone has a turn and there are the same number of teachers on each day?  In order to figure out this problem, we turned the issue over to the Beavers.  Highly motivated to determine a solution, the Beavers were given a bag of twenty one manipulatives (dinosaurs or bears) and a partner to help them problem solve.  We gave the Beavers the following challenge: make groups of bears or dinosaurs so that every group has the same number of manipulatives.  After experimenting with different groupings and different organization methods, we regrouped on the rug to share our discoveries.  The class quickly noticed that the only way to divide the 21 manipulatives evenly was either in 3 groups of 7, or 7 groups of 3.  We voted on which Teacher of the Day scenario they preferred, and will officially launch our new round next Tuesday.  On Monday we will discuss what this beloved tradition will look like with 3 friends sharing the duties!  Watch the videos of the Beavers in full counting and dividing action in the “Videos” folder on our Google Photos page!  When posed with an authentic math problem, it is amazing how far children can stretch their thinking.  

Much of the week was dedicated to continued work on our *mystery project*.  In half groups on Wednesday, we listened to lyrics, sharing ideas of what they mean.  We then listened to music and did some interpretive dance.  The Beavers danced as a group, and also had the opportunity to show their solo dance moves in the middle of the circle.  In Dance class today, they choreographed whole group movements to certain parts of the song.  Make sure to check Google Photos for documentation of their killer moves!  And stay tuned for more!  But, shhhhh – not a peep out of you!

Lastly, we had our first summer birthday celebration!  We enjoyed cupcakes and a read aloud for this Beaver’s 4 year and 11 month birthday.

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Check Google Photos for many more photos from the week, as well as some amazing videos!  Have a great weekend!

Exploring the Underworld and Other News

On Monday we spent some time learning more about your children’s ideas about what lies beneath us. Responding to the prompt, “If I dig and dig and dig…”  the Beavers gathered to brainstorm and generate language of what we can discover through excavation.  They then shared their ideas about this act of discovery and their theory of what lies beneath.  Using chalk, gel markers, and a choice of black or brown paper, the Beavers then illustrated their ideas.  Here are their hypotheses:

Milo: I’ll find lava.

Harper: I will find worms!

Arjun: There’s the underworld and I got trapped in it, and the Hulk comes and saves them.  There are lava and booby traps in the underworld, and a deflector shield.

Ezra: The underworld, and there’s booby traps everywhere, that’s the white dots.  And there are monsters!

Jalen: I will find treasure.  Coins and treasure.

Carmen: I will an underworld.  The underworld will become a world of new things.

Lucia:  I will find golden necklaces and rings.

Pearl: You’ll find a puppy and bunny land.

Téa: You’ll find gold sand with a treasure chest in the middle!

Harry: I can find some worms!  This is a picture of the outside and inside, with a rainbow in the sky.  And there’s a rainbow underground.  

Ruby: A long worm, another worm, a root, rainbows, and that’s all!

Ava: I will find an underground rainbow shop.

Asher: I’ll find a baby magnet!

Steelo: Two plastic rings with red plastic gems.

Cate: I will find worms.  I drew these lines because I think I’m gonna find them in different spots.

Jake: I would find a pirate ship with the pirate inside.

Vivian: I will find mud and dirt.

Alex: Maybe I can find some old cookies!

Charlotte: I think I will find some history.  It could be!

Emerson: I will find worms and creatures and insects.

We noticed that in many of your children’s theories there were similar themes about the Underworld and its existence beneath the mud.  We asked them how they thought we might bring their ideas to life to further explore them.  Through discussion the Beavers agreed that they would like to transform our Dramatic Play area into “The Underworld.” To start this process we began painting some murals that will hang in their Underworld.  They grouped together their ideas to create 4 distinct murals. Pearl, Vivian, Emerson, Carmen and Arjun worked on a mural that included “Greek Gods,” “the bottom of the Earth,” “lava”, and “a world filled with puppies and bunnies.”  Harper, Jalen, Lucia, Téa, and Ezra worked on a mural that included: “a pink treasure chest,” “golden coins,” “dirt,” “worms,” and “litter.” Ruby, Harry, Asher, Elfie, and Cate created a mural with “old planted roots,” “mud and wet mud,” “worms,” and “baby chicks.” Jake, Ava, Charlotte, Alex and Steelo made a mural with “mud,” “buried treasure,” “a pirate ship,” “a treasure box,” and “a ring.”  Throughout the planning process there was lots of discussion about how when digging you will always first go through the layer of worms, mud, and litter before you will arrive at the Underworld filled with magical creatures and treasure.  Dramatic Play is still under construction and next week we anticipate planning the next stages of development.  

May Day was this week!  Congratulations to everyone involved, including older siblings.  Although the Beavers were not *officially* a part of the performance, the excitement and energy of the event carried over into our classroom.  We attended the dress rehearsal on the Thursday before the originally scheduled May Day, with the Beavers literally dancing in their seats as they watched!  On May Day itself, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to join the Puppies on the fire escape to watch the performance.  The Beavers have been so involved in the excitement and wrapped up in the May Day energy that the entire soundtrack has become a classroom favorite.  You may have heard your child singing the classic 80s tune “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor, or “Hula Hoop” by OMI.  We have been having daily dance parties to these songs, and today in Dance, Alicia dedicated her entire Movement soundtrack to the songs of May Day.  

On Wednesday, we had a very special author’s visit.  Kara Van Kirk Levin, a family friend of the Mannix’, and a local author, came in to share her self-published book “Soldier.”  The book tells the story of a special porcupine who cannot be hugged because his quills stand up, and of all the woodland creatures that come together to solve this problem.  The Beavers joined the Kindergarten Trains in their classroom to hear a reading of the book, as well as to engage in a question and answer session with Kara.  The reading was captivating, and the entire experience was a delight.  Thank you to the Mannix family for connecting us with Kara!

With the turn in the weather, we took every opportunity to spend time outdoors this week.  On Thursday, we had outdoor Snack, picnic style!  The Beavers sat in groups in our drop off area, chatting over pretzels and clementines.  It was such a delightful experience that we took our Choice Time activities outside as well – in the Puppet Theater, the Beavers got to work creating cards for Denisse (who we all miss dearly!) and writing in Writer’s Notebooks.  Seeing as how so much of our indoor curriculum has reflected outdoor exploration, it was a great way to bring our learning outside the walls of our classroom in yet another way.

Have a great weekend!





Digging Deeper…

Despite the dreary weather, the Beavers managed to fill our days with their sunshiney smiles! Always looking on the bright side, the Beavers thought the rain made for some excellent mud play.  On Monday, we went excavating to further explore our Garden’s treasures.  Common themes were: if we dig and dig and dig, we will find treasure or the “underworld.” To provoke further conversation about this idea, we set out lots of “treasures” at the Playdough table.  Additionally, we brought the mud from outside, IN! We continued to “dig deeper” with the Underworld idea, asking them to think about how they could expand upon this idea in their play.  We read them Roxaboxen by Alice McClerran and Barbara Cooney.  In this book, the characters create  a town called Roxaboxen made of mud, sticks, stones and found treasures.  We were curious to see how a reading of this story may shape or influence the Beavers play.  While reading, the Beavers talked about games they play and where they always play them.  Steelo mentioned a table in his house that he always pretends is an island.  Téa shared about a tree in her neighbor’s backyard that has a canopy that feels like a fort.  The Beavers agreed that the mud they have been digging in felt like an underworld or a place where buried treasures might be.  We will further explore these ideas next week.

Another highlight from the week was visiting the Book Fair.  Before heading over we discussed what it means to shop with a “budget.”  We talked about how they had $5 to spend and it was up to them how they wanted to spend their money.  We used this as an opportunity to explore combinations and the various ways to make 5.   When we arrived at the Book Fair, your children were very deliberate with their choices, making decisions about books to purchase based on price and their interests.  When they had finished shopping, ON THEIR OWN they then traveled over to the cash registers to pay for their books.  The cashiers could not resist the sweet shoppers, and your children couldn’t have been prouder of their independence as they paid for their books.  
While shopping, a few friends mentioned that they felt sad that Elfie was missing our visit to the Book Fair because she was sick.  We asked them what they thought would be a nice surprise to her upon her return and collectively, they decided to pick out books for her! They had lots of conversation about her interests and all that they know about their friend. They ended up choosing a book about the Tooth Fairy (as Elfie has been losing lots of teeth lately!) and a book about dogs in Hollywood (as they know she loves dogs!) Time and time again we are touched by the caring and empathetic nature of your children.  This sweet anecdote is one of many. They have developed such tight bonds and really look out for each other.  Our Beaver community is like a family and we feel so lucky to be a part of it.   

An update on composting:

Thank you Uncle Tyler (Téa’s uncle!) for sharing a video from Blue Pepper Farm about his composting efforts.  In response to his video, the Beavers were eager to put together a video about composting in our classroom.  Téa and a few friends got to work to share their knowledge.  As a little plug for Uncle Tyler and his organic farm, you can follow Blue Pepper Farm on Instragram @bluepepperfarm.  They are taking orders now and through the summer for chicken, pork and (Animal Welfare Approved) lamb to be available this fall.  If they drum up enough Brooklyn interest, they can coordinate a delivery to the city from the Adirondacks.  Thanks to the Mannix clan for sharing such a fun part of your family with the Beavers!

Mother’s Day is this weekend and your children were very excited about the opportunity to shower their beloved mamas with some much deserved love.  We hope you enjoy the little something your Beavers prepared for you.  They worked so hard on their presents and cards, making wrapping paper and decoration selections based on things they knew their moms would like.  We wish you a wonderful weekend filled with lots of relaxation and quality time with your children.  They are lucky to have moms like you!
Beaver News Flash!  We have so many amazing videos that we want to share, but our blog platform has limited memory and space.  From this post onward, you can find videos of our goings-on in a Google Drive Folder titled “Beaver Videos” – it has been shared with all of you, and you can view, save, and download as you please.  This is a new mode of sharing information, so please let us know if you are experiencing glitches!  We anticipate this will make video-sharing much simpler and easier.