Friday, May 28, 2010

Untimely Death

We have been focusing on insects and arachnids in Casa II.  One of the children was particularly interested in the spiders and how these scientific specimens were made.  I suggested we write a letter to the manufacturer, so he did.  Now, I have a pretty good idea how the specimens were produced but it will be interesting to find out how the manufacturer decides to word the answer.  It was fulfilling to find a way to help this child want to write because it is not an activity he generally chooses, and it is difficult to guide him into doing this activity.  A satisfying way to end the week, for both of us.

Friday, May 21, 2010

How Do I Look?

I'm concerned lately about the rampant marketing of Disney princesses.  I often hear children talking about princesses, drawing pictures of them, wearing clothes with images of the princesses, singing the songs, and more.  While some of the latter princesses seem appropriate role models (Belle, Mulan, Pocohontas) many are sleeping, figuratively or literally, until their "prince" rescues them and they get married.  Poor Ariel is only sixteen when she gives up her life for her prince (plus, the original story was "disneyfied" with a happy ending).  In the princess movies there is also generally an evil, older woman who is mean and gets what she "deserves."  I'm sure millions of feminist papers have been written on the subject.  Regardless, are girls buying into the blue-eyed, blond-haired, nice, pretty and passive image (Snow White was dark-haired, but pretty, nice, and a very good housekeeper)? A landmark study by Dr. Sharon Hayes and Dr. Stacey Tantleff-Dunn on preschool girls (ages 3-6) shows that the girls are very concerned with body image but the researchers attribute that to all media, not just the princess movies.  31 percent of the girls said they always worry about being fat, and another 18 percent said they sometimes worried about it (Hayes and Tantleff-Dunn;  University of Central Florida, 2009).  40 percent of the girls said that to be a princess you need to have blond hair and blue eyes.  Given the controversy, I would have a fair amount of conversation with my children about what actually makes for success and happiness, rescue fantasies aside.   

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Not? OK Go

As I was looking for something fun to jump-start my day, I remembered a song one of my Montessori compatriots had posted.  I searched for the song, discovering that there were two videos.  One was the marching band video I knew, the other was a video send-up of a Rube Goldberg machine.  The video reminded me of the importance of creativity and imagination--just because.  When we create for the sheer joy of invention and discovery--who knows where that could lead?  Particularly in education, where so much is quantified by what little oval is filled in, it is important to remember it is not what is on the test that is important, but where the knowledge can take us.  Whether a vision takes place in a burst of ephemeral genius, or on a carefully built pyramid of thought, creativity leads to innovation.  Innovation takes us all to the next level.  Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Broadway Lights

This year has produced the most prolific group of writers I have ever had in Casa II.  In addition, the children often want to write and put on plays but generally lack the skills of direction they need to make it happen.  Today, one of the girls wrote a lovely play about fish and frogs in a pond.  The fish swim and play, the frogs lay eggs, tadpoles grow, and finally, the new frogs hop up on land.  She assigned parts, and everyone actually did what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it!  Of course, they did throw in three random dogs, a cat, and a unicorn at the end but at least there was a beginning, a middle and an end.  Success!  Next stop, Broadway!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Carrots Say Spring

It is fun to see the carrot factory in action.  The children wash, peel, and chop the carrots.  The next step is to offer them as a snack.  They have also been finding their way to the tea table, and of course, to Marley.  Gluten-free carrot cake is next!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Children on the Farm

 We had a beautiful day today at Gale Woods Farm.  Children could pet and feed sheep and their lambs, milk a cow, visit egg-laying chickens, tour green houses and fields, make a snack, and do a craft, among other activities.  I  have always wanted outside animals at our school.  Maybe someday!  In the meantime, children and animals--it doesn't get much better!  The University of California has a specific program to facilitate this relationship.  They say:

 "Children’s relationships with animals are crucial to their emotional and social development and serve as the foundation for environmental stewardship. Interactions with pets and wildlife help children understand the diversity of animal life, deepen their connection to other species and develop positive attitudes toward animals. 

Although pets are common in United States households, our increasingly metropolitan society has limited direct interaction with agricultural animals and wildlife. Exposure to live animals through schools and community-based programs is even more limited in urban areas due to logistical and budgetary restrictions."  

You can find out more about this program by contacting:

Martin H. Smith
Assistant CE Specialist
Veterinary Medicine Extension
1373 Surge III
One Shields Avenue
University of California
Davis, CA 95616

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day


We had a May Day celebration at our school on May 1st.  The children could listen to the elementary school rock band, tour a fire truck, see a police car and police officer, plant a seed to take home, get their face painted, eat ice cream, and finally, make a May basket!  I remember that when I was a little girl, we would leave May baskets anonymously on our neighbor's door with candy and flowers inside.  The idea was to celebrate spring.  When I was a young mother, my neighbor would make posies of flowers and antique handkerchiefs, and pass them around the neighborhood.  I have used those handkerchiefs in my Casa to embellish various materials, and I remember my neighbor's kindness every time I see my creations.  May baskets are a lovely way to welcome beautiful weather and show people that you care.  It is the sweet and simple gestures that sometimes count the most of all.
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Coffee is a Good Thing

When I was in training, my trainer always said that coffee grinding was inappropriate because coffee is bad for children.  However, the children experience such joy when they can make a gift of freshly ground coffee to their parents that I decided to include it in my practical life area anyway (my apologies Mrs. Fernando)!