for the love of dirt

Mariana, age 25 months, helping with the gardening at home.
Where does the love of dirt begin for a child?

Are certain children more likely to love the FEEL, the coolness, the texture, the color, and the DIRTiness that comes from dirt?

Maybe it is learned? Maybe it is innate? Because - let's face it - dirt is so very dirty.

My friend and teaching colleague Vanessa posted a "hands-on, body-in" photo of her 25 month old daughter Mariana.
Mariana is focused in her garden at home, working at transplanting with  the vigor and finesse of a two-year-old : hand in a fist and giving a good yank to the start up plant from the small container.

Gift #1: Mariana is dressed for getting into her work and contributing her efforts to the family garden.
Gift #2: Mariana is allowed by her parents to sit right in the middle of that garden patch - right in the middle or the corner or wherever she plopped herself down.
Gift #3: Mariana was offered the plants to grasp [good luck, little plants!] and had the opportunity to experience for herself the feeling of the dirt dirt dirt.

From the early childhood educator lens, I loved this photo so much that I had to ask for permission to use it for a blog post.
Consider: Many educators are in favor of offering no-mess experiences because  - well - it is easier.
Consider: Many educators are in favor of directing children exactly "the right way" something needs to be done (whether 2 years old or older).
Consider: Many educators have a whole List Of Rules of  how and when and why not and don't. 

In YOUR classroom:
Can you allow for exploration?
Can you allow for the child to lead her own discovery?
Can you allow for a little dirt to be the source of an invaluable sensory experience?
Maybe the experience might look like this:

boys hands-on in the muddy sand.
outside mud kitchen
*Thank you to Vanessa and Mariana for inviting us into the middle of their garden to feel the wonder of dirt.

got dirt?

what children hear...

Was out shopping today at a gorgeous outdoor shopping center in California.
Was sitting on a bench that had two lovely trees as bookends.
"Look! This tree has an umbrella shaped top!" -- "What? We are going to Jamba Juice?"
Each tree had been specially trimmed to have its branches arranged in a flat top that fanned out, almost like a spider web design, and also was twisted with small lights which turn on at dusk.

As I was sitting having coffee, a mother with two young boys started walking by.
The mother stopped the boys right in front of me and said:
"Boys, look at the top of this tree. When the leaves come in it will look like an umbrella!"

The youngest boy spun around on one foot and looked all around.
The older boy, perhaps five years old, looked straight at his mother and replied:
"What did you say? We are going to Jamba Juice?"

[Jamba Juice is a well known chain of juice stores  - there is one in the background of the photo.]

The mother burst out laughing, as did I. 
The mother said, "No, I didn't say we were going to Jamba Juice. I said, look at this tree and see how it has an umbrella shape at the top."

"Oh," said the older boy. "So, we are not getting juice?"

"Come on, boys, time to keep walking..."

The mother and I smiled at each other.
Off they went.

I am still smiling.

How often do YOU have the experience of the "selective listening" or the "edit to one's advantage" kind of listening by your children or students? It does happen, I know it does.

4 truly loved valentine books

Last week I posted about how our class celebrates Valentines to connect family and school. You can read that post called 'Got Valentines?' by clicking here.

I realized I need  - truly that is the word NEED - to share my favorite and best loved Valentines books...
Here are my 4 Top Picks:

1. Frog in Love. by Max Velthuijs. Sadly, it is no longer in print so I suggest you search the amazon world for it because it is the most heart felt and sweet story of Frog who falls in love with Duck. The illustrations are tremendously lovely. Perhaps my favorite book on "love" :)

2. Franklin's Valentines. by Paulette Bourgeois & Brenda Clark. You know all about the Franklin series of books. The characters are so well done with Bear, Owl and all the friends. IN this Valentine adventure, Franklin has a little mishap with his special cards for his friends and -well - I won't tell you how it all gets resolved [but it does!].

3. The Day It Rained Hearts. [also know as Four Valentines in a Rainstorm]. by Felicia Bond (the 'If You Give a Mouse' author!). Such a simple, sweet story of one girl who makes extra special Valentines for her extra special friends. Super short story and young children love trying to guess which Valentine is for which kind of friend.

4. Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. by Eileen Spinelli & Paul Yalowitz. Oh, how I do love this longer story of dear, quiet Mr. Hatch who [accidentally] gets a Valentine box of chocolates delivered to his house. The delivery makes him think someone Does love him and he begins to have confidence to talk to co-workers and become a bit more connected in his neighborhood. Oh, and how sad when the box is determined to not really be his - so sad for only a moment. Mr. Hatch's new friends let him know they Do love him :)

Do you have a favorite read for this time of year?

"then, somebody created sound"

Our 4-page movie story called "Ladybug on a Bike" - with flashlight and popcorn!
Project based work makes each school year unique and exciting.
One year, we went on a fabulous journey in our Movie Theatre Project.

Stage One:
Teachers and children identify a topic worth studying.
In this case, the children realized that two of our chapter book read-aloud books were also movies they knew about: Charlotte's Web & Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This began our discussion around how books become movies and how movies can show you a story a bit different than a book.

Stage Two:
Collecting data.
We planned a visit to our local independent Theatre. The workers there were wonderful to allow us to come during a morning time when we could have the theatre to ourselves. We generated a list of questions that we would ask and brought our camera.
Here are some of the things we learned, via photos and children's memory drawings:

Stage 3:
Exploration and re-enactment.
We created our own Movie Theatre in our classroom, under our loft. We worked in groups to create large story pages and then made up our own story as a whole class. Our biggest hit was "Ladybug on a Bike" !
We studied newspapers to see how movies are promoted.
We made signage, collected items from home to create uniforms, snack area, and used time and money in our signs and announcement.
We invited other classes of students to visit our theatre, hear our movie which was told live by a student for each show, and popcorn was really "sold" to our guests.

Stage 4: Celebration.
We invited our families to come in and hear the process of our project, to "hear" our movie and to have a feast to celebrate the rich learning of the three-month Movie Theatre Project.

Don't you love how books become movies?