Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chenille Stems and Styrofoam

Chenille Stems in Styrofoam

I am beginning to feel like the styrofoam crusader.  I love the stuff.  I don’t love what it does to our planet though, so when someone drops me a load of styrofoam and asks if I can do anything with it, I tell them yes.  Better to use it until it’s unusable then to throw it out, right?  You’ve seen us use our brute strength to hammer in golf tees.  Here’s an activity with a little more finesse.

This lovely square of styrofoam was decorated mainly by one child with a little help from a few others occasionally.  She spent a solid 20 minutes carefully inserting chenille stems (pipe cleaners to you old fogies) into the styrofoam.  That’s not an easy task since the stems bend if you hold them too far away from the tip.  So it’s an exercise in fine motor control as well as pressure sensitivity, both important things to develop for writing later in life.

The trick with styrofoam is to find the stuff that doesn’t shred into a million little balls as soon as you start poking it.  That stuff isn’t fit to be used by twos and threes.  You end up chunks of torn styrofoam all over the place and then the custodian comes to talk to you for damaging the vacuum cleaner (again).

After you’re done you can keep the piece in your room as sculpture or have everyone help you pull the stems out again so you can start fresh another time.  Just don’t put it in the landfill!

Before it Became Art

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Let the Paint Boogies Get You Down

After a nice spring break this photo is what greeted me in the supply room when I went to fill the day's paint cups.  Cool!  No more paint boogies!

For the uninitiated, when you use pumps with tempera paint they have a tendency to get clogged with dried paint, AKA "boogies," or "boogers," depending on your personal preference.  Even if you use the pumps everyday, the paint still dries.  When you use a pump that has boogers in it, you start the day covered in paint yourself since the paint goes flying everywhere but down depending on how hard you pushed on that sucker.  It's a real pain to clean pumps out, too.  You have to soak them and force water through them, so they generally don't get cleaned out more than is absolutely necessary ("necessary" defined as, "most of the staff is cursing the pumps this morning").

This is an idea that our music teacher/co-director thought up.  She made little chenille stem (pipe cleaner, for us old folks) plugs for the pumps to keep the paint from drying inside.  Brilliant!

I was the first person to use the pumps after spring break and THEY ALL WORKED!  Not a single one was clogged and I went nuts with the colors.

We used to have a sign in the supply room that read: "Watch Out for Paint Boogers" to remind us to block the potential spray with whatever container we would be using for paint.  Well, no more!  At least, I hope not!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Almost As Good As A Cardboard Box

Box With Holes

Everyone who spends any time with children knows that the box something comes in is usually more fun than the thing that was in the box, right?  The only thing better than those boxes are the REALLY big appliance boxes.  But, heaven forbid, your box gets boring, what should you do?

Cut holes in it!  A couple of teachers I work with came up with this creation for twos based on an activity they saw in a book (sorry, but I don’t know the title).  The holes are big enough to let extra large pom poms and paper towel/toilet paper tubes go through.  A few of the children figured out how to balance a tube in a hole and then roll pom poms into the box that way.

To spice it up we let them decorate the box, both inside and out, with crayon and marker drawings.  When the box was sitting on the floor some of the children got in the box to push the tubes and poms back out.  When no one felt like doing that, dumping was all the rage as it often is in our class.

So go raid your recycle bin and get some boxes!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Food Allergies at School: Keeping Kids Safe Without Making Ourselves Nuts (a working title)

colorstatelogo_wordless What do you think of that title above?  That’s the name of my presentation at the next conference of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children.  My proposal was accepted!  It’s April 9-10 in Indianapolis.  Now, I need some of your thoughts.

As I’m working on my presentation my list is getting huge for what I want teachers to know.  I only have a little over an hour to talk.  So I want to know what YOU think are the most important things.  This conference is for educators who work with children from birth through age 8 (second or third grade).

Parents:  If you could only tell a teacher 3 things about your child’s allergies, what would they be?  Alternatively, what things have you seen or had happen to you that could have been prevented if the teacher knew whatever-it-was?

Teachers:  What do you want to know?

If you leave me a comment please let me know if I can quote you during my presentation.  I’ll credit you with the name you leave with the comment but not pass out any other information about you.

If you’re in the midwest and you have a teacher in your life who’s attending, please ask them to leave me a note here on the blog so maybe we can chat for a few minutes at the conference.  I don’t expect attendance at my presentation to be huge considering it’s a niche topic on a Saturday afternoon.  I will not have a booth or anything because I want to attend sessions myself. 

I’m excited and a little worried that I’ll miss something important.  This is a great chance to get teachers on board with food allergies.  Help me out!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Patti Whines; NAEYC Responds

A looooong time ago I posted about my frustration with the whole NAEYC accreditation process.  A NAEYC person kindly responded to my post in a comment, but at the time I was only checking mail for emergency stuff because I was spending all my waking time on my classroom portfolio.  (Did I mention that one of our spouses calculated that we were all making about $.19/hr. during that time?  I kid you not.)  Then I decided to take the month of February off from the blog after the portfolio was done to recover, freshen up my classroom, and to start going through the observation requirements, so I am feeling very bad about not thanking the nice NAEYC person (I think her name is Gina).

In fact, a nice NAEYC person CALLED MY WORK to find out if I needed more support!  Honestly, I did not expect that.  It just goes to show you how un-anonymous this whole internet thing is.  So, I have now finally moderated the comment that was left and here I’m going to put my comments on the comment.  Does that make sense?

First, again, THANK YOU NAEYC for being helpful and responsive.  I could not have hoped for more and I admit to being shocked in a good way.  It’s nice to know you’re there for the lowly teacher.

Second, my only complaint at this point is that I just don’t have the time to access the wonderful resources she listed.  I do have a TORCH account, but as I don’t have a computer at work (the office has one computer, our director has a laptop, but those are for sharing and it’s not very convenient) and even when I bring in my own laptop I can only get internet access from parts of the building, it’s inconvenient.  If those materials were sent with our application information, I apologize because I didn’t know they were there.  Again, I work in a part time program.  I am using my own personal time in many cases to do classroom planning.  If I want to do anything other than set up or clean my room it’s pretty much going to be on my own time.  All the accreditation stuff is extra (though our director found a little money to give us as a reward, which was nice but, as she calls it, just a gesture).  Anytime I have to do more digging on my own it’s taking time away from my kids, my studies, and my other obligations.  I know the other teachers were feeling somewhat resentful by the end of the classroom portfolio period, so it’s not just me.

Now the portfolio is done and we’re waiting to find out when our visitation window is.  I’m feeling pretty good about my classroom, but I certainly don’t want to be the reason we fail to achieve reaccreditation.  So I’m dreaming about it at night and occasionally going over the lists again during the day.  I’m feeling calmer and more rested now so I can put it all in perspective. 

So I feel sheepish for not being a good thanker but I still believe some tweaking needs to be done to the process.