Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Twas the Season..."

We made several holiday inspired arts and crafts projects before going on break. Also, I found an amazing single branch that served to hold wishes the children wrote with a single word. It was an elegant and simple statement of what it means to make a little wish. I loved it. So here is a review of what we did and a look at the beauty of a child creating a gift and, too, wrapping it with paper they decorated. Oh, the lovliness of it all...

I always put out a small fake Christmas tree for the children to individually decorate. They really enjoy this activity. One of my Jewish students was so excited when it came out again this year as she said that she enjoys the tradition of hanging ornaments although that is not a tradition she practices in her own home.

Another classroom favorite is to play the dreidel game. This also provides non-Jewish children the opportunity to use a dreidel. I love the counting and the math involved in playing the game - adding and subtracting. It was also very popular.

On a snowy day half way through the month, I ran out to our playground and nabbed this beautiful branch which I put in a vase which I had filled half with brown beans (for the earth - soil) and half with white beans (for snow). Patti cut a small pile of square cards for the children to use to write a single word wish. First they stamped the front of their card, then they wrote their word and finally they hung the card on the branch. It was so simple and so lovely.

Every year I scan numerous books and magazine for new Christmas craft ideas. The children make a small gift for their parents and take it home just before break. I was also looking for a new pattern for making a Christmas stocking and an ornament as I had signed up for swaps for both. I selected a craft that I could use for myself and with the children.

I brought to school a few yards of "fake" linen. I also brought pine needles, ferns, holly leaves (Cristina spent a long time on the cold playground finding leaves for the project). Thankfully a student brought in two large bundles of colorful flowers which were also used for the projects.

My afternoon class is much smaller and so I decided to have them attempt the project first and see how it work - I was amazed !!! They carefully placed the petals into patterns of their choice, laid the leaves with a steady hand and hammered away. Next they began stitching. Three of the students had learned to sew last year and had made pillows so they went full speed ahead. Their stitches were so even and so close together that it looked like a professional had done the sewing. A fourth student followed their lead and was soon displaying remarkable skill. Before long all of the students were busy.

After placing the petals and hammering, the student below used tweezers to pull the petals from the cloth. The second shot shows her decorated cloth ready to be made into a pillow.

The next day they continued their sewing and then stuffed their pillows.

Too, they stamped paper to make their own wrapping paper, (with the help of Cristina) wrapped their gifts and threaded baked oranges (gifts for the birds) to decorate their packages. The final picture is a shot of a few of the prepared gifts.

I finished my ornament by adding a few stithes and a couple of french knots. I sent the completed stocking off but kept a second (much different design) for me to complete and use next year.

The morning class made their own wrapping paper too and, instead of pillows, created a simple hanging using hammered cloth and embroidery hoops. We did this the last day before break turning the classroom into a holiday workshop. Ooooh the fun...and then it was done. I hope to see photos of oranges hanging in backyards and of pillows resting on couches or beds.

P.S. One day in the afternoon while most of the children were busy sewing their pillows, a child went to reach for one of the cards on our branch "tree" to read it and a small vase of water spilt. I turned and saw this little puddle of water and called Christina over to look at it. It looked just like a seahorse - she agreed and we showed the children and celebrated the tiny details of life. See for yourself -

For those of you interested in flower pounding this is the book I used:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brief Pause in Posting

I am moving - I started moving two days after Thanksgiving. I am just moving to the next town over but I am exhausted. After a day of teaching and then packing and unpacking, I just can't find the time to post. And I can't find my camera - I am sure it is in one box or another. So hang in there - I have much to write about and will have a new post soon. I miss writing them - I really do...and reading your comments. Susan Dyer

Monday, December 1, 2008

Leaf Washing

Above: The youngest child in my classroom does leaf washing. He was so invested in his work that he even washed the rocks around the plant.