Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Update on Handmade Journals - How to do the Rubber band Binding

The rubber band binding is a little tricky even for my oldest students. It took them several tries until they got it and then they mastered it. They took their newly acquired skill and went off and helped younger hands finish their journals.

Here are a few pictures:

Use a double-hole puncher to punch holes through the cover, the back and the paper in between -

Hold the papers together and feed a small rubber band through one of the holes -

Put one end of the coffee stir stick through the rubber band loop poking through the front cover of the journal. This will kept the rubber band from slipping back out of the hole -

While holding the stir stick on the cover with left hand thumb, pull the back loop of the rubber band across to the second hole and through on the right front side -

Wrap second loop of rubber band around right end of stir stick. If needed wrap rubber band loops twice around stir stick ends to form and X. (One of my 6 year olds described it to a 5 year old as follows: "You know, like when you put your hair in a ponytail.)

A few of the finished journals -

Monday, March 30, 2009

Parent Night Gifts Almost Done - Handmade Journals

Today we had a wonderful time putting together the homemade journals that are going to be given as gifts from the children to their parents on Parent Night. First, each child spent a few minutes deciding which of the two marbleized papers they made with shaving cream and watercolors to use for the front of their journal.

Next, I made a sample image of each rubber stamp so that the children could select the one that they wanted to use. And then we got down to business...

First the children stamped their covers. Here a child is putting even pressure on her stamp to make sure that the image is clearly printed:

Next, the same child uses the double hole-puncher on her journal (I gave each child six pieces of blank paper to put between their covers):

Here is a second picture of the hole puncher about to be used:

I will post a few pictures tomorrow of children positioning a rubber band between the two holes and securing the coffee stir stick in place. This is the journal's simple binding. Check tomorrow for the updated version of this post.

The finished journals ready to be wrapped:

I think these make lovely handmade gifts. And as an added attraction, the journals smell of shaving cream. For me, the scent brings back wonderful childhood memories of my own father.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Geometry in Art

Last year I focused a lot on geometry as art regarding presentations, lessons and activities. These lessons resulted in many wonderful pieces of work. Here are a few samples:

Pentagon Placement -

Creating Geometric Forms -

However, last year's lessons included discussions on the relationship between geometry and design. Therefore the resulting group or individual work conveyed that.

Recently, in two separate cases (I might have missed other instances) students independently sought out materials from both the geometry cabinet and the geometric solids to assist them in their art work.

Zoe chose the cylinder from the geometric solids to make the initial outline of a vase when she was painting a still life.

Jack chose the oval inset and frame from the geometry cabinet for making the outline of his face when he painted his self-portrait. He used the same shape when he painted portraits of his classmates.

When I made note of it in my conversations with them their replies were such that one could not help but think these materials are their tools such as a carpenter would have to achieve her/his work. I was very pleased that they knew what they needed, found it and completed their work with it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marbles, Cubes. Tablets and Shaving Cream

I think I might be suffering from Spring fever or perhaps I simply miss the colors spring has to offer. I presented three lessons this week hoping to draw the children's eyes back to color - to the color tablets and the color of the cubes in the bead cabinet, to creating marbleized paper with a marble or two and, in a separate lesson, with shaving cream.

The first lesson demonstrated using two marbles, each dipped into a single color, to "paint" with. The children were very excited to see how this worked. They really enjoyed watching me rock the tray back and forth so as to roll the marble through the paint. I included in my presentation the statement that the lessons on marbleizing were the only two works where the trays were not to be returned to the shelves, but instead were part of the work itself. Here are a few photos:

The second lesson was on marbleizing paper with shaving cream and watercolors. The children could barely believe their eyes when they saw me spray the shaving cream into the tray and then squirt paint onto it. They watched silently as I placed a piece of paper on top of the cream and tapped it gently with my fingertips. Next, I pulled the paper off and wiped away the excess shaving cream with a squeegee. They were motionless while they watched.

Instantly, the marbleized effect appeared on the paper. Cristina said it was "Instant gratification." It was also beautiful. The children did not want to have snack, were willing to quietly wait their turn even if that meant that they had to wait more than a half an hour. And when each child took their turn, whether they were three years old or six, it worked and they wanted to do it again. Here are a few photos:

The lesson (Note: because I did not have a photo of myself adding color to the shaving cream I included one of Cristina in the sequence to illustrate it):

Another great thing about this work is that it is dry in about 5 - 10 minutes. It is not dripping wet but instead very easy to position for quick air drying. If mess is a concern, wait till it gets warmer and do it outside. Me, I think art should be liberating - so wet clothing, spills, gooey fingers and painted noses are just part of the creative act.

A four and a half year old successfully does the work:

A few examples of the finished work:

A clean-up table was set up right next to the work. The children maintain it themselves.

The last lesson was on pairing colors. This lesson combines math materials with sensorial materials. The children match the color of each cube from the bead cabinet with a single color tablet. Here is how the work is initially brought to a rug and then paired. Later, two children can do fetching or pairing with the materials.

Monday, March 23, 2009

We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.
– Maria Montessori

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Lily Water"

One of my favorite childhood memories is of my sister Debbie and I making "perfume" from flowers we gathered from our backyard. This was the late 1960's when children occupied neighborhoods after school and on the weekends. My brothers dug underground tunnels and built huts from branches and sticks. We never watched TV during the day or evening. I spent most of the time sitting up high on one tree limb or another. We did not live in the country but in the suburbs. My siblings and I considered our fenced in backyard the wilderness. I see the small playground at our school through the same lens. It is the wilderness at hand. The botany area in my classroom is a place for vast exploration. It is a site of discovery. I have witnessed children become absolutely silent as they carefully dissect a rosebud. I have seen them gasp with wonderment at the sight of worm holes in acorns. I have relied on these moments to sustain my belief in the spiritual lives of children as revealed through their relationship with nature.

A few weeks ago, one of my second year, four year olds walked over to me with a semi-faded Lily blossom in her hand. She was holding the tips of each petal in her hand so that the flower looked closed. She said, "Miss Dyer, this is how the flower looks without sun. How it looks at night."

A second later, she let go of the petal tips while still holding the stem. The petals opened wide. "This is what the flower looks like in the sunlight," she said. It was poetry in motion. She smiled ever so slightly waiting for me to acknowledge her discovery. I smiled back.

It was then that I saw out of the corner of my eye, another child doing the new lesson on using a straw to paint. The child blew threw the straw and the paint swept across the page. I turned back towards the child holding the flower, "There was a very important reason why I put the new art work in the science and botany area and not on the art shelves. Do you want to find out what that reason was?" I asked. The answer was like a soft breeze itself, "Yes."

I had been saving, as usual, a number of dried petals and large leaves - flower arranging leftovers. I got on my apron and so did the young student. We put place mats down on the table. I got a bowl from the kitchen. I placed this on the table and poured water into it filling it halfway. I handed her a straw, I dropped a dried petal and said, "Blow." She did. A small current of water caused the petal to swirl. "Breath is like wind. It has force. It can move things. Blow harder," I said. She did and the petal spun.

I got a larger bowl so we could add more water. The bowl was oblong with a flat bottom. She used an eyedropper to drop water onto petals as she held it over the bowl. She studied the drops of water that clung to the pinkish petal.

This led to a brief discussion about sink and float, about raincoats and umbrellas, about what absorbs water and what does not.

Soon there were several petals in the water. It was then I heard myself say the very same thing that I had said to my sister forty years earlier, "Do you want to make flower perfume?" A pair of brown eyes stared at me for a moment and then I heard a very soft response, "Yes." It was as if we were about to climb Mt. Everest.

I got the largest mortar and pestle that I had. The young girl lifted the flowers from the water and began grinding them in the mortar. Next she poured the liquid over a ceramic colander.

With a small funnel placed in the opening, she poured her "perfume" into a bottle.

Lastly, with Cristina's assistance, she secured a label on the bottle that read, "Lily Water."

She put some on all of her classmates wrists and mine too.

She was carrying it in her hand when her father arrived to take her home. She looked back at me for a moment just before she left for the day. She did not giggle or overly grin, she just looked so satisfied, so confident. I hope she remembers the day she made "Lily Water" for years to come.

I am going to call my sister Debbie and remind her of our perfume days.