Spring Break Continues

On day three of spring break we headed out on a field trip to explore the Science Gallery  and listen to a special presentation about the work of the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre  and meet some of their rescued birds and one pet rabbit.  It was great to see a peregrine falcon ‘in person’ – we have learned a lot about them in the past and last spring   we really enjoyed watching their adventures on the falcon cam. We had planned to attend a Planetariumshow too but the wildlife presentation ran longer than expected so we missed the beginning of the show – next time!

There was one other interesting bit of information from day three.  I overheard a comment made by one of the school-age children – apparently they had considered our walk to the dollar store ‘long’.  I was intrigued so we discussed this a little further and I discovered that the older children all agreed with this assessment.  Now I was more shocked and a little dismayed – the dollar store is only a few blocks away – about one kilometre!

The children involved in this conversation are not regularly in attendance or they have recently enrolled so have not experienced our excursions.  They take the bus to school and – according to them – their parents drive them everywhere else they have to go.  These children do not normally walk anywhere.  The ‘regulars’ and I shared some stories of our hiking adventures and I began making plans for a ‘special event’ for day four.

After morning snack on day four we got ready for our trek.

“Where are we going?” they ask

“To the library” I reply

“Where is the library?” the newbies ask

Those who attend regularly begin to giggle and answer “It’s waaay past Safeway and Sobey’s too”.

It is 3.3 kilometres away when we take the short route.  I don’t particularly like the short route because it is a bit of a boring hike with no points of interest and the loud traffic makes conversations difficult.  Today, however, we would take the short route because we didn’t have a lot of time and it was a little chilly.  Our brisk pace kept us warm and we made it there in about 40 minutes.

No one complained about the length of the journey.

We relaxed in the library, read some books and picked out some to take back with us for later.  The pace for our return trip was a little slower so it took a few extra minutes.  While I prepared lunch only one child chose to play in the playroom – the others just wanted to sit and read their books.  The room was surprisingly quiet throughout lunch too.  They were tired and hungry.

After lunch I brought out a map and we traced our routes for the trip to the dollar store and the trip to the library.  I also traced the ‘scenic’ route to the library – the one we usually do twice each summer.  That route is 4.6 kilometres and passes through three parks where we stop and play.  We climb trees and we usually have a picnic too.  The scenic route to the library is the best.

Just one more day of spring break…..

Spring Break – Day 2

When I first started this blog this is exactly what I envisioned – a daily post about what we did each and EVERY day. I don’t know what made me think I had that much ‘extra’ time. So after 173 posts in 1 ½ years I know this ‘daily journal’ of our spring break adventures may not continue through to the end of the week but so far….

Our second day of spring break was very busy.  As the children finished their morning snack I got stuff ready;

I introduced the ingredients one at a time without telling the children what each was.  The first container was initially identified as ‘sugar’ until a taste test proved it was “ewww, salt”.  They were more cautious for the second container;

It didn’t take them long to determine that it was flour – because it was whole wheat flour, the beige colour had them a little confused at first.  They eagerly investigated the third ingredient…what could it be?

No one had any idea – when I told them that it was ‘cornmeal’ there was a lot of interest and discussion about where it comes from and what it is used for (tomorrow’s cornbread for example).  The ingredient in the big bin was instantly identified;

“COFFEE!” they yelled in unison – the scent must have given it away – and really it was old coffee grounds.  I won’t admit how little time long it took me to save up that much. 🙂

So, what were we making?

‘Home Made Sand’ thanks to the handout from my full day workshop with the Ooey Gooey Lady.

We combined the ingredients and mixed them up;

And then we played;

But the day wasn’t over yet.  Later we had a discussion about ‘creativity’ and ‘originality’ vs copying and following directions.  Then we went for a walk in the rain – to the dollar store.  I instructed them to each choose any two items that they wanted to use for artwork of their design.

This is what they picked;

This is what they did;

And this is what they made;

Spring Break – The Beginning

Just a few highlights of our first day of spring break.  The weather cooled off considerably compared to last week but that didn’t stop us from spending several hours outside.

We decorated the tipi;

The girls discovered that weaving was easier if you worked as a team – one inside the tipi and one outside;

We hid and searched for plastic eggs — some are still missing – help!

This was the favorite ‘hiding’ spot — I don’t know why;

The neighbours’ dog was giving hints ‘There’s a yellow one in the garden’;

Then the neighbour donated some chalk so drawing instantly became the popular activity;

There were trails to follow;

And the entire deck was covered in these;

Great start to the week — looking forward to even more fun!

Planning the Garden

I enjoy gardening but I don’t think I am a very skilful or successful gardener.  Sometimes I am a lucky gardener but often I am a disappointed gardener.  Most of my childhood memories of gardening are from spending summers on my Aunt’s farm – growing ‘practical’ plants – food for the family – mostly picking and preparing the produce.  At home, decorative gardens were simply a few annuals stuck in the ground alongside the sidewalk or a small bed against the front of the house.

Through years of living in rented apartments and townhouses I continued to plant annuals in small flowerbeds and pots. They were pretty but not really exciting or interesting. I dreamed of some day owning a house where I could have a ‘real’ garden – one with perennials.

When I finally moved into my house the yard was dismal. Through years of neglect and indifference the previous owners had created a mix of overgrown weeds between patches a barren hard earth.  My husband tilled the entire front yard – it is not a big space, only about 300 square feet.  We spread yards of new soil, created a few small flower beds and put lawn seed in the remaining areas.

For the next five years I continued to plant bushes and perennials and I prayed for their survival.  Every year I watched as the yard sucked the life out of almost every plant I placed there.  Some of the perennials attempted to hold on for a year or two but the collection of empty nursery pots was the only thing that grew.  I was losing hope.

I gave up on the grass and chose to put gravel between the planting beds.  I never really wanted a lawn anyway.  Neighbours walking by would watch me picking out the weeds from the gravel and comment ‘That must be a lot of work’.  Really it wasn’t.  In fact, it was a lot easier than trying to get grass to grow and I never needed to mow the gravel.  I had never needed to mow the dead grass either but the coloured gravel was prettier.

I persistently chose the hardy shade plants that garden centre staff assured me would be more likely to survive in my North facing yard and compete with the ancient elm trees on the boulevard. It was not the garden of my dreams but there were at least some patches of green between the areas of red and beige gravel. Mostly it was just a bunch of day lilies with a few other survivors.

Then I began to emphasise nature education in my childcare program.  Trips to Fort Whyte AliveLiving Prairie MuseumOak Hammock Marsh  and the Transcona Community Bioreserve  introduced me to native prairie plants.

I began to understand that many of the struggles that I had faced with my front yard were a result of trying to grow the wrong plants.  I had considered myself to be a somewhat lazy gardener but suddenly I realized that my gardening philosophy was very similar to my childcare philosophy.  I don’t compel children to follow a rigid curriculum and I don’t like to coerce plants to grow where they don’t belong.  For both plants and children I want to create the right environment for them and allow them to grow and develop naturally.

Over the past few years I’ve observed the children and the native plants we have in the back yard.  I’ve watched the children stomp on plants as they make their first unsteady ascent up the hill.  I’ve seen the children bend and break the plants as they analyze its structure.  I’ve also witnessed the plants stubbornly push their way through the pile of gravel that was dumped on them.  Those plants are survivors.  Together they thrive.

Last year I began making plans — this spring my front yard will be overhauled. I’ve ordered my plants from Prairie Flora and soon the work will begin.  Stay tuned….

Ham & Mozza Biscuit Bake

Of all the recipes currently on our lunch menu this is one of my personal favorites.  Most of the children really enjoy it and of course there is one doesn’t.  That one refuses to eat anything except the ham depending on what type of ham I use — sometimes it is deli meat ham other times I use pieces of baked ham depending on what I have available.

It is on the menu for lunch today — I can hardly wait.  Here is the recipe;

Ham & Mozza Biscuit Bake

  • 3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • mustard
  • 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 500 g sliced ham

Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl, mix and make well in centre.  Add milk and oil to well.  Stir. Press half of biscuit mix onto bottom of 9 x 13 baking pan. Cover with thin layer of mustard and half of the grated cheese. Arrange ham slices over cheese and cover with second half of cheese.  Flatten out remaining biscuit mix to approximately the pan size. Lay biscuit mix on top of other layers and press – try not to disturb other layers.  Bake in 350F oven for about one hour.  Remove and spread top crust with margarine to soften slightly.  Cut into 24 squares.

The Water Cycle

It is the middle of March and record breaking temperatures have melted all the snow in my yard.  Seriously, there is no snow at all – None!    Just look at this picture from the end of March last year.

Spring break 2011

Yesterday when I was in the yard I saw this;

Growing on the hill

There was no school on Friday so the children and I took advantage of the glorious weather and spent the majority of the day outdoors.  My teenage son joined us too – the children were excited.  Seeing all the gravel area completely free of snow they immediately asked him to help them dig a big hole – one of their favourite summertime activities.  He agreed;

The children watched.  I was a little puzzled.  Normally the children would be helping, I wondered why they were hesitant today.  Then one of the said to my son ‘Eww, look at all the dirt sticking to your hand’.  I brought this out to see if it would help;

It did, and suddenly everyone was digging, and washing their hands, and digging some more;

The hole was not getting very big though.  This is Manitoba after all.  Sure the warm temperatures had melted all the snow but that ground was frozen solid.  My son decided he needed his pick axe – one of his Christmas gifts from a few years ago.  Yes, we do buy gifts like that for him because we know he will use it responsibly – and he did.  First he made all the children move a safe distance away. Using the pick axe made digging very easy but there was a lot of flying debris so he switched to a heavy metal bar which was slower but easier to control.

He managed to create a medium sized hole in the gravel but the hole kept filling with water which made digging further very difficult.  The children discussed why the water kept filling the hole.  One of them suggested we needed a pump – but we didn’t have one.  They tried scooping the water out but more water filled the hole

Then someone commented that the hole looked like a lake – and someone else decided we needed a river.  They dug one but the water they put in it just soaked into the gravel without flowing the way they wanted so they did this;

Then they filled jars with water from the ‘lake’

And poured the water into the ‘river’;

They watched the water flow down the river and into the lake. Then they did it again and again.  One of the preschoolers announced that they had created ‘the Water Cycle’. The eight year old then explained that there was a real water cycle and narrated it as the others played.  ‘The jar is the cloud and it takes the water from the lake’

‘When it rains the water runs into the river and back down to the lake.’

It was their curriculum for the day.  They developed it and they understand it.  I love it.

Wordless Wednesday V – Waiting

My very fancy dish rack where I put all the dishes after I wash and sanitize them by hand - sigh -- waiting for the part that will make it a dishwasher again.

I actually had a lot of words that I wanted to use with this photo but I couldn’t post them publicly.  Handwashing all my dishes became even more depressing after I read this.

Baking Plans

I like to bake.  I don’t actually bake as much or as often as I’d like to but that’s mostly because I’m trying not to eat so much baking.  Sadly I haven’t got enough will power to bake without being tempted to also consume – sometimes in vast quantities.

So, I tend to limit my baking to items that lean more towards ‘nutritious’ instead of ‘decadent’. I will also admit that, although I don’t dislike nutritious, I definitely crave those decadent items.  Consequently I only bake those sweeter items for special occasions – preferably ones where the baked treats are taken to a location away from my home.

I’ve picked out ten recipes – some cannot be considered ‘healthy’.

I’ve bought all the necessary ingredients – and I’m trying not to eat them (some of the chocolate and butterscotch chips have unfortunately already been sacrificed).

I’ve set aside some time – hopefully it is enough to finish all the baking.

Why?  Two words….

Bake Sale!

Next Thursday (March 15th, 2012) the Manitoba Nature Summit is having their annual Dinner and a Movie fundraiser and you are all invited.  It will be at 6:30 pm in the large gym at Stanley Knowles School, 2424 King Edward St.

Of course the bake sale is just a small part of the event.  The movie is the main event.  We will also be having pizza and popcorn.  You’ll need to RSVP immediately if you want pizza – the order deadline is today!

Even if you don’t want to order pizza, or you missed the deadline, you can still come to see the movie.  I’ve seen it – it is amazing – truly inspirational.  It is called ‘A Simple Question: The Story of STRAW’   It is the perfect example of what can happen when educators are able to provide meaningful experiences that connect children and nature.

So come out and support the Nature Summit 2012 and our efforts to provide opportunities for educators to learn useful skills and create opportunities for nature and environmental education.

I hope to see you there! – I don’t want to have to bring any leftover baking home.

Cloud Dough

‘Make Cloud Dough’ is an item that has been on my list of ‘Activity Ideas’ for a long time but we’ve never managed to try it. In fact, it was about two months ago that I bought baby oil for the project and I didn’t even put it away — it has been sitting on my counter taunting me every day.

After attending the Day with Lisa Murphy workshop I vowed not to put it off any longer.  I had played with the cloud dough there;

Cloud Dough at OGL workshop

So, last week I gathered the supplies we needed.  I couldn’t find the bin I usually use for sensory activities — I probably used it for something else and then forgot about it but I’ve decided to blame someone else for ‘stealing’ it.  ‘They’ also neatly packaged up the birdseed and toys that I had stored in the bin too. 🙂

Anyway, I found a different container that worked — maybe even better.  So we started with just flour.

They thought it was 'so soft' and may have been just as happy if we didn't add anything else.

I had put some of the ‘found’ bird seed in the centre section just for additional texture.

It felt 'different' but they liked the flour better.

Next I added the baby oil and they mixed — somewhat hesitantly at first;

No need to measure

Once they became accustomed to the new sensation they really got into it.

We added more baby oil as needed until the texture was 'just right'

Then we added some toys and even some of the birdseed

The animals played an impromptu game of ‘hide and seek’

'Help! I can't see.' says the sheep.

This container even has a lid so when we finished playing we covered it up and used it the next day…and the day after that too – becasue they asked again.

On a personal note — cloud dough is so much better than salt dough when you have dry skin.