The first week of fall gave us some fabulous puddles, a few trees with colorful leaves, plenty of itchy fuzzy caterpillars, loads of tiny crab apples for apple soup, and a new slide left outside our fence. The students scrubbed the slide down, then took turns climbing up and sliding down. Bridges were tested, roads were built, and the crash tests were completed.
Monday students read about the artist Mary Cassatt, who loved to paint portraits of children and their families. We learned that she was born in the US, but lived many years of her life in France. She decided at a young age that she wanted to be an artist, much to her father’s dismay. The children thought about who the members of their families are, and decided who to include; just immediate family, extended family, pets, only people, or family that lives in their home. Throughout the week many of the children finished up self portraits and created family portraits.
On Tuesday we returned to our discussion of rules and classroom expectations. The children shared many ways that we can keep ourselves and other safe, be kinds, and be respectful, including walk in the classroom, ask kindly to take a turn, not hitting, kicking, or hurting, walk away when frustrated and someone won’t listen, keep our indoor shoes on so we don’t slip in our socks, and carry materials carefully with two hands.
We read Fire Drill about a preschool class that practices for a fire drill. We talked about what we do when we hear the fire alarm sound and why we do those things – to stay safe. We then practiced stopping what we were doing, walking to the line, standing silently while the teachers counted, walking carefully and silently outside, lining up along the fence silently, responding loudly and clearly when our name is called, and then following silently back inside.
Our first sign language lesson with Rose Polland was Wednesday morning. Rose introduced five signs. To begin, she showed us a bonnet that a girl would wear long ago. It ties under the chin with a string. Rose showed us that the sign for girl is made by tracing the thumb down the jawline, indicating the bonnet string. She then showed us a cap that a boy would wear. She lifted and tipped it off the top of her head, then demonstrated the sign for boy, made by curving the hand into a c shape and tipping it away from the forehead. We also learned the signs for friend (hooking pointer fingers together then flipping and hooking again), snack (the letter s sign, which is the thumb in front of the fingers, coming up toward the mouth), and toilet (wiggling the letter T sign, which is the thumb between the pointer and middle finger). We practiced each sign several times then everyone who wanted showed their favorite sign.
To prepare for our Thursday Harvest Festival we read about fall and gardens. We read the story Tops and Bottoms and some children helped perform the story using puppets. In Tops and Bottoms a Hare and makes a business deal with his neighbor Bear. Hare agrees to plant crops, tend and weed them, then harvest them using bears land, and bear doesn’t need to do anything. He just needs to choose whether he wants the tops or the bottoms of the crop. When bear chooses tops, Hare and his family plant beets, radishes, and carrots. When bear chooses bottoms, Hare plants lettuce, celery, and broccoli. Finally bear chooses both tops and bottoms, so Hare plants corn and takes the middles, leaving the tassels and roots behind for bear, who finally wises up and decides to plan his own crops!
Thursday morning we welcomed Rachel Cliché, a biologist, who came to press plants with us. Rachel showed us photocopies of plants that she has collected, pressed, and labeled. She and Tammy took small groups of children out to collect plants, preferably with flowers, then helped each child cut and place it on some newspaper between layers of cardboard. When everyone had picked and placed their plant, she tightened the straps on the press to smoosh them flat. They will dry for several weeks, then the children will glue and label their plants.
We celebrated our Harvest Festival on Thursday with lots of fun activities. We had sack races, apple transfer races, acorn on a spoon races, cucumber bowling, apple and pear printing, butternut painting, fall hand trees, fall leaf watercolor painting, and hammering golf Ts into a pumpkin. It was great fun!
We read apple stories on Friday, then had an apple taste test. The children tried 8 varieties of apple and described the shape, coloring, taste and texture of each. When asked if anyone had a favorite or preference, they all agreed, “All of them!”