10 Great Picture Books on Quietness — Waking Brain Cells November 14, 2016
There is something powerful about quiet and silence. It’s another important thing for children to learn, that silence is not frightening but offers space to think and dream. May you find time today for your own quiet time. Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna […]
By contrast, Ansel loved the great outdoors–especially the parks surrounding his California home. When his father recognizes that his son will not thrive in a traditional school, he helps Ansel educate himself with access to books and also studying nature.
This non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to an iconic American photographer and his work documenting the country’s National Parks. Jenson-Elliot’s text is long enough to be informative but brief enough to remain approachable for younger readers.
The biographical book also includes some little known facts about Adams such as his accomplishments as a pianist (and his subsequent…
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Waves of Tuna Crabs July 15, 2016
Tiny Tuna Crabs, 4 inches long, wash ashore at La Jolla Cove in summer when the water grows especially warm. It’s a little unnerving to swim surrounded by thousands of the little red guys. But they are beautiful and funny as they whoosh backwards out of reach of my swimming arms.
#1000HandsDigIn! at KidSpace Museum, Pasadena May 7, 2016
I’ve been trying to post pictures of kids’ hands discovering in nature over the last two months. Last week I visited KidSpace Pasadena to share my new book Dig In! and my new twitter campaign #1000HandsDigIn and loved their new Arroyo exhibit. An arroyo, in case you don’t know, is a dry creek bed. A beautiful arroyo runs through Pasadena, and this exhibit is about the ecosystem of the arroyo. It meets all of children’s needs to experience nature with all of their senses. Here are photos of spaces where children can play in wet sand, mud and clay, make adobe bricks, weave with flowers, climb an eagle’s aerie and wear an eagle costume, go under a waterfall and splash in the water, build a sand-moving machine with dry sand and build a fort with sticks, hide in a nest of sticks and read a book, play music on nature’s own instruments. It was truly an amazing, inspiring and beautiful place for children to blossom and connect with nature.
Grunion Run! April 25, 2016
Grunion Leuresthes tenuis are now “running” on the Pacific shoreline, from Baja to Los Angeles. One of southern California’s natural treasures, grunion are unique in nature as fish that come completely out of the water to spawn in the middle of the nights after a full moon, from March to August. It’s neat to see, and scientists know precisely when they will come to shore to lay their eggs. But they just don’t know where. What shore will the grunions pick? I have made midnight runs countless times, and picked the wrong beach. But last night I got lucky! Here are some photos of what I saw at midnight under just passed full moon.
Spring is here and Rain at Last! March 12, 2016
Early, cool spring is my favorite time of year.
Last year, we got only a couple of inches of rain all year. This year, while El Nino has definitely not lived up to its promise in southern California, at least we are getting a real spring. The air is clean and cool, our apricot tree has blossomed already and is producing tiny fruit, the Indian Hawthorne bush is ready to explode with blossoms, weeds are finding a way, and the chickens are delighted with the growing garden.
My daughter’s amazing Maker teacher at High Tech Middle Media Arts led 100 7th graders through the process of designing lamps using Rhino software, prototyping and executing designs of lamps made form paper-backed wood laminate. Then they created ads and opened a shopping site on Etsy to sell their lamps. Entrepreneurs in the Making! So proud of the results for all the children. Here’s the link to the Etsy site.https://www.etsy.com/shop/htmmaMAKERS
Right in time for the spring gardening season and for STEM Friday, we have Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by (“dirt by”) Mary Peterson. Cindy Jenson-Elliott’s new…
Building Bridges in the Garden March 7, 2016
Problem Solving Opportunity:
Last year, students in the Cardiff School garden helped build a simple arch trellis out of rebar and hardware cloth to hold up four new passion fruit vines. I had read that it would take 3 years for the vines to produce fruit, so I figured the trellis was all we would need.
Imagine our surprise when the start of the new school year revealed a four fully-established passion fruit vines heavy with fruit! Within months, the entire trellis collapsed inward, completely filling in the tunnel with a mass of vines.
Seeing an opportunity in the problem, the Cardiff MAC (Mixed Age, gr. 1-3) class , where I teach two afternoons a week, embarked on a 6-week mission to build a new trellis. Since a trellis is a type of bridge – a span helping something or someone cross a divide – we began with a study of bridges in order to understand the best way to build a trellis.
We began by looking at a Powerpoint presentation with pictures of different types of bridges from all over the world. We learned the types of bridges: Beam, Arch and Suspension, and looked at pictures of each type. We learned that a bridge needs to be the right strength to hold up the load, and the right size to span a particular width and allow something else to pass underneath. We learned the basic parts of a bridge: the piers that hold up the deck of a bridge, and the span is the space between piers.
These books were especially helpful. They helped us learn about types of bridges and how they are constructed, gave us experience with narratives from the lives of people who build bridges, and gave us ideas for experimenting with bridge building ourselves.
Experimenting with Bridges
We experimented with tension cables to see how they could work to hold up a load in a suspension bridge. We wondered how many children it would take to pull on a rope to hold up the weight of a seated teacher – me! (It took six children – three on each side, holding on and leaning back.)
Working in groups of two, we made plank bridges out of paper and blocks to hold up pennies. We experimented with making the deck stronger with more pieces of paper and by putting an arch of paper underneath. We also discovered that the closer the piers were, the more pennies the bridge would hold.
Next, we learned how engineers add strength to bridges to make them especially strong, using arches and triangular-shaped struts for strength. We looked at pictures of strong bridges that used struts. Then, working with a partner, we made our own struts out of index card strips and brads.
Now that we knew what made bridges strong, we were ready to design a trellis that was:
- Strong enough to hold up four heavy passion fruit vines;
- Tall enough for a tall adult to pass underneath;
- Wide enough for our ramp to fit underneath;
- Simple to build;
- Pretty to look at;
- 84 inches tall x 48 inches wide x 26 inches deep
We began by looking at photos of trellises and noticing what made them appealing and strong. In our writers’ notebooks, each child began by sketching his/her own trellis, with a front view, side view, and top view.
Then, each child shared their design with the other students at their table. They came up with a group design for each table showing front, side and top views.
At a class meeting, each group got up to share their work on the document camera. They explained their design, and what they felt were the most important elements of the design.
Then, working as a class, we took the best parts of each design to make a single class design that included all the necessary elements and proper dimensions for the front, side and top of the trellis.
Mrs. Elliott took the design to Dixieline with a list of supplies, and a very kind man named Gerard helped her choose the wood, and then cut it to the proper sizes.
Building the Trellis — Day One
During garden time, the class divided into three groups. Mrs. Elliott worked with one group while Brodie’s Dad, Mike worked with another group, and garden teacher, Mr. Brink, worked with the last group in the garden. Students learned how to properly use a Phillips head screw driver and a power screw driver to drive wood screws into predrilled holes.