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.
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.
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.
Spanish Shawl January 29, 2016
Is there anything more elegant than this nudibranch, a Spanish Shawl, fluttering in the tide pool at sunset? My photo is not great, but the being before me was magnificent last week in the low tide tide pools north of Scripps Pier.
Inspirational Compost! April 3, 2015
This week was a week to deal with our compost in the school garden:
- moving a bin — and finding a million mice;
- aerating the large pile
- watering the pile
- writing about everything we saw.
Here are some of the things we wrote about. Compost is very inspirational! Who knew?
Purple Cabbage Dye January 28, 2015
I run two school garden programs. At one of my school gardens, we harvested the purple cabbage we planted a couple of months ago and made dye for linen. It was a good opportunity for Common Core informational writing!
Life and Death in the Garden October 10, 2014
Visiting Wichita, Kansas last week, I was impressed to see a front-page article on the return of the Monarch butterflies on their southern migration. http://www.kansas.com/living/home-garden/annie-calovich/article2497920.html
After 3 years of low butterfly numbers, the people of Wichita have planted lots of milkweed, and the butterflies were out in force.
And the monarchs weren’t the only ones. At my friend Margie’s house, there were butterflies of all sorts on her butterfly bush, along with some more deadly critters, such as this giant Assassin bug eating a wasp.
Swimming Through the Cave September 14, 2014
While I have been swimming the mile at the La Jolla Cove most of my life, I had never swum through the Caves until this year. Several caves open up under the cliffs, and one is wide enough to swim through. We were surrounded by sea lions who had pulled themselves up on the rocks, including this mother and pup. The current was strong — and a little scary — but it was an exciting adventure. With water so warm this year — over 70 degrees — we can stay in the water for a long time. What we see in the water changes every day — today I saw an odd jelly fish with a blue rudder on top and, of course, sea lions everywhere.
Tiny Sierra September 2, 2014
Just returned from another beautiful week at Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite researching my picture book biography of Ansel Adams, to be titled “Antsy Ansel”, which will be published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt publishers in 2016. Experimented with the various zoom lenses on my point-and-shoot camera and focused on the smallest, most amazing aspects of nature I could find:
Potatoetry Reprise May 11, 2014
Our potatoetry project was a great success. Every 2nd grader got to know a potato as a sensory object. Each child wrote a poem, and then we collected a line from each poem and formed them into a single group poem. The children wrote their lines on a painted tire, and then we planted potatoes inside the tires. Here’s a link to a blog post I did for National Poetry Month! http://www.ekristinanderson.com/?p=8814