Sunday, May 15, 2011

waves of whales!

We've been reading about the whales in the sea and using our whale models that are to scale with each other. The children painted these whale cutouts to look like their corresponding models. With the help of their teacher, several children figured out the size of a person next to the whales. That inspired some to improve upon the scene by drawing and cutting out people to swim among the friendly giants. And hearing about the practice of whaling for blubber and whale meat prompted the addition of "no whaling" signs to be posted in the ocean!

And whenever I teach about whales (especially the blue whale) who swim in the northern ocean hunting for plankton to sweep into their baleen-filled mouths, we talk of the blubber that insulates the whales from the coldness. I always have this little demonstration ready for them :
Put a lot of vegetable shortening in a heavy plastic quart bag. This will be the whale's blubber. With your hand inside another heavy plastic sandwich bag, push into the shortening-filled bag to form the shortening into a 1 1/2 inch wall under and on all sides of your hand. Make sure no shortening oozes out of the top of the bag or gets on your hand. Remove your hand, leaving the bag inside the bag holding the shortening.
Have a large bowl of ice cubes and water ready. Each child puts a hand inside the clean bag stuck into the shortening bag. You place their hand in the bag in the "blubber" inside a half gallon plastic bag (to make sure no water gets inside their hand or the "blubber"). Now push their hand in the bag in the "blubber" in the large plastic bag down into the ice water. Surprise!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Every year at this time, it's exciting to see the 6 and almost 6 year olds discover that they really can write. For some it takes a bit of nudging. To those who are intimidated by the task of writing about something, I tell them to just write whatever they are thinking at the moment. Likewise, to those daunted by the request to write a sentence, I say that any thought that is in their head is likely to be a sentence. This relaxes them from the initial panic we often see upon suggesting this activity. The result is empowering. Suddenly there are little authors everywhere avidly writing story after story.