Yesterday a put a lot of questions out there. I was asking myself just how do I tie in learning about recycling, environment, curiosity, learning and healthy eating. I don’t have all the answers and I never will claim that I do, but today I felt a click as I realised that just maybe I was getting it right.
Our jungle area is drying out, we’ve noted the leaves falling, the textures changing and the colours fading. Today I added a new splash of colour by adding in some branches from on of my mandarin trees from home. Complete with mandarins 🙂
Immediately the smells drifted out, the colour livened up the area and the kids eyes were drawn to it. We started our morning talking about how potatoes grow under the ground, watermelons grow on vines on the ground and that apples grow on trees. The discussion that followed incorporated where we might find mandarins growing, what did they need and how could we get them off the tree. An extra safety tip was added, to hold the tree, because these were just branches in pots and we didn’t want to lose the lot with one pull!
The kids then went off in small groups to pick their own fruit to have for morning tea. It was a really wonderful to watch the children making choices and feeling confident about their food sourcing. We had enough fruit on the trees to invite the younger age groups out to pick their own fruit too 🙂
Once settled on our morning tea mat, the children quickly learnt how to open the mandarin, either through watching children with prior knowledge or poking at the hole made from where the branch had pulled out the centre piece of skin. We’d asked them to deposit all their peels into the buckets and bowls so that we could put them in our scraps buckets for one of the families chickens. They were tidier than at most morning teas!
I was surprised by how quickly the children devoured their mandarins, often it’s one of the fruits left on our morning platters! I think it really shows how much more likely it is that kids will eat foods that they are part of preparing! I also loved that the younger class used a wicker basket for scraps – it just added a whole new element to the activity that I hadn’t thought of!
Once we were all juiced up, we moved on to a related art activity. Trying to extend the children’s attention to multiple steps as well as delaying the gratification of a single step art project, we introduced 3 key areas to complete our pictures of the mandarin trees.
First, we needed to dray the trunk and branches of our tree. I tend to draw basic shapes to encourage the children to take the first steps towards successful representation, so we saw an array of tree styles. By the end of it, many of the children had begun copying this style of “T-crossing” trees from their peers and it sadly reminded me of an article I’d read years ago about how children of this age will draw birds in the sky with bodies, wings, beaks and eyes. Once they’ve entered primary school however, it takes only a few years and all that individualism and creativity is mostly gone, with children having learnt that they can just add a rounded m shape into the sky and that is ‘enough’ to call a bird.
Then we moved on to print leaves on our tree branches. We used plastic tannagram pieces on these fantastic paint pads. We can just refill them any time the paint runs low and they stay moist for ages!
Finally the children moved to another table and used cotton reels (from our threading box) to stamp on some lovely, fresh mandarins! Many kids saw the joy in this multi step activity and did the cycle numerous times, changing up their art work with each rendition.Which I loved 🙂
As the art tables tapered down and the other areas of the room gained interest, a few children questioned what would happen to the other mandarins, so we went outside to collect them all and handed the full basket over to our chef for an afternoon fruit salad:)
This whole process felt successful and worthwhile. I’m not a natural gardener so this sort of activity normally makes me feel like I’m out of my depth. However, today has given me the confidence to bring in a basket of lemons from our lemon tree and teach the kids how to make lemonade! I’d really love for them to create a little stall and ‘sell’ it to the parents as they arrive to pick up the kids! Maybe we could bake cookies and sell ‘cookies and lemonade’ to our other friends for snack! Oh my mind has already begun to tick over the possibilities!