teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘tools’

Trash to treasure :)

Sometimes the simplest things can seem like genius! I’d picked up two large blackboard easels from the local cheap shop. I love them because they go right to the ground, so that even the littlest of kids will have a large drawing space.

I’m not so fond of them, because they don’t have locking sides and are prone to falling over as the kids lean on them.I had a quick look around and found that the tyres were too large and the buckets too small. The milk crate styled boxes not tapered enough and the pot planters didn’t offer enough surface area to stop the sliding. I’d almost given up when I looked at the old school chairs we use at our outdoor tables. Bingo!

Screws quickly removed and our easels are supported with no more incidents!

As much as this made the group of four kids drawing happy, it enticed a larger group of kids over who wanted a turn at using the screwdriver, dismantling the chairs and seeing what they looked like! In fact, the very first ‘legless chair’ was run into the sandpit and sat on, before I could think what to do with it!

Of course, this meant that taking apart two chairs was no longer enough! SO we continued removing screws and separating chairs until their were enough for all the kids who showed interest.

*we have heaps of these chairs from an old school sale*

The kids lined them up in front of the edge of our sandpit, facing out to the swings. Then repositioned them to sit on the edge, looking in. Finally they moved them into the sandpit so we could dig and build ‘without our bums getting wet!’ 🙂

But now I am left with extra bases from our chairs. We managed to use one for low level climbing (loving that they stand under 50 cms!)

But the more I think about it, the more I’m being led to try some table top pendulum painting!


Foam puzzle construction

I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t find the link that was the inspiration for today’s activity! One wonderful preschool teacher out there had chopped up bars of glycerine soap and used it as the building blocks for toothpick construction!Knowing that my kids would probably try to eat the soap, or rub it in their eyes or slip on it or all manner of other ‘exciting’ things, I decided to use my Eva floor mat/puzzles. These foam puzzles have had a life well lived. They’ve been puzzles, they’ve been floor mats, they’ve been stuck to the bathroom wall and rearranged multiple bath times over! They’ve been set on shelves for dolls to play with, chewed on, lost and stuck in cupboards. Now it’s time to move on.

So I started by getting the kids to pull out all the puzzle pieces, whilst I chopped in to the foam. I originally planned to cut it with a chefs knife, but quickly realised that the knife was just bouncing off its rubbery texture! It’s fairly easy to cut through. Just time-consuming.

The thing with scissors is that once they are out, everyone wants a turn! The foam proved to be a bit tricky to cut through for the kids, but small distances could be worked through!

Once we had an array of pieces I showed them how to push in the toothpicks, without holding the ends. It’s important to note that I purposely bought cheaper toothpicks, because I knew they’d be pointy at both ends. It did also mean that we had a few dodgy ones in our midst!

Assembly began as a fairly 2D affair.  Here you can see the back of our puzzle pieces, the numbers were there to help us sort and complete the puzzles as we packed up. now they just become part of the construction!

The projects soon gained 3D effects, as wings were added, stabilising pieces were put in to make them stand up and as we experimented with what we could do! Like any activity that has my daughter in it, something will eventually be made to be worn. First were the glasses, then she moved on to make Bunny Ears, which she used toothpicks to tuck into her head band for support!

I began creating a ‘thing’ out of the little pieces, and found myself thinking that it looked like a Christmas Tree. Not a whole lot, but just enough to start me off on a project to make one. But then Quinn stole my pieces and threw them like frisbees (or flying ninja stars – more likely these, as told by his maniacal laugh!). So you’ll just have to use your imagination when you look at my ‘inspiration’ piece!

After this was done, I had a whole new respect for the Dozers sugar-stick construction, in Fraggle Rock!

I love it when a plan comes together!

The classroom environment is a huge part of the children’s learning. We often think of spaces for quiet, soft, noisier, building, small group, large group, individual play and off course art work. WE make beautiful displays of the children’s art work, we theme walls to role play areas, we look at passage ways between areas to try to minimize running lines and maximise children’s ability to concentrate on tasks.

Sometimes we see going outside as a bit of a relief, a place for the kids to run off their energy and for us to chill a little as the messes are meant to be there, the areas are laid out for them and the running rules cease to exist.

Since moving into the Kindy room, my outdoor area has kinda stumped me. It’s a long yard of cement and astro turf. We added the \’jungle\’ but the yard seems more bare because of it! I keep looking and trying new things, tweaking bits, but I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to have to do a bit of an overhaul on it. Some things just won’t sit well with me until I do. I want it to be more of an outdoor classroom than just a yard. I’d love a workbench, with hammers and nails and glue and goodies to work with. I’d love to create a swirly walkway path that is covered in Arches of plants, with large rocks and small pebbles. I’d love the path to end at our dividing fence to the Koala yard and have little tubes of pipe for us to ‘post’ toys back and forth, use as telescopes and as foghorns. I’d love my jungle to be filled with real living plants and not just off cuts. I want a wall off herbs and flowers that we can care for and eat. Most of all I want the yard to be an area that excites and entices exploring and play. I want the thought that goes into the inside program and design to go into my outdoor area. But I also know that I have to start small.

I’d like to see areas for role play, gross motor, music, science and environments all work together in an easy and relaxed setting. So I’ve started small, on things I can change.

After a few days trying out different ways to make this work, I finally pulled it together from op shop and cheap shop buys! A pulley system!

With wooden ‘coins’ cut from some of the larger branches I acquired for our ‘jungle’ to use as weights. They really aren’t heavy at all, which makes me feel better about the safety of the area if someone tips the bucket on their own head!

My co-workers loved it – as did the kids! they started cheeky games with each other to pull the buckets out of reach, they held onto them to create more weight, they raced each other to fill them up. All fantastic learning opportunities for maths and science skills without me saying a word!

You know,  a few kids even clocked themselves on the head with the bucket or tipped wood coins on their toes, but not a sound of complaint was hears! Instead it was giggles and surprised looks. They’re learning resilience and testing hypotheses without even knowing what the words mean! I’m looking forward to this becoming less of a ‘new thing’ and more of an experience that the children drive and create themselves 🙂

Here’s another thing that I’d picked up a long time ago. Xylophone pieces that were mounted individually. I believe someone was throwing them out because there is not a complete set. I’ve had them at home, not knowing what it was I wanted to do with them, watching my kids play with them and ignore them. When I started thinking of permanent musical structures in my outdoor area, these quickly came to mind (along with some other things I’ve been sitting on, but I’m yet to figure out how to make them work successfully) A few cable ties later, borrowing sticks from our indoor musical kit, and voilà! A beautiful sounding musical pole!

I thought I’d add this pic in, because I found it so amusing when I figured out what he’d done…. can you see the stick is actually being held in the hand of one of our action figures (no, I’m not sure what happened to the rest of him either!) And E is using the action figures hand to make the music! So impressed with his spatial awareness to figure out that the stick would fit in, guess everyone needs a helping hand every now and again!

Stop! It’s hammer time!

I fully recommend that everyone finds their way into local op shops, garage sales and Recycled material shops with their eyes wide open and a thought of mixing materials. As it happens a few weeks ago I visited a shop called “That’s not Garbage”. I’d taken the kids with me and we picked up plastic bocce balls, materials, cardboard cones and a range of other items. At the same time my Bassie, my autistic 7 year old, hid his shoes. Now this is not some sort of neatly organised op shop. It’s a large store room of assorted boxes, business ‘junk’ and lots and lots of hidey holes. We looked and looked, Bassie wasn’t giving up the location of the shoes, so I had to leave without them. The man took my details in the hope that they would turn up. Well they did. So I snuck in an extra visit to this wonderland of ‘waste’ products.

I found a variety of wooden frames, some covered in canvas and others not. across the room I picked up a bundle of satin materials, felts, wooden stencils, zips and other bits and pieces. Seeing the pieces as I walked, I clocked my interest and finally came back to the counter with an armful of goodies.

At Kindy, we sat around the square as a group and I introduced the children to safety aspects of the day, we needed space, we needed to concentrate, we needed to measure things out and plan what we were doing, but most of all, we were going to use real tools. The majority of the kids were practically statues as they waited for their turn, while others wandered off to the sound chamber and then came back for their turns.

The children took turns, they showed fantastic hand eye co-ordination, they worked on reassessing their aim and technique as they hit each nail. The confidence they showed in their abilities was tempered only by their careful attendance to safety, we really need to ‘Stop, collaborate and listen” (I know it’s incredibly lame to use such obvious lyrics, but once Bobby Brown lyrics get stuck in your head, it’s hard to get  them out!)

We took a break for morning tea, opening up other play opportunities for the group – and what could be better than using our play tools on wooden boards, as well as our hammer boards and shapes.

The finished product – our zipper board! At this point in time it’s free standing, leaning against walls or tables, I was going to put a base on it, but thought I might wait and see what the kids need before I make that presumption!

Oh and the other frames i picked up have started their journey into becoming our classroom loom. Hopefully we’ll be able to make a few small mats that I can sew together to make wall hangings or mats 🙂  Old satin nighties have been cut into strips and wound onto reels so that we can easily move the material in a weaving fashion.

I’m not planning on this being an instant gratification experience, rather one that each child can add to in their own way, at their own pace.So I’ve set it up under a nice quiet window near the book nook and AV centre.  Lets hope that what it offers in its existence will be taken up by my curious Kindy Kids!