Monday, December 19, 2016

Composting Activity for Kids

Introduce Composting to Toddlers

Don't hesitate to teach big concepts to your little ones!  When I was teaching toddlers a few years ago in a Montessori environment, I found no reason not to get down and dirty with composting.  This activity is certainly messy, but it was totally worth the efforts.  Composting with your little ones offers an opportunity to contribute to caring for their environment.  After each child had the opportunity to dig into the compost, our composting moved outdoors to the garden in a covered bin that doesn't require the mess.  The point of this project was for children to use their senses in order to physically grasp the concept of how composting works.

My Compost Presentation

This project came about after I explained to my students why a potted annual plant died in the classroom.  A dead plant was a great way to introduce composting with a little presentation.  Below are the supplies I had ready to present during a group lesson in the toddlers studio.  This is just one of the many ways out there to go about such a lesson:

Material for Kids' Compost
  • One dead plant potted in soil or some dead leaves gathered from outdoors
  • Food scraps.  In our studio, fresh fruits or vegetables are offered daily during snack time and there are often leftover scraps. 
  • 1 plastic bin or open container 
  • 1 cardboard box that the bin could fit in (to keep the mess from spilling out onto the floor, especially if you are teaching indoors)
  • 1 large spoon, small garden hoe, or shovel
  • Just for fun: 1 back scratcher (that can be used as a" mini hand rake")
  • 1 watering can, a small pitcher or spray bottle with water (whichever you prefer your kids to make a mess with)
  • An additional bin for composting, i.e., if you are prepared to start composting on a regular basis.  If a large composting bin is not an option at your school, you could start small by using a plastic storage bin with a lid and drill some holes in it.  For more information, here is a tutorial I found on how to make a compost bin out of a storage bin.  We followed the tutorial and kept our bin in the garden area out back of our school.  
  • Kids' books with photos on composting along with a composting video found on the web.  I typically find my videos on youtube.  There are plenty of composting videos out there that would be appropriate for the kids.

The presentation can be a discussion, followed by library books on compost and video clips from youtube. Kids will begin to understand, especially if you begin the demonstration with this hands on activity. We talked about the dead plant, which also lead to giving the kids an opportunity to learn about the roots of the plant and how a plant grows, etc. We put the plant in the bin and began to break it down with our hands. Add dead leaves, or whatever you prefer, and give the kids a chance to get in there and help to begin the process of "breaking down." It's a messy project, but even just letting them get dirty once will help them to have a better understanding of how the process works.

LONGTERM: We switched to a local composting company after this project, and talked to the kids about the company so that they know exactly where their food is going every time they put it in their bin. Talk to your school about working with a composting company and typically they can offer a deal with big companies. We went with Tilthy Rich in Durham, NC and we've got our students routinely helping the environment by composting every day!

Thanks for reading along and learning about this simple (yet messy) activity that helps teach little ones to better understand a big concept that can benefit our world.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Teach Toddlers Flower Arranging with Artificial Flowers

Flower Arranging For Kids 

In our Primary studio at Indigo Montessori (ages 3 through 6), we teach flower arranging with fresh cut flowers for the kids to trim and arrange in vases.  It's a special activity that each child loves to do, since they participate in decorating the room, making a flower arrangement for another friend, and they are given the opportunity to get creative.  We wanted to offer something like this to our toddlers class and found that offering fake flowers can also be enjoyable and give room for creativity.

Teach Flower Arranging to Toddlers with Fake Flowers!
In our Pre-Primary studio for ages 1.5 to age 3, we like to prepare the children with a flower arranging activity that doesn't require cutting the stems.  We use those fake flowers such as silk, felt, or cheap fabric ones that you can get at any craft store or dollar store near you.  We offer glass vases in various sizes and show the kids how they can arrange the flowers in the vases to decorate the room.  The fake flowers work great, because there are so many opportunities for color combinations that work with seasonal themes.  For example, we may offer fake Poinsettias during the winter season and orange leafy arrangements for the fall.  Each month, we switch out our baskets of fake flowers and leafy stems for the kids to arrange.  The kids love to put out vases of their flower arrangements on the tables, on the window sills, and on the shelves.  It's a great lesson on care and respect for one's environment and it makes the classroom feel more welcoming.

 If you are unfamiliar with how we do things in a Montessori setting, a lesson is typically given before we offer something like this.  We want the children to treat the material with respect, but we don't want the kids to copy how we are arranging the flowers.  So be sure to point out how each arrangement is different and unique in it's own way, and the kids will take more pride in their personal arrangement.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lesson on Child Poverty

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

This week, instead of having my students (between ages 3 through 6) make some cookie-cutter Thanksgiving crafts such as turkeys, I planned lessons on child poverty. So many kids these days take everything for granted and don't realize how good they have it. My students are pretty respectful in class, but once in a while, parents come asking for advice, because their child is being disrespectful and selfish at home. I was inspired to teach about child poverty to give my students something to think about during their holiday break... 

Lesson on Child Poverty

First, I asked each child to share about what they were doing for the holidays. They all talked about "Thanksgiving" and how excited they were to eat turkey, play with toys, etc. After a few more discussions to prepare them for what was coming, I played some videos. I wasn't sure how the kids would respond, but I was pleased to see how interested and concerned they were. They actually asked for "more" videos, and they all had so many questions afterward, hopeful that the children were getting help. 

Here is one of the videos that I showed that especially touched each child. I skipped passed the very beginning of the nasty carcasses, because I don't think the kids were quite ready for that yet... While the children in this video appear to have nothing, they showed a great respect and appreciation for what they do have, and make the best of their situation. Near the end of the video, I pointed out how nice the children play with only each other (no toys or playgrounds in sight). Finally, at the end of the day, when I asked everyone what they were thankful for, their responses were very thoughtful as they had a new awareness of how lucky they really are...

Video on Child Poverty By Good Neighbors

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Montessori Primary Classroom Lesson on Using Spacers to Place Material Neatly on Shelves

This Montessori lesson used in our Primary classroom helps children to place material neatly on shelves by using a spacer, a technique that I have recently introduced to my students.

This year in our primary Montessori classroom (ages 3 through 6), I thought that block spacers would be a helpful tool to keep the shelves from looking too cluttered, especially in our abundant sensorial area.  Using spacers is a technique that not only can help with keeping things tidy, but can help students to be more mindful that the material on the shelves has a special place.  Further more, this makes for a great lesson that the kids can enjoy in order to help care for the environment. 

 A lesson will definitely be necessary, but I would recommend for teachers to prepare the shelves ahead of time with this technique in order to decide what type of spacer will work best.  The size of your spacer will depend on how far you want your material to be spaced out.  Try out different building blocks as spacers to figure out what works best on your shelves and how much space you actually have to work with...

Before the kids arrive to circle time, shift some of your material on a shelf so that it is not evenly laid out.  In the lesson below, I chose the cylinder boxes.

Lesson on using Block Spacers
Point out to the children how the cylinder boxes on the shelves are not evenly placed on the shelf.  You could also mention that they look cluttered and show how it will might be difficult to pick up the box if another one is up against it.  Take your block spacer and place it against the left end of the shelf that you are rearranging and make it flush with the edge of the shelf, like the image below.  Slide the 1st cylinder box up against the block and toward the edge of the shelf.  Carefully show the kids how you can place your fingers on either end and slide the block spacer out without moving the cylinder box.
Next, gently place the cylinder block on the other side of the 1st cylinder box.  Show how you can make the block spacer flush with the edge of the shelf and then slide the 2nd cylinder box very gently up against the spacer.   Making sure that the 2nd cylinder box is flush with the edge of the shelf and spacer, you show the children that the material is flush with each other by swiping your fingers across the box and block.  Use your fingers to carefully slide the block out from in between the two boxes.  Be sure to mention how careful and slow you must be so that you don’t bump the boxes out of place. 

Repeat the technique with the rest of the boxes until your shelf is in order.   Once each box is evenly placed on the shelf with plenty of space in between, you can share a sigh of relief and mention how nice and neat everything looks on the shelf.

We used a spacer for the cylinder boxes on the top shelf and another spacer on the bottom shelf. If you look closely, I just left the spacers available on the shelves for easy access.  

You can explain to the kids how this helps keep the material in order and that it also helps to grab each box carefully from the shelf without moving other material out of place.  As for how the material is displayed, I like I like to bring the material to the edge of the shelf, because it is much easier to see the material, and I usually explain this to the child with a visual:  I might push some material way to the back of a deep shelf to show them how it’s not as easy to see or notice the material when it is pushed so far back.  

I tell my students that spacers are completely optional and that they can also use their eyes to try to line material up.  So far the spacers have been a good way to start the year off to help children to get to know the order of the classroom.  I only use spacers in the sensorial area at the moment and do not find it necessary in areas such as practical life and art, so it all depends on what kind of material you are using and how you want items to appear on the shelves. 

I hope this was useful advice to other teachers out there looking for ways to keep their classrooms in order.

Thanks for reading along and please drop a line and share with me any comments or suggestions!


Snack Time Presentation for Toddlers in a Montessori Environment

This snack time lesson was presented to students ages 1.5 to 2.5 at our Montessori school.  During the beginning of the school year, there is a lot to introduce to new students who are just learning how to help themselves.  Before we can expect them to prepare their own snack, we show them how to carry items on their own such as glasses, plates and trays.  It may take many lessons before we should expect them to completely help themselves.  This is just one approach that we like to use with children who are just being introduced our Montessori environment:

During the first week, we give simple lessons at circle time including how to carefully carry a glass plate with food to a table from the snack shelf.  Next, we give lessons on carrying a glass of water from the snack shelf to the table.  We show the kids where to place their plates, napkins, and glasses on their table mats.  After lessons have been given, we give the children the opportunity to begin the process of helping themselves.  It may be necessary to serve their snacks to them for the first week as you are getting to know the abilities of your age group.

 Once the kids have had some lessons, a teacher prepares snacks on glass plates placed on a shelf that is several feet to several yards away from the tables that they will be eating at.  After our morning circle time, the kids are excused one by one to find a set at the tables.  Once all of our students are seated at their tables, we all sing "thanks for food," and then children are excused two at a time to walk up to the snack shelf and carefully carry their plates to their table.  Of course, we have demonstrated how to carefully carry the plates to their tables prior to asking them to do so, as well as how to push their chairs under the table and so forth.  Once these children return to their seat with their plates, they carefully place their plates on a table mat.  Before sitting down, they may return to the snack shelf to take a glass of water.  The water is already poured into the glasses for them and they have previously had lessons on carrying glasses filled with water.  Once they carefully bring their water to the table and place it in the appropriate spot on their table mat (which is yet another lesson that they would have prior to helping themselves to the snack shelf), then they sit down and enjoy their snack.  Lessons on pouring are also given with small pitchers so that each child may pour more water for themselves if they want more.

This is just one approach to introducing snack time to youngsters.  In our primary class, the kids learn quickly to serve themselves completely.

I hope this helps.  Enjoy your snack!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Tea Party Celebration

We had an early Mother's day celebration in our 2 through 3 year old Montessori studio this Friday, and it turned out beautifully.  The kids enjoyed having their moms or supporting family members join us for songs at circle time followed by snack time.  

If you are a teacher looking for party ideas and working around child sized tables, this set up may be a great option for you, too.  Instead of bringing in adult-sized chairs, we simply used floor pillows for adults to sit at either ends of the tables, while the kids sat in their child-sized chairs besides their moms.  Below is an image of the set up before we added decorations to the classroom.

The kids found their seats by looking for their bookmarks that they made for their moms, which were laid out in advance at the tables.  They drew pictures on the bookmarks, and then we added a photo of the child and laminated them.  If you decide to make bookmarks and have more time on your hands, you could also punch a hole in the top and add a tassel made out of ribbon or yarn.

In addition, our students also had some flowers that they made for their moms out of coffee filters. 

The kids each had 3 coffee filters that they drew on with marker and then sprayed the filters with water to make the colors spread.  Once the filters were dry, we put glue on each center, then stacked the filters and pressed the centers together.  Later on, I followed this great tutorial on Pinterest to put the flowers together:

I ended up using jewelry wire to bunch the flowers together and to create a stem.  I covered the stem with green electrical tape which worked out fine.  

Each child also made a card for their moms with craft paper, but I didn't get a chance to take a photo.  All in all, the celebration was a lot of fun and the comfortable environment made it easy for kids and parents to mingle and spend some quality time together.  

Have a great Mother's Day weekend, Moms!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mix Up Some Glitter!

A fun work offered in our practical life area of our Montessori classroom

This is a quick and simple activity I have done with ages two and up, and it's great for the fine motor skills.  All you need is a bowl with water, a whisk, and a touch of glitter sprinkled in the water.  Give a lesson and show the kids how to use a whisk first, and let them stir up the glitter for fun.  

We added some food coloring, and the kids enjoyed observing and getting a closer look at the colors in motion.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Educational Activities Made on the Photocopier

As a teacher, I am so thankful to have a photocopier at my school.  There are so many matching activities to be made on a photocopier, especially if you have colored ink available.  Here are just a few math works I've made for the kids in our studio.  There are truly endless activities out there with the use of a photo copier to help teach our children.

Matching and Counting Dice
Here, I photocopied different types of dice for the kids to match the numbers to.   

Counting and Sorting Buttons
Here, I laid all of my buttons out on the glass surface of the photo copier, shut the lid very gently so that I wouldn't bump the buttons, and once I got my good copy I added numbers along the side and laminated it.  This is a great tool for a sorting activity as well as learning to count.

Shape Making with Colorful Popsicle Sticks
Lay down some colored popsicle sticks on the photocopier and make different shapes to make cards for the kids to practice making shapes.  Glue the images on thicker paper and laminate them to make your cards last longer.  

Number and Quantity Matching
Instead of using dice, draw out dice cards, copy them in a row from one through 5 and laminate them for the kids to match.

I hope this gave you some new ideas for your classroom.  Thanks for reading!