The Polar Express

The Polar Express is an enchanting holiday tale of a young boy who doubts that Santa Claus truly exists. On one special Christmas Eve, as the boy skeptically waits for the sound of sleigh bells, a magical train appears outside his home and the conductor invites him aboard.

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What lies ahead is an extraordinary adventure of self-discovery through which the young boy learns that for those who believe, the wonders of life never fade.

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This beautifully made film, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, was one we enjoyed learning about for a day or two.

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We began our journey with reading a condensed version of the book. We then used flour, tracks, and automated train cars to create our own version of the story!

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Snowflake Puzzles

In preschool classrooms, you may observe children enthusiastically counting collections of erasers, small toy animals, colored cotton balls, and buttons, then represent their counts on paper—often by drawing the objects or a circle to represent each item and placing the objects on their representations to ensure an accurate count.

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They may seem like they are just playing, participants in a silly game of little significance. This could not be more untrue.

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Play versus academic skills: It’s not a zero-sum game.

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Did the children engaged in these activities know they were participating in math lessons?

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Probably not. But they were indeed learning math through what I refer to as playful instruction. As part of our curriculum, we are constantly using everyday items to count, sort, and label their physicality.

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For one week in December, we talked about the shapes that make up snowflakes. We discussed triangles, hexagon, squares, and circles and their relevance to the snowflake shape. We initially matched pieces of a snowflake into a pre-made puzzle and then cut up paper to construct our very own!

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Black Bear Forests

The American black bear is the smallest of the three bears species found in North America, and are found only in North America.

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Black bears have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent tree-climbing ability.

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Black bear fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown muzzle and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests.

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Eastern populations are usually black in color while western populations often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to black.

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Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier) bears and these unique color phases are only found in coastal British Columbia, Canada.

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Snowy Owls

The Snowy Owl, also known as the Arctic Owl or White Owl, nests on Arctic tundra habitats throughout its northern circumpolar breeding rangeoften adjacent to coastal Arctic seas.

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This is one of the largest owls in the world, and has the most northerly breeding and wintering distribution of any owl species.

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Plumage is unmistakable in this species. Adult males are almost pure white, and adult females are white with brown barring.

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As part of our snowy owl component, we created both these creatures and their nests.

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The materials used by your little ones include feathers, clay, googly eyes, and sticks!

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In addition to learning about the snowy owl, students accessed several areas of development, including lateralization, sensory registration and divergent thinking.

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Arctic Hare Habitat

The arctic hare lives in the harsh environment of the North American tundra.

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These hares do not hibernate, but survive the dangerous cold with a number of behavioral and physiological adaptations.

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They sport thick fur and enjoy a low surface area to volume ratio that conserves body heat, most evident in their shortened ears.

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These hares sometimes dig shelters in snow and huddle together to share warmth. To help us learn more about these creatures, we created these shelters using Insta-snow.

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Following a short book on Arctic hares, students enjoyed burrowing around the snow with their friends!

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Snowman Slime

From birth through to early childhood, children use their senses to explore and try to make sense of the world around them. They do this by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, moving and hearing.

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Providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through ‘sensory play’ is crucial to brain development – it helps to build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways.

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This leads to a child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks and supports cognitive growth, language development, gross motor skills, social interaction and problem solving skills.

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For this activity, we used a few different materials to create snowman slime. We first combined corn starch and water to create the “slime”. This is a malleable substance that appears as a solid when placed on a hard surface and liquid when it is picked up.

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Following this, students added black rocks, foam sheets, and black cardboard. These materials made up the eyes, nose, and hat of the snowman. Lastly, we explored the substance, watching it ooze through our hands as we played with it!

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