Looking through artist’s eyes

The children have been learning about lines in art. They have been looking at the way artists use lines to create particular effects. We have been talking about the way artists look very carefully at things and see things in different ways. We practiced drawing the leaves on the nature table using “artist’s eyes”.

Yesterday, Mr Welk took KC and KP to the park to sketch lines in nature. Before we left, Mr Welk explained that it is important to look very carefully at things and to draw exactly what you see. He showed the children how the symbol for a tree was not actually what a real tree looked like.

In the park,the children noticed lines all around them; in the branches and twigs on trees, in the designs and veins of leaves, in the blades of grass and in the petals of flowers.

As usual, we were not the only ones sketching in the park. Seeing other adults sketching around them is a motivating and enriching experience for the children.

Some children spent long periods of time looking very carefully at one particular flower or leaf and tried hard to draw exactly what they saw.

When we got back to the classroom the children shared one sketch from their sketchbook with a partner and explained what was interesting about that particular sketch.

click here to see some of the children’s work with circles

Searching for Nature’s Treasures

Throughout the school year, we shall be visiting the park opposite school to observe the changing seasons. As part of our Japanese Culture program, we will be celebrating the coming of Autumn (Aki). Colorful leaves (koyo) are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring. Throughout the month of October, we shall be visiting the park frequently to look for signs of Aki. Today we gave the children special sketch-books and pencils and headed off the the park to see what we could find.

Searching For Nature’s Treasures on PhotoPeach

The great outdoors (and a little rain!)

Children seem to have fewer and fewer opportunities to get outdoors and interact with nature. One of the aims of the Elementary School camping club is to give children opportunities to experience the wonder of living in nature even if just for a night or two. There is nothing quite like a good, hard hike, stopping on the way to climb a particularly inviting tree and crawl through some undergrowth before pitching camp, cooking your own supper and sitting around a bonfire in the dark, singing campfire songs, telling ghost stories and toasting marshmallows.

The weather forecast for the trip was, typically, rain, rain and more rain. We told the children that short of a direct hit by a typhoon, the expedition would go ahead, and they should come prepared with suitable clothes. As we set off after lunch, the weather was grey but dry. The campers had a skip in their step and there was a sense of anticipation in the air. We stopped here and there on the way, as nature called to us; an inviting rock to sit on, or secret space under the branches of a tree that demanded to be explored.

We got the campsite by about four o’clock and set about pitching tents before the weather changed. Everyone was cheerful and engaged and there was a wonderful team spirit as more experienced campers worked together with first time campers to put up tents, organize kit and cook super. There was time for some night-time exploration and a few ghost stories before bed.

We were very, very lucky with the weather, and though it teemed down all night, there was a break for a couple of hours in the morning, long enough for us to cook brekkie, strike camp and start the hike back. Despite being caught in heavy downpour on the way home, everyone was up-beat and entered into the experience with true adventuring spirit. The children are already talking about the next camp!

See below for a link on why it’s so important for children to get out-doors and into nature.

Why our children need to get outside and engage with nature

A busy day out doors!

Today we had a busy day out, full of nature-watching and adventuring. We started by digging sweet potatoes at a near-by potato field. This is a popular Kindergarten experience in Japanese schools at this time of year, and helps children to understand where food comes from and the cycle of the seasons.

We had a picnic lunch in the park and then spent a long time clambering in a section of hilly woodland in the park. This was a wonderful opportunity for the children to work their muscles and develop their gross motor skills. As the children worked together to help each other climb up and down a very steep slope, they were engaged in problem solving, risk-taking and collaborating as well as supporting and encouraging each other. They spent over an hour developing strategies to help them negotiate the slope.

On the way home we stopped to sketch some of the changes we observed in the park this week. We were not the only ones sketching! There were some delightful exchanges between the Kindergarten children and the more experienced adults, out with their sketch-books and water colours.

A busy day out on PhotoPeach

Preparing Our Garden Allotment

With the sakura blooming and Spring finally in the air, we decided it was time to prepare our garden allotment for planting. It was a perfect day for gardening. The sun was shining as the children got stuck in. Several teachers stopped on their way by to ask us what we were up to and to offer some ideas. They all said they would much rather be gardening than in the classroom. In fact Ms Czubak was so excited, she joined in!

We hope that maybe some mums or dads would like to come and help us plant some things in our garden. We would like to plant things we can eat!

Preparing our garden allotment on PhotoPeach

Searching for Nature’s Treasures

Learning about the awe and wonder of nature is an important part of Early Childhood education, particularly as technology and an urban life style become increasingly prevalent.

The weather was so beautiful on Friday that Yuka and I thought about changing our plans so that we could take the children into the park to search for “treasures” in nature. We were aware that this was mating season for the local toads and that the plum blossoms were beginning to bloom. The children thought this was a great idea, so off we went!

The children spent the morning clambering over rocks, paddling in streams, observing the toads lay their eggs and collecting all kinds of treasures often unnoticed by adult eyes. By ten o’clock we had a wonderful collection of interestingly shaped twigs, unusual pebbles, mottled leaves and, most excitingly, a string of toad spawn.

During this time, the children worked together to help each other over rocks and across rivers; they observed and discussed the wonder of nature; they conducted all kinds of individual and group inquiries, including experiments to change the flow of water and to compare floating and sinking properties of various objects they found; they used all of their senses to engage in a shared experience that we can follow up, verbally and in writing, back in the classroom.

Searching For Nature’s Treasures on PhotoPeach

Below are some spontaneous comments we heard the children make to each other.

“It’s a very glorious day.”
“It must be the first day of spring.”
“We are so lucky that we are outside today.”
“This is just like real rock climbing.”
“We’re like the nature experts.”
“This river is a bit tricky to cross.”

“That’s why we have to help each other.”
“We have to wait for everyone, ‘cos we are a team. A KC team.”

A trip to Homes

When we returned to school after the winter break, we saw that our fish tank had turned brown. We discovered that the filter had broken while we were all away. The children wrote a letter to Mr Neary asking if he could give us some money to buy a new filter.

Mr Neary wrote back and said that he agreed that the fish tank was very dirty and needed a new filter. So off we went to Homes …

A trip to Homes on PhotoPeach

Saku’s Tangerines

Often, a student will bring something to our morning meeting which captures the interest of the whole group and provides an authentic learning opportunity related to the children’s own experiences. This morning, Saku came to school with a paper bag full of tangerines. He explained that he had picked them with his family over the weekend. The children were intrigued and began to question Saku. They got to wondering how many tangerines were in the bag. I saw a mathematical window of opportunity and abandoned my plans, to follow the children’s interest.

An hour later, the children had:

  • estimated
  • discussed and revised theories
  • recorded information in a table
  • analyzed the information
  • tested their theories
  • explained and compared strategies for accurate counting
  • divided by 9 (and got a remainder)!
  • discussed their mathematical thinking
  • listened to the mathematical thinking of others

Saku’s Tangerines. on PhotoPeach

Learning Beyond the Classroom: Digging Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato digging is a traditional activity in Japanese kindergarten classes. The YIS kindergarten students took a bus to a sweet potato field in the middle of Yokohama. The children were surprised to find a field right in the middle of the city. They spent the morning digging potatoes. When we got back to school, the students looked carefully at the potatoes and made some observational drawings using charcoal. The students then worked in small groups to sort the potatoes into sets. When they had done that, they shared their work with other groups and tried to guess what criteria the other groups had used for sorting their potatoes.

KC sweet potato picking on PhotoPeach