Lindie's Blog
Lindie Keaton

Lindie Keaton

Monday, 28 September 2015 00:00

Starting Color Days in Kindergarten

     As the leaves change color and fall begins, Kindergarten begins an exploration and celebration of colors.  We began last week with red.  The children created a display of red objects with items from our classroom.  They requested apples and red peppers for snack.  We had strawberries, as well.  They planned to make individual pizzas with red sauce and pepperoni for those who wanted it.  Several dough makers mixed and kneaded the dough for the crust on Tuesday morning.  Each Kindergarten topped their own pizza, and we baked them for a much enjoyed afternoon snack.  The children's favorite new song is "Little Red Wagon", and they modified "Little Grey Ponies" to "Little Red Ponies" in honor of red.  Two stories the children especially liked were Jamberry and The Giant Jam Sandwich

     Monday was Forest Kindergarten, in addition to being the start of red days.  We hiked down to the creek, where the some of the children worked in their sketch books, while others walked the banks of the creek or explored the concepts of shallow and deep by attempting to step on stones, some partially submerged.  Back in our forest classroom, we talked about building a lean to.  Our fire pit is outlined with stones.  While we were on our hike, a couple of parents delivered some wood for possible construction or firewood.  We have an area now designated for firewood storage near our fire pit. 

     Sadly, as we were saying hello to fall and color days, we needed to say good bye to one of our guinea pigs, Mocha, who had been sick and died over the weekend.  We buried him near the garden on Monday afternoon.  Some of the children helped dig the hole.  Everyone gathered for his burial, and many Kindergartners had a kind word to say about him. They have been giving Pistachio, our remaining guinea pig, daily attention, as he has always lived with his friend, Mocha. 

     On Wednesday we walked to the Antioch College Wellness Center to check out the gym and the pool, where we will be playing and swimming on Thursdays.  The children were very excited for our first gym and swim day on Thursday.  Thursday was also our first yellow day.  Once again the children gathered items to create a yellow display.  We ate bananas and yellow peppers.  This is a pepper eating group!  We sang "You Are My Sunshine", "A Tisket, A Tasket", and "Five Little Ducks".  The children also enjoyed some selections from The Stories Julian Tells.

     On Thursday morning, each Kindergartner made a sandwich for afternoon snack, after swimming.  The question of the morning was, "When will we go swimming?"  It was hard to wait until after lunch!  When we arrived at the Wellness Center, the children played in the gym, until it was our swim time.  After changing in the locker rooms, we met our Older Group partners at the pool.  I will definitely bring my camera next week, because the smiles during swimming were some of the best and biggest I have seen from this group so far!  There was lots of underwater swimming and jumping off the side to partners.  The children were very glad to have their sandwiches to eat, when we got back to school!

     Our Older Group partners joined us on Friday to sing a song that we have been learning for Grandfriends'Day.  The Kindergartners love their partners and are looking forward to swimming with them again next week!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 00:00

Forest Kindergarten Begins!

     Forest Kindergarten began this week.  Last Friday we visited our forest classroom and checked out our morning drop off area for Forest Kindergarten in preparation for our first day in the forest--Monday.  We found lots of interesting sticks and vines, two soccer-ball sized puff ball mushrooms, a deer skeleton, and an area for our fire pit with a natural bench (a fallen tree).  The children also discovered that our little "Hundred Acre Wood" is the perfect size for us.  Our boundaries are the edges of the wood.  In addition to the fire pit area, the children have found and named a "swamp". 

     Monday morning was cool, but sunny.  I was not sure how the children would pass the time, while waiting for everyone to arrive, but they were eager to head back into our forest classroom for a bit more exploration.  Once everyone had joined us, we stowed our lunches in a box and headed for the Glen.  We hiked to the area we call "The Rocks" for some climbing.  Along the way, we found a couple of springs and "The Fox's Swamp". 

     After some exploration time at "The Rocks", the children decided they wanted to hike to a nearby cave, before returning to our forest classroom for a snack.  Despite the fact that I had not packed a flashlight, (I hadn't realized that we would hike quite so far the first time.), the children went into the cave for a look around.  They even asked me to take a picture in the cave, so they could see inside it better with the help of the camera flash!  Next time, we decided, we would bring a light.

     The children were strong hikers on the way out and the way back and stayed together quite well.  When we arrived back at our forest classroom, we had a snack of string cheese and granola bars.  I had not thought to bring a books for stories, so I told a story.  A couple of Kindergartners also told a story or two, while the others finished their snacks.  The children spent the rest of the morning playing in the wood, gathering good building sticks for future building work, searching for stones for the fire pit, and relocating our bone display and adding a feather to it. 

     We returned to school in time for lunch.  The children seemed to have worked up a good appetite.  The very next afternoon the children began expressing interest in returning to our forest classroom and the Glen before Monday.  We have plans to hike down to the creek on a return trip to the Glen and hope to do some sketching and mapping of our forest adventures.  Stay tuned!

Monday, 31 August 2015 00:00

The Building of a Strawbale Playhouse In Kindergarten--Part 6--The Final Chapter

     The final piece of the playhouse to be completed was the slide.  It arrived after school had let out for the summer, so we held an open house in mid-June to celebrate the completion of this monumental Kindergarten project.  The open house was well attended--Nursery children, Kindergartners, Younger Groupers, Older Groupers, and community members young and old came out to admire the children's work and of course, to test out the slide. 

     Periodically, throughout the summer, when I would stop by the school, the playhouse was frequently in use.  It is a charming and welcome addition to our playground.  This vision of some very young dreamers and builders will be a cherished play place for children for years to come.  For me it is a testament to the power of one group of Kindergartners, who noted one day last fall, "We need another playhouse!"


Wednesday, 27 May 2015 00:00

The Building of a Strawbale Playhouse In Kindergarten--Part 5

Lovely, lovely, lovely mud! The playhouse is steadily being plastered. The children began last week mixing the mud plaster--a recipe of clay, sand, straw, and water. It is definitely hands on work with new plaster being mixed each day, as the playhouse receives three coats of plaster inside and out.

Kindergartner mixing the mud plaster.
Kindergartner mixes mud plaster.
Two Younger Group children work together to plaster a playhouse wall.
Two Younger Group children work together to plaster a playhouse wall.
Kindergartner adds to the mosaics on a playhouse wall.
Kindergartner adds to the mosaics on a playhouse wall.

The Kindergartners decided that since the house has four outside walls, and there are four groups in the school--Nursery, Kindergarten, Younger Group, and Older Group--that each group could do the finish and decorating work on one side. The Kindergartners chose the tunnel side, and then sent a note to the Nursery to see which side they would like--the one facing the school, the slide side. The Older Group chose the side facing the merry-go-round, the window side, and the Younger Group will decorate the entrance side.

This week began with the children adding the decorative touches with smooth glass pieces, tiles, imprints, and even relief sculptures.

Sunday, 17 May 2015 00:00

The Building of a Strawbale Playhouse In Kindergarten--Part 4

     The playhouse has walls!  Last week the children helped prepare and secure the strawbales to be placed as the walls.  First they topped off the sand in between the post frames on the ground, stomping it down until it was flat and level.  Next metal sheeting was nailed over the posts and sand foundation to create a moisture barrier for the bales. 

Children help compact a straw bale with some guidance from Beth
Children help compact a straw bale with some guidance from Beth

     The bales needed to be notched to fit around the posts.  The bales had to be compacted and the twine adjusted, before they could be cut.  Andy constructed a giant lever, so the children could help with this task.  Andy did the notching with his chain saw, while we observed from a safe distance.  Then the bales could be secured in place.  The children helped Beth cut and bend wire into giant bale clips to secure the bales together.  As the walls went up, the Kindergartners periodically tested what it felt like to be inside the house.  We had a few breezy, cool days, and the solid walls were a much appreciated wind block.  The construction of the ladder made easy access to the loft.

Preparing the clay.
Preparing the clay.

     On Friday the children filled large buckets with clay and then water for the first wall coating, which will be sprayed on.  Beth explained that we will continue this process, of filling the buckets with clay and water, over and over again, as we begin to mix the clay with sand and chopped straw next week to make the plaster that we will use to cover the house.  Judging from their delight with creating the just-right gloopy mixture, I anticipate that this will be the children's favorite phase yet. 


Tuesday, 12 May 2015 00:00

The Building of a Strawbale Playhouse In Kindergarten--Part 3

     Last week's changes to the playhouse--the addition of the roof and part of the floor of the loft--were not as dramatic visually as the first week.  For the children, though, the structure became a house.  The roof provides shade, and the loft a climbing challenge, as well as a new view on the familiar playground. 

Nursery children dig sand for the foundation.
Nursery children dig sand for the foundation.
Andy and Mark roof the playhouse.
Andy and Mark roof the playhouse.
Older Group children and Kindergartners dig sand for the foundation.
Older Group children and Kindergartners dig sand for the foundation.

     Children from all the groups helped with construction this past week.  The foundation was completed with the addition of numerous buckets of sand--filled on sand hill and carried to the house.  The children used their feet to stomp it down and their hands to level it.  This work went on while Andy, along with a parent volunteer, worked on installing the roof.  An OG student helped Andy lift plywood into the loft to be screwed down for flooring.  The Kindergartners, aided by a Nursery visitor, were able to use the power screw driver to secure the floor. 

Andy assists a Kindergartner using the power screwdriver.
Andy assists a Kindergartner using the power screwdriver.
Children helping install the loft floor.
Children helping install the loft floor.

     By the end of the week, groups of children began utilizing the house--to climb, to gather in its loft or on its dirt floor, to play in its shade, to make it their own space. 

     The beginning of this week brought the delivery of the straw for the walls, and the clay for the plaster, which we were not able to dig from our own site after all.  With four basic materials--straw, sand, clay, and water--we will build and finish the walls for the playhouse.  Check back here to see the children's finished work soon, or better yet, if you're local, stop by in person!

The straw is delivered!
The straw is delivered!
Children supervise the unloading of the straw.
Children supervise the unloading of the straw.
Some Kindergartners beside the straw that will be the playhouse walls.
Some Kindergartners beside the straw that will be the playhouse walls.
Sunday, 03 May 2015 00:00

The Building of a Strawbale Playhouse In Kindergarten--Part 2

     This was an exciting week in Kindergarten.  Real construction began on our strawbale playhouse!  The lumber was delivered on Monday.  The children helped carry the lumber from the parking lot to the cycle circle side of the playground.  Some pieces could be carried by two Kindergartners, while other longer and thicker pieces took three or four Kindergartners working together.  A few industrious and energetic workers figured out that some pieces could be moved with just one person by dragging the end on the ground.  Piece by piece the entire pile of lumber was moved.  The children even lamented that there wasn't more to carry. 

Kindergartners carry lumber for the playhouse.
Kindergartners carry lumber for the playhouse.

     The actual building began on Tuesday.  Andy, along with several volunteers, including an Antioch School alum, our Antioch College Miller Fellow, several current school parents and community members, did the heavy work.  Though the framing phase of this type of building is not nearly as kid-builder friendly as the straw fill and mud plaster parts will be, the children found many ways to help with the work.  The Nursery children dug right in, literally, and helped level the dirt floor.  Kindergartners, Nursery children, and some Younger Group children helped find and carry rocks and sand to create a foundation for the straw to sit on between the base frame boards.  Some avid tool users hammered bolts in and tightened nuts on the ends of bolts with wrenches to hold the base of the frame together.  The ratchet wrench was very popular for this task. 

Getting the frame up for the playhouse
(l to r) Children work to level the floor of the playhouse. Kindergartner hammers in a bolt. Two Nursery children work with the wrench to tighten nuts.

     As it went up. there was a lot of examining of the scale model and comparing it with the actual building by both children and adults.  The Kindergartners tested out a plastic cylinder-shaped canister for the size of the tunnel entrance.  The children could easily crawl into it, so the size worked well.  The canister has a bottom and is made of too flexible of a plastic to use as the tunnel itself, but it will be a good place holder in the straw, as we build and try to locate a suitable type of tube for the tunnel.

     The framing is completed, and now we are waiting for the roofing material to come.    The roof must be on, before we begin to build the walls with the strawbales.  The clay will be dug on site, as soon as our large equipment operator's schedule (and the weather, of course) allow. 

     It was a satisfying week for the children, seeing their plans beginning to materialize; however, there is much to be done.  Currently there are gaps in our playhouse, as well as in our understanding of how it will be put together.  This was evidenced by one Kindergartner's question, as we surveyed the skeleton of the building at the end of the week--"Why can we walk through the walls?"--what a wonderful opportunity for first-hand knowledge of building structure.   With time will come the clarity of straw, but until then we'll enjoy this short period of walking through walls. 

The playhouse after framing is completed.
The playhouse after framing is completed.
Sunday, 26 April 2015 00:00

The Building of a Strawbale Playhouse In Kindergarten--Part 1

     I was asked this week how it came about that Kindergartners are going to construct a strawbale playhouse on the cycle circle side of the playground.  The project is funded, in part, by the Emily Bailey Fund and a few other donors.  Their generosity empowers the children's work.  I've decided to dedicate the next several Kindergarten blogs to documenting the process of building the playhouse.  

     This is how it all began.  One day last fall, as we were sitting around the snack table, one Kindergartner declared, "We need another playhouse on that side," pointing to the cycle circle side of the playground.  Heads nodded in agreement and assent was voiced unanimously around the table.  I shared that the yellow house, also on the cycle circle side, has been built by Kindergartners ten years ago.  I explained that there once had been another playhouse built by Kindergartners on that side, but it had become unsafe with age and had to be removed.  "Would you like to build another one?" I asked.  Everyone was enthusiastic and positive. 

     Later that week we read a story from our class library about a group of nursery children, who build a climber for their playground with the help of a carpenter.  I explained that our playhouse would need to be built in the spring.  This would be a big undertaking, and I needed time to figure out how to support their plan.  The idea incubated over the winter, as we got busy with other work. 

     I live in a strawbale house.  My builders, Andy and Beth, live next door and have very close ties to the school, as alumnae, and former parents, and teacher.  My first Kindergarten group at Antioch School, to celebrate brown days, helped apply mud plaster in one of the rooms in my house.  For these reasons I thought strawbale would be a good choice of construction material for this playhouse--we have local expertise, the method allows for hands-on participation by the children, and additionally, it is a great example of a green building technique that is well adapted for this area. 

     In the type of serendipitous events that I find so frequently teaching here, on the early spring day that I planned to remind the children of their playhouse idea and to see if there was interest in strawbale construction, a Kindergartner shared his experience over the previous weekend of building a hay house at the farm of a relative.  Immediately, he inquired, "Could we make our playhouse out of hay?"  During the discussion that ensued,  he established that the hay was in rectangular bales, but that the house he built was not able to be saved, because the hay had to be fed to the horses.  "We don't have horses here," remarked one Kindergartner.  "Do we have any animals on our playground that would eat hay?"  I asked.  Another Kindergartner nodded knowingly.  "Deer!" she announced.  

Two Kindergarten students work with the scale model staw bale blocks to create our playhouse deisgn.
Two Kindergarten students work with the scale model staw bale blocks to create our playhouse design.

     This was the point that I introduced the idea of using straw bales.  There was some further discussion of whether hay could still be used, if we were going to cover it with mud plaster anyway, but eventually we settled on straw as the material.  While I confirmed our plans with Andy and Beth, the children made preliminary sketches and zeroed in on the important design features.  Andy provided us with scale model straw bale blocks to help the children explore their ideas.  The children decided that there would be four walls with a window, a door, a tunnel entrance, and a slide exit from a loft area on each respectively.  Andy built a scale model to help the children further visualize their plan.   

     The children decided to locate the new playhouse, where the former one had been, near sand hill.  We did some preliminary measuring to get an initial idea of scale.  Last week Andy and the children staked out the location.  The children posted the following sign on one of the stakes, "Dear Nursery, YG, and OG, Please do not move these posts.  Love, Kindergarten." 

Andy helps Kindergartners stake out the location of their strawbale playhouse.
Andy helps Kindergartners stake out the location of their strawbale playhouse.
Kindergartner measures to determine if the playhouse is layed out square.
Kindergartner measures to determine if the playhouse is staked out squarely.

     If the weather cooperates, next week framing will begin, and their plan will begin to become a reality.  Stay tuned for more updates and photos of our work!

Sunday, 12 April 2015 00:00

Spring in the Kindergarten

     Spring has come to Kindergarten at last!  The children were glad to be back together again after spring break.  It was over 10 degrees (celsius) every day last week and made it over 15 degrees at least one day.  The children decided that we should use celsius, instead of fahrenheit, after someone noticed the two sets of numbers on our new thermometer.  When I explained the difference, one child exclaimed, "Well, that makes more sense.", referring to the celsius scale.  The others all agreed.  They have enjoyed switching from being able to go out without a jacket at 50 degrees (fahrenheit) to 10 degrees (celcius). 

     Last Wednesday was our annual trip to the zoo, as we celebrated Zz days.  The children previewed maps of the zoo and discussed what animals they were especially interested in seeing--polar bears and gorillas topped the list.  They helped plan what friends would ride together for the hour trip to and from our destination.  We sang the song "We're Going to the Zoo" and read the book, If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo

     The day of the trip was cloudy, but not cold.  The children opted to stay together as one group through the day.  They started in the North American area, so that we would be sure to have time for the polar bears.  We also were able to see grizzly bears, prong horns, reindeer, bison, pumas, bobcats, a wolverine, wolves, and eagles in this area.  There were a lot of fish swimming in the water in the polar bears' habitat.  Though the polar bears were sunning themselves and walking around the dry areas of their space, some of the children speculated that the fish were there as a polar bear snack.  We had made plans to have lunch in an indoor area, which was fortunate, as a thunderstorm came though at that time.  After lunch, we toured the Congo--where the children's favorites were the gorillas and the bonobos.  We also spent time at the manatee exhibit, where we learned that the rays and fish are permanent residents, but the sea turtles and manatees, who can be rehabilitated, will go back to the wild.  The children enjoyed seeing the sharks, coral, and other salt water creatures in the aquarium building.  Finally, we made a stop at the reptile house, which was a favorite for some of the children as well.  It was a lovely day together at the zoo, and the children enjoyed revisiting the maps back at school the next day and using our toy animals to recreate their favorite exhibits. 

     Another exciting plan we are moving forward with is the children's idea for a new playhouse on the cycle circle side of the playground.  The idea of a hay house was discussed, as one child had made one at a relative's farm.  The house had to be fed to the horses though, so after some discussion, we decided we would use straw instead of hay.  We are exploring working with Beth and Andy Holyoke, as our artists/builders-in-residence for the project.  The children had done some preliminary brainstorming and sketching with Brian and me, before spring break.  Last week they were able to use some scale model straw bale blocks to test out some of their ideas.  We also took a look at our possible site and did some measuring to see how big the house might be. 

     We closed out the week by setting fifteen chicken eggs in the incubator in our classroom.  We will begin Ee days next week by looking at how the chicken embryos will develop, candling our eggs to see if they are all growing into chicks, and, of course, turning them three times a day to mimic the way a mother hen would move them in the nest.  Thanks to three of our chicks from last year--our current hens:  Easter, Poppy, and Miracle--we will be able to hard boil some eggs for snack this week, as well.


Monday, 16 February 2015 00:00

Mid-Winter In Kindergarten

     Kindergartners have continued exploring language with weekly letter days.  For Mm days the children listened to biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., worked with magnets, and built a maze out of the big blocks for Mocha and Pistachio, our class guinea pigs. 

     We began Bb days by creating a ball pit in our room.  We washed and dried each ball, made rules for safe use, and made a list for taking turns.  The children also planned a day to bring stuffed bears, bananas, and baby dolls from home to school.  On that day we did the "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" chant, sang "Teddy Bear Picnic", and read My Brown Bear Barney.  We began our first read-aloud chapter book, The Boxcar Children.  Many children worked on fuse bead projects.  Placing the tiny beads on the pegs is a great exercise in small motor control and patience!  We put bird seed out for the birds in the feeders--one in the big maple tree and one attached to our window by the snack table--and on the floor of the little red house, where it is under roof and less likely to get covered in snow.  The children have delighted in watching the great variety of birds (and at least one gray squirrel) enjoying a snack, while we are having ours.  So far we have seen the following kinds of birds at the feeders on the tire swing side of the playground:  tifted titmouse, cardinal, house finch, slate-colored junco, chickadee, blue jay, crow, gold finch, wren, house sparrow, white-throated sparrow, nuthatch, downy woodpecker, and Northern flicker.

     One recent, cold, February afternoon, Kindergartners bundled up and headed for a long-awaited walk in the Glen.  Upon entering the Glen the children immediately noticed that the temperature in the woods was warmer than on the school grounds or the bike path.  We saw many deer tracks and one observant Kindergartner discovered that a fox had followed the trail for awhile.  Here are some comments I overheard Kindergartners say during the hike: 

"The things I like about snow are you can see tracks and it sparkles."

"Let's follow this fox!"

"We found a paradise!  There's a tent and a boat"  (said while observing some rock formations)

"Avast ye mateys!  Hoist the sail!"

     For Tt days the children loved using the mini trampoline.  They again created safety rules and a list for taking turns.  Here are their safety rules:  1.  Only jump on the black part.  Don't pick on the blue part.  2.  Walk or step off.  3.  One person at a time.  4.  Keep your distance from the trampoline, when someone is jumping on it.  5.  If you're jumping on the trampoline, you should have your socks on and take your shoes off.  The children also planned a tea party for snack with cinnamon apple tea and cinnamon toast. 

     Using floor puzzles and their own art work, the children created an ocean in our class library for Oo days.  The children drew and cut out whales, fish, sharks, jellyfish, and even a sunken pirated ship, complete with treasure.  We dove into the library for the rest of the week.  Transforming this space seemed to lead to other imaginative transformations and a further blossoming of intricate dramatic play, often including the entire group, for the rest of the week.  The familiar kitten themed play became mom and babies with almost all Kindergartners being the babies.  Later the babies went to school and the mom became the teacher.  The trampoline was propped up and became the door to the elevator--the new way to get to the loft.  

     The week of Valentine's Day found the Kindergartners busily making cards for family and friends.  There was much writing, spelling, cutting, gluing, thinking, discussing, and planning going on surrounding the cards.  The children were eager and appreciative on Friday, when the cards were delivered and received.  For our Valentine's Day snack, the children decided upon eggs (from Easter, Poppy, and Miracle, our school hens) and cinnamon toast.  We used a pancake shaper to cook the eggs into a heart shape for the occasion. 

     The children are already looking forward to celebrating Lunar New Year and Dd days by making the dragon for the traditional Kindergarten dragon dance to begin our Lunar New Year Feast.  The Kindergarten had made almond cookies in the past, but this year's group had decided to make an American Chinese dessert--fortune cookies!


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