Friday, December 16, 2011


Wow... only one post this school year!  I had no choice but to check back here when a spammer invaded.  Great that there is such a thing as 'block'!!

I always try to keep Christmas at school from turning into a craft fair.  There is just too much lost when you give in to doing every cute and neat idea around.

We started our celebration with a countdown calender.  The students each water-coloured (y'all know that water-colour paints are my favourite colouring medium!) a sheet of paper for the background.  This activity is still connected to the Kindergartens' colour unit.  We only started mixing colours the last two months.  I take out the specific colours I want them to use from their palettes.  That way they are limited.

The first time we did this they had the primary colours.  I waited for and loved to hear the first,  "I made orange!".  They did not expect it.

They then coloured a picture of an angel I found on the net, and cut out and assembled a booklet of numbers and a title.  This was an activity I did a few years ago and lost.  I was anxiously searching for it when it occurred to me that I can make my own!
The next week, we spent a few days on window stars.  These we made with kite paper.  The Kindergarten students folded an easier one than the rest of the class.  I helped them with assembling.  The grades 1-3 were on their own with this activity and did just fine.  We now have brilliantly colours stars adorning our windows.  The students of-course are eagerly waiting to take them home.
Once they had done the one-coloured star, they ventured to different colour combinations.

As you can see from outside the windows, we have almost no snow this year.  That made it possible for us to have a real Christmas tree in our class this year.  One of our families graciously brought it back for us when going to get their own tree.

I tried to keep it natural by limiting the decoration.  The children think it wonderful!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.
David Polis

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Little House on the Prairie

This summer while spending a month with my sister near Brookings, South Dakota, I had a chance to visit with friends and family in Neuhof, Minnesota.  It so happened that going to Neuhof, as we got closer, I noticed signs that had peculiarly familiar names.

First came a sign announcing Plum Creek...  
when Walnut Grove came next I realized that we were in Laura Ingalls Wilder territory.
Plum Creek Park

I never realized that though the books were historical fiction, there would actually be real places mentioned in the books that are still functioning today.  The Wilder family lived 'on the banks of Plum Creek' when Laura was a child.

The area boasts a replica of the sod hut the family spent a winter in.

  I so would have loved to see it!
The nearest town, Walnut Grove, though the name of the town was not mentioned in the book, was where the family eventually moved to for a few years.  It  houses a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum.  (It is also the site where the TV series on the books was set.)

  I merely got a glimpse of the creek and never even stopped in the town of Walnut Grove.  I hope I can someday go back and visit and explore the area.

Now what brought me to write about this?  Going through the area sparked my interest on 'The Little House' era again.  I found a book this summer called 'A Little House Reader'.  It is a collection of writings by Laura (and her family, I find)  written long before Laura wrote her well-known series when she was well in her sixties. 

Her father writes about taking a homestead near Brookings!  Carrie writes about Pa working with the railroad, grading from Brookings to De Smet!  The very same area I travelled in!  I am looking forward to finishing the book which includes journal entries, poetry, and articles Laura wrote for magazines and newspapers.
A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I remembered stumbling upon this blog once.  

The writer, Debbie Reese, of Native American descent, writes about the 'Little House' books and why they should not be used in an elementary classroom.  Check out the website.  Especially read the posts on the 'Little House' books.  I found the posts interesting and eye-opening. 
This one was especially captivating.
I also enjoyed reading the comments that readers leave.

In one blog post she writes about a teacher who read the 'Little House' series to her students every day.

"The reading apparently gets them calmed down after playing outside at recess. She adopts different voices as she reads to the children, using a "snotty" voice for Nellie and a sweet one for Ma. I wonder how she reads "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" (the phrase appears in the book four times)?
I wonder how many Native kids she's read to in those 32 years? She is in Arizona...

How many kids, in these 32 years, heard her say "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

I wonder how the Native kids felt hearing that, and, I wonder what effect it had on the non-Native kids

This is thought provoking.  I too have read the books to my students.   Did I find anything amiss?  I can't remember.  Too often I think,"It's just a book!"  Do I make my students aware of these discrepancies?  What impressions do these stories leave our students with, though unintentionally so?  

What I do know is that I will be reading these current selections with not only a clearer mind to the historical facts, but also a more critical outlook on the 'biases' of the time.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Class!

Class photo sessions today!

I usually put this off too long.  This year I decided to have them done the first week of school.  I used the grade cards found here.
Kind of cute, I thought!  Could make this a tradition for their photo albums.

I wanted a variety of shots but the inevitable happened; the camera battery ran out.  So I am glad to at least have gotten a few shots of each child.

The collage was made with Microsoft Collage Maker, a program free to educators:)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Monarch Butterflies

We started school three days ago.  I have another great group of kids this year.  Very interesting I might add too -- 7 kindergarteners!  
That is a first for me as normally I get small numbers of beginners; too small for serious kiddie stuff.  Most of the time they just get to tag along with my other group work doing modified versions.

I started my grades 1-3s on guided reading.  One of the books I did with a group this afternoon was on butterflies including their life-cycles.  I had to share my experience of collecting caterpillars this summer in South Dakota with my nieces and actually watching the metamorphic cycle.  When I got out my camera card, I realized the earlier photos were at home. 

So here goes;  I will organize them so that tomorrow I can just share this post with them.
Monarch egg 
We got a few milkweed leaves with eggs on them.  We only kept them around long enough to find one teeny tiny caterpillar a few mm long.  We then got rid of the eggs as we had larger caterpillars to observe.

We brought home two caterpillars, one was larger then the other and obviously almost ready for the chrysalis stage.  We were surprised how quickly the smaller one grew.  It took about a week for the first to change into the final stage.
The caterpillar attached itself  on a leaf with (I am told) silk thread! 
 It hung there for a few days (I didn't record how many).  We could see the colour changing from vibrant to a murky almost dead-like shade.

The next stage really surprised me as I had only seen cocoons before.  They were made by moths and not part of the cycle as chrysalises are. Someone happened to be around and see the caterpillar split its' skin for the last time.  The alert was sounded and we  managed to watch as it actually wiggled itself out and discarded its' skin.  
It hung by the silk thread and rotated itself until its shape was the classic chrysalis. The colour was jade green.  A pattern of the most beautiful gold appeared within the day.
After a few days, the green slowly turned translucent until we could see the developing butterfly inside.
The monarch chrysalis is gorgeous.  

Twice we missed the butterfly breaking out.  This is such a quick process, with both chrysalis I was around, observing them, and found them completely emerged coming back within ten minutes...

all crumpled up from its' journey!

and gloriously wonderful!

The Monarch Butterfly!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


If life gives you lemons... make lemonade.
If your Veronicas get mildew, make a bouquet!
I have had the same problem with these flowers for a number of years now.  Just when they are ready to bloom, they come down with mildew -- powdery or downy, I don't know which.
Any idea on how to conquer it?  Solutions anyone?

This year I tried keeping the area around the plant open so as to keep the air moving.  Didn't work!

Also, I have other Veronicas, including this Royal Candles variety, and they are not susceptible to it.

Royal Candles Veronica

Veronica spikes with a splash of pink Prairie Joy roses make a beautiful display.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Haven't been uploading in a bit.  So here goes.  I bore you with more blooming favourites.  
The above pics are both catchflies.  (The flowers are sticky, hence the name.)  The one to the left is a native wildflower growing in a ditch.  The pink one on the right is it's perennial cousin, probably a hybrid or from another locale.
Gadzania -- one of the few annuals you will find in my little patch.

Peruvian daffodil, spider flower, or basket lily.
This is a quite fool-proof bulb.  It is fast growing, and multiplies each year.  The bulbs are lifted for the winter.

Hope for Humanity rose
The roses all love the weather we've been having. do the hostas!

This house plant is new.  I have only had it for a few months (Thanks Susie) and have forgotten the name.  It is one of the most elegant plants I have seen.  Love how the bloom grows on the long stem.

edit -- The plant is a Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose).  I shall call it by its' common name.  It does look like a primrose.
Here is a website with info on the plant 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Blooms

I was gone for the weekend.  I came home late this afternoon and planned on working on my flower beds this  evening.  The temperature is not quite inviting though and when I heard there were frost warnings in effect tonight, I got my camera and captured a few pics of some beautiful spring plants.  I am not sure what the frost will do to them, but seeing as they are all perennials, they should be okay.
Woodland ferns (I think), never more beautiful than when in the fiddle-head stage!

Primroses -- begifted to me last year by one of my sisters.  This is their second show.  They came up right after the snow went.  I killed them off by removing their leaf cover too soon.  I am really glad to see them again.

Pulmonaria -- also known as Joseph's coat or lung-wort -- a spring bloomer, and a favourite of mine for its beautiful hosta-like leaves in the summer.

This is the first time this fern leaf peony blooms!  Can't wait for the flowers and hoping the frost doesn't damage them.
Yellow cushion spurge with bleeding heart and day lilies in the background.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring update

Well, yes...
these pictures were taken yesterday morning, May 2nd ...and a fine one it was too!
  You can see one of my students without a jacket in the picture.  I took  my class out for a walk.  We have been studying 'Air and Water in the Environment' for science.  What better way to learn than to go out on a spring morning and find the evidence.  We did find ice, water, and snow; however, there was not a cloud to be seen.

Lucky for us the weekend fury had passed...

leaving us with an interesting combination of snow, ice, and budding leaves on the Manitoba maple tree.

I liked the ice formations on the slough edge, evidence to water being wind-washed on the banks.  It was frozen over when we visited, and stones being skipped slid and bounced their way to a stop.

Northern Flicker (wood pecker family), 
a first real sighting for me.  
I have seen the bird around but never got close enough to identify it. I do need a camera with a better zoom!!

In my spare moments --
A patchwork quilt I am working on.
  It is almost done -- just in time for warmer weather.  I have been planning on a new quilt for a while now.  I learned how to do the binding stitch and am finishing it off by hand.  This is a quite enjoyable task; I am done one side and a corner (quite a feat, I must say).
More on it later.  This will be the first quilt I actually finish!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Art Projects

I haven't posted student work in a while.  Here are some of the projects we've done in the last few months.

Block printing -- the picture is etched in foam board, inked with a roller and pressed on to the paper.  These turned out really well, I thought!

Tempera painting -- a block of cardboard was used to make the tree and their thumb-print for the snowy owls.  The details were added with a fine line marker once it was dry.

Polar bears -- torn paper art.  No scissors were used.

Polar bears again; this time out of air dry clay.

Valentines day mobile -- quilling idea, though out of larger strips.

Yes -- I still have a Nativity scene in my classroom. 

 I was going to put it away for the year when I found it thus arranged.  I thought it too cute!!  
As adults we like to make a pleasing scene where all figures are seen; kids have different thoughts.  Someone arranged it so that all figures were huddled around the baby Jesus!  
As it should be!