Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Wonderland

I know this sounds cliched, but we really are living in a winter wonderland.  Our area has been seeing a lot of heavy fog lately.  Hoarfrost is formed on everything!

I caught these photos as the sun was setting coming home from school last week.  By the time I got inside the sun had disappeared.

My sister's backyard
The rays from the setting sun beakoned me to explore.  I will admit, I have not done alot of walking this winter.  Somehow, even though I think it isn't THAT cold, I find I just don't want to go out.  Not good!

Trees are weighed down with the frost.  Thankfully I got our cedar wrapped after the first big frost threatened to snap the fragile branches.


I finally got some window stars made.  Our tattered old star was discarded last year so I had no choice but to get creative.  I really like these five point stars.  I made two large and a small one for the string of lights.  They have a wonderful effect in the bay window and I almost like them more during the day when there is hardly light showing through the frosty paper.

School's out and I am so ready for a break... not quite for Christmas though.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter Birds

Winter is here.  I know; not technically, but never-the-less, we are freezing so that means only one thing --stay indoors!  It is pretty difficult these days to muster up the strength and enthusiasm for a brisk walk.  That leaves only one way to enjoy the beauty of nature -- from the window.  And I have been doing a lot of watching these last few weeks!

We have a variety of bird feeders set up in our yard. Consequently we get a variety of birds.  I have even seen some new ones -- male and female pine grosbeaks!  The male of these birds are an eye-catching red, not quite as brilliant as a cardinal.  This prompted my mom one day to excitedly call my dad to come see the tree full of cardinals!
Pine Grosbeaks

Also seen these last few weeks have been these birds: red polls, nut hatches, a magpie!! (at our feeders!!),

downy and hairy wood peckers, chickadees, blue-jays, and of course the common sparrow.
Hairy Woodpecker

As I mentioned before, this is window viewing, so some of my pics are taken through a window.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to open the door without a loud squeak to frighten away the bunch.
Downy Woodpecker

These have adopted our yard. They are everywhere!   Tomorrow my class will make a treat for the birds in their yard.  This is always a much enjoyed and appreciated activity.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Soil Wordle

Our first science unit of the year is coming to an end.  We started with a unit on soil in the environment.  This has been a great study, for me and the students.  We now have a compost bin in the trees by the school.  A bit late in the year to start with, but it will be a good learning experiment anyway.

We did an art piece on the components in soil. I put the students in groups and had them come up with things we find in soil.  We then gathered in front of the SMARTboard and they read their list as I typed them into the wordle generator.  The great thing about the generator is that if you enter repeats, the word increases in size. We then picked the style and colour we wanted.  Earth tones, of course, worked really well for this.  One of the kids was quick to notice that earthworm came out in an earth-wormy kind of colour!

After making the wordle, they each drew and coloured in crayon the items on the list.  We then gave the drawing a black paint wash.  They turned out well.

I kept the rocks part of the unit back as we would like to take a field trip to the rock pit at Souris.  Now all we need is for the sun to shine again!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Time

Today was our much anticipated pumpkin day at school.  After the first hard frost we were invited to the pumpkin patch and every child got to pick their own pumpkin.  They had fun and each knew what they were looking for; size, colour, or shape were important to individual students.

We started our day with reading a selection of books from our pumpkin collection.
Next we measured and recorded the height of our pumpkin, counted the lines, and drew it.  Then we got to see if the pumpkin floated or sunk.  This is always a surprise to the students!
Then we had a step by step drawing lesson. Everyone enjoyed this and everyone was successful!  Our first attempt was done in our sketchbooks, then we got heavier paper, drew it again, traced with a fall coloured sharpie, and water-colour painted it.
Finally we cleaned our pumpkins and carved them!  Most of the students were able to carve their own.  I wouldn't have trusted them, but this is a group with many boys and they all have treasured pocket knifes that are used for a variety of tasks including sharpening arrows and skinning branches!
Crude, but effective; and well-loved too!
Proud as punch!
After dinner we finished cleaning up and then enjoyed a few more of our pumpkin stories.  While the grades two and three students practiced a reader's theater on pumpkins, the grade ones finished their paintings.
The Pumpkin Patch Reader's Theatre - FREE
As the paintings dried we watched The Berenstain Bears - The Prize Pumpkin found here.

Lastly our pumpkin paintings were cut out, labeled and displayed with our back-to-school scarecrows.  This was a fun day for us all!  Next up -- Apple Day!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Yellow Warblers

A pair of yellow warblers decided that our scrawny thunder-child flowering crab would be a fine place to build their nest.  Sitting in our living room one windy rainy evening, I was amazed that a yellow bird, goldfinch, I though, was actually starting to build a nest in the tree as I was looking on.  Back and forth it flew, from a large evergreen back to this tree, collecting spider web and grass and industriously working at making the stuff stay together on little more than a fork in the tree.  "Good luck", I thought.  After this evening, this wouldn't sound like such a good idea anymore.
Well, the bird did come back and pretty soon there was the neatest little nest in full eye-view from our window, if you happened to know it was there.  It has been quite interesting watching the progression, from a shy squirmish bird to not noticing us there at all, from eggs to these hatchlings cooling off in the heat.
These birds grew amazingly fast, from feathery down to soft feathers in like three days.  Soon the nest spilled over with these tiny birds, and they are tiny, about a quarter sized now and managing to fly a few feet to a tree when we try to put them back in the nest after dropping out.
 On Sunday, a misty rainy day, they decided to move out!  The nest was just too small to hold the lot.
 We wouldn't have noticed them around if not for the fussy parents trying to ward us off with broken wing antics.

This little guy seems to like the ground.  We put him in the tree and there he was, back on the ground again.

These fledglings are the sweetest things, you can't help but want to hold them when you see them.  They are still around, hiding in the shrubs under the windows.  It will be nice to see them safely fly off on their own.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Field's Trip

I am sitting in a classroom and the only sounds I hear are the wind blowing and a lawnmower in the distance.  This is a rare day indeed -- the first one this term where I get the school to myself.  Granted, I had my kindies this morning.  They didn't get to go on the much anticipated field's trip to Winnipeg.  There are seven of them.  That is too many five-year-olds to keep an eye on, the trip to Winnipeg too long and who knows how kindergartners will sit through a few Imax movies. 

It was the parents' decision to keep them home.  They will get a local fun trip some time this week.

I took the opportunity of having them alone and did an art project which we have been waiting to try -- Plasticine art  by Barbara Reid.  She has a series of great videos and written instructions of her techniques on her website.  There is also a gallery of student art to view which my students enjoyed immensely.  

So here are our master-pieces!  I must say I expected to work a few days on these, but this is kindergarten...and we just DO!

Now, I must get back to work.  I have started on end-of-year clean-up.  I know I should do reports, but I find I work better in a cleaner environment!

Cedar Waxwing basking in the evening sun

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Butterfly Hunt

I have a class of butterfly enthusiasts.  It helps not only that we raised a swarm of Painted Lady butterflies, but also the fact that this seems to be the year of the BUTTERFLY!  Anyone else notice the great number of them this year?  Monarchs, yellow swallow-tails, painted ladies, mourning cloaks, cabbage whites!!!  (y' know, the little green worms in your salad!), there is a multitude of them all!  I have even seen the hummingbird moth which I had only seen once before around here.  I wonder what brings the population up so?  Is it the weather?  
Cabbage White
A quick search brought up this article.  Seems like a break in a drought made for ideal conditions and these insects flourished.  
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
We went butterfly hunting this week.  We kept a list of the kinds and the number of each.  As each count is, we of course missed lots, but  this was great practice in identifying some of the different varieties found around here.  The cabbage whites, a gardeners nightmare, are especially numerous!  
Cabbages whites -- really enjoying the sage in my flower garden.
Painted Lady
I made the mistake of taking butterfly nets.  They were tucked away in the corner of the storage room and I couldn't resist.  I did a talk on what to 'catch', how to handle, and how to release butterflies unharmed.  But of course kids end up chasing and wildly running and the butterfly count becomes a hunt...  
Our sketchy count...

Tiger Swallowtail - 3
Monarch -- 23
Cabbage White -- 70
Painted Lady -- 7
Mourning Cloak -- 1

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stinkin' Cute

Origami Butterflies
... instructions can be found here.

We made these origami butterflies a few weeks ago as one of our theme activities.  

Seeing that the fox differed by only a few folds we attempted these too.  Every one had a few finished ones and I am always happy to see that some students go off on a tangent once the know how to do this.

Origami Fox Family - created by one of my students in Grade 2. 
Instructions can be found here.

These are quite simple to make and after a few tries my students' fox collection grew to a family group!  The brown paper is origami paper and the orange is simply sheets from a desk note block and plain paper cut down to size.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Annual SEEDS Bird Count

Every year our class participates in the SEEDS annual bird count.  The weather was great these last two days so we got our recording things, binoculars, and camera and headed out.  From past experience we know that nobody wants to carry bird ID books after the first 5 minutes so those are left behind.  We try to cover different areas on the place.  It is a wonderful opportunity to observe not only birds, but also plants and insects.  

These are some of the insects we saw on our walk.  The butterfly is a monarch.  We saw several fluttering past.  On one of the dandelions is a wasp and a bumblebee.  We know it's a wasp because its body is smooth.  It has no hair like a bee has.  Its stripes also go up and down instead of sideways.

Some of the blooming plants seen were the white Canada anemone, common silver-weed, and of course dandelions.  Today was the first time this year that we saw lady slippers.  We do not pick them so that other people can also enjoy them.  We also want to make sure that we will always have them.

These pictures show the difference between the red-winged blackbird male and female.   The brown bird is the female.  We also saw the common blackbird, however this year we did not see any yellow-headed blackbirds which are very common in our area.

The robin is a baby.  It is called a fledgling when it first comes out of the nest.  We could go real close to it without it flying away. The black and white duck is a scoup, and the last picture is of a mallard.  We saw many other birds but could not get any pictures of them.  All together we saw 1344 ducks and 854 seagulls.  Our grand total of birds we saw was 4559.

Written with help from my students.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Painted Ladies

Our Painted Lady butterflies began to emerge today!  I had ordered 13 caterpillars a few weeks ago.  They grew incredibly fast and it didn't take long for them to begin the last cycle in their metamorphosis.  Their chrysalis, though not as beautiful as a monarch's is also a thing of wonder.  It's gold flecks appear almost immediately.

It took a little over a week for them to develop.  Today was the first day we saw colour through the chrysalis.  I observed them after dinner and they were still intact.  During story-time one of the girls surprised us with, "There's a butterfly!"   Of course the book we were reading was put on hold as we all marveled at the creation!

These butterflies are not as big and as showy as monarchs, though wonderful just the same.  The under side of the wings is especially beautiful.
One of my students quickly dispatched to bring an orange for it to feed on when ready.

Amazingly, that is where it was when I came back to school this evening.  Two more butterflies were testing their wings!

With painted Ladies, if you keep them for two weeks, they are ready to begin the cycle again.  Hopefully we will be able to care for some long enough to see the eggs and watch the complete cycle.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Everything Grows...

There's a new greenhouse on the grounds!  A long awaited one I should add.  It is under cover now and already housing many of the plants which by now would have been crammed into cold-frames near the old tiny one.

It is well situated across the road from the school.  My luck!    

I walked over this afternoon to see what was happening and took pictures of those flowers starting to bloom.  I am not that into annuals, but who can resist the beautiful colours of these beauties.

A selection of shade-loving variegated coleus is stowed away from the sun under the shelves.

Not only the flowers are maturing, but a trailer full of vegetables are hardening off outside waiting to be planted tomorrow.  

This particular tractor, 'A' as we call it, happens to be a favourite with the kids.  They were disappointed this year when the John Deere was used to pull the trailer for their annual colony clean-up excursion.  I guess it makes for a more authentic experience!