Monday, October 22, 2012

Pasta-Just Do It!

One of the questions that my class had in our pasta project was how do you make pasta?  As I wrote about in an earlier post, one of my goals is to get them to learn how to answer these questions.  I loved when asked how we could learn about pasta, one child yelled out, "do it!"  So we did.

We made the pasta dough and rolled out the dough with a pasta maker. Then we cut fettuccine noodles. Of course we enjoyed our work by tasting the noodles, but not before comparing them to store bought fettuccine and discovering what boiling water looks like.

The children were so fascinated and excited about this process that many of our families have dusted off the pasta makers they had in their attics and tried it at home.  The home/school connection that this type of learning inspires is incredible.  Even for those that do not make their own pasta, the children now have an excitement when they are served pasta at home and are having discussions about it with their families.  This past week the children hunted around their homes for pasta equipment.  Everyone had a pot and a colander, and then it varied.  The children are eager the share with their classmates what they have discovered at home.

We put playdough and the pasta tools in the dramatic play center this week. It was incredible today to watch the children recreate all of the steps needed to make the pasta, from the flattening to the separating of the noodles on a dish towel, to cooking them in a pot.  They are "practicing" what they have learned from their "research", making sense of it in their own ways.

Other than a cheese grating area in preparation for making macaroni and cheese later this week, my centers do not focus on pasta.

It is not our theme.  We are building with foam blocks and shaving cream, painting with crayon resist and liquid water color, exploring nature items, writing our own stories and messages to friends, building with new brick blocks and more.  Centers providing engaging opportunities to try out materials and foster creativity.

The children interested in following their wonderings can do so, as in these photos:

This little girl found something in a book she wants to share with the class.  "Where are the sticky notes?" she calls out trying to tag a page that she has discovered in her "research."  I had posed the problem earlier in the morning that we didn't have a recipe for macaroni and cheese and we want to make it this week.  Tomorrow she will share this, which may help us to answer one of our questions or may very well lead us to more questions.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CAEYC Conference


This clip is from my art workshop.  After the presentation, we spent the rest of the time hands on exploring the activities.  This was the last session of the day and it was great to see the enthusiasm and energy level as this group played with the materials. 

I had a wonderful time presenting at the CAEYC conference this weekend.  I presented two workshops; The Process Of Becoming An Emergent Curriculum Teacher and Artistic Explorations.  Thank you to all the teachers and directors that attended my workshops and took the time to fill out the evaluations.  I learn so much each time I present from the thoughtful questions and the sharing of experiences from the attendees.

Based on the evaluations, I am excited for the children in your programs:
"I can't wait to try this in my class"
"I feel that I can give this a try now"
"I learned refreshing ideas on how to keep my classroom interesting for children AND teachers"
"This impacted me as a teacher and I will bring this into my classroom"
"I want to try this!"

One person wrote, "I think the presenter is very open to support through facebook and her blog sharing"
I am!  I would love to hear from you via blog comments or you can email me directly at

A few people wrote comments such as this one, "I would love for you to come to my site and show this to the rest of my staff"
Please email me directly and we will discuss this further.

Some people left their emails and asked specific questions.  I will be getting back to you shortly.

A special thank you to my colleague, Lini, for helping me turn a hotel room into a classroom full of messy art activities...not an easy task.  I am happy to say the walls were clean when we left ;-)

It is invigorating to be around other educators so full of passion for what they do. Let me know how it goes as you give the things you learned a try.  Remember...I am right here to support you.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Main Goal for Learning about Pasta-Our Study Continues

One of the most important goals I have for each of my students is to be on his/her way to becoming a life long learner. But what does this mean?  How do we learn about the world?  This is exactly what I pose to my students as we begin our new study on Pasta.
We brainstormed our initial wonderings last week and developed a web of what we know and are interested in knowing more what?

This is what we discussed today.  It was only about ten minutes, but it is a critical piece of why I teach this way.  The children are formulating the questions, but as the adult, I do not simply want to answer their questions.  The answer is not the important part of this process.  How to seek the answers and the questions that are formed while making discoveries are the key pieces of this work.

So I posed it to them.  Here are your questions....
How do you make pasta? 
What are the ingredients? 
Do you need ice to make pasta? 
Why does some have stuff inside it?  
Does it get bigger when you cook it?
to name a few.
What can we do to figure these out?   

It was a tough one for them to think about as they just tried to answer the specific questions.  Then a few kids came up with "just doing it."  "just make it".  Yes!  Experimenting and trying new things is one way to find answers to our questions. Tomorrow we will be trying to make our own pasta in class from scratch.

I showed them all the books we had gathered on pasta and asked them about the books.  Can we learn from these books?  We talked about non-fiction books versus the fiction stories we also have about pasta.  We read one of them today and found the ingredients needed to make our pasta tomorrow.

I then told them about how I went to a new Italian restaurant on Friday night and went to talk to the chef.  He is going to let us come to his restaurant and show us how he makes his own pasta. ( One of the perks of doing advanced research! The meal was delicious.)
Sometimes we talk to experts to learn.

Last year in May, with my class having experienced several in depth studies, when I would say, "Oh, that is an interesting question, I wonder how we could find that out?" I would hear shouts from around the room, "Get a book!"  "Ask and expert!"  "Plan a trip!"  "Do an experiment!" 

These children were well on their way to becoming life long learners as they had the tools to tackle any topic.  This crew is just beginning.  The time taken to learn how to learn is so much more important than the exact ingredients in pasta-that is in a cookbook.  Knowing that I should look in a cookbook or watch my grandmother make it- or heck, today, watch a uTube video on an Ipad-that I have choices and am responsible for my learning; that is my main goal for these students as we begin the first of many  investigations.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yarn Painting

We painted with yarn this week.  The children have been enjoying seeing the different strokes the yarn can make as it twists and turns and curls.  They have noticed how the marks change when they drag the yarn vs. when they plop it.  They have noticed the color changes.

We cut string in different lengths and tied a large bead to the end of each piece for the children to hold. We encourage them to hold the bead with their thumb and first finger to strengthen the pincer grasp. ( I will write more on that soon).

We put various colors of paint in shallow dishes and immersed the yarn in the paint with the bead on the table.
The children picked up the yarn and moved it around the paper in different exploratory movements.

 It always amazes me how children can take the same art experience and explore it so very differently.

Have you tried any different adaptations of yarn paintings in your classroom?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Our First Project Has Emerged!

Choosing the topic has always been the most intimidating part of project work for me.  I want it to be engaging for the children as well as relevant, real and tangible.

This year we have been providing interesting things for the children to play with and observing their interests to see what would emerge.  We have been discussing the interests to see what might make the most relevant project.  Some of the questions we asked were "What directions might this go?" "What kind of experts could we talk to?" "What would our field work be like?"

This class has been interested in spiders outside as the children keep finding webs in and around the play equipment and bushes.  They have talked about the webs and the spiders they've seen.  My assistant and I discussed this but because our time with spiders outside is limited right now due to the season, we decided it might not be the best timing.

Our class is enthralled with sticks outside.  Most children have one in their hands at some point during our outside time.  So we talked about following their interest in sticks and all the possibilities that that held.

They LOVE our outdoor mud kitchen and cooking inside as well.  We put items and play-dough to make a bakery in our  dramatic play area including play-dough extruders that we thought they might use to make "frosting" and cake decorations.  Well, this reminded them of pasta and they started making bowls of pasta to serve to each other.

Both my assistant and I have made pasta at home and have different tools used to make noodles of various kinds, so we brought them in and put them out for the children to explore.  They have been fascinated and the predictions about the tools have been very interesting.

We also noticed that several children tend to eat pasta when they bring their lunches.

My assistant and I started brainstorming pasta vocabulary and expert ideas and directions this study could go.  Tonight I emailed my class parents about this topic asking them for their ideas and connections.  I also emailed a local pasta restaurant that specializes in home made pastas.

Next week we will begin with our memory drawing and then begin our wonderings with the children to see where this pasta study will take us.

Okay, I can't resist.....the "pasta"bilities are endless and delicious!

I would love to hear about how you are getting started with your first topic.