Monday, December 29, 2014

Relationships in Learning

The Importance of Relationships in Learning: Mentors and Supports

This is our 4th year of homeschooling.  It has been very interesting to see how others educate their children.  I have met some other homeschoolers who use Montessori's method of pedagogy on social media sights like Facebook.  Because in a Montessori homeschool situation few of us have the space in our homes to set up a full classroom not to mention the money to buy every material that would be in a classroom many people fade out of Montessori by upper elementary.  Most of the social media groups for Montessori are new Mothers who have the best intentions but are forced to fade out of the method once they see the cost of albums and materials.
I have met some very resourceful Mom's on social media, very clever ladies who make bead materials and get their husbands and fathers to make beautiful cabinets and sensorial material. I have seen some excellent homemade materials for items like  the Stamp Game, bead materials and the Checker Board materials.  The cost of a entire bead cabinet, geometry and fraction materials force a lot of families out of doing Montessori and following the scope a sequence is very hard with out the materials that cost so much. It is unfortunate as many of these ladies who can't afford to buy the materials are wonderful educators and parents who bring so much to the table of learning on social media.  I am constantly in awe of how resourceful and inventive families are.
Many of the upper grade's of Montessori materials are hard for parents to teach with as they must have more experience with accredited consultants/teachers who can show them the lesson and families must own albums of instruction to do the upper elementary work such as algebra, geometry and cubing.  It is very hard to read an album on math for a lesson on binomial cubing and teach it with out some instruction by a actual Montessori educator who has been trained to teach a lesson with it.   I know many educators who have Montessori training who can't teach these upper math lessons of squaring, cubing roots, mainly because you have to practice these lesson to retain the steps and many times in a classroom for upper elementary the students just aren't there yet, and those lesson get foggy for the educators.  How many 6th graders can do trinomial and binomial cubing?  Even the best albums with the clearest lesson instructions are difficult when you are trying to learn them.  Of course  turning around with out mastery and teaching them isn't any easier.

Mentors become very important when you the teacher are learning.  Finding someone to consult with and mentor you in your journey is crucial to your own development as an educator.

Most of the time networking with other Mom's has been a great experience.  People are for the most part respectful and supportive and encouraging.  Finding the homeschooling group's parents who are doing the upper elementary lesson is very difficult.  I have created my own social media group to draw out some of these parents but keep running into families who are not there yet as their children are preschooler or just starting off.  It has been frustrating to pour hours into creating a group sight, offering up information and resources for free and getting scolded by parents for posting something that does pertain to an infants needs.  Support and encouragement is crucial for educators.  It saddens me when people can take all you have to give, but not give back with even a kind word of thanks.
I am finding as we progress that the the upper elementary homeschoolers are far and few between. I have found a supportive small group of Montessori homeschoolers who have encouraged me and supported me but given my son's special needs and the fact that he may not progress academically past these upper elementary lesson, I feel very alone on our journey.  Finding a mentor is so important, just as finding a group is.

 I met a wonderful educator when I was working at a Montessori school who has helped me along the way.  She is AMI trained and teaches upper elementary and I use her as a consultant/tutor.   She is super busy with work and family but always finds time to encourage and support me.  Thank you Liza.  I love you and appreciate what you have brought to our lives with your skills and education.

Another group I belong to is Self Design Global and this group of parents and educators holds bi-weekly virtual meetings where we all share, encourage and support each other.  Self Design is a unschooling movement and it has not provided me with Montessori help but it is invaluable to me in other ways such as in the relationship element of how we learn and seeing learning where ever it happens.  The learning consultants of SD are a precious resource to me and cultivating relationships in these circles has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my adult life.
We all feel the need to connect and belong to a group.  Even when groups exclude and expel us we yearn to belong to some collective whole.  Homeschooling has it's draw backs in that you are alone.  Raising a special learner who struggles with relationships has shown me that I too struggle with communication and often feel excluded even in groups I administrate. We are alone in our personal journeys of homeschooling and that is hard to accept.  In these groups of social media one hopes to find people who will support and encourage them.  I have tried to encourage and support people, share resources and information.  I haven't done it to show off but to cultivate a circle of encouragement and support.

This relationship piece of the education puzzle where you allow other people into your world is tricky.  I hope this blog clears the lens for people to see how my relationships and intentions in creating social media groups can be a wonderful thing and how important it is to support one another along the journey.  It is important to share, give back and not exclude people who are different than you.  I have tried to do this with my group pages with strangers and friends.
Recently one of my groups reacted harshly to my post of reminding the group of why the group was created. I did not express myself well and people felt excluded from my comment which was said in my discouraged moments of feeling alone and no longer connecting in my own group.  I am sorry for the misunderstanding of the intention of my post. I don't know what other people felt by it but it did not elicit positive feed back and I felt misunderstood and worry that the group has gotten so big that relationship component of why I started it has been loss and the group has become something new.  I have seen several social media groups grow to large and something is lost when a group goes from a tight community of encouragement to strangers who lash out at each other  in silly disaggreeements because they have no personal connections and the relationship element  of the group is gone.

We are made human by our relationship with others.   I don't know how to make people play nice and respect each other.  I think as people dive deeper into to Montessori and Waldorf Methods they may see that respect and grace are keys to a life well lived and worth living.  That these methods are more than the materials and lesson plans but are about a lifestyle of cultivating altruism and respect for all people.

Although this recent lesson has been painful I am reminded to be thankful and appreciative of my support system and the people who encourage me along the they way.  I have met some wonderful homeschooler Mom's on social media and am grateful for their support and friendship.  I choose to focus on the good ones and accept the vulnerability that administrating a social media group puts me in.  It is going to expose me to some messy moments and difficult people who often have no idea they are being difficult, but all in all those harsh moments are outweighed by the good ones where I feel connected and heard and appreciated.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DIY Math Skip Counting Manipulative Tutorial

This very easily made manipulative for skipping count that I found on pinterest  has become a favorite with many parents on some of the Facebook group pages I post on.  So  I would like to share a DIY tutorial of it here on my blog. This manipulative is taken from a traditional Waldorf math lesson that is done with colored chalk on the board by a teacher while they tell the story of the relationships of patterns to numeracy.   My husband Mike, did this project it in about an hour and since I had some of the materials on hand like the dowels and number stickers the cost was only $1.75 for the wooden circle piece at the craft store.  I find self adhesive number stickers at the scrapbooking section but you could use a sharpie or craft paint. or even a water color vegetable based paint and polish it down with bees wax to seal and finish for a natural manipulative desire.  You could do it on paper as well.  I will share ideas about cheaper methods below.

The Manipulative being used to count by threes.


One Round wooden plaque  (size it for your learner's small motor needs)
10 Wooden peg dowels with the rounded nail head ends
Some kind of wooden craft glue
A drill with a bit
Number stickers 0-9 or paint or permanent marker
Small balls of colored yard
Ruler / Compass/ Protractor
Pencil/ Paper/ Scissors 
Husband that will completely take over project while you have a glass of wine (Optional)

 One of his 1st steps was to trace the circle on top of the wooden base to paper and cut out a circle as a kind of temp plate so as to get the dimensions of the fractions segments to be equal.  He did not want to draw the line segments out on the wood to get the dowels precisely right, so he did it on paper and scored through the paper onto the wood after he found the center and did the geometry of where the 0 though 9 numbers would be.
 Then he checked his work and followed his pattern's dimensions with the five lines through the middle of the circle.  This was as hard as it looks but he did get it precisely right.  An educator could easily turn this into a practical lesson of geometry.  How to find the center of a circle and how to divide that circle up into 10 equal parts. One of my favorite exercises to do with young children is to imagine how the 1st humans discovered and recognized a circle.  Was it a animal tied by a rope to a stake in the ground that made them see the circle shape the very first time?  How would an animal make a circle like this? String and stick circle making exercises could be incorporated to introduce how people solved problems of math with simple low tech tools and "how did they figure it out" discussions make math fun.  Imagining primitive people doing this is engaging for young learns.  A wonderful book to read aloud to learners on these subjects is "String, Straight-Edge & Shadow- The Story of Geometry" by Julia E Diggins HERE
So the way he did this was to take 360 degrees ( a circle) divided it by ten (10 segments) giving him 36 degrees for each segment from the center point.

 An extension of this geometrical problem solving exercises could be created as an open-end project on this of finding the center and dividing the segments for older children. You don't even need the wood manipulative if they can make a circle and divided it into 10 equal fractions you could do the patterns with colored pencils on paper circles. Create a 36% angled template and a circle and let younger learners trace on to the circle with their templates of the small angled fraction segments. They can label the numbers and then draw all the patterns the numbers make with different colored pencils.
After the math puzzle is solved and the 10 points marked it's time for drilling out the space under the marks
Mike says to figure out which drill bit to use he matches the wooden peg base to his drill bits till he finds one that matches.  He then practiced on a piece of scrap wood to see how it would work first.  He also recommends a trick of putting a piece of tape on the drill bit to mark how deep to drill and to make each hole uniform.

 He just used a wooden glue after he drilled out the holes.   He did end of tapping in the dowels with a rubber ended hammer just to make sure they were snugly in there.

adding the 1st peg

Stick on your numbers
Make sure you have the zero on top and wait for the glue to dry.  Then get your small ball of colored yard and start skip counting.

I like the three times lesson as it shows a wonderful star pattern and the kids love to see how their answers form patterns with this manipulative. Make sure you loop the string around the peg dowels. Also be aware and show the child, as they progress, how as they take the 3 string off, if they counted all the way up to 3 x 10 = 30, that they can then go counter clockwise and do the 7 times skip counting and the last digit of the skip counting series will be the number of they are taking the string loop off.  Its a fun a ha moment for kids to discover.  I think it is easier to see these patterns with skip counting by one and then taking off the yarn to skip count nine.  Most kids know number nine has some tricks and it may help them see the pattern.  I use multiplication labeled arrays or a times tables chart on the table so if my son gets confused on the numerical language or sequencing of what he is doing he can reference it with a visual aid near by and get back on track and self correct.  Again empowering and adjusting the learning lens to abstract thinking, using rhythmical language, visual cues and both hands activity across the midline all work together working together to mastery of the process. Retention of these math facts through visual recognition of the patterns they may help students who cannot memorize their math multiplication facts in traditional ways.  The best part is, it makes math fun while showing patterns in a simple inexpensive way.  Waldorf educators do this circled skip counting on chalk boards too and it is very beautifully rendered.  Go back to my link to Pinterest to see examples of this.

If you use different colored yarn for different numbers you can layer patterns too and see common denominators.

The green string is on the three's and the orange sting is marking the six's times.

My son is very serious here but he does like this work

This is a extension of using a knitting loom.

My son said it is like a trampoline and bounced his hand on it.

Just a note on some of my languaging used here and why I love manipulatives.  Skip counting is the pattern of numerical order of the multiplication tables.  If I count by twos or threes or fours I am skip counting. Using a manipulative to see an abstract concept of say counting by 7's helps the child see a pattern. Why use manipulatives? They work for us.  It's that simple.  Memorizing multiplication tables is usually done by drills, worksheets and rote memorization of the facts.  It takes effort and practice and for spatial learners, such as my son. A sensorial manipulative allows him to see a abstract relationship connection to what he is memorizing and create a visual road map to "the big picture" of what it could mean is crucial to his motivation to struggle through the tedious for the reward of where math can take his brain and what he can do with those basic math facts. Cognitive research shows not everyone learns the same way.  From my own math educational experience often I had no concrete understanding of what I was memorizing.  A manipulative or material that allows the child to visually see what they are counting has obvious benefits. Montessori classrooms are filled with math and other manipulative and these tools are consider the curriculum.  This wooden item is a Waldorf method to teach children the relationships between patterns and math.  The connection the learner makes with these manipulatives forms a bridge to more complexed conceptual thinking skills and hopefully a passionate enjoyment of geometry.  I also see my son learn that thinking requires effort, effort is worth the work and it can be fun along the way.  The process of  learning math can be joyful.   Just look at his smile below.

Another variation with pattern blocks my son created

 The most important part of why I do what I do is these looks from my son.  He loves learning this way.  He uses what he learns in his own studies of art, drawing spaceships and futuristic communities in space using these shapes and patterns.  He can synthesis what he learns and make it meaningful to him in his own learning and interest.  My goal is for him to be a lifelong learner and I think that making math enjoyable, practical and sensorially engaging is working at that goal.
Conor's hexagon space station drawing.
Here are some of our reference materials and supplemental lesson materials.

skip counting lesson

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Froebel's Gifts and Open Ended Learning

Recently I have found out about Froebel's Gifts and bought them.  My son is using them in our homeschool.  We are using the manuals that were written in the late 1800's and also opening the door for other creative projects with the gifts. I have been a origami enthusiast for a long time and I think that has helped me to see the usefulness of thinking outside the box, to teach geometrical and spatial intelligence.  Froebel's followers used origami too and but lessons are considered the Occupations of Froebel and are not part of the 10 Gift's
I have some architectural lessons from Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum and these work very well  to create a unit on designing of sustainable communities or whatever open ended lesson plan you want to use them for.  
The 10 Gifts Arrive

Saturday, April 19, 2014

From Biomes to Real World issues of Sustainability: Teaching 21st Century Skills to Children.

I see a buzz in education that really excites me in STEAMs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) and the movement on the National and State's department's of education call 21st Century Science skills.  There is a focus in the fields of science and technology on looking toward the children as future solvers of our world's problems of energy, sustainability, communication and economic progress.  This scientific group of educators and community gets that teaching children these skills will mean the success of our entire world.  I see more and more courses offered to educators to empower young people into STEAMs programs and learning modalities, such as maker camps, or after school programs that focus of group projects, problem solving, creativity and critical thinking skills.  Some of these organizations like are 1st Lego League, Odyssey of the Mind Events and Intel's Computer Club House Network have been up and going for a long time.
click here for Intel's Clubhouse

Recently I attend a conference for Next Generation Science Skills put on by NASA and my local University Arizona State University.  I was loaded down with lessons, curriculums all aligned to Common Core, binders full of science lessons and materials from NASA and ASU to make me feel  like a movie star with SWAG BAGS at an event in Hollywood.  It was a great opportunity to network with other educators too.  I fine the science teachers to be very accepting toward me being part of the group as a homeschooler.  Sometime it's like dropping a dirty word to tell a group of educators at a conference I am a homeschooling parent.  I feel very grateful to be included into these community programs for educators.  ASU NASA LESSONS

I am very interested in starting a local  informal non competitive small group for a Maker's Camp.  A group that can work together on projects using Zome Tools, Lego's, K'Nex's or Scratch programing. Play, create, share and have fun being the main focus and learning is always happening on some level.

How Teaching STEAMs Looks to US

Every year we do a unit study on sustainability in environmental study and architectural study.  This year my son and I went to Arcosanti for several days.  arcosanti  We had a great time and research deeper into the how it looks, what if's and how can we make it better for living.  More on Pablo Soleri's concept of  Arcology HERE.  Conor loves the architecture elements of this study.  We will keep going back to this subject as my son is passionate about building and he self directs to it based on his interest. 


We also found a curriculum through Waseca Montessori Products that teach Biomes. click HEREl for link to Waseca websight.  These materials are beautiful and I love them.  My son enjoys the work too.  We have used the whole line and will for a long time.  I can see the knowledge of learning about the biomes and their own special needs crossing over to any study on sustainability in the communities and environments of the biomes.
 The research and reading materials that came with this curriculum are very nice too. From primary through elementary although for us we will keep using it as a concrete model and supplement it with more research and activities using these materials as the foundation.
Waseca Veneer Stencil of North America's Biomes

Readers and 3 part cards and  on People, Plants and Animals of North America Biomes.  I try and keep a bucket of books out for self-directed research.  

Organizing the cards to a rotation schedule.  This work all came with lessons and albums of ideas for implementing.  the languaging of the cards can be a bit difficult for learners with language issues.  We adapt to it like always.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Creative Learning and Shifting our Paradigms.

This post has had me in neutral for a while.  it is so hard to put into words my thoughts on the subject of what is learning.  Mostly because what is learning to me may not be what is learning to my student.  If we all could have our own individual educational plan in placed and revised daily.

I am constantly redefining and fine tuning the lens of what learning means to me.  It was a natrual occurrence and needful transition for me when I observed in public education that much of the daily learning was a grind of conditioning the child to obey and do as they are told, with that being the red herring goal and the focus of many hours of the school day.  This just wasn't in a special needs classroom either.  It is a big part of what I saw public education doing to all children.   It feels like it grinds us down as individuals to be manageable test takers and obedient workers.  The rout memorization of daily public education learning with only a vague and limited understanding of what you are memorizing and the relentless constant teaching to a standardized testing policy forced me to shift my views as to what education is or what it should be and more importantly focus a clear lens onto what is learning.

The symbols of knowledge and the point of learning in measurement for me are more on the lines of the Bloom's Taxonomy of Knowledge click here for charts
Learning could consist of a measurement based on observations and assessments in the following areas: Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.  Not to confuse learning with a widget or product either.  Is the product a true reflection of the learning that happened in making it, is just one question in an assessment to what I see as learning.  A true or false or multiple choice test as a measurement of learning fails to show many areas of non cognitive learning and only a fraction of cognitive learning.  Yet be hold those measurements of the grades in such high standards. To me Bloom's definitions of the components of learning, synthesizing a reflection of mastery are more in tune with a holistic approach to learning.  As an educator it may means letting go of the scripted lesson plan an allowing learning on the child's terms to happen.  This is a difficult thing for teachers to do, as we tend to be performers and work hard on our dog and pony shows.  Even school administrators have lost their way to what they should and could be doing, like offering support and encouragement and creating whole communities of learning, instead of forcing lesson plans to align with state and national standards for the testing multimillion dollar business.  It amazes me how this testing industry that doesn't have anything to do with learning has infested our school system like a parasite.  A great example of how our blind and unquestioning obedience to authority has dumbed down our work force and limited critical thinking skills.  What would happen if all of the parents and teachers just refused to allow testing to take place?

Back to Bloom's
I am also referring to, by using the phrase, "What Does Learning Look Like", to the process the individual uses or needs to define and classify in applying knowledge and differentiate data while then taking that process to the next level to create, develop, assess and summarize the material for themselves into something in their own paradigm of consciousness.  This process is where the assessment needs to take place.

Assessing the Assessor
I am constantly reassessing what learning looks like to my learner, subject by subject and day by day. Forcing my consciousness and or agenda on my child is not learning either.  That is a hard power to let go of and I will speak more about controlled learning verse open learning later here.  You almost have to let your brain get use to the concept of "allowing learning to happen" and "allowing the child to lead".  These phrases take a while for us to soak up.  Most of us are conditioned to "I teach, you listen" models of education.  Teacher student roles that are ridged and give little time for learning through experimentation and/or trial and error. We get stuck in the "repeat after me" or "Are all eyes on me?" language of teacher to student and that is about control and isn't so much about learning as it is driven by ego of "I as your teacher want your full attention, you do not think now but listen and repeat what I say."  We use words like sit up straight, hands in you lap ready to learn, eyes up here to set the tone and condition behavior. That by the way is a trick in conditioning and control, it is not learning, it's being made to shut up , be still and listen to the teachers show.  Learning isn't all a lesson in power and control or it shouldn't be.  We need problem solvers not more crushed down obedient performers who can not think and have never worked on learning their strengths with a individualized, self directed learning plan.  Could this be done in public education, yes but.  Open learning where people have the opportunity to play, discover, experiment, create and collaborate with other learners is a much more conducive way to allow learning to happen.  Unfortunately this kind of learning can't be measured on a standardized test.

So enough of me waxing on about it.  Here is some examples of open ended STEAMS learning.

The materials above are Lego Education curriculum and resources.  My son is working on this projects.   He is creating an original robot.  This material allows for open learning and I am merely a supportive aid to him.  He is learning.  I may throw out ideas or trouble shoot for him.  Most of the time we use lesson ideas from Lego ed or other open source lego educational sights..  We have several books that teach us programing for the bricks that come with the Lego Mindstorm and EV3 robots.  My son may choose one of those lessons and he self directs to it.  I provide the resources and environment and research materials and he teaches himself.  I also act as an assistant to him in finding parts and organizing materials.  Lately I am the one who records what he does, but he use to film his work and photo journal it more.  I think he will go back to filming and journaling but he is creating right now.
My job is to support the creative learning.  With this material I become the parts girl.
If I as teacher can let go of my lesson plan and agenda and allow my son to learn on his own, following his natural learning plan.  This take me working on my ego and character as an educator.  I no longer have to perform but encourage, engage and support.  Our roles become a relationship of equality as we both learn and explore the material in a new way. As my son examines and rearranges and predicts what creating with these Lego materials will do, he is learning.  He is learning in a way that I as an educator cannot teach him in a lesson, or book and a test would not show how he is learning here either.

Part of this shift in my consciousness of "What is Learning" was instigated by meeting the people at Self Design Global.  Monica Cochran the Director of Global Learning at SelfDesign was instrumental in my shift of what learning is.  The creator of SelfDesign, Brent Cameron's writings also were catalysis in my shift to natural learning.  My son and I were lucky to be matched with a mentor, an educator Michael Bender who with his wife Lori Bender are creating a new educational paradigm of their own with facilitating a MineCraft group of learners.  All of these people have given me a new perspective of What is Learning.  This has been life changing.
Here is our Michael Bender's Bio on SelfDesign Global's network.
Michael Bender's Bio
The SelfDesign method use a interest based learning modality called Natural Learning.  It is all passion based.  The assessment and measurement for learning they use is a concept call Observations for Learning.   You can read more about that HERE

Another step in this journey to observe my student and understand how my son's mind is wired to learn, was the class I took on line last spring at MIT's Media Lab.  The course was Learning Creative Learning taught by Mitch Resnick.  It was free, and being offer every spring now.  Something I found by clicking around the media lab at MIT's web sight.  During this class I found out more about open learning and interest based learning.  One of our 1st exercises was building a structure out of uncooked spaghetti noodles and marshmallows.  The object was to see how high you could go. My son and I did this together.  We quickly learned that triangles are the strongest shapes to support weight and our base need to be wider to support the height.  We also learned about pressure and gravity and how those factors relate to the strengthen of our materials.

All of this creative learning brought me back to a roots in Montessori's Method of learning through play and how important it is for all of us to learn through hands on projects and how and what we learn through out the process of imaging, creating, reflecting and experimentation.  Our society desperate needs creative problem solvers, yet we as a nation here the US, we are so sold on testing and measuring success by that test that the test has become the symbol of learning, the edification of mastery.  Yet in all this testing and scoring how much is usable to our society?  A test score that the state can hold up as progress is not creating learners who can solve problems, think out side the box and rarely after 12 years of this formula will most people have a desire too. We are loosing to many learners to this system of ed is just not worth it to me.  More and more young people are dropping out or failing to learn the skills that will make them successful learners at a college level.  Our students drop out statistic proves to me that kids weigh out all those years of education and testing and often come to the conclusion, that an education, as they know it, is a worthless thing and not worth the effort.  Open learning teaches the child that effort is everything.  If you do not put in the effort of creating and experimenting you do not get results.  If the learning plan is based on the learner's passions and interest  they will work on the project and do whatever it takes to make it work.  Even if the project doesn't work they are learning through the mistake process of experimentation.  I can not teach that process, I can only create the environment and support system where a learner can get there on their own.  It isn't about the widget they make, the process is the learning, not the widget.  You often can not look at the widget and see ALL what the student learned.  What they learned though the project is harder to measure.
This brings me to Non Cognitive learning and how important that is to our society.  None of these factors show up in Standardized testing, yet they are imperative to how we use what we learn and how we contribute as individuals for the greater good.  Here is a list of Non Cognitive skills to give you an idea about what I am talking about here.

I find that when you follow you passions and pursue learning what interest the learner, teacher's roles become mentors and directors of learning,  we stay on the peripheral of the classroom, just wandering into learner's line of vision when the need arises.  Teaching becomes less of a performance and more of relationship with the student of mentoring.
Once my mind shifted to included a supportive learning environment for creative learning I began to finding all kinds of educators to teach me more.  One of those educators who sparked me and my son was Arvind Gupta. Mr. Gupta is an engineer in India who appeared on TED Talks. Arvind Gupta
He has a web sight as well which shows more of his experiments with turning trash into toys and how he uses that process to teach children creativity and problem solving.

Carol Dweck has also changed my mind on how to educate by her research on Mindset and how it  effects everything.  She reiterates how important mistakes are to our learning process and that effort is everything.   She speaks of how our mindsets cripple us from learning and keep us tethered to a idea that we cannot learn because we are not good enough, smart enough or unable to learn.  I love how she uses the phrase when a learner tells her they are not good at math of:  "You are not good at it YET."  Leaves room to change your mindset and keep trying.
Here is a wonderful video on her research.

I just found the Froebel Gift's and am planning a summer camp enrichment session.  I'll blog about it.  Here is a wonderful educator named Tiffeni J. Goesel, who works as a consultant for the Gift's. here is link to her sight which will take you to the shop to buy them as well.  here for

Please feel free to add your resources below.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Another fun activity we currently are wading into is upper elementary Chemistry work.  We used the card materials from ETC Montessori's lower and upper elementary curriculum bundles.  These are resources that Maria really did not develop as a manipulative or lesson, however the developers at this  company have done well at keeping to her over all method and philosophy of learning and I am impressed with their scope and sequencing.
We started with Physical Science materials earlier this year and learn some basics concepts on light and sound.  We have since moved on to learning about elements of the Periodic Table and their properties and how they combine to become molecules.

This is the atom board by ETC Montessori. It is Bohr Model Method and the ETC web sight will have more information, if you are are interested.  The cards that came with the board are the final level of the lesson at the end cognitive level.  No pictures just the information, beyond 3 or 5 part cards for a more mature learner.  This company is branching into middle school material and I am curious to see what they will come up. We had our own marbles for electrons. You can all use something to show protons and neutrons.  Since the nucleus area here on the board is flat I suggest a flat glass drops in two colors.

We love this activity and use an ipad app to help us visualize the concept too.  The app my son likes is the Atomics HD shown below.  This App allows for, in building the atom, some math skills of finding how many neutrons and electrons and protons are needed in a kind of game format.  The child quickly deciphers that formula from cues in the game on the apps.  I love the creative and intuitive open learning that happens when kids play games.  Here is the screen shot of the build an atom part of the app.

We haven't gotten into Ion's and Isotope yet but it is there work for him when he is ready.

 The project below is a Molecule kit I purchased before Christmas on clearance at our local craft store. It came with everything but the paint.  We got a bunch of  plain white Styrofoam balls and we got busy organizing them to size following simple instructions to paint them certain colors.  Here is my son prepping up each ball with a colored marker to let us know what color it was to be.  I did take a little too much artistic license with carbon and instead of black, went with brown,  so that my son says it is "all wrong" but it look delicious, just like chocolate.  My son painted the big orange magnesium model by hand but most of the others we just dunked into zip locks filled with acrylic paint and made a day of painting and drying out the elements. We decided to use tooth pick to pull them out of the zip lock baggies of paint, sticking them on a cereal box to dry.   It was a big messy project.  We sprinkled glitter on a few of them while wet to make them sparkle.  After they were dry I took them outside and put a clear finishing coat of spray paint on them.  They look great.  My son then created his own cards of them with some old poster board material we cut into 5 x 5 inchs and colored markers.  He use the information on the ETC Montessori Chemistry cards for research.
Color coordinating the styrofoam balls
The organizing of the elements and marking them by color took us a while but Conor did it all.  I helped with the reading.

painting Magnesium orange

Clear coating the hydrogen, nitrogen, sodium and magnesium models

the Box it all came in

Proud creator of the Molecules work

Learning in Progress

Something about making your own maniulatives gives the learner pride
I just love how he took over on this project and made the cards.  We will keep going with this work and as we get to more complicated molecules he can draw the on the cards and the manipulative will be less of a desire to work with.
H2O and the final card in close up

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Art as an App

Many people feel strongly about tech.  Cell phones and tablets seem to bring out extreme responses in people.  The way we are focus on these devices so strongly and the way we have wired ourselves into these devices so quickly, integrating them into our lives so fast, is UN-nerving and it is changing how our society interacts. We have become brave new world writers, evident in the morphing languaging of texting and who knows where a universal dialog of text will next take us in this global economy.  So be it our dystopian culture pulling us to a new source of interaction or a simple haphazard turn of events that drags us along kicking and screaming, the tech is here to stay.  Why not embrace it?  At the least learn how to utilizes it to our advantage.  I have found art is one of those areas where we can ease into the transition of tech world.  It is fun and simple to master many of the apps out there for art.
One of the art apps I have fun with is CamVas.   It allows you to use your photo roll of your device, tablet or phone and manipulate your photos into different styles.  You can choose a traditional water color like style and then change the color values.  So your photos, their software, you become an instant fine arts master in moments.
Actual Photo

 In the original photo above of a blooming aloe plant in front of a fire cactus and plastic 3 gallon bucket, I tried to get a textural shot to show how you can manipulate style and color value to create app art.

Watercolored style version
Another tweaking of color and style
You can choose between several different stylizations of art and the manipulate each style by color values.  It really is a wonderful app.
This is the Van Gogh style with the colors tweaked out.
 It is possible to crop with this app but I decided to keep the bucket.  There are all kinds of other features and ways to manipulate your photos.
Here are a couple more style features.  You do get to where you can see the light of you photos and see where certain shots will lend themselves to this app as you get more masterful at operations.  It is a very intuitive app.
A Watercolor style with a little color change

This is a colored sketchbook book style.

The CamVas app is made by the company Auryn INC. You can use the company name to find what they offer. They keep changing the name of this app and I have a hard time looking it up but it is out there.  It was called Auryn Cam when I bought it but it has been renamed.  There is a on line community with the app where you can check out other artist albums.  They also have a pure version art for the purists of water coloring with no photos, just fine art with a finger called Auryn Ink. They also make book apps.


 They have an adorable version of The Little Mermaid and Van Gogh and the Sunflowers.  My son is past these sweet stories but I never will be.

I wanted to share my Pinterest Board of Art I created with this app.
My Art on Pinterest

I will add to this post as I am still wanting to add other art apps. Almost all the major museums now offer apps.  MOMA app  review and tutorial coming up.
MOMA link