Tag Archives: Activities

Book Club: I Love the River by Maya Christina Gonzales

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Book Club is a series dedicated to extending the reading experience either through an activity. Activities will tie in with other areas of study or cross over subjects. 

Today we’ll be looking at art style. Maya Christina Gonzales is a phenomenal author and illustrator that you should know about. She and her husband run Reflection Press which publishes diverse stories that promote equality, peace, and freedom. The website has some sobering and incredibly important statistics about the state of children’s publishing and while this is only tangentially related to the activity in this post, I encourage you to check them out and reflect on what that means for you as a parents, educator, and consumer. 

I Know the River Loves MeWe were particularly drawn to her book I Know the River Loves me when we ran across it on display in our library. The white space and bold illustrations with bright, vibrant colors were really inviting.  On picking it up I discovered it was written with the Yuba river in mind, which is near where we live and somewhere we’ve been. The story of the connection between the little girl, nature, the river, and the seasons was especially appealing. The activity below is how we used the book to extend the learning experience. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper (drawing paper, scrap paper, whatever is around the house)
  • thin markers or Sharpies
  • I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales

Together read the book I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales. Pay particular attention to the art style as you read. Point out colors, patterns, and lines. While the illustrations appear simple, they are incredibly beautiful and impactful.  

When you are finished reading get out your art supplies. Together you can think of pieces of nature that speak to you. for the drawing prompt we filled in the sentence “I know the ________ loves me.” Maybe it’s mountains. Maybe it’s a river like the little girl in the book. Maybe it’s clouds, the sun, or the rain. Using simple shapes and lines draw an outline of that thing. Then fill the shapes in with swirls, colors, dots, and waves just as Gonzales does. Flip through the book and study the pictures as you draw. 

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Not only does this encourage your child to look closely at the art in the picture book, but it also helps them draw connections between their own lives and experiences and the story. Take it a step further and get outside! Is there are creek nearby that you can walk to? A hike you can go on together? Or a park to visit? The point is not to find a secluded nature area, but to find a natural space that can welcome you. If you have a pad of paper and a bag to pack up your markers, head over there to draw what you see using patterns like Gonzales.

Van Life: New Adventures

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So, about two weeks before the end of 2017 we bought a Eurovan. Our big plan, that we’ve been talking about for nearly a year now, is to take off all of July and head¬†up California, Oregon, Washington and into Canada with the two kids, the two of us, and the two dogs. Ultimately we’d love to do this every year and get out to explore the U.S., Canada, and maybe ultimately Mexico (although we’re hoping to head north to cooler climates when it’s blazing hot down south). I’m not sure we’d ever be the family that sells our house and lives full time in our van while traveling, but a change of pace for one month a year sounds about right for now.

We took our first trip on the last two days of the year and headed down to Yosemite. It was my first time in the Park and it was really lovely, if a wee bit chilly. Also, camping while seven months pregnant was little challenging. I wish our campsite had been closer to the bathroom. We plan on taking a lot of overnight and weekend trips in the van as well since there’s plenty to see within a few hours of where we live. And because my husband runs on a school schedule he gets dedicated winter and spring breaks plus a handful of three day weekends that will allow us to go out on longer trips.

I am really new to the whole camping thing (I did go to summer camp a few times, but it was all tent cabins and mess halls, no tents or camp stoves or even really campfires) so I am learning as we go along. In fact the last, and maybe only time, I went camping was nearly 30 years ago. I would like to post about van life, camping with kids, and traveling/camping with dogs. Tips, tricks, thoughts, etc in case anyone else wants ideas or inspiration. If you’ve done the math, our July trip will involve a three month old baby. It could be the world’s best idea of the world’s worst idea. We’ll find out. I think we’re going into this with an open mind and a sense of adventure that will hopefully allow us to take everything in stride.

Science Weekly: Yeast Experiment

I was recently making soft pretzels at home and realized I have a huge tub of yeast. Since the dough was rising while Cam was asleep I thought she might get a kick out of experimenting with the yeast by itself.

Our question was, what are the best conditions to get yeast to activate? I set out a number of bowls and put yeast in each of them. I also set out some salt and some sugar. Cam added salt and sugar and nothing to the yeast in the bowls. Then we poured in hot, cold and warm water. Technically you don’t need to have sugar in the water, but without adding anything else the yeast never activated. 

It took a good five to ten minutes to really start seeing results, but once it got going, it got going. She had lots of questions about what was going on and wanted to start mixing sugar, salt, and yeast to the bowls and doing a little experimenting of her own. She realized the more sugar you add, the quicker you see results and the more foam you get. 

I think the most interesting take away from this was an interest in our own digestive system. Cam asked where the gas from the bubbles was coming from and I explained that the yeast was eating the sugar and producing gas. That was funny to her because it’s basically a fart. :) But it lead to A LOT of questions about how our bodies work to process food. I explained a little and then got out our Eye Wonder Human Body book to read more. 

Science Weekly: Making Crystals

I kind of fell apart this summer on Summer of Science. Oh well. I’m picking up the thread and instead of trying to do one thing a day I’m going for one thing a week. Last week (as this series will run a week behind) we did a little experiment with making crystals. If you follow me on Instagram you will recognize the pictures and the activity. The series here on the blog is intended to document what we’ve done and make it possible for you to recreate it at home. 

Why I chose this project: Cam found her rocks and crystals and has been playing with them. We started talking about minerals and rocks and reading up about them a bit. I thought she might be interested to see how crystals form. 

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What we did:

The set up was pretty simple. String tied to a stick and dangled in a jar. I mixed equal parts hot water and three different substances: table salt, sugar, and Borax. I had Cam help mix up the solutions and then dip the strings into the jars.

We left them out for a week and she would check them periodically throughout the day, every day. The top right picture shows the Borax crystals after about 30 minutes. The picture on the bottom shows them after a week. The sugar solution only developed mold, no crystals. I think next time I would go for another type of salt, kosher or sea, instead. Either that or made the sugar solution more concentrated. 

I had Cam draw pictures of the results in a journal and dictate comments to me about what had happened. She enjoyed that part of the experiment too. Next up is talking about how this relates to actual rock and crystal formation.

Summer of Science: Round Up 5

This week ran a little less efficiently. I was teaching a makerspace class in the afternoons which compressed our day into a couple hours. I let stuff go and didn’t stress about it. It is summer after all! Please see the widget in the sidebar for pictures from each day. 

Day 1: Garden Harvest

I didn’t get a picture this time, but there were more tomatillos, squash, tomatoes, and peppers waiting for us in the garden.

Day 2: Lego Building

Our neighbor came over to play with Cam and they got out the Legos to build with together. Cam has told me she wants to be a builder when she grows up. 

Day 3 & 4: Machi Koro

I bought this card game at Target for Tom and I to play, but Cam saw it and wanted to give it a try. There was a lot of practical math and economics involved with it and she won the first game. She ended up asking to play again and again. 

Summer of Science: Round Up 4

Again I didn’t go with a theme or anything this week. I also let some of our science “lessons” emerge organically from what Cam was doing on her own. Please se the widget in the sidebar for pictures from each day. 

Day 1: I See a Pattern Here by Bruce Goldstone

This is an awesome book for slightly older readers. It’s more than a concept book about shapes or patterns and has good vocabulary and lots of different types of patterns. I had checked the book out a few weeks ago and, while I was enticed by all the bright colors and patterns, Cam hadn’t clicked with it. Then she saw it sitting out and asked to read it. Hooray!

Day 2: Pattern Play

Inspired by one of the pages in I See a Pattern Here we got out these little quilt-like fabric puzzle pieces I had made years ago (if you’re interested in the pattern I used you can find it here). For the longest time Cam was using the little squares as blankets and pillows and rugs for her My Little Ponies and in her barn, but we used them as the puzzle today. She really enjoyed making patterns and having me copy them. 

Day 3: Garden Harvest

Our garden is going gangbusters right now. There are a lot of peppers and tomatoes ripening or needing to be picked. There are squashes growing and hopefully we’ll see some beans soon. Today we went out and harvested what was ready. One teeny tiny strawberry made it. The plants are leftover from last year (they were shoots that the plants sent off the bales and into the ground) and because they are growing on the ground they are being munched by slugs. Yuck. 

Day 4: Train Set

Cam got our her wooden train set today and Went. To. Town. Building a town. I think I had misconceptions about what age she would start really using her building materials. They seem to have taken off in popularity with her in the past six months or so, but I had expected it sooner. Either was we have a TON of these wooden tracks, trains, and buildngs (thanks to my husband’s grandmother who saved every last toy of his and IKEA who makes them super affordable). 

Day 5: Poetry Friday

I am really liking this idea of reading STEM based poetry on Fridays. We often eat out on Fridays (it’s the one day I work and it’s often much less stressful to let someone else do the cooking, especially considering we still have all our farm responsibilities on Fridays in addition to a working mama). It’s so easy to pop a poetry book in my bag and bring it into the restaurant to read while we wait for our food. It is also getting us to get out our poetry collection and read the books. This week it was Turtle in July by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. The cover features a red-eared slider and we have one of those so there was hook for Cam. The poems themselves were short and simple and follow through the seasons (one of my favorite kinds of books)

Day 6: Another Garden Harvest

 There were more tomatoes and tomatillos waiting for us today. And an ENORMOUS squash. 

Day 7: Homemade Tinkertoys

Tomorrow I start teaching my Makerspace class and I’m going to begin with some construction activities and challenges. Today I have to make some homemade Tinkertoys with toilet paper tubes and a hole punch and I’m going to have Cam help me test them out before I put them out tomorrow. If you want to make your own check out the instructions here.

Summer of Science: Round Up 3

I didn’t really go with any type of theme this week. We just sort of found science in our everyday lives. For pictures see my Instagram feed to the right. You can click on it to bring up the website and see larger images. 

Day 1: Polymer Science

Cam had a friend over today and I amazed them both by sticking pencils through a water-filled plastic bag. I got it all set up and then asked them what they thought would happen if I stabbed a pencil through the bag. Of course they thought it would burst or leak, but it didn’t. Read about why and see where I got the idea here on Tinkerlab.

Day 2: Sick Day

Cam was sick all morning so all plans went out the window. 

Day 3: Telescope

We got out the telescope tonight and looked at the moon and Mars. Tom is still figuring out how to use the telescope so sometimes it’s easiest to just point it at the biggest, brightest thing in the night sky- the moon. 

Day 4: Garden Harvest

More of our tomatoes and tomatillos were ready for picking. We’ll be making salsa this weekend!

Day 5: Poetry Friday

I love the idea of combining the language arts piece with science! I recently bought the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science to use with Cam and in the library this next year. 

Day 6: Legos

Cam has really been into Legos for the last few weeks. We’ve been getting the little $5 sets at Target when we go and she comes right home and builds them. To me it’s amazing. She sits down, opens the packages of pieces, lays them out, puts out the direction booklet and then builds. We recently swapped out her Duplos for the smaller traditional Legos, but she hasn’t been as interested in building from scratch and her mind. I know she will get there though watching how she loves to build and play with these sets. 

Day 7: Aerospace Museum of California

Today is Father’s Day and we’re two of Cam’s four grandpas to the Aerospace Museum of California. We went two years ago and even at almost three Cam had fun looking at all the planes and models. I think she’ll be even more excited this year.

Summer of Science: Round Up 2

This week we did a bit with water. It is summer after all. For pictures see my Instagram feed at the right.

Day 1: Moon Phases

Today was the first day of Ramadan. Since the Muslim calendar runs on a lunar cycle you know Ramadan has begun when the new moon is sighted. Today we read a little bit about moon phases so she would understand how the month of Ramadan would progress. It gave us some good new vocabulary too- waxing, waning, crescent, etc. 

Day 2: Shaving Cream Clouds

This was a very simple but exciting experiment the combined a chat about weather and about color theory. Fill a glass with water and spray the top with a pile of shaving cream. You then drip food coloring into the “cloud” and slowly it leaks through into the water. The color initially swirling into the water is fascinating and beautiful and if you do more than one color they mix together in a very dramatic way. I got the idea of Pinterest and it was a hit.

Before we started I asked Cam if she knew why/how clouds rained. I was very surprised to find that she does. I suspect she got it off one of her PBS videos, but I was impressed she recalled it. During the experiment we made predictions of what colors would form if we mixed red and yellow, red and blue, and blue and yellow. Most of the time she had no idea so I might try some other fun color experiments this summer. 

Day 3: Do Oil and Water Mix?

We explored how oil and water repel each other using an ice cube floated in a glass of oil. This was fun because to make the water more visible floating in the oil we dropped food coloring onto the ice cube. As droplets melted the food coloring mixed with the water and dripped into the oil. The end result looked a lot like a homemade lava lamp. It helped that I poured the oil into wine glasses. :) 

Cam is into the experiments where you do the initial set up and maybe even a bit of observation then come back to them over several intervals and make more observations. 

Day 4: Thursday

Thursdays are tricky. If I can plan something very quick and simple and Cam wakes up early enough, gets breakfast and over her process of waking up, then we can do something. This week after getting up late we had swim lessons again and then Cam went to my mom’s house for the afternoon. We didn’t manage to do anything especially science-y today.

Day 5: Water Sings Blue

Today we did a little Poetry Friday. I read several ocean themed poems from the beautiful book Water Sings Blue. I love the blend of information and imagery in this book and it’s very appealing to young audiences. Cam can sit through several poems before wanting to move on to something with a bit more narrative, but those few poems are so worth it. This was perfect too because I brought it with us to the restaurant where we ate dinner and it gave us a few minutes of something to do while we waited for food.

Day 6: The Save Water Game

 A fun little board game in our book How Things Work. Water is always a big deal out here in California and our family likes to talk about conserving it. This was a good little reinforcement of that. 

Day 7: Harvesting

I started our tomato plants from seed way back in January and today we will harvested the first fruits!!! Home-grown, homemade salsa here we come!!!!!

Summer of Science: Round Up 1

I decided to do some light exploration and experiments this past week because Cam had been watching an episode of Curios George that featured rainbows. In the episode one of the characters shows George how to make a rainbow with a bowl of water, a piece of paper, and a flashlight. Cam was totally fascinated and completely without prompting or any input from me, wandered off after the episode was over and tried to do the experiment herself. She was a little disappointed it didn’t quite work, but I promised to help her out with it the next day. Instead I thought we might take some time this week and explore light in number of different ways. 

For pictures see my Instagram feed to the right. 

Day 1: Reading

I bought this new book called How Things Work (there are several books with that title, but this one is new and more at a preschool level). It just so happens that it has a couple pages dedicated to light, so we read the introduction to understand a little bit more about light. 

Day 2: Shadow Play

After learning a bit about light we went outside with a stuffed rabbit and set her up on the driveway. I traced her shadow and we came inside. Thirty minutes later we went back out to retrace the shadow. Before coming inside the first time I asked Cam if she thought the shadow would move (she said no). Then I reminded her of the question when we went back out.

She was amazed that it had moved and we talked about what was happening. I asked her if she knew what the light source was outside that was helping cast the shadow (she knew it was the sun). I asked is she thought the sun moved across the sky or stayed in the same place. After some thought she said she thought it moved. I explained that this was why the shadow appeared to move across the driveway and that the distance the shadow had moved was also the distance the sun had moved across the sky in those 30 minutes. She was hooked. We had to come back out several more times (before the sun dipped behind a tree and obscured the shadow). We were also able to notice that the shadows lengthened and changed shape. The reason why was a lot harder for her to understand, but the more we discuss it I’m sure she’ll begin to grasp it better. 

She wanted to do it again the next day with some other toys. 

Day 3: Spectroscope

This was kind of a flop. The device is a little bit like a periscope, but is supposed to help diffract light so you can see a rainbow Cam had a hard time seeing the rainbow in the spectroscope and she wasn’t as engaged with it. The thing is, you don’t really need the “fancy” set up with a paper towel tube and paper slit to see a rainbow in a CD. Just put it in a light environment and move it around. I thought she would like this experiment more because it was very similar to what she saw and attempted on Curious George. I was wrong. 

We did end up getting out the prism and made some more shadow outlines with My Little Ponies and she was a into those for a little while. 

Day 4: Water Wall

We ended up upgrading our water table. Cam hadn’t been overly interested in setting it up and playing with it so we got a water wall. It allows her to dump water into the top and then there is a variety of cups, strainers, buckets, chutes, and funnels that fit into holes in the wall. They catch the water and divert it down the wall into the bottom pool. It’s very cool and a neat experiment in playing with gravity and water. 

Day 5: Moon sighting

Today we are going to head out and look for the moon. It rose this morning between 5:30 and 6 and will set sometime around 9 which means it’s really only up when the sun is up. Ramadan, the Muslim holy month dedicated to fasting and reflection, begins tonight at sundown. The start of the month is begun by sighting the new moon. This is an interesting discussion to have with Cam as it ties in history to the science of time in talking about using the lunar versus the solar calendar. 

Letters!

A few weeks ago, maybe even a month ago now, Cam suddenly took an interest in letters- learning their names, their sounds and writing them. She was carefully watching me one evening as I filled in a crossword puzzle in a puzzle magazine I had just bought. I can’t remember the exact question she asked, but I responded that one day when she learned her letters she would be able to do puzzles like mine. She went back to whatever it was she was doing. She must have been chewing that over in her mind because a few minutes later she got out some index cards and a pencil (or grabbed them off the table, I can’t remember) and started to write what looked like capital “e”s. After a few attempts she turned to me and asked if I would help her write letters. 

From there I began showing her a picture of the letter and how to form it and she would then copy the letter onto the page. She’s been a letter and word fiend ever since, asking to write names and words. While I think this is great practice I also thought she might benefit from being able to form words less laboriously (it takes a lot for her to write any given letter since she has to really think about how it’s formed and what it looks like, not to mention keeping the letters all about the same size and in a line).

IMG_2992I pulled out a cookie sheet I had bought at Wal-Mart several years ago for just this purpose. I also got out our magnetic letters which until this point she hasn’t been overly interested in. Now she tells me words she wants to spell and I tell her the letters in order. She finds them in the bin and arranges them on the tray. I ended up having to buy more letters because the set we had didn’t have nearly enough letters for her to keep a few words on the tray while spelling more. 

I also have some letter cards that have the upper case letter nice and big on the back. They are awesome for showing her what each letter looks like. On the back there is a labeled picture for each letter and both the upper and lower case letter. Thankfully they have appropriate pictures for the letter sounds (I HATE it when alphabets have, say, a giraffe for the “g” since that really reinforces the “j” sound not the hard “g” sound which is too much information for a child just learning the letters). I only wish these cards didn’t have the picture label spelled out in lower case. 

I did make a conscious choice to do only capital or upper case letters. They have a lot more straight lines and it seemed a little easier for her to form. Plus I didn’t want to quash her enthusiasm by making it more a of school lesson than something driven by her own interests. Requiring her to learn both upper and lower case letters was probably going to derail her. 

It took about two weeks, but she has learned to correctly identify each of the letters and say the sound they make. Plus she’s applying those skills to writing words. In another few weeks I suspect she will be sounding out words. Which of course will eventually lead to her reading and that’s pretty exciting for her!