Monday, September 15, 2014

A Nature Preserve Challenge

 This morning I saw a Facebook post from my husband about two young men (recently divorced and jobless) who rode their motorcycles from California to the Arctic Circle. Actually, they rode beyond the Arctic Circle until the road ran out! The photos were stunning. 

Now, I love both my husband and my job and hope to keep both for a VERY long time. However, this post reminded me of my love for the outdoors and also for a challenge I've had on the back burner for a while.

We are blessed in Lancaster Co., PA to have a wonderful organization called the Lancaster County Conservancy. Our family has hiked on some of their land over the past several years. The views are always beautiful. I have always hoped to someday visit each of the Conservancy Preserves. 

So this morning, after looking at the gorgeous photographs of Oregon, Canada and Alaska, I determined that I could get my little Ford Escort to the far reaches of Lancaster County after work. 

Today I visited Rannel's Kettle Run Nature Preserve. I left work later than I intended (that ALWAYS seems to happen) but I still had time for the drive north past Brickerville. It was a beautiful day today.

I found the preserve, changed from my sneakers into my hiking boots (yes, I sometimes wear sneakers to work!) grabbed my camera and crossed over to the trail head. The horseshoe trail circles the Conservancy Preserve. I walked only a few feet into the trail when I saw the sign: "Beware of the Bear." Ok, on the drive up it occurred to me that I don't usually hike alone. It occurred to me that I was off the beaten path and that there might be strangers on the trail. It did NOT occur to me that there could be BEARS on the trail. 

After I saw the sign I did wonder if there actually was a bear. It crossed my mind that the owners of the land skirting both sides of the trail might not love people near their land. It was POSSIBLE that the sign was a hoax. On the other hand......

Well, I decided to be brave and continue on. The hike is a nice one. Not too easy but not horrible. It ascends quite a bit and is very rocky. I kept a good lookout for the bear, scaring myself with every sound I heard and every large tree stump I saw out of my peripheral vision!

I have to admit that I scared myself out of the whole hike. I feel  a bit wimpy about that but convinced myself that it would be past 6 p.m. when I got back home and I did have CHILDREN at home waiting for me. (Disclaimer: my "kids" are almost adults and can totally take care of themselves.) Maybe they needed help with homework. Maybe. 

If you are a Lancaster County or nearby neighbor, I highly recommend this hike at Rannel's Kettle Run Nature Preserve. Just watch out for the bear.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday is.....

Yard sale day!!!!

I have stocked both my church and school classrooms primarily from yard sales and thrift stores. It makes buying things new very impractical! At this time I'm mostly looking for items for my Continent Drawers. I was lucky enough to find quite a few things today.

 My Asia drawer is getting quite full but I couldn't resist a few more items like the embroidered slippers from China. You can also see a Native American doll, a little glass sand sculpture from the painted desert, a spoon from Florida, a covered wagon model and two little license plates. I was excited to find so much for North America because that drawer was a little slim. I also found the little South American doll and a Mask from Africa. Both these drawers are also VERY slim. I'm still searching for items from Australia which is the country will be studying this year but I have not been successful in finding anything....yet!
In addition to my Continent Drawer items I scored quite a few books, including a few grammar books by Ruth Heller which I was planning to purchase this summer. Since I got them for about $0.25 each I was REALLY pleased! I also found this nice cube puzzle (which is quite challenging. I'll make a control chart for all four puzzle possibilities to help the children) and a Sounds of the World Bingo set. I'll use that at circle time to help the children work on their listening skills. 

I was happy to find a few other things that you don't see in the photo: felt shapes which we'll use for button sewing (I was thrilled to find these as I typically have to hand cut the shapes myself!) and several bags of pony beads which the children love to use to make necklaces. 

Not bad for a Saturday morning. I didn't even leave my school district! I actually stopped at school to drop off a few things so I didn't have them here at home (wooden building materials, a mosaic board, a ladybug for our garden and a small watering can). 

I spent a few hours at school yesterday weeding our classroom garden box so I could plant two pumpkin plants. I wanted to have something growing for the children when they return in September. Some of the children were attending summer camp and it was so fun to talk with them! One three year old spent most of the afternoon helping me weed and chatting non-stop! She has really grown and matured since the end of school. It made me miss everyone and although I'm loving my vacation, it made me realize how much I love what I do!

Happy weekend everyone.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Building Writing Skills through the Mail

One of my most favorite places to find materials for my classrooms at both school and church is Lancaster Creative Reuse (LCR). If you are anywhere near the Lancaster, PA area and are creative in any capacity you MUST go to LCR. Frequently. Weekly. Daily. Hourly. I. Mean. It.

I can't list the number of great things I've found at LCR. As a Primary Montessori teacher I need to make lots of my own materials. Finding them for $0.10 is the way to go! Enter Lancaster Creative Reuse. 

Here is my most recent LCR find and re-use. 
Melissa and Doug Mail box sans doors. To the right is the chair cover we replaced. 
Who doesn't like to mail a letter? Who doesn't like to receive a letter? It happens so much less in this digital age than ever before. (Side note: After sending out my thank you's for the year I received two letters from my students. It was so GREAT to hear from them. One informed me her sister played the Opera at FULL BLAST and another sent a post card from vacation informing me he caught a shark!) 

When I saw this great mail box (although not in perfect condition) at LCR I just couldn't resist. For $4 I figured I could make it work somehow. 

With a little ingenuity (AKA sewing skills and velcro) I added a little 'mail bag' to the mailbox. The bag was made from our discarded IKEA chair cover. It's a re-use and re-use type project!

I then returned to LCR and found some inexpensive envelopes and notepad for writing and 'sending' letters. On Saturday's garage sale extravaganza I found the writing center container and wooden pencil holder. One of the things I learned in my Montessori training was to look for the 'Point of Interest' in a material. So in this particular lesson the point of interest ( or points in this case) is the opening of the pencil case and the slots for the mail.

Of course, this work requires that one of our classroom jobs be 'mailperson.' That job will require one child to empty the 'mail' each day and deliver the 'mail' to the proper student. 

I anticipate this to be a very popular work next year. 

Learning objectives? 

  • handwriting
  • motor coordination
  • responsibility (for the child who is the 'mailperson')
  • writing communicates information to others
  • on, and on, and on.......
Now for a trip to my classroom to get this stuff out of my little house.......

Montessori Continent Boxes

One of my most favorite parts of the Montessori Primary classroom is the geography area. In particular, I love the continent boxes. Continent boxes (or drawers, or bags, or folders, depending on your set-up) contain items and pictures from each of the 7 continents on our earth. Each continent has it's own box (or drawer, or bag or get the idea, right?). 

My classroom is the newest one in our school and so I am slowly adding materials to it. This coming year I am planning to study each of the continents with the children culminating with Australia which is also our country of the year. I have been garage sale-ing (if that isn't a word, it should be) and have begun putting our boxes (or in my case, drawers) together.
I found these drawers at a garage sale last weekend. The colors coordinate with the Montessori world puzzle map. The small box on top is for Antarctica. Not a whole lot of objects from that continent so I think the box will suffice! 
Here's how it works in the classroom: The child takes two rugs (in the Montessori classroom each child delineates his or her floor workspace with rugs - it helps keep others from stepping on one's work....most of the time) and places them side by side on the floor. The child retrieves the puzzle world map from the map cabinet and places it on the left side of the rugs (we always work left to right since that is the way we read). The child then retrieves the drawer they would like to investigate. Lets say they want to look at the Asia drawer. The child places the Asia drawer to the right of the map. The child places the puzzle piece of Asia under the map so he or she has some idea of the placement of the continent in the world. The child is then free to place all of the items/photos from the Asia drawer onto the rug as he or she looks at them all. 

This work is usually done by one or two students without much teacher involvement. The teacher can step in to talk with the child about the objects and to give any information in which the child seems interested. However, the learning objective of this activity is just to give the child some hands-on observation of things (people, places, money, dolls, animals, etc.) of one particular continent in our great big world. 

Maria Montessori (who lived in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century) was a believer in educating the child for peace. She believed that by helping the child learn about the whole world and all that is different and all that is the same, we will help build a more peaceful existence among each other. 

When I was a child, the only experience I had of the outside world and other countries was in church where we had a 'Junior Missions' program once per month. The only thing I can remember about that program are a few songs! Oh, the power of music. 

I am thrilled that we can provide much more information to the young child (remember I teach 3-6 year-olds). I know that the children will be thrilled with this new work in the classroom. Their love of knowledge and information is so powerful at this age!
Items include an Arabian man and woman, flute from India, Japanese money, and lots of other things. I see now that I have mistakenly put out the papyrus that should be in my Africa drawer! oops, I'll fix that. 
Above is the photo of the items in my Asia drawer. EVERYTHING in this drawer was either given to me (like the Japanese money) or bought at a garage sale. I'm always amazed at what I can find that other people are discarding. 

I will continue to search for objects from the continents throughout the summer. Asia is my most full drawer. If anyone has ideas for where I can find other objects from the other continents, please, SHARE!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Slow Down

It's been quite a year. Busy but energizing. I am much less of a blogger than I used to be. I notice that throughout the web. I think there are so many other ways to share (facebook, pinterest, twitter, etc.) that many bloggers have slowed down on posting. 

I am thankful for these slow summer days. I have so many things that I hope to accomplish this summer that I have to remind myself there is no rush. I have time. Time to breathe, to sit and to relax. 

So here I am in the middle of June already. School ended at the end of May and I immediately spent the next 6 days in an intensive training to complete my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd certification. Of course finishing the training is only the beginning! Now I have to continue making the materials we will need for the upcoming atrium year!

In addition I have lots of planning and material making for my Montessori classroom. I'm planning to study zoology and the full 7 continents this year. I do so love to lesson plan and make materials that the time goes quickly.

I'm also taking time for me this summer. The garden is growing nicely (we've harvested lettuce, green onions, spinach, broccoli and snap peas) and my hubby is busy weeding and mulching the flower beds. 

The boys are both working a lot this summer and since neither has their drivers license, I am doing a LOT of chauffeuring. Fortunately the drive to work (they both work at the same place) is pretty quick and easy. It does make me glad we have flexible schedules. I am thankful they have so much work in this economy, too.

I've been taking guitar lessons and have a stack of books by my bedside that I am plowing through. As with everything, I am trying to slow down. I am enjoying the silence of the house (especially when the boys are working). It is a time to recharge my batteries for the next school year!

Check back for more posts (I hope!) this summer. I certainly hope everyone has the time to just sit back and enjoy their time this summer, be it alone, with family or with friends.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Montessori Print Shop Giveaway!

I've been a fan of the Montessori Print Shop for many years. I used them when I was homeschooling the boys and I continue to use their excellent resources in my Montessori classroom. 

Montessori Print Shop is celebrating their 10th birthday with a week of great giveaways! If you are interested click on this link:

Montessori Print Shop giveaway

Good Luck (but I really hope I win!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Eyes of the Heart

I spent part of my New Year's Eve trying to explain the first chapter of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner. 

I was failing miserably. 

In part I was failing because I really do not understand it myself fully. Actually, I'm not sure I even understand it partially. Perhaps I don't believe what she is trying to say. I don't know yet. 

So I've decided to try to blog about the experience in the book. Each chapter is meant as a meditation of sorts. It incorporates photography but not in a typical fashion. I'm hoping that if I share the chapters and some of my photography here, it will increase my own understanding of the mystery of contemplation in the world. Contemplation through the lens as it were. 

In thinking about contemplation, Paintner speaks of two types of time: chronos and kairos. Chronos time is linear and sequential, time we are all bound by too much in our culture many days. Kairos time is dwelling in the fullness of the moment, a moment that may be special or unexpected. Dwelling in kairos time allows us to linger above chronos time to take in something that I think may be mystical in some way.

I like this quote from the introduction on page 4, " Giving ourselves over to the act of art-making is one way we find this moment of eternity, or even better, how we allow the moment to find us."

Reading this book is a journey that I want to savor and take in slowly. I hope by sharing the journey here it may help you find your own way to those mystical moments in your own lives while helping me make sense of my own journey.

If you want more information about the author, check out her website: Abbey of the Arts.

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