Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ornamentation Station! (Part One)

During Christmastime, our workbench transforms into “Ornamentation Station,” a festive place where little elves can create all kinds of adorable Christmas Tree ornaments!

Usually the ornaments are something very simple that the kids can create independently.

The following are a few examples of ornaments the kids could make at the Ornamentation Station.

Cinnamon Gingerbread Men

The gingerbread men were made by using sandpaper and our Ellison die cut machine, but they could easily be made by cutting the sandpaper into gingerbread man shapes using scissors.  We put cinnamon sticks at the table as well as stick-on buttons or other decorations.  The children simply rub the cinnamon stick on the sandpaper gingerbread men to make it smell wonderful, then decorate it however they would like.

Paper Balls


This one required a little bit more assistance from the teacher, but was great for some of the older kids as it promotes fine motor control, following step-by-step directions and patterning.

At this point I have to admit that I got this idea from Martha.  Yes, I saw this Martha Stewart ornament on Pinterest and loved it!  The idea is simple.  I provided the children with paper strips with holes punched at each end, as well as some brass fastener brads.  First, they decorated the paper strips using markers (if they wished).  Then, they secured their series of  paper strips with the brads on each end of the strip (they needed the most help with closing the brads).  Then they fanned out the paper to make it into a ball.  I helped them tie a length of yarn to it so they could hang it from the tree!

Stay tuned for even more Ornamentation Station ideas!

Where Has Thanksgiving Gone?

Dear America,

What have you done with Thanksgiving?  Where has it gone?

It is not merely the “season opener” for Christmas-time.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Christmas is a truly wonderful and meaningful holiday.  I cannot downplay the significance of our savior and God humbling himself to come down to earth and become human, to come to us as a helpless baby born in a stable.  In the spirit of what Christ gave to us, Christmas is a season of giving.  However, as a result of being a season of giving, it is also a season of receiving.  And it seems receiving is the aspect of the season that gets focused on way too much.  All the commercialism you push, America, takes advantage of that.  And it’s in that commercialism that we are losing Thanksgiving.  Children especially can get caught up in all the gimmie-gimmie-gimmie of the Christmas season.  What are we teaching them if we don’t stop and say “thank you” for all the numerous blessings God gives us everyday?

Christmas is important, and we need to teach children (and ourselves sometimes, too) the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.  A good way to start is by celebrating Thanksgiving in its own right.  Not just as an oppurtunity to get together, eat a lot of food, start our Santa lists, and get excited that Christmas is coming, but as a time to give thanks to God for all He has done.  To take a break from all the “I wants” and instead say “Thank you for what I have.”  After all, America, this is your holiday.  Own up to it.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So please don’t put up your Christmas decorations after Halloween.  Take time for Thanksgiving; it’s worth it.

Thank you America.

With Love,


Soup’s On!

Here is an activity we did during healthy foods week.  It was a simple, last-minute idea that turned out to be a huge success!

I was not sure what to put in the water table, and finally decided to let the kids make pretend soup!

Our set-up looked like this:

I put out whisks, ladles, spoons, measuring cups, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers and large pots.  I filled the pitchers with water.  I also gave them some pasta noodles, beans, oregano, and corn starch (for coloring).

Then, I let them go at it!  The kids loved making soup!  I think they especially like using real utensils and ingredients.

At first I thought I may have put out too many utensils, but I turned out to be wrong!  We had about nine kids around the table for most of playtime!  I saw a lot of teamwork, social interaction, and conflict resolution go on around the water table that day.  Not to mention the kids had a blast!  Just goes to show, sometimes the last-minute ideas are the best ones of all!

Have you had any last-minute successes in the classroom?  I’d love to hear about them!

Giving Thanks for Literacy: A Thanksgiving Reading and Writing Activity

Turkey Tracks Word Hunt

We love to do “hunt around the room” activities with the kids.  It’s a great way to get the children excited about writing, reading and learning.  Whenever we do a hunt like this as a free choice activity, a majority of the students usually choose to do it, often multiple times!  In fact, when we did this turkey word hunt, we ran out of papers (even though we printed one for each student) and had to run and print off some more.

Turkey with Sight Word.

For this particular activity, we used the simple sight words the children have been learning from our word wall.  We chose to use the sight words because the children are just starting to become familiar with them and are getting excited about them!  Of course, you could use anything you would like with a hunt- letters, shapes, whatever your children are learning about.

The way we did this hunt was we hid numbered turkeys with the sight words in different places around the room (this cute turkey-with-a-pencil clip art thanks to DJ Inkers) .  Then we had papers numbered 1-10 attached to clipboards (we love clipboards) at the writing table.  All the children had to do was grab a clipboard and a marker, find the sight words and write them on the paper!

This is a great way to encourage the students to write, especially the boys who often don’t like to sit down at the table to do a writing activity.  It sparks the children’s sense of adventure as they love searching around the room.  We also often see teamwork in action as friends help each other find the words!

As a further encouragement, I offered the students a sticker if they found and wrote words, and another if they could read some of them to me!  This encouraged not only copying of the words, but recognition of them as well.

One boy's completed paper. When he was done, he immediately did another one!

Dancing Oobleck!

Here’s the post I promised you (and one I’ve been very excited about writing!):  Dancing Oobleck!

Right about now you may be asking yourself “What is oobleck?”  Oobleck is a Non-Newtonian Fluid.  Which basically means it is a substance that can be both a solid and a liquid at the same time.

In preschool terms it is that cool stuff you can make with cornstarch and water that you can form into a ball when you press on it, but drips through you fingers when you let go.

How To Make Oobleck:

The day before we did this experiment, we had made dough in the water table using flour and water, which made for great predictions when I pulled out another white powder (cornstarch) and asked the children to guess what would happen when I mixed it with water.

After the children made their predictions, I went ahead and mixed the solution.  My method is usually to mix until it is the right consistency, but if you prefer to measure, it is about one part water to two parts cornstarch.  Once I had it mixed up, the children realized it did not make dough.  In the bowl, it displayed liquid qualities.

The words solid and liquid have become part of the children’s vocabulary from exposure to these words through other science activities.  So, I asked the children if I had made a solid or a liquid.  They said liquid.  Then I asked them what they thought would happen if I slapped the oobleck with my hand.  Expecting it to act like a liquid, they guessed it would splash all over them, and braced themselves as I went to hit it!

With pressure, it is a solid.

When there is no pressure, it is a liquid.

But my hand hit the oobleck as if it were a rock.  We then had a discussion on how this acts as both a solid and a liquid.  When pressure is applied, it acts as a solid, but when the pressure is released, it acts as a liquid.  We also let a toy sink into the bowl of oobleck and saw how it acts like quicksand.  The toy got stuck and was very hard to pull out!

Then we moved on to the best part:  making the oobleck dance!

How To Make Oobleck Dance:

Oobleck “comes to life”  making little mounds and worm-like forms that move up and wiggle around when it is set on a speaker cone with a tone of a certain frequency. I had seen this on YouTube before and had been wanting to make it happen for a good, long time.  So I was very excited when I finally decided to try it with the preschoolers.  It took a lot of prep time and figuring out before I could do it with the kids.  I had so much fun being the scientist at home, tweaking and  experimenting until I figured out how to make it work!

I happened to have an old stereo lying around, which worked perfect for this experiment.  I popped the plastic cover off the front of the speaker to reveal the speaker cone on the inside.  On this speaker, the cover would pop right back on, so it would be possible to do this experiment without ruining the stereo.  It can, however, be quite messy, so I would recommend using a stereo you can devote only to oobleck dancing if you can.  The experiment can also be done using a subwoofer, but we had better luck with the speaker.

The hardest part was figuring out what frequency I needed to make the oobleck dance and how to get the tone from my computer to play through the speaker (I even tried rigging a set of headphone speakers to connect the speaker directly to my laptop.  It didn’t work.)  After a bit of researching, I found out the oobleck moves the best with lower frequencies, around 20 hertz or so.  I also found a tone I could download, burn to a disk, and play through the stereo.

I later found out the tone I burned to a disk was actually a wave; it moved up and down in frequency.  As you can see in the video, the oobleck dances better at certain points in the sound than it does in others.  I think the oobleck will dance better with a steady, static tone at the right frequency.  That is what I will do next time I do this with the children.  You can find free tone downloads here.

I set the speaker on its side and covered the speaker cone with plastic wrap.  Then we were set to go!  I told the students one of the best things about oobleck is that it loves to dance; but it has a funny taste in music!  I poured some of the oobleck onto the plastic-wrap-covered speaker cone, turned on the tone, turned the volume up, and watched the oobleck take on a life of its own!  This gave us a great opportunity to talk about sound waves and vibrations.

We noticed the oobleck moved best when the plastic wrap was tight, so I held it extra tight with my hands.  It was so much fun listening to the kid’s reactions as the oobleck formed little finger-like shapes and moved around on its own!  We also added some liquid watercolor to the oobleck and watched as the dancing oobleck mixed the colors together.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this.

Squeezing oobleck to make it solid.

After the lesson, I put the oobleck in the water table to let the kids play with and explore.  I also put a few small toys in with it, so they could see how easily toys can get stuck inside.  Many of the children really enjoyed getting their hands in the messy  oobleck (while some preferred to use spoons to play with it), and I heard a lot of great science vocabulary coming out of their mouths as they played!

Letting oobleck drip through fingers as a liquid.

A few kids even asked for a re-play of the dancing oobleck during playtime.  That is when we shot the video.  By this point, the oobleck had dried out a bit, so the reaction here is not as good, but still really neat!

For more oobleck fun, check out these videos:

Running across a pool of oobleck

Kids playing in a pool of oobleck

Maybe some day we will fill a pool with oobleck!  But for now, I am happy with our oobleck dancing success!

Note:  Do not wash oobleck down the drain!  It will settle and clog the pipes.  When you are done, just scoop it up and plop it in the garbage!

Thanks for reading!  Please leave any comments on your thoughts or experiences with oobleck!

Soap at the Workbench

I was going to write about “Dancing Oobleck” today, but alas, time and illness are not permitting me to write such an in-depth blog entry right now.  I guess this will just give you something to look forward to next week!

Instead, I will tell you about a little thing we tried at the workbench.  I got the idea from another blog here at WordPress, The Giggle Patch.  We simply gave the children a few bars of soap, some screwdrivers and some screws at the workbench.  The children enjoyed getting to use real tools, and the soap is something nice and soft that they can easily screw the screws into.

This was a good activity for fine motor development and will help transition into more complex workbench activities later on in the school year.  Also, it smells good. 🙂

Crafty Crayon-Melting Creativity

This whole melting-crayons thing is all over the internet right now.  On Facebook, on Pinterest, I have seen it just about everywhere.  I have also seen all different variations on this project:  adults melting crayons on huge canvases as art to schools in Phoenix leaving the crayon projects outside in the hot sun to melt.

At any rate, it just seemed to cool not to try.  I, of course, took my own variation on it.  First of all, I wanted to be sure each child had the opportunity to experience this science-art hands-on.  Which meant they would not just watch the crayons melt, but they would make it happen.  Second, I wanted the children to choose their crayons to put more free-choice into the project.  Third, while I wanted each child to be able to make their own creation and be able to take it home, it was not exactly in my budget to run out and buy each child their own brand-new box of Crayola crayons and a canvas (Between two classes, that would be about 30 students and since I like to make art myself at home, I know canvases can get expensive).  However, we did have a large bag of used crayons on hand at the preschool, and there is always plenty of construction paper.

This activity worked really well for the week the children were learning about the letter C.  We talked a lot about crayons and colors.  Also, since we are a Catholic Christian School, we did a lesson that day about something else that is made of wax and begins with C – candles.  They learned about and saw first hand what candles are used for in church.  But I digress.  Back to the crayons.

We’ve been talking a lot about liquids and solids with the children, and we’ve been exploring these properties in different ways.  This time, I pulled out a crayon and we talked about it.  Is it a liquid or a solid?  What is the crayon made out of?  What happens to wax when it gets hot?  After discussing, I pulled out a hair dryer and we tested the kid’s theory of what would happen when I heated up the crayon. Sure enough, the wax started to drip.

We told the children we would be doing art and science at the same time.  I absolutely love when art and science meet.  Those are my favorite kind of activities (and often the children’s favorite, too).  At free play time, we set up two hair dryers, one for each side of our easel (we discovered very quickly that we needed to plug them into different outlets if we wanted the both to be running at the same time!).  That way two children could work at once.  We let the kids choose about four or five crayons and tape them to the top of the paper.  We did not mess around with hot glue or anything like that.  As long as the crayons still had paper on them, the tape worked just fine.  We put the crayons at the top to get the full effect of the dripping.  Next time, though,  I think I might let the children tape the crayons any way they want to and explore what happens!

It took a good bit a patience for the children to wait for the crayons to get hot enough to melt, but once they did, the kids got so excited!  “Wow, look, there goes red crayon!”  “Now blue is dripping!”  And because anything of this nature becomes a race to children:  “I think green is going to win”

The students were really good scientists for this project, making all kinds of observations about what was happening with the crayons.  They noticed one hairdryer made the crayon wax drip down the paper, while the other splattered the wax more (it had a stronger blower).  Some used both thick and thin crayons and noticed they melted at different speeds.  They noticed different colors melted faster than others.  They even noticed certain crayons (the cheap ones) although colored, melted clear.

I found it to be a very fun, educational and successful project.  To go along with this project, in addition to the candles in church lesson, we read “The Crayon Box That Talked” by Shane Derolf and talked friendship and teamwork.  The children also had a lot of fun color mixing with paint at the art table.

Have any of you tried this crayon project with your children?  How did it work out in your classroom (or home)?  Post your comments and let me know your tips and suggestions!