This Morning In Yellowstone

The nice thing about AM club is that we can pretty much do what I want. There’s no curriculum or expectation for learning – my job is just to keep the kids occupied and safe for the morning. The downside is that there’s no paid planning, so mostly I just keep on my toes.

I got a text from my mom this morning saying that they were on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone. Texting isn’t exactly forbidden at my job, in fact, Imageit’s how I communicate with my offsite supervisor. So I read it to the kids, and then we wrote back and asked for pictures. In the meantime, we talked about Yellowstone and geysers and watched some videos of geysers erupting and a quick clip on how they worked. My dad sent some nice photos and tomorrow I will bring in my laptop so we can watch a video he made of our trip to Yellowstone back in 1995.

The reality is that it’s 2012, and people have smartphones and no one wants to keep them locked in their closet or stowed away in their purses. There are too many ways they can enrich what we do as teachers and care providers, and if we don’t have them in our pockets, we will miss out on the best opportunities to use them.

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Helicopter Tag

I just wanted to share a cool activity some girls and I came up with as an exercise in compromise. One really wanted helicopter during free play and another wanted to tag, so we came up with something for both of them.

Basically, it starts like tag, but first person who gets tagged picks up a rope and spins for helicopter. When somebody misses the jump, the rope gets dropped, and everybody scatters because the person who missed the jump is it. Play continues in this pattern, although a child who is dizzy can ask a rec leader to take their turn spinning the rope for them.

It was a nice example of a compromise where things turn out better than anyone originally thought.

Helicopter, for the uninformed, is basically a group jump rope game. One child spins the rope, low to the ground. The other kids stand in place and try to jump over it. It can be played with a short jump rope, but if you have a bigger group, the best thing to use for jump rope is the kind of clothesline that feels like a computer cable, but has no wires inside. They’ll have it at your local giant hardware store for cheap.

Decorated Bandannas

We made these for Halloween, but you can do them whenever. This is a fairly low cost project, particularly if you buy the bandannas in packages of ten.

You will need:
100% cotton bandannas in white
Crayons (Don’t be cheap. Buy Crayolas.)
An iron.
White paper towels.

Have the kids draw whatever they want on their bandannas. Make sure they understand that this is a project for crayons only. Markers will not work. I have a couple of simple line-drawing books for inspiration and examples. They should color heavily for better results.

Once they’ve finished with the bandannas, your job is to take them home and iron the wax off and the colors in. Put some old rags or towels on your ironing board to protect it. Put one bandanna on the board at a time, cover them with a few paper towels, and iron them on a high setting, without moisture. Some wax and possibly pigment will come off on the bandanna.

Once you’ve ironed each bandanna like this, you are done. Give them back to the kids.

Bandannas can be washed in cold water, and hung to dry. The colors might fade a bit, but the kids can just fill them in again, and ask an adult to redo the ironing stage.

Basically, what I learned was that regular crayons will work on 100% cotton. You do not need to pay extra for special crayons!! You could use this to make decorative pillows or bulletin board covers, or quilt squares. What else can you think of?

Paper Bag Puppets

Part of the challenge of planning for AM club is that the kids all come in at different times. So any activity that I do has to be low-instruction, so that the kids can just sort of start when they get there. It also has to be high-enough interest for the older kids, and simple enough for the lower kids.

I stockpiled an assortment of materials for our first project together: Paper Bag Puppets. Only two of the students were not interested in the activity, so I feel like I did pretty well. Here’s what I stocked up on:

Lunchbags
Scissors
Glue
Crayons
Markers
Construction Paper
Self-Adhesive Foam Stickers
Feathers
Mixed confetti

The day before, I read them The Araboolies of Liberty Street, which has lots of colorful characters. I am not sure that it directly inspired anything, but it did give them a sense that they had some creative freedom to make their puppets look however they wanted. I didn’t have googly eyes, which I felt bad about until I saw how creatively the students used the foam shapes to make their eyes. One student came early because she knew it was craft day. One of the kindergartners spent a whole hour on her puppet. Even one or two of the boys was into it.

I have some really great photos of the kids with their projects. I’ll try to edit a few so to avoid faces, and share them.

Where Did All These Munchkins Come From?

My college education(s) did not exactly prepare me for the work I found this fall. My early childhood classes were before I started on the second bachelor’s degree, so I don’t have a lot of those resources still lying around. As for the recreation leader thing? Uh, a few of the things we did in my class on teaching adaptive physical education might apply.

I’m a good teacher, though. I love kids of all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. I love challenges and the opportunities they present for growth. So when faced with two positions that had not really been in my employment plan, I refused to panic.

I picked up child development books at used bookstores. I got Dr. Jean’s Preschool Teacher Survival Guide. I dug a dusty old box of children’s books out of the back of the basement. I rummaged through the doors of my memory for the games we played at Girl Scout Camp. I found tag games on the internet, and started buying strange odds and ends at the grocery store, the craft store, and the drug store.

The first few weeks have gone pretty well, actually. All the people I work with have lots of experience with the kids and have been really helpful. And I’ve found some things the kids really enjoy.

What kids really enjoy, by the way, is dodgeball. They will play dodgeball until the whole group is black and blue and in tears, if you let them. This is the last time this blog will mention dodgeball.