A Birthday and Smoke and Fire

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We had a very exciting birthday this week with Mr Ash turning 12 this week! We always go out to dinner for birthdays, and it is usually Japanese. So we went to Shalala an old fave downtown as the kids wanted to have their favourite, rice balls! The week began with news of forest fires in the North Bay where we felt the repercussions 100 miles away of smoke and really bad air quality – the fires scorched over 200,000 acres of land.

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We went out Wednesday evening, and the smell of smoke was everywhere. So many folks have been displaced, and it is such a disaster of immense proportions. The hardest thing has been trying to find out where help is needed the most but luckily a friend has posted some information from a local paper that highlighted how to help as an excellent resource.

At work, the kids enjoyed some new math games for addition called ‘Playful Pets’, and we played this visual-spatial game Q-bitz – there were so many games available this week with inside recess the whole week! It was exhausting to be inside all day and eating snack and lunch with the kids. We finally had some time out on Friday afternoon and it felt so good!

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Lucky for science the kids got out to do some building of their weather stations and nail up some signs for the thermometer, rain gauge and anemometer. They will be placing these at various locations around the school to observe the weather.

We had an observational drawing time in class this week with the kids trying many mediums to complete their pieces with pastels, pencils and crayons. That really reset the class energy with quiet drawing and peaceful music.

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We have been going a little screen crazy in this household as we had to stay inside because of the smoke and bad air quality but I finally convinced the screen trio, i.e. the rest of my family, to go on a bike ride together and spend some family time outside. It was a relaxing ride, and we did about 8 miles stopping and starting. On the way, we spotted herons, egrets and a squadron of pelicans. Our mission for the day was to find four white herons – we did not find that many but we did see two. The kids enjoyed the birding binoculars we bought second hand at the Audubon store, with the close up of the pelicans and we counted 30 pelicans feeding together. My ride on Saturday in the headwind encountered a Great Blue Heron and a hawk being attacked by a murder of crows, I just love riding around the Shoreline area with so much wildlife around providing a sense of solitude. I find I crave that time alone these days as I do not get much time off anymore with work, coming home, cooking, eating, a small amount of playing and then its early bedtime!

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The harvest moon

This week we celebrated the Harvest Moon with the Chinese Moon festival in the classroom and enjoyed a story of how the moon festival came to be with a fascinating folktale, a paper lantern craft, and snacks of fruit and mooncakes. Oh and the lovely tea our parent volunteer made from jasmine flowers.

We were introduced to some new math games, two different versions of Sequence which is a fun game to play.

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Friday afternoon after a big week we had exploration on Friday afternoon with a collection of materials ready to play with. The kids had a blast and made many beautiful things using wire, string, beads, sticks and other pieces to tinker with.

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Here is a necklace in progress on a wire string which turned out beautifully.

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Here is a rainbow sting of beads made for a friend. The perfect way to end a week of writing my report for its deadline and my co-teacher out sick.

Still, my Friday did not end at work – I even had the Walkathon at my daughter’s school where she walked 12 miles doing 60 laps and had really sore feet which is understandable! So we went off to visit a friend at his fancy apartment with a pool, and we had a BBQ and the kids relaxed in the hot tub. I had a lovely time catching up with friends I have not seen in person for ages (only on Facebook) chatting about the life and times of living in da valley.

Pick a pumpkin or two?

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Sunday we finally had a day out! Even though I still have not handed in my 3850-word report which is due this week, I felt good as I had edited the day before. So I got to go out to Ardenwood in Fremont and meet our friends for a catch up in the pumpkin patch and of course, ride the train and see the animals. I remember going ages ago when the kids were babies, now they just like to run around and chase the cool looking rooster away from his harem of ladies. It was quite random to land there and say oh the pumpkins are ready for Halloween and it is 30 days away!! In the wheelbarrow, the kids collected the pumpkins – that big mother pumpkin went to our friends and I just wanted a fairly small pumpkin to look festive around the place.

The kids were very excited to check out the pumpkins as I said to my hubby, “Who buys their pumpkin this early in October?” Well, it turns out we do, at least that errand is out of the way for this year! Our friends were laughing at the memories we have at pumpkin patches over the years – in Pescadero one year we went to a farm and saw gorillas pooping pumpkins 😀

As we met our friends on Sunday we did a bit of Fall shopping for Halloween decorations. I really like Halloween though I am not a fan of the crappy candy the kids get, we send it away with the Girl Scouts somewhere or overseas to my family to taste what bad candy is like. We found this Indian corn for sale to decorate around the place and the colours are just amazing – you can make beautiful necklaces with the kernels and they are so pretty.

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Our lovely pumpkin from the farm bought on the 1st day of October – no we really are not that organised otherwise the costumes would be with us too! The kids are still deciding on that?

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Back to work and reality, the observational drawings from our class of the cacti – the colours look amazing in real life. I really need to get out some watercolour and have a play when I am free again in the next couple of weeks only a couple of more days and my report will be handed in – yippee!

This week we were doing 3 digit addition and a new game was bought in the classroom to play – this is Addition Spinners, where you spin to find two numbers and add them together to find the answer on the sheet and the first player to line up 4 numbers is the winner.

Variety of resources for fun Storytelling, Math, Science and Literacy (collected from my co-teacher):

Mystery Math Town provides a math challenge at various levels for children comfortable with math symbols and operations.

EPIC! – A fun reading app (used in class) – listen to stories, read a variety of books

You Cubed – Mathematics with Growth Mindset.

Make your own math kit – use “stuff” from home to make developmental math manipulatives – with explanations and activity suggestions.

Greater Good Science Center – SEL for family and schools.

Thinking Blocks – bar models, story problems (iPad app used in class)

Problem of the Month – Math

National Geographic Kids – variety of activities, research projects, games, videos

Dream Box – math

My Story – great way to tell a story – upload photos, pictures, record and write, then share.

http://galileo.org/

http://wild.maths.org

http://nrich.maths.org

http://cut-the-knot.org

http://brilliant.org/

http://mathplayground.com

Today as I wanted the kids to have a bit of a stretch we ended up having a bit of fun with GoNoodle.

It was a hectic week and I am happy that I am nearly done with my report – this time my reward for this teaching period is to watch Twin Peaks new series so I am really excited about that as it came out when we were in Australia over the summer.

 

Time for some Pie

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The weekend was so relaxing, and I think that my body was just saying slow down after I went to visit my acupuncturist for a Seasonal Adjustment. My last treatment was in February, so it took a while for my body to just say OK now it is time to relax and stop! So I did and even took time out on the hammock in the sunshine – it felt so good to have a nap.

As the weekend was my hubby’s birthday weekend our weekend began at our friend’s place for Navratri Golu to see the collection of dolls (collected over 11 years since my friend’s daughter was born) reenacting various Hindi stories, watching kids perform and eating a delicious Indian feast. On Saturday we enjoyed pizza at the park with our neighbours and hung out and relaxed on the blanket while the kids were playing and Sunday I made this amazing raw vegan cheesecake (plus two quiches).

I made a vegan fresh mango and strawberry cheesecake to share on Friday night to take to my friend’s place and it disappeared in seconds! The second one I made for my hubby’s birthday cake was mango and passionfruit, was divine and took me to the tropics! I found this recipe and modified it the second time using my Vitamix to make it extra smooth. For the Friday night version, it was the one bowl food processor recipe as I was making it before work and had to get it in the freezer, quick sticks!!

Raw Mango Passionfruit Cheesecake
to fit one Pyrex Pie dish

Crust

1 cup almonds
8 medjool dates
1/2 cup dried coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Filling

1 large mango
1 lime (plus lime zest)
1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight, and drained)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup agave (or maple syrup)
1/2 cup coconut manna
3 passionfruits for mixing
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 passionfruit for swirling through the mix

Instructions

1. Mix all the crust ingredients in a food processor for about 1 minute.
2. Place the crust mixture into a pie dish and flatten evenly with your hands.
3. In the Vitamix (a very smooth mix) or a food processor mix the mango, lime, cashews, coconut oil, agave, coconut manna, 3 x passionfruits and vanilla extract.
4. Swirl the passionfruit insides through the pie to see the black seeds everywhere.
5. Pour the filling into the pie dish and place in the freezer – freeze for at least 5 hours.
6. Remove cheesecake from the freezer and let sit at room temperature to cut into slices.

Enjoy!
This can keep in the freezer well-covered for a couple of weeks or just scoff the whole thing down which is what happened at the party on Friday night.

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Now back to work/school so I have been really enjoying working as a Teacher Assistant at Ventana School, and I love seeing the art around the place especially when it is kiddos painting chickens! These are artworks by the kindergarten kids, and I just love their colours in their observational drawing.

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So more math games and fun with the kids – this time Race to a Flat where the kids cut a strip of paper to record their numbers at each roll of the dice. The aim of the game was to get to 100 or more rolling the dice and adding to the solution each time. The kids were so excited that they wanted to make stip of paper longer and longer – I wish I learnt math this way back in the day. Perhaps I would have loved it like I do now after the course in my Education degree.

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More math resources for the classroom and another fun game I really like is Capture 5 using the 100s chart, and all you need is some objects to be the players, and these kiddos used glass pieces and ones to capture. Check out the video link for info how to play, but it is a super fun game to practice addition and subtraction. These kids were trying to play Capture 25 and were working as a team.

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This is another fun math game using simple things such as a paperclip for the spinner and whatever objects you can find for the players – you can use coins or coloured rocks whatever is small enough to fit in the squares. This cool game is Place Value Munch, and my co-teacher finds all sort of fun math games on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. The kids really enjoy this game and so did I when I was playing it with the kids in the math rotations. I have to say this is the best way to learn math playing games and having fun!

Back to another week of work and life – taking it much slower as the weather is warm again even though it was the first day of Autumn last Friday.

Art and New Discoveries

As our class will be going on a field trip to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens next month our Atelierista (Art Specialist) bought in some cacti for the kids to practice their observational drawing. They used Indian ink and pastel, to apply the ink the kids used a variety of brushes, plastic forks and skewers.

A Problem of the Month in maths was this worksheet looking at the patterns in bowling pins and using repeating patterns to work out how many pins were set up. It is interesting how the kids approached this with their super cute drawings, most of them getting messier and messier at each line of the x pattern. More math resources for the classroom for working in small groups and coming together as a math congress to discuss their findings in the end.

After assembly this week the whole school all sang a song to the birds – yes this is the whole school including the teachers and the specialists. It was a cute little song I am sure the birds really enjoyed! We all danced in a circle around the labyrinth near the upper playground, it is such a wonderful place to work!

My discoveries this week were overnight oats and how good they are as a study snack! All I did was get this recipe from Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon, I store it in the fridge adding fresh fruit and coconut to the bowl for the healthiest snack ever.

Apple Pie Overnight Oats
(this is my slacker version adapted from the cookbook)

1 cup oats
1.5 cups cashew milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Small pinch of fine sea salt
1 Fuji apple unpeeled – chopped up finely
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Ground Allspice
Ground Ginger

I just used a large mason jar put all the ingredients in there gave it a shake and left it for the morning and the next day and the day after, it keeps a few days in the fridge and is a great snack anytime!

The avocado with Siracha is sitting atop a super easy recipe for baked zucchini patties from the Vitamix cookbook I found at the library.

I love the library and one of the books I found there this week was this amazing Lebanese cookbook, and it made me so hungry just looking through it. If only I could get decent Lebanese food here like I do back home in Melbourne!! The good thing about working full-time is discovering shortcuts to eating well and the best place to find good recipes is at the local library, go Mountain View Public Library you are my best friend 😀

 

Frogs and hope for the future

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Last weekend for the long weekend we wandered out the house to get some air as it was as hot as a greenhouse, so the best strategy was to stay inside the house with the blinds down and no windows open as we have no air conditioning. We went to Picchetti Ranch for a photo shoot as I wanted to get some pictures for my sustainability report for University.

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When we got to the ranch the kids were complaining – why do we need to go for a walk!? Though as soon as we wandered down the trail, we found this beautiful peacock belonging to the winery next door. Soon the kids were enjoying themselves when we found a big tree to climb and then the best thing happened!

We were walking on a seasonal pond, totally dried up for the summer and we found some amazing creatures of hope, frogs. It was so amazing to see these little guys hopping around our feet, trying to capture them on camera was super tricky! So surreal to find frogs as in all the 11 years I have been here, this is the first time I am seeing them! The kids really want to go back when we get the rain in the winter time.

The weekends have been super busy with writing my sustainability report and I am really enjoying it as it truly resonates with me and learning about applying Education for Sustainability in the curriculum makes me very happy and gives me hope for the future. Teaching children to love and appreciate the earth is the best thing we can do for them!

We chose Picchetti Ranch as it is close to McClellan Ranch down the road where we have the chickens, as in my “fictional sustainability report” I would like to create a permaculture garden with chickens so here are some kids with chicken pics! I was so happy to see the little ladies again as I hardly get to see them anymore as I am at work.

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My saviour my bike has been the best therapy to get out and about on solo bike rides to clear my mind and organise my thoughts in regards to the planning on my writing. The rides have been very inspiring as well with finding dead fish and polluted waters in the bay strengthening my ideas of the importance of a creating a sustainable mindset for ourselves and the citizens of the future.

Arts and writing

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A week of seeing such beauty unfold with the children’s art projects that they made for Back to School night last Thursday. The previous week we planned projects for the parents to work on for their kiddos, another writing project.  But we had to get some interesting writing and art up on the wall by the children to show their parents 😀 They may look like shot glasses, but the glasses are filled with liquid watercolor ready for a watercolor wash over the top of a crayon drawing.

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The project was inspired by the book Quick as a Cricket where we read the book to the kids, and we brainstormed some adjectives and animals for their own “power animal pose.” The plan was to write their animal such as, Cute as a Bunny or Playful as a Dolphin on their lined paper and then draw their animal with crayon on the watercolor paper and cover the background with a watercolor wash which is so vibrant. While they were making I was calling the kids outside to pose so we could place them on their picture – it was such a great idea from my co-teacher to take their photo to add to the final artwork.

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We had a lot of fun during Story Workshop finding inspiring ideas for stories where the kids will create little scenes with blocks, animals, natures, found objects and make a dry collage to find ideas to write. Some children even paint, and eventually, the watercolor will be made into a background for a story or however they want to use it.

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The Arts Specialist at our school creates some incredibly simple though powerful pieces this using tissue paper glued on rolled out paper by the meter to make a huge mural of color with the Provocation what do you know about art? It looks so good hanging around the school with so much color.

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This is Alex a massive ball of finger knitting that lives in the 4th-grade bunk bed! To imagine the size of this yarn ball, it is sitting on a single sized bed!

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Our math this week was looking at Jo Boellers YouCubed Maths resources which were fun and interactive for the kiddos, and they really enjoyed the Growth Mindset videos.

Other math fun is so much fun with a manipulative that is so accessible – a deck of cards! Here are a couple of games we played last week.

Salute – One deck of cards and at least 3 players. One player is the General who makes the combinations. The other two players each take a card and, without looking, flip it up on their forehead (it took me a couple of tries to get that!). The General adds the numbers together and says the sum. The other players have to quickly figure out the equation that made the sum. The first to say the correct equation takes both cards (i.e., 10 +8 = 18, my card is 10). You can play with addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.

Spiral – With one full deck of cards you create a spiral on the table starting from the middle and working outward (cards facing up). Jack = 11, Queen = 12, King = 13, Ace = 1. Each player has a pawn on the middle card of the spiral. Taking turns rolling a dice and moving forward that many spaces. To stay on that spot you land on, you need to say the number sentence of the card and number you rolled (i.e., 5 +11 = 16). If you say it incorrectly, you go back to your previous spot. Bonus rules: doubles = if you roll the same number you land on, you get another turn/bump = if you land on the same spot as another player, you bump them back to start.

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The end of the week we had Back to School night, so we were busy prepping a story project for the parents. The children wrote the beginning and drew a picture then the parents would write the middle of the story and draw a picture and this week coming up the kids will see what their parents have written to complete the end. The kids were so excited to see what their parents had written, but we had to keep it until all the parents had completed their writing so the kids can see them all together in a group. Unfortunately, we had two families who did not come to Back to School night, but life happens!

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Thursday was also the night when the heat arrived, and it stayed with us until Sunday. The temperature on Friday was 42 degrees Celsius, and it was exhausting in the classroom with no air conditioning – there are just two fans in the class, and there was no breeze either so it was super draining and uncomfortable! Still, we just did low key activities like writing and planning stories and finished the week off with a popsicle to cool off.

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The long weekend was an excellent time to relax but not for me! I had to start my Sustainability Report for a fictionized school in 2020 full of references and written in APA style. I had a 7:30 am yoga class Saturday as it was too hot to sleep. After yoga, I came home and got to work for the rest of the day, and lucky my neighbor dropped over a fan to cool down as the house was closed up tight to keep the cool in but the upstairs was as hot as ever! So I got my report off in an excellent direction, and I still need to write another 2,500 words, but I now have a plan which is such a good thing.

Sunday I went for an early bike ride and caught the sun behind the clouds and the haze. Riding really helps with getting my mind clear and think about how I am going to deal with the report and everything else coming my way this week. Lucky with the advice of my co-teacher I have bought a planner so I can keep track of my work, volunteer gigs, school, and family. It really helps to see and plan my week ahead as well as have it on my calendar on my phone – so much to plan for the next 6 months, but it is all good and all exciting!

Riding around the town

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Last week was my first week in a full-time job with a class of 2nd-grade kids. It went by so fast, and I was quite exhausted by the end of the week, and I was ready to celebrate my first week in the classroom with a glass of wine at the park on Friday afternoon with my own kids and neighbors. As I am doing an Education degree, my posts will reflect on my time in the classroom and help me compile resources for the future to use, this way I can always share with my teacher friends fun ideas for math as well!

Some of the fun stuff we enjoyed this week was math manipulatives in the math centers, after each 20-minute rotation, the kids will reset the space ready for the next group of children to play. The kids just love math time, and for the first couple of days the Mystery House Place Value game was a hit but as the week went by the popular place was the Geo boards – creating patterns with rubber bands.

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Race to 1000

This is always a hit with the kids and the kids adding up in 1s, 10,s 100s and 1000s in their head by rolling the dice, and they sometimes work in pairs to race to 1,000. The cool thing is that my co-teacher has wooden dice that we customised with larger numbers to travel to 1,000 quicker rather than using dice up to 6. The kids have also tracked down Dungeons and Dragons game dice which can be challenging with many random numbers coming up.

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Geo Boards – design creation

The Geo Boards are always very popular with the DIY your own pattern to share with the class I did see many animals that were already designed to use as a reference, but I think what the kids enjoy most is creating their own patterns after they have made them.

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The game of Blokus

Another fun game is Blokus where the kids have to take over territory on the board, and the shapes of your own color cannot touch and are usually placed on the diagonal to go across the board. The boys here have designated each color fire for red, water for blue, grass for green and lava for yellow all the way making a story to add to this super fun math game.

Oh and some other fun resources for the maths growth mindset is Jo Boalers student and parent resources.

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Building a car

What I really love about the school I work at is their emphasis on team building and collaboration. This was a fun team building activity where the children were working in pairs with each group designing a part of their dream car – after everyone had developed their part, the pieces were assembled together to see what it would look like. The idea was to make a flying car which is what the red wings were, the kids really enjoyed this project and working together with a small team.

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The Marshmallow challenge

For science class this week we wanted to work again in teams and were inspired by the Marshmallow challenge as a design challenge for the kids. This video was featured in one of my units for University last year, and I just loved it, it was so good to see the kids in action. Each group had their own interpretation on how to build the structure to test out what would work. The presentations and gallery walk around the class were quite impressive – we are doing it again this week with different materials such as a wooden skewer instead of spaghetti to see how high the towers can get.

Some highlights of our class time this week was when we spoke about goals, and one one of the children mentioned that when there are problems or challenges, there may be gaps in the way to help. This makes sure that you are not making your goal too high and unattainable.

The kids also love Story Workshop where the children make a dry collage using materials such as:

  • an octopus and other sea creatures in amongst shades of blue fabric with sea related objects in the scene arranged on the desk.

This helps captures the idea, and the children use these props to talk through an idea. This has to be the best way to create ideas for stories, and the kids are so enthusiastic when creating their scenes that they either want to make a movie from them or to capture a still photograph to remember what they made.

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The weekend was not a time of rest for me as I volunteered to help with the 3rd Annual Safe Mountain View Summer Bike ride. We had such an incredible turnout with 149 people turn up with their bikes for a 28 degree Celsius day – the perfect weather in the California sunshine.

Initially, I had signed up to scoop ice cream, but the energy of volunteering got a hold of me, and in the end, my post was directing bike traffic through Mariposa Park, it was so much fun! I loved seeing so many bikes parked ready to go on the ride while we waited for people to sign in their waivers, decorate their bikes, get their face painted and get a bike tune up courtesy of a local bike store.

Here are my friends beautifully decorated bikes ready to hit the road. It was so good to be riding on the road with so many other cyclists – another time where I participated with many bikes on the road was with Critical Mass in Melbourne to stop traffic. Hey, I was a student at the time and did not really think about the consequences of really annoying commuters!

After a lovely dinner at our friend’s place on Saturday night, I was well and truly knackered but the weekend did not end there! I still had one more event to attend for our Home Owners Association annual BBQ, and I made a raw chard salad topped with slivered almonds and my fave fig tart with a cornmeal crust. After this was all over I managed about 2 hours of study, I think I had better get myself organized this week so I can add more hours to the study time to get my final report written!!

Serendipity and the Eclipse

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Art, Writing, and Drawing

Inside a Reggio Inspired Classroom, it is organised and arranged in such a way that the children instinctively know where to locate what they need and where to put them when they are done. Last week I helped with setting up the classroom with little things like laminating and helping out with the class library as my co-teacher is such a professional and has the experience on the look and feel of the classroom. It was exciting as she has moved to a new classroom, so it was setting up the class from scratch! To experience this magic and how much work is involved behind the scenes was so insightful.

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Natural Materials

I really love the natural materials area where there are magnifying glasses to explore nature close up, something close to my heart where even at my house I have a nature bowl where we collect pinecones, moss and other nature finds.

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Natural Materials and Living plants

The class is so full of natural light with plants in the classroom, and eventually, there will be a classroom job of watering the plants by one of the children. The furniture is beautiful and even quite comfortable to sit upon.

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Maths – now this looks fun!

The maths area is full of games and manipulatives for the kids to explore math and today as it was my first day in the classroom with children their enthusiasm with the math games was contagious. I was watching the kids play War with the playing cards, and it is all about counting the cards, and we even had a deep conversation about poker!

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Made by the students last year

Beauty and colour are in the classroom with these bead and crystal rainbow window decorations made by the students of the previous year as a gift.

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Class Library

The books are organised in a way that can be categorised easily by the kids, and the books upon the shelf are from the school library focussing on this year’s question of identity. Each year in the classroom the whole school looks at a theme, and each class explores their big question posed by the teacher.

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The reading riser to relax upon

This lovely area offers a place to relax and read a book, and the kids absolutely love it, and next door is the quiet nook where if you need some alone time you can go there behind the curtain and be in peace. Being in the classroom today with 15 excited and social kids was so enjoyable, and I left the work today feeling happy that I get to be with these kids for the rest of the week. I thought I would feel quite exhausted sometimes after I do a volunteer class shift but today I felt happy to have this opportunity to be part of another beautiful community in the Valley.

Our first day back was exciting but to top it off we enjoyed some time outside with the kids watching a total solar eclipse through pin hole cameras either made by the children and parents or our science and math specialist at our school. Even watching the eclipse through a colander was super cool as you could see many crescents on the paper where the kids had interpreted what was happening in a drawing. We are located south of Salem in Oregon was in the path of totality so we saw about 75% of the total eclipse so it did not get dark, though the light did dim a little and the air was cooler. I really enjoyed this experience and it was so good to be outside with the kids, checking out the eclipse using various pinhole cameras made from cereal boxes and the like.

I have read on astrology blogs that it is time to do what you have wanting to be doing for a while – looks like over the last couple of months my path has been slowly carved out to somewhere I am going with my future Education degree! Whether you like frou frou magik or not there’s some good stuff happening here on earth right here, right now 😀