It's been a while...

Hi there,
Just reaching out to let everyone know I am alive and well.  I am teaching first grade in a new town and I am enjoying a much needed summer off after my first year.   I took a year off from social media, blogging, and making products for my TpT store.  It was a much needed respite from what I affectionately call my side hustle.  Teaching is a tough job.  Adding all the extra effort involved with the side hustle was more than I could handle last year.  I truly felt like a new teacher again in many ways.  It's good for us to get out of our comfort zone and try new things...  that was the theme for my year.  I am an introvert, so I don't put it all out there on social media.  But, for anyone interested, I am going to share some of my story here.

Things at my old school had been changing over time and for the last few years I wasn't feeling supported by administration or my school board.  While I truly respect and appreciate all of the members on the board of trustees, I could clearly see that they were either unable or unwilling to make the changes I was hoping for.  I love my old school community soooo much!  But, it was time for a change.  So...  I started putting my feelers out there to see if there were any positions available that might be a good fit.  I was being very picky and so there were only a few school districts I would consider.  I had a few interviews, but as of June 2018, nothing had panned out for various reasons.   When I left for my super special vacation, I didn't know where I would be teaching in the fall.

To celebrate my 50th birthday and to have the honeymoon my husband and I never had,  we took a trip of a lifetime.  (These are the things the side hustle makes possible in our lives.)  Here are a few highlights from our trip...

 Our adventure began on a 7 day Mediterranean cruise starting from Rome.  Our first port was on the beautiful Amalfi coast.  Below, Duane and I are in the town of Amalfi standing on the top of the stairs to the cathedral looking down into the town square.

We sailed around the boot of Italy and visited the very interesting medieval town of Kotor,  Montenegro.  The sail into this port was absolutely spectacular!

Then, we made our way down to the Greek Islands.  I can't say enough about how amazing each one was.  These next photos are from Mykonos.  It's what you think of when you hear "Greek Islands".

These photos do not really give you the sense of what the islands are all about.  We got to go to Corfu, Crete, and Mykonos.  Each island was completely different, but had its own charm.  I can't wait to return.  I highly recommend putting the Greek islands on your bucket list!   Our cruise ended in Athens, so we stayed a couple days there to see the sights.  This was the view from our hotel room:

We were right in the heart of the Plaka district and our view of the Acropolis was spectacular.   Athens was wonderful!  After Athens, we flew here... (see if you know where we are in this photo).

Hopefully the gondolas on the side were a giveaway...  Venice!  It was incredibly special here.  Venice is officially my favorite place to get lost in.  Next stop on the Italy train was...

... Florence and the Tuscany region of Italy!  Truly spectacular :)

Last stop, ROMA!

So even though this isn't my all time favorite place for gelato in Italy, I still had to have the picture...

that, and it was right around the corner from our hotel.

Ok, so... on my last night in Rome, I got a call from a school district that I really respected asking me for an interview.  I promised my husband it was the last one because I wanted to relax and enjoy summer.  I had an interview on July 2 and the rest is history.  Except, I moved to my new town because I couldn't do the commute.  It was a quality of life decision...  so much for relaxing and enjoying summer.  I am finally, one year later, feeling mostly moved in and settled.  This year is a "staycation" summer.

It has been so good for me to be a learner this past year.  New grade level, curriculum, school and district has kept me on my toes.  I have a great classroom and an amazing team!  I love my new school community and my new town.  I also LOVE teaching first grade!  They are still babies, but just enough older to be more independent and capable. 

I will try to stay connected to the teaching community through my blog, Pinterest,  and Instagram.   For now, my focus is the much needed self care of summer. 

Ahhhhh.... summer :)

Thanks for stopping by.
Happy summer everyone!

Maker Space in Kindergarten

I created this maker space in my classroom almost two years ago.  I am soooooo glad I did.  We use it for really cool STEAM projects.  It makes it so easy to do one anytime I want.  It is always there, stocked and ready to go.  I originally envisioned this as an independent activity in my classroom.  But, the reality of the mess isn't always possible during a busy kindergarten day.  So, I use it more often as an adult supported activity.  The kids are still working independently, but an adult is there to remind kiddos to keep it tidy.  That, and having a low heat hot glue gun makes creating so much easier.  The adult uses the glue gun, but the students are the design directors.  It works perfectly that way.  So, yes, you will need an aide or parent volunteer to do this with kinder kids.  In an older grade level, this would be easier to manage as an independent center or station.

Here is how I set it up.  Maker Spaces are as individual as the makers who make them.  So, when you set yours up, get some inspiration and then do what works for YOU using your available resources. 

I have three big drawers for the kids to pull materials from...  above is cardboard.  Below is plastic and paper.

It is actually easy to fill the space when you get in the habit of saving cool recyclables and scraps from other projects in your classroom. You can also ask families in your class to donate materials.  I use a fourth drawer for storage.  I change up the materials in the little bins, so it's nice to have a place to save things like corks hardware, twigs, etc.  I like to provide special materials that will aide in making each project.

Here are just a few of my bins up close...

OK, let's move on to some great projects...

Making bridges is usually one of my first projects of the year.  We do it as a part of my Fairy tales/ Folk tales unit.  I use a comprehension assessment for The Three Billy Goats Gruff , so we spend some time to go in depth with that story.   Creating a bridge makes a great extension activity.  Here are few more kindergarten kid designs.  And of course we had to get out the plastic goats to test them.

Don't you love the "No Crossing" sign?  Written in Kinder writing of course!  At the end of that unit, we also make boats for the gingerbread man to create a safe way for him to cross the river.  Here are a couple of those...

The tests on the boats are fun, but you have to prepare your kids for disappointment.  I read Rosie Revere, Engineer to my class this year when we tested our boats.  It was the perfect prime for accepting failure as part of the designing, learning, re-designing process.  We use the little Pepperidge Farm gingerbread cookies in each boat for the test.  So, of course I give a cookie to each of my little makers too!

That book cover is an Amazon affiliate link for your convenience.   You can grab it by clicking on the image.  It's a must have if you are doing STEM projects in your classroom.

For the boat tests, I use a large plastic storage container that I fill with water.  We sit in a circle around it and each child gets to put a cookie in their boat and float it (or not) across the water.  It's also a great idea to give your kids time to look at each design and talk to each other about how it was made.  It's a little makers' convention.  It only takes about 30 minutes.   I think it is time well spent. 

Here is a precious video of one or our boat tests:

Here are some adorable kid made leprechaun traps.  This is the original STEM project.  I have been doing leprechaun traps in my classroom for years.  I like to have the kids make them in the classroom better than doing it as an at home project.  The one year I had kids do them at home, I could tell that parents helped too much!  You can tell these were made by little learners...

It was great to hear my sweet students explain how each trap was going to work.  We usually leave them out around the classroom on March 16th.  I put some Rolo candies inside each one. (They are chocolate caramels wrapped in gold foil).  I also sprinkle a little gold glitter around.  It's lots of fun when students come into the classroom on the 17th and find the GOLD!

Things can get pretty messy when the kids are working at the Maker Space.  Here is the table during leprechaun trap production.

There is a place for everything and we put everything in it's place when its time to clean up.  The kids love using the space, so they are usually very willing to help clean up.   We have little recycle and trash bins in the space so it is easy to put scraps where they belong.

We  also made bird feeders last year  as a spring project.  We had been learning about the season of spring and animals that lay eggs,  It was a great extension for our unit.  Plus, we have windows in our classroom where we can see so many birds outside.  Those little tubs have bird seed and Cheerios cereal.  You can also see the big jar of peanut butter.  We spread the PB on to the cardboard pieces and then dipped them in the seed. 

I love this little engineer's design.  

Those are just a few ideas for your little makers.  You don't have to have a Maker Space in your classroom to do these projects, it just makes it easier for me.  If you haven't already, I hope you will try some STEAM projects with your kindergarten class.

Thanks so much for stopping by.
Happy teaching!

Maker Space Snowmen

I wanted my kids to make snowmen this year, but I wanted to change it up a little bit.  So, we used our Maker Space to create them.  It was a GREAT project.  The kids loved it and we were proud of our results.

This is the little maker space in my classroom...

You can read lots more about how I set it up and get other project ideas here:  Maker Space in Kindergarten 

I truly believe that the use of materials and problem solving involved during art projects make them sooooo valuable in the young child's classroom.  Having all the materials from our Maker Space available for these snowmen made them each as unique as the little learners who made them.

Here are some of the materials we used for this project...

Yes, my aide and I both collected little twigs for this project.  Although in my inspiration examples that I made for the kiddos, I didn't use twig arms.  I wanted to give them other ideas in case the twigs ran out.  Of course, only two kids ended up using the twigs.  Ha ha!

We also used, foam, felt, paper, beads, pom poms buttons, little hardware pieces, bottle caps, pipe cleaners, yarn, cardboard, and plastic recyclables.  I gave them very thick white card stock for the snowmen bodies.  I was available at the space to help with cutting through thick cardboard or craft sticks, and I was also in charge of the low heat hot glue gun.  Kids were working independently and were the design directors.  They told me where they wanted things, I was just gluing.  I try to keep my suggestions to a minimum so that the kids are in total creative control.

Here are a few more adorable snow people...

And I just LOVE this adorable snow girl...

We were just finishing up a measurement unit in math, so we also measured how many cubes tall our snow people are...

The kids had a little recording sheet to write how many cubes tall their snow person was.   After that, we all worked collaboratively to get in order from shortest to tallest .  The kids needed support getting in order, so I called out the measurement numbers and kids sat down on our big rug in order.  When two students had the same number, they had to compare to see which one was slightly taller or shorter.  It was fun!

When we had them all in order, we put them on a big table so they were ready to go up on a bulletin board.  It looked great!

We were all so proud of our project!  Measuring snowman art with cubes is nothing new.   Getting into order by height was a nice addition to the activity.  It was a perfect culminating activity to end our measurement unit.  It went well with our studies on winter too.

If you would like to do this activity with your class, you can use my little recording sheet if you like it.  It's FREE!  You can download it right here:  Snowman Measurement Recording Sheet

This is what the page looks like.  It has three recording sheets to a page.  Place for students' names and the space for recording the number is big enough for little learners.  Hope this helps make winter in your classroom a little bit more fun!

Thanks so much for stopping by...
Happy teaching!