Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You Belong in Preschool

This past weekend my family and I went camping with a group of friends. Correction - the friends were camping, my family and I met them at the campsite and spent the day. I...am not a camper. Sleeping in a tent? On the ground? In the cold? With bugs? Um...not for this preschool teacher. Blegh.

Anyways, back to my story. Because it is such a small world, a family that attends the preschool was camping in this group we met up with, they were friends of friends, you know how it goes. I was interested to see how the little preschool student would react to seeing me there.

Because, preschoolers always get a little weirded out when they see their teachers outside of school. They are either terrified, or beyond excited. And if you look the slightest bit different, they quite possibly won't even recognize you.

Example: I was running in the park across the street from my house and playing in the park was one of my students. I was wearing my glasses (I wear contacts usually at school), a hat, workout clothes, and no make-up. I go up to this little girl to say, "Hi!". She took one look at me and screamed, "I DON"T KNOW YOU! GO AWAY!" and ran and hid behind her mother. This same little girl spent 45 minutes on my lap a mere three hours prior to this encounter. But outside of school sans make-up I went from beloved teacher to scary stranger. And this is pretty much how it goes.

So, at the campsite, I was wondering how little Sara was going to react. At first she didn't even give me a second glance. I was just another adult among many. An hour or so later she walked by, giving me the hairy eyeball...you could just see her brain working. A few hours in she walks up to me and just stood there.

Me: "Hi Sara!"

Sara: *glare*

Me: "Are you having fun?"

Sara: more glaring

Me: "Do you know who I am?"

Sara: "You...you....YOU BELONG IN PRESCHOOL!!"

Me: "But I am camping with you right now"

Sara: "Oh, ok. Could you tell Shawn to share his ball with me then?"

I am happy to report that Sara and Shawn worked things out, ball-wise, without my help.


Creating Static

As part of my unit on electricity, I decided to talk a little about static electricity as well. Static electricity is a fun concept, there are lots of experiments to demonstrate it in action. And while I had pages and pages of fun demonstrations, I wanted to at least introduce the some of the science behind it.

So, I did some research. As I read through the information, my brain slowly started to go to mush. If this stuff is boring me to tears, how will I explain it to a room full of young children? I started again, trying to figure out the key things I wanted to get across. Atoms (ok, we had talked about those); protons and neutrons (covered those, too); electrons (yep, also familiar territory); positive and negative charge (ack! what? my brain hurts).

I decided to touch on the very basic aspects of static electricity, using the terminology we had already touched on while talking about electricity. Using my atom diagram, I explained that sometimes when you rub two items together (I used a balloon on the carpet), the electrons from one item will jump to another item, causing it to have more electrons than it needs. Now these extra electrons need a place to go, and when the item with the extra electrons find another item with no extra electrons, the electrons will jump to the other item, making the other item stick to the first item. Ok - after all of that does your brain hurt?

As I blathered on, I used the balloon and the carpet. As I rubbed the balloon on the carpet, I explained how the balloon was getting extra electrons. Then I held the balloon over some scraps of tissue paper, and as the tissue paper jumped onto the balloon, I said, "Now the balloon is giving its extra electrons to the tissue paper." I demonstrated the same concept by sticking the balloon to the ceiling, to the wall, as well as holding the charged balloon over a child's head to make his hair stand on end. I eventually gave each child their own balloon, and they all rubbed it on the carpet to "get extra electrons", and then wandered around the room trying to figure out "where they could get rid of the extra electrons"..

To illustrate the concept of having too many electrons (and to toss in a little math), I brought out a simple balance and a bunch of milk bottle caps with the letter "E" on them. As I rubbed the balloon on the carpet, I added "electrons" to one side of the balance until it tipped to heavy side. "Now the balloon has too many electrons". As the tissue paper stuck to the balloon, I removed "electrons" from the heavy side of the balance, until the two sides were once again even. The kids then had a good time playing with the balance, and figuring out exactly how many electrons were too many. (Not being all that accurate of a balance, that number kept changing.)

We also played with static electricity using a plastic spoon and pepper...rub the spoon on carpet (getting extra electrons), then hold the spoon over the pepper (getting rid of the electrons), and the pepper jumps up to the spoon. Pretty cool.

There are a kajillion activities to illustrate static electricity. As this was my first time doing this, I chose only to touch lightly on this topic. Next year, I am thinking I will spend a little more time, and go a little deeper (positive and negative charges? possibly...). Possibly introduce magnets as a preview to static electricity. Now that I have tackled this topic, and that it was such a roaring success, I will do it again, and hopefully do it a little better.


Monday, March 16, 2009

The Return of Patton

Our little preschool has a pet, a little desert tortoise named Patton. This little guy is on loan from Mrs. M's son, and he lives in our garden. The kids take great joy in watching him walk around the garden, feeding him lettuce, and being told "Look with your eyes, not with your hands!"

Last November, Patton went missing. Now, desert tortoises usually hibernate during the cold part of the year, and most of us assumed that Patton had simply dug himself a cozy place way down deep in the garden, and had settled down for his long winter's nap. But Mrs. M was worried...what if he had escaped? What if he was trying to make it on his own in the cold, cruel, world? How would she explain his absence to her son?

Mrs. M brought Mr. M to school, and the two of them dug around in the garden for hours, but their was no sign of Patton. Distraught, Mrs. M decided to tell her son that Patton is hibernating, and deal with the consequences later.

I, on the other hand, was confident Patton was in the garden somewhere. I helped install these gardens, unless he grew really long legs and walked away, or hired a backhoe and tunneled his way out, he was in that garden somewhere.

Months pass. The weather starts to warm up.

One sunny afternoon, Mrs. A and I were outside, sitting on the garden wall, when Mrs. A asks me, "So, do you think Patton will ever show up again?"

And, at that moment, right on cue, out pops Patton from the dirt! He was dirty, and hungry and thirsty, but seemed pretty happy to see us, and once again become the focus of lots and lots

(that's him right in the middle)

and LOTS of attention.