About Me

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I am the studio teacher in Zach's Place Studio, an AMS Montessori teacher, an artist, a mother and much more.

Monday, October 31, 2011

toddlers and pumpkins

When I prepare for a day in the studio with the toddlers, there are several considerations that come into play. One is that the studio central supplies have many objects that would not be toddler friendly, so I always minimize the studio space so that everything available to the toddlers is safe and appropriate. Second, I pay attention to the developmental needs of toddlers and their natural curiosity for sensory exploration and scientific inquiry: how does this work, what happens if I do that, etc. AND I talk to the toddler teachers and our head of school a lot. So for our studio exploration this week we decided to investigate PUMPKINS. The children began by simply removing the seeds and insides from two pumpkins (one carving pumpkin and one pie pumpkin). While they worked, I asked alot of questions: How does it feel? Can you smell it? "Are there different colors in a pumpkin?", etc. And although many toddlers don't answer with words, many smelled, touched, looked, laughed and inquired through their senses into the nature of pumpkin. They loved the process and we literally spent nearly an hour just removing the seeds and orange gush. While they worked, I roasted the seeds for them to eat on second line. When both pumpkins were cleaned we carved one and placed the other in a baking dish with some water, cut side down and baked it until soft. The latter will reappear in a few days, when the children will scoop out the pumpkin meat and transform it into pumpkin pies!
The children really enjoyed this activity and I was once again remided how important it is to consider "experiences" and "process" as art, in and of itself.

leaves and puppets

The children spent a week discovering the new works in the studio. They enjoyed painting with colors inspired by fall,
tracing leaves carefully gathered from our outdoor environment onto beautiful rice printmaking paper with a black oil crayon,
and painting their leaves with liquid water color.Other students are creating three-dimensional, mixed media pieces with the various recycled materials in the studio. The puppet shelf is proving a big success. Many students have branched out and are making stick puppets. These are simply made using a dowel, a square of light muslin, newspaper or tissue and a tie. These are then decorated by the children to fit their vision and fancy. The children have enjoyed making them immensely. I have written the name and story that accompanies each puppet, however this student is the only one to have made the leap from making a puppet to using the puppet as a dramatic tool. Many of the students seem to have had very little direct experience with puppets and puppetry as a tool for dramatic expression. As another provocation, I am presently transforming a large box into a simple puppet theater and a few teachers and I are planning a simple puppet show during the next all school assembly.

I look forward to watching how these provocations may affect the children's investigations.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

an autumn studio

Perhaps it will be interesting to many of you if I share a birds-eye view of the studio and our celebration of fall. I consider every aspect of the studio as an invitation to discover, explore and investigate. In Denver the leaves are falling in a colorful carpet and the temperature is flirting with the cold. The studio has been transformed, bringing the outdoors inside and reminding all of us to slow down long enough to appreciate the majesty of the seasons, both in broad scope and in miniature. We pause to notice the array of colors in a single leaf, the sounds and smells, a supple leaf become brittle in a few short days and the other changes happening all around us. Children are naturally enthralled by their ever changing world and through their eyes and art, I am reminded just how magical this world of ours really is.

Pictured below is an example of the central supply area. As you can see there are containers filled with raffia, corn silks, fabric strips, buttons, wood slats, poms, ribbons, popcicle sticks, pipe cleaners, stickers, corn husks, paper bags and more. I always ensure that the set up is organized and beautiful, in keeping with both Montessori and Reggio values.In addition to the autumn inquiries, we have a number of students interested in puppets. As an extenstion of our preliminary paper bag puppets, I set prepared a shelf complete with several potential puppet making materials. Now, I get to observe the children in the coming weeks to determine interests, questions and thematic explorations
Stay tuned for more as the various interests unfold.

Monday, October 17, 2011


To initiate a week long celebration of autumn, we decorated the school with pumpkins of many shapes and varieties and tied several corn stalk bundles to the arbors and gates. We then began an investigation of many fall related things, including corn. The students shucked the corn, many of them had never done so, carefully removing the husks and the silks and saving them for future use in the studio.
Then, of course, we had the great reward of EATING the corn right off the cob.
Corn has many uses. The husks alone can be used for tamales, decorations and corn husk dolls. Once the corn was shucked and eaten, the green husks were carefully tied into several small dolls. The children were interested. So, I purchased several bags of dried corn husks (the kind you use for tamales) at a local mexican market, soaked them in warm water and used these to make more corn husk dolls. As I made the dolls, the children and I talked about other kids who lived here hundreds of years ago. In a time when they didn't go to a store to purchase a toy, but instead looked around at the things in their own home and yards, and used these supplies to craft their toys. All the while I carefully tied the husks into a doll body. When the doll was finished, I explained that the doll could now be dressed and decorated in any way they wanted, pointing to a variety of containers filled with interesting fabric, buttons, yarn, feathers, raffia, etc.
Over the next several days, the children made a village of dolls, each as unique and creative as the imaginations of their maker.
Here are just a few examples:The toddler classes were invited to paint their corn husk dolls and then bring them home.In closing this post, I'd like to extend a heartfelt wish. I hope that each of you escape into the crisp fall air and feast your senses on the magesty of the season with at least a smidgen of the wonder and awe that we each possessed in the heart of childhood.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The past week in the studio was spent balancing parent projects for the upcoming auction, open ended activities with the students and time spent in the classrooms. I will post photos of all the beautiful class projects soon, but until then I will be skimping on the studio blog. To tide you over, here are a few photos of the children from the week.

The extended primary (XP) class took a walk in Cherry Creek and enjoyed a delicious frozen yogurt from a local vendor.

On Friday we initiated the first of our monthly, all school, assemblies with great success. Each class shared three favorite songs before returning to their individual classrooms for dismissal.

Have a wonderful week enjoying the fall leaves spinning with color.