Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One little pumpkin

Pumpkins abound this time of year with Jack-o-lanters, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and even pumpkin coffee! Before carving up your pumpkin, take a few moments to just observe it with all your senses. This exploration reinforces the five senses and premath skills such as estimating and counting.

Science words: Observe, Describe, Color, Senses, Touch, Taste, Smell, Hear, See, Texture, Temperature

What can you figure out about a pumpkin before carving it up? Before diving in, take a moment to make some predictions. What can you observe about the outside of the pumpkin. How does it feel? How does it look? Can we listen to the pumpkin? Does it smell?

What does the inside of a pumpkin look like? Is it mostly full of seeds or empty? How many seeds do you think are in there? What are our predictions about color, texture, temperature etc.? How can we describe the inside? Cut open the pumpkins. What did you find?

Paper plate pumpkins: Paint one side of a paper plates to match your observations of the outside. Add stems or leaves as needed. While they are drying, dive into the inside of the pumpkin. When the plate is dry, flip your pumpkin plates over and create the inside. You can use paint, yarn, and the actual seeds to show you observations.

How things change. Make Pumpkin pie or pumpkin cookies together. Try the pumpkin from the can before adding anything. What does it taste like? How does cooking change the pumpkin?

Try Pumpkin explorations with apples. You can record your observations on a paper plate as well. Explore the outside and paint or draw what you see. Then cut open the apple and paint or draw what you observe. You can use the actual seeds from the apple or raisins on your creation.

Estimation – You will need a pumpkin and some string or measuring tape.
Ask your child how big they think they are around the middle (their waist) than the pumpkin. Take a string or measuring tape and measure. You can write it down for number recognition if you want. Then ask them if they think they are bigger or smaller around than their pumpkin. What else could they measure around? Are you bigger or smaller than the pumpkin?

Counting – Dry some pumpkin seeds. Write the numbers 1-20 (or 1-10 for younger kids) on small pieces of paper. Pick a number and ask your child to put that number of seeds into a small plastic pumpkin or other container.

Books to explore:
From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer
Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Shadows are spooky and fun to play with. Candles in pumpkins and flashlights, not to mention glow sticks each cast different sorts of shadows that are great to observe and explore. Candles tend to cast softer shadows that move and dance and Jack-o-lanterns are famous for the shadows they cast from inside a pumpkin. (No need to remind parents to be careful around open flames.)

In the daytime, grab some sidewalk chalk and trace shadows outside. You can trace your own shadow or that of other objects. How do they change over the course of a day (or a playground session!)?

You can capture the shadow of an object by placing it on photosensitive paper or even dark construction paper. Draw what you expect the shadow to look like. Place the paper flat and put a flat object on it - keys, leaves, toys, paper clips, combs, or even paper shapes all work well. Don't move it once on the paper. For photosensitive paper, this happens quickly - just wait for the paper to change color and follow the directions to set. Construction paper (use non-fade resistant) may take longer but watch for the fading on the exposed section. Carefully take the objects off your paper. How do the actual shadows compare to your drawings?

In our Messy Fingers session this week, we also explored the idea of translucent objects. Most objects make solid shadows because the blocked the light completely. Some objects had colored shadows because they let some light through. We tried tissue paper in front of a flashlight and it gave a green shadow - very cool! What other objects are translucent?

Here are some other fun ways to play with your shadow!

Science Words: Light, dark, solid, big, small, translucent

Make a translucent sun catcher: You can purchase a kit at craft stores or make your own. Take two pieces of wax paper, cover one with small bits of tissue paper that overlap, then iron the sheets together. You can hang this as is, cut it into a sun shape, or make a “frame” by cutting a sun shape out of black paper, stapling the wax paper on to it and hanging your sun catcher.

Effects of light: Take a piece of newspaper and cut it in half. If you put one piece outside in a sunny spot and one piece inside in a dark spot, what will happen to them? Check in an hour, in a day, in a week…. What could be making the papers change color?

Shadow tag: Can you tag each other’s shadow? This game is fun to play with a few very bright light sources. You can do the flip and play flashlight tag – can you tag each other with a flash light? Remember: no flashlights in faces.

Shadow Shapes: Before bed, turn out all the lights and pull out a flashlight. Try to make funny shadows shaped like birds or planes with your hands in the light. How does your shadow change when you are close to the light compared to farther away? What if you have two flashlights?

Make Shadow Puppets: You can make different characters cut from coloring books or hand drawn and glue them on to craft sticks. Hold up a sheet or even large piece of butcher paper and shine a bright light toward it. Hold the puppets in front of the light and put on a play with their shadows. You can use colored cellophane or candy wrappers to make colored parts to your puppets.

Books on Shadows:
What makes a Shadow? Clyde R. Bulla
Bear Shadow by Frank Asche
The shape of Me by Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Along came a spider...

This was one of the participants in today's Messy Fingers class. We looked at some real live spiders and discovered many cool things. We learned about the body parts of a spider - Abdomen, Cephalothorax (head), 8 legs, 2 Pedipalps, and 8 eyes.

We also made our own webs. This was really hard. Each child got a paper plate with 8 holes punched along the outer edge and a piece of yarn. We taped one end to the back of the plate and then wove our structural strands to form a star. Then we took another piece of yarn, tied it to the star and wove. Keeping your web together was tricky.

To check to see if we remembered our anatomy, we made thumb print spiders with our thumb as the abdomen, a finger print cephalothorax, 8 legs, and 8 eyes.

If you are in the area, check out our web in the craft room!

Science Words: first, second, more, less, weave, predator, prey, spider, insect

What do spiders eat? Not all spiders spin webs. Some are hunters like tarantulas. Go on a bug hunt and pretend to be a hunting spider. Search your back yard for yummy insects to eat! Who can find the most? Who can find the biggest bug?

Webs: Make some fun spider webs using glitter glue and construction paper. You can draw or trace a web onto black or dark colored paper with chalk or a white pen. Then trace over it with glitter glue. Wait for the moisture in the glue to evaporate and you have a sparkly web. You can add a plastic spider before the glue dries.

Go on a Web hunt: Search your yard for spider webs. If you mist a web softly with water from a spray bottle, a web will pop into view. Try –ever so gently- tickling the web with a piece of grass. A spider might come out to see what they’ve “caught” in their web.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Charlotte’s Web by E B White – this is great read aloud

Marshmallow Spiders For each spider, use one large marshmallow for the body and one small marshmallow for the head (attach with 1/2 a toothpick). Make eyes from mini M&Ms, legs from pretzel sticks. Cover with chocolate sauce, if desired.
This came from a great website with other fun snack ideas: http://www.kinderkorner.com/spiders.html