September – October 2018
Have you heard of the “Wood Wide Web?” How trees are able to communicate beneath the soil with the help of friendly fungal root connections? (Yay mushrooms!) Trees communicate with us above the ground in many ways as well…they are nature’s clock revealing the time of year, and trunk growth and bark patterns divulge age and histories. Trees are generous, giving us all and other life on earth the gift of clean air to breathe, shade and shelter, food, medicine, wood for many useful things as well as for a cozy fire to keep us warm! How can we follow their lead and be more like them, generous, kind and caring for our community? How can we take better care of them? This was the theme that STPS students explored this fall, both inside our steam classroom and out on our church campus. We took full advantage of the numerous beautiful, mature and diverse trees gracing our hillside and observed and listened to the stories they were speaking! Did you know that the amazing tree on our Two’s playground is the same species alive when the dinosaurs roamed on our planet?
Here are a few of our favorite related books:
- A Tree is Nice
- Little Tree
- Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf
For grownups: A fascinating TED talk by Suzanne Simard “How Trees Talk to Each Other”
November – December 2018
Just before our holiday break, STPS students rolled up their sleeves and jumped whole-heartedly into the world of making paint with natural items such as colorful edible berries, spices, wood ash, vegetables, and even mud! Why, you ask?
If we lived as native people in our area did many, many years ago, we respected and observed our wild animals and nature carefully. They would teach us ways to gather food, to create warmth and shelter and help us to discover how to use what we could find in our surroundings to celebrate the seasons and special occasions. Each team of four or five students investigated a distinct “mystery item from nature” before poking, crushing and pulverizing it with a willow branch tool; transforming it into sublime colors then painted onto watercolor paper with feathers, moss and pine branch brushes. The result was a beautiful mosaic of native paintings (hanging in the school hallway), each a work of art on its own and together a masterpiece. Just like our STPS students!
A special note: The younger classes enjoyed mixing their own two shades of paint and had the extra fun of cooking and eating their own wild blueberry jam!
Here are a few of our favorite related books:
- Thanks to the Animals
- Wild Berries
Shhhhhhh……our seeds are sleeping….snug inside their seed coats, just waiting for spring to awaken them!
This is the fun the S.T.P. students engaged in during their May steam adventure. To the tune of “Peanut, Peanut Butter and Jelly,” we all sang and danced the Earth’s special recipe for our food: Soil, seed, sun and water.
Using “A Seed is Sleepy,” a wonderful and beautifully illustrated book by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long, we investigated the many unique qualities of seeds….their various shapes, sizes, colors as well as how adventurous they are, how far they are able to travel, how inventive they are in hitching a ride on our shoe laces or in other ways… As soil scientists we got down and dirty and dug soil samples as a team from different areas around our school and took a close look at what each team found. Worms, mealy bugs, larvae, rocks, sand, clay, sticks….we discovered that soil has many components and needs many of them to be healthy and feed our seeds and plants. Using strips of recycled newspaper, we made decomposable plant pot homes for our mammoth sunflower seeds which we planted with the recipe we learned: soil, seed, sun and water! The tiny pots, watered and ready to go into the garden accompanied each student home during the last few days of school. Fingers crossed we did a thorough job of waking up our seeds…if we did, there will be lovely 8 foot or larger sunflowers smiling in many family gardens at the end of summer!
“We hummed, we buzzed
We waggled, because…
As honeybees we shared
Where the best pollen was!!!”
In April the Steam room was transformed into a buzzing honeybee hive where each colony: yellow, red, purple, orange, blue and green groups were busy as bees performing the many vital jobs honeybees do each day, We collected pollen from the stamens of lilies, alstroemeria and other actual wildflowers with cotton balls before putting our proboscis to the test as nectar collectors!
We used pipettes to collect water (our version of nectar) from paper flowers blooming throughout the room to fill our egg carton honeycomb. Fanning our bee wings, we demonstrated the miracle of how honeybees turn nectar into honey. We waggled to our sister bees to communicate where to find the best flowers to visit. We were nurse bees feeding the growing larvae while our brother drone bees assisted our queen in laying 2,000 eggs as queens must lay every day! We investigated a honey super section of a box hive borrowed from a beekeeper and marveled at the perfectly formed hexagons of last seasons’ honeycomb. We concluded our “un-beelievable” adventure by wearing a beekeeper’s helmet and netting and calmed our colony with a smoker as beekeepers do to extract honey from their hives. “Hive Five” to the honeybees, the pollination sensations who help put the fruit, vegetables and much of the food we love on our table!
Want to learn more about honeybees? There are many terrific books and resources, a few favorites are:
STEAM was on the move during the month of March! Kirby, the French lop-eared rabbit, paid a surprise pre-Easter visit to each classroom to share warm, furry springtime joy to all. He brought with him a “wild bunch” of rabbit knowledge and lovely paper eggs for each student to decorate. If you are feeling “crepuscular,” as rabbits do, in the early morning or as the sun is setting, ask your S.T.P. scientist what a male and female rabbit are called. “Hoppy” Spring!!!
LOVE is the answer! The consensus among the S.T.P. students was that we should celebrate love 365 days a year, not just on February 14th. We began our STEAM adventure with some fresh air and silly exercise…to love our hearts too…before we settled into our theme on a warm and fuzzy heart filled polar fleece blanket. All agreed, while feeling the blanket, that love makes us feel warm and fuzzy too! We sang a love song the Purple Owls were so kind to share and brainstormed the many ways we can show love to each other. From hugs to kisses and holding hands to helping hands, the responses were many and creative, which was the perfect way to introduce our activity of making homemade paper for love notes.
Using our paper from our class recycling bins we shredded, stirred in water, and got our hands into the wonderful soggy mess of “paper soup.” Each team added their own bit of colored construction paper (from our recycling bins too!) to the mix to see if they could create a color tint. We then blended each groups mixture into an amazing colored pulp “smoothie” before putting our hands back into it to feel the texture, add dried flower petals and flower seeds. Using a a round splatter screen, the teams then spread their paper pulp into a “pizza” before flattening it with towels to squeeze out the excess water. The fully dried and beautiful paper was delivered to the classrooms a few days later!
The students also designed a school wide love note displayed in the hallway, reminiscent of Robert Indiana’s LOVE statue in Love Park in Philadelphia. We studied a handmade poster in its image to guide us in positioning cardboard letters on watercolor paper and sprayed liquified paint, blending colors to create our own LOVE image. Together we dreamed of visiting the statue and its sister statue, AMOR (love in Spanish, located just across the street), on a fun train adventure to the city with our families!