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Green Ideas

We try to be green in many ways in our classroom.  Here are a few ideas of projects you can do with your students that are also fun.

  • Plants for seniors:  Every year around Earth Day we work with one of the school's parent committees that supports community service projects.  Each kindergartner dedorates a clay pot and plants a plant.  Then a few parents and children take the plants to a senior citizens home.  We talk to the students about the importance of planting and preserving green.  We talk about giving back to the community by bringing nature to people who may not be able to go out to enjoy it. 

  • Taking care of the park:  Every year, in the fall and in the spring, we do community service in Central Park.  Depending on what is need we either rake leaves or do mulching.  We feel that this is a great way for them to learn about nature in the park and also give back to the community.  It is hard work and the kids are always exhausted at the end of it.  However, they always feel like they have accomplished something great and it's one of the experiences they remember. 

  • Recycling paper: Early in the year we create a paper recycling bin in the classroom in order to recycle paper.  The children not only practice recycling but they also learn to reuse by going to that bin for paper when they need scraps of paper for various projects.              

  • Junk art:  We ask parents to send in boxes, newspaper and other paper, paper rolls, plastic containers, packing material anything they have at home that we could use to make art.  The students create sculptures with the materials and glue or tape.  Then they paint them.  Some also do paper mache.  In the end we set up an area fo the classroom as a museum to showcase all the sculptures.

         Recycled art 1      Recycled art 3      Recycled art 5      Recycled art 4

  • Recycling Game:  This year there is a recycling game on the school's website for the children to use.  The goal of the game is to collect all the trash and place it in the correct recycling bin in a certain amount of time.

Please share with us some of your green ideas... The greener we are the better!

From MLK to Barack Obama

We do a number of activities related to Martin Luther King Jr and Black History Month.  One of the things that we really want the children to understand is that although MLK fought for African-Americans, he also fought for everyone who had lesser rights.  We also try to show them that every breakthrough made by an African-American helped to bring change and served as a model of hope and possibilities.

Slideshow & discussion:  We briefly revisit the topic of rules and how they help help us be safe and happy.  (In the beginning of the year when we establish our classrrom rules we talk about how they are necessary for us to achieve our goals and hopes and dreams for the year.)  We then talk about a time when this was not the case, when the community rules/laws did not allow for everyone to be happy and fullfill threir dreams.  We talk about the fact that if Naomi, my African-American co-teacher, and I lived during that time we would not be able to teach together, go out to dinner together, go to the movies together, or just hang out together.  Our students know that Naomi and I have a strong work and personal relationship so they are always perplexed by this.  We then conitnue with a the slideshow and a bit of history.  This year, because we had talked about Barack Obama during the elections, they remembered that he had said that Martin Luther King Jr was his hero.  So we were able to talk about what the change MLK helped make meant for Barack Obama and the rest of the people in the USA. For smartboard slideshow Download mlk_photos.notebook

A taste of segregation:  Our class is divided into two groups (the Rainbows and the Sharks) for when the children have to go out to specials in half-groups.  During snack we tell one of the groups that hey had a choice of where to sit.  We tell the other group that they all had to squish in together and sit at one particular table that is actually more of a bench and faces a wall.  The next day we have them swap.  Then we have a short discussion about how it made them feel.  It is very interesting to see their facial reactions and to hear their comments.  These are a few of the things that were said: "That is mean!", "That's not fair", "I'm sad because I can't sit with my friend who is in the other group", "I like/don't like being/not being able to sit wherever I want", "That's just like when MLK was alive."

Videoclip of MLK speech in Washington, DC:  We play a video of his speech on the smartboard.  In the past we only had audio but it's still very powerful for the children to hear MLK's voice.

"I dream of a world...":  We talk a lot about the fact that anyone can have a dream to change Mlk_dreams_3 things.  We go around in a circle and everyone says what they think everone in the world should have or be able to do.  We talk about really believing in that dream in order to inspire others so we ask them to use a strong, powerful, convincing voice.

Making the world a better place:  The children discuss and decide with their parents how  they, as a family, can help change the world into a better place.

Dream_1   Dream_2   Dream_3   Dream_4   Dream_5

All the Colors of the Earth:  We read the book All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanak.  It talks about children being endless shades of all the colors of the earth: bears, seashells, cinnamon, caramel, sand, etc.  Then we create our own class book.  The children find new ways to describe the world's children and then illustrate the pages.  We send a copy of the final poem (Download color_of_the_earth_poem.doc) home for the children to share with their parents.

Books:  We read lots of picture books.

  • Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull:  This is the amazing story of Wilma Rudolph, an African-American girl, who became the world’s fastest woman after conquering segregation and polio.  It really shows how belief in a dream and determination can help you achieve anything.
  • When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan: The story of Marian Anderson, an African American girl, who beat prejudice to become a world famous opera singer.  Her event was the fist in Constitution Hall’s history where blacks and whites sat together.
  • Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard:  The true story of a girl who wanted to go to school with her brothers.  It takes place in the south shortly after the slaves were freed.
  • The Patchwork Path by Bettye Stroud:  This story is based on true stories passed down through oral tradition of slaves escaping.  It is the story of a girl, her father and the quilt she sewed before running away that holds the clues that will guide them to freedom.
  • Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine:  A true story from the Underground Railroad about Henry “Box” Brown who mailed himself to freedom in a box!
  • Shades of Black by Sandra L. Pinkney (Scholastic):  This book celebrates being black and proud. 
  • Skin Again by Bell Hooks: A book about how skin is only a covering and how knowing each other comes from learning what’s inside.
  • Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (Scholastic):  The author takes us around the world to show that although children look different, speak different languages, live in different places, and have different lifestyles, they are all the same inside.
  • Two Eyes a Nose and a Mouth by Roberta Grobel Intrater (Scholastic):  Actual photos of people from around the world are used to illustrate the variety of facial features.  The text is simple but the message that diversity should be celebrated is clear.
  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz:  The story about a little girl who, in her efforts to complete a picture, discovers that EVERYONE is a shade of brown.
  • Mama Went to Jail for the Vote by Kathleen Karr:  The story of a woman who fights for women’s right to vote and ends up in jail.
  • Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey:  A story based on the true events that took place during World War II that lead to the formation of the first professional girls baseball league, the All –American Softball League.

Artist study:  We find that it is important to teach the children about successful African-Americans  of past and present in any possible way.  We normally study a different artist each month and in January we usually focus on Faith Ringgold because she is both famale and African-American.  She is an author/illustrator that many children are familiar with because of her work with children's picture books, such as Tar Beach.  The final art project is a quilt based on her style.

Inauguration:  We will connect to the internet and watch the inauguration on Jan.20th.

"If I were president":  Around the elections, we spoke about what a president is and what he does.  The children draw and write about what they would do if they were president.  This is actually an activity that we have done some years around Presidents' day.

Daily life of a president:  We subscribe to Time For Kids, a magazine that tailors its monthly issues to suit each grade level.  We alreday studied one about Barack Obama during the elections and now we will study one titled "Inside the White House' to find out what life is like in the White House.  In their teachers' guide they offer two websites: a Kid-friendly government website about the White House and the President and another where you can watch short videos of the various rooms in the White House.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Naomi & Alexandra's Kindergarten Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.