This week I am running a week-long sewing class as part of my school’s after school program. I must say that I am LOVING it! (yes…that was shouted….with a big smile….and maybe even a little dance across the room in happiness…) I have a few more students than I originally planned for (as of today, 21 young sewists ages 5 – 10), but with two helpers it has been a manageable number.
The theme of the week is stuffie-making! (of course!) We began with a stuffie that we drew on muslin and then stitched to a piece of super-soft fleece. I got the idea from the book Sewing School and the kids are loving it!
Although the hour seems to fly by and my hands always seem to be busy, I did manage to get some photos of two of the stuffies that were finished today. You can imagine the proud faces that brought them to me as they declared “I’m finished!”
Aren’t they amazing?
Some of the sewing students are moving on to an all-fleece stuffie tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
No matter how many times it happens, I am always amazed what a group of young children can come up with when left to their own devices.
Yesterday afternoon, we made boats.
Other than providing materials, and the direction to make a boat that floats (of course!) I left them to discover on their own.
And as they worked, they discussed the merits of different materials.
They talked about what a boat should look like. They wondered if they made a boat a different size and shape if it would still float.
They debated whether a cardboard boat would remain afloat.
And rather than answering their questions, I asked a few of my own. Like “If you think a cardboard boat would get too wet, what could you do to protect it?”
In the midst of all this boat-talk, there was also learning about working with materials. Puzzling over how to get pieces to stick to one another, how to make holes in the middle of a box, how to balance one object on top of another, how to work with plasticine.
And as I guide them to learn and discover on their own, I know the learning runs much deeper than the things I simply tell them.
And then, with twelve brand new boats in hand, we headed outside to test the waters!
“Hmm…what happens if I put water inside my boat……”
“Hey! This yellow tape floats!”
And then the bowls of water became vessels for all sorts of floating things on the playground. And then sand from the sandbox. And lots of stirring with fingers and squishing and scooping of mud. My young scientists were still at work discovering long after my job was done and the after school program began.
Taking it Further
- Older children could test out materials and models before designing what they feel to be the “best” model
- play an advanced game of “will it float?” Go beyond the usual items.
- Learn about different types of boats and build a boat for a specific purpose
- Take water exploration in new directions. Provide funnels and tubing and containers and see what they can come up with (I once did this with a small group of seven and eight-year-olds who spent several days designing elaborate water-moving machines.)
- Have children find ways to make their boats move in the water (and maybe even have a boat race!)
Don’t you just love it when learning is so much fun?Read More
For the last few months I have steadily been teaching my students how to sew. It began with a plastic canvas project that was part of a special “learning lab” that we do at my school. To introduce the topic of sewing I brought in a number of things that I had made for students to see. Including an elephant stuffie.
“You made that stuffie?”
“How did you do that?”
“Are we making stuffies? Can you teach us to make stuffies? Yeah!!!” (coupled with lots of jumping up and down and cheering from the rest of the group.
Well, we weren’t making stuffies. But I promised the students that if they worked hard at learning how to sew that one day we would make stuffies together.
And hard they worked. Every single one of them sat on our meeting mat for an hour (this is Kindergarten and Grade One. This is not something I see every day!) stitching colourful yarn in and out of their plastic canvas shapes. Some of them even got mad when school was over for the day!
So almost every day after that I was asked “Are we going to make stuffies today?”
And then the day finally arrived – stuffie day was here!
I kept things simple for this young crew. For some of them, this was the first time they had been allowed to handle a sharp object!
They began by drawing and cutting a basic stuffie shape out of scrap paper to be their pattern.
Then they chose their fabric and used their pattern to cut out the body of their stuffy.
That evening I started a needle and thread for all of them. That way they could get right to sewing the next day without waiting for me to help them thread their needles.
They watched intently as I showed them how to do a whip stitch (which they remembered was like going around the edge of the plastic canvas.) Then I let them on their own! There were a few tangled threads, one or two poked fingers, and a lot of needle threading, but then it was time for stuffing.
“Eek! What’s that? It’s so fluffy!” Suddenly a group of small hands were plunging in and out of the stuffing bag.
Once they had their fill of feeling the squishy stuffing, they stuffed their critters and sewed the final hole shut. I helped them with tying the knot in their thread and they were on their way!
Out came the fabric glue and a huge bag of scraps from my sewing room, and they went crazy adding eyes, noses, fins, legs and tails. Then they came back for more sewing so their stuffies could have pillows. And blankets. And collars. And whatever else they could think of.
Seriously, how cute are these critters?
Yesterday, I brought our bag of sewing supplies out again and asked if anyone wanted to sew. I had an instant stampede of students to the meeting area! So more stuffies were made, and this time some of them realized that they could sew on their legs, eyes and ears and didn’t have to use the fabric glue at all.
And I’m a happy teacher, threading needles, tying knots and watching all of the sewing happiness!
Have you taught kids how to sew? What projects have they enjoyed the most?Read More
Inspired by this post, and our science theme of Electricity, I decided to talk to my students about inventors.
We began by discussing “what is an inventor?” and then brainstormed a list of as many inventions as they could think of. They had a hard time wondering what life might be like without a telephone, a car, and even a zipper!
And then the fun began. I pulled out all of our art supplies and asked them to be inventors for the afternoon! I didn’t get too picky with these little learners, some created use-able inventions, some models of inventions they would like to build bigger, and others made slight variations on items that were already invented. Whatever. We were inventing, finding ways to use materials, solving problems, and talking about what we were learning.
We were busy all afternoon, and I heard a lot of “Can I make another one?” and “Can we do this again tomorrow?”
We have been working a lot, as a class, on clearly communicating our ideas to others through the written word. So as an extension of designing our inventions, I took pictures of each inventor and invention and each child wrote a description of what they had designed and how it works. I also videotaped a number of the inventors explaining their design, to be shown as part of our school news. If you want to do this at home, you could always write a letter or send a video or email to a friend or relative showcasing the new invention!
- Read about some famous inventions and inventors
- Create inventions that solve a problem (for instance I asked some of my inventors if they could invent a use for all of the fabric scraps we have accumulated in our classroom!)
- Create inventions using a different set of materials (pipe and tubing would be fun, as would wood scraps)
- Choose a modern invention and try and spend a day without it! Experience a day without a car, or a telephone or electricity.
A few weeks ago, we explored this book in my classroom:
In this story, Pete is disappointed that he can’t go outside to play, so, to cheer him up, his Dad turns him into a pizza! Not a real one, of course, but an imaginary pizza, complete with dough kneading, the addition of toppings (checkers!) and a trip to the oven (the sofa.) This is a fun. light-hearted book that just begs to be acted out!
If I were reading this book to one or two small children, I would definitely follow it up with scooping them up and immediately turning them into pizzas (of the Pete variety.) I must admit that I did consider doing some variation of this in my classroom, but with 13 youngsters all eager for a turn, I instead turned to activities we could all engage in at the same time.
Hello play dough! (I apologise in advance for the photos. Fluorescent lighting and my camera do not agree. I am determined to learn how to get great photos despite the lighting – if anyone has any tips I’d love to hear them!)
Following all of the steps in the book, we turned our play dough into our own pizza. We all took turns to knead the dough and roll it flat, and then everyone had the opportunity to make their own toppings to add to the pizza. By the time we were ready to put it into the “oven” imaginations had taken hold and we were really cooking the pizza. Some of the students commented on the amazing smell as it was baking, and others had grumbling tummies waiting for a bite.
When we removed it from the oven we had to figure out how to cut the pizza so that everyone could have a fair share (math is everywhere, isn’t it?) and then we all enjoyed describing the wonderful flavour of this best pizza in the world. While we ate, several of the students contemplated opening up our own pizza store and selling our wares to the world (or at the very least to the principal!)
To follow this up we made and ate our own real pizzas using mini pitas, and we wrote a class book about our favourite pizzas.
More pizza fun could include:
- create signs and menus for our very own (imaginary) pizza store
- plan a pizza party and invite a special guest (like the principal in my case!)
- draw a number of pizzas and then cut them into pieces to serve different numbers of people (My Grade 3 students loved doing this when we were learning about fractions – I played it up with taking orders via telephone and having them create and cut the pizzas for the different orders…and then we really had fun with silly customers who wanted crazy combinations like 1/8 sardines, 3/8 strawberries and 1/2 stinky cheese)
- making a cardboard pizza!
- creating our own stories where we turn into our favourite foods!
- Some of my students were disappointed that Pete didn’t turn into a real pizza. This could be fun to explore – what would happen if we really did turn into a pizza???
- Pizza tag – you are the pizza, and I want to eat you, yum!
Anyone else have fun pizza ideas to add?Read More
I am so excited to be writing my very first Creative Kids post! I actually had an activity I did in my classroom last week that I wanted to write about, but had such a fun and amazing afternoon with my students yesterday that I can’t resist writing about that instead!
On Monday afternoons I do something in my classroom I call “Story Adventures.” Usually this begins with the reading of a story, and then we get involved in all sorts of adventures inspired by what we just read.
Yesterday I read them the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Not just the ordinary tale, but the one found in this book:
One half of the book is the tale of Jack that we are all familiar with. After reading the story we had a short discussion about Jack, and his actions, and how we felt about the giants.
I then read them the other half of the story; which is the same story, but told from the point of view of the giant’s wife. In this version the giants are all very innocent and Jack is made out to be one very naughty (and greedy) boy indeed!
We then talked about whether their feelings about Jack or the giant had changed.
And then the fun began. What I often do with a story like this is tell my students we are going to put on a play, and have them create all of the props/costumes necessary, and then spend some time acting it out, allowing different students time to try out different roles.
But I took a risk with this young group and decided to try something I have never considered doing with a class so young. We decided to put Jack on trial. (It was smooth sailing once I explained what a trial was!)
Students who sided with the giant sat on one side of our meeting mat, students who sided with Jack on the other, and one undecided student played the role of Jack. I sat as judge so as to have some control over the proceedings. Then we proceeded to debate. Giants had their say, humans had their say, and Jack had a chance to defend himself. And after a few minutes, my classroom was no longer full of 5 and 6-year-old boys and girls, but giants, offended at having been robbed, and humans, explaining their neediness, and for goodness sake Jack might have asked permission to take some of the giants things but the giants were too intent on wanting to eat him to notice! Without any prompting or prodding from me (I only called for order when too many people were talking at once), the two parties came to the conclusion that they would share the stolen goods, and the giants would agree not to threaten to eat any more humans. Without any formal teaching at all, my K/1 students have learned to debate, to persuade, to compromise, and to keep order in a large group discussion. And they worked the judge right out of her job! When I brought the drama to a close, the only thing I heard was : “Can we do it again?”
Because they enjoyed all of this so much, I decided to read them yet another version of the story today.
In this version the hero is a brave girl named Kate, who steals not for her own benefit, but to return the giants items to their rightful owners. And when the story was finished, my students immediately started working out their own version of the drama, assigning roles and deciding who sided with who. (Who needs the teacher anyway?)
If the interest lasts another day or two, here are a few other things we might do together:
- build our own giant beanstalk, – we will have to decide how tall it should be (hello math!), and then the challenge will be deciding how to create a beanstalk out of the materials we have on hand – or we might build other giant things too – how big would a giant’s shirt be? Or the food on his table? (If I had a big enough oven, I would have loved to have created some giant food to share!)
- plant bean seeds and watch them grow
- go on an imaginary adventure where each child can climb the beanstalk and enter into their own magical worlds (and then write about it!)
- create and tell our own story, replacing the giant beanstalk with another giant plant, and the giant’s castle with another magical place (Perhaps entitled….Our Class and the Humongous Apple Tree, or something of that nature)
Fee Fi Fo Fum, I see some kids having lots of fun!
What would you do with a giant beanstalk?Read More