Friday, July 23, 2010

as promised, PHOTOS

ha HA! Here are some snaps of my little universe - the playground at Play and Learn. As you can see we have a big expanse of weird rubber paving - soft and bouncy for falls (of which there are many) and a garden that grows pretty flowers and TOMATOES! We planted two tomato plants last week, and they seem to be bouncing back and beginning to thrive.

I love this place, and pretty well all aspects of it, but this is the least favourite element of mine in the playground - the playstructure. It was installed a while ago by the powers that be, and is not that imaginative or inspiring. In fact, it takes up a lot of room that we could use for something else. So we use it for as many diverging uses as we can come up with, and it definitely makes a good anchor for construction projects.

A really great but not well used aspect of the playground is the hill. Because of the physical or cognitive involvement of a lot of our kids, not many venture up the incline. I'm trying to plan some activities that use it - and I'm pretty sure it makes an amazing tobogganing run in the wintertime.

Ok - here are some photos of the evolving water wall. We used an old roll-up vinyl blind as our backing, and started wiring on all kinds of funnels and plumbing and objects that can channel water. It is pretty popular with our kindergarten-aged kids, who spend a lot of time watering the grass, themselves and each other while keeping cool in our heatwave. We've got some serious pouring happening. So much in fact that it's having some great effects. One parent earlier this week asked if we'd been doing any pouring, and when I told her about the water wall she told me how her son had easily filled up his cup from the juice bottle. She told me she'd been so surprised, thinking "Holy moly! I didn't teach him that! Where he learn to do that?!" Say hello, AWESOMENESS.

This was the first version...

...and this is what it looks like now. Every few days, some of the kids and I will wire something else on there, and add a new adventure. Behind the fence that the water wall is hanging from is a bench that faces the sandbox, and kids can climb up there with jugs and bottles and fill and pour and direct water all over the place. You can see Max's waterfall made out of cut open sonotube on the right side of the water wall.

And here it is in action!

I found this firetruck with some very interesting firefighters when I was cleaning up on Wednesday.

And here are our volcanoes - the amazing lava spouting (water with red food colouring, piped in via the surgical tubing from the water wall), rock and sea-shell covered geological marvels. The kids have been making these all week, mirroring what happened over at Woodland Park here. Sometimes we here in my life and Teacher Tom and the kids in his preschool are really on the same wavelength!!

Ok, enough. It's too hot to write on the computer anymore. It's Friday! Time to relax in front of a fan for a while.

Nerdy nerd nerd out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Snail Trails Summer Day Camp


That is the official name of the summer camp program that yours truly is the outdoor coordinator and basically summer camp teacher at. GRAMMAR! Forall it's ridiculously long name, and imposing sounding-ness, it is a really laid back summer program forboth kids with extra support needs and typically developing kids. It runs for 2 1/2 hours Monday to Friday, and I get to mostly organize the fun stuff to do outside and then also get to go inside and hang out with the kindergarten-aged kids until they go home. It's basically a blast everyday.

We've been dealing with a heatwave here in Toronto for the last while - the last two weeks were blisteringly hot (like living in an oven), but it's tapered off a little bit and is a lot more liveable this week so far. The entire city basically was suffering from heat exhaustion within moments of stepping outside of any air conditioned enclave they may be lucky/environmentally insensitive enough to partake in. We had some parents wondering if we were actually SERIOUSLY going to be taking the kids outside during the hot hot heat - and I said yes of course we are, but we'll be playing with water and wet most of the time, and wearing hats too, so we'll be ok. And we were.

My territory at Snail's summer camp is the playground, and I am happy. We have a kickass sandbox, a hill with a pretty intense incline, some green space, a garden and a big ugly metal and plastic playstructure, but we make up for the last with our enthusiasm and funtimes.

Today was BubbleMania day - we have one each week - and I just realized that I should have taken some pictures of our awesome bubbles - we had bubble makers of all shapes and sized all over the place, and made some pretty wonderful bubbles. My goal is to make a bubble big enough to have a kid inside it --- by the end of the summer. YES! Photos of that for sure!

The camp is run out of one of the Bloorview Nursery School Preschool sites called Play and Learn, which I think I mentioned before. The preschools run on a Reggio Emilia inspired emergent, creativity based curriculum, and I feel really lucky to be able to continue playing with these ideas - follow the kids interests and build your curriculum on what they want to do - progressive education, right?! AWESOMENESS. I'm lucky enough to be working with some of the educators from the schools, as well as other talented folks, who are fluent in these ideas and ready to just go for things. My co-teacher Allison in particular and I seem to be cut from the same cloth - we're jazzed about creative construction projects, like getting wet and dirty and painty with the kids, and I'm learning so so much about listening and clear communication with her. No joke - it's super fun. And the kids are the darndest!

For instance, one of our lively fellows has been working on making a waterfall as a part of our water wall - thank you Jenny, Tom and Donna - out of cut open cardboard sono-tube. We've been pouring and scooping and getting wet, working together to get the water up to the top of the waterfall with other friends, and today we figured out a gravity feed method to make the waterfall run. We just keep everyone wet and no-one gets heatstroke.

All in all - it's pretty wonderful.

More soon, and photos.

Nerd, out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

what's new - SO MUCH!


I don't know where to begin!

This week has been so busy - coming home from an amazing vacation (more about that in a bit), starting a new job, and settling back into the rhythms of Toronto and home, especially after the recent civil turmoil around the G20 summit and protests - and still struggling with the reality of what's happening in the Gulf...

Everything is contributing to me FREAKING OUT about education - which feels pretty good, actually. Anyway - it's a lot to tackle all at once in one little blog post. I'll break it down a bit to the immediate - that oughta help my roiling thoughts.

So - first things first - we went on an amazing vacation to Vermont and down to Cape Cod to visit my grandmother and aunt, and back again. Vermont...ohhhh I can't say enough amazing things about I love you! especially since we got to stay at this wonderful place - Shelburne Farms. This place is ridonkulous in the most amazing ways. It used to be a wealthy family's estate, but has become an incredible education centre, working organic farm, heritage and conservation site and all around amazing place that focuses on "cultivating a conservation ethic". Explore their website to get a glimpse, but GO GO GO GO GO to get a taste of how actually awesome this place really is.

We were wandering around inside the castle-like barn (no kidding, look at the photo, that's the BARN), and I kept wishing we could run into an educator, when that's exactly what happened!! We met the incredibly kind, welcoming and generous Sarah Kadden, an educator at Shelburne Farms also involved in the Sustainable Schools Project. Sarah gave us a tour of the facility and we talked and talked and talked, and I left in a daze of magic and wonderment, after wandering across the courtyard of the castle, I mean barn, to the Children's Farmyard to gawp at their amazing teaching spaces and pet some sheep, goats and calves, and where you could play fun games like in the following photo

It was really great. I feel really lucky that we got to go there, and really grateful for meeting Sarah, who I'll stay in touch with and who's work is so inspiring! AWESOMENESS! Am busy now reading about their very well thought out curricula on teaching the basic ideas of sustainability to kids of all ages, and am beside myself with excitement at the potential it has. I feel like I'm having a mega paradigm shift, and am holding tools in my hands to help kids explore ideas and subjects I hold really dear - community, nature, food, conservation, ecology,'s a real long list, folks.

Then we went to Cape Cod and had a really great time with my Nana and Aunt Pam, who trek from Austin to the Cape every summer. It was so restful and wonderful and we had a ball.

Coming home just in time to witness police brutality and the government spending excessive amounts of money on needless things to impress, and get ready for my stint as counselor and outdoor coordinator at Holland Bloorview Kid's Rehabilitation Hospital's summer camp, at the Play and Learn site. I'm working with a bunch of awesome educators I worked with at my placement this year, and some other fantastic folks. We had one day of HR intake and two days of training and prep, and now Canada Day has descended upon us, long weekend HO! The kids come on Monday, I'm working in the kinder-aged kids classroom, with Allison who teaches kindergarten at Play and Learn during the school year, and Tatiana with whom I worked at High Park! That's when I'm not outside coordinating art, science and nature shenanigans in the elegant and potential filled playground, and I AM EXCITED.  It'll be great to work with young kids again - after Nunavik I need some little kids energy. Am psyched to try out some of the ideas from Shelburne Farms and Sarah and the Sustainable Schools Project stuff I've been reading.

More photos and news and enthusiasm to come - summer AHOY!

get ready for summer - NERD OUT!