Educating Young Students From The Inside Out

Educating Preschool students from the "Inside Out"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Technical world here I come.


This year I have become more savvy, with finding new technology in this fast pace world we live in. I thought I would share with you the latest video of my class activities for this autumn. What fun this is. The teachers at Living Wisdom School are keeping our parents informed with this amazing tool from "Smilebox". Life just became a little easier and more professional in half the time.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Another digital slideshow by Smilebox
Blessings friends,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guest Post: Susan Tara Meyer, from River Bliss


 My Photo This month I want to highlight a new friend, Susan Tara Meyer, River Bliss that I have recently met through "Fairy Dust Teaching". We both have taken courses with Sally Fowler Haughey. 

Susan's photos and bio have touched my heart and I wanted to highlight her on my blog. Here is a glimpse into her profile.

Greetings from the Upper Hudson River! "River bliss" is my name for the state of consciousness I experience while floating on the river in my kayak. It is my medicine for inner peace, clarity, and creativity. This blog is my attempt to share beauty, peace, and awe through images and words that greet me in stillness on the river. I also will share the creative endeavors in which I engage back on shore. May you be inspired and uplifted.

Susan Tara Meyer teaches kindergarten in a public school in Upstate New York and finds lots of inspiration for teaching and life in general on the Upper Hudson River that flows in front of her house. In addition to teaching, she is a photography enthusiast, a published poet, and the mother of two teenagers. She is married to a children's musician and music educator and has partnered on projects with both her husband and his band, The Zucchini Brothers. Susan launched her blog, River Bliss, two months ago as a vehicle for sharing beauty, peace, and awe through images and words that greet her in stillness on the river.

 She wrote such a beautiful entry for September, I felt so moved to share it with you. Susan is a kindred spirit. Each day, she fills my heart with love, beauty, and joy as I read her blog. I hope you can follow her writings, photographs, blog entries and be as inspired as I have been.  Please support her. 

Joy to you Susan!

 Many Blessings, Chandi


Monarch Magic

When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown we must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.   -Patric Overton

Ever since I began teaching kindergarten, my husband and I have made a tradition of searching milkweed plants for monarch caterpillars over Labor Day weekend, right before the school year starts. The goal is to collect a few caterpillars so my students can observe the dramatic and colorful  transformation from caterpillar to butterfly; however, it is an activity we truly enjoy doing together each year. My husband has fond memories of his mother packing him a picnic lunch before he headed out to look for monarch caterpillars as a child, and he cherishes the opportunity to continue this tradition with me. Observing the monarch life cycle is a magical way to begin kindergarten and a powerful reminder of the potential for transformation and transcendence. There are so many metaphors to be found in the monarch life cycle, and it is interesting to notice which ones resonate most strongly each year.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed leaves, and when the caterpillars hatch they begin eating the leaves, which is their entire diet. During August, we note the locations of the most promising milkweed patches. Some years, despite a great deal of effort, we come up empty handed. Last year was such a year. We didn't find any monarch caterpillars but returned home with a great story. After combing all of the known milkweed patches, we expanded our search along the country roads near our home and noticed an impressive field of milkweed across the street from a farmhouse. Feeling both desperate and adventurous, we decided to knock on the door and ask permission to look for monarch caterpillars in the field. The old man who came to the door obliged our request; however, the grass was so tall that we gave up soon after beginning. On our way back to the car, the man came back outside to ask us if we had any luck, and we ended up having a lovely heart-to-heart conversation with him about life in this day and age. I wish we could have filmed him talking. He was a retired dairy farmer and spoke about how much better farming is in Canada because farmers get paid better and can afford to maintain their property and equipment, which is not the case here. He really opened up to us and talked about his perception that too much damage has been done to this country by greed, and said he is not sure we can fix it at this point. It was such a joy to interact with this kindhearted man and to hear an old farmer share his wisdom. A couple times during the conversation, I actually found myself choking back tears because I felt my grandmother's spirit coming through him quite powerfully. (Her urn is decorated with a pastoral farm scene, paying tribute to her Vermont roots and her love of Vermont farm life, which was an important chapter of her life.) Without ever mentioning this to my husband, as we were driving home he remarked that he felt my grandmother's presence during that conversation. That is one caterpillar mission I always will remember.

This year, however, we saw several monarch caterpillars and butterflies the week prior to Labor Day and knew we would be successful in fulfilling our goal of collecting caterpillars.

Sure enough, when it was time, we ended up collecting seven caterpillars. We begin by looking for tender, green milkweed leaves that have some holes eaten through them. We also look for droppings. Often, the caterpillars munch on the underside of milkweed leaves and thus are cleverly hidden, so we need to look for clues suggesting their presence. We squat down low to the ground to see the underside of the leaves.

This year, we found three large, plump caterpillars that looked like they were nearly ready to turn into chrysalises and were likely to do so before school started. We also collected four very small caterpillars so the children would be able to observe the active larva (caterpillar) stage.

We put the caterpillars and some milkweed into a butterfly tent with mesh sides and a transparent top that zips open. The very hungry caterpillars munch their way through leaves until they have had their fill and somehow know it is time to enter the next stage of their life cycle. I am amazed and inspired by this part of the process and how the caterpillars know when it is time to change. I wonder how often the human capacity to think suppresses an inner knowing that it is time for us to change. How often do we convince ourselves to resist doing something different that would result in living a more authentic life because we are so used to a particular way of being - and it feels too risky to do otherwise?

Each in his or her own time, the caterpillars climb up the walls of the tent to the top, and eventually begin making a silk button from which to hang. The caterpillar hangs in a "J" shape for a large portion of a day before turning into an emerald-jade green chrysalis by molting its skin. The skin, which has become too tight, begins to split around the bend of the "J," and the caterpillar wraps itself into a chrysalis. It wiggles and jiggles its way into the chrysalis stage.

This year, all of my caterpillars managed to turn into chrysalises when I wasn't looking. The link below will bring you to a wonderful, real time video of a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis. My students have asked to watch it over and over again:

Monarch Metamorphosis: Caterpillar to Chrysalis in Real Time

The monarch chrysalis is an elegant sight - an emerald green case embellished with numerous, patterned golden dots, like a jeweled crown.

For about ten days, the green chrysalises hang, quiet and still. The children check the butterfly tent every day when they enter the classroom to see if a butterfly has appeared. Throughout the week, the chrysalis fades gradually in color until it becomes transparent, like a window. Although this is the time when the least activity appears to be taking place, it is a powerful time of metamorphosis. It reminds me of the human potential for great transformation to take place during periods of stillness.

In time, the chrysalis splits open, and the butterfly emerges. This was just beginning to happen when I entered my classroom this morning, and I grabbed my camera quickly!

The butterfly lowers itself out of the pupal case, extends its legs, and clings to the pupal case.

The abdomen is swollen with fluid that needs to be pumped into the tiny wings to help them expand.

Eventually, the wing tips will fill with fluid.

And then the butterfly will wait for its wings to stiffen and dry.

After several hours, the adult butterfly will be ready to fly. The monarch butterflies born in our area at this time of year will migrate to Florida, Eastern Texas, or Mexico and gather on trees that are literally covered with monarch butterflies. It is amazing to think that such small, delicate wings will carry them thousands of miles on a rigorous journey and that each butterfly somehow is able to find his or her way!

When it is time to release a butterfly from our butterfly tent, I gather the children on the playground outside our classroom and let the butterfly perch on their fingers if it is not in too much of a hurry to try out its wings for the first time. The expressions of wonder and joy on the children's faces are priceless, as is the gentleness with which they pass the butterfly along to the next classmate and the sincerity and hope with which they wave and exclaim, "Fly, butterfly, fly!" This is an authentic learning experience that leaves an impression on the soul that no assessment tool could ever measure.

It is a truly magical way to begin the year, and I continue to be inspired and fascinated by the process every year.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"All the World is my Friend" Starting the school year right.

We begin the year in our classroom with a song:
"All the World is my Friend
When I learn how to share my love
When I stretch up my hands and smile
Then I live from above...".

Below is the link for the song:

Each year I begin the month of September with this song. The children are beginning to recognize each other after a long summer break and this is a familiar children's song that we sing often at the Living Wisdom School. The lyrics reminds them about kindness, friendship, and acceptance. During the month I also plan activities around being reacquainted with their former friends and meeting new classmates as we begin our new school year.

We began the year with our own self-portraits. These were hung in the hallway above our cubicles to introduce our class to
the Living Wisdom school community. I was so pleased to see how well they did and how they remembered the key points of drawing their own Mother's portraits from May.  These are so sweet!

The next project is based around all the families being acquitted with each other. The activity begins with clay that is self drying. The children mold the beads into round shapes. The clay dries for several days and the children then string their necklaces. Each necklace has world beads and their pictures of each friend that is attached.  They are so excited about their necklaces and sharing stories with their families about their new friends.

The third project we made in the classroom this year are prayer earths.
We start with styrofoam balls and layer masking tape all around the ball. 

This is such a good project for small little fingers and building small muscle development.

 The next day after the ball is completed, I cut art plaster in small pieces.

It is then placed strip by strip into a container of fairly warm hot water.

The strips are then wrapped by the children around each one of the balls.
The balls are completely covered and left to dry for about three to four days.
We also attached a small paperclip down into the ball for a ribbon hanger.

After they are thoroughly dry the children paint their worlds.

The worlds are taken home to hang in their room.

When working with the preschool child these simple projects build on the direct experience of remembering, " All the world is our friend" and we can all joyfully live together in peace and harmony on this planet.