Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Summer "Stay"cations

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations

**Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.**

As I browse my facebook lately, I am seeing post after post from parents ready for summer to end. Parents are simply running out of ideas to keep kids busy without spending a bunch of money. Of course, parents want the kids to have fun and enjoy the break, but these days spending a ton of money on each outing is just not feasible. Today, I'm sharing 5 low-cost/free outings parents and children can enjoy together. Along with each outing suggestion, I'm recommending a great children's book correlating to the trip.

1. Visit the library. Most libraries have a storytime, and many provide puppet shows, plays or children's activities---all for FREE!!! 
I took a preschool aged group to our local library and we saw a fantastic puppet show after hearing a story. Our library has a playground, so after the show was over, we had a picnic and played on the playground for the afternoon. (The bonus was that on the way home, I overheard some of the kids talking about how this was one of the "best field trips EVER!!"

Two of my favorite books about visiting the library are "Library Lion" and "Lola At The Library".


2. Visit your home improvement store for craft day! Home Depot (and other home improvement stores, as well, I'm told) has a great Kids Workshop each month for a very nominal fee. They also give the kids a builder's apron with the craft project. The kids may make bird houses, tool boxes, bug catchers, etc. and learn some valuable lessons about tools and basic woodworking. Our kids got to make this really cool bug catcher!

"The House I'll Build For The Wrens" is a great rebus read-a-long that comes with instruction on how to build a birdhouse!

3. Visit your local state park. Many state parks offer free or low cost programs for kids. We went to Mistletoe State Park, here in Georgia and heard a nature talk, learned about what a forest ranger does, participated in a nature walk/scavenger hunt, made a craft with found items, had a picnic and played games. 

The Nature Center at Mistletoe State Park has displays that children are encouraged to touch and explore!

This baby rattler was one of many of the indigenous snakes on display.

The children learned about the beavers' anatomy and habitat.

Taking turns at the bird watching station.
There were several types of birds that were just right outside the viewing window!
The bird houses played the song of the type of bird that it housed.

A baby fawn.
One of many learning games in the center. The children pulled the pegs and revealed indigenous birds and tree-dwelling animals.
The habitat display, filled with taxidermied animals from the area. We were assured that all animals were found already dead and that none were killed for display.  
More birdwatching on one wall and local fish identification on the adjacent wall. 
A river otter and pelt.
A raccoon! We learned the raccoon mask is one of its adaptive traits. 
Wild rosemary growing along the path of our nature hike.
It was quite fragrant!
The box turtle is one of the types of turtles found in our area.
Our nature hike. We took along a little bag to pick up specimens.
This group made a fish windsock from recycled materials and sticks found on the walk. The younger group made a nature collage with their specimens (not pictured).
We played several games with water sponges and toys to help us cool down. 

There are tons of great books about nature, but one of my favorites is "We're Going On A Nature Hunt". It's told in the same way as "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" and kids easily pick up the rhyme and read along!

4. Visit a ceramics shop and paint pottery! We visited our local ceramics shop Artsy Me, and painted tiles that will be gifts for the parents. Most shops charge by the item you purchase and provide the paint and firing services at no extra charge. 

Tomie dePaola has a wonderful book about individuality in creating art called "The Art Lesson".

5. Visit a local history museum or historical spot. We visited the Augusta Canal and National Heritage Area. We took a Petersburg Boat tour of the canal and visited the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Discovery Center to learn more about the history of our area and the important contributions of our area during the Civil War. The children were shocked to learn about hard work, long hours and poor conditions that many of the child laborers endured back then. For a virtual tour, click here. On the boat tour, we learned about how the canal actually works, its importance during the Civil War, as well as learning a lot about the local flora and fauna. We saw many birds, turtles, fish, insects and even some river otters! 
The children got a chance to try some of the work that the mill children did daily in very poor conditions for very little pay. They discovered that it was hard work!
Getting all the bobbins for weaving placed on the frame correctly was quite tricky, especially while racing the clock!

Getting a safety talk as we start the journey down the Augusta Canal on our Petersburg Boat. These boats are replicas of the boats used to transport goods up and down the Augusta Canal to the Savannah River.

This image from Wikipedia.com is an artists' rendering of the boats in action during the Civil War.

It's great fun to wave at folks in town along the Augusta Canal!
Augusta Confederate Powderworks manufactured and supplied gunpowder
to the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Wood ducks out for a swim on the canal.
River otters play and swim as we pass by in the Petersburg boat.
The two recommendations for reading to kids about museum visits are "Franklin's Class Trip"and "Miss Malarkey's Field Trip".  "Franklin's Class Trip" is about the beloved turtle "Franklin"'s field trip to the museum. Zany Miss Malarkey takes her class on a museum adventure in "Miss Malarkey's Field Trip".

What is your favorite "go to" spot for free or low cost activities for kids? If you have a great free/low cost daytrip suggestion, I'd love for you to share it in the comments! 

Stop by and visit me anytime at littleilluminations.blogspot.com or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Educators Who Care, Share: Singers, Sites & Songs Part I: Midwest & Ontario

Hello, everyone. Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Thank you for joining me.  

Educators who care, share.” This catch phrase from edWeb perfectly encapsulates what we as teachers, parents, wonderers and humans do – share what delights and moves us, and what works. Sharing resources, specifically the work of those who contribute significantly to early childhood music repertoire - is the impetus for this and next month’s posts. 

But for those of you who appreciate great web resources, I’d like to take a brief detour and give a shout-out to edWeb, winner of the 2012 Best Open Professional Development Edublog Awards.
A simple email signup opens up a world of to-the-point resources and webinars that are archived and easily accessed through a resource library – though if anyone out there in internet land can tell me how the webinars can be paused, I would be beholden! edWeb also hosts “professional learning communities” dedicated to a wide variety of ­­­­topics. Two I belong to are arts and music in early learning (affiliated with Music Together) and emerging ­­tech. Michelle Luhtala is a driving force behind this community, and her presentations and insights on apps are excellent. Don’t get overwhelmed. Frequent short visits may yield better results than a marathon session! Verdad!

©2014 Brigid Finucane - Monarda
Back to the subject at hand – a bouquet of great early childhood music resources!

Where to start and who to choose?
The internet, YouTube, CD Baby, and Songs for Teaching have brought to our fingertips and ears a cornucopia of offerings, but this abundance of options, oddly enough, can make finding appropriate music for home and classroom even more daunting.

In EC classrooms I visit, I’m struck by the sameness of aural offerings. Near the CD player a few Dr. Jean CDs lurk, and perhaps some Putamayo recordings are piled. One of three clean up songs is playing as I arrive by Kathy Poekler (Put away the toys and trucks! Put away the dolls! Now is the time to clean up!), Shari Sloane (Everybody clean up, clean up, clean up, everybody clean up, clean up now!) or Barney (Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere, Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share…) Don’t get me wrong. While these artists (with the possible exception of the purple dinosaur – depending on your tastes) and the Putamayo label are excellent, and deserve to be part of the EC landscape, they do not at all reflect the work of local or regional artists – and therein lies the rub.

©2014 Brigid Finucane - Korean Mums
The Farm to Table movement has us eating locally – why aren’t we listening locally?

My intention is address this issue by periodically highlighting music from regions of the U.S. The Midwest will be my starting point, because that’s where I’m from! I will choose only the artists whose work I draw from consistently. Most, but not all, are members of the Children’s Music Network (CMN), which initially brought them to my attention!

My inaugural post is dedicated to artists who: 
1) Sing and/or write music specifically for the EC population
2) Have websites with resources, lyrics, and/or a presence on social network(s)
3) Present workshops – so you can experience them personally!
4) Sing/write engaging and developmentally appropriate music that encourages active participation (movement, singing, signing, repetition, fingerplays, etc.)           
5) Sing and/or write music that is replicable, open-ended, and encourages independent play, use and exploration
6) Sing and/or write music that works equally well as a stand alone experience, not dependent on a CD or recorded accompaniment
7) Don’t have a national marketing machine working on their behalf, so are not usually represented in Big Box stores.

©2014 Brigid Finucane - Queen of the Prarie
Caveat A: This list is intended to be a gateway, and is in no ways exhaustive. It’s impossible to feature everyone, especially since I promised The Husband I’d write shorter posts! To this end, each region will have a Part II with additional singer, site and CD recommendations.

Caveat B: Artists are listed in alphabetical order. An asterick  (*) indicates songs that are traditional, anonymous, or composed by another.

Caveat C: The way artists choose to describe themselves is superior to whatever I could write, so their words are used whenever possible. Photos of artists and CDs are excerpted from their social media pages or websites. Photos of flowers are from my garden.

Caveat D: I’ve added a province in Canada into the Midwest mix. Trust me on this. You’ll be happy!

Debbie Carroll
Debbie Carroll (ON) “sings, plays a variety of instruments and hosts Riverview House Concerts.  She has 2 award-winning CDs of children’s music produced by Ken Whiteley – Up and Over the Moon! and Simply Beautiful – as well as a book with CD called The Eensy Weensy Book of Little Fingerplays.
When she is not making music you can find Debbie knitting socks, playing word games, watching birds, growing flowers, reading a book, feeding the tropical fish, cuddling a cat, taking photographs, or walking along the boardwalk at sunset.”
Especially appreciated: Lots and lots of songs. Great variety of songs, lullabies, and chants – many with movement opportunities. Beautiful arrangements! Bonus: On her website, lyrics,  fingerplay directions and movement suggestion immediately following the track listings of each CD. Thank you!
Kiddo faves: It’s a Dancing Day, I’m Sittin’ in a Boat, I Shut the Door, Love is Like Glue,
 *At the Bottom of the Sea, *The Tree Song.
To note: Debbie has reanimated her Debbie Carroll – Children’s Music Facebook Group. It’s easy to join – just add you name to the “Invite by email” box!
Cool Canadian Cats

Fran McKinney

Fran McKinney (WI) “has taught Early Childhood students with learning challenges for over 30 years.  She is the Music Specialist and Consultant at the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum.  Fran has learned the positive effects of linking music and movement to literacy, math, language and social learning to engage all learners.  In the process, she has written songs and created books to enhance early learning.  She provides workshops to share this approach with other teachers throughout the Midwest.” Fran has one CD, We’re Friends All Year Long, and five partner books.

Especially Appreciated: Lilting, singable melodies. Themes reflect the life of the young child through family, friendship, food, seasons, shapes and special places (visiting the zoo, farm, and pumpkin patch). Five companion books are available. Lovely orchestration, AND sons Josh and Noah (is a farmer) contributed musically to the CD!

Kiddo Faves: 
Pumpkin Patch, Triangle Lullaby, Let’s Make Snowmen, At the Zoo, Noah is a Farmer.
To Note: Fran’s music & literacy workshops are engaging, entertaining and edifying, informed by decades of classroom teaching. Seek them out!

Miss Carole Stephens
Miss Carole/Macaroni Soup - Carole (Peterson) Stephens (IL), the same Miss Carole Stephens that writes for this very blog, on the 16th of every month,  is a nationally renowned music specialist. Her cross-curricular music and guidance techniques instantly invite all audiences from the youngest child to the oldest adult to join in singing, dancing and rhythmic movement. Miss Carole teaches:  HOW - classroom management techniques that really work! WHY - brain research that supports the active music imperative and WHAT - developmentally appropriate movement and movement activities children love!...Miss Carole has been teaching music for children 1 - 6 years old since 1989. Through her company, Macaroni Soup!, she travels across the US presenting concerts for children and families, and workshops for teachers, librarians and parents. Her seven award-winning CD's are treasured for their usefulness, appropriateness and simplicity.”
Especially Appreciated: Songs are perfectly geared for EC classroom use.  Humor runs throughout. Tracks include not only the song, but  Ms. C’s spoken directions on what to do next – so it’s like she’s with you in the classroom! Though her music is oriented primarily towards the Pre-K crowd, her Turkey Hop magically materialized at a Thanksgiving family gathering and I’ve used her snowball fight as an icebreaker with high school theatre students!   
I draw primarily from Ms. C’s  two seasonal CDs for my classroom teaching: H.U.M. – All Year Long* and Season Sings!                                                                                       
Kiddo Faves: H.U.M (“highly useable music”): I Can Make a Snowman, When It’s Autumn, *Please Pass the Peas, Turkey Hop, Snowflake ,Snowflake.   Season Sings!: Snowman Trio, *Jump in the Puddles.           
To Note:  Carole’s generous website includes a Song of the Month section that contains lyrics, background, and attached mp3s for each featured song.  Wow! Catch her at a concert or workshop – she travels nationally - and watch out for flying snowballs!  
Macaroni Soup - Carole and Clarence
Kathy Reid-Naiman
Kathy Reid-Naiman (ON) “is a full time children's performer, and a member of Mariposa in the Schools, an organization dedicated to bringing quality musical experiences to school children in Ontario. Her children's recordings; Tickles & Tunes, More Tickles & Tunes, Say Hello to the Morning, A Smooth Road to London Town,  On My Way to Dreamland and Reaching For the Starshave become very popular with pre-school teachers and families with toddler's and young children. She has been teaching classes for young children 6 months to 6 years old and their caregivers since 1982 in libraries in Ontario.”                                                

Especially Appreciated: Exquisite choice of traditional and composed material, Chrystalline orchestration makes each CDs a pleasure to listen to, share and carry on. The cover art is lovely as well. Here’s a closer look at Say Hello to the Morning – which will give you a better sense of the scope of her work.   
Kiddo Faves: With twelve (12!) CDs and a new fingerplay DVD to her name, and collaboration on more recordings with talented daughter, Hannah, the choices are dizzying. I admit to close familiarity of only eight CDs. Be assured that whichever CD you select, to, you can’t go wrong!  I’m proud of my award winning  library in Skokie, which owns seven of her CDs!

To Note:  Kathy is the owner of Merriweather Records Ltd.,  an exemplary early childhood + label in Canada. Represented artists are great finds. She presents on both sides of the border – so keep an eye out, and go!
Telling the story!

©2013 Dan Rest - Susan Salidor
Susan Salidor (IL) “is an award-winning children’s music composer and performer with the heart of a teacher….(She) has also been honored as a songwriter with several ASCAP Popular Awards for songwriting.  Susan’s recordings are recommended in The Best of Everything for Your Baby (Krantz/Exley, Prentice Hall), and her song, “Ruby B.,” appears in the first edition of Ruby Bridges’ autobiography Through My Eyes (Scholastic Press). She has also published The Susan Salidor Songbook, a songbook and CD set of original music from her first four recordings. Her songs can be heard on in-flight kids’ programming on TED Airlines, XM Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.”

Especially Appreciated: I’m a Susan Salidor groupie. There. I've said it. Back in the day, my daughter (then a toddler, now a rising college junior) and I followed her about from venue to venue!  Eventually CMN brought us together, and the rest is history. At the heart of her music is a social consciousness conjoined with finely drawn lyrics that delights in the stages of childhood while celebrating humanity. Like the featured artists above, her work is as lovely to listen to as to dance and sing along with. Teachers will especially appreciate her three Come and Make A Circle CDs, but each and every one of her eight CDs is a treasure.

Kiddo Faves: Peace in My Fingers, I Love My Sister, First You Take A Seed, You’re A Poet, Hello. Faves to listen to: When I Only Have a Minute, I’m Sorry, Every Little Bit of You.

To Note: Susan and husband Jay have created dozens of YouTube videos to her songs, but they are most delighted by the hundreds of original videos recorded by fans of Susan’s music that can be found on the internet.”  Susan also presents “itty bitty ditties” on her Facebook page. *Check out Around & Around from February 17, 2014.

I hope you enjoy making the acquaintance of these five magical artists.
Inclusion of their music will make any classroom a richer and happier place – and gift you and your kiddos with smiles as wide as the heartland. Enjoy!

Join me on August 18 for Part II highlighting additional singers, sites, and CD recommendations emanating from the Midwest & Canada. Until then, happy singing!
©2014 Brigid Finucane

I am continually inspired by the Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region. 

©2014 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 * gardengoddess1@comcast.net

Blog History: December 2013 – Present
          Staccato & Legato/ pt. 1
          Staccato & Legato/ pt. 2                             
         Garden/ Teaching & Typographic Art Apps

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