make a craft: nature tic-tac-toe

nature tic tac toe outschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

many of the items we have in our discovery areas are ones we make, or have been made for us, and our nature tic-tac-toe board is no exception. the materials were very simple to source (all from our local craft store) and the painting was enthusiastically done by the children in our art studio.


the “pieces” are wooden craft wheels, but lend themselves in both shape and size to our needs. the paints are  a water-based acrylic making them easy to both apply and wash off fingers (and hands and the occasional elbow!). the base of the game is a round piece of simple balsa-wood that was painted and the tic-tac-toe board was drawn with the help of an adult. for ease, we used stickers for the two sets of game pieces (sunflower and bumble bee) but the possibilities are truly endless.


total cost for all the materials was under $10. but the cost isn’t the main factor in creating materials like this to discover and use. it is the working together, creating something for us all, together … and the process — not always the product — of tasks and creations and time together that is our focus.

the pieces are now often used to create patterns, or they might find their way to the block area to add to a building, or a castle or a creation that needs something just a little extra. the games played are sometimes tic-tac-toe … and sometimes we see how far the pieces can roll along with a simple push or a million other variations that fit the place and space we’re in at the moment.

enjoy your own creations – and the journey of embracing the act of creating, not always just the final product. 
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for more ideas on creating tic-tac-toe games, visit these blogs for inspiration:
:: Travel Tic Tac Toe Game from dandee-designs
:: Refrigerator Tic Tac Toe from Artzy Creations
:: Spring Time Tic Tac Toe from Chicken Scratch
:: Yard Tic Tac Toe from Holly’s Arts and Crafts Corner


this moment

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{this moment} – a friday ritual. a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

inspiration from soulemama

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this moment - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

clay butterfly crafts

as we dive deeper into our theme of ‘things that grow’, and we continue to journal and observe the life-cycle of our painted lady caterpillars, we opted to make some special butterflies we could keep. {there is some sadness mixed into the joy of  having a butterfly release celebration}

the folks over at nurturestore just happen to also be celebrating the raising of their own painted lady caterpillars, as we are. wonderful to share experiences and crafts — and likely these clay butterflies, as they’re too beautiful not to share with friends!

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as a gluten-free home, here’s two clay recipes we use {versus using a wheat-based-flour dough recipe}
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::: cornstarch clay {cooked} 
{porcelain type, requires cooking}

2 cups cornstarch
2 cups baking soda
1 1/4 cups cold water

:: in a saucepan, combine cornstarch and baking soda
:: gradually add water until the mixture is smooth
:: heat over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a moist ‘mashed-potato’ consistency

:: turn onto a plate, cover with a damp towel {careful for little fingers and hands – it will be hot!}
:: knead clay when cool enough to handle – clay is now ready to create with!

:: roll out the dough into a little under 1/2 inch thick and use your choice of cutters for shapes and designs
::  this dough will take some time to air dry or you can speed the process and dry in a warm oven (200*F)
:: {{ clay may crack if items too thick or bulky }}

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::: cornstarch clay {our favorite}

1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup white glue
:: mix both ingredients completely
:: add extra corn starch or glue to get a workable consistency

:: store in plastic wrap/bag – this mixture should last for months
:: projects can be air dried – try rolling out thinly and using cookie cutters for your desired shape (using a straw to put a small hole for hanging, if desired)
:: leave overnight to dry – can be painted and decorated once dry

gathering around the table

“children who feel listened to, become better able to listen to others.”

Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of “Mind in the Making

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:: every meal we gather together.

:: every meal we work together to create the meal.

:: every meal we help set the table, making space for everyone at this collective table.

:: every meal we serve ourselves and help friends from large bowls and plates of food.

we talk, we listen, we share moments together around our table. we laugh … a lot! but in the sharing we’re learning — and not just about academics, but how to care for ourselves and others. how to connect with others, how to be a part of a collective group and even try a new food or two along the way. we talk about taste and smell, texture and feeling color and label each and every food with the name and source, we talk about what we like and food items we’re still exploring. these meals are relaxing, enjoyable, connective. but, most importantly, these moments are a grounding moment in our day when we come together, slow down, and deeply connect with one another.

when I was a child, we always had meals together, no matter what. it was our time to connect back to our family and our connection with each other. however, our family table always had room for folks who were visiting — chairs brought out of other rooms, folding tables brought up from the basement to create a hodge-podge space for us to gather round. when we traveled to see family, it’s the meals made together and shared together that always resonate with each of us and become base for so many wonderful memories. twenty years on and we all still reminisce and chuckle over the “dinner for twenty” in the old cottage on the lake in michigan … and especially about aunt lucille’s famous peach pie … or how we used dish towels for placemats and how none of the chairs ever matched and how all of that made it so uniquely ours.

and, so, in our school, as in our family, we gather around meals.

many will find that this philosophy around food and nourishment is a strong component of many montessori programs  and what maria montessori detailed in her thoughts on sustainability and the prepared environment.

“Ann Sutton, in Montessori Life, states that“Sustainability requires systems thinking,” emphasizing interconnectedness and interdependence. (Sutton, 2009) This corresponds beautifully with Montessori’s vision of Cosmic Education and the interconnectedness of all living things. If we teach about keeping the planet healthy and model environmental stewardship, it stands to reason that we need to model and encourage healthy living in our community.”
(North American Montessori Center | The Montessori Training Blog | “Nutrition is Part of the Montessori Prepared Environment“) 

so, true to the vision of maria montessori (and aunt lucille and her peach pie), we gather and we explore that interconnectedness of each of us and of all living things. we provide a place and space for the children to gain independence through many tasks, yet also emphasize working collectively to accomplish the goal of gathering around the table.

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want to learn more about how to promote this style and philosophy in your own space? sara and kylie at ‘how we montessori‘ have just the answer with their book: kids in the kitchen: simple recipes that build independence and confidence the montessori way.

or, if you’re in the area some day — come by and join us! there’s always room for one more at our table.

the heavenly grass …

my feet took a walk in the heavenly grass.

all day while the sky shone clear as glass.

my feet took a walk in the heavenly grass.

all night while the lonesome stars rolled past.

{from “heavenly grass” by tennessee williams}

we spend so much time in nature here – exploring, discovering, simply finding our inner harmony and rhythm with our surroundings. there’s a nurturing of the soul that happens when we slow down and tune in to the world that surrounds us; a mindfulness that allows us to breathe, let go of the busy of the day, to connect to ourselves and especially to each other.

last evening was no different as we joined friends at a space that’s so close to the hustle and bustle of our city, yet when you enter the gates you’re transcended to a quiet oasis. last evening we adults sat for hours enjoying the space, enjoying conversation and friendship, enjoying watching our children from afar as they dove deep into play and connecting. and our children? hours of working together, guiding each other, finding snails hidden in plants, quietly observing families of wild rabbits out for their evening meal, running barefoot and rolling down hills atop the coolness of the evening grass.

this morning we read {and re-read again and again} that portion of the poem by tennesee williams. we read it together pausing on words known and unknown, we listened to it being read with eyes closed while fresh memories danced in our heads, we read it and giggled over how the grass tickles the little spaces between toes.

something so simple, so abundant, so ‘everywhere’, grass is. yet, when we pause some, when we slow down some, when we mindfully set aside time to just explore our most basic pieces in our world, magic happens.

:: will you find time to find the magic in the ordinary today? ::

a {nature} scavenger hunt

nature scavenger hunt 1
in all this wonderful flurry of discovery and investigations into things that grow, as well as our investigations around perception {our art studio right now highlights this}, a scavenger hunt to find open-ended items was just needed. how we understand the world around us is so important — how we take the pieces and that understanding that fill our senses is even more important. discovering, exploring, hypothesizing, observing … simply being with each other, sharing space and thoughts and {always!} some smiles and giggles.

today’s {nature} scavenger hunt is from an absolute gem of a blog, and a favorite spot for inspiration and sharing, ‘hands on as we grow‘. jamie has a wonderful blog entry on both this {nature} scavenger hunt, but also on countless other scavenger hunts as a tool for discovery and exploration.

today, just in our outdoor space, we delighted in finding treasures in such a well-loved area …

:: a small flower
:: a big flower
:: a leaf from a plant with no flowers
:: a flower that smells good to you
:: a flower that is your favorite color
:: a big leaf
:: a cool-shaped leaf
:: a stick
:: something that you like

nature scavenger hunt 2 this list simply resonated with me. allowing more than just looking in nature to find items, this list asked for your input as well … something you like, something that smells good to you, something that is your favorite color. this took the discovery and investigation beyond just locating an item, but also locating one that resounds with you … allowing this discovery to be uniquely your own.

when the hunt was over, we spread out the contents and talked about each one …
:: how does it smell to you? 
:: how do the feel? 
:: describe the shapes of the leaves
:: how are the leaves similar? different?
:: sort by color, shape, type
:: tell me, in your words, about this {leaf | flower | stick}

each thought shared, each ‘descriptor word’ used, each observation and hypothesis offered is so unique … and is the perspective that each of us offer for these shared or similar items. in exploring our world, we explore a little about ourselves {no matter the age}. in sharing our perspective, our observations, our questions and hypothesis’, our voices matter, our thoughts are important, our discovery becomes the foundation for our exploratory learning.

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when you explore nature today, where will your scavenger hunt take you? 
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