“I wonder where … ” {a butterfly story}

Painted lady

painted lady (photo credit: Marko_K)

yesterday, a little voice said “I wonder where our butterflies are today

out of the blue and so full of wonder for the journey our painted ladies took a while ago. but, while it was an ‘out of the blue’ question, it was also a question that embodies our rhythm in our school — listening to and valuing each voice, exploring our environment (inside and out) and allowing discovery to happen naturally and when it should.

books were brought out to talk about the logistical aspects of the butterflies — they likely had laid eggs and are no longer living but the reality of that wasn’t what this voice wanted. we sat and revisited our observation journal and spoke of how our five caterpillars moved so gracefully from one life-stage to the next. but that also wasn’t what this voice wanted – you could just see it painted on this face, this push and pull that was happening.

{and here lays the beauty of a Reggio Emilia program — adults allowing themselves to listen, to observe, that our space is based on communication and relationships and, above all, that ‘teacher’ is the co-learner}

so, I dove in deeper — what was behind that question? and the answer was simple yet so complex. the want to know what they saw on their adventure after we released them. the want to know if they found the right flowers, did the owls hoot a welcome to them, did they stay together as friends, and how does nectar taste? but, the most important one: the want to know if they missed us as much as this wee one was missing them.

oh my.

so a tale was born. our tale of our butterflies and their grand adventures. the tale of jules, orangie, spikey, harry and tiny — who met a friend who calls himself ‘nair’ and how they met a wonderful owl and munched on leaves and played in the sunshine.

paper from the paper-roll on the art studio table was taped to the floor. stickers, crayons and our bodies all gathered, belly-down and shoulder-to-shoulder, on the art studio floor and we talked and drew and a collaborative tale and drawing emerged. all it took was for this adult to listen and observe — pulling out books on the reality of our butterflies was the first step to this process but, in the end, it was this that was needed. community, connections, acknowledgement that we adults aren’t the ones with solutions but we can be the guide.

I am so happy for this experience and so happy that I did stumble — it’s a reminder that in slowing down, in listening and feeling in the moment, in allowing this little one to be the guide for me to understand, that that’s where the connections and learning happens.

:: when little voices ask questions of you today, can you stop and use all your senses to understand the true question? can you find time to lay, belly-down and shoulder-to-shoulder, on the floor with your little one today and just create, listen and observe together? :: 


make a craft: seed books

seed book - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

we’re weaving into our days the continued exploration of our “things that grow” theme with experiencing so many wonderful seeds. and, yes, beyond the touching and the planting and observing the growth of a plant — the exploring the vast variety of seed types, shapes, and colors has been top of the list!

but, the question remained for us adults to mull over: how do you explore all seeds that we wanted to? larger seeds like beans, peas, sunflower, cucumber and even pumpkin, were seemingly easy because of their larger size. but what about lettuce, spinach, pepper, and the wonderful carrot? smaller in size and hard to wrangle over the long term, we just needed a way to explore these. {and touch and feel, compare and contrast, create hypothesis and observations as well}

and, so, we all took on a couple of formats of making many variety of seeds available:

:: our seed book

:: brown-paper bag book (I source them here  from a wonderful seller on etsy)
:: a variety of seed packages (I purchase them at the end of the season or use leftovers from our garden)
:: clear packaging tape
:: cardstock (I cut ours using a 3″ scalloped edge die-cast punch cutter)
:: tacky glue (I had this brand on hand and it worked beautifully)
:: marker of choice

:: (1) for each seed to showcase in the book, I used a two-page spread (seed packet and name on one page, seeds on the following page) and pre-determined how many pages I had to fill and cut out the cardstock circles in advance

. . . . . . . . . .

seed book 2 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com:: (2) for each seed type, the seeds were glued to the cardstock circle: spread a thin layer of the craft glue onto the cardstock and apply the seeds

this is an optional step but makes the placement of the seeds far easier when assembling the book pages

{{do allow the glue to dry before moving to the next step}}

. . . . . . . . . .

seed book 3 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

:: (3) assembly of the book is simple, but will test your skills with packaging tape
for each seed to be showcased:
: the seed packet was fully taped onto the left-side page
: the seeds on the cardstock circle were fully taped onto the right-side of the page spread
: the name of the seed was written above the seed packet

the results are a very simply and easy book  — but one that has already been studied, seeds compared, discussions spurred on with hypothesis, observation and so much more.

:: next up for our school? seed cards! we’re using 5×7″ chipboard to create the same format with seeds as we did the book, but instead making these seed-cards for the felt boards: to be explored on their own or in groups. 

related seed fun around the web:

our {growing} collaborative mural

growing mural - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

. . . . . . . . . .

and, so it grows. {and grows and grows and grows!}

we all have been working on the pieces and parts that make up this mural. slowly, methodically and in all different art “styles”. pointillism was explored for the sunflower petals. we took a stab at using mosaic style for the sun and clouds. hanging art from a line allowed us to explore kinetic art and how we can use our bodies interact with this art form. we explore collage, we dive deep into our sensory bin as we engage collaboratively — some have fingers sticky with glue while others cut shapes from brown-paper sacks for the creation.

making a mural is big work here and it is deliberately not a rushed process. the mural is on a prominent wall in our discovery room and often the art is done in our art studio. but often art is also done at a table close to the mural, using the space and maybe even the proximity to the {growing} mural as inspiration for our creations. the art is done not with the intention of creating a mural, but rather done as part of our day with exploration on the top of the list.

our art is done when we need to create, not at some preset time and in some preset fashion. our art is often done where it is comfortable for the individual — on floors, on easels, on tables … even under tables sometimes and is one reason why we don’t have formal chairs around our art studio table. we have no preset start and stop time for “art” as art is an activity that can be chosen when the need to create hits.

and why the nod to van gogh’s ‘sunflowers‘, yet again? this is the full circle piece of our learning: in the exploration in our art studio around ‘perspective‘, and the many artists whose sunflower art has graced our art wall, we’ve continually been weaving this into conversations as we move through our days. how we see things, how we feel things, how we understand things, how something looks to us — all through our unique eyes and senses and ideas. the conversation that started as a base for art exploration has naturally and beautifully moved to almost every part of our day and in so many interactions … exploring how one sees something, being open to how another sees something, understanding our differences and yet embracing our connections. this has been so powerful and incredibly humbling seeing this happen by allowing it to happen naturally.

:: how can you weave perspective into your day?

:: won’t you come join us to create when the need hits? {our art studio, like every other space in our school, always has room for one more}

if you are local {and even if you are not} we welcome you to join us for slowly and deliberately made creations, of any kind, allowing you to embrace the journey. stop by in person or on this blog, we are so glad to have you.

the painted ladies … a release celebration

butterfly release celebration - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

and so, it happened. our caterpillars, one by one, transformed into their chrysalis’s. and then, as if in a well-orchestrated symphony, emerged beautifully and effortlessly as beautiful butterflies. we’ve been in complete awe in watching this transformation right before our eyes — and when I say we, I mean the children and the many adults who have been involved. the intimacy of this transformation that we’ve been so honored to be a part of, even if just by observation, has been discussion for weeks — and will likely be discussion for many weeks to come.

we had about a week with our butterflies: watching, journaling, describing and naming. we’ve learned so much about their habits, when they’re active and when they’re dormant, how to say “proboscis” and  know what it means and how it’s used, and so many more facts about our lovely painted lady butterflies. in all of this, however, we knew that these lovely creatures also belonged outside where they could fly farther than our small space allowed and find flowers with nectar, and not rely on our go-to alternative of watermelon chunks, orange slices and sugar water sprinkled on flowers from our outside space.

and, so, we wove into our time a butterfly release celebration — and what a celebration it was! watching the children rejoice in seeing each of the butterflies, one by one, leave their netted space was wonderful. seeing the butterflies spread their wings, literally and figuratively, was incredibly joy producing for every person in attendance.

but then it came time to help the one butterfly who had a bent wing and was having a hard time navigating this time. but, in the truest form of kindness and compassion, the children gathered to assist and support this small creature — finding a flower to place it on in hopes that, given time, it will join the others in flight. this little butterfly, who was named ‘jules’, was the one we all were in the most awe of. many of us adults watched during that first day after emerging from the chrysalis so inwardly fearful that this little one just might not progress like the others because of what we thought of as ‘disability’. but, then, it happened … just as the children told us all it would. jules grew and jules showed us all that a little bent wing wasn’t going to stop her.

in the celebrating of all of our butterflies and their entrance into the world where they belong, we all were most celebratory of one certain one who showed us all so much by just being. it is a front-and-center reminder that assumptions are just that — and perseverance and determination — and faith — trumps all, every time.

today, and for many days ahead, we’re embracing the spirit of jules and allowing the knowledge that anything is possible to sink deep into our bones … come and join us on this adventure

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. 
: : :   : : :   : : : 
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

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!

. . . . . . . . . .
as a gluten-free home, here’s two clay recipes we use {versus using a wheat-based-flour dough recipe}
. . . . . . . . . .

::: 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 }}

. . . . . . . . . .

::: 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

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? ::