Wednesday, October 28, 2009

why I teach

I found this illustration on Elsa Mora's blog and I thought it pretty much summed up how amazing it can be to spend my days with young people (including my own children).

She says
"Emotional growth also has a lot to do with being a good observer, with paying attention to other people's pains and needs. Observation leads you to noticing important things and this, at the same time, inspires you to take action. Then, when your action (even a tiny action) makes a difference in someone else's life, you grow a little, and you get to feel better about yourself as a person."

Amazing insight.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

garden science and a good bowl of popcorn

Jove is always experimenting and often the experiments involve plants and dirt. Last spring, Jove decided to germinate some popcorn seeds from our own stash of popcorn. He has perfected his germination technique, a single layer of seeds is placed in a wet paper towel inside of a covered dish. A few days later, the seeds have sprouted. We transplanted the seedlings out into Jove's garden and cared for them all summer. The corn stalks grew and eventually flowered and each stalk produced one ear of corn. We waited for the ears to dry on the stalk and then Jove harvested them. He shucked the seeds off the ears and we waited for them to firm up a little more. We tried popping them once, but they didn't expand enough. We waited a couple of more weeks and then today we popped a big bowl of Jove's popcorn. He was very excited and it was yummy.

So, in the process of growing corn for the first time I learned quite a bit about how corn plants reproduce that I hadn't really given much thought to before. I will share my discoveries here with you because I am sure you are all dying to know how corn reproduce. Humor me... All fruit bearing plants (each kernel of corn is a fruit) make flowers that have pollen (from the male part) and stigma (the female part) that is sticky and receives the pollen and transports it to the unfertilized egg. In corn, the male pollen bearing flowers on the top of the plant are called the tassel and the silk are the female flowers. The amazing thing that I noticed with our corn was that each silk strand connects to an individual kernel of corn. That means each pollen grain travels down the entire strand of silk to carry its DNA to the unfertilized kernel to allow it to grow into a fertile seed. If you ever see shriveled corn kernels, they would be the unfertilized eggs. Amazing.

Jove learned quite a bit, too. Jove asks a lot of questions related to evolution and my answers often involve discussions of variation within a species. So when our four corn plants are growing, he noticed that the silk on two of them and part of the husk were tinged purple and he says, "Look! Variation." Aha!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the everyday and the exhilirating

We have settled into our new routine around here. Most weekdays all four of us are at school all day and then we have our evening hours to eat, play, dance and read together. Occasionally, there is an after-school adventure: a class, a trip to the playground or a biking/running outing. My new form of exercise consists of Jove biking while I run chasing him with Miranda in the jogging stroller; I am sure it looks pretty funny, but it works for all of us.

Miranda and Jove both greatly enjoy the time they spend at their schools. I am very happy with Jove's teacher and it seems to be right at the level where Jove is learning new skills that build upon what he already knows and building his confidence both socially and academically. Schools here in the Northeast can be very competitive and over-the-top pushing early academics and we specifically chose a school that we felt would have a less competitive pace. The school is the only ethnically diverse elementary school in Jup's district which is something we value greatly. So far, so good with kindergarten....

Miranda loves her toddler Montessori program. They do a lot of music making, singing and dancing which are some of Miranda's favorite activities. They have a lot of free play time which Miranda's teacher tells me she mainly spends playing with dinosaurs or in the play house with the dollies. There are only 5-7 toddlers in the program, depending on the day, and they seem to really enjoy being together. They go outside a couple of times a day, do Montessori activities: pouring, rolling, putting shapes in size order and they do art everyday. It is an amazing place and Miranda is very happy to go.

At home, Jove and Miranda spend their time building, drawing and coloring, role playing, crafting, reading and dressing up. The most entertaining part of Miranda's play right now is the time she spends arranging her plastic animals, having them talk to each other and feeding them playdoh. Hilarious!

Our weekends are spent getting together with friends and family and spending time hiking, biking and gardening. While it is still relatively warm and the leaves are BEAUTIFUL we are spending as much time in the forest as possible. We had a geo-caching (GPS treasure hunt) in the woods near a farm last weekend and Jup and I spent the day yesterday hiking in Minnewaska State Park which about 90 miles north of the city. This place is a gem and it was my first time there. The lake is part of a group of sky lakes that were carved out by glaciers. We hiked along cliff edges, crossed brooks and looked out over valleys and farms. The midwest and its Great Lakes will always have my heart, but the mountains of the Northeast have my soul.