Friday, 4 August 2017

Black Swallowtails

Black swallowtail chrysalis
Last Fall, during our carrot harvest, our ladies found a caterpillar amongst the carrot tops.  Someone brought it to our house.  Shortly after, my sister Shirley worked in her herb garden and found another one crawling on her dill plant.  We brought them to school where they soon created their crysalids for the winter.
Over the years we've raised countless monarch caterpillars, but this was our first for this type of caterpillar.  Upon doing a bit of research, I discovered that swallowtails lay their eggs on carrot, dill, parsley and fennel plants.
Now, what to do with swallowtail chrysalids during winter? I learned quite a bit from  Joyful Butterfly.  We placed ours chrsalids in a plastic jar and stored in in the fridge  until the apple trees and lilac bushes started blooming the following spring.

Newly hatched butterfly

I was surprised that it would take two weeks from the time they were placed in room temperature to turn from pupa to butterfly!
Wings dried and expanded

 Oh the excitement we had when we came to school that Monday morning to discover a special springtime surprise!!
Being passed from hand to hand

Feeding on lilac nectar before taking flight!

Aren't those hands-on life science projects just the best?!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Maple Sapping Time

Maple Time

My sister Sonia has been maple sapping for five years or so.  Since she began this annual early spring project, I've wanted to include my students in the process, perhaps make some kind of hands-on lesson out of it. 

My students have seen Sonia out and about tapping trees and collecting sap, so they naturally wanted to share what they'd observed.  My nephew Jakobi has even helped Sonia, so of course he shared some long-winded stories.

Other Articles on Maple Sap

My sister Linda has posted several articles on Sonia's maple sapping on her blog which you can read here.   She also wrote an article on this topic for the Manitoba Cooperator.  The link here will take you to here blog and there you'll find the link to the Manitoba cooperator article.  Scroll down the the Crossroads section to page 29 to read it.

Maple Books

Each spring during maple sapping time, I dug out my books on maple sapping.  Sometimes I read one to my students but didn't do much more.  This year my planning is working out!My grade 1 & 2 students are just working on the social studies unit Canadian Communities.  One of the first topics in this unit is Aboriginal contributions and lad-de-da -- maple syrup!

We started our maple unit by reading and comparing the following books which are all set in different time periods:
  • Maple Moon by Conniebrummel Crook;
  • At Grandpa's Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney and  
  • A Day at the Sugar Bush by Megan Faulkner.  

Our Maple Projects

Next, we joined Sonia in every step of the process from drilling, to collecting the sap, to hauling wood scraps from for commercial carpenter shop, to finally cooking the sap into maple syrup.  We enjoyed several tasting sessions as we worked on this project: raw sap, hotdogs cooked in sap, maple butter on toast and waffles topped with whipped cream and maple syrup.

To commemorate this special event, we created a class book entitled Maple Sapping at Elm River Colony.  This book that outlines the entire process as well is the graphed results of our favourite maple treats.   We've added it to our class library where we can now boast of four maple sapping books. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Cardinals Come Calling

Chalk Pastel Cardinals

January weather can be rather bleak at times, so at Brennan School we added some brightness to our hall bulletin boards with these cardinal art projects.
The idea I used for my grades 3 - 8 art classes came from Paint Night.  There aren't any written instructions at this site for this project, so we did the following:  We worked with chalk pastels on grey construction paper.  We first used our palest blue on its side to cover the entire background to get a greyish-blue winter sky effect.  Next, we select a medium blue pastel to create the trees in the background / distance and our darkest blue or purple for the tree branches in the foreground.  Lastly, we drew the cardinal and berries with our brightest red. 

Handprint Cardinals

After drawing and colouring tree branches with regular wax crayons, my grades one and two students used their hands to print (paint) cardinals onto the branches.  I found this idea at Mrs. P4s Art Room.

Salt Dough Cardinals

Finally, not to be outdone by the big kids, our kindergarten students created their birds on salt dough.  I used this Simple Salt Dough Recipe.  They had a great time first playing with their dough, kneading, rolling and shaping it.  Their final result - a personal touch, with their hand print. 

Advice from a Cardinal Poster & Bookmark

In my google search for cardinal projecta, I stumbled upon Advice from a Cardinal, a lovely image of a cardinal perched on a tree along with his advice.  I printed this out and displayed it with all of our projects.

Image result for advice from a cardinalI also used something similar to create  Valentine/Bookmarks which I gave to our students and staff for Valentine's Day.  My intent was to combine "I Love to Read", art and Valentine's Day and I believe it went over well.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Cool Winter Art Projects

Water Colours & Epsom Salt

Although this has been a mild winter, we did have some chill-to-the-bone weather!  To coincide with the season, my students created several wintery art projects, including Water Colours with Salt.
We used liquid water colours, choosing what we hoped to be "cool" colours.  Also, we used Epsom salt, rather than table salt.  As it worked out, our purple and green turned out to be rather warm, perhaps not unlike some parts of our winter have been.  That being said, I have to say the affect was really striking.  After the paint was dried, we added snowflakes that I had found at Dallarama - some were made of blue and white fun foam others from clear, hard plastic.  The students chose some of each to arrange and glue to their projects.

Cut and Fold Snowflakes

Another winter project we created this winter is Cut and Fold Snowflakes.  Although the website I found it on is written in a foreign language,  the step-by-step picture tutorial makes it easy to follow the directions.  Since our walls are all white, we made ours out of pastel coloured copy paper.  I really like the "woven" affect these snowflakes have.  The students attached string to the snowflakes and hung them from the lights.

In January while one of my sisters was hospitalized, I took along some paper and scissors and we created some of these snowflakes to decorate her hospital room.  We displayed them on her window and the daylight contrasted with the pastel colours, giving them a brighter hue.  Her room overlooked the hospital entrance, so whenever we arrived or left, we could always tell which was her room.



Snowflake Snowman

My grades 1 & 2 class also went on a rampage cutting snowflakes.  Theirs were the more traditional ones.  After creating dozens of them, we fashioned them into a jolly snowman to greet us each time we enter our classroom.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Christmas Supper

Several years ago, the teachers here at Brennan School started a new Christmas tradition.  During the last week of school before Christmas break, we gather with all our students in the Essenschuel (children's dining room) for supper.  Usually our Essenschuelankela, (children's dining room supervisor), Barb arranges with the cooks to have one of the children's favourite meals prepared that day.  Typically that means pizza.  Barb also prepares a delicious dessert for all of us.
My sister Linda and I usually arrange the seating. Or should I say rearrange?  We like to mix things up from the normal boys' table, girls' table standard.  For this supper each table has a mixture of boys and girls of all ages as well as a teacher or two.
This year, rather than making tame tags, I created name pictures, using an idea I found here on Pinterest, with a few variations, of course.  I had our girls wear angel halos and our boys, wise men crowns.  This made for a host of angels and royal guests at our supper table! 



Candy Cane Wishes

After our meal we usually have some kind of game, activity or presentation and end with "Candy Cane Wishes".  This particular tradition began several years ago when our school trustee, Mr. Murray McLenahan brought several boxes of candy canes to our annual Christmas concert.  rather than merely handing out the candy canes, we place them on a table in the centre of the room and students and teachers take turns coming to the table, taking one and presenting it to someone else with some kind of Christmas wish, compliment or thank you.  In the end everyone has received a candy cane coupled with a wonderful Christmas greeting, which in some cases is remembered for years to come.
One of my favourite ones came came from Josh, (a former Brennan School student) when he was around fifth grade.  That year he was determined to be a wise man at our annual nativity play.   I had planned for our students to present a play where the angels took centre stage.  However, I had to change those plans when I realized that Josh really had his heart set on being a wise man and found a play that had a wise man role that Josh could handle.  At our supper that year, I realized just how much that part meant to him.  He strode up to the candy cane table, plucked one out of the container and marched up to me. "I am giving my candy can to the teacher who let me be a wise man!" he announced seriously.  I still get choked up whenever I think about that heartfelt presentation!  

I took the pictures in this post with my Blackberry and when I viewed them on the computer, they appeared right side up.  Once I exported them into my blog, they turn side ways and I cannot change them! Can anyone help me with this issue please?

What Christmas tradition have you started with your students, family or friends?

Christmas Gifts

Christmas gifts come in various ways, shapes andforms.  They can be wrapped in pretty paper, tied with shiny ribbon or trimmed with festive bows.  Not all presents need to packaged and presented in the traditional way though.  This year the staff members here at Brennan School took a different approach to presenting gifts to our students. 

On the first Saturday of December we all boarded our bus clutching non-perishable food items, which our families generously provided, and headed for Portage.   

Fort la Reine Museum

Our first stop was Fort la Reine Museum where the curator, Tracey Turner works hard to organize special events for people to enjoy at the museum throughout year, not merely during the regular summer hours.
For this particular Saturday, “A Dickens Christmas” was on the agenda.  Volunteers were on hand in period costumes to entertain museum guests with music, drama and of course a bit of history.  The main building was festively decorated and just after we arrived the first presentation began: a duo entertained us with Christmas music.  This was followed by wonderful piece of drama – an excerpt from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.  I was impressed with how effortlessly the actors switched roles by simply donning a hat, vest or other costume.  I especially enjoyed this production as I knew several of the performers: retired teacher Fran Myles, current teacher at Airport colony and I believe school trustee, Preston Meier.
As a finale to the entertainment a couple of ladies played several songs on plate bells.  They started with seemingly simple tunes and progressed to more complicated ones such as “Joyful, Joyful we Adore Thee.”  For that particular number, the bells moved so swiftly from the performers’ hands to the table and back again, as they played different notes, there were a few instances when the bells almost flew of the table!
After the performance, we divided into smaller groups to visit other parts of the museum.  My group visited the general store first.  There people could purchase various types of sweets.  As well, a local artist had a craft table set up where she taught us how to paint snowman on tree cookies.  These could be used as gift tags, decoration or pendant.
Attendees also had the opportunity to take their picture with Father Christmas and see and/or pet animals – llamas, bunnies, donkeys and more.  Hot chocolate was provided for all who desired it and most of us did!
To end our visit at the museum, we all piled onto a horse drawn wagon and enjoyed a ride around the fort while joyfully singing Christmas carols. 




Since we had time between our museum visit and our next event, we made a stop at our local library.  We all enjoyed cozying up with some good books as we warmed up from our wagon ride.

CP Holiday Train

Each year the CP Holiday train makes its way across our frozen land and this year it passed through Portage on the day we were there!  Typically, wherever they stop, that community has an opportunity to do some sort of fundraiser.  Here in Portage, people were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for Salvation Army’s annual Christmas hamper drive. 

The train was to arrive in Portage around 4:00, so we bundled up and made our way to the BDO Centre.  Our students excitedly grabbed their packages and headed to the Salvation Army truck to make their donations.  As to be expected, the train was late, so it got rather chilly waiting out near the tracks.  We ended up going back to the bus until we heard that welcome train whistle echoing through the frigid air.  Once again we braved the cold to see that festive sight! Train cars upon train cars were lit up in colourful lights displaying Christmassy pictures, shapes and greetings.  A concert was also offered; however, we didn’t stay for that as we felt it was not really geared for children.
Indeed, as the Brennan School students can vouch, Christmas gifts can be presented non-traditionally - in the form of an exciting December field trip!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Agriculture in the Classroom

Manitoba Cooperator

Over the years I've had several children's books and many blog posts published as well as editorials in our school newsletter, the Brennan Bulletin.  This week I can add another feather to my writer's hat.  I had my first article published in the Manitoba Cooperator, a weekly agriculture based newspaper.  I can now rub shoulders with other Hutterite writers such as Fairholme teacher, Dora Maendel, her sister, the late Selma Maendel and my sister, Linda Maendel, for all three of these ladies have had numerous articles published in the Cooperator. 

Agriculture in the Classroom

Click on the link below and scroll down to page 40 to read my article on Brennan School's experience with Agriculture in the Classroom.

Made in Manitoba Breakfast
Making Butter - "It's finger licking good!"

Checking Canola Seed for Ripeness