Thursday, November 21, 2013


One day, walking home from school and noticing this:

A chute

That same day, reading ECE wizard Tom Bedard's blog and seeing that he built a cardboard chute apparatus for his classroom sensory table.

Finally, walked past the school's cardboard recycling bin only to find the most perfect cardboard boxes, one being a narrow chute, which led to this

One side has two tubular chutes that release
into a 5 gallon bucket.  The other side has a
long chute pouring into a big plastic bin and
a shorter one pouring back into the table.

Check out Tom Bedard's blog here:

Friday, September 20, 2013


This week at school I've been introducing magic tricks, mostly simple sleight of hand stuff. I've been closely observing the kids as they interact with this magic.

Now, I must admit that I have always been fascinated with magic, of both the occult and the "stage magic" variety. So it's never a stretch for me to play the role of Wizard or Magician. I love it. I usually do these tricks out on the playground after lunch, when everybody's feeling good and just goofing around.

Today I put an orange crayon in one open hand and hid a red crayon of the same size in my other hand, keeping it at my side. I get them to focus on the orange crayon. Then I place the other hand over the orange crayon, with the red one still hidden, and I chant a made up magic spell, glossolalia style. Then I open my hands, with the orange crayon now hidden in one hand while the red crayon is revealed in the other. I have magically changed the color of the crayon. Pretty basic stuff.

The youngest kids, 2-3 year olds, tend to be quite convinced by my magic powers. They believe fully in the magic. Most of the 4 year olds are totally willing to suspend disbelief as well, however, one can observe that something is at work in their brains. They are starting to want to try to figure out what's going on with these tricks. By the time they're 5 they usually know exactly what's going on and are more than happy to share the hidden workings of the tricks. If they're into it enough, they might even start performing their own tricks for their younger classmates, the true believers.

I'm not claiming that anything important is getting learned with this activity, but as a teacher, there's nothing I like to see more than a kid with a furrowed brow and an active brain, clearly trying to figure something out.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Smurf Mansion and Scarab Pyramid

A bunch of cardboard boxes hot glued into a structure with many rooms and levels.
Mysterious Symbols painted on the walls.  Holes to look through. 
Random bits, toys, and games pieces from the junk box arranged and glued into place.
A childhood collection of smurf figurines.

The boxes below were glued together into a kind of pyramid diorama.  Anyhow, the kid who painted it said it was a pyramid.  On the left side he painted Egyptian hieroglyphs surrounding a scarab beetle while explaining the meaning of the symbol to me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Giant DIY Spin Art Machine

We've been doing a lot of spin art on a small scale in our classroom.  We've used an old turntable with markers and paper plates.  We've also used a salad spinner with tempera paint and cardboard cutouts.  

Recently I found some instructions for building a large scale spin art machine using a power drill as the spinning motor.  You can see in the picture below, it's a pretty simple set up.  I built a frame out of scrap wood to hold the drill in place, then put a T-nut and bolt through a plank of wood and attached it to the drill.  All you do is screw a canvas to the spinning plank, lock the drill in the on position, plug it in and start adding paint.

Here's a video of the Giant Spin Art Machine in action.  I made a cardboard wall around it to catch the paint spray.

Here's how the above canvas turned out using acrylic paint:

I also tried using watercolor and a big sheet of watercolor paper with some nice effects:

Now it's time to see what the kids do with it...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Great Beast on Education

Aleister Crowley actually had quite a bit to say about the education of young children, and it's pretty inspiring.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Nothing is taught except how to think for oneself."

"Every child should be presented with all possible problems and allowed to register its own reactions; it should be made to face all contingencies in turn until it overcomes each successfully."

"Its mind must not be influenced, but only offered all kinds of nourishment.  Its innate qualities will enable it to select the food proper to its nature."

"Respect its individuality!  Submit all life for its inspection, without comment."

"From infancy children should face facts, unadulterated by explanations."

"Let them think and act for themselves; let their innate integrity initiate itself!"

"Make them explore all life's mysteries, overcome all its dangers."

"Let children educate themselves to be themselves.  Those who train them to standards cripple and deform them.  Alien ideals impose parasitic perversions."

"Standards of education, ideals of Right-and-Wrong, conventions, creeds, codes, stagnate Mankind.  Encourage original individuals."

And a poem:

Every child is absolute.
Dare not bias it or bind!
Give the seed fair play to shoot!
At maturity its mind

Shall perfect its proper fruit,
Self-determined, self-designed!
Durst thou twist that tenderness
To thy whims or theories?

Who adjured thee to assess 
Marvels hidden from thine eyes?
Meddler, muddler!  Is thy guess
Guaranteed most wondrous wise?

Let it meet and measure things,
Match itself against them, span
Safely the abyss-Earth sings:
"If you know and will, you can!"

Sunday, November 11, 2012


We have one of those screened, cylindrical butterfly habitats that are very common in preschool classrooms.  This Fall we put several caterpillars in there and watched them form cocoons.  The children have been especially interested in caterpillars, roly poly bugs, and ladybugs this year.

On  Friday I was playing with some kids in our playhouse when I heard very excited voices screaming my name from the other end of the playground.  They wanted to show me that one of the butterflies had hatched!

We set it free in the garden and a big group of kids observed the beautiful butterfly for quite some time.  One of the teacher assistants remarked to the children, "Isn't it amazing?  To start out as a caterpillar, wrap yourself in a cocoon, and come out as a completely different creature?"  It is amazing, and it was certainly amazing for the kids to see that transformation.  Then I followed up her comment with, "It's kind of like how you all are kids now, and then you'll change into adults someday."

Writer Daniel Pinchbeck recently gave a talk in Mexico on the subject of climate change called "Planetary Initiation" in which he used the caterpillar to butterfly analogy,
"In the chrysalis, the caterpillar doesn't just sprout wings. Its entire body melts down into a biotic goop. The code for the transmutation of the organism is held by a handful of "imaginal cells" that start to propagate as the caterpillar dissolves. Although attacked at first by the dying caterpillar's immune system, the imaginal cells install the program that produces the butterfly. Our modern civilization is now in the process of melting down and decomposing, and we have to become the imaginal cells engaged in the process of its transmutation."

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is more clear than ever that our planet is going through some major changes.  As a teacher of young children, I find it difficult to reconcile my pessimism about the state of the planet with my desire to prepare them for a future that looks increasingly bleak.  Our modern civilization truly is melting down into some kind of biotic goop.  However, I trust that these children are ready to become the imaginal cells that will program the next phase for humanity on Earth.  Nature has given them a perfect example of this process in the transmutation of the caterpillar into a butterfly.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Seasonal Amnesia

You say the seasons always shock you like
The red death of a falling leaf and
The sting of a spring shoot.

Who feels surprised by every sunrise, who
Wonders about the wind?

We have come full circle
Whole cycle, returning
To the place we started from
Though everything looks altered.

You fear the dusk for
You change into a wolf every night.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Salad Spinner Art

We've tried many different kinds of spin art -- with old record players, paper plates, and even a battery-powered spin art machine -- but I believe that my favorite way to do spin art is with a salad spinner.

We tried both watercolor and tempera, and I like the tempera better because it's more dynamic and shows more of the movement of the paint.  We used primary colors this week with some purple glitter on cut out squares of construction paper and mat board.

The one above looks to me like some winged creature flying high up into the cloudy sky.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tempera paint thickened with flour and glue.
An assortment of cardboard cut-outs and cones.
Bag of sequins from Salvo.
Big thick brushes and mini rolling pins.

What a delight to work in a place
Where art is being made every day
By people unafraid to play with paint.

Friday, September 14, 2012


press the crayon onto the foil
that's covering the warming tray
it's hot like a stove
"it is a stove" says one kid
learn what melting wax feels like

a drawing in the shadows
at the edge of the "graffiti table"
just the right amount of yellow
to make it come alive
perhaps a nose, a pair of eyes