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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fuzzy Ornaments

It's our last day of school before break. Since we're done with all our last minute testing, we decided to dedicate the morning to a big art project. My mom and I used to do this when I was a kid and I always really enjoyed it (minus the cutting of tissue paper).
All you need is colored tissue paper, cut into 2 x 2 in squares, glue, and a pencil. You put your eraser end into the center of your tissue square, fold it up onto the pencil, then dip the end into glue, stick the pencil onto the paper and this about 20 million times and you'll have a really cool puffy texture. The closer you can put each tissue wrap, the better.
We kept the designs simple and rather large, so that the clusters of color would look more impressive. It's like a latch hook rug with tissue paper.
For the first time in our four years out here, the kids opted to STAY IN for recess to keep working. Are you kidding me? I could not believe it.
Saylor has the right idea, working down from the edge...much easier to get the tissue close together. I'm interested to see how these turn out. It's time intensive, but impressive when it's done.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like.....

Even though we haven't gotten a lot of the white stuff out here on our little isle of misfit toys, we wanted to get into the holiday spirit and so we had to decide upon a route to our Christmas tree. We picked the loooooong route. Of course. It took us over to the beaver pond which has been new and improved with all the beaver action happening over there. Brody and Myron were searching just below the dam for a perfectly formed tree. And this is what I've resorted to trying to get a pic of Brody. He's in that horrible phase again where he turns his head and covers his face whenever I get the camera out. So now I'm reduced to stalking him from afar. With the zoom. I'm really like a mile away here. Well, we heard some calling from up the hill. "We've got a tree over here! We all voted on it!" Tyler was * very* excited to be a part of this tree gathering. He was overseeing everything. Closely. Since the older kids were going to be doing a lot of the carrying back to the school, Mr. Finn figured it would be nice for the younger kids to saw the tree down. Tyler was first in line, as you can imagine.

Tyler is a self-proclaimed expert at everything that has to do at all with manual labor. Painting? He was an "expert painter" because he "painted his dad's buoys one time". You might remember that he closely resembled a Smurf after painting the jungle gym blue. His mum said it took days to get all the paint out of his hair. I was wondering how much sap he would spread on himself since we was an "expert tree cutter".
While the kids were taking turns sawing, there was much overseeing going on. In Alaska, I never could have done an outing like this. Firstly, we didn't have any trees on our tundra island. Secondly, as soon as we would venture out of the classroom, all my students would begin to throw rocks at every living thing, including each other. These kids? Not so much.

They were perfectly content to just, you know, sit in the trees.
Seth had his hand in it.
As the kids continued to cut, Tyler continued to CLOSELY supervise. The tree was finally coming down when Bradley got a round at it. He was like Mr. Lumberjack with that saw.
Then it was time to drag the tree all the way back to the school. Well, not drag, per se, since that would break all the branches off.
There was some fording of streams...
And some quick dropping of tree to run over to see the beaver swimming around the pond. Seth is yelling out, "Ms. Finn, there's a beaver!"

Then, back to carrying. The older kids were griping at how heavy it was, so of course the younger kids had to take over and show them how it's done. Happily, it turned out.
Almost there!
Finally, back at the school, it was time for the island classic....grab a bait bucket and fill it with rocks. We have our share of bait buckets out here. The kids centered the tree and began to wedge the rocks all around the trunk.
Taaa-Daaaa! And a word about "Christmas". When we use that term in our public school, we are not setting up manger scenes over here with little Baby Jesus and the Wise Men. We're talkin' Santa and the elves and presents and candy. Maybe Frosty. Maybe Jingle Bells. NOT O' Holy Night. We are all about holiday celebrations like Valentine's Day and Halloween. We don't get into the historical, religious aspects of said holidays. And of course if there were any other remotely non-Christian sects of belief out here on our island, we would be sensitive to the Christmas ramifications and work with the wishes of our community. In Alaska it used to drive me absolutely bonkers that our principal used to use our holiday program as a time to hand out bibles to the kids in our public school. That's like, exactly the sort of thing the Constitution was written to prevent, so... know that we're not trying to pull anything over by having a tree in our school. We like to decorate for the holiday program that will be happening...TONIGHT! Bring on the Elf Olympics!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Overheard Around the Schoolhouse

Cadin: Tyler snores.

Tyler: I do not snore!

Cadin: Then how come when I wake up in the night, I hear you?

Tyler: It's Dad.

Cadin: Nuh uh. It's you. (Pause) Maybe that's why they call you Little Nate.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lego Robotics Tournament

There were 62 teams competing at this year's Lego Robotics tournament in Augusta. The theme was Food Factors. Every year the teams are tasked with coming up with an innovative solution for a problem within the sphere of the theme. The focus this year was on food contamination through things such as handling, transport or preservation. This year was the biggest group we've just seems like Lego Robotics gets more and more popular. In fact there were quite a few rookie teams this year, enough that there was a whole category devoted to them. Here are this year's trophies. Tom Bickford is the genius behind our state of Maine tourney...without him we'd not have this kind of great opportunity. As if he didn't dedicate enough time and energy towards coordinating this massive event, he even made the trophies this year! Yes, they are made from Legos. So cool!
For our food focus, we chose....da da da dahhhh!....lobsters. Specifically how to prevent contamination of the listeria bacteria that can live on lobster shells from making humans sick. Saylor was our lobster. She really did SIGN UP FOR THIS. I told her this picture may come back to haunt her when she gets into high school. Speaking of high school, there's Cody in the background!
The kids were scheduled to do their presentation first in the morning, then do the robot competition in the afternoon. They made a little skit about how the lobster goes from the trap to the table. I guarantee our kids were the smelliest ones to compete as their oil gear was absolutely mangy with old bait juice! At first, I didn't realize what was happening as they were getting ready. I was like, "Man, what reeks?" Ummm. yeah. That would be US.
Their innovative solution to combating the listeria bacteria? The Bacteria Buster! A tank with a chute that the lobsters go through before being submerged in water. The chute is lined with UV lights that kill off the harmful bacteria. Less bacteria, less illness. Great idea!Saylor, alas, perished at the end of the skit. Bradley was the chef. He couldn't wait to cook her up. Then it was time for questioning. Our kids are pretty reticent and this was no different. It's not like "Don't all talk at once, kids!" It's more like, "Will someone please talk? You. No, you."

In the afternoon, we were up with the robot. We had three chances to run our missions. Each trial is only 2 minutes 30 seconds, so it's really exciting and hectic. The kids were solidly in third place after their first two runs, and then moved to the last run. Well, they had a great run and made it into the final round in 3rd place. I have to admit, I was a complete basketcase. They, on the other hand, were totally collected. In the semi-finals, they had the best run yet. They made it to the final four! I cried like a baby. I'm tearing up right now, just thinking about it. Mr. Finn and I were so excited for these terrific kids.Though they didn't make it to the final 2, they finished 3rd out of 62 teams and received a trophy from Tom. They were some seriously happy campers. They made us, their parents, and our entire island community very very proud.

Yay Sea Monsters!!

Happy Thanksgiving...a little late, I know!

Soooo, this was what our house in Cherryfield looked like after the big Thanksgiving storm. It was so beautiful and unexpected to get a foot of snow. We traipsed around the property enjoying it. Our old pal Puddin', the strangely tame Ruffed Grouse that has been visiting us for a couple years, came and joined us on our walk. We did not eat him.

Bball at Swan's

The lovely Miss Leah again invited us over to Swan's Island to play basketball in their fantastic gym. We had a little more difficulty than usual getting there as it was super low tide and the Sunbeam bottomed out before we could get close enough to the dock to disembark. Sooooo, a helpful lobsterman came over with his boat and we hopped aboard for the extra short trip to the dock, where the school bus was waiting. Yay schoolbus! Once at the gym, The kids had some time to themselves to practice some drills and techniques and then some Swan's students joined in later for some fun scrimmaging.
Can we all successfully dribble simultaneously? Nope. Not by a long shot, but we're working on it!

Here's some brotherly love on the court~competition! Bradley's putting some heat on his older brother. Another great event with great people. Thanks as always to the Sunbeam, Leah, Swan's Island School, and Rob Benson for their help.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Morning Conversations

Seth (while doing yoga this morning): I move around a lot in my sleep.

Mr. Finn: I believe that.

Tyler: I believe in Santa!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tyler's in Rare Form

Tyler's been sick for the past two days. He's come back and he's cooking with gas. Here's an update.

While walking back from getting the colored pencils, he called out, "Hey, Ms. Finn. Did you know Irish people used to walk like this?" Then he demonstrated by high stepping around the classroom, doing an occasional high kick for emphasis.

Me: Really? They walked like that?

Ty: Yeah. I know about it cause I'm part Irish.

Later on he was telling me about his dreams.
Ty: I can fly and have super strength. I lift up body weights.

Me: Body weights?

Ty: Yeah. I lift up body weights to get stronger in my dreams.

While drawing a picture to illustrate the steps of playing ball (with me, apparently) I asked him why he had colored himself in wearing all black.
Ty: I usually wear black pants and a black shirt cause I like to match.
Cadin (his brother) chimes in from the library. "No, Tyler. It's cause Mumma wants you to match. She's teaching him about matching."
Ty: Yeah. That's right. I don't care about matching. I'd just wear anything.

Me: Hey buddy, I really like this drawing you've made here.
Tyler: I got an idea, Ms. Finn! You could collect it!

Quote of the Day

While drawing what they're thankful for last week, I go over and look at Tyler's drawing.

Me: What's that, Ty? A turkey?
Ty: No. It's a duck.
Me: You're thankful for ducks?
Ty: Yeah. Cause I love 'em.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Water Bear Update

Well, after gathering samples of moss and lichen, soaking them overnight, and then creating wet mounts, Austin did find ONE water bear out of all our samples. We're going to keep looking as we're sure we have lots of the little tardigrades living in our mossy, lichen wonderland that is the Frenchboro trail system. No pics as I was too busy running from microscope to microscope saying, "No, that is not a water bear." Mr. Finn threw his back out (lifting a piano, for real...isn't that absurd?) so he was off island being "manhandled" (that really was the term the chiropractor used) so I wasn't my usual tourist self.

Turkey Symmetry

I've been wanting to do some symmetry art and so I whipped this up as a model for our turkey art on Friday. I wanted to keep it relatively simple as we've got some young kids who have a hard time cutting intricate patterns. I did mine in black and white, but I knew the kids would choose vibrant colors instead.
They chose which color would be the base and which would be cut. Then they cut the paper and drew the turkey half butting up against the cut edge.
I went around offering assistance as needed, and, of course, taking snaps. Brody is always ducking and turning when I lift the camera. For some reason, my begging worked and he laughed as I took this. I was so pleased that I'm wearing him down!
Myron thought this was hilarious. This is his hilarity face. For real. When he finds things really funny he gives a grin and chuckle.

Tyler finished first. I kept him occupied with posing with his turkey as everyone else finished up. As Seth exclaimed, "Tyler! You've got a Christmas turkey!"
Here they are with their finished products. I am continually amazed to see what they come up with after I've modeled a simple template. They are always so unique and creative. I was sad to send these home with them as they would look great on our walls!

Bennett and Bench

Last week, Raney Bench came out with Ursula to work on stereotypes. She is the educational director at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor. She told stories and did some Native crafts with the kids, as well as talked about how different ethnic groups are often subjected to stereotyping.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Mike Bennett was back to do more drumming with the other group. He was very impressed with how much they remembered from last time and how much better at following rhythms they were this time around.
After lunch the two groups switched and K-3 came upstairs for drumming. Once we had the right size, we were ready for business.
Raney did more story telling and Native crafts with 4-6. It was great to listen to the her tell Wabanaki legends from memory.
Mike took a break to show some incredibly diverse and clever percussion instruments. Cadin is trying out a drum that you squeeze under your arm while hammering on the drumhead to make different sounds. Johnny has this bizarre instrument made out of rubber tubes that, when shook, makes a sound like birds squawking. He was convinced it was a dying squirrel.
Love this photo. This is Tyler's look of wonder. He has this on much of the time, which makes him a joy to teach.

Bump, Set, Spike!

Since it has been unseasonably warm, we've been able to play volleyball well into November. In fact, look what they're wearing! I mean, really, it's almost Thanksgiving! The sun's been shining most days and it's been in the high 60s even.
We start out every gym with some practice circles so everyone gets a chance to work on their serving and returning.
Then we jump into a game. No, our net is not regulation height, but we've got some little guys and gals, so we have to adjust a bit. It doesn't stop us from feeling challenged, either, as we're just really getting used to placing ourselves in front of a hurtling, hard ball that is the size of our head.

We are getting much better at not ducking for cover, or actually running away from the ball.
Not to mention our serves are improving exponentially from last year.
Once in a while, we even get a decent volley going back and forth over the net.
Some of our kids are real sharks at serving. This lady is one of them.
Most importantly, we're improving and having a great time doing it!