Wild Things soft toys

Wild Things soft toys

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Maurice Sendak

Unknown source.
You may have correctly summised from the title and photograph heading of this blog that I am a fan of Maurice Sendak.
The photographic portrait taken of Sendak in New York when he was in his twenties is a stunner I think. I have found it on the net, but cannot trace its source. However, I can assure you there's some real Grandma crush going on here! Hence the large size version of the image.
His book Where the wild things are was published in 1963, and he was awarded the Caldicott Medal in 1964.  
Linked with kind permission from Laura M. Schulte-Cooper. Program Officer, Communications, ALA.
It was a sensation! 
It caused extensive discussion by polarized groups that included parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and child psychologists. At one extreme the publication was seen as monstrously scary, with the potential to harm the delicate minds of children, disturb their sleep and give them nightmares. People were outraged that it would appear on the shelves of both public and school libraries. At the other end of the spectrum it was recognised as a landmark in the world of children's books. They saw a fresh and new approach to children's writing. Those that celebrated its publication leaned towards the belief that it was liberating and small children would recognise and understand Max's journey as it was the stuff of childhood.Their voice was led by Ursula Nordstrum, publisher and editor of children's books at Harper & Rowe. It was Nordstrum who had recognised his talent and encouraged Sendak to write as well as illustrate. Sendak was to comment in later life that it took two years for people to actually 'get it', for his book to become accepted.

When Sendak died in 2012, the outpouring of grief and the acknowledgement of just how generations of kids were influenced by that story was evident in their need to express their feelings in both the twitter sphere and comments in e-news spaces and other social media. If you poke around on the net you will find homage paid to Sendak by artists who were deeply influenced by his work, and which led them to pursue a career in arts. Here is a starting point:
I have had teenage boys see the toys or books on my shelves and say "I remember that book from school, it's cool!" That says reams I think. If only they had a copy in their own rooms as children, alongside a few others.
But Sendak has a body of work, although the success of Wild Things caused the spotlight to be shone on him. It was the first book he had written. He had illustrated many other authors' works, and after Wild Things went on to write more books, designed sets for ballets and produced animated television amongst other interests. Some of his works have also  been produced as operas.
Not to seek out more of Sendak's work is to short-change yourself. Sendak's writing is influenced by the themes that shaped his childhood: war, migration, family, survival, religion. There are complex layers in his writing for the student of literature, or wonderfully simple stories to delight and empower the youngest reader, or listener, of his stories. Stories that resonate because Sendak had every confidence in a child's intelligence and refused to dilute his writing and speak down to them.
Some would say Maurice Sendak was a curmudgeon, some would say he didn't suffer fools gladly. 
A dig around the net will let you find articles, commentary, video interviews and a sense of the truth of this generous, generous man. I urge you to take a look. There seems to be a duality to all aspects of Sendak's life, an interplay between the dark and the light. 
But just as Max, the King of all the Wild Things triumphed, so too did Maurice. And as he stands on the world stage of children's literature, his Genius illuminates it.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Artworks and Holidays!

Term one finished today. Boy, what a lot has happened! 
Schools are busy, busy places and after eleven weeks our kids are ready for their holidays, particularly our newer ones, some having just turned five in the last eleven weeks.

One of our Year 6/7 classes compered Assembly this week. They reported on their leadership activities with a TV news segment and a group of six girls did a clapping sequence showcasing teamwork. Then the whole class played "The lion sleeps tonight", conducted by our talented music teacher. They used a range of instruments, including drums, ukelele, guitar, xylophones and smaller percussion instruments. Watching these young people sharing their learning experiences is fabulous. They overcome anxieties, encourage each other and display their skills and growing confidence as the leaders at school. Our older students have also participated in an Aquatics program at a nearby beach as part of their Physical Education program earlier in the term.

An announcement that fifty of our younger students learned to ride their bikes without trainer wheels is testament to the excellent Bike Safety program that has been happening over the past few weeks.

Year 3/4/5 students have been busy exploring our district as part of their History program and visited the Marine Discovery Centre during Sea Week.
Lessons in point and line: marine objects

Our school is less than a ten minute walk to the beach, with a gaggle of 24-30 kids coming behind! The beach figures largely in their lives. Along our coast we have a temperate reef with expansive beds of sea grass which provide the environment for some unique marine animals, including the Leafy Sea Dragon, the marine emblem for our state of South Australia. http://www.yankalilla.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/LeafySeaDragonInformation.pdf
Wikimedia Commons
Students visit the beach to learn about this fragile environment, fossicking in rock pools with knowledgeable locals and experts teaching them about the amazing marine life and the importance of caring for their beach in a responsible way. We are hoping to impact on how they will help manage and care for our beaches as they use them today and in the future.
The Great Barrier Reef which runs along the coast of Queensland is a tropical reef, and has a high international profile. Less well-known to the national and international audience are our temperate reefs, yet they attract a steady stream of marine biologists and scientists for research work. They stretch along the southern coastline from Western Australia to Victoria Gradually these reefs are becoming known to an increasing number of international divers who
are making them their holiday destinations. You can read about temperate reefs here:
Requests submitted to add links. No reply at time of publication.
Another highlight of Term 1 is Sand Sculpture Day. All classes and a large contingent of parents and other family members descend onto the sands of our beach to build an array of marine themed animals, mermaids, boats etc. It is an annual event  for our school community. No children are allowed in the water, and although staff new to our school have tingles running down their spines at the thought of 450 kids on the beach, we have never had this restriction breached. It is a fun day, looked forward to with great excitement where kids and their families work together happily.  We are off the beach by 11 am, leaving our works of art to the ebb and flow of the tides. As we leave, we look down from the cliffs to scan the sculptures that have been planned, built and decorated with any natural objects on the beach, and some coloured with jelly crystals or food colouring diluted in water. Our parents travel out of their way at times to purchase jelly crystals as we can deplete supplies at our nearest shops. We take great pride in the fact we leave the beach in a cleaner state than we find it, and observe a Code of Conduct developed by the children some years ago that is part of our school ethos.

Our younger students have been painting charming chickens! Some of these artworks are on display in the Library.

I wonder at how freely the children have captured the shapes of chickens.

Also on display are artworks produced by older kids, including works made with photographs and effects using iPads. I think these images are quite sophisticated.

Our wonderful Art Teacher aligns her skills lessons to classroom programs, helping kids to develop a deeper understanding of their learning.
I hope you enjoy viewing the art work, as the kids are quite proud to see it on display. 

It certainly lights up the Library and other public spaces in our school.

Please click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Science in the Library.

Over the past weeks we have had garden snails, butterflies and chickens in the library.

Children love animals, and it is a great way to create a buzz in the library. No matter the gender or age of the student, they all wanted to cuddle a chick. Four mother hens in disguise emerged without prompting from the Year 6/7 girls, and they have managed the crowds admirably at break time. Our education department has a policy regarding the keeping of animals in schools, so this is a point to consider if you decide to have a try, as there may be guidelines you need to observe.
Health wise, we imposed washing hands with an anti-bacterial wash  after handling animals. We provided bowls of water, the wash and towels for drying at the library doors.
We began with snails - easy to collect from your garden, simple to manage and all children were happy to handle them. They basically hibernated, but were in this state when I found them under plants and bushes in my garden as we have had a long, hot summer. I provided a large plastic pet container which I purchased from our local $2 shop, for around $A14.
It has a gridded lid for air, and I placed leaf mulch scraped from my garden in the bottom. Feeding was easy with the discarded, outside lettuce leaves gathered from the local supermarket at no cost. It was easy to keep the leaf litter replenished, and also to rotate snails, returning them to the garden and gathering another lot. We noticed after a week they began to develop a smell, so in order to carry on the project for a few weeks we employed these techniques. Kids happy, snails happy. In order to get the snails moving we sprayed them with a fine mist of water and soon had them emerging from their shells and delighting the kids.
We handled, observed, drew and labelled our pictures. We learnt about needs, diagrams and recording key words. Using a recording sheet I had found on Pinterest proved to be an excellent vehicle for quickly honing in on  keywords, a skill that needs to be developed for research in future years. You can see it here
An opportunity arose here to discuss the grammatical terms noun, verb and adjective. An extension activity could be to circle the nouns, verbs and adjectives from the  lists in different colours, a quick way to check to see who has grabbed the concept.
We connected the handling of snails to our social skills lessons on caring for others and our environment and observed great care given to our 'guests' by the kids.

The butterfly project was written about in my last blog. In the top image to the left you can see a newly formed chrysalis. 

To the left of it and above the flower is a tiny caterpillar which
I first spied when I was taking this photo. Personally, I found the butterflies far more magical than the chickens.I will qualify that by telling you that we had chooks in my childhood, and the hatching of chickens was always exciting. My sister and I would spend hours down watching the coop for signs from the hen that the eggs were cracking. When it was very hot my Mum would sometimes dampen the eggs once the process started.

Back to the caterpillars. They shed their skin at least 4 times as they grow, and they grow quite rapidly. They rest between each shedding or 'instar', which I understand to be the scientific term for these processes. When they are ready to pupate the fat caterpillar is still for about 24 hours. It adheres itself to a branch or leaf by releasing caterpillar silk. I kept a close watch at this time, and although I was sure I could see a greenish tinge under the skin, it may have been wishful thinking. I neglected my post though, and within a space of one hour, the caterpillar had changed into a chrysalis and I missed it.

On FlickerStorm, a site where photographers place their work and allow it to be used with no charge, I found a brilliant time-lapse video of the very process.
One of our newly hatched butterflies.
It is well worth a viewing, and although recorded over a nine hour period, is about two minutes long so quite accessible for young children to watch. I found my self constantly going back to check the chrysalis, and wondering about the magic transformation that was happening inside. When I reflect on this I think I am almost hypnotized by the beauty, stillness and secretiveness of this. 
When the butterfly emerges it is crumpled, and I imagine quite tired, just as all new babies are. It needs to pump fluid into its wings,and the wings need to dry before they can flutter. So they stay around for 24 hours or so, and you are alerted to their need to leave when they start moving around and fluttering their wings.
Young Naturalists emerge before they ever begin school, especially when they are encouraged in their family to spend time in the garden or outdoors. They are the kids who can spot a grasshopper from 10 metres, find the baby birds that have dropped from their nest, bring worms and bugs for 'show and tell' and come running over to the Library, breathlessly requesting a book about slaters because they have some in a jar.
Others have their curiosity whetted and are hooked by an event such as our Science in the Library lessons.


The chickens have wowed everyone!  

We got them from  
and found the program to be faultless.
They arrive with all the equipment you see in the photos, three day-old chicks and 12 eggs that will hatch over a cycle of four days. Brilliant! Mike from Henny Penny set up the equipment, went through the detailed instructions to dispel any worries we might have AND called twice during the week to check that all was going well! 
Our chickens were 

and chirpy. I missed their cheep cheep when they left, and a few of the kids commented that is was too quiet.

We followed the same cycle of lessons as with the snails, older children drew a life cycle, and we added a craft activity as we are heading towards Easter.  
Again I turned to my Pinterest page where I had pinned this simple, but very cute idea back in the summer holidays.
Check my Pinterest page for ideas about life cycles. 
Aren't people
creative? Unfortunately I missed this gene but now we have Pinterest. Thank you to all the talented people who share their ideas, I'm one grateful user.

At a session given by a well practiced art teacher for Bookweek ideas, amongst the wonderful ideas she shared, she told the group that limited time often caused her to create with small children in a production line set-up. She placed all the materials needed and the kids went along and did the task. At the end of the line was a rubbish bin to throw such things as paint covered scrunched paper, or whatever medium they were using that needed to be disposed of. You get the picture though don't you? Effective time management and productive outcome! I used this idea for our activity as it allowed for one set-up with several classes able to participate in a block of time. I also had some help from senior students.

We used a range of materials to make a stamp for printing the chick's body: carrot slices, dish washing up sponges and styrene balls cut in halves. Once the chicken had been printed, drying time was needed before adding features and the egg. I think the sponge worked best as it gave a better texture to represent fluffy chickens.
Some teachers decided to use the craft as part of a greeting card for Easter.
I was hard pushed to find chocolate chickens for Easter treats, it seems bunnies abound, along with the occasional bilby. I could find little fluffy chicks like the ones that would be stuck on our eggs as children. Because Easter falls in the middle of our school holidays I have gathered some craft materials together because I have a granddaughter that likes nothing better than a 'making' session. Because of her I am having to stretch my wings and I quite enjoy it.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Monday, 10 March 2014

A week of firsts...

This week the Year 6/7 students at my school took part in an inaugural Leadership day of activities where they were challenged to identify the leader within, and work collaboratively to identify the character traits that identify a leader. There were games where the aim could only be achieved successfully when working together as a team.

The aim was to beat the clock, include all players and begin again if a mistake occurred. There was lots of laughter and fun, along with frustration for the most competitive of the kids. However, natural leaders emerged, making suggestions to refine approaches to ensure improvement and success.

The feedback from the kids has been positive, they enjoyed taking part and some thoughtful feedback indicates that some deeper thinking has been provoked. As the leaders in our student community in terms of age, we are intent on building this view of themselves so that they can demonstrate our school values and positively contribute to our school community, which will hopefully impact on their citizenship in their futures. Across the school we are focussed on building the sense of belonging all students have with our school. In each classroom teachers spend time focussing on social skills. Our Counsellor has an extensive collection of fiction and skills programs for loan. 
Julia Cook is an American author who has written a series of books based around social skills. You can find some of her titles, along with others, at my Pinterest account on the Book titles I need to remember board.

 I am showcasing two books by Kathryn Otoshi. The first, One, deals with bullying, being a bystander, taking a stand for your own beliefs and inclusion. This is an example of subject matter and book design colliding exquisitely in a clever, witty, thoughtful story where soft water-colour blobs float in white space before turning into numbers as they realize their true value.  When I read the book in the first weeks of the new school year, and then re-visit this story around mid-year it has that magic quality that resonates with kids' hearts,  allowing empathetic discussion amongst the kids. It is sought after and I have particularly noticed by borrowing patterns that it fills a real need for 9 -10 year-olds. They come back again and again for it
The sequel to One is Zero.  
We meet the numbers again as they are watched with some envy by Zero, who has low self-esteem and feels empty inside. She tries to twist herself inside out to be more like them, finally realizing that just by being and valuing herself, she can magnify the worth of all the other numbers as they work together as a team. (This title could also be used as a basis for discussion on body image.)
Otoshi has received a string of awards for One. You can find other titles by the author at her website 
At this site you can hear Otoshi talking about her book and reading it:
Every child should have an opportunity to be exposed to Picture Books of this calibre. They are my go to gift books for young children.
Deceptively simple, these two titles are simply beautiful.

That was my second first for this week - showcasing books on my new blog.There's one more!

We are so excited in our Library because we have snails - enough for every child to have one to observe as part of a series of Science lessons. We have a bit of a theme happening around Living things, leading up to hatching chickens in the last two weeks of Term 1.

But there's more. This week we also received two caterpillars from the Nature Education Centre which are going to become delicate Monarch butterflies. 
They have pupated already, so we have two perfect green chrysalids decorated by the most amazing goldminiature-sized dots, suspended from milkweed branches.One little boy stood watching them, entranced for his whole lunch (half) hour.

Wikimedia commons
A call for swan plant in our newsletter was answered by one of our ever helpful parents who had the shrub growing in her garden. I now have pods which are filled with seeds, so will try growing some in my garden for future use. You may notice that we have two different types of milkweeds in our photos, both being siutable. The thicker leaf variety came with the original caterpillars, but I managed to find some growing in the wild about 10 kilometres from school and inside a nearby quarry. I was able to get some from there, and these yielded more caterpillars. 
Monarchs only lay their eggs on Milkweed plants.   If they don't have these to feed on the larvae will be deformed. I had quite a conversation with a particularly helpful, and obviously knowledgeable, person from the Botanic Gardens to help me identify the particular species name. He was described to me by the woman who answered my call as the "weed" expert, - that brought a smile to my lips.

Kids just resonate with animals, and there has been such excitement as they have examined the snails with magnifying glasses as we wear our Scientist hat in lessons.

Please click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A beginning...

As a teacher-librarian I know full well that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. This is the beginning of a journey that will take me I know not where. It will hold some ramblings, ideas, thoughts, questions and challenges about my work as a teacher-librarian. If you would like to journey with me please do, I could do with the company. And please add your comments, or begin a discussion, so that we may work smarter, not harder and problem-solve together.
I would like to share this poster with you. I have just pinned it to my Pinterest account: 

Apart from the fact that it aptly describes so many of the things I do, it also highlights for me the things I don't do, or need to improve or learn. I found it at An Ethical Island, you can link to the site through my Pinterest account. It is well worth the effort as you will find some excellent ideas there.

Before I finish my inaugural post, the beginning of the wild rumpus, I would particularly like to acknowledge all the ancillary staff and parents in the library community who with little or no formal library training, but big doses of passion and common-sense, step in to the role of running and maintaining a library when their school leaders choose not to have a trained teacher-librarian. If you are wondering why I have singled out this group, it is because I recently read a request from a School Services Officer for some information, along with an apology for asking a silly question. My heart went out to her/him, it was so easy to help. I have over 30 years experience and knowledge in my head, I have bought thousands of books to build collections that support both readers and curriculum. I've watched countless amazing teachers at work: this knowledge needs to be shared. I added a rider to my reply - 'there are no silly questions, only unanswered ones'.

So to anyone who stumbles across my blog, be they parents, teachers, SSO's, Leaders or teacher-librarians, my main intent with this blog is to build a community of sharing. So, lets step into the magic boat and sail away to the land where the child things are.