Friday, January 13, 2012

Cough up a Ground Hog or Ditch it

Ground Hog's Day is quickly approaching. 

PUT DOWN the xerox copy of a ground hog, put away the styrofoam cups and popsicle sticks! 

GET OUT the sheets, pins and lamps!!

Learning for children HAS to be MEANINGFUL!!  Coloring a picture of a ground hog, attaching it to a popsicle stick and popping it out of a styrofoam cup is not meaningful!

What IS the meaningful component of Ground Hog's Day? Is it the fact that an animal most children have only seen behind bars in a zoo will determine how much longer winter will last?  Not only does this not mean a lot to young chidren,  young children cannot even visualize or understand two days, let along SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER!!

The meaningful component of Ground Hogs Day is SHADOWS!!  Shadows is something a young child can relate to, it's something that is a part of their everyday, it is something that they can control, and most importantly, it is something they can explore HANDS-ON!!!

I encourage you, oh creatures of STEP AWAY from the Ground Hog.  To not even MENTION the words Ground Hog Day.  Instead....have fun exploring shadows!  If you have this burning urge to call the day something call it Shadow Day.  TRUST me.....your children will thank you for providing them with a much more concrete, hands-on kind of a day!!

In the past, we have enjoyed "Shadow Day" (yes, I am a namer.  My roots are in themes after all, so when I can, I name it!) two different ways:

1.  Shadow Cave:  My husband LOVES the shadow cave!  It involves my sticking roughly 30 pins into the ceiling (pshaw...holes?  WHAT holes?) in order to hang sheets into a "cave".  I also use good, sturdy tape to tape the cord of the shade-less lamp to the ground.  With a shadow cave, toys can morph into unkown creatures, and a game of "guess the shadow" can be invented.

TIPS:  Let the children assist with the set up.  Give them ownership!  When taping down the cord of the lamp, talk about why we are taping it down.  Lead the children to making the safety guidelines.  Let them say "we need to be careful of the lamp because...." .  Play soothing music to keep the energy level low.  This should be a very fun time, but the feeling in the room should be calm in order to keep the lamp in the middle safe (and the children).  If you don't think you could trust your crew with a shadow cave, then see after the photos for the "Shadow Room" format.

The "shadow cave" offers a shadow theater experience. The children
could just come and sit down and watch the shadows the
other children were making

"Name that Toy" evolved

The game, "Who's Shadow is It?" evolved as well.

My crew did a BEAUTIFULL job of staying safe and played
very respectfully around the lamp.  We did not have a single

2.  Shadow ROOM:  Clear the room, clear off one wall.....take the shade off of a lamp, grab some flashlights, turn the overhead lights off and pull the blinds... wah lah....Shadow Room!  Shadow room creates shadows EVERYWHERE!  Children can explore shadow sizes by moving closer and further from the light source, toys can make interesting shadows and shadows can grow out of the floor.  (My apologies that I have NO pics of the shadow room!!  In all the fun last year on "Shadow Day" I didn't grab a SINGLE photo!!  So you'll have to just close your eyes and picture it.)

TIPS:  I put the light source in the back of the room, that way I did not have to worry about the cord in this set up.  I suggest this set up if your crew is hard to calm, and gets overly excited to the point that a lamp in the middle of the room would be just plain dangerous. I turned off the lamp for some fun shadows made with the flashlights.  Notice the last picture...this is the result of putting about 10 flashlights on the ground with no other light source in the room -- AMAZING!!

I added pipecleaners, hats and other random objects to spark some imaginative play inspired by the book:  "The Dark, Dark Night" by M. Christina Butler

This is EXACTLY the type of shadow poor little frog was SO afraid of in the story, "The Dark, Dark Night".  NOW the children can FULLY understand how frog must have felt!  VERY SCARED! :)

Remember:  children learn through concrete, hands-on experiences.  So, unless you can cough up a ground hog, and a way to truly explain the concept.....stick to shadows being your focus for this special day!

Remember: it's about the children, not the parents.  So what if the parents are expecting Ground Hog grandeur.....take this time to educate them on the minds and ways of young children!

Now Go Play!!