Saturday, February 18, 2006

Woman’s Day Magazine: Calendar Corner

Here are some great (free, printable) calendars for your classroom or homeschool. Right now there are three months ready -- January, February and March -- with more to come soon. Each month has two parts: the actual calendar and a top portion that has fun events and important holidays.

These can be colored and used to decorate the calendar. If you want to make them into stickers, have the children color them and then use this recipe for making stickers and stamps.

Woman's Day Magazine: Calendar Corner

Friday, February 17, 2006

Making a Pine Cone Birdfeeder

Winter is nearly over and even though it's been a mild winter this year, food is always harder to come by for the birds during this season. Bird feeding is a great winter activity and can help kids get a closer view of these amazing creatures.

Bird feeders can be expensive, however. Luckily, there is no shortage of pine cones in nature and in most homes and centers, peanut butter isn't too hard to find, either. Add a few more things and some little hands to put it all together and you've got yourself a birdfeeder.

Here's a step-by-step guide:

First, gather your ingredients.

  • pine cones (one for each child)

  • peanut butter (figure one 16-ounce jar for about 12 pine cones)

  • corn meal (about 1/2 cup per jar of peanut butter used. This is optional, but it adds nutritional value and keeps the peanut butter from being too sticky or runny)

  • string, ribbon or yarn (about 2 feet per pine cone)

  • something to spread the peanut butter with

  • waxed paper

Gather the ingredients to make your pine cone bird feeder

Next, tie string to the pine cone. Older children can do this alone, but if you're doing this with toddlers, do it ahead of time. It's a lot harder to do once you've got peanut butter and bird seed everywhere. :)

Tie string around your pine cones first

Place corn meal (optional) and peanut butter in a bowl and mix. If you're doing this with younger children, giving everyone a turn at mixing is a good way to keep everyone's attention and involvement.

Put cornmeal and peanut butter in a bowl for mixing

The mix should look thicker and have lost its oily shine
. This will make the peanut butter easier to work with and the meal adds nutritional value for the birds.

When mixed together, it should look thick like this

Place the birdseed in a container. Use a dish that has a bit of a lip or is deep so that spills will be prevented. Any birdseed will do, really. It's not necessary to use a type with smaller pieces. Cardinals and other colorful birds will be attracted to it if it has sunflower seeds.

Put the birdseed in a container for rolling.  Make sure it's a little deep to prevent spills

Spread peanut butter on the pine cones. If using spoons, plastic spoons will probably break, so use metal spoons or something sturdy. Make sure to use the utensil to push the peanut butter deep into the crevices.

Spread peanut butter in the crevices of the pine cone with popsicle sticks or a spoon

Roll the pine cones in the birdseed.

Roll the peanut butter coated pine cones in bird seed

Lay the finished feeders on waxed paper until you are ready to hang them. This gives the added benefit of keeping hands clean. When you're ready to hang them, you can just wrap each one in the paper for carrying. They can also be wrapped up to send home and they won't stick too much when unwrapped.

Lay the finished pine cone bird feeders on waxed paper to prevent sticking and mess

Hang the bird feeder. Find a strategic location. Try to choose an area where you have seen birds "hanging out" before. Hang it near existing feeders or along a fence.

Hang your pine cone birdfeeder in a strategic location where birds will find it

If you have many children doing this project and not many branches, you can put the feeders on one string and hang them in a row between two trees or bushes or along a fence.

Hang the bird feeders on one string in a long row if you have many children, if desired

Sit back and wait for the birds. It doesn't take long. I hung this feeder and it took about five minutes for Mr. Cardinal here to land on a nearby branch.

Soon, birds will find the feeder.  It took this cardinal about 5 minutes

I think he's starting to figure out that some food is nearby...

It looks like the cardinal has found the feeder, he knows something is there

Ah ha. There he's found it.

Ah, the cardinal has figured out where the feeder is for sure

And a few minutes later, a European Starling finds the feeder, as well.

A European Starling has found the feeder, too

Thursday, February 16, 2006

High-Quality Early Childhood Education Provides Clear Long-Term Economic Benefits

Note: Ellen Galinsky knows her stuff. :) I had the opportunity to hear her speak at an NAEYC conference and that was yeeeears ago that she was pushing these same ideas that are now taken for granted as necessary for high quality programs...

High-quality early childhood education programs provide measurable economic benefits, on-going research by the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a business-led public policy group, has found.

CED's latest paper, The Benefits of High-Quality Early Childhood Education Programs: What Makes the Difference?, by Ellen Galinsky, President of the Families and Work Institute, a New York City based research organization, examines the factors associated with high-quality early education programs. Ms. Galinsky examined three well-known, high-quality early education programs -- the High/Scope Perry Preschool project, the Carolina Abcedarian Project and Chicago's Child-Parent Centers (CPC) -- and for one of the first times, has examined what those programs did to have such lasting impact decades later, relying, in part, on interviews with the principal investigators of those programs.

"The Galinsky paper reinforces that high-quality programs are a prerequisite if we expect early childhood education programs to generate future economic returns," said Charles E.M. Kolb, President of CED. "Determining key characteristics of quality Pre-Kindergarten education is an important piece of the argument for investments in early education programs in this country, and this research does just that. Other studies show public benefits of around seven dollars and more for every dollar invested in early childhood education and the Galinsky research shows what common factors can be found in these quality programs."

Findings of The Benefits of High-Quality Early Childhood Education Programs: What Makes the Difference? include: All three programs studied had common factors that contributed to remarkable and enduring effects and return on investment. Some of those basic factors are known:

Where this paper makes its greatest contribution is that it goes beyond the basics to explain the programs' long-term success:

This paper follows the January 10, 2006 New York City conference, Building the Economic Case for Investments in Preschool, a comprehensive forum attended by over 200 business leaders and education experts to discuss progress in local, state and national efforts to establish universal, quality pre- kindergarten for all American children.

The Benefits of High-Quality Early Childhood Education Programs: What makes the Difference?, as well as materials on CED's early childhood education project, including the groundbreaking 2002 report, Preschool for All: Investing in a Productive and Just Society, can be found at www.ced.org.

CED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of more than 200 business leaders and university presidents. Since 1942, its research and policy programs have addressed many of the nation's most pressing economic and social issues, including education reform, workforce competitiveness, campaign finance, health care, and global trade and finance. CED promotes policies to produce increased productivity and living standards, greater and more equal opportunity for every citizen, and an improved quality of life for all.

Source: Committee for Economic Development

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Georgia launches early learning standards

Georgia is pretty serious about education.

I know this because my S.O. went to college completely funded by this great state, while I invested over $50,000 in my education in my home state and I will be paying off my student loans till I'm in the grave, folks.

At any rate, I've known how they feel about "a free college education for all" but I never knew how serious they were about educating their youngest...

When I saw in a press release that some early learning standards were released, I thought I'd go have a look-see.

These standards are excellent and I wish I had something like this when I was caring for infants and toddlers. They focus on the birth to three age range and can do a lot to educate caregivers and parents about what to expect and how to shape a child's learning.

My thoughts...

  • Directors can use them to shape your programs and as a basis for staff inservices

  • Parents can use them to see what their child should be learning and to help evaluate the child care program their child is attending

  • Family child care providers can keep on file for every child in their care as a sort of Individualized Education Program (IEP)

  • Parents who plan to homeschool can use this as a guideline for the early building blocks for future education

  • Teachers, caregivers and nannies can use the standards to evaluate the children in their care and to make sure that there are no gaps in their teaching/caregiving.

And of course, while all children grow and develop at their own rate, I think that parents and caregivers who use something like this are going to be more apt to notice developmental delays and problems when a child is consistently behind in areas... these types of referrals are so important -- better safe than sorry and the earlier the better!

So download the full version or just those parts you're interested in... it's free and it's one of the best I've seen.