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place based art

Reading The Six Cedar Trees by Margot Sandahl and Celeste Aleck, made us think about cedar trees.

They are all around us, but we hadn't really stopped to look at them with curiosity and creativity. 

As we looked carefully at the cedars in our school yard, we saw their beauty -- and wanted to make some art.

We looked at the colours of the Celeste Aleck's illustrations and the colours of a cedar tree, and chose to use soft blue, grey, browns and greens.

First we tried painting the paper to make the browns look like bark, and the blues and greys look like winter clouds. We all agreed that everything just looked like a puddle. 

We looked at the cedar we had collected to use for printing - and there was our solution. We would paint with cedar branches.  A combination of blue and grey and brown.

When we looked at the cedar beaches we saw that they were slightly different shades of green. Since everyone likes choice, we mixed colours to make light green, yellow green, and dark green, as well as what we called, medium green.

Each artist chose a cedar branch and a shade of green.

We found that we really had to work the paint into the branch with the brayer. We had to make sure the that paint got into all the hidden crevices and corners.

Time to make the print. The artist chose how the painted branch would fit onto their cedar painted background. We put a clean paper on top to keep everything from moving, and then rolled with the brayer on the paper. 

The kids were delighted with the reveal!

Just beautiful!

And the forest ...

Books to extend - deepen the learning/experience

We Live Here 
written by Brenda Boreham and Terri Mack
illustrated by Bill Helin

A beautifully illustrated book that  highlights the cedar and important animals in the Pacific Northwest. It supports the new BC Aboriginal Learning Standards in Science and Social Studies. 

The Trees Grin Beside Me
written by Michelle Macdonald
illustrated by Leah Davis

A child's curious, questioning mind leads her on an inspiring journey in nature. By comparing herself to the majestic trees around her, the young girl begins to learn more about herself and discover the unexpected teachings that trees have to offer. (product description)

The Trees Grin Beside Me - YouTube


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The 6 Core Competencies are at the heart of the redesigned BC curriculum.

They are designed to underpin and arch over all learning K - 12.

The Six Cedar Trees  is a book built on the Core Competencies.

The Six Cedar Trees
by: Margot Landahl and Celestine Aleck
publisher: Strong Nations Publishing, 2017

summary: Eagle perches himself in a grove of cedar trees high above a school playground. He explores the characteristics of 6 different Pacific Northwest animals and connects them with strengths  we grow in ourselves  (the core competencies).

The Six Cedar Trees is a wonderful way to introduce and reinforce the core competencies. It provides a vehicle to bring the core competencies into the life of the classroom - to "Notice It, Name It, Nurture It".

The Six Cedar Trees has a wonderful, full of good ideas website  for teaching that supports the core competencies.

We started slowly.

On our first day with The Six Cedar Trees, we went to our school forest and  read about the eagle flying high in the sky,  coming to rest in a grove of cedar trees, and looking down on a school playground.

We were inspired to get to know some of our local cedar trees.

We introduced ourselves to cedars by feeling (and creating with) bark texture.

We lay on the ground at the base of a cedar tree and looked waaaaay up. 

We wrapped our arms around an old growth beauty to give it a hug (and see which was bigger, us or the tree - we were identical).

As we continue to learn about cedar trees, we continued reading the next section of The Six Cedar Trees. We read about Wolf; Wolf is a great communicator. 

Over a week, we incorporated Wolf's communicator traits into our classroom language. We were intentional in sharing our ideas, listening respectfully, and taking care of the pack - all like Wolf. 

Just before we we did our Communication Core Competency self assessment (last thing on a Friday afternoon - I knew I was flirting with insanity), I put up a Wolf poster 

and asked the kids to remind me how Wolf was a good communicator. And they told me. They got it! On a Friday afternoon! Cue the happy dance. 

Back to the self assessment... We are all working towards being great communicator like Wolf. Some of us are a little bit good, some of us are pretty good and some of us are very good. Where ever we are, we can all keep practicing and getting better at sharing ideas and listening respectfully.

The kids coloured the wolf that corresponded with their self assessment.

When I looked through them after school, I saw that some of the kids who find it difficult to share their thoughts and ideas, self assessed as "pretty good" rather than "very good". Some children acknowledged that their listening skills could use some practice. Pretty impressive for 5 year olds.

Click below to download self assessments for all 6 core competencies - and a cover page and explanation page for parents/families.

Visuals are so important to early learners.

Click to download a set of posters to go with each animal and core competency.

 Print them on 11 x 17" paper. I backed mine with red construction paper to make them really pop.

If like me, you have kids who like to colour (it is very calming), here are some colouring sheets.

All of the Coast Salish animal images are from the School District 79 (Cowichan) website. While the images belong to the artists that created them, (Stuart Pagaduan and Maynard Johnny) they are available for educational use.

helpful resources

The Six Cedar Trees is available from Strong Nations. They also carry a large poster with all the animals, and a set of 6 smaller posters, each with one animal. 

Animals of the Salish Sea offers Coast Salish teaching about local animals beside some kid-friendly animal facts  - with amazing art work.  There is also a set of flash cards. 

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox -- In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book. (from GoodReads)

Have you used other books/resources to support the core competencies and self assessment - I would love to hear about them.


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Who would have guessed that the common garden snail would inspire great art.

As part of our snail inquiry/investigation/curiosity/learning, we wondered about how we could be snail inspired artists.

When we did some research, we discovered that we were not the first to be inspired to creation by the garden snail.

While Kandinsky was not inspired by snails,  hid work Farbstudie definitely inspires snail art.

We read The Noisy Paintbox.

author - Barb Rosenstock
illustrator - Mary GrandPre
publisher - Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014

We learned that Kandinsky had an unusual condition that caused him to hear sounds when he saw different colours. When he grew up, h tried to be a lawyer like his family wanted - but that did not make his heart happy. He tried to paint like other famous painters, but that did not make his heart happy either. When he painted, playing with colours and shapes, then his heart was happy. 

After investigating snail shells (and learning about snails) and looking at how Kandinsky's played with colours in his painting Farbstudie, the kids used water colour paint pucks to paint Kandinsky circles.

Like Kandinsky, they were thoughtful about colour choices and placement. 

The finished snail shells were a work of art in their own right. I almost did not want to put them onto snail bodies.

But the kids  did.

I drew snail bodies for the kids - they wanted to focus on the colour and painting rather than the shape of their snail body.

The snail bodies ranged the colour of the rainbow - and rainbow coloured.  (Don't you love the artist's concentration and thought about her work.)

The kids attached the snail to the shell.

And they looked amazing. 

We find Kandinsky inspiring. Click on the photo to see our other Kandinsky inspired projects.


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One of our favourite books is Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo. All right - it's one of my favourite books - but my enthusiasm is contagious - so the kids love it too.

As well as being a perfect story for reading, watching (the BBCOne production is delightful), and retelling -- it is also a perfect story for learning story elements.

After a number of experiences and opportunities to enjoy and "play" with the story of The Gruffalo, we started chatting about the setting. Where does the story take place. 

Julia Donaldson makes that easy for us. 

The first line of the book is:

     A Mouse took a stroll through the Deep Dark Woods. 

We created a Deep Dark Woods. 

Click on the graphic to print it - I created it to be printed on  11 x 17" paper.

We talked about what needed to be in the Deep Dark Woods. Trees. Obviously. A stream. A logpile house. An underground house. 

We used a combination of green paper and crayons to create the Deep Dark Woods. 

A setting needs characters to begin to make a story. One again, The Gruffalo makes it easy: 2 main characters, and 3 supporting characters.

Click below to print out the characters on letter size paper.

I cut the characters out for the children since I wanted their energy and focus to go towards adding the character to the deep dark woods, rather than on cutting. 

For our third lesson, we reviewed setting and characters, and added the plot. 

Click on the graphic below to print on letter sized paper.  Or enlarge to tabloid if that works better for your children.

Attached to the file is the setting and the character names to cut out and glue in the correct boxes. Or your students could print. 

Summarizing a plot to its beginning, middle and end, is a difficult task for kindergarten kids. It requires summarizing skills - and that is hard for Littles. 

We figured out the beginning, middle and end as a class. (The graphics were a bit of a clue!) Older children could summarize individually or in groups, and/or do the printing themselves.

There is so much fun (and learning) to be had with The Gruffalo.

enjoy some of Mouse's favourite foods
this year the kids convinced me that we also needed to eat
Gruffalo Tea and Gruffalo Cake (I figured the zucchini would count as poisonous wart!)

create with Gruffalo inspired play dough
click on the photo 
scroll down to the Gruffalo play dough and loose parts (alphabetical order)

enjoy some offline coding created by JDaniel4'sMom
or take it completely hands on


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I love the book Go Away Big Green Monster.  

It's a classic.

I cannot imagine not reading it with my kindergarten kids.

After reading it, you just have have to make your own big green monsters.  

We start with a bit of a twist on the green circle face.  

We do green blob painting. 

Every single one of our big green faces is unique.  And they are all fabulous. 

Next we add scraggly hair.  A string tied to the end of a popsicle stick. We make it "dance" where we want hair.

The monster needs the rest of its face - 2 eyes, a long nose, a mouth and sharp white teeth.

I cut 1 1/2 by 3 inch rectangles, and the kids transformed them into facial features.  And white triangle teeth. 

They are even better with a story. 

Click on the graphic to download the big green monster story.

As well as making our own BGMs, we  read and reread, tell and retell the story - sometimes with with puppets,

we create our own stories in the pocket chart. 

and we enjoy an ipad app (the nightclub, jazz singer version of The Big Green Monster is a.maz.ing).

The story ends ...

And don't come back
until I say so.

just kidding  -- please come back -- ha ha


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We LOVE Todd Parr books.

We love that they make us feel good.

We love that they make us think.

We love that they make us laugh.

And we love the bright, colorful illustrations.

We read a bunch of Todd Parr books  (saved the underwear books for another time)

 -- and knew we had to do some Todd Parr inspired creating.

Play dough, loose parts and Todd Parr faces seemed a natural combination.

The kids' creativity and stories took off. 

Faces made with loose parts.

Todd Parr faces with "flat" play dough and loose parts.
The little girl who made the creation on the right said that "the girl is mad - that's why her face is covered". 

Three dimensional figures. 

Not satisfied to leave the Todd Parr fun just with play dough, we created faces and feelings with loose parts on round paper cutouts. 

And we just had to create our own Todd Parr inspired paintings. 

The kids drew, painted, drew on the face, and then we glued the cut out faces on bright coloured paper. 

After all our book reading, chatting about feelings and faces, explorations and art projects, we did like Todd Parr does at the end of his books -- we wrote a letter. Our message to the world. 


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We read The Crayon Box that Talked when we talk about being peaceful, being kind, and appreciating that we all have unique talents and abilities. It is a wonderful story about the importance of diversity.

Many American schools read it as part of Martin Luther King Jr Day activities.

Whenever it is read, it is a fun book with a good lesson.

The Crayon Box That Talked
written by Shane DeRolf
illustrated by Michael Letzig
published by Random House Books for Young Readers (1997)

summary  A girl buys a box of crayons and takes them home. When she opens up the box, she sees that they crayons are unkind to each other - even though they really don't know why they say mean things.

The girl shows the crayons how all are important and necessary by drawing a picture using all of them. By the end of the story, the crayons appreciate the contributions that each make.

My favourite page in the book is when all the crayons are happily dancing across the page, working and creating together.

Isn't that what we want for our classrooms - everyone working together, appreciating each other.

We create "dancing crayons" to put up in our classroom, reminding us how all of us are needed for the picture to be complete.

The kids choose what colour crayon they want to create, and then use a tracer to create a crayon shape. 

Using a tracer is a great fine motor skills work out for little hands. The "helper hand" needs to put firm pressure on the tracer so that it does not move, and the printing hand needs to move the pencil right around the perimeter of the tracer. Lots of concentration required. 

More fine motor work with cutting out the crayon. 

Time to decorate the crayons. We noticed that in the book, the crayons were only decorated withe their own colours. Purple was decorated only with purple. Green with green. You get the drift. But they had all sorts of different decorations. 

We endeavoured to decorate the crayons the same way.  No pictures as a result of making sure that all reports of using the wrong colour for decorations were false - and providing glue and googly eyes.  

After the decorated crayons were glued onto legal sized paper, it was time to add the dancing arms and legs. 

Some looked like the arms and legs from the book, 

others had their own style.

Whatever their style, our dancing crayons are a reminder that we are better --  and we have more fun  -- when everyone is included and appreciated for what they bring to our community. 

Enjoy our favourite video of The Crayon Box That Talked.


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Fall trees are just so beautiful. The kindergarten kids looked at the trees as artists, and saw the colours of the leaves and the lines of the branches.

As artists, we knew we wanted to paint those trees - highlighting both the lines of the branches and the colours of the changing leaves.

We looked at the colours of some of the leaves on the trees in our school grounds. We discovered that we needed a variety of colours of paint for the leaves. We discovered that there was not just one colour of leaves on many trees - there were lots of colours of leaves on the same tree.

Each child decided what colours they wanted on the leaves on their tree

and how and where those colours should be on the paper.

Sponges work wonderfully to mix the colours and create texture. 

We cut out the fall foliage, and turned out attention to the trunk and branches. 

While we were outside, we looked at tree bark, and noticed the colours we saw. 

The children used sponges (texture again) to paint bark, and then I used a paper cutter to cut thick trunk sized pieces, 

medium and small branch size pieces. 

The kids chose a trunk, the right number of medium branches for their tree, and then added small branches. 

The results were stunning.

They each had different coloured foliage,

different structure to the branches,

and different shapes to the foliage.

Each tree a creation of line and colour.


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The Dot by Peter Reynold is a wonderful book to read. And reread. And be inspired by.

It reminds us of some very important principles:
• everyone has a mark to leave on the world
• effort should be celebrated
• art is inclusive
• encouragement is contagious

summary  Vashti thinks that she can't draw.  Her art teacher gently asks her to make a dot on her paper, and sign it.  Next class, Vashti sees her dot, framed, above her teacher's desk.  It inspires her to make better dots, bigger dots, coloured dots, un-dots, and to see herself as an artist.

My favourite of Vashti's dots is her "undot". 

We looked at the "undot" together and talked about how Vashti did not paint a dot.  We decided to make undots too.  

Negative space is a hard concept for kindergarten kids. 

I figured that they might need a little help.

Mactac to to the rescue.

I cut out a bunch of Mactac dots and stuck them on half an 8 1/2 by 11" paper (heavier bond than photocopy paper - in a perfect  (and budget free) world, I would use watercolour paper).

The kids chose a paper with a dot - and headed to the paints.

We used puck style tempera paints. I have them set up on the tables by colour, and the kids move themselves and their papers to the colours that they want to use.

I love observing how children operate as artists.

Some are very controlled and precise.

Some artists are random and spontaneous. 

Some artists have a definite plan in mind. 

Some artists have a plan, and constantly adapt it. 

After the paint was dry, we peeled off the mactac circle, leaving an unpainted undot on the paper. 

The artists signed their work, and we framed them in swirly gold. 

Each piece of art, reminding us that everyone has something to contribute - everyone has a mark to make.

Make your mark - you never know where it will take you.


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Our first job as a new class, is to create community. 

To define who we are. What we do. What we hope to do.  Why we do it.

Books help us.

10 books on which to build community.

This is the second time that I have participated in this August celebration of picture books. 

Last time, I shared my list of 10 quirky books I enjoy reading with my kindergarten class.  

10 books for that help define who we are as a community

A Family is a Family is a Family
written by Sara O'Leary
illustrated by Qin Leng
We all come to our school community from our families. Each family is different. And each family is to be validated and valued. 

There is a Tribe of Kids
written and illustrated by Lane Smith
At school, we find our "tribe of kids".  

Read more about There is a Tribe of Kids

I Wonder
written by Annaka Harris 
illustrated by John Rowe
"When we don't know something, we get to wonder about it." 
May we never believe that there is nothing left to wonder about. 

The Darkest Dark
written by Chris Hadfield
illustrated by The Fan Brothers
Somethings there are things that scare us - but we can still wonder the biggest wonders, dream the biggest dreams and plan the biggest plans. 

created by Aaron Becker
Imagination (wonder) can take us on amazing adventures. All you need is a magic door drawn by a red crayon. The first of a trilogy. A wordless book. 

It's Okay to Make Mistakes
written and illustrated by Todd Parr
It really is okay to make mistakes. It's one of the ways that we learn.

written and illustrated by Katheryn Otoshi
Hoping to build the capacity for each of us to be the one person that might be needed to stand for fairness, equality and what is right.

Step Outside
written and illustrated byDoretta Groenendyk
A celebration of getting out of our chairs, and outside to connect with each other and nature. 

Pete the Cat
written by Eric Litwin
illustrated by James Dean
Pete goes through life, living in and appreciating each moment. Hopefully we can go through our year, singing our song. 

written and illustrated by Leo Lionni
When big things come and try and swallow you up, it's always better to work together and swim with a herd. 

Pete the Cat
written by Eric Litwin
illustrated by James Dean
Pete goes through life, living in and appreciating each moment. Hopefully we can go through our year, singing our song. 

All the #pb10for 10 lists are posted on a Google Community site.

happy reading


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