Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Camping

We took our first camping trip of the year over Memorial Day weekend.  We returned to a campground we go to pretty much every year now, down in South Jersey, right in the Pine Barrens. 

It was a beautiful weekend and the kids had a great time swimming in the lake, playing on the beach and riding their new boogie boards.

IMG_0004 IMG_0008 IMG_0047 IMG_0050 IMG_0074 IMG_0075

I let Daddy talk me into taking them out on a swan paddle boat.   Those things are NOT easy to paddle and it’s really rough when it’s 90 degrees out.

IMG_0124 IMG_0136

We enjoyed an ice cream social with the kids new friend Dani….


played some miniature golf….


and candy bar bingo, which Georgie won two out of the three games.

IMG_0077 IMG_0076IMG_0078 IMG_0101

We were visited by an Eastern Box Turtle…


a bunch of Fowler’s Toads….


and an as yet unidentified butterfly (along with tons of other bugs and a hummingbird).


There’s nothing like a nice, drippy ice cream cone eaten on the beach.

IMG_0141 IMG_0145 IMG_0148

It was a very fun trip but after five days of sleeping in a tent and walking around in sand, I was ready to get home to a comfy bed and the chance to have clean feet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

4-H Cloverbuds – Fire Safety

We finished up our Fire Safety unit with Cloverbuds yesterday with an amazing visit to our local Fire Station.

But first….our library meeting.    We started by playing some Fire Safety Jeopardy.   I took a lot of the questions from an online game I found at the Hamilton Township Fire District website.   Since I still haven’t figured out how to hook my laptop up to the overhead projector at the library, I made up a game board using cardstock.  The kids were able to come up and pull off the number for the question they wanted to answer. 


This allowed for lots of discussion about various aspects of fire safety – like smoke detectors, fire drills and safe behavior.  The questions were mostly multiple choice or true/false and some were pretty easy (if you find matches or a lighter you should:  a) give them to your parents b) play with them c) give them to your dog). 

While we played Jeopardy, the kids were waiting to see what we were going to do with the big tunnel set up in the room so that was what we did next.


This was the first step in our Escape the Fire obstacle course.  It was made from two king size sheets stretched across rows of chairs and secured with binder clips.  The sheets hung down loosely since I didn’t want the chairs to fall over if someone yanked on the sheets.

The kids started by crawling under the “smoke”.  They then felt a door to see if it was hot or cold.   If it was cold, they could continue crawling (under a table) to get outside.  If it was hot, they had to go out a window (over a table).  (I know Georgie should be checking the door not the handle.  He did it right after this but I only was able to take the one picture).


Once they were “out of the house”, they went to a neighbors or used a cell phone to call 911.  I meant to bring an old phone but forgot it so they had to settle for a piece of paper on the wall.


They didn’t seem to mind my really bad representation of a phone and had a great time calling and reporting a fire.  After a while, some of the older kids decided to call and order pizza instead.  ;-)

After calling 911, they could go to their safe meeting place and meet with their family. 

I thought this might be a pretty quick activity but the kids literally went through it about 8 times each.  Great reinforcement for what to do.  I sat by the table serving as an escape and would ask them if the door was hot or cold and what they needed to do next.

After the kids finally finished with the obstacle course, we did a Stop, Drop and Roll balloon pop.  I found this online as a way to help kids realize they need to roll long enough for a fire to go out.  Each kid had a red or orange balloon taped to their back.  They then rolled around until the balloon popped.  This way a lot harder than I expected it to be.  I didn’t blow the balloons up very large since I had to carry 15 of them to the library (some kids didn’t make it so we ended up having enough for each kid to do it twice) and that made them much harder to pop.   The kids had a great time with this and there was a LOT of laughing.


We finished up with a game of Stop/Drop/Roll freeze dance.  It was played like traditional freeze dance, except when the music stopped I would say “FIRE” and they would drop and roll. 

We didn’t have a craft for fire safety since everything I found was very cookie-cutter and very simple so that finished up the library portion of our unit.

Now, to our visit to the fire station.   They split us into two groups to make it easier.   One group ended up much larger than the other since a few people who came a little late ended up joining the group outside with the fire trucks.  It was probably just as well since we ended up in a fairly small group and Georgie was displaying his usual level of self-control (IOW – none).

We started with one of the fire fighters telling the kids about what they should do in case of a fire and showing them what kind of gear they used.  The kids had a chance to see how heavy the gear bags are….


and count down while he put on his fire gear.   He told them at the fire academy they need to get it all on in 30 seconds.  He didn’t quite make it but the kids counted fast and he was interrupted about half-way.  It was amazingly hard to get decent pictures of him in his gear.  The reflective strips caused super bright spots when a flash was used but the room was too dark to get a good picture without flash.


Once he was in his full gear, he grabbed his axe and crawled on the floor to show the kids how it would look when a fire fighter comes in.    They really want the kids to understand not to be afraid, that they are there to help them.


The kids had the chance to see how heavy the axe is (Georgie kept asking about what if they use the axe to chop off heads.  <<sigh>>)…


and a few of the kids tried on the face mask or helmet.  They were surprised by how heavy the helmet was.


We then moved outside for a closer look at the trucks.   The fire fighters told them about all the specialized equipment they used.  The hoses were HUGE!


And they had the chance to climb inside two different trucks.


It was an amazing trip, the fire fighters did a great job and the kids had a blast.  At the end they were given fire fighter hats, badges and activity sets with stickers, tattoos, coloring/activity books.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up

I guess this is a two week wrap-up but it was a pretty good two weeks.

Most of the new stuff this week involved Vicki.  I have to keep reminding myself that kids are all different.    Georgie likes worksheets and is very clearly a visual learner.  Vicki is a little harder to tell but she’s been very reluctant to do any of her worksheet work, so I decided to try a different approach.   And it worked!  Since she definitely knows her letter sounds and I’ve “caught” her reading a few words, I decided to try a few sight words and word family activities, combined with a more kinesthetic approach.

For sight words, I decided to use the order from You Can Read Sight Word program at 1plus1plus1equals1.   Mainly because I already had it downloaded and this way if Vicki did ask to do worksheets again, I had some available.   I started by introducing the first four words – the, and, see, a – by writing them on one of our chalkboards.  I then gave Vicki a paintbrush and a cup of water to “paint” over the words.   This was a super simple activity that I evidently have never done because she acted like she had never seen it before and kept talking about it, “it disappeared.  That’s so cool.”


After the chalkboard she wanted to do “real painting” so I pulled out the dabber, roller and Paintastic pens for the first time in a long time.  I gave her some pages of the sight words (from 1plus1plus1equals1) for her to paint.


Of course, Georgie wanted in on the fun so they both spent a bunch of time painting pictures.

When we went outside to play, I wrote the words on the patio with chalk and we played a game where she blew bubbles at whatever word I said.


For word families we are using the order from Progressive Phonics, starting with –at words. It became clear pretty quickly that the Little Miss already knows how to read these.

I bought a package of small foam puzzle squares from Walmart.  To each one I taped a card with a word on it (at, bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat and sat) and set them up on the kitchen floor.  We started at the beginning and she stepped from piece to piece reading the word.  She was doing a weird kind of sounding out when we started – she’d say “tu”, then “at”, then “mmm”, then “mat”.  Backwards in other words.  I had her hop through the words sounding them out the correct way.


Then I said a word and had her jump to the correct word.  She didn’t miss even one word (and we discovered she’s pretty good with a standing long jump).


After a little while, Georgie came in and wanted in on the fun too so I let them bring the pieces in the living room to play.   Even out of “order” Vicki was able to read all the words. 

I may have to pick up another set (or 2) of these so I can set up games they both can play.


One activity I set up but didn’t get to was putting letters and word endings on unifix cubes.  Vicki will be able to add a consonant to the ending and decide if something is a word or not.  It looks like I might be moving on from the –at words pretty quickly.  I wrote on the cubes with Sharpie markers, which will come off with alcohol.


Georgie has basically been continuing along with the same old stuff.  The reading in return for Pokemon cards is working great.  I’m going to have to make a stop at the Dollar Store pretty soon for more cards.

We started Beast Academy with the first chapter on angles.   Since there’s a lot of vocabulary to this program and since Georgie is a very visual learner, I made up a reference page for him to have on his office board.  I uploaded it to Google Docs for anyone who would like a copy (note:  The original version posted had an error.  An isosceles triangle can be acute, obtuse or right.  The google doc has been corrected.)


So far he is enjoying Beast Academy but we are taking it very slowly.

We’ve been trying to spend as much time outside as we can while the weather is nice.  After our 4-H meeting last week (the write-up on that will be done after our field trip next week) we went over to Frelinghuysen Arboretum with two of the boys from our group (and their mom).  There was a slight drizzle but it was warm and the kids had a great time.  The kids went wading in a small stream and had a great adventure.  A little too much of an adventure since the two older boys (Georgie was one of them) got enough ahead to take an unexpected turn and we “lost” them for about 5 minutes.  Georgie thought it was great, “an adventure without ANY parents”.   The kids found a toad in a meadow that appears to be an American or Fowler’s Toad.   They were able to catch him and get a closer look before we left him alone.

frelinghuysen frog and vicki

By the time we left the kids were tired, wet, muddy and happy.

The kids have been having fun with bubbles, including Georgie using them to clean a boo-boo on his knee, and hanging out in a fort made from putting a sheet over the top of the trampoline.  I’m going to go through my outdoor fun Pinterest board soon and start integrating some of those ideas.


We also spent some time fixing up our deck so the grown-ups can be comfortable while the kids play.  We put up a canopy for shade, with a small extension for my hammock, a nice bright tablecloth for the table and some decorations.  For Mother’s Day, I received some begonias and marigolds that I will be planting in our flower garden, a windchime and spinner to hang from the canopy, and a new thistle feeder.  Along with the hummingbird feeder we got from Granny Franny, hopefully we’ll get a close-up look at some birds.

IMG_8198 IMG_8199 IMG_8200 IMG_8201

Next week we’ll be preparing for our first camping trip of the year, going on our 4-H field trip and checking out the new dinosaur park that opened up here.