Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Volcano inspired Artwork Lessons

While we studied about Pompeii as a part of our unit study on Rome we incorporated another bit of Art by taking a look at a few artworks that depict various volcanoes.

Katsushika Hokusai's did a series of prints together titled, "Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fuji".  This Squidoo Lens shows "The Great Wave" a number of times.  This particular piece is FABULOUS for teaching kids how lines in art help the eye move around the composition.

If you keep scrolling down you will also see, Mt. Fuji, Mt. Fuji in Summer, Mt. Fuji Pilgrimage, Boy on Mt. Fuji, Fuji above the Lightening and more.

Hokusai made wood block prints so you can use it as a lesson in print making (you can cut potatoes in half or use foam and carve shapes and patterns out and then use them like stamps in tempera paint to create your own prints if you wish to use this as a way to introduce how prints work if you wish) or, you can study the paintings for different kinds of line, or different uses of color.

We also had the opportunity to visit The Getty Villa again while they had an exhibition about "The Last Days of Pompeii".  Before going, we made sure to look at The Getty's Page about Sir William Hamilton.  The page discusses Hamilton as an amateur Vulcanologist and displays four images of different paintings he created in an effort to record the eruption of Vesuvius he witnessed in 1767 and even the "curious specimens" of rock he collected after the eruption.

We compared the paintings by Hamilton with "The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius" by Pierre Jacques Volaire who was famous for his depictions of Volcanic eruptions at night.  I LOVE how the apricots and oranges (meaning the colors not the fruits) in this painting juxtaposed against the greyness of the sky is an absolutely GORGEOUS color combination - but then, he was an artist.

For contrast, we also made sure to take a look at how Andy Warhol depicted the same volcano in his cycle  "Vesuvius."  Take the opportunity to discuss line, color choices and the difference in motivations between the more abstract Warhol and the more scientific Hamilton.

Alice painted a picture of a volcano her way (shown above).  Since we are currently studying early Christianity, apparently she also felt the need to litter the landscape with Chapels.

We pointed out lines in the artwork, discussed color choices, looked at how different colors change the "mood" in the painting and really just had a good time talking about what we were seeing.  It was more of an art appreciation set of lessons than practice at creating art.

Lastly, we discussed the recording of volcanic eruptions and how our ability to view and record this phenomena has changed.  We've discussed Pliny's descriptions of his viewing of Vesuvius and even were able to read his description (translated into english).  We discussed how photography and videography have made it a lot easier for us to truly see what happens during an eruption and read this brief article on the subject.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Illuminated Manuscripts

The Secret of Kells is all about the struggle of monks of the medieval period to record texts for future generations as well as for the surrounding population.  Illuminated manuscripts are known for being stunningly detailed, brightly colored works of art.

Before beginning your lessons, you may want to check out these resources for background information.  Tegia Anglorum has information about how pages, inks and quills were prepared.  Apparently monks became quite specialized, so Medieval Life's short description includes a little information about this.  Historic Pages gives more detail about inks, pages and materials used. 

Before watching The Secret of Kells,  you'll want your kids to understand what illuminated manuscripts are.  You might start with a comic strip or graphic novel.  Share an age appropriate comic strip with your students and ask, "Could you understand this story even if you couldn't read?"  Since most of the kids will agree that the gist of what is happening is pretty clear from the pictures, you can now describe to them that during the Middle-ages, most people couldn't read, but the leaders of the church still wanted the people to understand the stories of The Bible and the rules of the church.  Monks set to work copying the words of the Bible and adding pictures to "illuminate" the stories.  Illuminated manuscripts were a lot like the world's first cartoon strips or graphic novels.

Check out The Getty website as it offers lesson plans, images and resources for teaching children about the illuminated texts.  The lesson plan ideas they offer are wonderful and we used more than one of these lessons.  You might also find the video clip about how books were made and the materials for making them were obtained enlightening and succinct.  The Getty's materials are high quality and I highly suggest these activities as great lessons to introduce illuminated manuscripts.

The British Library's Catalog will offer opportunities to view many examples of images and pages from illuminated manuscripts.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a section of its timeline in art dedicated to the art of illuminated manuscripts

If you want to learn more, this movie, Illuminations, Treasures of the Middle Ages by the BBC will offer up a description, and a little of the history about how illuminated texts became to be so important. As the movie is not designed for small children some of the vocabulary may be difficult and concepts too quick for early elementary, but most upper elementary kids and older should be able to follow along reasonably well. There is a section on a psalter that discusses the sense of humor of the times as well.  Just be sure you've previewed the video and know what is there before choosing to show it to your child or not.

Another great option to preview and possibly show is "Illuminations, The Private Lives of Medieval Kings" (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6).  Part 1 talks about why books were important to the Kings of England and My Favorite part, part 2, shows the steps in making vellum - among other things.  The entire selection goes over the history of the Early Kings of England and includes, the 100 years war, conquest of the Franks, all the way through to the Renaissance and even a shows us a Tudor Manuscript.  All along, bits of information about the creation of illuminated manuscripts is also covered.  The series discusses how the role of the illuminated manuscript in establishing the right to Kingship was further exaggerated even after the advent of the printing press.  King Henry VIII and his collection of manuscripts and then destruction of many manuscripts when Catholocism was outlawed and its manuscripts forbidden leads off the beginning of the last portion of the series.  The series ends by briefly going over the importance of the Royal Portrait and its replacement of the Illuminated Manuscript. 

For a briefer history try this video.

Watch The Secret of Kells together.  I know it is available on netflix through streaming.  The movie does a spectacular job of demonstrating the struggle of the monks against the demon vikings.  As usual, I recommend previewing any video before viewing it with your young child.  Enjoy the movie together, but pause if you need to because of questions or items you would like to discuss.

Older kids can be asked to look for all kinds of things and take notes during their viewing.  If you have art objectives about lines, Celtic design, color or pattern, simply direct your kids to look for what you are hoping they will see.  If you have objectives about themes in stories, plots etc.  Simply ask your kids to note things that are relevant to your objectives.

It is a good idea to compare the fantasy of the movie, The Secret of Kells,  with what we do know about the true story of The Book of Kells.  To do so, view this documentary (part one).  As you view, the additional parts will appear in the menu column to the write of the film screen when it is not in full screen mode).   Discuss artistic license and use the experience as an "in" for discussing the difference between creative non-fiction (also known as historical fiction) and non-fiction accounts of bits of history.  This video was put together by someone who clearly cares deeply about The Book of Kells and its history and also may prove useful in such a comparison.  Please enjoy watching it as good background information for yourself, or with your child.  For youngsters that are still not expert readers, be prepared to read the text for them.  It is the Book of Kells that is considered to be Ireland's greatest treasure and one of the best examples of an illuminated manuscript.

Include a discussion about what the manuscripts meant to the monks and why it was so important to them.  Even when they were not copying Biblical texts, they were carrying mankind's knowledge forward and felt the were glorifying God.

Finally, complete an illuminated illustration together by creating your own historiated initial.

  • Print the printable border I have included below by clicking on the photo and printing, or find another you would prefer.   This one encourages the child to use the circles to create their own spiral or circular motif inside the border as well as illustrate the page as he or she wishes.

  • Print your choice of the two alphabets included on this page (zoom in so your child's first initial is fairly large and occupies a good portion of the page.

  • Have your child "Illuminate" his or her first initial by filling it in with a golden crayon, or marker.  Cut out the letter.
  • Now, help to trace the border and grid onto a piece of vellum and then fill in the Border.  Outline the border with black crayon but leave the grid as pencil markings.  Make sure he or she uses blues and reds in jewel tones, metallic markers or crayons and touches of other deep colors that are in keeping with the images from illuminated texts you've seen in the lesson.
  • Finally, place the cut-out of your child's initial letter on the page so it overlaps the border just a bit here and there.  Use the grid (also included on the printable) to help write in the rest of the child's name using a fine tip black marker.  Then, your child might add more illustration, color and knots to fill in the background around the writing and behind his or her initial.
Ideas for Celtic Animals
Celtic Knots

http://www.hulu.com/watch/337397  - If it will work for you, this can become a link to the movie, "Secret of Kells" but you have to sign up.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Music Vocabulary for Preschool: Crescendo and Dimminuendo

If you want your child to have an early music vocabulary, two important words for them to understand are Crescendo and Diminuendo.  These words describe a swell in volume and the opposing decrescendo or reduction in volume.

Start by making sure your child is already very comfortable with identifying Loud and Soft.

After you are sure your child can distinguish between even subtly differing notes in regard to loud and soft, you can introduce the concept of a Crescendo.  Crescendo is a word that describes when music gets progressively louder.  In a diminuendo the music starts loud and gets softer.  To watch this music teacher, Nehama Patkin Teach a group of kids about crescendo and diminuendo click here.  Ask your child to join in with you as you participate with the music teacher.

"Dance" to a number of songs with the instruction that as a crescendo is performed, you get gradually taller and taller as the music gets louder and shorter when it gets softer. 

You can also have your child "draw the music with you by making bands of color that are wide during louder parts and thin during soft parts.  The band of course would then get progressively thicker during a crescendo and progressively thinner during a diminuendo.

Musical Notation for Crescendo

Here is a list of songs you may find helpful.  A couple of these songs have lyrics with themes you may not wish to introduce to your child depending on their age, sensitivities and lyrical awareness.  If you are not already familiar with a song, as always, I suggest previewing lyrics before sharing with your child.

Listen to the movement "Mars" from "The Planets" by Holst for a nice, slowly building crescendo.
The 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky also builds very nicely and truly ends with a bang.
Ravel's Bolero builds in a crescendo throughout the entire song.  It is a perfect example that highlights many different instruments as well.

A Day in the Life by the Beatles also contains a great example.

Stairway to Heaven is an obvious rock song with a slowly building crescendo.

Shout as performed by Otis Day and the Knights will be super fun for you little one - go wild (though maybe not Animal House Wild) after the crescendo and giggle your heads off.

Little April Showers by Frank Churchill is entirely structured around subtler crescendos and diminuendos and gives the piece a rolling, watery kind of movement.

If you've enjoyed this article, you might also like,

Musical Skills for Toddlers: skill one, skill two, skill three, Fairytale Musical Classics, Animal Action Classic, and Classics for Kids to Know - Flight of the Bumblebee and Dance of the Hours

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Field Fun - A Trip to the Zoo

If you are headed to the zoo with your kiddos here are some ideas about dfferent activities you can have them do to get the most out of their trip.  I usually give my kids more activities than the kids can actually get done and allow them choose which ones they will complete (I always give a minimum number that must be completed).

Photographic Scavenger Hunt for the Zoo - Any Age

For each animal photographed, students should write or dictate the name (older kids should include scientific names), natural habitat, location the animal can be found in the wild, what the animal eats and (when approrpriate what eats it), the reason that particular animal was chosen to be photgraphed and the number of the photo in their camera in a notebook or on a tablet on a clipboard.
  1. Photograph one species of animal from each of the five main vertebrate classes (mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish)  - sometimes not all of these animals are available somewhere in every zoo.  You'll want to check in advance.
  2. Photograph an animal that lives in the rainforest
  3. Photograph an animal that lives in a polar habitat.
  4. Photograph an animal that lives in a grassland (savannah, prairie, chapparal or pampas)
  5. Photograph an animal adapted to the hot desert.
  6. Photograph an animal that does well in high mountain habitats
  7. Photograph an animal that lives in the temperate and deciduous forests
  8. Photograph an animal that lives in Taiga (Temperate Evergreen Forests - also often referred to as Montane Forests).
  9. Photograph an animal with a pattern on its fur
  10. Photograph an animal that is almost all one color.
  11. Photograph an animal with one area that is a solid color and another part that is patterned
  12. Photograph an animal from each continent.
  13. Photograph the animal you think is the cutest
  14. Photograph the animal you think is creepiest
  15. Photograph your favorite animal
  16. Photograph the animal you think is fiercest.
  17. Photograph a preditor and then go find an animal that it would prey upon and photgraph it too.

Make Comparisons - Must be Proficient Writers to do More than One.  You can also simply insist they discuss it with you for the young ones.

For each question, the animal or animals and both its common and scientific names must be identified along with the location of the animal's native range as a heading.
  1. Find two animals that are closely related such as the Giraffe and Okapi, Caribou and Reindeer, Greater and Lesser Pandas, Asian and African Elephants or another (pair you can see at the zoo you will be visiting) and take a photo of both. Compare the two animals in physiology and habitat.  How might the habitat in which they live have impacted their physiology?
  2. Find one bird from a warm habitat and another from a cold habitat.  Compare what each bird eats and sketch their beaks.  How are their beaks specifically adapted to help with aquiring and injesting their respective foods?
  3. Find a mammal from the forest and compare its coat markings to another animal from the savannah.  Photograph or sketch these coat markings.  Discuss these markings in terms of how they may help in camouflaging the animal within its native habitat.
  4. Find a predator and its prey.  Compare eye placement and find out what you can about each animal's senses.  How does each animal's senses help it in its ecological role (niche) to stay alive?

Do a Behavioral Observation

Choose your favorite animal and sit and observe it for 15-20 minutes.  sketch your animal and describe the actions it takes while you are observing.  Try to time your observations with feeding time if you can (this is a good one to do around feeding time or first thing upon arrival).  Describe how your animal of choice finds its food, shelter, and water in the wild.  (Proficient Writer)

Use the Video Camera to Video your favorite animal's movements and behavior for about 10 minutes.  When you get home watch it a couple of times and do a little research with mom or dad.  Then add "narration" as if you are making a video about that animal.  Describe what it is doing, how it gets its shelter, food and water in the wild, and how it hides from other animals. (Pre- or Beginning Writer)

Worksheets For Beginning Writers

Alice and I went to the San Diego Zoo last fall as part of a larger field trip that we did (we also went to a special showing the symphony did called "The Music of Story" for members from her virtual school association.  It has special field trips and activities like this all across the country we can sign up for).  Here are some of the kinds of questions I had on her zoo worksheet.  Ours was a geography focus at the time as well as trying to really hammer home the "needs of living things".

A.  The Koala: 
  • Find a Koala in the exhibit that is perched in a tree.  Describe to your learning coach what the koala looks like. 
  • Can you name some of its body parts? 
  • Was it easy or hard to find the koala? 
  • What is it doing? 
  • Does it eat plants or animals?  Circle One                 Plants               Animals
  • Can you discover how the koala gets water?
  • What does the tree give to the koala?
  • Even though it is not a bear, many people call Koalas, bears?  Why do you think that is?
  • On which continent would you find the Koala?
B.  Madagascar:  This is a large Island considered a part of Africa.  What unique animal is it known for having?  Choose a species of lemur to watch.  Describe how it moves to your learning coach.  What does the lemur eat?  How does it get water?  Draw a Picture.

C. I included a set of questions like this for the Takin of Asia, the Stork of Europe, and the California Condor of North America.  I let her choose which animal from South America she wanted to answer the same questions for and one overall favorite animal.  I also included a photographic scavenger hunt, a comparison between the Asian Elephant and African Elephant and behavioral observation of an animal of choice.

Directories and Lists of Zoos

Additionally, most zoos have wonderful educational information, packets, and even demonstrations if you look at their online information you can often find a lot of great resources that will help in highlighting the best of your particular zoo with your kids.  If  you'll be going with a group, like your HS cooperative, scout troop, or a large group of friends sometimes you can get special prices or even more specialized tours so call ahead.  You'll also want to know in advance if picnicing is aloud and bring plenty of water and sunscreen.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Subduction Zone Volcano Model Cookies

This activity is super cool because it results in colorful cookies the kids will enjoy along with a memorable experience that clearly illustrates what happens to the layers of Earth's crust along a subduction zone.  Kids will need to already have an understanding that the Earth is made up of many plates that float and move around on Earth's mantel.

Your students will also need to know the words:

  • Oceanic Crust (which is heavier than the crust that makes up the continents because it has denser materials in it).
  • Continental Crust (opposite of Oceanic crust, this is the crust that makes up the continents and mostly tends to be made of lighter, less dense materials.
  • Lithosphere - Lowermost layer of crust along the border with the mantel  (for younger children simplifying to crust works just fine).
  • Asthenosphere - upper layer of the mantel just below the lithosphere where there is relatively little resistance to plastic flow and convection (simplify to top of crust for youngest students).
  • Oceanic Trench - Deep place in the ocean.  In the case of a subduction zone, this is where the subduction actually begins.

First, Make sure you child or students know that a subduction zone is where two of Earth's tectonic plates are colliding and one is sinking below the other.

Mountain building as is shown in this activity occurs at convergence boundaries:

Where plates come together, the Earth folds and bends because of all the pressure created.  This happens when two continental crusts come together (which is happening where the Himalaya are) and where one plate is subducted under another.  At subduction zones like those shown above, the friction between the subducting plate and the overlying plate creates a lot of heat and as the crust melts into the asthenosphere (or upper mantel), a lot of gasses, molten rock and pressure is created.  As the hot gasses and molten rock rise through the overlying crust pockets of magma and magma chambers form.  You get mountains and in the case of subduction you also get volcanoes.  Although this activity won't show the effects of heating, melting and pressure building, it will show how the earth folds and bends in these areas.

First, you'll either need to make some pie crust, or purchase a pre-made crust (you can do this same demo with play dough, craft clay and any number of other items that can be molded, but the eating part of the pie crust is just fun).

Once you have the crust and it is rolled out, draw stripes of different colors across the crust and spread out (as shown below).  I simply used food coloring for the colors and drew a line, you can "brush them" with an egg brush, but this step simply makes it so the kids get a little less of the color on their skin.  Sometimes getting a little messy is a good thing.

Slice the strips apart for working in the colors.

Then you will want to roll the dough onto itself as shown at the right in the above photo.  Mush and mash the dough until the color is close to uniform.  This is approximately what you are aiming for.

Put your balls in a Ziploc bag or two and allow them to cool again (about ten minutes).  During this time, you can go over the vocabulary and take a look at a diagram of a subduction zone together (or you know, do a few dishes, start prepping parts of dinner and "multitask" if you've already covered the info).

When the dough has cooled a little, roll it into hot dog shapes and then use your rolling pin to flatten the hot dogs back into strips again.  If the dough is cooled enough you won't need a lot of flour to keep the dough from sticking, but it might be good to put a little down.  It will depend a little on the specific recipe you use as well.

Stack your dough strips so you have two to three layers of color on each side of the "subduction zone".  Place one side somewhat under the other (I do not recommend doing the one long purple layer as shown in the photo.  It is not really representative, but Alice wanted to try it this way so I let her and then none of the other pictures turned out well).  Placing everything on top of parchment paper is helpful in order to make the crusts slide together well.

Push the crusts together by pushing on opposite ends and you will get something like this:

Lay discuss how the lowest or suducting layer would need to go down, but how the upper layer also moves up a little.   Take a look at the bending and folding layers of dough and if you happen to live in an area where you can go visit a cut hillside (usually along roadways and freeways where the road cuts through a hillside) where Earth's layers are visible, compare what you see there with your model.

To make the cookies, turn you model on its side and press and roll it out.  Sprinkle with a small amount of cinnamon and sugar and cut into strips again.  Bake at 325 degress F and keep an eye on the crust.  Once it gets a slightly darker color it is ready (usually about 8-12 minutes depending on thickness of the dough).  Enjoy your marbled cookies that hold the record of their changing shape in them. 

A Photographic Scavenger Hunt for an Antiquities Collection

Photographic scavenger hunts make for a pretty relaxed way to make sure your kids see the things you want them to see when you go on an outing, while still allowing you to be fairly relaxed about the whole affair.  Younger kids can talk to you about the photos while you help them get the picture they are after, while older kids can be required to take notes about the object in the photo and even have to "defend" why a piece they chose to photo is representative of a particular culture, ideal or other requirement you warn them about in advance.  Here is the list I gave Alice for our trip to the Getty's antiquities collection at the Villa in Malibu.  Although this list was made with the Villa in mind, it should be general enough that it would work for most museums with a moderate to large antiquities collection.
  1. Favorite piece of Jewelry for show (earrings, necklace, diadem)
  2. Favorite piece of Jewelry that held a purpose (signet ring, brooch)
  3. Statues depicting a bust of 5 famous mythological characters.
  4. Statues depicting a Greek philosopher, three Roman Emperors, an athlete and a senator.
  5. One Greek statue and One Roman statue - Note their similarities and differences.  Look at how the Greek statues show no flaws, while roman statues do show flaws.
  6. 5 different types of dinner wear from antiquity such as cups and bowls.
  7. At least one Greek vase
  8. At least one Amphora
  9. A Byzantine Mosaic 
  10. A favorite artifact from the Etruscans
  11. A piece made of bronze
  12. A piece made of pottery
  13. A piece made of glass
  14. A piece made of stone
  15. Something of your choice you thought was really cool

Here is a Printable of this Scavenger Hunt List (I hope):

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three different Kinds of Volcanoes

For this activity you'll be creating explosions due to pressure build up because of gas released from the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar.  I've always used film canisters (they just work so well with so little).  As film canisters are harder to get these days (I saved all I could get when people started switching to digital), I'd suggest the smallest kind of snap on lid you can find instead.  Any containers should work so long as the lids are snap top only and not screw on or use any sort of latching mechanism.  I'd also suggest sticking with plastic (just to be on the safe side).  The bigger the container the more Vinegar and Baking soda you will need.

Start by making a shield cone type of eruption with plastic wrap rubber banded over your canister.  Get everything ready with vinegar in the canister, the plastic wrap ready and an assistant with the rubber band stretched and nearly over the canister already.  Drop in a scoopful of baking soda, slap the saran wrap down and the rubber band around the rim (or if the container is small enough, just hold it in place).  I suggest the parent act as assistant and the child do the pouring in of the baking soda (you will probably be faster) or let your kids take turns in each role if you have older kids.

If all is sealed well, the wrap will form a dome as it stretches bending to the pressure.  Eventually a crack, slit or other release point will form and bubbles will "ooze" out of your volcano the way lava runs down the sides of a shield volcano.

For a composite or stratocone volcano, you'll need to poke a small hole in the lid.  Then operate the same way.  Have everything ready.  Vinegar in the canister, assistant ready with lid and then the scientist puts the baking soda in.  This volcano will erupt with a swoosh upward and then end with oozing, showing mild explosiveness along with the oozing similar to that of the shield volcano.

I'm sorry I don't have a photo of this happening in my third canister.  You'll have to be a much more talented (and quicker) photographer than I to get one - of course, as photography is not my skill set, you probably are.  The modeling of the cinder cone volcano is the most impressive which is why I made it last, although if you have only one container lid, you'll want to do this one second.  For the cindercone, pour in your vinegar, get ready, drop in the baking soda and slam the intact lid onto the canister.  Wait a few seconds and the lid will be bouncing off your ceiling and most of your vinegar bubbles will already be gone and you'll just have a mess on the counter, table (or sidewalk) where the canister was.  Be prepared to go looking for the lid and canister after this one.  Alice giggled her head off and said, "mom we have to do that one again!"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rome's Neighbors

Unfortunately, those that defeat are often the ones that get to write History.  Such has been the case with Ancient Rome.  We simply do not know a lot about most of Rome's Neighbors (other than the Greeks and Egyptians that is) but in studying this part of European and Mediterranean History, Rome's Neighbors are clearly a part of the story.  As a result, I collected movies I have watched in order to gain a little more perspective to use with Alice while teaching her about the battles Rome fought in order to take over its neighbors.  Here are the resources I was able to find online.  Some of these I let her watch too, some I did not - please preview anything you choose to watch with your child.

Terry Jones Narrates a series of videos about the peoples of ancient and Medieval Europe that does a great job of giving the other side of the story in Barbarians by the BBC.  All the episodes are wonderful and use Terry Jones' sense of humor to indicate why we may have the wrong idea about Rome's Neighbors.

Modern Marvels:  Barbarian Battle Tech - The battle technology of various ancient groups and how they made their weaponry.  This movie is really about the first arms race.

Engineering an Empire - Carthage: The first people the Romans had to defeat to gain control of the Mediterranean.  Carthage Part 1Carthage Part 2, Carthage Part 3, Carthage Part 4  

The Celts were actually a large group of people that is often broken into the Gallic Celts and the Celts of the British Isles in the modern mind.  PBS offers up an entire series about this population called The Celts

A Modern look at what Stonehenge was really for.  Although Stonehenge was first created about 3000 BC, those persons who remodeled it to make it the amazing structure it was to eventually become would be built by the people that gave rise to the British Celts the Romans would have encountered and described.  Nova's Secrets of Stonehenge.
Fascinating study of how the culture of early Celts of Briton developed along with the technologies available to them and created by them.  History of Celtic Britain - Part 1 Pre- and Bronze Age Briton, Part 2 Iron Age Briton, Part 3 Roman Invasion, Part 4 Life with the Romans.

Secrets of the Dark Ages: The Barbarians  An analysis of what the barbarians may have really been like, their technologies, way of life, contributions to history and technology, etc.

The People of Gaul:  This video is more like a video article about the knowledge of the ancient people of France and how, through archaeology, our view of how they lived is changing.  It is quite short.

Barbarians is a series of videos about many of Rome's competitors including; The SaxonsThe Vandals, The Franks, and The Goths.  The filmography of this one includes images of the brutality and violence of their time.  In fact, I would even venture to say it is sensationalized.  This video series make the role these groups of people played in Roman History clear, even if it does not speak much about their cultures.  I am not finding all the videos on Youtube or Hulu, but I have included links for those I did find.

Unfortunately there is not a lot about the Dacians or Thracians (ancient Romanians) that tells of their story other than Trajan/Roman perspectives.  The Roman History would have us believe this entire group of people was wiped out.  While genocide did occur, it is hard to believe that the entire culture was completely wiped clean of the Earth and no one was left to carry on their culture and heritage.  The Dacians were the last hold out to Rome's control before Rome fell and by all accounts were fierce and proud people.  From what I know, many Romanians consider themselves descendants of an ancient line of people far older than the Romans.  There are a few videos available with English subtitles on Youtube

You may also find the article, Ancient and Medieval Peoples informative and helpful if you are looking for information about the groups of people at odds with Rome during its years of decline and right after its fall. 

Click on me for a coloring page printable

Creepy Crawlies and Wicked Wings - A Units Worth of Lessons and Things

Completing a unit about "creepy crawlies" can be a great thing to do during the month of October as it will provide plenty of opportunities for the creation of some pretty cool crafts you can use for decorations (all the egg carton arthropods outlined here are in our cob webs for decor).  However spring is also a great time for such a unit for those that feel adventurous enough to raise some of their own "creepies" or want to go out seeking them in the wild.

Whatever time of year you choose to study them, when kids get to learn about insects, arachnids and other arthropods in depth, it can increase their confidence when in the outdoors.  The fact is, most of these critters will not do any harm and can actually be helpful to us humans.  Knowing the difference will help your children and/or students be safer in both the great outdoors and, for some, their garages, basements or wood sheds.

Crafts Lessons and Projects for the Great Indoors

Insects Vs. Spiders:

For starters, this is a great topic to use with a Venn Diagram.  Arachnids and Insects are both part of the Class, Arthropoda and therefore share the characteristics of having an exoskeleton, jointed appendages and the ability to creep us out.  To help your kids get familiar with the comparisons, try the egg carton activity where the kids build a spider and an ant and follow the activity by filling out Venn diagrams individually, in groups or as a class.

Egg Carton Crafts

I have posted a series of crafts using egg cartons to make a variety of creepy crawlies.  I don't show how to do all of the orders within Arthropoda and focus mostly on insects.  I don't even show how to make the most commonly encountered insect orders, but I will show you a couple of examples and you can take it from there and make adaptations as needed and you see fit. 

Have your students compare the different types of insects. What is similar? What is different?  Creating a table with a column for each of the orders of insects you will study, or for each of the classes of arthropods you will be taking a look at with a row for comparable characteristics is a great idea to help kids practice tracking data as well as using and constructing tables.

A Few Insect Orders That Could Be Modeled Using Egg Cartons:

  1. Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) - in case you would like to give this one a try, you can use the photo above as a beginning model.  The cricket shown above still needs wings and a mandible, but it should give you the basic idea.  Use the basic model for an ant, but make the last set of legs with one pipe cleaner each and bend them to look like grasshopper legs.  You should know, grasshoppers have short antennae and crickets have very long antennae so if you will be making a grasshopper, use one pipe cleaner for both antennae.
  2. Coleoptera (beetles) - This article will give instruction on how to make a lady bug.  You may need to be creative because there are so many different shapes when it comes to beetles.
  3. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) - Model a butterfly.  You can also keep the cups in the normal egg-holding position, paint them green and plant grass in them to make a nice hairy caterpillar.  If you want your plant caterpillar to be a lesson in characteristics of caterpillars, you'll want to paint on the legs, but leg number can be dependant upon the species you are emulating.  MOST will have three sets of true legs and five prolegs on the abdomen making the total sixteen, but some don't have any legs and for some species the number can change depending upon the stage of the caterpillar.  Mostly, the planted caterpillar is just a fun little science craft and a chance to grow a little green in the windowsill.
  4. Diptera (flies and mosquitoes) - The model built and shown below is for a fly.  For a proboscis, the fly got a sliver of sponge.  To alter it to make a mosquito, simply replace the sponge proboscis with a piece of straw or a narrow cone made with a twist of paper
  5. Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, and bees) For bees, you'll want to copy the fly's wing style (including the set of two little knobs for the residual secondary wings) and add a "stinger" to the abdomen.  For ants (at least wingless, worker ants anyway) use the link on the word "ants" in number six.
  6. Isoptera (termites) - These guys look a lot like ants (click link for ant instructions), but the connection between the abdomen and thorax is thicker.  

Creepy Crawly Encounters:

Hikes and Safaris

Taking your kids into the outdoors to search for arachnids, insects and other terrestrial arthropods can be a lot of fun.  Before you go, stress that picking insects up can be incredibly harmful.  If a child wants to hold a creepy crawly, they should first double check that it is not a biter or stinger and then place fingers in the path of the critter to see if it will crawl onto the child.  If it is just you and a few it might be fun to such an activity to get things going.  Hook your kids by finding a bunch of creepy crawlies and then spend your lessons trying to figure out what you found.  To be on the safe side, with groups of kids, these kinds of activities are often reserved for the middle portion of the unit or as a final experience.  This way the kids are more likely to know what they've found and how to act respectfully around the critter being observed even if you aren't standing right over them.  Doing such an activity at the end of a unit can also be a great way to wrap it up.  Just by watching, you'll get a pretty good idea about how much your kids know, how confident they feel in that knowledge and they'll likely be more able to notice more because they'll have a better idea of just what it is they are looking at and for. 

I'm a huge fan of photographic scavenger huntsC.  Why not take your kids on an upside down hike and ask them to get photos of ten different creepy crawlies along the way.  Can they find two different arachnids, an arthropod with more than eight legs (millipedes and isopods - also known as pill bugs), and seven different species of insects?  Can they capture any fliers on film?

The composter can be another great source for a creepy crawly safari.  You'll want to make sure to include a little info on worms for your kids too so they can appreciate these humble miracle workers they are sure to find in the compost.  Have your students assess the health of the compost by taking a species survey within the compost.  The more diversity the more healthy your compost probably is.  Ask them to keep a running record of what they find and how many of each critter they see.  If you have two composters, you can even run experiments where one compost is maintained as usual and the other gets more greens, more browns, less or more water, gets left open to the sun . . .  Come back in two weeks and compare the health of the two composters based on the diversity and number of critters found within.  What do they discover?  If you don't have a composter already, start one at the beginning of the unit and see how many residents have moved in at the end.

Raising and Releasing

When she was four, Alice and I planted a garden of flowers butterflies in our area would like and then raised a few from the chrysalis (butterflies make a chrysalis, moths make cocoons).  It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience for her - she still speaks about raising butterflies from time to time two years later.  There really is no better way to learn the life cycle of an insect than to actually watch it take place. 

Although we haven't done it yet, it is also possible to order kits to raise lady bugs, praying mantids and of course, ant farms.  Please choose responsibly and check that you are getting the right species for your area - even if you aren't planning a release (as in the ant farm), accidents happen.   Then have tons of fun with it.

For Books and Resources:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

First Grade Reading List

First grade is usually a big year for gaining reading independence for kids.  If you are looking for a great selection of easy reader books or ideas about programs to help your child learn to read, please check out "A note on Beginning Readers".  This article is simply the list of books we used with her First Grade Curricula and decisions were often made based more on how the books would play with other topics she was studying or for literary concepts like character, problem and solution, cause and effect and plot concepts.  For example, "Just Lost" by Gina and Mercer Mayer was chosen as a way to go over safe decisions if she gets separated from adults in public situations and "Fancy Nancy Poison Ivy Expert" was my way of introducing her to how to watch out for this pernicious plant when we are in the woods.  Both books happen to also come from a list of books that are pretty easy to read.  Harry and the Lady Next Door is great for picking out problem and solution and all the books from Zonder Kidz related to our study of the development of the first Hebrew cities and culture as a part of ancient History.

Books Alice Read to Us:

From Zonder Kidz: I Can Read - 

Jonah and the Big Fish
Daniel and the Lions 
David and the Giant

I Can Read Books:

Bath Time for Biscuit; Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Biscuit's Day at the Farm; Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Amelia Bedelia Helps Out; Peggy Parish
Little Bear; Else Holmelund Minark
No Fighting, No Biting; Else Holmelund Minark
Owl at Home; Aarnold Lobel

Step Into Reading:

Old, New, Red, Blue; Disney
Tangled, A Horse and a Hero; Disney
Unicorn Wings; Mallory Loehr


I Spy Books
Annie and Snowball and the Dress-up Birthday; Cynthis Rylant

National Geographic Kids

Sea Turtles


Go Dog Go
And I mean it Stanley
Bedtime for Francis
Danny and the Dinosaur
Various Curious George Books
The Legend of the Blue Bonnet
Who Will be My Friends
Frog and Toad are Friends
Harold's Purple Crayon
Most of the Berensstein Bears Collection
A number of Jonathan London's Froggy Books
All of the Elephant and Piggie Books and Cat the Cat by Mo Willems
Big Red Barn
Runaway Bunny
Harry and the Lady Next Door
If you Give a Cat a Cupcake
If you Give a Pig a Pancake
If you Give a Moose a Muffin
One Fish, Two Fish
Hop on Pop

Books We Read Together, Or I Read to Her:

All in Just One Cookie
The Great Kapok Tree
The Shaman's apprentice
My Backyard Garden
Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow
Soil an Early Bird Book by Sally Walker
The Tiny Seed
A Seed is Sleepy
Watch a Seed Grow
Classical Myths to Read Aloud
26 letters and 99 cents
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Charlotte's Web
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Mr. Popper's Penguins
I Once was a Monkey
Stuart Little
The Sneeches
What Was I so Afraid of?
Lights for Gita
Tales of Amanda Pig
Little Oh
The Sugar Child
The Gingerbread Man
The Stinky Cheese Man
The Three Little Pigs
The Three Horrid Pigs
The Three Little Javelinas
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Collections We Love:

The Miniature World of Peter Rabbit
The Nutshell Library 
Treasury of Fairy Tales (Naomi Lewis)
Aesop's Fables
Jim Weiss and a variety of his Audio Collections including Myths of Ancient Greece, Stories of the Bible and Shakespeare for Children.
The Starbright Foundation's Fairy Tale Classics

Friday, October 19, 2012

Second Grade Reading List

Many of the books we read together are chosen by Alice, by k12 (the school program we use for pre-set curricula) and by her mom, lover of children's literature.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does include the planned reading for the year.  Since I believe her history curriculum is further enriched by exposure to many related tales from each part of history we study, you will see that much of the literature in the list is weighted for studies yet to come related to the Middle Ages.  Over the summer, we read most of the books about Rome on my list.  You will find a reference list for these books linked at the bottom of the page.  Please enjoy.

For Reading Aloud together:

For all of these books, Alice will begin the reading and read until she finds a spot with which she is struggling.  Her Dad or I are there to help and sometimes we will take turns where she reads a page and then one of us will read a page and so on back and forth if a text is proving more difficult than anticipated. 

Many Great Versions Available in Various Treasuries:

The Lion and the Fox
Androcles and the Lion
The Houd and the Hare
The Fox and The Grapes
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Goose and the Golden Eggs
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Puss in Boots
The Bremen Town Musicians
The Jackals and the Lion
The Ugly Duckling
The Little Match Girl
Town Mouse and Country Mouse
The Tiger and the Brahmin
The Grasshopper and the Ant

Separate Books:

Amelia Bedeliea
Buddy: The First Seeing Eye Dog by Eva Moore
June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
The Josefina Story Quilt by Eleanor Coerr
The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy
Cam Jansen: The Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds by David A. Adler
Surprises!  Selected Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Volcanoes! Mountains of Fire by Eric Arnold
Knights in Shining Armor by Gail Gibbons
Come Back Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski
The Hundredth Name by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim
How Artists See Animals and How Artists See Play by Colleen Carroll
Wag by Waal by Beatrix Potter
Clara and the Book Wagon

Stage 2 From the Let's Read and Find Out Series

Why Frogs are Wet
What Happens to a Hamburger?
What Makes a Magnet?
Let's Go Rock Collecting
Fossils Tell of Long Ago

Books we expect to Mostly Read To Alice:

For this set of books, the idea is that Alice is invited to do some of the reading, but the point is just that she is exposed to the stories, themes, vocabulary and concepts held within the tales.  Since they are all above second grade reading level, it is her choice to participate in the reading, or just listen and participate in discussion.

Saint George and the Dragon Retold by Margaret Hodges
The Kitchen Knight: A Tale of King Arthur b y Margaret Hodges
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights retold by Tania Zamorsky
The Adventures of Robin Hood retold by John Burrows
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Who Was Leonardo da Vinci? by Roberta Edwards
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Matilda by Roald Dahl

Books For Alice To Read To Herself:

With these books, Alice is to read the story to herself and answer questions about the story after the fact.  I will still be available if she gets stuck or has questions, but she'll have to respond to questions about the text without any discussion or explanation she doesn't specifically ask for.  Additionally the school sends three magazines full of non-fiction AND we subscribe to Ranger Rick.  She enjoys reading these to herself and often shares what she has learned with me without any need for prompting.

A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
The Long Way Westward by Joan Sandin
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh
Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley

Links to Units that included Additional Reading We have already completed

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spiders, Bugs and Creepy Crawlies. Oh MY!

These crafts are pretty simple but amazingly adaptable at the same time.  They also offer a TON of learning opportunities to the young crafter wanting to learn more about insects and arachnids. 

If you are hoping to do this craft along with a unit including reading and other activities about "creepy crawlies", click the link for a list of resources you might want to check out.  You might also enjoy trying an upside down hike as one of the activities you do.

To make the basic body of your insects you will need to begin with egg cartons.  An egg carton that used to hold a dozen eggs will make four insect bodies.

Additional Materials:

Glue (sometimes hot glue really works best)
pipe cleaners
paint in the colors for your species
single hole punch
your imagination

Basic Body:

  1. I like to start out with a black background body (or whatever color is most appropriate for the bug being created) and pre-paint the inside and the outside of the cup portion of the egg carton black before I cut it all apart.  It is just quicker and easier this way.  A little of the egg carton color will show through when you cut it apart, but this can be painted later (or you can not worry about it - its a craft for kids, if it doesn't bother them, don't let it bother you).  If you have a kid who does want this part painted - they can go for it! 
  2. Cut the cups apart so you have sets of three for as many insects as you will be making.  If you plan on making beetles later, (lady bug) you will need at least another one additional cup for each beetle.  One egg carton for a dozen eggs will make three beetles.
  3. Use the hole punch to cut three holes in each side of the central "bump" or thorax of the egg carton trio near the bottom margin of the cup (top edge when it held eggs).
  4. Use the hole punch to cut two holes as high in the head as you can (bottom of the cup when it held eggs) in order to add antennae later.


Use hot glue to make the three bumps curve together a little.  

Use the hole punch to punch a single hole near the bottom and frontal center of the head end of your "butterfly."
Paint your butterfly body (or let your kids paint the body) with any additional color or markings specific to your tastes or the species you have chosen to study.
Take a piece of paper in the shape of your species' wings and paint one half of the wings as desired (with the young ones, I just give them the right colors and let them use smash paint.  Then I cut the wings out based on where the paint goes.  With older kids that are really studying a specific species, they might need to be more particular).
Make sure your kids understand that the butterfly has four wings.  In fact, most species of insects have four wings or two wings and a pair of wings that time and the process of evolution have modified in some fashion.
Carefully fold the wings in half to create mirror image wings.  Allow for drying time, then paint the other side of the wings.  Butterflies hold their wings up and hide the brilliant colors of their wings when they land.  One side of the wings is likely a more muted color.  This will be the side that is glued downward when the time comes.  Moths always hold their wings in more of a tent like fashion when not flying.  The characteristic coloring will be the upper side of the wing for them as well.
Thread three pipe cleaners through the six holes in the thorax (central bump) to create six legs. 

Thread a pipe cleaner that is about 3-4 inches long through the hole you made for the "mouth" in the head cup and glue it into place.  After it has dried, curve the cleaner into a spiral as this is how butterflies hold their proboscis (long mouth part used like a straw) when they are not eating.

Cut a final pipe cleaner in half and thread it through the holes at the top of the head and affix with glue.

Glue the wings onto the thorax so the brightly colored side is up and the more drab side is down.

If you'd like to add eyes, Lepidoptera have two compound eyes - google eyes won't really represent this, but as a craft, kids think they are fun.  If this is to be a more serious study for older kids, you might come up with something faceted like tiny fake gems to do the trick.

Review the names and numbers of all the parts of the butterfly.  Antennae (2), Proboscis (1), Head, Legs (6), Thorax, Wings (4) and Abdomen.

You might also review that, in general with insects, the head is for sensing, the thorax is for moving, and the abdomen is for a lot of the things that happen in our own torsos like respiration (insects have little holes in the sides of their abdomens called spiracles for this purpose), digestion, reproduction and blood circulation.

Enjoy your butterfly.

How to create an Arachnid:

Follow the same instructions as those for the Basic Body for both ant and arachnid - however, the arachnid will only have two egg cups and will need four sets of two opposing holes in one of the bumps to make space for eight legs.

Add some google eyes and all of a sudden, they're kind of cute.

Alterations to Step Four:

Insects have antennae on their first body section, or head so you punched two holes in the head section for your insect.  Arachnids do not have antennae, but they all have chelicerae and pedipalps.  The chelicerae are two short appendages that come out near their mouth and are used for biting.  The pedipalps are longer and also near the mouth and are used for shoving food into the spider's mouth.  use a hole punch to cut two holes near where the spiders "mouth" would be and help your kids thread in one pipe cleaner cut down in size to about an inch and another to about two inches so the chelicerae are closest to the middle, and the longer pedipalps are right next to them toward the outside of the body.  Apply Glue.

Alterations to Step 5:

Insect eyes are actually compound eyes and won't look anything like googly eyes, but somehow using googly eyes is just fun.  Insects will have two on their heads.  Arachnids will have eight eyes surrounding the tops of the cephalothorax as though the spider has a crown of eyes.  Four of the eyes will aim forward, two more toward the back and the remaining two will face opposite each other out to the sides on either side of the cephalathorax.
Obviously, for the arachnid, you need not add wings, if you wish to extend the abdominal "bump" into a scorpion tail, scorpions are arachnids as well.

Things that are Special about the Beetle:

Like most other insects, beetles actually have four wings.  The special thing about the beetle is that the forward set of wings have specialized and become a hard protective covering.  The wings used for flying fold underneath the forward wings.

This beetle is ready to fly with his rear wings out and forward wings up.

Beetle shapes can also be pretty unique.  You might need to be fairly creative to give it the right shape depending on the species you create.  I chose to leave mine unfinished above to allow you the room to imagine your own completed beetle.  

For adaptations for other orders of Insects:

Have your students compare the different types of insects. What is similar? What is different?  Creating a table with a column for each of the orders of insects you will study, or for each of the classes of arthropods you will be taking a look at with a row for comparable characteristics is a great idea to help kids practice tracking data as well as using and constructing tables.

Some Suggestions for easy adaptations:

  1. Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) - in case you would like to give this one a try, you can use the photo on the home page for the creepy crawly unit as a beginning model.  The cricket shown, still needs wings and a mandible, but it should give you the basic idea.  Use the basic model for an ant, but make the last set of legs with one pipe cleaner each and bend them to look like grasshopper legs.  You should know, grasshoppers have short antennae and crickets have very long antennae so if you will be making a grasshopper, use one pipe cleaner for both antennae.
  2. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) - Model a butterfly.  You can also keep the cups in the normal egg-holding position, paint them green and plant grass in them to make a nice hairy caterpillar.  If you want your plant caterpillar to be a lesson in characteristics of caterpillars, you'll want to paint on the legs, but leg number can be dependant upon the species you are emulating.  MOST will have three sets of true legs and five prolegs on the abdomen making the total sixteen, but some don't have any legs and for some species the number can change depending upon the stage of the caterpillar.  Mostly, the planted caterpillar is just a fun little science craft and a chance to grow a little green in the windowsill.
  3. Diptera (flies and mosquitoes) - The model built and shown below is for a fly.  For a proboscis, the fly got a sliver of sponge.  To alter it to make a mosquito, simply replace the sponge proboscis with a piece of straw or a narrow cone made with a twist of paper
  4. Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, and bees) For bees, you'll want to copy the fly's wing style (including the set of two little knobs for the residual secondary wings) and add a "stinger" to the abdomen.  For ants (at least wingless, worker ants anyway) use the link on the word "ants" in number six.
  5. Isoptera (termites) - These guys look a lot alike, but the connection between the abdomen and thorax is thicker.  
This Bee is unfinished, but you can see his wing knobs that remain behind the forward set of wings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dental Health Activities For Preschool and Kindergarten

Since childhood dental hygiene is such an important topic, I thought I'd include a few activity ideas as well as resources for presenting your kids a unit study with oral health as the central theme throughout the unit.  I did find quite a few resources with a number of ideas and activities that related to the theme, but not many of the resources focused very directly on teaching children the actual care of their teeth so first I'd like to offer a few activity ideas that will help your kids have the skills they need to truly care for their gums and teeth.

Activities to Help Kids Practice Good Oral Care:

Healthy Food and Drink Choices

Sugary foods encourage the growth of a variety of germs that cause things like gum disease or tooth decay, but acidic foods also wear down the enamel of the tooth.  Even vitamin "water" is really a juice in terms of how it can affect the chemistry of the interior of the mouth. 

Do a quick lesson about "sugar bugs" and the foods they like to eat (include sugary foods as well as acidic).  Then give the kids a bunch of magazines.  Magazines with lots of food in them are best, but it isn't necessary that they all be for "foodies".  Have the kids fill up one paper with cut out pics of things that make the sugar bugs grow and multiply a lot.  Then, have the kids cut out pictures of foods that still need to be brushed off, but are healthy for the body and can help strengthen teeth from within because they are high in vitamins and minerals.

Brushing Teeth

The Doctors Show three kids what to do on the show.  My hygienist recommends more of a flicking motion (more like the dentist uses in this video) moving away from the gum line than a circular (healthier for the gums and still gets the gunk), but finding a fun video that shows this flicking motion  wasn't something I could do.  Here is Colgate's Take on how brushing occurs (hosted by a young girl).

Caring for Gums and Tissue

For many kids, flossing is the especially difficult skill.  I know of many parents that simply resort to letting their kids use mouth wash and figuring the kids are okay.  Unfortunately, rinsing simply does not replace using floss.  Using a water pik can be a wonderful activity for gum health, but rinsing is definitely no replacement to flossing. 

Have your kids construct a mouthful of teeth as in the picture below.  You will need pink construction paper cut into a long oval shape, mini marshmallows, yarn and glue. 

I folded the paper in the middle so the top jaw can fold over the bottom jaw after the glue dries.  When it is done, I stuck a few sequins between some of the teeth here and there.  Alice used the yarn to "floss" the teeth.  In real life, she uses those flossers because it helps her hold the floss so she can focus on scraping the "gunk" off of her teeth.  I then go back over her flossing job myself, just to be sure.

The point of this activity is that they practice the motion of moving the yarn so it presses gently into the side of the "teeth" marshmallows.  With some guidance, they can then hopefully transfer this understanding to their own flossing process before bed every night.  If their gums aren't healthy, it will be uncomfortable, but with consistent practice at keeping the gum line clean and "gunk" free, it will get better and easier because their gums will get healthier and less sensitive.

Resource for a Premade Kindergarten Unit including printables.  This resource has a number of pages focused on learning vocabulary words and colors.