Dear Bears Families,

The spring garden and planting curriculum has taken off in the Bears!  To learn about different types of gardens – and to see what our local community provides – the Bears have been taking walks to neighborhood spots with gardens.  A few weeks ago the Bears walked to the Old Stone House and explored the vegetable and herb gardens, where they saw basil, mint, and bean plants – and many more.  (And as an extra bonus, the Bears had a wonderful time afterwards playing in the ball field behind the House.)  The Bears next explored the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens on an exquisitely beautiful spring day.  It was a wonderful trip, and the children managed so well walking (and singing) all the way from the Collective to the Gardens and back again.  At the Gardens, the children took special interest in the cherry trees (then in full bloom), grape hyacinth, azaleas, and lilacs.  They also saw and entered the “tree house” sculpture made from trees felled by Storm Sandy.  The Bears continue to be on the lookout for community gardens so stay tuned.
Along with visiting gardens, the Bears have been doing their own planting.  They began by sprouting lima beans on damp paper towels in Zip-Lock bags, then planting the sprouts in individual cups of soil.  For those children whose sprouts sadly didn’t make it, the Bears have tried a second round of planting, this time directly with the lima beans in the soil.  The children are carefully tending their seeds and plants, checking the soil and watering as needed.
Books about spring, gardens, and the earth have been enriching the classroom as well.  This week the Bears read a lovely book, “Grandpa’s Garden” by Stella Fry, about a boy who plants and tends a vegetable garden with his grandfather.  The reading was followed by children sharing what their favorite vegetables are – everything from broccoli to carrots to edamame.  Another book read recently was “Up, Down, and Around” by Katherine Ayres, about how some plants grow up (corn, peppers, okra), some grow down (carrots, beets, onions), and some around and around (cucumbers, greens beans, tomatoes).  The Bears used this book as a launch to the children creating their own gardens on construction paper with dry beans, crayons, and torn paper.  They also read a very tender book called “The Dandelion Seed” by Joseph Anthony and illustrated by Cris Arbo, and then made pictures of dandelions by dabbing white paint with their finger tips.  And in a related activity, the Bears recently made “dirt” play dough with cocoa powder, then “planted” dry beans and stuck pipe cleaners into the play dough to simulate growing plants.
Speaking of books, a recent favorite is “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More” by Karen Beaumont with illustrations by David Catrow.  It’s a whimsical book about a child who, after making a huge mess, is forbidden to paint and ends up painting his body instead.  Afterwards the children had a wonderful time drawing self-portraits and then dripping and splattering “themselves” with paint.  If you haven’t already, please check out the display in the hallway.
And have you seen the recent additions to the block area?  We recently acquired multicultural block people – families and workers.  Today a child showed me her building and how one block person was “taking pictures” (x-rays) of another’s bones – a wonderful moment of a child re-creating (and more deeply understanding) life experiences through block play.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: children need to wear (or have in their cubbies) proper footwear for outdoor play to prevent slipping, stubbed toes, etc.  Footwear needs to close snugly over the foot, and any sandals must be closed-toe.  Also, no crocs!  And please remember to apply sunscreen in the morning.  Thanks!!
Have a great weekend!