Sunday, December 29, 2013

The spoils of holiday travel!

I was extremely excited to go traveling for Christmas this year.  My parents live 7 hours away so I figured I'd find treasures in their stores that I hadn't looked at 20 times like the stuff in the thrift stores up here.  My first find was in my mom's kitchen.  She had a small lava lamp sitting on a shelf collecting dust.  I asked if it was broken and she said that it wasn't, she just didn't use it any longer.  So I snagged that.  I did have to buy a new bulb for it but it works perfectly and looks great after a little clean-up.  I think it will be a curiosity piece.  Instead of telling them how it works, I'll show them how to look it up in a book or more likely, online.  The chances of me having a book about how lava lamps work sitting on the shelf is slim to none.

I was frustrated at the thrift stores we visited because everything on display was Christmas!  And there's nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't what I was looking for.  Hobby Lobby, arguably one of the coolest stores ever, had a lot of things that were very cool but were either breakable or too expensive.  I did find 5 posters in their clearance section I couldn't leave without:
1.  The Presidents of America - current, all portraits in sepia
2.  The Human Body - like what you'd see in a doctor's office
3.  The Periodic Table - with actual pictures of each mineral, and if the mineral couldn't be photographed, the person who discovered it.
4.  Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon
5.  Shark species - in proportioned size

And my final treasure is one I'm extremely excited about.  It's a model of the human heart I found at a thrift store for $1.50.  The pieces are still attached to the little pegs, so it's never been put together.  It's dated 1973, that makes it 40 years old!  I was slightly disappointed to see that I have to take the time to paint it and then glue it, but it will be worth it when complete.  It can even be taken apart to show how different parts of the heart work.  I think I might invest in a glass dome to display it in so it doesn't get dusty.

My other big treasure from the trip is actually an idea.  Remember the oak card cases I wanted to turn into an I Spy Dewey Decimal Display?  Well, I realized on the trip that I was biting off more than I could chew.  Some of the sections of Dewey are too hard to represent with objects and if I collect them here and there for 5 years I still might not have enough to create the display.

I recently read "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick and I was enthralled with the idea of the Cabinet of Wonders.  What if I used those cases to create my own cabinet?  They lock and have clear lids, they would only need a few tweaks to make them work.  Now the part I hate.  I am not supposed to use power tools (my husband fears for my life) and so I am reliant on him and my father-in-law to rework the cases so I can use them.  I'd like cubbies built in so that when the cases are displayed upright each object has it's own little area.  I want a mix of sizes too - in case some objects are larger than others.  Since I have limited control over the exact construction of the cases, I am starting to think about what kind of wonders I want to put into it.  So far I have:
1.  a small wasp's nest that has been in the freezer for 6 months, just in case
2.  2 or 3 pieces from my fossil collection
3.  seashells
4.  this very weird lizard-foot-thingy
Someone left it at the public library and the other librarian on duty said it was too creepy to keep in the lost and found drawer, so I brought it home.  I think it's real.  The scales on the palm side of the foot are too detailed to be anything but.  It's the kind of thing to really get little boys asking questions.

I am bursting at the seams wanting to go out hiking this spring and summer.  I'd like to find some bones or feathers or even lake glass to display.  Who knows what I will find.  My mother-in-law mentioned she has a screech owl in her yard.  I wonder if I can find any owl pellets?
-owl pellets
-bones of small animals
-turtle shell
-snake skins

I am sure I'll come up with more ideas of things to look for.  And maybe once I have the case up, people will donate items to the display.  Those are ideas for "natural" display items but I could have any number of items in the display.  I even have my dad's old slide rule, it would require a taller cubbie, but it's something most kids wouldn't be able to identify without help.  It would be cool to learn to use so I could teach the kids.

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future....

Wow, it's hard to keep up with everything.  The holidays have made things extra busy around here, but I have accomplished some major goals:
The new shelves are in!
 First we had to move a few sections at a time.  Thankfully 4 sections were light enough to move with the books on them.  The big section, under the bulletin board, was too heavy to move without taking the books off of it.
 One thing I noticed while we were in the transition phase was that I liked the "pony wall" effect of the shelves in front of the couch area.  The only problem was I couldn't see through them to know if they kids were putting their feet on the coffee table or what books were in their hands.

After we got all the blue shelving moved, I donated 2 of the shelf sections to teachers who needed them.  One became my new periodical shelf, and one was relocated to a spot by my desk and houses the alphabet books and I Spy books.  I've moved a good chunk of the books from nonfiction that are below a 2.5 level.  Some aren't AR and we had to guess, but my volunteers and I are doing pretty well with it.  There are more than I anticipated and that is one of the reasons we moved the alphabet books and I Spy onto another shelf.  We just don't have room.  Now the books are arranged much more closely to Dewey Decimal.  Things don't always stay perfect and we don't sort the animal books exactly - bugs and spiders are together, fish, birds, and mammals have their own little sections.

The maintenance man wanted to demolish the largest section of shelves, but I had other ideas.  It is the perfect size to act as my pony wall and only need a few repairs.  I was surprised when it was brought back to me, freshly painted!  It is now my display wall, where I will display any odds and ends that might inspire the kids to ask "where, what, why, how & who?"  This is a slow process of course, since there isn't a "inspiring curiosity" line in the school budget.
Visually the design of the shelf is very appealing and I love how it looks.  It gives a nice pop of bright blue (our school's main color).  Right now it has our globe on it.  I am hoping to add more globes from different time frames to the display.  Globes out date quickly because of the political changes in our world, but why not have them from different times in history so kids can see the difference?  The topographical globe I already have - it has raised mountain ranges - is old enough to still say U.S.S.R.  A more current one would make it easier to show the kids how the political map changes while the physical continents remain static.
The other addition to the shelf was this little guy.  Isn't he awesome!  He's actually from Disney World's Animal Kingdom Dinoland.  I would guess that a toy this big (the size of my cat) cost at least $30 in the theme park.  His legs can be posed and he has the coolest texture on his skin.  I found him at a thrift store for $2.50.  His horn was bent so I doctored it up and his frill was ripping away from his shoulder, so that got fixed too.  The kids can't get enough of him.  I have a student with cerebral palsy in one of the kindergarten classes.  He loves one on one interaction and textures.  I asked him, "Have you ever wanted to hold a dinosaur on your lap?"  I sat the dinosaur on his lap and his eyes got so big!  Then I placed his hand on the dinosaur's lap and he giggled.  I am so excited that he responded so well.  Even our principal can't resist reaching out and petting the dinosaur as she goes through the library.

Many of the kids have asked what kind of dinosaur he is, and I have had a few kindergarten paleontologists tell me that he is a triceratops, but he isn't.  I did some research into what dinosaurs are featured in the theme park ride and the only one that fits him is the Styracosaurus.  Here is the wikipedia link on this type of dinosaur. (Yes, I know wiki isn't the greatest source but I can't link into our school's online encyclopedia.)  I was thinking it would be a lot of fun to have a contest where the kids fill out slips with their guesses as to what kind of dinosaur he is.  After a certain time frame I would take all the correct guesses and draw randomly for them for a winner.  I have a cute dinosaur board book that would win for the K, 1 & 2 winner but I'd have to find something for the 3 & 4 and 5 & 6 winners.

Another great idea that my nieces shared with me is that at their school, each month you get to enter your name in for a drawing for a book.  If you check out 2 books you get 2 slips for the drawing box.  My niece won a copy of Rick Riordan's "House of Hades" last month.  I went through my books and I have some I could use for prizes, but probably not enough to do monthly drawings.  I think it would be okay to do a drawing at Christmas time and a drawing at the end of school in the spring.  If we have a summer program it would be a nice incentive for that too.  I will have to do more thinking on it.

I also went ahead and made a wreath for a fun "Charlotte's Web" display.  The first grade classes read it each year, so it's a school favorite.
The spider web is made of kite string and I used a heavier string to add the letters for "Some Pig".  I added the raffia to look like hay, the story takes place in a barn after all. The kids sometimes don't see it right away.  Then they ask, "What's that supposed to be?"  I added Wilbur (using a great drawing I found online) and that helps some.  The last step will be to make Charlotte herself.  She needs to be soft and gray.  I bought some little poof balls to make her and our cat stole them.  So she's not there yet, but she will be.

One last thing to share.  The teachers had an after school get together and made crayon wreathes.  Mine was the last completed but I love how it turned out.