From Under Our Big Tree: Week 20

The Knowing Garden: From under our big tree…

11 February 2012
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Week 19: Bears Go Camping
Discoveries at TKG
Happy Day!

Park day was full of walking and exploring.  We climbed our favorite trees, found “clues” like feathers, cones, “skunk poop”, a blue bean bag in a tree, and nut looking seed.  Some wanted to head to the beach while others wanted to fly their dragons in the park.  Working together we figured out we could fly our dragons to the beach.  We navigated how to head west when houses blocked our way. Flora and pointy plants were observed and discussed, and so were the benefits of aloe plants.  We even tried out some Spanish words like Hermosa, Redondo and Palos Verdes.  Once we reached the beach we jumped in the waves, spotted shells and bubbles, dolphins appeared and so did a whale!  (Special thanks to our parent volunteer,  for getting wet with us, keeping us safe, and sharing a magical park day with TKG.)

Back in the classroom we dove into books about bears.  We classified based on what we already know about different types of bears: black, brown, grizzly, polar, and panda. This week we added new information to that list: sun and sloth bears.  We compared bears and cats, walked like bears, and organized bears by weight.  Bears are heavy!  In fact, bears are so heavy that if you put all the Kitty Kitten Gardeners together bears would still weigh more.  Students wanted to be parts of a polar bear based on their weight.  Some were paws and ears, others were the head or body, and in between weights were the legs.

I often ramble in these letters about the academic parts of the day.  I think I do this because social and emotional aspects are such a huge part of our day.  I find myself emphasizing on the academia that occurs in such a special place.  Perhaps it’s my way of validating that learning IS happening.  And it is happening in a meaningful way.  In the above example I introduced the project of sequencing of weight and placed a scale on the floor.  Students took turns figuring out the scale and how much they weighed. Some remained gathered around the scale and others returned to their project.  Then everyone hopped on all together.  My lesson plan’s end goal was to place our post-its with weights in order from students to bears.  However, after reading a polar bear weighs up to 1,100 lbs a student said he weighed as much as a bear’s paw…the lesson evolved from there I drew a bear and a student said it looked too much like a teddy bear, so she drew her version.  The group created their own lesson, so they owned it.  Students chimed in, asked questions, changed their minds, checked in with each other, and were engaged without having to sit “criss cross applesauce.”  That’s my kind of number sense!  (We were missing the weight of a panda bear. So if your child asks, discuss ways to find this information and seek them out.) Okay, enough rambling, here are some other random notes on the week:

A book told us bears are carnivores, but then it continued to say they also eat plants and berries.  With that knowledge we determined that bears are actually omnivores.

Bears walk on flat feet with a slight pigeon-toe.  Give it a try. 

We read “City Cats, Country Cats” by Barbara Hazen Shook, illustrated by Pam Paparone.  One cat had a backpack on and we contemplated why he needed a backpack.  Maybe he was on his way to school, a trip, a hotel, camping, Disneyland.  Or maybe he just wanted to carry some things with him.  The possibilities are endless!

Students were not interested in one of my projects of making bear tracks, but they loved painting my feet for my tracks.  We then used the paint cups as paint brushes.

Math Workshop has been happening twice almost daily so we will make a point of adding a second slot to our schedule.  Next week we will work on checking in with our schedule, as well as with me and each other.

Businesses have been popping up all over in our classroom.  From a shape store to a ship shop we are all becoming interested into providing services and products.

Students have wanted to take home bears, shapes, and other classroom items.  Starting next week students will have a gallon sized bag to be able to check out items or books.

Bears went camping.  They built tents and campfires.  We even had marshmallows.  Next week we will continue with bears.  We will focus on bear habitats and what it would be like to camp with in different bear regions.

Reminder, this Friday is a TKG Field Trip day.  Our plan is not yet confirmed because the students will put it to a vote at the beginning of the week.

We will meet at the park on Monday (there is a chance of rain so look out for mobile location confirmation on Sunday night).

This month is Black History Month, or National African American History Month, the annual celebration of achievements by black Americans.  We will create opportunities for recognizing the role of African Americans in U.S. history and welcome your ideas.

Finally, Monday Feb 20th, is a holiday in observation of President’s Day – there will be no school.  You can see all our holidays on the TKG calendar:

Happy Learning,
Michelle Goldbach-Johnson

p.s. Check out even more photos on Flickr!

Growth: Themes & Plans

Week 20 will focus on the following developmental concepts:


Responsibility for self and actions (clean up time!)

Self regulation tools (executive function)

Cognitive/BEARS in relation to the following:

Habitats (science, environmental studies, geography)

Fiction or nonfiction (language arts)

Storytelling, role playing (performing arts)

Nutrition (health)

Bear songs (music, language arts)

Bears play a big role in math workshop!


Learn positive ways to release tension

Develop and apply safety rules


Communicate confidently with peers and adultsAccept and understand differences


This Friday is our TKG Field Trip Day.  A follow up message will include all the details.

Garden Maintenance:

Friendly reminders from the TKG Office:

  • Please collect childrens, best-sellers, and cooking/gardening books for our upcoming Book Sale.  Date to be announced soon!
  • Friendly Reminder: 25% Fundraiser contribution will be coming due in the next couple of months.
  • Don’t forget to sign-in and check out Parent Binder each morning at drop off.

Thank you Families!  Admin Questions, please email t.valdez(at)knowinggarden(dot)org.


February Board Meeting will be on Monday at 6pm.  All are welcome!  Location: Catalina Coffee Co.

We love our Parent Volunteers!

MJG will be our parent volunteer this week.  If you have some time, please check in with Michelle for any take-home projects or clean-up assistance.


We are meeting at the park on Monday.  Don’t forget your camp gear, writing tools and clothing layers.  See you!

Resource Of The Week:

“Today, many anthropologists suspect that the need to make friends and allies was a driving force in human evolution. Our ancestors beat the odds against disease, famine, and predators by teaming up. Along the way, natural selection favored people who were good at “reading minds” and forging bonds. ”

Friendship in children: How parenting and family life affect peer relationships
by Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.

Read More…

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