Sawaddee Ka! The Essex Elementary School Learning Center has gone Thai! Our special guest educator, Thitima Muakphet, fondly known as Cherry, has been spending the fall months at EES. Cherry teaches 8th and 9th grade social studies in Samutprakarn,Thailand, but she will be spending the school year in our district.
Last week the children of EES had a very special treat. Each class entered the Learning Center to find the lights dimmed, beautiful Thai music playing softly, and Mrs. Scrimgeour, Mrs. Doble and Cherry dressed in festive Thai costumes.
The children were introduced to traditional Thai shadow-puppets, and then watched a shadow-puppet show of the story “Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together,” a pourquoi-style of tale that explains why something is the way it is.
Cherry showed pictures of Thailand, including some of their important customs for children and their teachers. Each child received a small booklet on which she had written each child’s name in the Thai alphabet (which has 44 characters!).
Children also learned to greet each other in Thai. Girls greet others by saying “Sawaddee Ka,” and boys return the greeting with “Sawaddee Krab.”
The children thoroughly enjoyed this cultural exchange. Thank you, Thitima Muakphet! Kob Kun Ka, Cherry!
Just over a week ago a group of Kindergartners made an exciting discovery: a Monarch caterpillar had somehow managed to form a chrysalis under our "mushroom" table.
It was an incredible sight. "How did it get there?," was the most frequent question. We can only guess that as a caterpillar it found its way out of the netting, down the table leg, crawled across the great divide of the carpet until it found a place that is peaceful and tranquil: our mushroom table in the garden area.
It must have thought to itself, "Here's a perfect place to rest inside my chrysalis for awhile." And so it rested...
On Thursday morning the chrysalis was black. If you look carefully, you can see the wing pattern through the chrysalis shell:
The children were intrigued.
The resolution is not perfect, but the images are magical nonetheless!
This video clip is taken with a Flip camera and captures the entire emergence. It too is blurry, unfortunately:
And here she is, resting in our incubator net before being released:
It’s our fourth week back in session. The children are thrilled to be back in the Learning Center looking for their favorite books, discovering our new ones, and simply enjoying spending time pouring over their selections.
Currently we are in the midst of learning about book care. This is a two week unit that includes the story, MR. WIGGLE’S BOOK by Paula Craig and Carol Thompson, a puppet show entitled “Don’t Monkey Around With Library Books,” and a visit from Dr. Bookster who diagnoses “medical” book symptoms. Dr. Bookster consults with the students and together they arrive at a diagnosis for each book. The students see examples of books with chewed corners, scribbles all over, ripped pages, torn off covers, and wrinkled and/or stuck together pages. Some of the students are convinced that I, myself, purposely did this to each book so I would have examples for my lesson, but I assure them I would never ever do that. Each book is a true example of what can and does happen when they fall into the hands (or jaws) of baby brothers or siblings or pets, or seemingly innocent water bottles in backpacks.
The goal of course, is to have all children learn to be responsible for the books that belong to all of us here at EES. Ask your child what things they learned about taking good care of books. You’ll be amazed at how much they know!
It never fails to amaze me how receptive children are to puppet shows. In a world of high tech and special effects, children seem willing to forgo their savvyness when in the presence of puppets on stage. I'm speaking from experience when I make such a claim. I have performed in all manner of rigged-up settings: from behind a chair with the puppets poked through the back rails and the chair seat as the stage, crouched behind tables, and stretching my arms over the tops of book shelves. Many times the children can see me. It never really seems to matter where or how visible I am, or even how low-budget. Perhaps the more bizarre the rig, the more enjoyable the show.
This week in the Learning Center I have been performing The Three Little Fishies and the Big Bad Shark. This is definitely a low-budget show. The ocean scene backdrop is an enlarged photocopy colored with markers, and the three houses made of two-dimensional paper seaweed, shells and stones, are each taped to a metal bookend to hold them upright. We did manage to scrounge up three fish puppets, but no shark. The next best thing is a paint-stick puppet: a lovely shark picture mounted on oaktag and taped to a paint stick. Voila! Instant puppet, and the children are hooked! No pun intended.
The delight of the children is palpable; they are joyfully receptive to stories of any kind. They love to answer the puppets’ call for help from the audience. Their laugh-out loud predictions and heartfelt warnings to the puppets spur me on. I'm really not sure who is having the most fun. As we wind down the school year, I've been encouraging the children to keep reading over the summer, to keep their reading "muscles" strong, and to keep alive the joy for stories. I wish that no child ever lost that magic feeling for stories. It's part of my mission to keep it alive.