Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer Camp: Dinosaurs! Teacher Lisa

Summer camp at Small Friends is a wonderful opportunity for children from each of our classrooms to get together for a week of fun centered around a certain theme. It is a chance to make new friends and experience new routines. Perhaps the thing the children love the most (based on the conversations we overheard) is that they get to come to school every day with no "stay-home" days in between.

Teacher Jennifer and I had lots of fun putting together two very different summer camps this year: Dinosaurs and Pizza! That's right - after a week of excavations and erupting volcanoes, we traded our hard hats in for chef hats as our dig site was transformed into a pizzeria! Here's a look at our days in the Land Before Time...

Campers were welcomed by T. Rex and his pals.

As they entered the classroom they had lots of different activities to choose from. (We don't always know the children we are planning for since some come from other classrooms, so we put out as many different things as we can and watch to see what happens...). One thing they loved was painting these dinosaur pictures at the light table.

Another popular activity (to our pleasant surprise) was stenciling. We found that if we taped the stencils to paper plates and then slipped pieces of paper underneath, both the younger and older children were able to experience success independently.

Of course there were lots of dinosaur toys to play with all over the room.

After a couple of days with the watercolors, children were happy to find dinosaurs frolicking among the magna-tiles on the light table.

One of our tables had bones to excavate with brushes and tweezers, dinosaurs to chip out of "fossils", and rocks and shells to observe through magnifying glasses. 

Throughout the week we sculpted volcanoes. After several days of construction, we made them erupt. Fun for everyone AND a great way to use old, leftover clay!

When our water tub wasn't being used for volcano construction, it was filled with gooey, sticky, drippy mud (corn starch, water and cocoa) for dinosaurs to slog through.

...Or icebergs with dinosaurs trapped inside. Preschoolers to the rescue!

For the first couple of days of camp we had a dinosaur nest with several huge eggs. At the end of Day 1 we looked over to see this happening:

To the children's surprise and delight, we chimed in with "Oh my! It looks like the baby dinosaurs are hatching!" Such fun! (And once they had experienced picking up all that paper they weren't as interested in tossing it around the next day, which worked out nicely for everyone).

On Thursday the children came in to find that the nest was gone and an excavation tent was in its place. They went outside in small groups to look for dinosaur eggs (and a few other treasures) which they then brought back in to break open so they could get to the tiny dinosaur inside.

Since all of the tools from our excavation table were in the tent, we put "melty beads" out with these little dinosaur patterns. The beads were such a hit that we used them again the following week during our Pizza Camp!

We did several art projects during the week. On the first day of camp, the children made papier mache dinosaur eggs (prepared ahead of time with little dinosaurs tucked inside).

For the second and third days they each created a "Pastasaurus" by drawing their own dinosaur skeleton and then gluing a variety of pasta over the lines.

They added dirt (coffee grounds) to the background.

On Friday, each child opened their papier mache egg to find the dinosaur inside. Then they made terrarium habitats for them to live in. Several of the children also added the dinosaurs they made with the perler beads.

Our snacks throughout the week had a prehistoric flare. Among other things, we ate dinosaur spikes (watermelon triangles) and claws (Bugles), bones (pretzels) and dino-shaped chicken nuggets.

On the final day of camp we ate through layers of the earth (pudding and cookie crumbs) to find dinosaur eggs (jelly beans) hidden in the middle.

Of course no week of camp would be complete without camp songs! We sang "There's a Dinosaur on the School Bus," "What Can Make a Great Big Dinosaur Smile?" and "I Like to Chomp and Stomp and Tromp Throughout the Land". We also had LOTS of fiction and non-fiction books about dinosaurs in the reading area and our paleontologists were always happy to take a story break!

Before we knew it, the week was over! We packed the dinosaurs away and started working on the pizzeria....I can almost smell the pizza sauce simmering as I type...(keep scrolling to read all about it!)

Pizza Camp - Teacher Jennifer

“When the moon hits your eye, like a big Pizza Pie, that’s amore.......”

There is nothing that a child loves more to eat than an ooey, gooey, chewy, and cheesy piece of pizza!  Come to think of it, pizza is FUN, any way you slice it!  We chose to captivate our summer campers with a week full of pizza themed activities.  The versatility of a pizza was the catalyst to many games and activities involving colors, shapes, fractions, numbers, and vocabulary development.  The appeal of pizza inspired many literacy, art, and dramatic play activities.  Pizza turned out to be educational AND delicious! 

When our campers came to school, they were immediately greeted with slices of pizza that had their names on them.  Before entering the classroom, they needed to put their slice in the open pizza box. 

The moment you walked into our “PRESCHOOL PIZZERIA” you could SMELL the fresh sauce cooking in the crockpot to use for snacks.  You could HEAR the soft Italian music playing in the background.  You could SEE the dramatic play area had been transformed into a pizzeria complete with tables, red checked tablecloths, a cash register, and an area dedicated to making felt pizzas with toppings galore.  You could TOUCH the ingredients used to make pizza dough and Italian food.  And, of course, you could TASTE pizza every day at snacktime!

Let’s take a tour around the room to see what made this camp week so tasty!

The excitement at the pizzeria in our dramatic play area was contagious!  The campers were very hungry and spent much time creating the ultimate pizza in the  kitchen.  Felt crusts, sauce, cheese, and different toppings were placed on plates and were either shared with customers at tables, or were placed in pizza delivery boxes ready to deliver to homes!  Chefs donned hats and wore mitts when getting hot pizzas out of the oven!  Paying for the pizzas was great practice with money and taking turns at the cash register.  Future waiters took orders from customers at tables!  Depending on the order, felt pizzas or wooden pizzas were shared around the table.  The campers were able to practice cutting the pieces in equal parts, served the pieces to plates, and discussed what toppings made their pie the tastiest!

The texture table was filled with cornmeal.  Cornmeal is so soft, silky, and very inviting for little hands!  We placed sifters, measuring cups/spoons, spinner mills, and small pizza pans in the table for the children to play with.  We explained that the pizza makers use cornmeal on the counter so the dough does not stick!  As the week progressed, “people” played in the cornmeal and slid down cornmeal mountains!

The water tub had an Italian flare!  Spaghetti noodles and pom-pom meatballs were floating and were just waiting for campers to pick them up with tongs and fill up bowls. 

We also spent time at the water tub “grating mozzarella cheese” (ivory soap) and tearing up toilet paper to make a very cheesy “clean mud” to play with!

We also made “sauce bags” filled with pizza sauce, pineapple, olives, and cheese.  The children were able to squish the bags and try to manipulate the food inside to create pizza faces!  The heat of the light table also made the sauce bags very aromatic!

Our library was filled with fiction and non-fiction books about pizza!  Some of our favorites that we read were:

The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza
Pete’s a Pizza
Hi, Pizza Man!
The Princess and the Pizza
Curious George and the Pizza Party
The Secret Pizza Party

The flannel board in the library featured the “Pizza Factory!”  The children looked at orders and then had to create pizzas out of felt that matched the order.  Number, color, and shape recognition all played a part in this.  Campers felt successful “reading” and completing these orders!  It was also fun to see children create their own pizza patterns and faces with the felt pieces.

Little hands and fingers were kept very busy with a variety of fine motor activities!  The small “melty beads” were a HIT all week long!  Children worked tenaciously at filling up a small circle with these little beads to create rainbow pizzas!

We also created “robot pizzas” with nuts and bolts, “rubberband pizzas” with geoboards and colorful rubber bands, and practiced our weaving with a “pizzabox pizza”!

The playdough table featured making our own aromatherapy dough!  Campers crushed oregano and thyme using a mortar and pestle.  They were able to sprinkle the herbs in the dough, knead the dough, and roll out their own crusts to play with.  There was always a pizza party happening at this table!

Our creation and self-help area invited children over to create pizzas using scrap materials and precut shapes.  It was great to listen to children discuss the names of shapes and draw comparisons to the toppings you would find on pizzas. 

The campers participated in a week-long cumulative art project.  We focused on many different processes to create an “art pizza” for each camper to take home. 

On Monday, we kneaded and rolled out the salt dough and formed a small circle with an edge to keep the sauce in.

Since the salt dough took a couple of days to dry, we created vegetable print pizzas on Tuesday!

On Wednesday, we used a paintbrush made out of spaghetti noodles to spread our “saucy” paint!  It was very important to use some green glitter as seasoning!  We also took time to decorate our pizza boxes to take our creations home in.  We worked on stamping the word “pizza” on the box and then used our imaginations to add other details to make the boxes unique!

On Thursday, it was time to add the toppings to the pizza!  Buttons, sponges, paper shreds, foam circles, beads, and pipe cleaners were carefully placed to create the ultimate ART PIZZA!  Each chef took a picture with the finished product.

Snack time was the perfect opportunity to make a different kind of pizza each day.  We created silly pizzas out of bagels, cream cheese, and goldfish.  We spread homemade sauce on Italian bread and added string cheese.  Fruit pizzas were made out of cookies, frosting, and fresh fruit.  We actually had the pizza man deliver REAL pizza on the last day of camp!!

Our group time lent itself to learning many fun songs.  The children learned the “Silly Pizza” song with the signs.  Environmental print was stressed when teaching a fun song about different restaurants.  Instruments were brought out to experiment with while singing fun camp songs!

The literacy component at camp not only involved reading MANY stories about pizza, both fiction and non-fiction, but in acting out a story called Pete’s a Pizza. 
After reading the story as a group, students volunteered to be Pete.  They came to the front of the group and acted out what it felt like to be a pizza!

Pete was.........




.....and before Pete was put in the oven, he got up and RAN!

There were so many giggles and laughs when we gently acted this out!  The repetition, sequencing, and retelling gave the children confidence to start acting it out with each other the following days of camp.

We went outside for the last day of camp and played with our “pizza parachute!”  The group worked together to walk the parachute in a circle, raised it above our heads, and manipulated bouncing our beach balls, or “meatballs”, on top of the pizza!  Parachutes bring preschoolers, and adults, so much joy!  We also played a game where children practiced running in and out of the parachute before it fell down!

We ended our pizza camp on a delicious note!  The pizza man delivered many pizza pies for us to enjoy picnic style on a beautiful summer day!

This theme, and special group of campers, was a slice of amazing.......just like that first bite into a hot, cheesy piece of pizza!!