Category Archives: education

Square 1 Art Lesson: Lions Inspired by LeRoy Neiman(1st Grade)

Each year, at school we have a Square 1 Art Fundraiser. Last years theme was water. My Kindergarten and 2nd Grade classes painted themselves under umbrellas in the rain . The previous year 1st grade created oil pastel monsters. This year the theme is ‘Be Wild and Wonder’.

LeRoy Neiman’s lions encapsulate both aspects of the theme perfectly and are bright and bold so fit the criteria for square 1 art projects.

Step 1.

Draw the outline of the lion’s face.

leroy neiman lions

We made sure, the face was a good size and talked about different shapes for the face. This shape was similar to LeRoy Neiman’s lion and makes the lion appear as if it is looking sideways.

Step 2.

Draw the lions eyes, nose, mouth and ears.


We tried out different shaped eyes and noses. Once the children were happy with their drawings, they outlined them in black sharpie.


Step 3.

Paint the Mane. I showed them how to make sweeping brushstrokes, starting at the edge of the face and moving outwards.  I encouraged them to use lots of bright colours and to try not to mix them too much.

1st grade art

Some used straight lines

square one art project 1st grade - leroy neiman lions

Others chose curved lines

1st grade square one art lesson - leroy neiman lions

And some let the lines move in different directions.

Step 4.

Paint the face. We looked at Neiman’s use of colour – how he used light colours on the nose and chin and darker colours in the shadows. Again, I encouraged them to keep the colours distinct to make a patchwork effect.

Leroy Neiman lion

Step 5.

Once the paint is dry, outline the features again in sharpie (this helps it to show up when the art work is reproduced by Square 1) and paint a watercolour wash for the background.

square one art lesson inspired by leroy neiman lions

This child didn’t want to outline the lion’s face, preferring to let the face and mane merge into one another.

Square one art project inspired by Leroy neiman lions

Some chose heart shaped faces

Some filled the whole page with patchwork colour

Some added ears

and some preferred lions without ears.

I love how individual they all are. Bright, bold and full of personality – perfect for a square one art project. I can’t wait to see how they look once their are printed onto keepsakes.



Art Lesson -Wire Sculpting Inspired by Alexander Calder’s Circus


For this months art lesson with third grade, I chose to make wire circus performers inspired by Alexander Calder’s circus.  When the children were in 1st grade we made Giacometti inspired wire sculptures. The thicker wire in these sculptures was difficult to bend so I chose thinner wire this time.

The lesson began with the book  Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone. This picture book tells the story of Calder’s youth, how he came to enjoy wire sculpture, become an artist and create his moving circus.

The Whitney Museum of American Art have actual video footage of Alexander Calder working his circus.  I showed the children this video from 1927, but there are many others.

For our project we made trapeze artists.  I thought they would look great on a display especially if we could string them across the classroom.

Alexander Calder's Circus wire sculptures

Materials Used

  • wire
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • markers
  • material scraps
  • wool/yarn
  • paper
  • straws
  • wooden ice cream spoons.

How to make a wire person

  1. Bend the piece of wire in half and twist the top to create a loop for the head.

making a wire person

2. Fold from half way along the remaining wire towards the centre to make arms.

making a wire man

3. Twist the arms, leaving a loop at the end for hands. Twist part of the remaining wire together to form a body.

making a wire person

4. Open the bottom of the wire out to make legs (cut if too long). Add loops for feet.

wire person

5. Cover the surface with masking tape. Add extra layers for padding out specific areas.


Once the class had made their basic shapes for their trapeze artists, they were given a variety of materials to create, costumes, hair, faces and props. To join the material to their sculpture, some made holes and threaded pieces through, some used tape or glue and some used the wire to wrap around the material, joining it to their circus performer.

Making the Trapeze

Join two pieces of wire to a wooden ice cream spoon and attach to a straw. The children posed their trapeze artists in different positions and we took pictures to remind ourselves of the poses, when we put them on display.

Alexander Calder's circus trapeze artist

I love the way they turned out and how each child put their individual character into their sculpture.  I’d love to have the time to do a full-scale project and create a whole circus. We could investigate different ways of building and making the models move, perhaps with individual groups working on different aspects of movement. Perhaps some of the kids will be inspired to do this at home?

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links meaning if you purchase an item via these links I receive a small commission.

Art Lesson (3rd Grade) Wire trapeze artists inspired by Alexander Calder's Circus

If you love this lesson, pin to Pinterest for future reference. Other art lessons can be found on my Art Lessons Board

Have You Ever Eaten Every Part of a Plant? We did on our field trip to Oxbow Farm.

Oxbow Farm is my favourite place for field trips.  The guides are wonderfully entertaining and keep the kids motivated with songs, movement, challenges and a fast paced, hands-on journey through the farm.

The children learn about the farm plants and have an opportunity to investigate, pick and taste everything, whilst being shown respect for the plants and their environment.

They eat leafy plants being careful not to stand on the plants.

picking Kale leaves
Snap off a whole Kale leaf and eat it. “It tastes like broccoli”

They eat seeds, learning about where the seeds come from, how they are spread and dried out in the greenhouse.

seeds drying in the greenhouse
The children collected bean pods in the garden, split the pods and brought the seeds to dry in the greenhouse

taking the beans from their pods

They eat stems. We found tiny celery sticks to try.

They eat flowers. We ate small yellow flowers that tasted like licquorice.

edible flowers

They eat fruit. We ate juicy apples from the tree and found the seeds inside them.

They eat roots. We pulled salad turnips and carrots from the ground, washed them and ate them.

tasting a salad turnip
tasting a salad turnip. “It tastes a bit spicy”

The children found a caterpillar


Found out that runner bean leaves stick to you

runner beans

and even played hide and seek in the rhubarb

And everyone had a juicy pumpkin to take home.

Storytelling with Shadow Puppets

I recently cleaned out the linen cupboard and gave the kids a huge bag of old sheets to play with. They like to make-up stories and turn them into royal capes or build dens with them. In amongst them was a white sheet. I thought it could be used to build a shadow puppet theatre in the garden.  We have a swing set that isn’t safe to use, so I removed one of the swings and fastened the sheet to the frame.

outdoor shadow puppet theatre

The children and I made puppets from cardboard. The children chose characters and I helped them draw them in silhouette. They collected sticks from the garden, whittled them to smooth them out and stuck the cardboard characters on with tape.

home made shadow puppets

I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them  on the swing set frame for reference.

hand shadows

We had to do a bit of work cutting back the tree branches to make a clear screen, but soon it was ready. The magical stories they have created have been wonderful.  I think this would be a great resource for a school or pre-school to encourage story telling and build the foundations of story writing. You could build it outdoors or inside with a light source behind.


Videoing the story showed the children where they needed to improve. They saw that sometimes you couldn’t see the characters well because they were too low or placed at an angle. They also noticed that the size of the puppet changed according to how close to the screen it was.

I love the way my daughter played with accents and voices.  It particularly love the voice of the bird and banana man in the land of the forgotten.


Shadows, like mud are a great, free play resource – check out some of our other shadow explorations or follow my shadow and light pinterest board

The Queen is Coming to Tea: Book review & fun activities for a Royal tea party theme.



Disclaimer: Links to the book title are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase the book from my recommendation I will receive a small financial incentive.

The Queen is Coming to Tea by Linda Ravin Lodding, is a sweet book that children who love to play at tea parties will adore.  My girls love to grab a blanket, turning it into a  royal cloak and lay out all their cuddly friends for tea parties. As such, they loved this story about a little girl travelling around the world to gather essential items for the Queen’s tea.
Ellie finds out the Queen is coming to tea and with her best friend, Langley the Elephant,  travels to Paris, China, Italy, and New York to make sure they have everything they need for tea with the Queen. But will the Queen patiently wait? And what exactly will be waiting for the Queen?

I love the bright colourful illustrations by Constance Von Kitzing, but they may be a little too pink for some boys to enjoy.  The illustration of Ellie’s playroom gives clues as to where Ellie’s ideas about gathering items from around the world came from. I liked this insight into the child’s imagination.
The Queen is Coming to Tea would be a great book to read aloud and inspire play and learning.
You could..

  1. Prepare tea and cakes for the Queen using play dough or clay or outside in a mud kitchen.
  2. Bake cakes, or traditional British teatime treats like scones, biscuits and cucumber sandwiches and prepare a tea party or picnic.
  3. Watch footage of real royal events like the Queen’s coronation or a royal wedding and plan your own pretend street party. You could make flags and bunting, make posters or invitations, play games or have races and dance to music.
  4. Taste or smell different types of tea. Which country do they come from? Which is your favourite? How do the leaves turn into a drink? investigate with loose leaf tea, tea bags, warm water and tea strainers.
  5. Make a graph or tally chart of the children’s favourite types of tea.
  6. Could you make tea from herbs or leaves you find in your garden? These could be real or pretend.
  7. Give the children tulle, paper and plastic bags and scraps of material. Can they design an outfit fit for tea with the Queen.
  8. Are there any people from your community who have been invited to tea with the Queen? Perhaps recipients of MBE’s or OBE’s. Invite them to come and talk to the children.
  9. Further investigate some of the places featured in the story – perhaps some of the children have visited them.
  10. Practice squeezing lemons or perhaps try this fruit tea recipe
    Peach Mango White Iced Tea RecipeIngredients:
    4 Cups Water
    3 White Tea Bags
    1 Peach
    ½ Cup Chopped Frozen Mango
    1 tbsp sugar plus Sugar to TasteInstructions:
    Boil the 6 cups of water; remove from heat
    Steep the tea bags about 5 minutes; remove bags and allow tea to cool to room temperature
    Add chopped peaches and mango to a mixing bowl and mix with sugar; let fruit soften
    Place fruit in pitcher and pour cooled tea on top; add sugar to taste and stir



For a chance to win a copy of The Queen is Coming to Tea and a porcelain tea set enter the giveaway below. The closing date is August 6 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Growing Friendships: A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends (Book Review)

Disclaimer: Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase this book based on my recommendation I will receive a small payment. All opinions are my own. I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Most kids will encounter friendship challenges at one point or another. My family is no exception. Moving countries was a big challenge. The girls needed to find a new set of friends amongst groups of children who had already formed friendships. Sometimes they felt different to the children here, they didn’t want to play the same games or they were interested in different things.  A year group that is very boy heavy made it hard for one of my girls to form strong friendships and she longed for a best friend.

Even for those who make friends easily, keeping a strong group of friends isn’t an easy task.  Children want to fit in but getting along with friends is complicated.

Psychologist Eileen Kennedy Moore and parenting and health writer Christine McLaughlin  wrote this book to help children learn the essential skills for building and keeping friendships. Growing Friendships, A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends helps children make sense of their social world through practical examples and humourous cartoons and simple exercises.  You could read it section by section or dip into the current issues your child is facing.

My daughter said she enjoyed reading the challenges. She liked that they were presented in cartoon form so that she could read through them quickly but also read the advice about what to do. I totally agree, the book isn’t heavy at all and is presented in a chatty, interactive style and a warm, non-judgmental tone.

growing friendships

We also read the book together with her younger sister. It was a good opportunity for them to talk about the things that happen between friends at school. My youngest beamed with pride as she told me how a friend had wanted to play with her, but another friend had a club that she wanted my daughter to be involved in – they invited the other friend to join  and all played together.

The layout and language of the book are particularly child friendly. The book begins by explaining how to greet people and build common interests to build friendships. It then examines reasons people may not want to be friends with you like being silly and not knowing when to stop, showing off or bragging, and always needing to be right. It gives simple practical tips on how to change those behaviours and deal with emotions.

As a parent we often hear stories about kids who are mean – I love these tips for reframing.IMG_1666

The book is full of practical examples like this. There are sections relating to the challenges of larger friendship groups, bullying, and moving beyond conflicts and each one gives children examples of the right things and wrong things to say.

As a parent I see it as a wonderful tool to help discuss the social challenges my children face and give them tools to help.

As a teacher, I think this would be a perfect book to share with children. Teachers will  clearly recognise the things we hear children talk about every day and that sometimes make us tear our hair out, this could be a way to stop and discuss issues with the class and a helpful reminder for when those scenarios occur in the future. You could display some of the important messages around the classroom.

I wish I’d had this book when I was a child. It’s not easy to know what to say as a shy kid and to be honest some of the tools in the book are also helpful as an adult.

growing friendships

I love this book and I think it is perfect for any child, whether they are having problems with friendships or not. As much as we all want our kids to have friends, it is equally important that they are good friends. This book helps children see that kindness is the key to friendship.

Growing Friendships is available from 18th July 2017.

Growing friendships a kids guise to making and keeping friends

Washed Ashore at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium


If you read my previous post about our art project made from recycled plastic you will know that the inspiration for ‘swimming through plastic’ was the Washed Ashore Project.

shark sculpture made from plastic washed ashore

Washed Ashore, is the brainchild of artist and educator, Angela Hazeltine Pozzi, who distressed by the volume of plastic washed up on her beloved Oregon beaches, decided to take action. Pozzi, along with a team of volunteers, created giant sculptures made entirely from the rubbish they found on the beaches. Each sculpture is designed to educate about plastic pollution in our Oceans and encourage a change in consumer habits.

turtle front

Ten of the Washed Ashore sculptures are at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium until October 21. Last weekend we finally got a chance to see them.

At the entrance you will find Gertrude the Penguin.


Each sculpture comes with an I spy activity, urging visitors to find objects hidden within. They range in difficulty from plastic bottles (of which there are many) to tiny toy cars and cell phones. The girls loved trying to find the hidden objects. It encouraged them to examine how the sculptures were made.


The displays also share facts about plastic pollution in our oceans and the dangers to animals within this ecosystem.


Outside the aquarium are Weedy the Sea Dragon and friends.

Washed ashore sculpture sea dragonWeedy the sea dragon


fish made from plastic washed ashore

Octopus made from plastic


Seal made from plastic washed ashore

My favourites are at the back of the aquarium. I love the detail in the coral reef and walking underneath the plastic bottle jelly fish.

coral reef sculpture washed ashore project

coral reef made from plastic trash

coral reef made from plastic trash

jelly fish made of plastic bottles

The theme of plastic pollution is present throughout the zoo. The marine exploration centre has many activities encouraging visitors to learn how to be more responsible in our plastic consumprion and creative ways of using non-recyclable plastic, like these botte tops with magnets attached for creating pictures.


The zoo’s new Wild West show, shares a clear message of Refuse, reuse and recycle and the shop and café no longer use single use plastic, including plastic straws and cups.

Washed Ashore
Finding out more about plastic pollution
Once you have seen the sculptures, there are plenty of other things to see. If you haven’t been to Point Defiance before, it has a strong focus on marine animals and an aquarium full of native species and others from warmer climates.  Who could resist this little guy?

You can stroke a stingray, anemone or starfish, watch puffins, walruses, seals and polar bears from above and below, ride a camel or hand feed birds.

The marine discovery center Point Defiance Zoo aand Aquarium


Our day out really helped the kids think about the things they throw away and the effect it has on the environment. If we were a little closer, I’d love to check out some of their summer events.