Magic!

I’ve always used the word loosely.  No incantations…nothing showing up out of a top hat.  It’s a way of being…a choice to live in delight…even when, like today, a 2 liter jug of eggnog spills out on the kitchen floor, just minutes before having to rush out the door.  I’ve made an effort now and then to explain…but, it is too much about the un-explainable.

Yesterday, I painted with Grade Ones…tree ornaments…I thought these would be cool with a bit of an aluminum foil embellishment added.  I still paint with kids around the city, every opportunity I get, but have stopped writing so much about it.  Holding a brush is an important action…it’s something important enough to become familiar…to practice…to enjoy.  I like to paint with kids.

Every darned day that I am a guest teacher in someone’s classroom, I am absolutely blown away by the mountain of responsibility and creativity that is observable in just moments of being in that someone’s learning environment.  I am in awe of the magic of the teaching experience, interaction and output, both by teachers and by their students.

I usually go over to the window first and open the blinds.  I like to see how the light changes things.  I also have the time to reflect, something that teachers who are steeped in their careers don’t always have enough opportunity to do.  I like to reflect about the spaces where I find myself enjoying, exploring and filling with hard work.

Yesterday, Amber generously shared her students (little guys) with me.  Grade One!  Wow!  All I can remember about grade one is my coat hook and the fact that my brother ran so fast the first day of school, I felt really really panicked about catching up.  I remember a man walking about the school yard, at a point, raising a hand bell high in the air and shooing us into the building.  I still, to this day, want to call him Mr. Cannon.

I haven’t asked permission (now I have), but would like to share a couple of images I snapped while the students went up to the music room for their very first time.

Just look at these…tell me what you think.

Beautiful. Right?

The students were full of energy, but we enjoyed our time together and really engaged the process of chalk drawing and painting.  (There was no white in the supply cupboard so…I used yellow to brighten some of the colour…but, tints are just so lovely!) The students were very attentive as we went forward and I’ve captured a few little images of their work and their journal responses.  Magic.  And yes!  Could be an Easter Egg…could be a kite…could be an ornament!  In the ‘end’, it is about the means…and NOT the END!  The experience of painting is wondrous.  There!  You heard it from me!

I asked the students if they might do a journal entry about their experience and the resulting pieces were pretty amazing.  Lucas told me he didn’t want me to photograph the following drawing until he had finished the light coming from the window.

 

 

Today, I left my paint bucket out in the car.  I thought I’d meet Jen’s Grade Six students before committing to an art experience in paint, this afternoon.  I wasn’t with them for ten minutes and I knew that they would enjoy and respond well with paint.  Mayhaps it was the fact that the first wondrous thing I noticed, after looking out the window…were these!

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Gorgeous, Jen!!  Wowsah!

I decided that I’d use the very same lesson that I did with the Grade Ones.  As I delivered my lesson about tempera paint, I could have heard a pin drop.  The students were totally engaged and I was pretty grateful.  Nice people.  So, as I publish the next photos, I was wondering if my readers are able to notice the differences, schematically.

The past two days have been blessing days.

And, this evening…

Nigel left me a note.  I’m over the moon about it.  I treasured him years ago…and treasure his contact now.

Dear Kathleen,
I will always remember you as “Mrs H”. I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me grade 7 art some years ago. I have been searching for you for some time, but it is only appropriate that I should find you now, as I am about to embark on a new adventure; teaching art. Would you be interested in a get together and perhaps imparting some of your wisdom to me?
—N
What a beautiful exchange was had…looking forward to many inspiring conversations about art education with this new arts educator!

Reflecting on Andy Goldsworthy With Grade Three

Back in June, I had the opportunity to teach grade three for Deb.  I created an experience that combined viewing, planning, and sculpting in nature and writing.  The students were over the moon with excitement and expressed some brilliant ideas.  I think I’ve written about a number of different ways that Andy Goldsworthy’s work has inspired my teaching…here’s one.

Grade Sevens built Goldsworthy-inspired sculpture over Easter holidays, documented their work and then wrote haiku poetry based on their sculptures in nature.

When I step into landscape of any variety, I am always hyper aware of the textures, light and the impact of one element upon another.  It really drives me as an individual in relationship with my natural world.  Andy Goldsworthy sculpture is very beautiful in its complexity and its consideration of natural contexts.  The manipulation of found materials is inspiring…the challenges seem impossible, but he finds solutions.

You may wish to try this type of project with your students, either in the spring or autumn, no matter the grade. Nice weather days are best.

I began by sharing a movie with the students.  There are several on YouTube.  Select something that is age appropriate, so, take the time to screen for yourself.  It is a good thing to learn about the artist so that you can support ideas/concepts and philosophy with the children, appropriate to age.

I asked each child to select a partner before we left the classroom. The students and I went out into the school yard and very automatically, they began their search for materials.  It was a lovely experience.  I photographed each sculpture as they completed it and once all were documented, we returned to the classroom.  There, I taught them the structure for a Cinquain and then they went to work responding to their sculptures, using words.  It is a magical experience when learning takes place despite anything you say as a teacher.  Inspire them.  Give them the tools and materials.  Then, watch that magic happen!  Congratulations, Grade threes!

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My Life Falls Out of Order

I’ve left writing and art-ing and almost everything in order to tackle the new material of my life.  As a result, while surfacing out of the cave that has been my last several months, I don’t know where to begin.  I don’t think the events of my life are sequential any more…they will be presented here, slightly out of order.  Yes, since June, there continued to be art and music and reading and friendship and family, but archiving became the least of my concerns while I was rapidly stitching what had become a torn life, back together again. Family was and is my focus.  And so…this morning, I begin, with my difference.

I leave this post for a second and think about some pages I want to slip into this narrative.

I’ll begin with something small.  I am smiling here.

I took a guest teacher role one day in the spring.  During one of the classroom periods, I was to meet the young group of children in the library.  There, magic happened.  The librarian’s name has escaped me, but the library was/is housed in St. Boniface Elementary School.

The magic began with the reading, in amazing vocal expression and pacing, a book about snails.

The book was titled Snail Trail by Ruth Brown.  Hilarious!  And just look at the organization and the wee project created after this reading.  Snails!  A great idea for your elementary classroom!

The children moved seamlessly into their places at the round tables where they conducted the business of creating their own snail characters.

Other Snail books?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!

 

The Week in Review: Paint!

I was blessed to be asked to guest teach for the entire week in one school.  I was so happy to be able to paint with children.  It is a joy to mix colours in buckets and to share them with young people.  Watching them journey through a process such as this is so gratifying.  To pour paint colours straight out of the bottle would never be enough for me!  I like to create a palette that sings!

Colour mixing

Just a few photographs were collected this week, as most days I forgot my camera.

Grade Ones painted kites on the anniversary of my mother’s passing.  I could not help but think of Mom’s spirit…soaring. The children had painted once before with me, so they nailed their technique!

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Grade two paintings of hot air balloons…I added red and blue to Tuesday’s palette.

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Concentric lines around summer symbols.  “When I call SNOWBALL, trade your paint bucket and move to a different spot!”  Everything was wonderful until the wind picked our mural up like a kite and flipped it onto its face.   Oh well, there was just a half hour left so we headed to the field for some kickball. The red, yellow and white are right out of the bottle and all of the other colours are mixed.

Painting Spring Lilies With Grade Threes

Goofy how-to videos are out there in abundance.  I actually think the best way to learn how to draw ANYTHING, is to observe it…look at it…analyse it.  But, this morning, I didn’t have a bucket of Easter lilies and after a 40 day journey of Lent, I’d love to leave the children with the anticipation of spring, new life, renewal and Easter.  In this video, I like the idea of drawing the star shape first.  I can’t guarantee that after you do a step-by-step activity of any sort, that you will be an overnight artist!

To begin with, in their visual journals, the students wrote a ‘waiting for spring’ short poem, after brain storming vocabulary words.  On the next page, they drew their lilies.

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We will use this video as a reference, as well as my own photographs of lilies in my garden, for studies in visual journals.  These will be tucked away once we move into compositions.  Initially, I had thought to paint tulips with the students, but, the limited palette of white and a number of greens will make the preparation quick and easy.

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I provided a limited palette, having mixed up a variety of tints of green plus yellow and white.  The grade threes began by drawing their images in chalk and then outlining their lilies in a single colour.  Each bucket of paint includes two brushes so two friends share the same colour.  I mixed fifteen colours, knowing that I had twenty five students.  The focus of my side coaching and support was to remind them how unique flowers are and that they are like us, in that there is no single flower that looks like another.

Here are their paintings.

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After music class and their agenda writing, wee Isaiah came up to me and gave me this little gift…proof of the extended learning and  that made me super happy!

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Display…ready for proper caption.  Thanks for your class, Jenn!

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Carli’s Classroom: An Inspiring Day

There was such soft light flowing in the classroom, when I arrived.  The students and I didn’t end up closing the blinds until the sun started pouring into the classroom, during late morning.  When I arrived, I knew it was going to be a great day.

I am passionate about teaching in the role of guest teacher.  I have only a short while with the children and I want to be the very best that I can be to influence empathy, peace and learning.  I was excited to be working in Carli’s Grade three classroom and she’s given me permission to share this post with you, in the case that you want to extend off of any of these ideas and explore some alternatives.  It’s funny that we run to Pinterest for ideas when right across the hall from us, are a whole number of masters who can mentor us and inspire us with new ‘ideas’.

To begin my morning, I read over, for myself, the posted Pedagogy for teaching.  I remembered this from another visit, but wanted to remind myself.

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The community group tables allow for easy access to materials and tools that might be needed.  There is shared responsibility for their organization and upkeep.

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Student notebooks/workbooks are stored in those little white bins on the shelves…they are stored throughout the classroom in order to avoid traffic jams.  The students know where each of their items is located.

I love love love the books and really enjoyed looking at the book, Where Children Sleep by James Mollison.  I need to get myself a copy of this.  Instead of circulating and having the children read aloud to me during our individual reading time, I had several students come to me and read from this book as I sat in a comfy chair.  It wasn’t long before one of the children came to me with a student-made book on the same topic, created last year, by the Grade twos.  I think this is a beautiful idea.

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Books can be a discovered throughout the classroom, linking up visions with concepts and making learning real and rooted in literacy.

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Students created, in science, their own Rock Museum.  They enjoy using their vocabulary.

They had done lots of research and study!

 

When students have a guest teacher, they get to wear the mantle of the expert and spill over with conversations about the things they have learned.  Our birthday girl brought in crystals and minerals for her sharing from the comfy chair.  The kids were overcome with excitement by the ‘rare’ stones.

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I appreciated the student-made posters illustrating the Rights of Every Child.  Those are three D models of the structure of the ear done in partner work…made out of modelling clay.  The students have left rocks and minerals and have begun their study of sound, hearing and the ear.  I have to say, as an adult, I had forgotten the various physiological components, but these guys could give it to me rote.  I LOVE THESE MODELS!

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I felt this cold coming on and felt a bit of a headache.  I asked the students, if later, I could try out their Peace tent.  They enthusiastically told me, YES!  I have to confess, when they went out for recess, I climbed in and just chilled, exploring their posters, their sayings and their origami paper folding.

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Math centers were tons of fun, with the kids, getting up and rotating through the four stations every 15 minutes.  This gives the students opportunity to move and to shift focus.  Awesome.  I discovered that I’m not very good with Tangrams.

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For those of my readers who follow me, you know that I enjoy engaging nature where and when I can…getting out daily, with my border collie, Max.  Well, if you can’t get out there, then try to bring bits of it inside!

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And never ever forget that you are always learning…and that it’s a treasure to others that you share what you learn.  Thank you, Carli Molnar!  Thank you, Grade Threes!

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More on Carli’s classroom HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany Tunnel Books

Oh my gosh…not a lot of writing is going to happen here, but I have to archive an activity that I’ve actually never practiced before and had opportunity to try today.  I have to say that the most difficult aspect of teaching a grade four class how to construct a tunnel book was teaching them how to fold creases as valleys and mountains…or let’s face it, how to fold creases at all.  Do my readers remember, as children, folding fans?  That’s all that’s required, really, but folding a fan seemed, at times, insurmountable.

All other concepts…near and far…background, middle ground, foreground…no problem.  I don’t know.  I’ll have to think about just how to make the folding easier.

What I DID do…I created a template and copied it twice for each student, providing, once folded, for the two sides of the tunnel book (accordion-like).  I marked out a series of lines, dotted from one side to the opposite side.  At some point, I’ll photograph my template and share it here, but, not tonight. What’s a tunnel book, you ask?

Tunnel books can be as sophisticated OR as simple as you wish. The book collapses flat, exposing a single composition.  Once pulled, like an accordion, a three dimensional sensibility is revealed. The Epiphany tunnel books that the grade fours created after I shared the story, The Gift of the Magi, were very basic.  Take a look at these.  These illustrate the more complex tradition.

Wim de Vos is a bit of a character…but, I like that he demonstrates the kind of artistry possible where a tunnel book is concerned.

I found the following photo on Amanda Watson-Will’s site and because there is no other photographer credited, I will assume this is her archive.

Wim de Vos

This is more like it.  I only wished I had seen this one before I began my lesson.

So, after the  story of the Epiphany star and the fine art of gift offering…I got the students started on a background panel, deciding that it made sense to work from the back up to the front OR the background to the foreground.

These are a sampling of the tunnel books made by these awesome, open and enthusiastic students!  Love them so much.

Requirements for their compositions:  A guiding light, a figure, gifts, foreground, background and middle ground.

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Thank you, Colleen, for your class!  What beautiful children!

Entering the Dance: A Perspective on Elementary Arts Education

As a retired person, I see more and more the outrageously crazy and demanding life of educators out there.  Masters of all things, teachers are responsible for the constant changing world of demands placed down before them.  I have such admiration for them.

When I have opportunity to work with children, in my specialized world of visual arts, I am blown out of the water by their desire to learn how to see their visual world, learn to draw and master a variety of media.  Yesterday this was no more evident.  I was thinking about the fact that more and more reflection and drawing are being sacrificed in lieu of a more packaged and close ended result for the purpose of display, such as the results provided by a ‘Pinterest idea’.  In fact, I post my lessons on to the Pinterest site, in the hopes that the lessons will minimize fear about the process of teaching drawing.  I don’t know if I can impact any of this anymore, but I treasure the opportunities that teachers give me to further my research and practice.  I am still learning.

Each year, the child is immersed in a different set of schema and does not necessarily reflect our adult ideas of ‘what art should be’ or what is ‘pretty art’.  Children’s art needs to reflect where they are at their particular age and with their particular way of seeing, as well as their fine motor skill development.  Here, I provide a little bit of read on the topic.

If teachers pressure either themselves or their students to create a ‘pretty’ end result, the child is trained to ask that forever-question in the art room…”Is this good?” instead of entering the dance of creation.  I think that focusing on an open-ended result and curbing adult expectations of ‘what makes good art’ is warranted, although it may be a practice that is unfamiliar.

While the step-by-step process teaches a whole other skill set, it is not necessarily the way to go about nurturing the artist soul.  The very pieces of art strung up down those hallways that achieve the giggles from the viewer, are likely the pieces that represent the children who are filled with artistic magic.  Embrace that with everything that is in you.

Yesterday, I watched a grade three Hibernating Animals lesson unfold…absolutely a magical experience!  For now, I’m just going to post very few pieces that represent the process of evolution that takes place when art lessons are child-centered and not adult-centered.  The ‘before’ depictions gauged where the students were in their imaginations, with absolutely no instruction…just a brainstorm list of animals that hibernate.

Observe…the animals have smiles on their faces.  The eyes are dominant.  The little legs are outstretched, in this case, two legs consistently on each animal. The body form is coloured in. The nest or den is a circle.

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I then had the students pretend to be a hibernating mice on the classroom floor.

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They automatically bundled up in a closed circle.  I asked them to notice where their legs were…their tucked in heads…where their arms were, wrapping around their legs.  I had them rest like that for a while, with the lights dimmed.  They automatically stretched when I asked them to stand and return to their desks.

When they returned to their seats, I showed them a National Geographic film on what animals do in the winter.

When the movie was finished, I went to the board and told the students that we would be focusing on hibernating FURRY animals just for today, so we wouldn’t be drawing bats or snakes or insects hibernating.  I told them we wouldn’t think about scorpions today, either, because we would be thinking about animals that hibernate near us, in Calgary.  We listed those on our white board.  Ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, beaver, skunks…

I drew an exemplar on the board of the kinds of things that an animal might add to their nest.  We looked at the kinds of lines that make a cozy home for the winter.

We then discussed if we could see the animals bundled up, what would we see?  Closed eyes…curled up tail…ears that were back on the head…maybe one leg or just a paw.  The animal would want a curled up little bundle and not a great big space.  I had the students join me in the reading corner and read them a picture book about hibernation where we saw some beautiful photographs of animals in their nests and dens.

Their After drawing…look at the leap in their understanding of the visual world….after a body gym exercise, a movie and a discussion about how to draw grass and straw, how to draw fur and what would we see.  This is where you will see more distinction between the individual student’s schema.  Don’t be alarmed if some still see their world in a more flat or symbolic way.  This is where you let the students be individuals.  You can guide with leading questions, but really aim to NOT frustrate the students.  They are NOT right or wrong.

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For expressive relief, after such concentration and after a recess break, the students decorated a picture frame for their piece with snowflakes…absolutely any way they wished.  We used chalk.  Given time, I would do this entire project in paint, but I was exploring an idea and this media made for an opportunity for me to see how I would revise the lesson.  Classroom teachers could use this idea of the picture frame on any project or piece of writing.  Colour of frame and motif can vary.

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Then the students found their nest.

Using chalk as the media for drawing, the students worked from their visual journal After sketches, to create their hibernating animals.  Once again, scale was an issue.  I discovered that their animals became smaller and skinnier as they placed them in these large nests.  This makes me smile…a result I didn’t anticipate and would likely spend some time talking to them about body mass if I explored this again.

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The results in this particular activity could not possibly be anticipated.  However, the process was invaluable and I enjoyed every minute of interaction with the students.  It isn’t easy ‘letting go’, but it’s imperative.  After this experience, I will be able to revise my lesson and further develop its outcomes.

I still have reservations about adult paint nights and classes that hinge on having students create images after an exemplar.  I think it’s just important to enjoy those experiences for what they are, a way to master techniques, materials or to train motor skills.  They are not experiences that lean toward the development of creative thought.  Closed-ended formulas are never as valuable as open-ended formulas.  For the record, my thoughts only!

Thanks for your class, Jenn!  They were awesome!

Grade Fours Doodle a Paul Klee

Using leftover paints quickly involves dumping complementary colours together and mixing them to get a variety of earth tones and browns.  This way, the art teacher can get a lunch time jump start on cleaning buckets out before the weekend.

The artist, Paul Klee, has an amazing history.  I am absolutely entertained by his work and have read extensively about him.  His journals, found in The Diaries of Paul Klee: 1898 – 1918 is fascinating and captures the huge link between his passion for music and for art.

Diaries of Paul KleeHis journals are filled with diagrams and notations, but most interesting to me are his observations of nature, weather, time and the city.  He was a master of observation and yet his schematics are other-worldly and child like.

Paul Klee 2 Paul Klee 1An interesting phenomena happens with children in school art programs or structured after-school art classes.  Basically, they have a desire to draw LIKE GROWN UPS…make everything LOOK REAL.  So, this activity turned out to be much more difficult than my readers might imagine.  I needed to give the children permission over and over again to be playful and to invent and to doodle and let go of their wish to make things ‘look real’.

At snack time, the students have been listening to a settling CD…the story of Harry Potter.  In today’s pre-recess listening session, images of shooting stars pouring out of the sky, owls filling the skies, skinny people, characters wrapped in cloaks all came up.  I hoped that later on, the images would spark some design and pattern ideas.

Just a half hour before lunch, I had the students divide their square formats into four triangles, using chalk for their drawing. As a way of simulating Paul Klee’s work, this would pick up on the geometric division of space that is often seen in the artist’s works.

We looked at a piece by Paul Klee titled Plants, Earth and Empire 1918 that was similarly divided into four triangles.  I haven’t been able to find an image of this piece on line, however the piece below has similar elements to this one (House Interior 1918), but with a single line later being the division between an ‘above ground’  world and a ‘below ground’ world, organized above and below a diagonal organic line..

DSC_1958The students shared the paint palette (station), selecting four different earth tones for their compositions.  I’ve explained how to set up for painting in this lesson. The pre-lunch painting gave the lunch break for the tempera paintings to dry.

After lunch, I gave the students a brief introduction to Paul Klee, the artist, along with the following video projection.

Here’s a better one…if you have the time!  In fact, this is beautiful and you may want to sit with your coffee, readers, and just enjoy.

I turned on the funk music and had the students practice depicting their imagined world, after looking at this video of Paul Klee’s works.  I had the students fold over their drawing paper in order to use a square format, the same as their composition.  I spoke to them about creating a line that moved from one side of the square to the other.  This would create a division between an imaginary world above the ground and under the ground.  I suggested that if it was hard ‘to start’, they could begin with the list of Harry Potter images we had left on the white board.

DSC_1905 DSC_1904 DSC_1903When the students felt ready, they could begin working on their larger compositions.  I suggested that they draw first with pencil and then retrace their pencil lines with permanent black marker.  I felt that there was some preciousness or concern in the students and thought this might give them more confidence.  In future, I’d hand them over the permanent markers and skip the pencil step. To create accents, I suggested that the students use oil pastel to colour in  three or five or seven or nine or eleven shapes. Here is a little of what they came up with while the funk music played in the background.

DSC_1906 DSC_1907 DSC_1908 DSC_1910 DSC_1911 DSC_1912 DSC_1913 DSC_1914DSC_1909

DSC_1934 DSC_1932 DSC_1931 DSC_1930 DSC_1929 DSC_1928 DSC_1927 DSC_1926 DSC_1925 DSC_1924 DSC_1923 DSC_1922 DSC_1921 DSC_1919 DSC_1918 DSC_1917 DSC_1915 A great class!

Saying Good-Bye to Grade One

Spending an intense five weeks with grade one students was a huge learning experience and made me grow in ways that I might not have imagined otherwise.  I will certainly treasure the memory of little people who put it all out there, leaving nothing to the imagination.  A slide show, rather than words, seems appropriate.  I’m sorry that I missed photographs of their cube-a-link grouping activities. I’m sorry that you can not see them jumping and dancing while counting by 2s and 5s…getting those numbers squeezed into their bodies.  I’m sorry that you can’t hear them singing, with all of their hearts, the theme song from Frozen. Their scientific illustrations in their lima bean journals were spectacular as well.  I hope that those dang beans, now sprouted and planted beneath soil, will grow to be great bean stalks!  They have much invested in their scientific observations!

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