A hoodoo experiment


One of our families took a trip out to Bryce Canyon in Utah a few weeks ago and wanted to share their experience.  We asked them to come in to make a presentation about their trip.  They did some hiking and wanted to share photos of hoodoos. A hoodoo is a tall, mostly thin rock spire formed usually from sedimentary and volcanic rock.  They may be found in the desert and are affected by erosion.


The children enjoyed the photos of hoodoos.



Next up was an experiment.  Kevin and Teresa wanted to introduce the children to the idea that rock structures can be affected by water that freezes over and over thus expands and retracts.  This contributes to how hoodoos are formed.

Each child placed a water balloon in a paper cup halfway filled with plaster.


Teresa then took the cups and filled them with plaster.

From Kevin: “Each child will have two cups to discover how freezing water expands to crack rocks, which is one way that hoodoos form.   One cup marked “C” is the control and is solid plaster.  It should not crack (in theory).  One cup with your child’s name is the experiment and contains a water balloon.  It will likely crack the plaster when frozen (but it doesn’t always crack).”


Most of the homemade hoodoos cracked.


The control is on the right and experiment is on the left.


Two kindergartners wanted to record the results of the experiment.  They made a check list and marked if the plaster cracked or not.

A HUGE thank you to Kevin and Teresa!

Study of Vertebrates – Fish and Amphibians

We began our study of vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) a few weeks ago.  Dr. Diane came in to show us just what a vertebral column is and how that makes us a vertebrate.

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Last week we studied the characteristics of fish.  We also painted a fish and made fish prints.  We have a real fish in the classroom for the children to care for and observe.

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Paint the fish.                                   Pat the paper down.                      Peel back.


This past week we studied amphibians.

Click above to hear our amphibian song.

We also studied the characteristics of a frog and made frog prints.





A Hand Washing Science Experiment

At Ann Arbor Children’s House, we have many parents with interesting jobs!  One set of parents work in a laboratory at the University of Michigan.  In the beginning of each year, we spend time teaching the new children how to wash their hands and then reminding everyone else about hand washing.  When one of the parents who work in this lab suggested we try this experiment, we were thrilled.  This was done with our Kindergartners and afternoon children.  We did this experiment for several reasons.  First, we wanted the children to learn about a “control” in an experiment.  One of the Petri dishes did not have any handprints on it.  The children were also able to use real scientific equipment such as Petri dishes and agar.  They learned that experiments can take time as the bacteria and fungus present were baked in an oven for 24 hours.  We needed to wait for the results.  One of the most important reasons we wanted to do this experiment was that the children were able to see just what hand washing does as germs are invisible to our eyes.

Agar plates were used for a hand-washing experiment. Agar is used because it contains all the nutrients for the bacteria to grow such as salts, yeast and amino acids.  The children thought the agar felt “gooey.”


The children first touched one side of their plate with unwashed hands. Then, after washing their hands well with foaming soap, they touched the other side of the plate.



All plates were marked with U for unwashed, W for washed and the child’s name.


Two of our scientists went to the lab to help.  Because bacteria grows well in warm conditions and takes 12-24 hours for a colony to appear, the plates were then placed in a 37C (body temperature) incubator overnight.


Plates were removed from incubator and sealed with parafilm for safe observation.


Bacteria appeared as small white clumps and fungus appeared as a wispy, white growth.



What did we find out?  Hand washing dramatically reduces the amount of bacteria and fungus on our hands.  Hand washing is an important part of our day.  Children wash their hands before baking, having a snack or engaging in food prep work.  They wash their hands after using the bathroom or putting their fingers up their noses (or in their mouths). The next time we sing our hand washing song, we feel these children will have a deeper understanding of what we are singing about!

We may complete a follow-up experiment using different types of soaps and hand sanitizers to compare efficacy.


After seeing the results, the children wanted to make a “Thank You” card!





This week we spent some time learning about trees.


Here a child sees a slice of a tree.  He can see the lines that equal the years it was alive.

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Some children engaged in an art project about trees.

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Some older children, especially the Kindergartners, complete the three part cards and even may finish a parts of a tree book.




Tis the season!  Apple picking season that is…

Last Monday (a perfect day to be outside), the Kindergartners and some of the older children took a field trip to the apple orchard.  Each year we choose Wasem’s Fruit Farm in Milan (  The children learned all about apples!  First we learned that Michigan is one of the biggest producers of apples in the United States.  Wasem’s grows 2o varieties of apples.  (They are also sold – with their cider- at the farmer’s market downtown.)
We were able to taste several of these apples. 
The children learned about various creatures that live in the apple orchard  and see many types of nests.  (Even a tiny hummingbird nest.)
One thing we did not know was that the orchard rents bees each year to help pollinate the apple trees.  After we learned some more facts, we went inside for a tour.  First thing we did was to go into the HUGE refrigerator where they store many, many apples!  We then saw where they make the cider and then where they sort the apples. 
This is the apple sorting machine. 


Once we finished that part of the tour, the children (and a baby brother!) had a cider and donut treat!


Then, apple picking!  The children were all able to choose five apples to put in their bag.  They were shown the apple picking technique!


Many apples were picked!  

What do we do with the apples? 


The teachers collected many apples that needed washing!  We set up an apple washing “work” so the children could help.  They loved to complete this multi-step activity.  Those apples were shiny and clean!


We also cut apples in the food prep area.  The children had been familiar with cutting as they had completed watermelon and cheese cutting this year.  They enjoyed munching on the crisp apples!


And we made apple prints! 

This week we will use the washed apples to make applesauce! 




Second Week of School


This week in school (amongst many other things…) we learned about Islands (land surrounded by water on all sides) and Lakes (water surrounded by land on all sides).


We learned how to button.


We painted many pictures.


We developed our fine motor skills by tweezing out sunflower seeds.


We practiced addition with the stamp game while a friend sewed straight lines on burlap.


We folded cloths together.


We washed our snack dishes.


We were ready for the Hundred Board!


We cleaned up spills together.


And we learned about plants vs. animals.

All in all a very good week with so many fun activities!



The children spent several weeks focusing on the large continent of Africa.  We always look closely at the beautiful Montessori continent maps but we also focused on sights and sounds of the continent.





First up, we studied ancient Egypt.  The children made cat masks, colored various pages and some of the afternoon children made small pyramids.  We read many books and looked at models of artifacts one might find there.


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We also made African collars inspired by Kenya and Tanzania.

To present some of the sounds of Africa, we asked Lori from Drummunity to join us.  (Her website:

What a fabulous time!

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We looked at some batik materials and clothing.

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She brought out some of her African instruments.

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The music began!

First up was the Gyil.  This instrument has wooden slats and is over calabash gourds.  This instrument comes from Ghana, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast.  Here is a movie:

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We also saw and listened to many types of drums including the bougarabou and djembe.  africa movie1

The children loved to play! Click here to see:   africa movie 4



Finally, we all sang the beautiful song:

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Funga Alafia
 -Western African Greeting Song

Funga alafia,
ah-shay ah-shay.

Funga alafia,
ah-shay ah-shay.

Ah-shay ah-shay.
Ah-shay, ah-shay.

With my heart I welcome you.
Ah-shay ah-shay.

With my mind I welcome you.
Ah-shay ah-shay.

With my voice I welcome you.
Ah-shay ah-shay.

Nothing up my sleeves, you see.
Ah-shay ah-shay.
Funga alafia,
ah-shay ah-shay.

Funga alafia,
ah-shay ah-shay.

Ah-shay ah-shay.
Ah-shay, ah-shay.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Last week we studied the country of Ireland.  We learned about where Ireland is in Europe, Irish music, shamrocks, Irish dancing, potatoes and many more things.


We used our sewing skills to make shamrocks!



We had green smoothies with crackers for snack.


We cut and ate potatoes for food prep work.


Today we made crowns for St. Patrick’s day.


One of our students takes Irish dancing classes.  Here she is demonstrating:

Irish Dancing

Thank you!


Sewing a tissue holder


Liked most other people this winter, we have had many a runny nose!  Although we have tissues available in the classroom, we decided to sew tissue holders.  The children who are able to use a whip stitch were able to complete this with little assistance.  First, a button is sewn on.  Then, whip stitch up the sides.


A string is tied to the holes on the side and a tissue packet is inserted.


The child practices how to use a button to close the flap.


You can see many children wearing their tissue holders in school.


It is so nice to have your own tissues to carry around!



We have been studying dinosaurs!  There are SO many dinosaurs, it is unbelievable!  Thankfully, we have many 3, 4 and 5 year olds experts in the classroom to help us.  Some children enjoy looking at our big chart of dinos and match up little models of dinosaurs to the pictures.


Some children like to match up the dinosaur cards.


We have matched up various dinosaur skeletons.


We also made our own fossils!  Pretend paleontologists!
We used Model Magic and pressed in a mini dino skeleton.


Take the model out and let it air dry.  It takes a few days.


We then used brown paint to make it more realistic.


We are fortunate to have access to some REAL fossils!

First up was dinosaur poop!


This rock was said to have been in a dinosaur stomach to help it digest food.


And here is part of an eggshell.


Finally, our music teacher led the children in a song about dinos: