Friday, December 9, 2016

Exploring Michigan Through Little Passports

Time for Trevor and me to explore our next state through Little Passports. This time, Michigan. It did not disappoint, as Michigan is quite an interesting state! 

Trevor started by assembling the 3-D model. 

No surprise - it was a classic car.


We read all about Henry Ford's invention of the moving assembly line and completed the related activity, putting pictures of trucks in different stages of production in order. We also learned about the life of Henry Ford. He was one of the most important inventors of the 20th century, had a huge influence of the economy of Michigan, and helped earn Detroit the nickname of Motor City. 

Ford is not the only one who achieved fame in Michigan. In 1906, two brothers (the Kelloggs) started a little cereal company in Battle Creek that you just might have heard of! In 1959, songwriter Barry Gordy started Motown Records in Detroit, introducing the world to Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and many other talented singers. I love that each Little Passports Journal is packed with so much information. 

We enjoyed the choose-your-own-adventure activity about the Great Lakes. Trevor, a huge fan of dot-to-dots, loved solving one to learn how people get around Mackinac Island. We worked together to follow the clues to learn about Michigan's oldest lighthouse, built in 1829. We solved a puzzle based on the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. The drawing activity had Trevor tracing his hands to make a map of Michigan. It brought back a memory from when I attended a national 4-H conference as a teenager and everyone I met from Michigan identified where they lived by showing me their palms! I've never seen anyone from a different state do that... but it seems to be pretty universal when people from Michigan explain where they live!

Trevor was excited about the Michigan cooking project. 


We made pasties, just like the Cornish miners brought with them to Michigan in the 1800's. The recipe calls for rutabagas or turnips, along with ground meat, potatoes and carrots, but Trevor couldn't decide between them. He chose to add rutabagas, turnips AND parsnips. It was a delicious combination and a meal we'll be making again for sure.


Trevor's godmother, Jonna, joined us to do the Michigan craft. We made origami tulips, inspired by the city of Holland, MI. It is the center of Dutch culture in the US and hosts the Tulip Time Festival each year.  


As I'm sure you've noticed, I HIGHLY recommend the Little Passports USA Edition. But if your child is a more interested in hands-on science (is there a kid who doesn't like hands-on science?), then you'll definitely want to check out Little Passports' newest subscription, Science Expeditions. (This link and the others are affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I get a small commission. Thanks!)


Science Expeditions is a kit for kids 9+ that introduces them to the fun and exciting world of science. The monthly packages include a comic book adventure, a mystery to solve, and hands-on science experiments. The materials help kids to build problem-solving skills and are focused on STEM principles. To learn more, check out the Science Expeditions reviews!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

2017 Pantone Color of the Year!

Every year when December starts, I begin stalking Pantone's website waiting for the announcement of the Color of the Year. After last year's disappointment, I'm thrilled that Pantone has returned to a single Color of the Year. Not only do I love the color they've chosen, but I predicted it!

The 2017 Pantone Color of the Year: Greenery!


Read more about Greenery and why it was chosen, watch a cool video, and check out their recommended color pairings at Pantone's site.

What do you think about Greenery?

First Day of 5th Grade

Each year as Trevor starts a new grade, it's hard to wrap my head around how old he's getting. But fifth grade was like all the other years times 100. I taught fifth grade for 11 years and now my baby, the reason I quit teaching fifth grade, is a fifth grader himself. And I'm in his classroom sharing my favorite hands-on social studies activities each week. It's totally awesome and more than a little surreal.


Amazing how time flies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas Tree Sandwich Kabobs

I've eaten and enjoyed many items on a stick. But I don't think I'd ever had a sandwich on a stick until Trevor and I made these adorable Christmas Tree Sandwich Kabobs for lunch.

                                    (Mine)                                                   (Trevor's)

The idea for this cute treat came from Open House Merriment, given to me by Leisure Arts to review. This is post has affiliate links, meaning I will get a small commission for any purchases made through the links. 

Open House Merriment

Open House Merriment is packed with ideas for holiday decorating and entertaining! There's something for everyone. And the photography is beautiful. Each time I flip through it I find something else I want to try.

The Christmas Tree Sandwich Kabobs are from the 'Santa Stop Here!' chapter, which features 7 kid-friendly snack recipes. The other chapters include:

  • Oh-So Delish! - 10 recipes for delicious appetizers and desserts
  • Christmas Is For Kids - 13 simple crafts that kids will love
  • Gifts from Nature - 14 decorations inspired by, or incorporating, elements of nature
  • Cheerful Touches - 7 more craft ideas for decorating your home for Christmas


Trevor and I used the book for inspiration, but used different ingredients to make our kabobs. I used nested biscuit cutters to cut a large round from a piece of sourdough bread, then put it on a skewer. I layered Monterey Jack cheese, tomato, lettuce, and summer sausage (known in our family as hamaloni) in increasingly small sizes. I used a small star cutter to cut two stars from cheddar cheese and pressed them together around the tip of the kabob. Here's my work in progress:


Trevor also used a sourdough base. He layered cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, hamaloni, and more lettuce, then formed the rest of his tree with a vertical pickle. He made his star the same way I did. Here's his work in progress:


We really enjoyed making these sandwiches together. Bonus- they were delicious! These would be fun to serve at a party or playdate, but they were just as fun for us to do at home to make an ordinary lunch a little bit more special. 


Thanks to Leisure Arts for letting me review Open House Merriment. We've started another project from the book that we'll be sharing soon! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hand-Sewn Felt Stockings

Back in my teaching days, my fifth graders would sew felt stockings by hand in December. The project coincided with our unit on Colonial America, as the students were studying a time when people made virtually everything they owned by hand. The colorful stockings the kids made hung on our walls to decorate the classroom throughout the month. Then while the students were at lunch on their last day before winter break, their stockings would be magically filled with small treats and gifts for them to discover when they returned to the room. It was a wonderful way for us to celebrate together.

I had a class set of stockings cut and ready to go that I never used. I offered to teach the lesson to Trevor's 5th grade class and his teacher accepted enthusiastically. It was so much fun and the stockings turned out great.


I've done a lot of volunteering in Trevor's classrooms over the years, plus I've worked with lots of small groups and even done a bit of whole-group teaching, but this was different. It was the first time I had taught a whole class of fifth graders (33 kids) in ten years. I loved every minute. In fact, it was so much fun that I'm going to be teaching in Trevor's class once a week for the rest of the year! I'll be sharing all of my favorite hands-on history activities, starting with the pre-Columbian Native Americans and continuing through European Exploration, Colonial America, the Revolutionary War, Independence and Westward Expansion. I'm sure that I'll share many of my lessons here.

Anyway, back to the stockings. Each child got two pieces of felt (their choice of red or green), a needle and constrasting thread. I showed them how to thread a needle, tie a knot at the end of the thread, and hold the needle so that the thread wouldn't come out with every stitch. Then I demonstrated the whipstitch, emphasizing that they'd start from one top corner, continue down around the toe, and work back up the other side, leaving the top open.


Here's a close-up of the stitching:


For many of the students, it was the first time they'd done any sewing. There were some struggles, but they kept at it. They were so proud of their work!

Once their stockings were sewn, the kids could choose from among a huge pile of ribbons, trims and/or sequins to decorate their stockings. Trevor has a minimalist aesthetic:


So does Avery. (FYI, I have permission to publish Avery's name with her photo. I never identify other people's kids by name until a parent has said I can.) 


T was more typical in his decorating: three trims, a ribbon hanger, and sequins. 


D, like many others, used sequins to make her initial.


Great job, fifth graders! I can't wait to share my next project with you all!