Our biggest single purchase for the summer session was the $100 or so we spent on a 10 X 10 portable canopy. The idea was to pop it up when heavy rain was expected, and it's worked for that of course, but the truth is that it's become a permanent fixture in the "bull's eye" of the outdoor classroom. Whereas the area over which I originally positioned it had previously served as a sort of passageway between points, a place where we sometimes positioned large motor development-y "obstacles" like planks on milk crates, rocking horses, or portable stairs to overcome on one's way elsewhere, the canopy instantly created a "room" in the middle of our space. And as our summer weather has slowly turned sunnier and warmer, I've kept it place, not so much for sun protection as for the "bull's eye," which is what I've come to think of this new space for which I was planning activities even before I recognized that it existed.
Yesterday, the kids arrived to find the bull's eye festooned like this:
Back in February, we received (from my friend David at Upcycle Northwest) a large spool of what is leftover after large coffee roasters stamp out their coffee filters, among many other things.
We've used about half of it so far, spray painting it with liquid watercolor then using it to decorate things like our castle . . .
. . . our archway . . .
. . . bulletin boards . . .
. . . and our Pre-K play stage . . .
This time the idea was to spray paint the stuff in place, creating a rainbow room.
There was a light breeze all morning making the entire room dance and sway as the kids tried to hit the moving target with paint. Spray bottles can be a challenge for young kids. It's a great way to work on hand strength and fine motor skills. Some only managed a couple squirts, but we'll keep doing this for a few days to give them a chance to work on their skills.
Getting through the room, was a bit like walking through a beautiful, gauzy maze. We sent several kids home with colored faces (Charlie L., in particular, took a face-full of yellow paint which he happily wore the rest of the day) and hands. I'd provided milk crates and a step ladder so the kids could get up high for spraying, but I don't think any of them took advantage yesterday (there was a very exciting project going on in our tinkering area which sucked up a lot of the "big kid" energy). I expect there to be more use of that opportunity today when the rope making machine forces one-at-a-time exploration over there, which will free up some big kids for climbing and spraying.
I love this coffee filter paper. Not only does it dry almost instantly, but if we want to reuse it, it washes out in the rain and is as good as new.
There is a kind of magical seaweed-y, undersea feel about the whole thing. Today I'm going to move the water table into the center of the bull's eye and fill it with our fishing poles and fish. And, of course, we'll continue spraying.