Thursday, October 20, 2005

Swimming in the Sea

From walking the Japanese cigarette butt beaches, swimming wham into a plastic bag with the remains of a lunch-the tomatoes and bits of meat and lemon- at the seaside: I realized my children have no experience of pristine Scottish beaches, and so grew Swimming in the Sea. Japan has gorgeous and unsoiled beaches too, don't get me wrong. It's a song to reflect on what you like and don't like in your experiences in nature, and what to do about it when you realize.

Sound of the sea
I start off the session by asking the children to close their eyes and switch on the CD.... Close your eyes, and come exploring sea creatures and the beach.

Following that song, remember things you saw when last at the beach, compare sea creatures in different countries, notice the different colors and sizes, swim along and share what you see.

I sing and kids sing back to me, and someone is helping changing the karaoke TV pictures while i play the guitar.

Gently repeating "What can you see?" slide the picture off gradually as kids guess what is underneath....

A whale! Is it pink, or red? Blue, ok, is it big or little?

A big, blue whale, comes swimming by.... WOW

So, let's keep the sea clean.

Comparison: Japan and the UK

After we listen to the sound of waves and the sea, I have two pictures of the sea, one from the UK and one from Japan, which go up on the board. As we sing, the sea creatures get posted up and I ask, Do you have whales/seals/ puffins in Japan? Then the kids tell me more animals in the sea in Japan and ask me if we have them in the UK, and we explore the topic and learn new words/think of things we need to research....:)

Point and say
I ask some of the kids to come and be the teacher in turn, and use either of the two whacky pointers (UK and Pokemon) to point and everyone practices reading the words.The kids get a copy of this printed out to take home and color, because sometimes there's no time for crafts or personalized drawings in short classes.
I run a game where everyone gets a copy of one of the animals, and we all stand up and sing the song, swimming and milling around, and when we get to "what can you see?" they stop and show their card to the person nearest, adding the size and color they like: "A big orange starfish" - "Wow" , "A small green crab" -"Wow" and then we all start milling around again.

story time
Explore the topic in read-along, act-it-out storybooks:
Sally and the Limpet by Simon James, Walker Books; (March 26, 1992) ASIN: 0744520207
What lives in a shell? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, HarperTrophy; (May 30, 1994), ISBN: 0064451240
My Friend Whale by Simon James, Candlewick Press (MA); (March 1, 2004) , ISBN: 0763623105
Elisella the Coral by Katherine Muzik, drawings Makoto Wada, Libro Port Publishing Co. Ltd, 1986 ISBN 4-8457-0240-1 C8795

Let's Swap

Have a show and tell (photoblog?!) of things you have received from people, bought second hand, or found in the garbage!

This little lady has a story....when my sons were small, I lived in a big block of flats, and always made sure I checked the garbage, because people throw away the most amazing things in Japan. Out of one mouldering sports bag, I withdrew the little naked lady, and thus began my renewed career of sewing clothes for her. ( I was always making clothes for my doll in primary school, rudimentary stuff). My sons relished the new bath companion, and her wardrobe grew and grew, only i sent them all to my goddaughter after a while, oh the beads and ribbons, lace and glorious netting. As a wee girl I always wanted a trainset, so my sons got to have dolls and trainsets. They never did dress her up tho', only ever splashed around with her in the bath...Now the boys are big, and only this one last dress remains, along with some knits, which I will keep: my first ever knit I made when I was about seven, for my then fake Barbie, because we couldn't afford to buy a real one, and a wee pink aran I simply cannot part with.The red dirndl is a hand-stitched, embroidered replica of the dirndl my father bought for my mother in Salzburg, way back in the days when they were in love, a dress which I guess i may, just may still have in a box somewhere, but which, like their love, has long since faded. As you can see i never did get round to making the apron, but there you go...The best part of this story is that now the dress and Licca are proudly living with the wee three-year-old girl next door, to be loved and cherished anew.

Shetland Knitting
Revamp discarded kiddies teddies with a hand-knit sweater...makes a great personalized gift. And pass on those books when you're done reading them, there is someone who will appreciate it! Spending that little bit of extra time finding the right owner rather than trashing it to be incinerated or dumped, makes letting it go easier.

A Sustainable Conversation

A sustainable conversation

I have the insects color coded on origami paper so that the kids can copy the names on their printed sheets, or draw the insects they like and write the names.There are eight pieces of paper for each insect, so the kids can work at their own pace, and put back the paper when they are done, and if they want to check the word and how to say it with me I am there to help.I've worked a lot with drawing, now digiphotos open up whole new possibilities in the field of looking at beetles and insects! Make a blog!

A book I really recommend is Joseph Cornell’s (1979) Sharing Nature with Children ISBN 0-916124-14-2. A lot of the activities are very simple and can easily be combined with the songs. For instance a ‘Microhike’ to explore the insect world can be done anywhere, going well with the song, A Sustainable Conversation. The song talks about drawing insects, so kids can observe and choose an insect they like, and make drawings to share and report on. Alternatively the main onegreenleaf website has tips for drawing bugs using alphabet letters.
Ever more diversified options to meet the different talents.
Online games to explore here,

There is a recording of this song at:

See the River Smile

Have you ever heard the river cry?

Sinsheim in Germany Before the Changes: The Elsenz river is straightjacketed between panels of unsustainable forested tropical timber. The water flows too fast for fish and affords no home for aquatic life Summer flash floods sweep away any attempt at life. Non-native acacia roots, growing vertically deep, do not support the riverbank.

See her smile
After Sinsheim City restored the eco-system: Large boulders and stones were thrown in to afford havens in the riverbed and diversify the flow. A flood plain was created so that during flash floods water spread naturally into fields. Native trees with spreading shallow roots were planted at the riverbank to afford homes for small river creatures and maintain the ecosystem of the banks.

Bring Back the Trees
To start your river project...explore what you've got: your bioregion. Below: A great site to begin exploring bioregions and sustainability. Click under exchange and books, scroll down for a great book, Discover your Life-place: A first Bio-regional Workbook, by Peter Berg (featured in this pic)This photo taken from:

Clean up the water too

Kariyatagawa River, Niigata, Japan Sixth Graders from Tochio Higashi Elementary School investigate water pollution measuring COD (chemical oxygen demand). Students calculate pollutant loads of discharge water from rinsing rice, shampoo, oil, etc. The kids make soap by recycling deep-frying oil and educate their community, distributing hand- made pamphlets and freebie soap every month. This picture was taken from:

Listen to the song at

Working with this song, children grow in awareness of what makes us happy and sad and empathizing with other humans and the planet. Children can develop the value of solidarity and commitment to a vision of peaceful existence based on a universal framework of human rights and ecological balance. Through exploration of actions such as cleaning the river, children gain a sense of global agency and engagement: they learn to act constructively as global citizens to resolve global problems locally, and achieve a culture of peace. Moreover, the song aims to reaffirm children’s natural sense of empathy and gentleness, nurturing gender-free capacities for caring and co-operating for the common good.

The Weed Song

I wrote the weed song because I felt so miserable every time I was asked to rip out all the good herbs growing round our company block of flats with the other wives once a month, in order to clear the 'breeding ground for mosquitos and protect our children from bugs'. I felt sad about every mugwort plant I uprooted, thinking of all the dream pillows going to waste, and delicious home-made dango for the kids. The wonderful smelling dokudami with its white flowers, which is very tasty when you eat a curled up new leaf nipped off as it shoots, but which Japanese herbal stores sell dried as a cure for constipation. You know, if you worry about getting bitten by mosquitos, rub on some of the gel from an aloe vera plant: does the trick wonderfully, if you don't have lemon eucalyptus essential oils...

Yuki no shita 'Under the snow'

Yukinoshita is just GREAT in TEMPURA, not bitter like some spring herbs. My kids love it in spring, and I do too: nothing like a free meal.I think, but am not sure that Yukinoshita is saxifrage in English, although it looks different in the pics. Perhaps it is one of many varieites of saxifrage on the planet. I love the name, meaning 'Under the snow'.

In my Japanese herbal it particularly mentions a few drops squeezed in a cotton swab and placed in the ear for middle ear infections- I admit I've never tried it out, but I should, because my ears hurt on and off....I will report when I get up the courage.

Horsetail, put me in some tea...yeah! Sugina in Japanese, Zinnoberkraut in German, and very very health giving: Today, horsetail continues to have medicinal value. The plant's stems are rich in silica and silicic acids, which help mend broken bones and form collagen, an important protein found in connective tissue, skin, bone, cartilage, and ligaments. Horsetail is also used to treat infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, and as topical therapy for burns and wounds. Research suggests that silicone helps prevent osteoporosis as horsetail is amoung the richest plant sources of this mineral, which the body can readily use. of absorbable whatever the bio-chemics is (I admit, I can never be bothered to remember) but in a word, A MOST GENEROUS WEED

One Green Leaf- Ninja Scroll

Green Ninja scroll

Pics of a crafts scroll made from an old calendar stuck together wound round a kitchen towel roll, to go with the song One Green Leaf

As I sing

I begin to open the leaf, one green leaf, ...two bugs eat the leaf....two birds eat the bug...

Two poops on the ground
Poop poop ...Pooop poooop.... Three ne-eeewww leaves.

all the way up to seven

and still pooping....the kids and I love it, pooopoooop, pooopooop, poop,ppooopooop,poopoop, pooopooop, ppooooopooop!

The whole scroll
is very long....Of course you can make a mini-version with toilet paper, and change from green to red with raspberry, or yellow with banana, and of course change the bugs to whatever eats a banana, ( monkey? and then maybe a tiger?? a tropical version??not really knowledgeable about who eats time to google and do some research....) a blue sea version? or a blue weather scroll? Three new black clouds?? would that work?

T is for Tiger:Miniquiz

Japan is incrdeibly backward in its attitude to exploiting animals. CITES is flouted, trade in live endangered animals and animal parts flourishes, and animals all over the planet suffer. I wrote this song to try and give the animals a voice and help children think of animal rights. Try the quiz below!

What's it made of?

Passing round various items for the kids to touch and feel and guess: what's it made of? Animals help us make many beautiful things in our lives, can you guess which one helps us make these beautiful knits?

This is a close up of a Japanese woven Nishijin obi, the sash used to wrap round kimonos. It almost looks like embroidery, very luxurious...and all the beautiful colors. What's it made of? Guess the animal.
And here a sneak peek to help you along in guessing.
Traditional Instruments
like the Japanese koto, use ivory to prop up the silk strings and tune the instrument, and in the finger mounted picks...plastic can be used, but the sound is slightly different, according to experts. Now you can guess the animal who makes the music possible, can't you? The Japanese guitar (shamisen) is vibrating animal hide (cat or dog) stretched over a frame, and the large hand held pick (bachi) is also often made of solid ivory, as the following site will tell you
is a traditional Japanese leather industry made for the samurai armour...the lacquerwork is stencilled onto the leather...and what's it made of?
Handbag, belt, shoes, fashion items we take so much for granted...what are they made of?
now then, what lovely fur is this?

stroke and cuddle

Which animals are still alive to stroke and cuddle? What do the animals say? How can we respect them and still have pretty bags and coats and scarves?The answers to the quiz are: woollen sweaters: sheep/ alivekimono threads: silk worms/ dead...ivory is elephant teeth, very often elephants are poached and killed for their tusks, the Inden shoes and wallets are made of deer skin/ dead and the handbag is cow leather, also cat is called Peasuke, and he is handsome and alive, miaouw...stroke and cuddle :)