Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Polar Pals

Okay, so I say this almost every week, but this is my favorite week to teach! Although I consider myself a Southern girl through and through, technically I am a transplanted Southerner. You see, I was born in Alaska. My mother's family is from Alaska and she grew up there. We moved to Georgia when I was a baby so the South is really my home, but Alaska calls to me. For birthdays and holidays, my grandmother would always send Native Alaskan gifts and trinkets. My first stuffed doll was a stuffed owl called "Ookpik", made from seal fur by Native Alaskans long ago.

Ookpik is a native literary character, similar to our teddy bear. There are many stories and books that tell stories of this beloved little owl. I have a little Golden Book version from when I was little and it was one of my favorite books of my childhood. If you knew my love for books, you'd know that is really saying something!

Both of the owls on either side of the front Eskimo are versions of "Ookpik". The small darker one is my beloved childhood treasures!

Over the years, I have collected several native artifacts that I treasure. As I became interested in education, it was only natural that I would start collecting children's literature from the region, as well. When I began teaching, I found that by adding and sharing my artifacts and books to the usual "winter, snow, polar animal, Eskimo" theme that most teachers delivered, I had a wealth of great information to share with the little friends I teach each day.

I now combine a lot of the wonderful ideas I've seen over the years with my "special" ideas and props!

Here are some of the cute things we've done this week to compliment our theme!

Oreo Cookie Penguin Snack
1 Regular Oreo
1 Mini Oreo
edible embellishments (I've used orange decorator frosting in the past, couldn't find a suitable color this year, so after looking through the candy aisle, I found orange marshmallow circus peanuts. We cut them into several slices--they were perfect! We used raisins this year for the eyes--had some leftover from a project last week.)

Remove one side of the large Oreo. Break the side without creme in half. Place on as wings. Add small Oreo on top to make the head. We added the circus peanuts for a beak and feet and raisins for eyes. Very simple and very cute! Our modifications worked well this year since I have two sensory challenged students who do not eat frosting. We always let the students do all of the project with only verbal prompting (their creations, not the teacher's), so when we have used frosting in the past, they usually go a little crazy and the penguin is not always identifiable as a penguin. This time the students could clearly "see" the penguin in the creation they made!

Shoeprint Penguins
Most of the art we do is student directed. They choose the medium and the subject. Art materials are available for them to explore at will. Occasionally we will do a "project", meaning we suggest the topic and materials, but even then we only suggest. Our school likes us to post a "project" every other month or so, so I usually reserve "projects" for this. Our assessment portfolios are supposed to only feature the student's art, so as cute as projects are, we don't do them often.

We told the students they were going to "buddy" up and trace their partner's shoe. After tracing, they were to cut out their own shoeprint and make it into a penguin. I know, not a lot of direction, but we're allowing for creativity and individuality. If they want to think outside the box, who am I to stop them? Maybe they have a better idea! We had black and white paper available, but had someone asked, I probably would have allowed them to use whatever they chose. One child asked to put googly eyes on hers and within minutes, most of the class wanted them, too! Several went into the scrap box and got orange paper to make beaks. I was a little surprised none of them thought to add feet.

I think they turned out really cute. Some of them may not look like a perfect penguin to someone else, but I am as proud of them as the students themselves!

I'll try to add some of the other activities, songs and books we used in this unit soon!


  1. Okay - now where have I been. Somehow I missed your blog all this time!! I love it! I love the Native Alaskan trinkets you included.

  2. And how did Teacher Tom beat me here:)


Thank you for visiting little illuminations. I'd love you to share your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by!

Popular Posts