DaVinci Summer 2018: Get Ready to Wander!

Wander 2


With summer just around the corner it's time to set reading goals, that stack of books to inspire the intrepid adventurer! 

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech is just such a book: "The sea, the sea, the sea. It rolled and rolled and called to me. Come in, it said, come in." Join the adventure of 13-year-old Sophie and her cousin, Cody. You are sure to not be disappointed. And be sure to carve out time to "memorialize" the treasure you discover.

WanderLeonardo reminds us: "The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding." DaVinci Summer, our long tradition here on the blog, is an opportunity to delight in the work understanding through creativity. And DaVinci Summer is just around the corner. So join the fun and watch for details of our first ever Summer Reading Challenge with publication opportunities!

Here's to jumping on board The Wanderer.


Emily Dickinson will be smiling: 

There is no Frigate like a Book

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –



How’s the Weather?


Have you read Tornado by Betsy Byars? On this first day of winter, what a wonderful time to explore the mysteries of the weather! And "tornados" are a great place to begin. This story touches down at the cross section of pure fiction and science. Your 2nd and 3rd grade readers/writers will love the adventure.

When a tornado appears in the distance, Pete, the farmhand, gathers everyone into the storm cellar. How best to pass the time in this worried time? Tell a story! While they wait for the storm to pass, Pete tells the family about the dog dropped down by a tornado when he was a boy. Tornado, Pete's pet was no ordinary dog. Tornado played card tricks, saved a turtle's life, and had a rivalry with the family cat. By the time Pete tells all of Tornado's lively stories, the storm has passed, and a very special dog has entertained another family.

PS … Don't forget to CREATE your idea after exploring the story!


Make a Plan: Preparing for Section 5


Don't wait until week 5 to begin thinking about your Section 5 idea. Make a plan. Keep all your ideas in one place. A spiral sketchbook will do just fine.

During Section 2, begin brainstorming. Write down your ideas and, if your Section 5 will include a visual component, create small sketches demonstrating what you imagine your idea will look like and what materials you might utilize. 

During Section 3, choose the idea you like best and make a full-page sketch with labels that will help you prepare.

During Section 4, gather all the materials you will need to complete your project build. 

After all this, when week 5 rolls around, you will be prepared to focus on creating a meaningful project. A project that you will surely be proud of for years to come.






Read a Book / Make a Map


When is a family like a map? 

Help your 3rd and 4th grader explore a metaphor.

This is the story of an old Parisian named Armand, who relished his solitary life. Children, he said, were like starlings, and one was better off without them. But the children who lived under the bridge recognized a true friend when they met one. And it did not take Armand very long to realize that he had gotten himself a ready-made family- one that he loved with all his heart, and one for whom he would have to find a better home than the bridge. Trace the steps of Armand and the children through the streets of Paris and discover just how a family if like a map.

After discovering this mystery, create a map to document the journey.



Great Ideas: Be Inspired by Books


Every journey through a Blackbird & Company literature discovery guide ends with a final project for the student to create and present. It's usually everyone's favorite activity and it gives them an opportunity to extend their time with a story after finishing the reading of it—to make connections and create and think deeper about what a story might be saying or teaching them. A list of possible projects are provided in each guide with options to help build making, research and presentation skills. But the best ideas are swirling inside YOUR students! Encourage them to step outside the story and imagine the possibilities. And when you do, you will BE AMAZED! 

For The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, Søren was inspired to create clothespin characters. In his words…

"For my project I made 12 different clothespin dolls. I chose to do this because Aunt Pretty had a clothespin doll collection and it sounded exciting trying to make my own. This was a difficult but fun project….The best part of making them is probably getting to use them afterwards!"

Creativity does not need instruction, it needs guidance. A great teacher is like a great pair of training wheels. For this project, after explaining his idea, Søren was simply offered the fodder—old fashioned clothespins, pom moms, scraps of fabric, and a hot glue gun. After that, my job as teacher was to step in only if he asked for help. Section 5 projects are not just a celebratory moment at the end of the close reading. Section 5 projects are the student's opportunity to communicate an original idea sparked by a great story. Understanding and remembering are vital, analyzing too. But synthesizing and applying coupled with creating, well this is the potential of Section 5. So instead of staring at a page of learning objectives, stare for a moment at Søren's happily engaged photo. I guarantee he is checking off learning objectives that transcend the ones we teachers sometimes get blinded by.   

You can also see more projects from most of our titles by visiting out Flickr group. Get inspired, and join the group so we can see what you and your kids are up to.



Stitch Picasso


Stitchery builds cognitive plasticity.

Embroidery is a practice that will empower students to be aware of fine motor potential, overcome the short attention span, and to have a growth mindset. The nervous system controls all of the body functions. But it is a complicated system with diverse potential. by tapping into all potential and possibilities while learning, students will develop diverse thinking skills. 

Enhanced performance of the brain ensures that all of the other body systems perform accordingly. Metabolism, for example, is a complex task that makes sure the body has minerals when needed and ensures that toxic waste is extracted from the body. Creative endeavors help the brain to engage in focused, relaxed work, improving nervous system performance. Embroidery is good for the brain. And this is good for learning.

For this project we began by observing Picasso's Owl:


Next, students made original drawings inspired by Picasso's drawing. After each child had a drawing they were settled with, the drawing was transferred to the burlap flap. We used the running stitch since these were made by 1st and 2nd graders. But running stitch is great place to start with all ages.


One hint: Have two needles threaded for each student, "unthreading" is common with new stitchers!  

Embroidery is academic. So put down the pencil, pick up a needle and thread.

While stitching, think interdisciplinary: Read a book about owls! Write an owl poem.



After a Book Journey: Create

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Reading a book is a journey. From Los Angeles to New York you'll travel through the city and the countryside meeting wonderful people and seeing new and exciting places. Let the journey begin! (Hat tip to Reading Rainbow.) Take your 2nd grader on an Earlybird Destinations journey. They will not be disappointed.

Places you will go:
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Abuela by Arthur Dorros
The Wonderful Towers of Watts by Patrica Zelver
Fly High, Fly Low by Don Freeman
Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen

And by the time they get to the end, they will not only have a deep appreciation for the places they've explored, but a heart full of fodder for their creativity to unfold. 

Here's a simple a simple lesson to help your students enact and elevate their creative responses to stories.

  1. To begin, if you are going to use a box (and boxes are a great way to begin, always paint the box). Give yourself a blank canvas upon which you can build your idea. A coat or two of gesso or acrylic paint will do just fine.
  2. Use more than 1 art medium. Here for example, using paint and air dry clay, use both folded and crumpled paper, live foliage, found objects, and so on.
  3. Be sure to anchor to the book where the idea originated by creating a meaningful Title or by posting quotes around the project.  

You don't have to be an artist to make your idea beautiful. And, think about it, ideas are meant to be appreciated. So, go on, beautify.

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Tiny Seed / Huge Plant

Our Earlybird Spring Literature and Writing Discovery Guide features The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Follow along with the blowing seeds as they land in different environments on Earth in this classic story with its beautiful collage art illustrations. It would be fun to plant some tiny sunflower seeds because they grow into such huge plants!

Take this opportunity to sprout some seeds and research the different stages of development. We put damp paper towels in a see through glass and put seeds next to the glass and watched them sprout over a week. 

Bean2When you do this, you are helping your student engage in multi-disciplinary learning. So go with it… pull out the Observation journal and have your student draw each step of the way. 


Learning is so fun when it seamlessly WOWs the child!



Ugly Vegetables

Use Blackbird & Company’s Earlybird Spring Literature and Writing Discovery Guide to plant a Chinese vegetable garden! The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin tells the tale of a little girl who helps her mother grow some very unusual vegetables while the neighbors are all growing flowers. Read how those ugly vegetables brought the neighbors together over a bowl of soup.

A little research will yield many inexpensive ways to use containers to grow vegetables.Check out our Pinterest page.

We'd love to hear your garden ideas too! Leave a comment…



Rechenka’s Eggs

The fifth book in our Earlybird thematic Spring Discovery Guide is a Blackbird & Company favorite, Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco is in our top ten favorite children’s books of all times! Beautifully illustrated this wonderfully told tale will introduce your student to the amazing art of Ukrainian Pysanky egg decorating.
This has been a yearly tradition at our house during Springtime. All the supplies you need can be found online. And if you can find a copy, be sure to watch Reading Rainbow (season 10 ,episode 4) to see Patricia herself creating a beautiful painted goose egg. …Magical!
"Behold the egg."