Guest Post: Homemade Beads in 3 Ways

This week, we learn how to make beads. Hannah loves dressing up. The girly girl in her enjoys wearing necklaces and bracelets. So when Jessica from Education.com shared this idea with me, I just had to try them with my girl! 

Education.com provides parents,homeschoolers and teachers with fun learning resources e.g. worksheets, lesson plans, digital games, an online guided learning platform, and more. Over to Jessica:

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Stringing beads is a fun way to give boredom the boot. And most preschoolers, both girls and boys, enjoy taking a crack at it.

Beyond fueling creativity, beading also has another trick up its sleeve: it helps young kids practice patterning, or sequencing, which lays the groundwork for math, reading, and science. You can buy a sack of beads at any craft store. But here are 3 inexpensive ways for kids to make their own beads, from scratch.

Continue reading Guest Post: Homemade Beads in 3 Ways

Read Aloud Books by Karen Kingsbury: Father-Daughter / Mother-Son Bond

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Does your little girl look to her Daddy as if he’s her superhero? Does your little boy make footprints in your heart?

Written by Karen Kingsbury, this set of books make a lovely read for your little boy and girl. I love the fact that there’s one for little boys and their mother, and another for little girls and their father. It is especially useful for us! Continue reading Read Aloud Books by Karen Kingsbury: Father-Daughter / Mother-Son Bond

Heritage Fest 2016

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A belated May blog post on Heritage Fest 2016, Singapore.

Running its 13th year, Singapore HeritageFest brings to the public the diverse cultural heritage of this little city. From food trails to music recitals to experiencing Singapore’s last living kampong; Pulau Ubin. There’s something for everyone.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s our first year participating in Heritage Fest. We managed to catch two programmes:

Aliwal Arts Centre Open House

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Through the workshops, we learned various traditional art forms, such as the Malay dance by DIAN dancers and Chinese opera by Nam Hwa Opera.

Hannah liked the pretty DIAN dancers so much that she wanted to take a picture with them.

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If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that Hannah is a big fan of Chinese opera. She was excited to watch the opera up close!

We found out how opera singers use gestures, facial expressions and their props to express the emotions of the characters portrayed.

Here’s one opera-related activity you could do with your little one. Be sure to read these two (here, here) wonderful books on Chinese opera too!

Romance, Hope and Dreams @ Velocity, Novena Square

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Like most little girls, Hannah loves weddings! Ask her about the weddings she attended, and she’ll rattle off the names of the couple, and colour of the evening gowns those brides wore.

“Romance, Hope and Dreams” was the perfect exhibition for her to learn about the meanings of traditional wedding practices and beliefs of different ethnic communities.

Every traditional wedding ceremony had been modelled with clay.  See how intricate they are? They remind me of Alexandra Bruel’s clay pop art. Amazing.

Singapore HeritageFest happens from April to May every year. Be sure to check out www.heritagefest.sg for their latest happenings.

Indoor Art Activity: Crayon Etchings

Crayon etchings: indoor art activity for children

The heat is on!  On Wednesday (13 Apr 2016), Singapore recorded its highest temperature in a decade this month: 36.7 deg C.

With the scorching weather refusing to let up,  we hide ourselves indoors from the blazing afternoon sun.  Keeping the children entertained isn’t an easy feat especially when I have to prepare dinner and do laundry.

Recently, I’ve found crayon etchings to be a useful activity to keep their little hands busy and burn those energy.

You will need:

  1. Bright coloured crayons
  2. Black crayon
  3. Toothpick or end of paintbrush
  4. Small sheet of paper
  5. Newspaper

Start by colouring the bright coloured crayons all over your paper.  You have to press firmly to create a thick layer of colouring. (That’s how you expand their energy!)

Place a pad of newspaper under the sheet of paper.  Cover the layer of crayon with black crayon.  The newspaper will allows the black crayon to coat evenly.  Again, you need to press firmly to coat a thick layer.

Now, lay newspapers all over the table before you etch.  This makes clean-up easier.  Remove the pad of newspaper before etching.

Design your picture by scraping the black layer with a toothpick or end of paintbrush.

I’m sure your children will feel hungry after all that colouring!  Just in time for dinner. 😉

ABC Jesus Loves Me (ABCJLM) Curriculum Review

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I’m terribly late with this curriculum review. But time has only heightened my appreciation for Heidi Franz’s “ABC Jesus Loves Me” (ABCJLM) curricula.

We’ve used all four of ABCJLM’s curricula: 2-year to 5-year. Here’s how we began:

During our first year of homeschooling (read here), I wasn’t sure if things would work out.  Hannah was then barely two.  All I knew was, I wanted a Bible-centered curriculum. And it has to be affordable.

So clueless me googled “homeschool curriculum for preschool”, and read many blogs and homeschool forums.  Then I cried.

Some curricula were terribly expensive (shipping fee not factored in)! Others were too overwhelming. How was I to do my laundry, cook, mop the floor…. I just wasn’t sure if I could complete all the things in the checklist within a week.

I prayed and prayed. There’s a tug in my heart to embark this journey.  But how Lord?

Finally, I landed on “ABC Jesus Loves Me” website.  It’s bible-centered. Check! The lessons seem doable. Check! It’s comprehensive. Check! It’s FREE!! Hallelujah!

Some friends whom I spoke to were skeptical about the quality of a free curriculum.  So I did more research. Having read many good reviews about the curriculum, I held my breath and took the plunge.

Four years on, I’m glad I took the first step.

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“ABC Jesus Loves Me” curriculum offers more than just academic development.  It teaches about gross and fine motor skills.

I especially like that it incorporates tips on basic manners, self-care and information a child ought to know. Being a first-time mom, I wasn’t sure what to teach and when without overwhelming my child. So having weekly objectives were definitely welcomed!

Following a weekly objective helped pace our learning.  I didn’t have to follow a daily lesson plan or checklist rigidly. The activities and crafts were adequate.

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Of course, I’m very, absolutely grateful that Heidi offers ALL lesson plans to homeschool families for free.

While you could have the lesson plans and workbooks printed for you,  I had several concerns.  Firstly, I wasn’t sure if homeschooling works out for us.  Secondly, the international shipping fee was is a BIG concern for me.  The currency exchange rate is another major factor.  USD$60 = nearly SGD$90 (excluding shipping fee).

Without a doubt, having everything printed allows me to have more sleep. 🙂  I might consider this option when teaching Elijah.

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Early this year, Heidi introduced the 1-year curriculum. We’re several weeks into the curriculum for Elijah.  So far so good!  Elijah has picked up basic sign-language.  His learning pace is vastly different from Hannah’s.  This new curriculum certainly provides me with much needed tips and ideas.

I find it difficult to teach Hannah and occupy Elijah at the same time.  I’ve tried setting up independent activities for Elijah but he doesn’t play on his own for long.  He’s more interested in his sister’s work!

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Having started on the 1-year curriculum, I find that I’m able to teach both children.  Hannah enjoys helping her brother in his work.  And she gets what she enjoys: more “school” time with me.

I still struggle to carve out time to prepare activities, borrow books and print activity sheets for both children.  Nowadays, I’m so drained by evening that I end up in bed with the kids. If you have any tips or suggestion on how to better manage time, please drop me a line.  Suggestions very welcomed!

Ok, I’ve digressed…

All in all, if you’re looking for a flexible, Bible-centered, quality preschool curricula, then check out ABC Jesus Loves Me.

Happy homeschooling!

Easy Easter Kids’ Crafts

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I’ve always been apprehensive about making our own Easter eggs, especially the mess I’ve to clean up if Hannah breaks an egg. That’s until I realised we could use hard-boiled eggs!

I know you must be thinking, “What have you been thinking all this time?!”

This egg crafting business is really new to me.  Here are several ideas for newbies like me:

Food Colour Dye Eggs

Mix 1/2 cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and drops of food colour to achieve your desired colour.  Dip your hard-boiled eggs in the dye for 5 minutes. Remove and allow the eggs to dry.

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Painting on Empty Egg Shells

Daddy contributed this idea!  He made a small opening on the eggs, removed and cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast, then washed the egg shells.

With chopsticks and a cup to prop the egg shells, we left them to dry before painting them.     The chopsticks and cup helped keep Hannah’s hands and clothes clean.  Minimal clean-up effort!

Crayon Decorated Eggs

Now, this method requires some practice.  We had used crayons to draw designs on hard-boiled eggs.

I meant to dye the eggs after that to create crayon-resist effect. However, the eggs were crushed after Hannah drew on them.  So we skipped the dye.

As you can tell, we had a lot of eggs to finish for the week!

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Yarn Eggs

A friend taught us this.  Blow up a ballon to the size of your fist.  Secure balloon with a knot. Dip yarns in PVA glue (diluted with some water). Wrap glue-covered yarn around balloon.  The balloon should be fairly well covered with yarn.

Allow balloon and yarn to dry completely.  Pop balloon and remove it.

Oh, you could also use this egg to share about Jesus’s resurrection.  The egg is hollow because Jesus has resurrected!. The tomb is empty!

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Sticker Decorated Eggs

We did this on Thursday at MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers).  Simply stick stickers on a hard-boiled egg.  You could even tell the Easter story with the stickers.  Hannah chose to illustrate Jesus’s crucifixion by pasting 3 crosses.  Two for the criminals and Jesus in the middle.

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Easter Kids’ Activities

In the run-up to Easter, we recount Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection with Easter Activity Workbook.  It’s a 7-day countdown that covers Palm Sunday through Christ’s resurrection. You could get your free copy by subscribing to ABC Jesus Loves Me Blog.

We also learned about the story of the resurrection eggs through the book, “Lily’s Easter Party“.  It’s an interesting concept to recount the Easter story using symbols.

Intrigued by the concept, I shared this at our Mandarin co-op. Retelling the Easter story in Mandarin proved to be a feat!  It surely was a relief to know that the children enjoyed the Easter egg hunt and discovering the symbols.

Life Your Way and Teaching Heart provide free materials to go along with story.

Even if you didn’t get to do any craft or activity, don’t be dismayed. Take this Sunday to quiet your heart and let God speak to you. He’s the reason for Easter.

14022783319_ee3e72485b_bPhoto by Andrea Howey on Flickr

Happy Easter!

Chinese New Year 2016: Crafts, Spring-Cleaning, Organizing

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Another four days to the Lunar New Year ! *gasp*

How are your preparations for Spring?  This year, we kept things simple.

Have a look at our activities leading to Chinese New Year:

For art and craft, we’ve made a “大头娃娃” or “big head doll” – usually seen at a lion dance performance or Chinese New Year street celebration.

Materials:

  • Paper bag or plastic bag
  • Newspaper
  • Cellophane tape
  • Chopstick,straw or stirrer
  • Crepe paper or coloured tissue paper
  • Self-adhesive labels

Directions:

  1. Crush some newspaper into a ball. Secure with cellophane tape.
  2. Put newspaper ball into paper bag or a plastic bag. This will be the doll’s head.
  3. Insert a chopstick, straw or stirrer into the newspaper ball.
  4. Secure stick and bag with cellophane tape.
  5. Use crepe paper or coloured tissue paper to make the doll’s hair.
  6. You may also use crepe paper to decorate the doll’s hair (flowers or hair accessory).
  7. Draw the doll’s eyes, nose and mouth on the self-adhesive label.
  8. Cut out the label and stick them onto the doll’s face.

This craft can be made within minutes.  I find it almost impossible to craft while keeping an active toddler under radar at the same time! More Chinese New Year crafts can be found here and here.

Here’s what Elijah did while we made “大头娃娃” or “big head doll”.

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Happily mopping the floor for 15 minutes max.  Otherwise, he’ll probably rip the doll’s hair or chew its eyes and nose.

Our Lunar New Year decoration kept fairly simple: hanging couplets around the house, and New Year stickers stuck on our door.

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This week, “贺新年” (a festive song) has been playing over the phone.  We desperately need to learn another Chinese New Year song, other than “恭喜恭喜”!

贺新年 “He Xin Nian” Lyrics

贺新年 祝新年
新年哪 年连年
爆竹声声催人想幼年
贺新年 祝新年
新年哪 年连年
岁月悠悠光阴如箭
回首往事如烟 痛苦辛酸
寄望从今万事如愿
贺新年 祝新年
新年哪 年连年
愿大家都过个太平年

The song translates:

Happy New Year, wishing you well in the new year;
The new year comes year after year;
The sound of firecrackers remind people of yesteryear;

Happy New Year, wishing you well in the new year;
The new year comes year after year;
Time flies like an arrow;
Looking back in sorrow;
Hoping things are looking up;

Happy New Year, wishing you well in the new year;
The new year comes year after year;
May everyone enjoy a peaceful year.

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Organization, spring-cleaning, decluttering! I wasn’t able to do as much as I would like to. But I take comfort knowing that it’s always ongoing.

Here’s a nifty trick to organize the hub’s neck ties.  Inspired by the numerous organizing tips on Pinterest. 🙂

Finally, we made our yearly trip to Chinatown to see the Chinese New Year decorations and people-watch as they queue up as early as 5am to buy Bak Kwa (savoury sweet BBQ meat).

In my opinion, the best view of Chinatown’s decorations and surroundings can be seen at the Garden Bridge. Head to Exit C at Chinatown MRT Station.  Then take the lift to Garden Bridge.  You’ll get a good view of the decorations together with prominent buildings like The Majestic and Yue Hwa Building.

If you have older children or plan to do a tour around Chinatown, be sure to read up the historical facts about Chinatown compiled by “Singapore Lost & Filed”.  I surely found them useful!

National Gallery Singapore | Keppel Centre for Art Education

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This is a backdated entry which finally got published. Phew!

While the hype of National Gallery Singapore has somewhat fizzled, nevertheless, this is one awesome place to check out as a family.

The National Gallery Singapore, which has been in the making for 10 years, finally opened its doors to the public on 24 November 2015.  To commemorate this milestone, there was a two-week long of free events and activities.

With the festive season and “school” moving on slowly, I decided an impromptu outing to National Gallery Singapore.  Getting there (with a stroller) wasn’t a problem. It was just minutes away from City Hall MRT Station.

Once in the 64,000 sqm museum, we felt kind of lost.  On hindsight, I should have downloaded the museum’s Gallery Explorer mobile application.  It offers visitors a self-guided tour and turn-by-turn directions from one’s location to points of interest within the Gallery.

Wandering quite aimlessly, a friendly security officer approached us (our faces must have said we were lost!) and shared about Keppel Centre for Art Education.  It was a facility dedicated for children.

Not feeling so lost now…we proceeded to locate Keppel Centre for Art Education. 🙂

Moms with babies in tow, you’d be glad to know that strollers are permitted in the galleries.  However, they are not permitted in the Keppel Centre for Art Education.  You’d need to park them outside the facility.

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Inside Keppel Centre for Art Education you will find:

  • Art Corridor: explore art through tactile play
  • Art Playscape: develop imagination through active play
  • Project Gallery: learn creative process through art making
  • Children’s Museum: learn to put up exhibitions through role play

Parents, be warned: Lots of persuasion and patience is needed to get your little ones moving from one gallery to another.  And you may be paying for every kit at each gallery.

Like most children, Hannah was stuck at the Art Corridor for a while ( I really mean a long while).  Everyone was busy trying to put colourful discs into the art puzzle.

At the Project Gallery, it was no surprise that Hannah wanted to create her “boat in the sky” as the room was filled with whimsical artwork of flying buses and boats.  The activity kits could be purchased at SGD $4.

Finally, at the Children’s Museum, we took a peek into the artist, Milenko Prvacki ‘s art studio, and examine the artistic process: tools he used, techniques he created etc.  The children could decorate a postcard and send it to Milenko Prvacki himself!

There was a Pocket Sculpture Starter Kit which could be purchased at SGD $2 (see what I mean?) but we didn’t get that for Hannah.

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We didn’t manage to enter Art Playscape as Elijah was getting cranky and hungry.  But we managed to snap some photos of its fancy backdrop and layout.

What was Hannah’s highlight of the day?

It must definitely be Who’s in the Woods.  An interactive platform that features day-to-night scape of a forest.  Children get to choose and design their animals, and watch them come alive on screen. (See first image of Hannah’s tiger.)

You also get to receive a printable of your designed animal via email.  Then piece your animal and play them at home. How cool is that?

As I was saying, Elijah was getting hungry. There are several F&B outlets in the museum.  But being the frugal mom, we ended up eating sushi at City Link Mall. There are plenty of restaurants and fast food joints around the area.  You won’t go hungry. 🙂

For families thinking of visiting the National Gallery Singapore, check out these upcoming programmes.

 

 

 

Power of Belief: Books That Make A Difference

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Hello 2016!  Happy New Year to you!

A new year brings fresh beginnings.  At home, I’m revisiting my goals and vision for the family.  One of which is to raise my children as history makers. And I often look to books as a source of inspiration.

Let’s kickstart 2016 with six fantastic books that teaches children to believe in themselves and their actions make a difference.

894110The Firekeeper’s Son
by Linda Sue Park

Set in Korea in the early 1800s, Sang-hee, the son of a village firekeeper has to make a tough decision: should he lit the fire as instructed or satisfy his desire to see soldiers in action?

Hannah relates to this story because very often, she too, is caught between wanting to do what is right and what she wants.  This story highlights why doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost everything else.

15818591Red Kite, Blue Kite
by Ji-li Jiang

A historical fiction set in the time of the Cultural Revolution in China. Tai Shan’s father was sent away. Their only mean of communication was by flying their kites.

I love the bond between father and son, and how Tai Shan waits in anticipation for his father to return.

This tale of hope will resonate with young readers who have to deal with separation from a loved one.

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Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery
by Jeanette Winter

This inspirational picture book shares the story of two brave children who weren’t afraid to speak out against unfair practices in their society.

It’s definitely a conversation starter with our young ones, and their courage and tenacity serves an inspiration for all us to learn from!

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Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!
by Jonah Winter

Great artists don’t usually paint things that people agree with.  In fact, everyone hated Picasso’s paintings at that time!

Do your kids feel rejected when others label their work as “ugly”?  Have them read this book!

Read our past review here.

13538696The Forgiveness Garden
by Lauren Thompson

Inspired by the original Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, this story shares with readers how hate “eats” a person inside out and violence isn’t the way to resolve a conflict.

I’m certain this story has left a deep impression on Hannah because she still mentions the story from time to time.

15938465Fish for Jimmy
by Katie Yamasaki

Another historical fiction, this story takes place during the wake of the 1941 Pearl Harbour bombing.

Taro, Jimmy and his mother were sent to a Japanese internment camp. Jimmy soon becomes homesick and refuses to eat.

Having promised his father to take care of his younger brother, Taro slips out of camp, risking getting caught. His concern over the family becomes far greater than himself.

P/s: All books can be borrowed from public libraries in Singapore.

There are many books of characters who learn to believe in themselves and what they do have ripple effects that touches those surrounding them.

Did we miss your favourite?  Let me know which book you think should be added.

Pixar’s “Lava” Inspired Unit Study: Volcanoes and Structure of the Earth

Source: Pixar Wiki

Lava” is Pixar’s latest short film; accompanying the release of “Inside Out”.  My Facebook page was flooded with positive comments about both films when “Inside Out” was released in Singapore on 27 August. It was certainly very different from the other mainstream animation. No villains, no good vs. evil fight scenes, no charming prince rescuing damsel in distress.

Hmmm…it piqued my curiosity and so I decided to check this movie out together with Hannah. Our inaugural movie date!

All in all, we definitely enjoyed both films.  The movie left us teary-eyed as we left the cinema. My 4-year old related more so to the two singing volcanoes than Riley and her adorable emotion characters.

More than just an emotional roller-coaster, we found a great topic to study on – Volcanoes!

Layers of the Earth

To start off, we needed to understand what lies beneath the Earth. These free printable were a great resource for us, particularly the one by Free Montessori.

Layers of the Earth – Montessori Mom
Layers of the Earth Nomenclature Cards – Helpful Garden
Layers of the Earth Cards – Free Montessori 

You could also explain the layers of the earth by slicing a cherry or peach in half.

  • Skin as Earth’s crust – outer-most layer that surround the Earth like a shell.  It is the thinest among the three main layers.
  • Meat as Earth’s mantle – second layer; Earth’s thickest layer.
  • Pit as Earth’s core – innermost layer; a ball of hot solid metal.
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52298892@N00/2321321969 via PhotoPin

Marcia’s Science Teaching Ideas has great ideas on teaching plate tectonics.  We made a foldable with “Earth’s Layers Foldable”.

Volcanoes

Source: Pixar Wiki

The following websites came in handy for our unit study:
3 Main Types of Volcano – ZME Science 
The Real Geology Behind Pixar’s Short Film Lava
Kīlauea – Wikipedia
Volcano Facts – DK Find Out

 

We read Scholastic’s Discover More Readers: Volcanoes which provides succinct information and vivid pictures of volcanoes.

Scholastic Discover More: Volcanoes

A fellow homeschool mom shared with us a wonderful Science curriculum, “Mystery Science”.  I used their videos and activities (e.g. mark out the Ring of Fire on the map) to discuss questions such as, “Could a volcano pop up in your background?” and “Why do some volcanoes explode?”.

They are offering a FREE year subscription for a limited time. Subscribe and try out their lessons!

Pixar's Lava Inspired Unit Study: Volcanoes

We tried our hands creating a volcano based on Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood’s Easy to Make a Volcano Erupt Experiment.

I LOVE the fact that we can create a volcano within minutes.  No need to wait for the papier-mâché to dry. Phew!

I was kind of upset with myself for forgetting to buy red food colouring but our Little Miss Sunshine, surprised me by showing me the purple food colouring we had in our kitchen.

“Don’t worry, Mama. We will use this!” she said cheerfully.  I’m glad she’s good at improvising. 🙂

It was great fun conducting the experiment repeatedly and seeing how the “magma” oozes out.

Finally, more printable to round up our lesson on volcanoes:

Volcano Activities – Enchanted Learning
Volcano Unit Study and Lap Book – Homeschool Share
Parts of Volcano – Teacher Vision
Volcano Mini Book – Crayola

We “lava” this unit study!

Have you done any film-inspired activities or unit study recently?