I Love This More Than Legos

That’s the highest praise, from the Lego-loving boy. We spent part of Earth Day at our favorite spot along Clear Creek, throwing stuff and building a rock circle, which morphed into a miniature canyon laced with cantilevered bridges.

He’s decided that Earth Day is the best of all holidays, and that we’ll return to the creek each year, to build a new sculpture.

For more better-than-Legos building inspiration, we’ve been reading Make It Wild: 101 Things to Make and Do Outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield. It’s very Andy Goldsworthy-esque, and full of cool projects; we can’t wait to try the Flaming Balloons and maybe a Wooden Go-Cart…

Re-Use: The Costa Rican Wooden Beads

When I glanced out the back door, the kids had transferred handfuls of the smooth wooden beads to the table. They were busy sorting them by shape and size, without any prompting from me. Very Montessorian of them, don’t you think?

Similar to the bottle caps, the play eventually shifted to include more war-like themes, and within minutes the back patio was covered with a thousand beads. Unlike the bottle caps, the clean-up took some parental collaboration, but even that was sort of festive.



Guest Post – Feed the Birds: Lisa Coughlin

Thank you Lisa Coughlin, for another great guest post! We love watching the birds here in Denver too.

Last summer, during garden camp, my daughter made a recycled bird feeder from a 2-liter bottle and a simple kit. Something that took minutes to do has provided hours of observation, enjoyment, and conversation.  Our bird feeder inspired a neighborhood friend to design and make her own bird feeder from items she noticed in our recycling bin, while in our garage.  I love when creations like this happen!

For more recycled bird feeders, you can look here.  We recently saw many original bird feeder designs at Pilcher Park Nature Center.

Feed the birds and see where they lead you!

Guest Post – Bottle Caps: Nick Arvin

Thanks to Nick Arvin for jumping in with the perfect photo and words for today.
I can’t remember exactly how the bottle cap collection started, but it must’ve been a couple of years ago now. I do remember that I encouraged it, in part, by telling Cade about the bottle cap collection I had as a boy. He was fascinated by this, and he asked me a lot of questions. He wanted to know how big my collection was, and whenever he got a new bottle cap, he wanted to know if I had had one like it in my collection. I don’t remember anything about my bottle cap collection, except that I had one, so sometimes I said, “I don’t remember” (a very unsatisfying answer for both of us) and sometimes I made something up. Cade’s collection really expanded when I had the idea of asking my friend Edward Gauvin, who was traveling in Europe, to bring back some bottle caps for Cade. Ed returned with a big sack full of exotic bottle caps and gave them to Cade. Then I told Cade that his collection was definitely bigger and better than mine had ever been, which made him very happy.

The bottle caps are one of those things that get put away for two or three months, and then suddenly they come out again for an hour or two of play. Today, for no particular reason I could see, Cade and Sam suddenly came running for the bottle caps. They assembled them into armies, which involved sorting them by shape and color and type, and sometimes they tried to read the writing on them. Then the armies had a battle, which involved throwing bottle caps all over the room and making a huge mess in a way that set my teeth on edge. But I didn’t say anything, and soon enough they picked up all the bottle caps and put them away again. That they did this without being asked made me very proud.

La Cotidiana

I’d like you to meet my favorite word in Spanish – la cotidiana. The common translation to English is “the daily”, but a closer cognate is “quotidian”. It’s too bad that quotidian doesn’t have the best reputation in English. It brings to mind a daily, mind-numbing grind; something that’s overused and worn out.

For whatever reason, flipping it to Spanish brightens it up, for me. La cotidiana…These small moments are going to happen every day, but there will be new beauty, when you look a little closer. It’s the same cup, the same counter, the same soft lavender sweatshirt, but today I see it all for the first time.

I haven’t been on-point with our grand plans for documenting the 3 Rs this month, but in a way just returning to appreciate la cotidiana is a form of re-using and recycling. And by looking more closely at our daily patterns and habits, we might also be moving toward reduction. Editing down to what’s really essential for our daily lives. There’s nothing we need to buy or add, to magically become happier. It’s all here, each day, waiting to be discovered again.

In that vein, I hope you’ll check out Lisa’s Steps and Staircases blog – she’s re-started with daily photos of her family’s important things. Lovely and inspiring, as always!

First Camp Out – Close to Home

S. had his first camp out of the season last night, right in our own back yard. Just putting up the tent and playing around was a huge hit for both kids. We can’t really commit to camping out every night, so we made a compromise and set up the tent in S.’s bedroom this morning (it’s a small tent). So he can sort of camp out every night, if he’d like to.

For the more intrepid campers, check out this short article about a couple who did commit to camping in their own backyard, for an entire year.

The Best Place in Denver

One thing that I love about my job – we get to meet at RAFT Colorado every Thursday. Also known as the Resource Area For Teachers, RAFT is truly my idea of heaven. Our work team is focused on interdisciplinary curriculum design (fancy talk for setting up connected and meaningful learning experiences for kids), so RAFT is the perfect meeting spot. It’s basically a huge warehouse, full of a thousand different recycled materials, that anyone in the education world can buy for very low prices. The RAFT Colorado team does a lot of outreach to all types of educators, including homeschooling parents, child care providers, and after-school program teachers. You need to buy an annual membership, if you want to shop in one of their warehouses, or you can shop online without a membership, from anywhere in the US.

I definitely prefer the warehouse experience. It makes me so happy to wander the aisles, dreaming of crazy projects… So here’s a little photo tour, of what I saw today.







The Challenge

It’s a re-use challenge! This beat up cardboard box, jumble of bubble wrap, and many pieces of scotch tape were headed for the recycle bin, when S. stopped me. Wait, why don’t we re-use it instead? Why can’t we make something new?

So we took our materials outside this afternoon, and did a little brainstorming.

And I just realized I can’t upload the super-awesome video I took of that brainstorming, so this project will remain top-secret, for now! We’ll see what happens when we continue the work tomorrow afternoon.

Until then, what would you make out of these materials?