Thursday, March 24, 2016

That's Beest With Two E's

A small BREAD group today braved rain, wind and Metra platforms, in order to visit the amazing Strandbeest exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. Artist Theo Jansen's unique vision - beach-trudging creatures of pvc pipe and zipties - had them clamoring to meet him. Alas Jansen had returned to the Netherlands after the exhibition's initial set-up. What a disappointed fan base!

They were held rapt by the movement demonstration.

They pumped their hearts out, to understand how air powers the creatures.

They were fascinated by the myriad of underlying parts, and the beauty of those pieces.

At their Corner Bakery lunch, they instantly selected the best spot for people-watching. In every kind of weather, that corner of the Santa Fe Building bustles.

Filled with the spirit of making, the kids then wandered through the Santa Fe lobby to discover the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Lego Studio.

Bottomless tubs of Legos, to build without charge or interference? Score! Our kids intently rummaged through every bin, and then wheedled specialty pieces from the staff. Their creations were then promptly added to the Studio's open display of work.

One last swing through the CAF's shop for small gifts, and then home. "I never rode on a train before," mused Nicholas, "but now I have."

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Everyman's Library Pocket Poets

We love this series, whose alluring design and pocket size lure readers otherwise intimidated by anthologies. A thick, full-size collection can easily be rejected, as much-of-a-muchness. The absence of a theme can render jarring the transition from piece to piece. Crowded text design tempts kids to turn pages as they would fiction, resulting in a muddy experience. Consider the sad brown of repeatedly dyed Easter eggs, or a classic youth group dinner: one common pot of 25 different canned soups.  

We will feature title-give-aways, with a poem read-aloud quid pro quo.  Readers will learn to decode the poet's intent; even the less brave will gain by listening. With Everyman titles which gather poems on cats, dogs, zombies, ghouls and monsters, we hope to excite some clamor.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bandanna, pyjama, veranda

Our Saturday geography class reveled in India: the history of the Indus Valley, the spice trade, and precepts which continue to transform secular life across the world. India's innovations cover the spectrum: zero, Arabic numerals, the first animal hospital, and Gandhi's direct influence on the non-violent protests of the American Civil Rights Movement. Let us not forget the game of chess.

How to understand a cradle of civilization, and the second most populous nation, during its transit from antiquity and empire, to the largest democracy? How to grapple with India's current issues, such as the sanitation challenges which fuel both childhood stunting and a global threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria? What we managed was to learn to wonder.

We augmented our talk with gorgeous photographs, past and present. Several students evinced a sincere urge to fling pigments, in an homage to the Holi Festival. Pizza was accompanied by slices of mango and kiwi, and ragas of Ravi Shankar.    

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Time to Plan for Earth Day

BREAD tries to celebrate Earth Day each year with a massive Spring Fling. The missiles consist of the guerrilla gardener's secret weapon: seed bombs.  Needed are but wildflower seeds, potter's clay, a willingness to trash your work-space, and the patience to make hundreds.

Here are the Harvey kids, staging for the 2012 Fling. Although Harvey contains many empty lots and fields, we selected the area behind their elementary school. The view from the playground: the Calumet Union Drainage Ditch, filled with industry waste, and abandoned and collapsed houses. Some natural beauty seemed a welcome and necessary addition.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Puppets Rule the Reading Room

This 2006 field-tripper convinced BREAD that puppets are integral to any reading room. At this point, BREAD may single-handedly keep Folkmanis in business. A puppet is that good friend: the one who has plenty of time to help you peruse, and always wants to read with you.

New geography enrichment class

We today commenced our Saturday morning geography enrichment class, for 11 of our Harvey uber-readers in the fourth and fifth grades. Class consisted of 75 minutes of new-to-us material, on topics including continental draft, geologic time, latitude and longitude, the dissemination of humans out of Africa, and how the heck does GPS work.

Everyone received a pocket world atlas, a copy of Australia to Zimbabwe, and blue paper for map-creation. After class, each student collected a mini-mineral collection of opal, Petoksey stones, ammonites and jasper. A pizza lunch concluded the session.

Next week, we will start our country-intensive sessions. First up: India!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

2011 Flashback

Once upon a time, Adrian read best with his favorite reading room buddy.

Last week, Adrian returned to say hello: a strapping high school sophomore. He departed with books for pleasure, and books for the rapidly-approaching future: college guides and entrance exam preparation.  

Who needs meteorological Spring?

The first day of Spring officially occurs when we order the National Poetry Month poster, from the Academy of American Poets. NPM is a big deal, in these parts.

Every April, BREAD substitutes a poem-of-the-day for the word-of-the-day. Every April, our kids discover secret recesses. The tough girl declares love for the work of Christina Rossetti. An hitherto shy boy discovers that reading for an audience is a bit thrilling.

Who this year will assume the mantle of uber-reader Eliazer, who transformed Dean Young poems from cerebral surrealistic delights into resonant, uproarious performance pieces.

Little hurt bat,
I thought you were a teabag
dunked from your necropolis
into the buzzy forsythia.
Hurdy gurdy, says the world
feeling a wee cranky,
morphology pink as a popped quiz.

(Newlyweds, Dean Young)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chess moves

Sometimes the uber-readers require the most strategy, as they low-ball reading choices to fit in with peers.

Last week, fourth-grade Elida gleefully accepted the suggestion of Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks. Thin, pictures, perfect. This week, we'll go double-or-nothing with The Wonderful O.
Pirate Black hates the letter O, after his mother's tragic death-by-porthole. Aided by an attorney (naturally), Black reduces a captive community to an O-free existence.

" 'Chaotic is now chatic,' he said, 'a cross between chaos and static.' He decided that farmers could keep their cows if they kept them in herds, for cows in herds are kine or cattle. And so the people had milk and cheese and butter. He decided in favor of hens and eggs, if hens were segregated. 'Keep them out of flocks,' he said, 'for flocks are not only flocks, but also poultry.' "  

2006 Flashback

Two BREAD readers help Esme Codell spread read-aloud magic.

Sic transit snogging

Louis Rennison, author of The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, has died. What a great pity. Her books have been enormously popular in the reading room: roaringly funny, in a Brit slang that sounds transgressive in Sixth Grade. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: that's a title to hide from parents. Ah Sixth Grade: one long treasure-hunt for hints of transgression.