The end of the year is now a couple of days away. I've been feverishly completing the annual teacher-checklist, while at the same time reminiscing and bringing another year of Wonderopolis-learning to a close. Last year I gave each student a Wonder Jar on the last day of school. This year I will be giving them Wonder Jars except I've decided to leave the jar empty. I'll leave a personal note inside, inviting them to fill the jar with items of Wondering of their own. For the first time I'll also be leaving some of our social media spaces open throughout the summer, hoping that they'll blog, Facebook, or Tweet about the Wonder-filled things they're doing. I'll be sure to keep you posted of any exciting news I hear.
In the meantime you can read my Wonder Jar post from last year. I've re-posted it below in hopes that it will spark some new ideas for creating an environment of Wonder - in the classroom with your students, or at home with the family.
Originally posted - June 2012
The end of the school year is a special time – especially in kindergarten. I typically spend a good chunk of the year brainstorming and gathering ideas for a gift of some sort to give to my kids on the last day of school. This year, I’ve really outdone myself with something I think that I may have been more excited about than my kids. Not to mention – it holds special meaning for me and my students because of our love for Wonderopolis.
In January I introduced them to the Wonder Jar in our Wonderopolis Literacy Center. It’s a large plastic jar that holds a handful of items that spark wonder and curiosity. I exchanged some of the items every few weeks or so to entice them with different things, while keeping a few of their favorites intact. On any given day you’ll find these items in the jar: a small stuffed animal, flashlight, pencil, notebook, rubber insects, sidewalk-chalk, kaleidoscope, mini-binoculars, magnifying glass, a rock, a wooden stick, decorative glass beads and marbles – to name a few. One of the highlights of my day was glancing over at the literacy center to find the kids with their hands in the jar wondering, imagining, and cooking up something new and creative to do with the items. I call it “lickety-split-literacy”. In seconds, you have kids talking, working together, writing, drawing, engaging in wonder, and just having a good time. Keep in mind, there’s an iPad at the literacy center and I’ve found, on more than one occasion, kids choosing the jar over technology.
So this year I created a mini-wonder jar to give to my kids. Essentially, it’s a mini-version of the jar for them to take home and continue wondering over the summer. The possibilities are endless with the jar. I know many teachers operate on tight budgets, even dipping into their own pocket books to get things for their class each year, but with some pre-planning I imagine one could whip-up a jar with little to no cost. I also know that teachers are some of the best at being resourceful, so I’ll share with you what I did – and let you take over from there.
I purchased the plastic jar from a bottling company I found online. I didn’t mind spending around $30 + shipping for the jars this go-around. Next year I’ll have parents donate a 32/40oz. (cleaned out, label removed) mayo or peanut-butter jar. With enough notice, this can easily be done.
The items I had in my jar were: a handprint and picture from the first day of school, a unique river rock, decorative glass beads, mini tye beanie baby, 1 stick of sidewalk-chalk and 1 old-fashion wooden clothespin, 1 purple crayon (they love Harold and the Purple Crayon), a couple of large craft-sticks, a pinch of stringing beads, plant-starter kit (cup, seed, and compressed dirt cube) , a couple of stickers, press-on tattoo, mini-finger flashlight, a few di-cut shapes.
Believe it or not – I didn’t pay a dime for any of the things inside. Well…some items were probably purchased, a long time ago and I was just looking for a reason to use them. The beanie-babies and mini-flashlights were a donation from a parent last year (good thing I kept them). The rocks came from the river. The purple crayon came from the leftover crayons at the end of the year (the kids wondered why I was collecting the purple ones). Clothespin, craft stick, decorative glass & stringing beads were from my personal craft bin that never seems to empty. A few choice stickers and tattoos were from my sticker-box at school. I finally got rid of the sidewalk chalk I bought on sale from who knows how many years ago. The plant starter kit was donated from a local box store.
If you’re like me, you collect things – and this is a good way to finally give all of those miscellaneous items a purpose. Look for things that come in packs. A dollar store, garage sale, your personal crafts supplies, or miscellaneous/leftover school supplies are great ideas for places to shop. You can put as much or as little as you like inside the jar and add your own little flare to them. Inside the cover I wrote “Never stop wondering!” Remember, kids will wonder about almost anything. I encouraged them to fill it with other things, poke a couple of holes and catch a bug and create a temporary bug terrarium, or start a collection of their very own self-made wonder jars like Maria and her 5<sup>th</sup> grade students. And who says it needs to be a jar? Maybe a wonder bag, or wonder box?
So there you have it. I made a jar for my family so we can wonder along with my kindergarteners too. I miss them, but I know they’re out there this summer…wondering.