28th. May, 2016

On Wednesday morning we welcomed another “Virtually There” guest to our school.

Shortly before 9am Ann Donnelly – super photographer/video artist arrived at the front door of St John the Baptist Primary School.  She had come to see the boys and girls in Primary 3B.

Ann Donnelly

Ann told the children that she had been finding out about what they had been doing with Vanya. She asked the children how it was possible for her to know these things. Ronan told her that the boys and girls had been writing each week in the Pupil Journal.

She asked them how they used the Journal, and someone told her that they write or tell our Classroom Assistant, Miss Callaghan, what they want to say and she types it for them. (With 30 pupils, time restricts them from word processing all their own blogs.)

After our introductions, Ann showed the children how to make a little book because she had a few things she wanted them to write/draw in it. Generally speaking, the book making was pretty good! FOLD FOLD FOLD CUT FOLD.

Ann asked the children about their time during the Virtually There sessions. She brought her ipad and asked if she could take some photographs and videos.

  • Q: What did they remember about the very first session, even though it was weeks and weeks ago?  Answer: We met Vanya for the very first time. We had a hat day. We made hats.
  • Q: What was different in the second session? Answer: Vanya wasn’t there. She was in her house in Sligo, but we could see her on our Interactive Whiteboard.
  • Q: What sort of work had they been involved in? Answer: Drawing, painting, weaving, sewing, going on walks around the school, finding out/researching, growing crystals. Roise showed Ann the crystals which we had grown in school.
  • Q: What was their favourite topic/lesson? Answer: making the salt pictures,  making yesterday’s model, making the seaweed pole…………I was flapping my arms about in the background – trying to offer them a clue to our extensive birds and nests sessions, but Ann caught me out!  I was surprised that the children hadn’t mentioned this.
  • Q: What did they learn? Answer: Lots of things about other artists and clouds.
  • Q: Did they know more now than before? Answer: We know so many new things. We can say words in Dutch now.
  • Ann told the boys and girls that she was working with children in a Primary School in Donaghey. She said they could go into the kidsown website and see what she had been doing with her pupils. GOOD IDEA!
  • Ann’s visit with the children ended at break time. She also got the familiar, “Doei.” – Goodbye.
  • Then she and I had a chance to discuss my experiences and expectations. It was good to have an opportunity to tell someone who is also involved in the project about how well suited the programme is for cross-curricular and connected learning opportunities. {We said lots of other things, but you don’t want to know about them!}

Ann said that she was very pleased with the children’s responses, particularly for their age group.

She just had time for a very quick half a cup of tea and then she had to fly on to her next appointment.


I’ve said it before, but now, this really is my last blog.

So, it’s OVER and OUT  from the robin and me….and ELO – “HOLD ON TIGHT.”     circa 1981.


Tot ziens –> So long.
Tot gauw –> See you soon.
Dag –> Goodbye.
Doeg –>Bye.
Doei –> Bye.
Vaarwel –> Farewell.
Hoje –> Bye (Limburg and Nijmegen).
Houdoe –> Bye (Brabandt).
Ik ga je zien –>I’ll be seeing you.
Later –> Later, but spoken with a Dutch accent (short “a”).
Tjuus –> Bye (the Dutch spelling of the German Tschüss).
Doe-doei –> Bye-bye.
Tot straks –> See you soon.
Tot later –> See you later.
Ajuu –> Bye.
Tabee –> I’m outta here.
Toedeledoki –> Toodaloo.
Joe –> Bye.
De mazzel –> Good luck.
Laters –> Laters (baby).
De ballen –> Goodbye.
Tot de volgende keer –> Till next time.
Tot kijk –> Till I see you.
  zo –> See you in a bit.

PS. Have a look at this……………..I saw it on my way home. and had to photograph the vision.

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The lovely horse chestnut blossoms and tiny little “conkers.”



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Here comes SUMMER!………… What an array of COLOUR!

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DSCN0108  The little sycamore helicopters have landed!


In honour of Vanya’s visit I read the children an Oxford Reading Tree book called “DUTCH ADVENTURE”. It was a great story and included “typical” Dutch things such as windmills, cyclists, Edam cheese, dykes leaking, low landscapes and diamonds. We were ready to DAZZLE Vanya with our knowledge!


Vanya had sent the schedule for the last session, and it included using yarn made from old tee shirts. She sent a link which described the process of making the yarn. I knew Tuesday was going to be action packed, so on Monday night I decided to follow said instructions and have the material ready to use the next day.

WELL………………..three hours later I finished the task, and although I felt totally exhausted, I was also pretty pleased with myself for being so organised.

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DSCN9882  Impressive, isn’t it?

Tuesday arrived, and so did Vanya, bright and breezy.


Vanya came to the classroom and I was super excited to show her the yarn which I was rather proud of. (Secretly I thought the strips were very short , but hey, Vanya is an expert on such matters and I had followed the instructions she’d sent to the letter of the law.)

WELL………..… minute later she dropped the bombshell! The strips were in fact too short and then she proceeded to show me how they should have been cut. I’m not joking; she cut up and zig-zaged a tee shirt in about two minutes flat, producing a ball of yarn at the end of it all! Then she turned the situation around by telling me that not all was lost………..we could use my feeble strips to decorate the final piece which the boys and girls were going to make in the afternoon!

The morning bell rang and in poured the children, delighted to see Vanya once more. She spent some time chatting, and then the boys and girls wanted to give her Thank You cards that they had made.

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DSCN9885   Ronan and Joshua show their cards.

Then Vanya reminded the children about how we had looked at things which were woven and things that had been knitted. She told them that they were going to use their old tee shirts to make yarn which would be woven later.

I showed Vanya some images of beautiful woven scarves from AVOCA – the shop.

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Vanya showed us some arm knitting. It looked a little like a fishing net. I don’t know what Mrs. May thought of it….I think she was afraid that Vanya would ask her to lend her one of her arms!

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Then she showed us something that she had started knitting earlier. It looked like the beginnings of a grey scarf……………but the yarn had been produced from one of Vanya’s old dresses. Her very large knitting needles were made from dowling rods.

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Vanya showed the knitting to the children and asked them to feel the texture.

They said it was soft and smooth.


She stretched the knitting to reveal little triangle shapes hidden within. This led to a connection with Theo Jansen‘s strandbeests, Jose Vial Armstrong‘s beach contraption, and the fact that triangles are very strong shapes.

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This is the roof of the Victoria Centre Shopping Mall in Belfast. Do the shapes look familiar?


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This was taken from a very interesting article about HARRY KROTO in June 2016’s RSC’s monthly CHEMISTRY WORLD magazine. He discovered C60, the spherical molecular allotrope of carbon. In addition to his scientific interests in spectroscopy, astro-chemistry and unusual carbon compounds, he had a keen interest in art and design.

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OK, back to the session………….. Then Vanya revealed the PLAN. We were going to make an installation inspired by Jose Vial Armstrong

OUR FIRST TASK: Make triangles using newspaper.

Vanya showed everyone how to make a triangle using newspaper. She tightly rolled a centre page into a cylinder shape, repeated this two more times and then she stapled the three tubes/cylinders together to form a triangle. It was very robust.

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DSCN9895   The classroom was not really big enough for us to make a large amount of triangles, so we packed everything up and sejourned to the Lunch Hall.

Vanya demonstrated how to make the triangles once more and everyone made a start. The key was to roll the paper up tightly so that the tube/cylinder would be strong. Even Patsy the caretaker joined in!

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             1. Fold the paper like this.

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             2. Roll the paper like this.                                3. Secure it with tape.

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Rolling the paper was easy, but getting it tight was a wee bit tricky.

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Just look at the concentration on Patsy‘s face.

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He is an expert on everything! ( At least that’s what he tells us……………..)

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Vanya, Mrs. May and Mrs. Harriott got stapling to put the sets of 3 tubes together.

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Look …………… You can make the Mathematical signs for “greater than” and “less than” with the newspaper tubes!

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Vanya is wearing a triangle, similar to a necklace from one of Mrs. Harriott’s favourite shops, COS.

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Just look at how many tubes the children made. Special thanks to Aine and Eirinn who went into overdrive! They can give a Masterclass on how to make them quickly!

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We collected all our triangles and brought them back to the classroom as it was almost breaktime. Someone suggested that we could make rectangles with the paper tubes, so Vanya tried this idea. What did we notice about this structure? It was wobbly and weaker than the triangle shapes.

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AFTER BREAK Vanya spoke about the weaving which we had tried the previous week. She said that we were going to try to do some weaving on a larger scale using the tee shirt yarn (restricted amount of yarn, remember how ingenious I was and used up most of the tee shirts on Monday evening?) This activity necessitated going outside.

This is when a LOT of ORGANISATION took place. Vanya told the boys and girls that they were going to be a HUMAN loom. Some children were going to be in charge of the WEFT……….They had to be very strong and hold the (remember how we had a large amount of short pieces of tee shirt yarn and a couple of balls of yarn produced in two minutes by Vanya) wool (yes we had to use wool instead!)

Vanya said that everyone’s job was really important, like a colony of bees. Vanya is a bee expert because she used to keep them. She described the: nurse bees who look after the babies (larvae), bees that produce wax, bees that guard the hive entrance, bees which pollinate plants, bees which collect pollen, nectar and water, bees that store the pollen, bees that build the honeycomb and bees that clean the hive. They have a system according to the age of the bees! (I wonder what jobs Miss Callaghan, Mrs May and especially I would do if we were in a nest?)

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Daniel, Christopher, Joshua, Hayden and Jamie formed part of the WEFT team.

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Jessica, Juliette, Aimee, Eirinn and Oisin formed the other half of the WEFT team.

For the WEFT we had a pattern of: red pink red pink red pink wool.

Then the really exciting part happened………..Making the WARP go through the Weft!(This was done with the much thicker tee shirt yarn……what was left of it.)

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The weft reds had to lift up their wool allowing the WARP person to go through.

Then the weft pinks had to lift up their wool to let the WARP person go through.

This process continued until the bell rang for lunch/dinner.

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LUNCH TIME arrived and Vanya said that the grand assembly would take place in the Hall afterwards.


She told us that she had posted a parcel the previous week, and guess what? It arrived at lunchtime! Conal and Abigail went to the office to get it. Vanya said that there was something inside to help us predict the weather!


I opened the parcel and there was a box inside. I opened the box and a beautiful storm glass and a wooden stand were cushioned inside it.

How Does It Work?

How this storm glass works is not fully understood. It is based on the principle that temperature and pressure affect solubility, sometimes resulting in clear liquid; other times causing precipitants to form.

It is said that the appearance of the liquid indicates the following weather conditions:

Clear Liquid = Fair Weather
Murky Liquid = Rainy Weather
Crystals at the top = Thunderstorms
Large Flaky Crystals = Cloudy skies, snow in winter
 Thread of Crystals = Windy weather
It teaches:
  • Properties of liquids and precipitates
  • Crystal formation
  • Weather forecasting
  • Barometers
  • History of weather forecasting and seafaring

DSCN9988  WOW!    DSCN9989   WOW!

We were really excited to see it because Vanya had told us ages ago that crystals were able to predict the weather….and now we had the very equipment that she had been talking about!


So, it was time to bring everything to the Lunch Hall. The boys and girls got into a big circle and Vanya put them into groups. Each group had to get five triangles because they had to be stapled together. (the triangles, not the children!)


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When the 5 triangles were attached, my exquisite short pieces of tee shirt yarn were used to adorn them.

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DSCN9964  Look, Hayden, Joshua, Ronan, Abigail, Jessica have finished decorating their piece!

The next step was to put all the 5 triangled pieces together!

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Time was running out……………The final piece was quite a sight to behold. It was a great finale to our “Virtually There” experience.

Vanya asked the children to make a name for it and this is what they said:

  • A Sleeping Dog.
  • Art Attic
  • An Igloo
  • The Arctic House
  • A Snail
  • The Hot Dog
  • The Art Globe
  • The Hob
  • A Turtle
  • The Globe
  • The Fat Mouse
  • The Play House
  • Art World
  • A Bird Flying Upside Down
  • The Rain
  • The Snow Globe
  • The Crystal House
  • The Rainbow Globe
  • The North Web
  • The Hairy Ladybird
  • A House with a Conservatory
  • The Sniffer Dog
  • The Friendship 3D model
  • A Dinosaur

We carefully carried our piece of fabulousness to a safe place and then proceeded to return to our classroom to – in the words of the late Prince,  “PARTY like it’s 1999!”

  • Vanya had brought her home-baked mini flapjacks and brownies.
  • Mrs. May had supplied the crisps.
  • Drinks were courtesy of Mrs. Harriott.
  • We had a “sharing party” and all the boys and girls brought in a wealth of buns, gums, fruit pastilles, Haribo sweets, Freddos, Refreshers, wafers, chews, biscuits, marshmallows, Jelly Babies and lollipops.

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Mrs. Harriott (me) doubled up as Resident DJ. (Conor’s Daddy’s part-time job security is intact.)

I played requests including Bruno Mars’ ” Uptown Funk” and “Count on Me. ”

Queen’s “We will Rock You” was very popular, but VERY noisy.

A song with the word “whip” in it was requested….everyone sprang to their feet and began to dance with great enthusiasm! 

Finally it was time to tidy up and get ready for home. Everyone had so generously brought in so much, that there were leftovers to use on Friday!

Everyone was feeling happy, but sad at the same time…..We all said a BIG “THANK YOU” to Vanya for all her fantastic ideas and support. We also could have said:

  • Auf wiedersehen
  • Tot ziens
  • Ciao
  • Do widzenia
  • Sbohem
  • Tchau
  • Au revoir
  • Adios y hasta luego
  • Slan

But we don’t say any of those because we always finish off with, “Doei Vanya.”

Everyone left, but Pearse and Daniel said the last “Goodbye.”


I escorted Vanya out to her cute green van and she packed her things away. I asked her to keep in touch, even though I know she has a hectic year ahead. She said she’d love to know what everyone is up to. Maybe I’ll make the journey to Sligo to investigate that Seaweed Spa…………………….. YOU NEVER KNOW!

Well, this is my FINALVIRTUALLY THEREJournal, and what a journey we’ve been on. It’s been WONDERFUL!

PS…I found out that the song with the word, “whip” in it, is actually called “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)  by Silento. (I still don’t like it!) Whipping cream- YES.

PPS… I found a few more ways to say “Goodbye” in Dutch:

Tot ziens –> So long
Tot gauw –> See you soon
Dag –> Goodbye
Doeg –>Bye
Vaarwel –> Farewell
Hoje –> Bye (Limburg and Nijmegen)
Houdoe –> Bye (Brabandt)
Ik ga je zien –>I’ll be seeing you
Later –> Later, but spoken with a Dutch accent (short “a”)
Tjuus –> Bye (the Dutch spelling of the German Tschüss)
Doe-doei –> Bye-bye
Tot straks –> See you soon
Tot later –> See you later
Ajuu –> Bye
Tabee –> I’m outta here
Toedeledoki –> Toodaloo
Joe –> Bye
De mazzel –> Good luck
Laters –> Laters (baby)
De ballen –> Goodbye
Tot de volgende keer –> Till next time
Tot kijk –> Till I see you
Tot zo –> See you in a bit





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After our weaving last Tuesday, we decided to give it another go, but this time we chose card for the warp and weft. We chose card because it is stronger and easier to handle. The boys and girls made super weaves.

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This week we spent a substantial amount of time talking and communicating with one another, asking/answering questions,  sharing ideas and opinions, building vocabulary and knowledge, and using our THINKING SKILLS.

We began by recapping on last week’s theme – birds, nests and webs.

We thought about how a spider makes a web. What material does it use?

Natalia said that it looked like thread.

Eirinn said it was like a pattern.

Vanya said that she noticed how smart robins are when they wait in the background when people disturb soil when they walk across it…..the robins see this as an opportunity to scrap around for worms in the disturbed soil!

We looked at the trees again which were covered in spiders’ webs and this led to images of Christo and Jean Claude’s work. Had these artists been inspired by spiders to cover the buildings and landscapes which have made them so famous?


Christo was born in Bulgaria and his wife Jeanne Claude was born in Morocco on the same day! They were environmental artists.

christo and jeanne claude    christo and

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trees         bridge

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How do they do that?


We noticed that the fabric was held in place, but by what?

Was it thread, or perhaps rope?

We talked about cocoons and wondered if there were any animals which use thread?

Abigail said that a caterpillar uses thread.

Grace thought that a caterpillar used leaves.

Pearse said that they use string from their body.

Ronan suggested that they used wood from a tree.

We talked about these ideas…..and Vanya said that Ronan was maybe thinking about the way in which a cocoon is attached to the branch of a tree while the butterfly forms inside it.

Do these animals have to eat something in order to make the thread? We talked about how wasps use paper to produce beautiful nests…and paper is made from wood, so there is definitely a connection.

Vanya asked the children if they knew what silk is.

Pearse said that it is smooth, like a type of leather.

Roise said it is a fabric.

Eirinn said that it is like a wedding dress or a christening gown.

Amyleigh said that her sister’s Communion dress was made of silk.

We talked about the properties of silk. It is strong and soft and it changes from cold to warm depending on the climate.


Vanya showed another image and asked the boys and girls to guess what it was.

Amyleigh – snow.

Jessica – a ball.

Pearse – an x-ray baby in its Mummy’s tummy.

Roise – a dandelion seed head.

Eirinn – 2 balls of fluff.

Juliette – a Communion hat.

Caoimhe – a cobweb.

Grace – the moon.

Hayden – an egg.

Mrs.Harriott – It reminds me of candy floss.

Joshua – I see a black thing inside it. (Well spotted Joshua!)

Vanya told us that it was silk thread and she drew a line around the outline of the thing that was in the centre. It was a silk worm!

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To make a piece of silk would have involved an awful lot of tiny little worms! How big would the worms be? We guessed what size they were.


Then Vanya showed us some images of amazing creations – (nests that South American bees create with beautiful flower petals. They lay their eggs in them.)

bbee nest    lovely bee

3 nests                  3 images

Vanya asked if anyone could guess what these things were made of.

Christopher said they looked like painted fabric, while Natalia thought they looked like painted paper or flowers.

Joshua said they looked like coloured thread.

Question: Who or what made these objects?

Christopher – God.

Conor – A wasp.

Hayden – Chantalle Coombes.

Ronan – It is a spider’s web painted.

Jessica – A bee. A cocoon is small and a bee is small.

Question: What could you put inside it?

Natalia said, A bee.”

  • Bumble bees make the pods like rucksacks and lay their eggs inside.

Vanya told us that she has bumble bees in her garden. They lay their eggs in many different places, whereas honey bees lay their eggs together in one place. Vanya knows so much, she’s like Wikipedia!

The idea of putting something inside something else led to the idea of investigating SOLID and HOLLOW. You can put something inside a hollow, but you can’t put anything inside a solid.

Vanya showed us 2 items she’d found at home. The first thing was a SOLID stone which her niece had painted, and the second thing was a HOLLOW toilet roll core.

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We had a SOLID and HOLLOW HUNT around the classroom.

Then we made 2 lists – things which are solid and things that are hollow.

SOLID                                                                                  HOLLOW

Dillon H found a plastic lid.                                      Aine found a sweetie box.

Ronan said -the glass in the window.                      Amyleigh got a water bottle.

Christopher showed us his glasses/spectacles.   Dillon RD got a pencil case and

Daniel got a white board.                                                                 a lunch box.

Then we broadened our search from our CLASSROOM to the WORLD.

SOLID                                            HOLLOW

Stones                                                An aeroplane

Rock                                                   A bus

Metal                                                 A whale

An iceberg                                         A ship

Mountains                                        A house

A cake                                                A school

Wood                                                 A helicopter

Paper                                                 A bee hive

A carrot                                             Tyres

Ice                                                       An apple

Concrete                                            An orange

The floor                                           A purse

The Antarctic                                   A toilet roll holder

A glass table                                      A school bag

A mirror/ a door                               A lunch bag/box

Then we thought: Can some things be SEMI-SOLID? A brick?

  • Feel your hand……………….It feels…………………….SOLID.
  • Your nose, mouth, ears…………………………………….HOLLOW.
  • Your body is mostly…………………………………………HOLLOW.
  • A balloon is ……………………………..,,,,….SOLID and HOLLOW.
  • A cup is HOLLOW, but the material it is made of is…SOLID.
  • ……………………………………………………………………………………
  • What can we do to see if something is solid or hollow? We can knock on it and the sound we hear is an indication. Let’s try this on different objects in our classroom:
  • Cardboard box – HOLLOW.
  • Tin box – HOLLOW.
  • Pritt stick – SOLID.

SOLID                             HOLLOW

A chime bar                       VIOLIN –Christopher

DRUMS- Jessica 


GUITAR – Michael


FLUTE – Jamie

WHISTLE – Caiomhe

HORN – Pearse



PIANO – Demi-Leigh


NEXT………….Vanya showed us this image:


HOW MYSTERIOUS! It looked like the artist had wrapped up an object, but what was inside it?

No one knows because it was taken apart and the contents were never revealed, but some people think it might have been a sewing machine. Vanya asked the children for their ideas.

Natalia thought it was a pen.                                               Roise said it was a jigsaw piece.

Ronan thought it was a small mountain.                          Eirinn – an anvil.

Abigail thought it might be a brick under a black quilt.                  Aine – a statue.

Grace thought it was a web and a cliff.                                                Juliette said – a rock.

Christopher thought it was a cloak with something underneath it.        Caiomhe – a rock.

Joshua – a statue of a dog’s head.                    Hayden – a black sheet with a stone under it.

Pearse said it reminded him of a mini Statue of Liberty.                          Ciaran – a peg leg.

Molly said she thought it was a rock.                Conor thought it was a trophy wrapped up.

Mrs. Harriott thought it looked like a pirate hat.

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Then Vanya showed us two more very interesting and colourful objects that had been wrapped up.

She decided to have a go at wrapping something and we had to guess what was inside the parcel. She used a piece of fabric and tied it together with elastic bands.

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Then Vanya unwrapped the parcel to show what she had inside the fabric: the rock her niece had painted, a wooden spoon and a hair clip.

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I said her parcel reminded me of a mummified Egyptian cat. This is how ideas spark off other ideas……………As quick as a wink, Vanya flashed these images in front of our eyes:

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Some children have seen mummies in the Ulster Museum. Thousands of years ago, the Ancient Egyptians mummified things that were precious to them.

This led to our final activity of the session:

TASK: Wrap several items, (one large and one or two small) in fabric and tie together to make a “parcel.” Choose your own fasteners – sellotape, masking tape, elastic bands, strips of coloured paper.

The boys and girls had painted the fabric squares which Vanya had previously sent. We chose pastel colours, in the style of the South American bumble bees’ petal nests. We noticed that the untreated fabric was soft and smooth, but when the painted fabric was dry, it had changed to a coarse touch, and some squares had changed shape.

The boys and girls wanted to show the painted fabric to Vanya. She told them that lots of artists use a fabric called CANVAS to paint on.

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Here are the children engrossed in problem solving:

  • What will I wrap?
  • How will I get all the items to fit inside the fabric?
  • What will I use to secure them?
  • Which side is the painted side of the fabric?
  • Do I need help to secure everything?

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The children wanted to show Vanya what they’d made:        

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Someone decided to put a handle on their parcel, and then it was HANDLE FEST!

Here are the “parcels” that the boys and girls created:


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Our last Virtual session had come to an end!!!!!

Next week Vanya is coming for a real visit, and she’s staying all day. We are also going to have a PARTY to celebrate everything we’ve done together.

We don’t know what we’re doing except for the fact that the boys and girls have been asked to bring in old tee shirts?????

After lunch we decided to go outside and hang our parcels/cocoons on a little tree. We chose a short one so that everyone would be able to reach a branch.

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It was like dancing round a May Pole, only a lot shorter.

As we say in Holland………………..TOT ZIENS.





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Do you remember the robin that flew into our classroom last week when Vanya was “virtually there”? Well he really does get around.

He was seen on the Enterprise train on Saturday morning. He had a fun day shopping in Dublin and later made his way, on the Luas, to The Point.

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Then he flew over to the 3 Arena, but WHY?

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Have a look at what he had…………….only a ticket to see ELO.


Who would have imagined that he was such a big fan? He certainly enjoyed the show and was tweeting his little heart out along with the very enthusiastic audience!


DSCN1138   He met the Beatles? That is impressive!


The boys and girls in Primary 3B have all become great bird enthusiasts.

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Juliette brought in a fabulous bird book and  Courtney showed us an image of what her cousin’s bird looks like.  Grace brought in a pair of wooden bird book ends which were made in Germany.

Some children watched a programme on Sunday 8th. May celebrating the work of Sir David Attenborough on his 90th. birthday. They noticed swarms of birds flying together, making patterns in the sky like the murmuration of starlings which we talked about last week. They saw a beautiful hummingbird cleverly collecting nectar from a flower.

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The children made fantastic birds’ nest pictures. Materials which were used included an assortment of paper and a selection of strips of upholstery fabric. Every picture is unique and wonderful! I’m very proud of them…………. the children and the pictures!

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Bird inspiration is everywhere. I spotted this lampshade and the tile picture in Space Craft, 9B The Fountain Centre Belfast. (Both made by local artists). The shop is a craft and design collective which is brimming with all sorts of beautiful things.

DSCN1206   Another lampshade – mainly featuring birds.

Bird murals painted on the walls of a Belfast restaurant.

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I told the children about a lady who recently won NI Young Artist of the Year Award 2016, 24 year old Chantalle Coombes. She is Artist in Residence in Castle Ward.She has a stand in Studio Souk and the Victoria Centre, Belfast. Her art work is inspired by nature, particularly the wild life and scenery around the Ards Peninsula. She loves painting birds and has a unique style, which  I thought would be interesting and challenging for our young artists to copy.

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DSCN0703          CHANTALLE

This the trophy which Chantalle won.

Just have a look at our corridor display. We mounted our stitching of “bird song notation” and included it on the board.

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We displayed some paintings in our classroom too.




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Vanya asked how everyone was keeping and what the weather was like in Belfast.

She showed us some materials that she had found on the beach and said that they reminded her of a nest. She asked the children what they thought they were.

Vanya gave the children a clue about one of the materials (rope/string)

hemp – HAYDEN

a bridle –  JULIETTE


a lead – JAMIE

rope – COURTNEY…..Well done*

We talked about birds’ nests and we saw a VERY unusual nest. The wren was using a boot as a nest. It has a tail like a lollipop stick. Vanya told us that it is her favourite bird and it is knick named “King of the birds.”


Do any other animals make nests?

fish…the puffer fish – CHRISTOPHER

a mouse – CONOR

an owl – AMYLEIGH

a parrot – ROISE

a beaver – EIRINN They use branches which they nibble to make them smaller.

a deer – DANIEL They leave their young in a hollow in the ground while they got off to find food, so it is like a nest.

  • How do birds make their nests because they haven’t got hands?
  • They use their beaks.
  • What are nests used for?
  • To live in. – ELLA
  • To lay eggs in. – AINE
  • Chicks can stay there when their Mum goes out to get food. – PEARSE
  • They are also made solely to attract a mate. – VANYA

Vanya showed us more images of animals’ homes and nests.



                WESPEN NESTEN






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What an interesting and very colourful nest. The bower bird from Australia made it, but it isn’t for laying eggs. It’s to attract a mate! It was full of blue straws and milk bottle tops.

The bower bird built his nest to show off his building skills!

Hayden showed Vanya a plastic milk bottle top which he had brought into school, similar to the ones which the bower bird used!

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Look at these amazing structures. Vanya said they are like bird architecture. The nest on the right is like a bird apartment block because lots of bird families live in it.

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Weaver birds from Africa made this incredible nest.

  • What materials do they use to make nests?

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Remember that amazing little puffer fish and his fabulous nest of sand?


Then Vanya introduced us to more amazing artists who use weaving and crochet to make their constructions.

nils-udo    This is a German artist called NILS UDO.

He has been making environmental art since the 1960s. He made his spectacular “Clay Nest” nest in 2005 in North Carolina, USA. He used logs and bamboo to construct it. It weighed 80 tons! For safety reasons, it was dismantled in 2007.

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LOOK AT THIS “SNOW NEST.” Isn’t it amazing?


ARNE QUINZE is a Belgian conceptual artist. He creates public art installations.

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TOSHIKO HORIUCHI – MACADAM is a Japanese textile artist who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. She creates large textile structures, especially “textile playgrounds” for children.

NATALIA said it looks very soft and colourful.

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crochet playground  toshito

ERNESTO NETO is a Brazilian artist, born in Rio de Janiero. He is well known for his “sensory” sculptures. He uses transparent, stretchy material, Styrofoam pellets and spices to create his installations of soft, biomorphic sculptures.

We thought his work reminded us of Funky Monkeys.

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SCAVENGER HUNT: OUR TARGET – Find and collect anything useful for making bird nests or animal homes. We had to look inside the school building and outside too.

OH NO! It started to rain, so the hunt had to be postponed until Wednesday or Thursday. However, being totally resourceful, Plan B was ready.

Monday’s homework included: Search for things that could be useful for making nests. The children brought in: wallpaper, cardboard boxes, string, wool, crepe paper, newspapers, 2 scarves, a plastic bottles, plastic cable ties, netting, kitchen roll cylinder.

The children put their resources in the middle of each table and they worked very successfully in groups to make nests.

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Super nests everyone!

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Dillon H had wallpaper and Natalia shared some of her crepe paper.

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Natalia supplied the crepe paper and plastic/metal ties.


Pearse‘s group made a container with food for the newly hatched chicks. Pearse said that the netting on top was to keep the worms inside, but one was already on the escape route! They made a box for the egg shells, now that’s a tidy idea.

DSCN9918  What a fantastic piece of group work!

Aine‘s group made a bird house complete with accessories which every bird needs, including a chair, a water storage unit, and a really soft, cosy nest. Ronan supplied lots of materials. Conor and Courtney helped with the design and execution.

Vanya went off for a cup of tea and a few helpers tidied the tables to get ready for the activity which was to follow.


Roise told Vanya that she had made Epsom Salts crystals at home. When all the water has evaporated she will bring them to school so that we can all see them.

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Natalia told Vanya that she and her Mum had made crystals with sugar and water.

After break we talked about weavingWEVEN.

Q: What is weaving? Are you wearing anything that is woven?

Our school shirts are woven. Vanya’s blanket is woven.

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DSCN9962  My flower arrangement vessels are woven and they look like nests!

Vanya showed us something woven that is in her house. She asked the children to guess what its function was and the material which was used to make it. She also showed a bowl with cotton balls inside it which looked like a nest.

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DSCN9922  This bowl of spent matches looks like a nest.

AINE – It’s for your dogs to lie in.

ABIGAIL – It’s a stool. It’s made of straw.

GRACE – It’s made of string.

COURTNEY – It’s made of sticks.

VANYA said it was made of WICKER.

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Vanya showed us a bee’s honeycomb – made of wax and the wasp’s comb is made of paper.  Bees lay their eggs in the honeycomb. Pollen and honey are also found there.

Christopher knew the name was honeycomb and that each little shape was a hexagon because it has six sides.

We learnt 2 more new words: WEFT and WARP.

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Vanya showed us the weaving she had done in her house. She used coloured paper.

We got the materials ready and HAD A GO!


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CUTTING THE  WARP – Amyleigh, Joshua, Demi-Leigh and Abigail.

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                                 Aine                                                Dillon H and Natalia

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Threading the weft through the warp.                    Jamie and Grace

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                                        Eirinn, Dillon R D and Faith.


Busy bees…………… have to concentrate.

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DSCN9953 Great weaving everyone!

More weaving, with different materials next time?

DINNER TIME came round in a flash!  Vanya’s dog Juno came to say,

” Hello and Goodbye.”


Vanya showed us some things that she had made while she was waiting for us. (During our weaving activity.) I asked what the white thing was in the middle of the nest and Vanya said that it was an egg! She used string, thread, seaweed, twigs and paper.

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DSCN9933   More fascinating images. This time the trees are covered in webs spun by lots and lots of big spiders!

Q: What are webs for? Spiders catch flies in their webs. They use their webs to attract other animals and then eat them!

Goodbye Vanya. DOEI!


We’re having so much FUN and LEARNING SO MUCH that we don’t want it to end yet.

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Belfast city is BUZZING with colour.

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Can you believe it?  There are blossoms on the horse chestnut trees!

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My Grandchildren planted tulip bulbs and just look at them now.

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Just look at these marvellous creations.

Birds are so clever, resourceful……….and artistic too.

  • Last week  (Thursday) we had a very cold, but enjoyable Bird Song Walk. We were lucky enough to hear some birds communicating, despite the WINTERY weather!

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Robins, magpies and pigeons are very easily recognisable birds.

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magpie superstition  Some people think it is bad luck to see one magpie, so to avoid any trouble, they salute it and say, “Mr. Magpie, how is your wife?” However, in some countries like Korea and China, the magpie is a sacred bird! 


Before Vanya “came into the room” we had a quick recap on what we had done on Thursday regarding our Bird Song Walk. The boys and girls started to draw a bird that they were familiar with.

Vanya joined us, and she began to tell us a story about parakeets

which can imitate a telephone ringing so well that people think the telephone is actually    ringing. By some sort of sorcery, the telephone in the classroom RANG! Could it be those parakeets? No, strangely enough it was a message from the Office!

The boys and girls showed Vanya some of their drawings.

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                                                             Conor and Amyleigh.

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                                                                Grace and Joshua.

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                                                           Natalia and Oisin.

DSCN0969      DSCN0967                             Juliette                                      Abigail drew this beautiful parrot at home.

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DSCN1048  Great job everyone!

We told Vanya the word for “birds” in Dutch – “vogels.” It is so difficult to pronounce that Vanya said it and we repeated it. We’re trying to learn a new Dutch word every week. She said that the v in vogels looks like a bird flying.

Vanya then shared a really “wow” word with us…something that will go up on our Vocabulary Wall – MURMURATION. It is a collective word for a lot of starlings in flight.

We were wondering why a crow was flying around with a branch in its beak.

Daniel thought it was going to catch a worm and hit it with the branch.

Natalia thought it was going to use it to build a nest.

Pearse said it was using the branch and leaves to make a nest and connect the branches together.

Then Vanya said that there were only 3 animals which make tools and the children had a good guess about what they might be.

  3. A BIRD…………..but what kind of bird?     Eirinn – a crow.     Grace – a seagull.  Oisin – a robin.              Hayden – an owl.               Dillon RD – an ostrich.              Courtney – a crow.

OUR PLAN: Go outside and look for birds. Pay attention to:

  • Body colour and size
  • Beak colour
  • How does it fly?  quickly       flapping its wings      gliding   twisting      solo        with other birds
  • Does it make a sound?
  • Can you mimic it?
  • We went outside with our notebooks and pencils to OBSERVE  and RECORD what we saw.

Before we left the building we saw a metal wall hanging of St. John the Baptist baptising Jesus in the River Jordan. Above his head was the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

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First of all we noticed an aeroplane moving gracefully across the blue sky.

We saw lots of birds flying. A blackbird was going extra fast and whizzing past us in a flash.

A seagull was gliding overhead, and then it started to flap its wings and flew in a different direction.

Two birds were flying side by side just as if they were keeping each other company.

Oisin demonstrated how the seagull flew. I took a video a great video of him, but we can’t upload it onto this page as it’s too big!

He had our toy robin to compare sizes of the birds.

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The big grey pigeon flew onto the roof of the electricity building. There was another pigeon high up in a horse chestnut tree, but it hid amongst the branches.

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We made lots of recordings in our books and returned to class to share these with Vanya.

We picked up some twigs on the way. We thought these were the sort of things a bird might use to build a nest.


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Conor told Vanya that the pigeon had a white collar around its neck.

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Everyone wanted to show Vanya what they had recorded in their notebooks.

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Hayden told us that Monday was DOVE DAY. Nobody else had known that. This led us onto an amazing video showing a murmuration of starlings. They moved through the sky like a gentle tornado! They swirled, changed direction and shape so gracefully that they were mesmerising!


Ella said she thought the starlings might be flying together to a warmer place.

Dillon H said they might be having some time together.

Christopher thought they might be migrating.

Amyleigh said they wanted to share peace.

Natalia said she thought they wanted to get people’s attention.

Pearse thought they were flying together to scare away preditors.

Vanya said they reminded her of an enormous swarm of bees. She used to keep bees and she knows that they are happiest when they are together, so it might be the same with the starlings.

The starlings looked like they were dancing in the sky – maybe it was a happiness dance!

Then dancing led us on to music. People who are deaf/hard of hearing cannot hear the music, but they can feel the vibration. Birds can feel vibrations too.

Oisin showed Vanya his bird moves. She was extremely impressed.

We wondered why other birds do not fly together in such huge numbers and then we realised that starlings are very small in comparison to many other birds. Robins, magpies, blackbirds, crows and pigeons are too big to fly together. Robins would never fly with other birds because it is not a sociable bird. It prefers to stay on its own, or maybe with one other robin. It is very territorial.

Next up was a quiz for Vanya. Some children challenged Vanya to a bird sound recognition competition – Natalia, Pearse, Joshua, Oisin, Grace, Eirinn, Caoimhe, Daniel, Jessica,Christopher and Michael.

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DSCN0998    Vanya guessed 5 correctly. She made up an excuse that the sound was poor. What a bad loser! A good workman/woman never blames his/her tools!

BREAK TIME beckoned.

After break we considered:


We know they do because we have listened to recordings of bird sounds.

We thought about things that produce noise patterns.

  • Clocks make these sorts of patterns: TICK TOCK TICK TOCK TICK TOCK.
  • Church bells peal out in a pattern/rhythm: DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG.
  • The fire alarm in school rings in a pattern.
  • An ambulance/fire appliance, Police vehicle make a pattern when they are called out to an emergency.
  • A ship’s horn blasts out a pattern.
  • The school bell rings in a pattern.
  • A donkey brays in a pattern.
  • Lambs bleat in a pattern.
  • MusicNatalia violin plucking
  • Drums – Pearse
  • Guitar – Jamie
  • Piano – Jessica
  • Ukileli – Christopher (to which I gave a short rendition of George Formby’s “Leaning on a Lamp post.”
  • WHAT A LOT OF IDEAS!            Vanya asked a very interesting question.

Is there a way that we can see pattern/vibration?

I showed a print-out from a foetal heart monitor.


When there is an earthquake a seismograph makes a print out.

A doctor can hear the rhythm of your heart when he listens using a stethoscope.

Everyone put a finger on their wrist and then on their neck to see if they could feel a rhythm. Yes we could!

Vanya told us to listen to a recording of birds singing.  She made a mark on the board every time she heard a bird sound. Then we all had a go. The first sound was a cuckoo.


<<   <<   <<   <<   <<   <<   <<

That was an easy one to mark in our notebooks, but the next few were harder. Birds have their own language and they communicate with each other, just like we do.

____ : ____ : ____ : ____ :      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ … ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ …

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Now we had the task of MAKING SOUND VISIBLE.

Dillon H said. “You have to see it in your brain.”

Vanya said that some people see colours when they hear music.

  1. She asked the children if they wanted to use the marks they had made in their note books for the cuckoo or the robin. The majority went for the cuckoo (good choice, because it’s easier.)

2. Next step. Draw the marks with pencil on your piece of fabric.

3. Then thread your needle and stitch over the marks. EASY PEASY!

4. Whose idea was this?

While everyone was fully engaged in this task, Vanya had made marks on the board and she asked us to guess what they represented. One child replied, “That’s the noise we’re making.” And she was absolutely right.


Vanya also displayed some musical notes which musicians can read.

Lots of activity:

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DSCN1000  Maybe too much tension, but a gallant effort.


Conor said it was exciting and fun.

Molly said it was hard doing the sewing, but she enjoyed it.

Natalia said it was nice to knit.

Faith said she enjoyed the session.

Dillon said it was very wonderful.

2 Stars and a Wish.

What were we happy about? We learned LOTS of new things today.

We are getting a little more confident with threading the needles and sewing.

What would we do differently?

Next time, maybe let a smaller group of children sew and rotate the groups.


It’s time to say, “DOEI!”    Can’t wait till next week.


Vanya had sent a parcel containing larger pieces of fabric for each child. Because of the Bank holiday yesterday it hadn’t arrived, but we were able to reuse last week’ s squares.

Guess what Patsy brought to the classroom after lunch?

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                       The fabric.                                                               Nice stamp!



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I know it’s not TUESDAY.

It’s THURSDAY, but just for one week, it’s Virtually There time!


Dandelions are taking over the world!

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  Daisies are springing up everywhere too.                  Pussy willows are falling.

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Pussy willows under a microscope.

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                       catkins                                                   lovely tulips

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Aren’t rhododendrons so beautiful?

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DSCN0795       DSCN0930                           hyacinths                                         Leaves just ready to open wide.

DSCN0794          Good Morning Vanya –

                How are you today?     

  • Our plan for today was to go outside and listen for bird song. HOWEVER…….

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It’s SNOWING out there!                                          No wonder the birds are angry!

Vanya asked the children to show her what our crystals looked like. They are sparkly, and if you look at them with a magnifying glass you can see crystal formations, but they are very compact. Maybe we’ll give them another go. She said that some people think that crystals can tell us what the weather is going to be like. I said I’d prefer to rely on the Met people, even though they don’t always get it right!

She showed us how her sets of crystals – vinegar and Epsom salts – are coming along. She put some paper “seaweed” in the jars to see if crystals would grow on them.

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Then she showed us these images.

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We looked at a diver in the sea swimming around seaweed trees. Vanya said it is very difficult to imagine how big things are unless you compare them with something else. We touched on “scale.” Then we saw how small a diver is in comparison to large sea animals. I said that an aeroplane in the sky looks very small, but when it is descending and then lands,  the reality of its very large size becomes apparent.

And making a connection with SIZE….. We showed her our very tall “wholelottaseaweed tree” installation. She liked it very much.

We discovered that a whale can be the same size as a huge aeroplane and then we made lists of things that are:

VERY SMALL          SMALL                      MEDIUM                   LARGE

ant –  Pearse               fish – Aimee                fridge – Faith             aeroplane – Amyleigh

ladybird – Ella            toy – Natalia            sting-ray – Hayden     killer-whale – Jamie

turtle – Grace

pig – Eirinn

The children had to really think hard about this because where to place some of them on the list depended on comparison.


school – Roise                                rabbit – Aimee

dinosaur – Abigail                            book – Caoimhe

elephant – Ella                                 spider – Conal

tornado – Daniel                                chick – Aine

blue whale – Oisin                           marble – Joshua

IWB – Christopher                          moth – Conor

long ship – Ronan                              starfish – Juliette

helicopter – Courtney                       button – Molly

DSCN0752 Look at these comparisons. Thanks Vanya!


We watched a beautiful video called THE BIG SUR. (an area off the coast of California)

It showed Grey whales and their babies cruising through the kelp off the coast of California. The seaweed forest there is the tallest in the world. Amyleigh thought the sea animals were sharks and Pearse thought they were blue whales.

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DSCN0793  They were so graceful moving through the sea.


Our patience was rewarded because…………….. a little while later………. the rain, sleet and snow subsided and we managed to snatch the opportunity to go outside on our Bird Sound Walk….even though it was really cold! Vanya asked the children if they thought the birds would be singing in this cold, wet weather.

Faith said, “No,” and Eirinn said, “Yes, because they might be happy.”  So let’s find out:

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We made our way to the front of the school and sure enough, we heard (through the noise of passing traffic) bird song! Like mini sleuths, we followed the sound to some trees in the car park. We caught sight of a large wood pigeon waddling along the path.

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Next, we heard a robin high up in a tree. and there were also other birds calling to each other, but my dexterity in capturing this was inadequate!!

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We moved around to the side of the school near the dinner hall and spied lots of blackbirds foraging for worms…….They were much too busy to make any noise.

DSCN0735   I only managed to photograph two of them.

We returned to our classroom to tell Vanya what we had heard and observed.

We talked about the difference between crows and blackbirds. Pearse told us that blackbirds have black beaks, whereas crows have orange beaks. I added that there are no crows in Iceland as they don’t fly that far north, but that there are many puffins there.  In fact, puffins are like a national emblem!

Vanya revealed that she had once rescued an injured blackbird which had been hit by a fast car. She put it in a cage and went out digging for worms. She fed the bird with a selection of peanuts, apples, worms and berries (quite tasty actually, apart from the worms!). After a few days of TLC she tried to release the bird, but it did not want to go. It was still unable to fly. Then one day, after six weeks had passed, she held the bird up and it flew away! She told us that she also helped an injured crow, but that it was very smelly, like ammonia. We said that Vanya should open up a Sanctuary. She could call it Ward’s Bird Hotel.

The floodgates were opened to a barrage of bird tales – Grace said that she had twenty birds in a shed. Faith told us that a bird had a baby. Abigail also said that she has a shed full of birds. Juliette‘s cousin has birds in their back garden. Pearse has a bird feeder in his garden and he sits in a chair and listens to the sounds they make.

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Pearse told Vanya that he once saw 4 magpies perching on the branches of a tree.

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Vanya showed us some illustrations from her bird book. She wanted to know what types of birds the boys and girls recognised and we were all surprised with the answers. Everyone shouted: PIGEONS.

More answers: Ciaran: A robin.

Grace: A robin has a red stomach.

Faith: My Granda has got a whole shed of pigeons. He lets them out and he calls them. He goes to the Pigeon Club. Vanya wanted to know how they got back to the shed as they can’t see colour and they can’t read. Something for another session perhaps???

Pearse: My cousin Tommy has a yellow bird.

Conal: There is a trailer of pigeons in my Grandad’s street.

Abigail: Pigeons have patterns under their wings.

Natalia: A magpie. It is big and black and white.

This resulted in a chat about how a magpie has a beautiful blue colour on its back.


I wondered about the origins of the superstition about what luck befalls you if you see different numbers of magpies…………………………………

(ABOVE) This magpie was roaming around the grounds of Belfast Castle.

Christopher: A parrot has rainbow patterns.

Aine: My sister has a bird. It is green, black, blue and red. It’s called Riley. Boy birds make better pets than girls because they don’t like it when you handle them.

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Courtney‘s Aunt has yellow budgie called Froto. Sometimes it lives with her Granny.

Joshua said that he saw thirty birds in his garden.

Vanya then told us that in The Hague in Holland there are lots of noisy, little green birds flying around. They are parakeets! Several of them had escaped from their owners and now there are many of them enjoying the freedom of the city.

AFTER BREAK……………………….

We listened to a recording of different bird sounds and Vanya said the children could put their heads on their tables and close their eyes if they wanted to. She said this would help them concentrate better.

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DSCN0746      Some children preferred  to sit up to listen.

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We talked about the sounds we had heard and we tried to guess what birds had made those sounds. Then Vanya played a sound which Mrs. May and I hear coming down our chimneys very often. Jamie and Christopher thought it was an owl. Roise thought it was a crow. Juliette thought it was a pigeon………….and she was correct.

DSCN0838 (I captured this pair in the City Cemetery on Saturday morning. The place was filled with bird song!)

Then Vanya asked for volunteers to replicate the sound……………..and who would have thought it? Everyone wanted to try, and they were all AMAZING. Even Mrs. May sounded fantastic. It felt like we were inside an aviary!

Vanya had previously sent us some embroidery needles and thread. TODAY was the day to use them.

We started off with SAFETY RULES. Then the boys and girls had an opportunity to try to put the thread through the eye of the needle. The atmosphere descended into quiet, calm concentration. Then there were shouts of joy and achievement when they managed to get the thread through the holes.

When Vanya showed us her stitching the children wanted to have a go on their own.

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Next, everyone got a small portion of fabric to practise stitching. I was very happy with the effort that every child put in to this activity. Some very novel shapes were created, including what could be described as a Chinese fortune cookie and a very small  ball! This is the beginning of the acquisition of another new skill. Vanya was also impressed when some of the stitchers proudly showed her their work.

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DINNER TIME, so we got tidied up.

Our final LISTENING activity was a recording from a Muppet film.

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ANDREW WEGMAN BIRD is an American musician, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He wrote ” The Whistling Caruso” and whistled in the 2011 Disney  film – “The Muppets” and on the soundtrack. Everyone in class had an opportunity to try their whistling skills and then it really was time to go for lunch!


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We tried to incorporate different sizes and shapes, in the style of Henri Matisse’s primary coloured cut-outs. Instead of making a wall display we chose to pin the seaweed onto a tall cardboard cylinder. We were very pleased with the final result and we intend to display it in the front foyer of the school. We will leave a notebook beside it so that people can write their comments. RESULTS to follow.


It’s Goodbye from Vanya until next week!

I wonder what’s in store for us then? 


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After 2 weeks of waiting, looking, more waiting, more looking, we finally have CRYSTALS!





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Spring is really springing up! Have a look……………….

                                                After schools Gardening Club

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Look carefully at the top blossom in the photograph below. There is a bee feasting.

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                      Blue sky at last!

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We have been keeping an eye on our Epsom salt experiment. We mixed the salts and water last Tuesday. However, the water in the glasses was not evaporating very quickly, so Patsy the caretaker put the containers in his very warm Plant Room. There’s lots of pipes and a boiler in there to help speed up the evaporation process.

Today’s result: Disappointing! There is still a lot of water remaining on top. We will have another go at the experiment again. However, the upside is that the children realise that     when you are a scientist, things don’t always turn out………..that’s a good lesson for life.



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During the past few weeks we have been talking about pattern. For homework yesterday the children had to look for pattern in their own homes and record what they saw. They put their findings in their “Virtually There” notebooks and had a chat with Vanya about what they saw. Here are a few examples of where they found pattern:

                       wallpaper                                                    rugs and carpets

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                slate floor tiles                                                   stained glass window

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             chevron upholstery fabric                woven basket and sequined cushion

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             gift bags and gift boxes                                                 craft paper

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                          gift wrap                                                             brick pattern

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                            crockery                                                                     furniture

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DSCN0239    Ronan made a rubbing of a leaf and a coin.

Oisin‘s cat has a pattern. Dillon‘s chairs are dark red and light red,

Mrs. Morgan came into the room. Her lovely dress had navy and cream stripes on it.

Vanya had done some homework too. She showed us photographs of things with patterns in her house: a bowl, her couch,  a radiator, a grater and cushions. We discovered that pattern does not have to be multi-coloured. It can have just one colour.

Now we’re taking pattern hunting to the next level. Everyone was excited to add a PATTERN WALK to our list of “outside the classroom” investigations! Pattern is everywhere, and you just don’t realise how much there is surrounding you until you consciously go looking for it!

The boys and girls are very aware of pattern in Mathematics. Our focus today was to find random or repeating patterns on our walk. No stone/or person was left unturned!

A question for the children: We’re going on a pattern walk, so what are we looking out for? Everyone answered: PATTERNS.

What is a pattern?

Eirinn – It’s like something that keeps going on and on. It could be like a shape pattern, like a triangle or a square. They would just keep going on.

Christopher: It’s like a zigzag or a triangle.

Ronan: It’s like blue red, blue red, blue red.

Vanya asked: What makes a pattern? How can a pattern become a pattern? A cup on its own isn’t a pattern……………a pattern repeats itself.

Vanya told us that her friend sent her a photograph of the tiles on her floor. Each tile is an octagon. Vanya made a repeating pattern with the tiles. Amyleigh and Joshua went to the computer to draw a pattern that they had noticed in the classroom.

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LET’S BEGIN: A very good starting point: our classroom ……and ourselves.

Notebooks: The children had to draw 2 lines on each of two pages, making 8 spaces altogether. In each space they had to draw a pattern which they noticed during the Pattern Walk.


         My lovely “houses” cup.                                      A polka dot ceramic coaster.

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             A wicker basket interior.                      Look at the pattern of the weaving.

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Dillon’s super symmetrical pattern.                         Ceiling tiles in our classroom.

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This is a curtain with a leaf pattern.            Mrs. May’s cable patterned jumper.

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        Roise’s floral coat.                                         Juliette’s pink patterned shorts.

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LET’S LEAVE THE CLASSROOM BEHIND………and go around the school!

                    mosaic tiles                                           A  handprint pattern tree

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Positive and negative shapes and pattern at the top of the Link corridor.

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The pattern on “the big Belfast fish.”      Pattern on the floor and windows.

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The coat hooks had made a pattern.                               Rope climbing frame patterns.

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Even the stacked lunch tables made a pattern.

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PE equipment pattern.                            Oisin has noticed the radiator pattern.

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Daniel sees patterns on the wall.                                         Pattern on the cooker.

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Terracotta floor tiles in the administration corridor. Mosaic tile border on steps in the foyer.

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Look at this colourful mosaic tile pattern in the front foyer. It’s been here since 1973.

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LET’S REALLY GET OUTSIDE.                              A tray in the Meeting Room.

The brick walls of our school are arranged in patterns.             GLASS BRICKS  

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Pearse is enjoying the hop-scotch. In Holland this is called HINKELEN.

There is a RHYTHM in the hopping.

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Lines made by the lawn mower.                  Pattern -wire mesh on windows

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This pattern of paving stones is called HERRINGBONE. Flagstones are laid in patterns.

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Look at the pattern we noticed on the man hole cover:

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Pattern left when the bicycle stand was relocated.

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                              More shadow patterns near the Dinner Hall.

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             Pattern in nature.                               Pattern in playground games.

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Look at the shadow of the fencing.                     Grating for rain water

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How did the children enjoy this activity?      Molly’s expression says it all.


After half an hour’s hunting we had to return to class to see what Vanya had been up to while we were away. She showed us some lovely patterns made by an American  artist called JULIE ALPERT.

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Vanya had made a repeating pattern of the star pupils in our class – that’s everybody!

She also showed us repeating patterns which she had made using 4 objects in her house.

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The pattern made by the books on her bookshelf.

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Top right – stones in her fireplace.                Pattern made from her ceiling lampshade.

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Pattern made from her blanket.

Everyone had an opportunity to show her what they had written or drawn in the 8 spaces in their notebooks.

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Photographs of Joshua, Courtney and Aimee showing their work to Vanya.

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DSCN0131  Everyone told Vanya about the patterns.

There was time for a video before break.

THEO JANSEN is a Dutch artist and engineer. We saw some of his kinetic art sculptures. That’s another new word for us. He makes strandbeests (beach beasts) from plastic pipes and plastic bottles. In the video we saw Theo Jansen on a beach in Holland with one of his creations. It moved along the sand as if it was a live animal. It was mind blowing!

The sculptures reminded me of the huge life like puppets I had seen in the stage play of  “War Horse.”

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DSCN0134    Look…those STRONG triangles again.

Vanya asked the children if they could think of how it was able to move. Answers included:

  • There is an engine in it. NO.
  • It has a motor like a car. NO.
  • Natalia said: The wind. CORRECT! GREAT ANSWER.

It needed an initial push, and then the wind took over.

Wow! What a lot we’ve done this morning. TIME FOR BREAK.

When we returned to our classroom after break Vanya showed us some “seaweed” which she had cut. It was long and stringy. We thought it was like fingers or spaghetti.

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We wondered how seaweed begins. Vanya googled this and found out that seaweed grows from EGGS. What a revelation.

  • Then we decided to have two tasks going simulataneously.

TASK 1: Choose your favourite pattern from this morning’s Pattern Walk and make it into a repeating pattern in your notebook. You can add 2 colours.

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TASK 2: Each child (one table at a time) had to cut out stringy seaweed and attach this onto the pole.

The cardboard pole is very thick, so the teacher (me) had to push the pins into the surface.

We found that we didn’t have enough time left to pin all the seaweed onto the pole, so we decided that we would finish this task later in the week.

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Lots more seaweed to add.

We began to tidy up and then we had our PLENARY.

Lots of activities, lots of creativity, lots of problem solving, lots of discussion, lots of learning, lots of “taking risks” in a creative way, LOTS OF FUN AGAIN.

Everyone had an opportunity to walk around the room and see what other children had observed and how they had recorded this. Opportunities for self and peer assessment.

A wonderful opportunity to work with an artist, to learn new skills, to get advice and encouragement.

No wonder we look forward to our Tuesday “Virtually There” sessions.

DSCN0174  Bye from Vanya!

  • We will have a chat about our next session. It isn’t possible to have the Virtual Session #6 next Tuesday….so watch this space!

SJB STAFF were very obliging in sharing their patterns with us:

Patsy the caretaker‘s checked shirt. After lunch, a change of clothing, and this time he is modelling a striped polo shirt.

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Mrs. Campbell has the lot!   Stripes, zigzags and polka dots.


Mary’s (the cook) striped apron.                  Kate’s (the secretary) blouse.

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Mrs. Wylie’s checked car coat.            Miss  Farrell’s floral patterned trousers.

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Mrs. Mc Mahon’s red stripes.                              Ms. Bell’s very exotic print coat.

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Mrs. Quinn’s black and white patterned scarf.   Mrs. Harriott’s fox patterned jumper selfie.

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Miss Doyle’s mobile phone cover.                                      Mrs. Herdman’s lunch bag.

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PATTERNS I NOTICED ON MY WAY HOME………………………………………and other detours along the way:

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Look at how pattern and colour have enhanced this QUB building on the Malone Road.

I have to STOP…………………………………………………………… This pattern thing is addictive!

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We began by discussing the weather, and Vanya asked if anyone had started to notice any significant Spring signs. The children had noticed that the leaves on the horse chestnut tree were getting bigger and that flowers were growing too.

The weather in Belfast has been dreadful recently:  rain, hailstones, thunder and lightning, rain, wind, rain, cold, rain, overcast skies, more rain; and then, on my way to school this morning I noticed a series of beautiful, colourful signs of Spring.  Feast your eyes on these marvels.

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Our next discussion centred around the seaside – moss, seaweed, lichen – all strong plants. We talked about the benefits of seaweed, how it is full of iron and used in cookery, medicine, dog food and also for spa treatments. Vanya told us that there are several places in Sligo which people visit from all around the world in order to get treatments in seaweed baths! It is very good for skin disorders! I said that I would like to try it. ( Not that I have a disorder of any kind!)

She also told us about two Danish designers who had made furniture and pendant lamps from paper pulp and seaweed. When seaweed is boiled up it produces gelatine/jelly/glue….. this is a topic for another session???????????

Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt harvest fucus seaweed, dry it and grind it into powder and then cook it until it becomes glue. It is combined with paper pulp and the material that is produced is moulded into products such as chairs and lamp shades.

seaweed for journal    The image below shows the products made from seaweed!

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This is a photograph of dulse which I took when I was in St. George’s Market Belfast on Sunday 10th. April, 2016. Dulse is full of iron and very tasty! (in my opinion)

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Vanya showed us some images of lime green moss which is beautifully coloured because of the sea air. It grows slowly on rocks. We looked at plants which grow in salt water. We learned 3 new words today. They are PHYCOLOGY and ALGOLOGY. They are names for the study of seaweed. Look at the man covered in seaweed- kelp. He is a PHYCOLOGIST. We found out that there are lots of different types of seaweed.

Observations: Very strong plants grow in sea water as it is very salty.

Someone mentioned that when we cry our tears are salty too.


Vanya showed us paintings of seaweed which were very interesting and colourful.  The boys and girls said that the images reminded them of wheat/corn, tulips, and moss. Natalia said it was like “grass of the sea,” which we agreed was a super description.

Then we looked at some art work by HENRI MATISSE. He is a very famous French artist. When he was old he couldn’t paint anymore, so he began a new form of art, using scissors. He cut out paper and produced fantastic pictures using this method.

Vanya said that the shapes reminded her of seaweed.

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The image on the right was made in 1952 and is called “The Parakeet and the Mermaid.”

How did Henri Matisse make these shapes? The children suggested: he used colouring in pencils, he got seaweed and drew around it, he drew around his fingers.

Juliette thought that he used coloured paper. Well done!

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OUR ACTIVITY: Vanya demonstrated what she wanted us to do. She got coloured paper and cut out shapes like the ones which Henri Matisse had made. We got organised and had fun cutting out shapes in the style of those in the painting.

Some children found this task quite difficult because it was not easy cutting out one positive shape, leaving one whole negative shape.

The children learned another new concept: positive and negative shapes.

{What does that mean ? When you cut out a shape you end up with two copies of your cut-out, one is positive and the other is negative as this is the hole that is left after cutting the shape.}

There is a You Tube video showing Henri Matisse making a paper cut out!

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We looked at photographs of weeds and tree roots. Vanya said that these dandelion weeds look like stars. Now that is a different way of looking at things, isn’t it?

She told us dandelion flowers are the first flowers that bees can find in Spring.

Some children said they thought the leaves looked like the rays of the sun and snowflakes.

Roise drew snowflakes over the dandelion leaves and Vanya drew over the tree roots.

We were shown something that Vanya had found in the woods near her house. We had to guess what it was. GUESSES: a hook, a really sharp thorn, a mammoth’s tooth. It turned out to be an antler which Oscar wanted to chew! Jamie said it might have belonged to one of Santa’s reindeer at Christmas. Vanya replied that deer lose their antlers in Winter and grow new ones in Spring.


We moved on to SALT and the You Tube video of the little girl demonstrating how to make crystals with Epsom Salts. We followed the recipe and each table had their own mixture to whisk. A lot of stirring was involved as all the salts have to dissolve. We will leave the glasses and check them out over the next few days. We talked about how precious salt was long ago – as valuable as gold! And how it was used for trading for other goods. We discussed the properties of salt, how it is used for preserving food and for making food taste better, especially on chips, with vinegar (which Vanya is using to make crystals), so we are really putting crystals on our chips!

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We looked at a wonderful nest which the little puffer fish makes with sand on the sea bed.


People in different cultures use sand to make beautiful patterns – Aboriginal people, Tibetan monks dye the sand, Hindu children make Rangoli patterns on their doorsteps during the Festival of Diwali.

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jimdeneven     sand art

These photographs show patterns made with snow and sand…..and the people who made them.

SIMON BECK is a English engineer and artist from Somerset. He wears snowshoes to create his patterns in the snow. Some of his work is bigger than 6 football pitches! I thought the pattern on the bottom right hand side looked like lace.

Vanya told us that an American artist and chef called JIM DENEVEN makes huge temporary land art with sand.

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These patterns on sand were made by an artist called Jose Vial Armstrong. He used a contraption similar to something which Vanya had previously made for another project from wooden triangles and elastic bands. Triangles are very strong shapes.

DSCN9981     More beautiful patterns.

Oisin went to the camera to ask Vanya a question. Then it was time for break.

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After BREAK the children had a table salt table top activity. This encouraged the boys and girls to make multiple patterns. When they finished one pattern, they just had to smooth out the salt on the table and have another try. The white patterns against the blue tables reminded me of Morocco and Greece.

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Aimee and Dillon made a symmetrical pattern.

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Why does 12.05 come around so quickly?  Tidy up and PLENARY next.

In one word describe today’s session.

FAITH – fun

CIARAN – cool

COURTNEY – fantastic

JESSICA – exciting

CHRISTOPHER – fun to make

NATALIA – pretty fun

AIMEE – making the patterns on the table top was harder with a partner.

Vanya suggested that the boys and girls should think of how they would like to display the seaweed cut-outs next week.


  • Mounted flat on a wall.
  • Put them on top of each other like what we did with the snowflakes.
  • Suspend them from the ceiling.  How could we do this? Pearse thought they could be tied to a rope or string and nailed to the ceiling.
  • Standing up. Again, how could this be achieved?
  • A 3D type display.

TSPC: Lots of things to think about. Many opportunities for sharing ideas,  problem           solving, creative thinking and partner and team work.

Look what I spotted on my way to the dinner hall…

DSCN9893    That proves it! It is Spring!

Who knows what fabulous ideas will be revealed next week. Watch this space!

DANKE SEHR VANYA!              





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Monday 4th. April, 2016.

More parcels from Vanya!


What could they contain?           The larger packet revealed an interesting selection of seaweed, sea salt and embroidery thread?????????????? The smaller packet contained some embroidery needles????? Everyone was intrigued.

Look……. Spring has really arrived in Belfast!!  Beautiful cherry blossoms, daffodils……….The place is suddenly alive with colour.

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Leaves have opened on the horse chestnut trees and beautiful magnolia flowers are on show.

PLANNING: I received the schedule from Vanya, so I was able to tell the children what we would be doing on Tuesday. I had purchased some table salt and Epsom salts (for a later activity) and made the cones so that we would be ready to start promptly in the morning.

Tuesday 5th. April. Today Vanya had a wee bit of technical difficulty “getting into the room,” but that was no problem as Plan B took over!

We wrapped up well, left our classroom with Cloud Finders and boxes of chalk, and proceeded to one of our playgrounds to enjoy some “outside the classroom” learning.

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Everyone looked at the clouds above them and tried to match them up with the ones illustrated on the Cloud Finders. The boys and girls then began to draw their own clouds. I encouraged them to draw patterns inside them, just like we had done last week. The results looked so good we decided to join all the clouds together to make an eeeeeeeenormous cloud. What a delight. The children had a ball! Some were very meticulous and were totally “in the zone,” while others were motivated to dance around the clouds in sheer delight! I was really surprised to see how much they enjoyed this experience. I think the huge expanse of the playground gave them an opportunity to be liberated, to draw on a very large scale, not being confined as they normally are to A4 orA3 paper.

The Acting Principal spied us from her office and commented later that she had noticed  the children being fully engaged and showing great enthusiasm in this activity.

As time went by, the clouds began to join in with a performance of their own, and drizzle ushered us back inside. When we got back to class Vanya had managed to defeat the technology and was waiting to join us. She asked us if we had received her parcels and I told her that everyone had been given an opportunity to look at the seaweed using a magnifying glass.

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We had a discussion about the clouds which the children had drawn outside. Then Vanya asked everyone what they had done during their Easter holidays. There were lots of trips to the seaside, to caravan sites, to the cinema, to the park to roll eggs. Natalia and her Mummy had painted goose eggs and she gave one each to Mrs. May, Miss Callaghan and to the teacher (me). This is a lovely European tradition which her family practise every year.

Of course I had to share some experiences from my Easter visit to Iceland. I told everyone that there is a plethora of moss and cloud there!

I have included a few photographs:

DSCN0521          DSCN0482Clouds from the cabin window during my Easyjet flight.

There’s even a wall of moss at the Information Desk at Keflavik Airport.

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“Clouds” at the roadside.                                        This copper sculpture reminded me of one

of the hats we made during Winter Hat Day.

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At Haukadalur, a geyser named STOKKUR erupted in front of our eyes! It reaches 30metres/100 feet in height. The Icelandic word “geysir” means “eruption” or “surge.”

Back to “Virtually There“……………..Vanya showed us some photographs of unusual clouds that she had captured on her trip to Wexford. Pearse said that one of the clouds looked like an anvil (impressive). The children told her that they had seen clouds before which looked like: dinosaurs, crocodiles and dragons…scary!

After BREAK TIME  we looked at images of Beili Lui‘s beautiful glass balls.

They reminded me of Christmas baubles!

BEILI LIU is a Chinese/American artist. Vanya asked the children to guess how the crystals were formed on the glass. Answers included metal, glass, death stars (inspired by Star Wars) and one which I really loved…diamonds. She told them that the crystals were in fact made from salt!

Vanya showed us the jar in which she has been growing crystals. The process is very slow, so she said she would have another try using Epsom salts.

Then we were introduced to another artist:-

MOTOI YAMAMOTO – A Japanese artist who creates huge floor art pieces using salt. When his exhibitions are finished, the salt is swept up and returned to the sea.

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We wanted to watch a video showing Motoi Yamamoto at work, but the downloading process took so long that we decided to watch this later and Vanya showed some photographs of his amazing work. Then she explained that the boys and girls were going to make patterns on black card using flowing salt. She showed us some patterns which she had made and we got to work!

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Everyone was told to put their finger under the hole at the bottom of the cone to stop the salt escaping as it was being poured in. It didn’t take long for a discovery to be made……some of the holes were too small to let the salt pass through, so bigger holes had to be cut. The children were absorbed in this activity and produced great results. The photos below demonstrate the variation and intricacy of some of the patterns.

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DSCN0635 What a super collection!

Because of time constraints we decided to look at the work of BRITT SALT at a later date. She is an Australian artist who makes dramatic sculptures and installations which seem to float.


LUNCH TIME was approaching rapidly, so this led to our tidy up and round up.


The children approached the camera to give Vanya their opinion of how the activity had gone.

Dillon H said it was “incredible.” Others said it was: “different, interesting, difficult and messy.” The overall opinion was that it was great fun and they enjoyed using a totally new medium to produce their art work.

Some children used the cone to draw features in the salt….maybe this is an idea for another time??????????

I liked the fact that they could pour the salt back into the boxes and try a new pattern, plus  the salt can be stored and used it. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the children had handled the salt pouring process so well. Of course it was messy, but definitely not as bad as I had anticipated. There’s another skill ticked!


AFTER LUNCH we made some more patterns.

On Wednesday I used the photographs of the children’s salt art to make a display in the corridor…..again receiving lots of positive comments from teachers who are now inspired to try this activity with their own pupils.    EACH ONE – TEACH ONE / PASS IT ON.


Looking forward to next week’s session! DOEI!



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