Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kenya Album

Here's a recap of all of our Kenya activities. Click on the photos to get to the detailed post.



baobab tree forest
safari sheet

fabric collage card

Find us on Goodreads for reviews of the books

picture books

grown-up book


peanut soup




safari animal hunt at the zoo

hearing African folk tales at a play for kids





making a card and sending donation to The Green Belt Movement


Kenya reflections

About three days ago, The Whirl Girl told me she was ready to return her Kenya books to the library and get some new books. Perfect timing!

I thought there should be some sort of closure to the month so we sat down at the table together with all of her books. We started a "passport" binder where we can keep some of the crafts that she made. I put the Kenya sign in first and asked her some questions about the month to write down on the back of the sign.

What was her favorite book? (she started listing off all of them, and then eventually came to Mama Panya's Pancakes)

I started vague, which didn't get me very far. What did she remember about "the Kenya project" as we call it? (silence)

So I got a little more specific. Did she remember what we cooked? Did she like dancing to the music? What kind of tree did we make?

These elicited various responses, but I would say on the whole, I was way more into the idea of a reflecting up on our month than she was. She was more excited to punch holes in her crafts projects and put them in the binder. And to pack the books into a bag to take them to the library to exchange them for new books.

For me, one of the biggest highlights from our Kenya month was how well everything came together, in unexpected ways. There were baobab trees in the play we saw, in her books, and on her walls. The play's narrator said "Jambo", as did the characters in her books and the singers in the music that we listened to. She noticed how the hands on the cover of my book about Wangari Maathai matched the illustrations in her book, and we were both inspired by Wangari's work. And the animals - the Kenyan animals were everywhere! At the zoo, in her books, in her crafts, among her stuffed animals, in photographs.

It was a delight watching The Whirl Girl make these connections for herself, learning that these things were all related to Kenya. And it was amazing to watch how she saw these different pieces come together as part of a bigger whole.

In retrospect, we got a little lucky picking Kenya as a first stop. The children's book selection was fantastic - great stories, beautiful illustrations and diverse settings. The animals provided an familiar and fun entry point. And the crafts projects sprung out naturally from our activities. In planning for the next month, I'm discovering that all countries may not prove so easy!

Any Kenya experiences you'd like to share before we move on?

Next stop is MALAYSIA! Hope you'll join us!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kenya donation: The Green Belt Movement

One of the things that is most important to me about Whirls and Twirls is to develop a sense of civic responsibility in The Whirl Girl. I want her to begin to understand, as best a 3 1/2-year-old can, the importance of giving back to her global community.

A couple of the picture books we read this month were about Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for "her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation." The book that made a particular impression upon The Whirl Girl was Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya. From this book she learned how Wangari Maathai helped poor women all over Kenya by planting trees, which helped provide food, firewood, and money.

I also read Wangari Maathai's memoir Unbowed as my Kenya book for the month. It was an inspiring account of her decades of efforts to improve the lives of women and the poor in Kenya.

After learning about her work, it was an easy choice to select Wangari Maathai's organization The Green Belt Movement for our donation this month. So that The Whirl Girl could understand the idea of making a donation, we made a tree collage with Kenyan fabrics. We wrote a note about how we are sending money to help plant more trees and mailed it to Wangari (and her organization).

The Whirl Girl with her card and the Mama Miti book

Kenya crafts: tree fabric collage

The Whirl Girl made a tree collage out of fabric to send with our donation to The Green Belt Movement. The collage was inspired by the beautiful illustrations in the book Mama Miti about The Green Belt Movement's founder Wangari Maathai. The illustrations use fabric and painting to make collages of trees and the Kenyan landscape.

  • fabric
  • scissors
  • fabric glue
  • paper

The Whirl Girl picked which fabrics she wanted to use. She insisted upon a river in her picture, and picked out blue fabrics. And then all different shades of green for the leaves, and a brown-ish one for the tree's trunk and branches.

I cut them out for her and she put fabric glue on the cloth...
...and glued it to the card.

The Whirl Girl's tree

I loved how this turned out and was a little sad to mail it away. But all for a good cause. I loved even more that The Whirl Girl understood the connections between the book, our donation, and her artwork.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kenya cooking: Pancakes

One of our books for this month was Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya. It's a sweet story about a boy who invites his friends in the village to come to his home for a pancake dinner. His mother is upset because she is worried that they won't have enough food. But in the end (spoiler alert!), each of the friends brings something to share and they have more than enough. I was surprised how quickly The Whirl Girl picked up on the heart of the story. It was one of her favorite books of the month. So naturally she was excited to make some pancakes of our own - just like Mama Panya and her son Adika!

The book includes a recipe for pancakes. But the recipe is a simple one, using mostly flour and water, and I wasn't sure how they would turn out. So we reverted to a favorite pancake recipe of our own and called them Mama Panya's pancakes, and talked about the book as we cooked and ate.

The Whirl Girl mixes
cooking cakes
our own plate of Mama Panya's pancakes
and the best part... eating!

Our (not-quite-authentic) Mama Panya's Pancakes recipe
adapted from McCanns Oatmeal

1 1/4 cups of oatmeal
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk (low fat/skim)
1 tsp honey or sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp ginger powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine oats, yogurt, milk and honey. Stir in flours, baking soda, salt and spices. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Add walnuts. Batter will be thick.

Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle for each pancake. Cook until bottoms are browned and bubbles on top start to pop, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until other sides are browned, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kenya Field Trips: The Zoo

One of the great things about traveling to Kenya is all of the amazing animals that live there. And conveniently, they also happen to be the animals that populate many zoos.

We are lucky in Singapore to have a fantastic zoo, so a field trip was definitely in order!

To tie in the visit with our Kenya month, The Whirl Girl made a Safari sheet, a list of many of the Kenyan animals that she would see at the zoo. As she walked around, she put a sticker next to the animals on her sheet as she saw them. She loved this activity!

Off on a safari we went! We saw...
...and mongooses (an animal that also plays a key part in The Lonely Lioness, one of her Kenya books for the month).

And we even got to feed the rhino, though The Whirl Girl was happier watching this activity from the side.

A great visit to the Kenyan savannah!

Since zoo trips are special outings, we also occasionally set up a "pretend zoo" at home to get our fix. The Whirl Girl's stuffed animals are put in "cages" all around the house and we walk around and visit them. Our zoo even has its own elephant show where the elephants dance to The Whirl Girl's favorite songs. Plus The Whirl Girl gets to bring her dolls and stroller along to show them her favorite animals. A fantastic rainy day activity.

Kenya crafts: Safari Sheet

In preparation for her field trip to the zoo, The Whirl Girl made a Safari sheet - a list of Kenyan animals that she would see at the zoo. Her job was to cut out the pictures of the animals and paste them on the sheet so that she would know what she to search for since she can't read. Then, she would add a sticker next to each animal that we found as we walked around the zoo.

I did a little research before hand to see what animals we would be seeing (and if they lived in Kenya) and I tried to include some familiar (lions, zebras, giraffes) and less familiar (warthogs, mongooses, and baboons).

  • safety scissors
  • glue stick
  • one piece of card stock (optional)
  • stickers (if you're going to use it at the zoo)
  • sheets printed with names of animals (I did this in Word using the chart tool and then printed on color paper)
  • print-outs of animal pictures corresponding to those on the sheet (I found these using a Google images search, and many from National Geographic Animals) - and I printed out two copies so that The Whirl Girl could cut one for fun and I could cut one for her to paste on the sheets since her scissor skills aren't quite stellar yet

Step One: Cut out the photos. For The Whirl Girl, this meant a little cutting...

...and a little ripping to make...
...this pile of "cut-outs." (I handed over the cut-outs I had done for step two.)

Step Two: Glue the photo next to its name on the Safari Sheet. The Whirl Girl searched through the pile of photos and found each one...
...and then glued it on.

Two sheets full of Kenyan animals!
We glued them to a sheet of cardstock so that it would be easy for The Whirl Girl to carry around the zoo.

I also printed out a map of the zoo that I found online so she could try to find the animals on it and circle them. It was good practice and it got her excited about the upcoming field trip.

The morning we left, she grabbed her Safari Sheet without being asked. She was really excited about it during the first half of the day and insisted on doing the stickers herself. By the second half, her enthusiasm waned a bit and she was happy to pass off the task to one of her parents. But all in all, it was a hit and brought a fun new dimension to our zoo visit.

checking out the baboons...

...and putting a sticker!