April means rain, and rain means the water cycle, and I so love when our planned curriculum works nicely into the seasons. “Weather” is the current subject as we explore Earth Science, and this week has been all about the water cycle, rain storms, thunder, and lightning.
My favorite way to teach a subject is with great children’s literature, so while we delve into the facts with non-fiction, I often try to incorporate themed-fiction read-alouds as well. Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco is the story of a little girl who is afraid of thunderstorms. She becomes nervous as the storm nears and so her grandmother subtly teaches about bravery as they prepare batter for a “thunder cake.” Then, while the rain pours, they enjoy a thick slice of cake and the little girl faces her fear of the thunderstorm.
After reading the story, the kids and I had a discussion about our own fears as we mapped them on a web graphic organizer. It was an eye-opening discussion for me! While I thought I knew my kids pretty well, the discussion presented new subjects for us to talk about and we were even able to settle a few of those 8, 6, and 4-year-old fears.
And then after our mapping and fears conversation we made a thunder cake! We cheated and went the cake mix-route, but a recipe for the authentic “thunder cake” Patricia Polacco made with her grandmother is included in the back of the book.
I loved reading this story with the kids for so many reasons. Besides fitting perfectly into a weather or emotions (fear) unit and being a cute story, I loved that it was based a real-life memory the author had with her grandmother. Though I know the story is embellished to make a good children’s book, the recollection made me think a lot about the grandmother.
I can picture a sweet teaching moment, as the storm brewed and she baked a special cake with her granddaughter. I picture her educating the little girl on slowly counting after viewing the lightning–waiting for the thunder, and predicting how far the storm was. I imagine the wise woman lovingly assuring the child they were safe as they licked the chocolate icing clean from their forks.
I doubt the grandmother had a clue what an impact the teaching moment would have on her granddaughter, or that she–many years later–would go on to write a popular children’s book about making a thunder cake. I doubt she had a second thought about consulting the teacher’s manual to teach about the science of rain storms, or showing bravery. She just loved and lived and taught in the moment. What an example.
There are so many days I stress about getting behind in our curriculum, wonder if that “new” math program would work better for us, or sheesh, if we’re even doing enough! My “fears” are something I pray about, cry about, worry about.
But just as often as my fears creep in, there are moments when I feel sweet comfort–like a grandmother’s love during a thunderstorm, assuring me things are going to be okay. I’m reminded it’s less about the perfect method of teaching, or the curriculum we’re using, and more about the time, consistency, and love I’m pouring into my kids.