Animals of India

Animals are always fun to see. In India there are animals all around you as you are walking the streets or riding down the road. Some are animals you expect to see and some are unexpected. Snake charmers can be found everywhere. This one was at the Pushkar Camel Fair.

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And this is what it sounds like:

Snake charmer Pushkar Camel Fair October 2014 from Patti Donnelly on Vimeo.

Cows are sacred and wander the streets freely. Early in the morning, cows walk around the village getting the first bread of the day from each family. They are harmless, but watch out for the horns when you pass them in a crowded street!

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IMG_7993 cow by Pushkar Lake

There are many species of birds to enjoy.

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DSC_2719 Rufous Treepie bird Pushkar

Monkeys are probably my favorite. They have such personality. My mom had two monkeys as pets.

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5DSC_3595 baby monkey Pushkar Patti Donnelly

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I love the cows and the monkeys always make me smile, but monkeys and cows together are the best! Sometimes they share and sometimes they do NOT!

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Drinking together

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The cow would like some naan. The monkey is not interested in sharing.

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Camels, camels everywhere at the Pushkar Camel Fair.

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Of course there were horses too.

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The camel symbolizes love. I love my family for sharing the world with me. There is still so much to discover and learn from other people and other places.

IMG_8027 mom and Patti camel Pushkar 40 years later

Don’t Stop December

December, the time for final tests, holiday assemblies, and difficulty concentrating with the anticipation of vacation! I am so proud of all of my students as they worked hard until the very last day of school. Learning happens in many ways as depicted below. I want to give you just a glimpse of some highlights from our last few weeks together in 2014.

Open note tests can be harder than memorizing facts. We used books, iPads, Mindmeister, My Maps (Google), hand written notes, and each other to help prepare for the Wisdom Tales test.

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Instead of our monthly Book Talk in the library, Mrs. Longee did Speed Booking with us. We got to preview many more books and then take time to read as we do every day both in and out of the classroom.

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On Tuesday, December 9th, we participated in an Hour of Code. We explored and to learn the basics of coding. We have the Hopscotch app on our iPads and some students who are already proficient with coding continued projects in higher level programs.

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As we are starting to think about what we want to research for our TED-Ed Club talks later in the year, we learned about Power Pose from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. We are learning about what we see in other people’s body language as well as what we communicate with our own, but did you know you can change your body’s chemistry just by the way you sit or stand? See Amy’s talk to learn more.

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The Egyptian Harvest Festival was a chance to share the pyramids students built and taste Egyptian food. Thank you Ms. Johnson and Ms. Saffo!

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Have you ever wondered what it is like to be eleven years old? Our 5th and 6th graders had the opportunity to view the documentary I Am Eleven by Genevieve Bailey. In addition, we got to Skype with Ms. Bailey. It was three o’clock in the morning in Australia for her!

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Field Day in December? The 5th and 6th graders came out with warm cheer in chilly weather.

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DSC_5339 Gavin Zura Long Jump Field Day 12-12-14

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We ended our final week with some games. One is called Human Slide Show. Students in this generation still know what a slide projector is if you can believe it! We acted out scenes from our Wisdom Tales unit. There could be no movement, no props, and no sound. The body language says it all! This took collaboration and creative thinking all planned in 15 minutes.

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Another game we enjoy is the card game Blink. In less than five minutes, students are enhancing their active working memory and automaticity. They also learn about their own learning style. This is a fabulous way to take a brain break too. Try it! You will find it hard to stop.

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Finally, I must say again that I am so proud of the efforts, the risks, and the enthusiasm these students bring each and every day. In addition to all of this, I posted over 152 new blog posts that were written by these 6th graders about the experiences illustrated in this post. If you want to find out more about the Egyptian Harvest Festival, Hour of Code, what they have read so far this year for independent reading, or real life examples of morals, use my blog post link and click on the student blogs listed to the right. I encourage you to view blogs you haven’t read yet and comments are welcome! It’s almost like getting a real letter in the mailbox. Please remember we value the process of writing and the progress, not perfection. Reflection is important for learning too. You will see just that if you look at one of the first blog posts compared to more recent ones.  If you haven’t read about my travels to India, now is your chance.




I Love India!

DSC_1374 Bike Rickshaw Jaipur

If you read my ‘What I Notice’ post, you are aware of the delight I take in seeing hearts all around me. I do not go looking for them, they find me. It is a reminder to be present and be conscious of what is right in front of me at any given moment. There were many hearts and much love in India, so I will share a few with you.


Cows are sacred in India. As the sun rises, the local cows go from house to house and are given the first bread of the day. This cow in Jaipur walked by our hotel each morning.

DSC_1129 Jain Temple

Jainism is an Indian religion that values nonviolence towards all living beings as well as spiritual interdependence and equality between all forms of life.  The three main principles of Jainism are Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Anekantvad (Non-Absolutism) and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness). People who follow the Jain religion have a strict diet where they will not eat anything that harms animals. Some will not eat root vegetables because small animals may be hurt while harvesting. They are also careful not to step on any insects. This heart was outside the Jain temple in Jaipur.

DSC_1745 Fence outside Flower & Veg market Jaipur

Do you see it in the barbed wire outside the flower and vegetable market in Jaipur?

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DSC_1175 Jaipur Hand Railing

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IMG_7797 Puja at Pushkar Lake

We participated in Puja at Pushkar Lake.Puja is a prayer ritual performed by Hindus to honor and worship deities or to spiritually celebrate an event. We put our rose petals in the holy water of the lake near the end of the ceremony.

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Finally, I found this woman captivating. I wish I could have asked her the story behind her heart. There is so much to love about India!

Blue Pottery in Jaipur

DSC_1181 Blue Pottery Factory Jaipur

While in Jaipur, we visited a local pottery factory that has been in operation for four generations. The color is unique to this area. You can see some of the designs and colors on the plates below.

DSC_1183 blue pottery Jaipur

India is striving to preserve the work of local artisans including pottery, block printing, miniature painting, and hand made silk or camel hair rugs. Jaipur blue pottery, made out of Egyptian paste, is glazed and low-fired. Instead of clay, the pottery is prepared by mixing quartz stone powder, powdered glass, Multani Mitti (Fuller’s Earth), borax, gum and water. Another source cites Katira Gond powder (a gum), and saaji (soda bicarbonate) as ingredients.

There are different ideas about its origin, but the blue glaze technique was possibly introduced in the 14th century. It was used to decorate mosques, tombs, and palaces. It is thought to have come to Jaipur in the 17th century where it transformed from being used in architecture to being used by potters. Some older pieces of works could be seen in Rambagh Palace in the fountains. In the 1950s, blue pottery disappeared in Jaipur. Thankfully patrons such as Kamladevi Chattopadhaya and Rajmata Gayatri Devi helped revive the craft.

Blue Pottery in Jaipur from Patti Donnelly on Vimeo.


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In the following pictures, you can see the process of shaping the clay and throwing it on the wheel.

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After watching the demonstration, we got a chance to paint our own. When there are enough pieces, the outdoor kiln is filled and the masterpieces are fired. My mug sits on my desk at school full of styluses for iPad illustrations.

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Miró Exhibit at the Nasher Museum


My own Miró using SketchbookX

Today we visited the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to learn about Miró: The Experience of Seeing exhibit highlighting the last 20 years of Miró’s work. Miró was a Catalan Spanish painter and sculptor who was born in 1893 and died on Christmas Day in 1983. His work is playful and open to interpretation. He often used primary colors in his paintings and found objects in his sculptures.

Miró is known for his Surrealism as he deliberately created work to contrast the conventional art of his time. One painting we saw today, Woman, Bird, and Star (Homage to Picasso), was interesting because of not only its composition, but because it was not perfect. There were places where the paint dripped or splattered, and we could see what looked like the pencil marks as a part of his planning. Miró enjoyed sharing the process as much as the painting. His works sell from $250,000 to $26 million dollars. Although some of his art work appears simple, he often took a very long time to plan not only what he wanted to paint but more importantly what he wanted to convey.

If you would like to know more about the exhibit, please visit


Thank You Mrs. Schwartz!

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Mrs. Schwartz was our teacher while Mrs. Donnelly was in India. There are so many things we like about her but here are our top 10 reasons:

1. She has a great personality
2. She makes everything fun
3. She tells funny stories
4. She is very patient and encouraging
5. She is enthusiastic and funny
6. She dressed up as Big Bird for Halloween
7. She is fashionable (cute boots!)
8. She really connects with people
9. She acknowledges you if you do something nice or if you go out of your way to do something
10. She is dramatic and expressive

Paper Making Factory in Jaipur

IMG_7496 paper making gift bags

Women folding gift bags in paper factory in Jaipur, India

The next time you wander in a craft store to buy glittered paper, or when you go to the store to buy a gift bag, think about where it may have come from. I know I assumed most of it was made by machine in a factory. Yes, there are machines in the factory we visited in Jaipur, however, there were also many people doing the work by hand. If you have ever made your own paper, you will find the following photos familiar.

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Paper was put through a press

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There were many beautiful colors

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Women separated the paper by hand

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Paper was put in a press and then glue was added using a template

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The paper was handed to a woman sitting on the floor where she put the glitter on one end and then pulled it up…

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It is now shimmering!

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So is she!

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We also got to see the paper being folded in to gift bags and then glued and pressed. See the video below:

Gift Bag Making Jaipur India from Patti Donnelly on Vimeo.

The Red Fort in Agra


On our third day in India we visited the Red Fort in Agra. The various buildings within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation of different cultures, which was the mark of the Mughal period. Akbar was the third Mughal emperor and. He was crowned the Mughal ruler in 1556 at the age of 14, when his father Humayan died suddenly. Akbar began the construction of this massive fort made of red sandstone on the banks of the Yamuna in 1565. The fort was ready by 1571, though additions were made up until the rule of Shahjahan, who was Akbar’s grandson. It mainly served a military purpose, but also served as a palace and court.


Walking through the different eras of residency in the fort was preceded by both anticipation infused with the longing to linger in the moment. While learning about the carvings and patterns in the walls, the ceilings, the floors, our group of quilters saw familiar quilt patterns as well as inspiration for new fabrics and quilt tops.



After arriving at the outer edge, we saw the Taj Mahal through the smokey fog in the distance.


In another room, when someone committed a crime and went before the emperor for sentencing, an elephant was called three times from the corner. If the elephant did not come and trample him, the person was considered meant to live and set free.


On our way out we saw a family of monkeys climbing the tower. They has the best view of anyone!



Happy Diwali


Diwali, also known as Deepavali and the festival of lights, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest new moon of the Hindu Calendar.



Before Diwali night, people clean and decorate their homes. They dress up in new clothes, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes. They also participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. There are fireworks, celebrating, and visiting with family and friends. A family feast includes mithai (sweets) and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali is a time where everyone comes together to honor the light in each other.