Tuesday, April 30, 2013

By the Pond for Preschoolers - Part 2

Do you spend time by the pond? I feel like "by the pond" is such a classic theme. Something I find in a lot of curriculum books and would find in lots of schools if I went on a tour. Of course, if there are no ponds around your area, this thematic is highly adaptable to a river as well. So go ahead and check out what we did last week with our pond mini-unit/river! :)

Play Dough Pond
Art & Fine Motor : The Play Dough Pond

At first sight, this mere pond looks like a simple play dough activity but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Of course, the pond itself was rather easy for Adrian to make as he simply had to "smash" blue play dough on the table, somewhat shape it like a circle and all but then, he had to get to work on the lilypads which were a bit more difficult to shape as they were to be smaller. To give them their distinctive shape, Adrian used our playdough scissors. On top of the lilypad, he made water lillies for which he rolled small pink play dough balls. That was difficult for him. The cattails were something he quite enjoyed making though. We used toothpicks and I showed him how to make the first one and then he was off to do the rest, simply rolling brown play dough on the tip of the toothpicks (at first, he had simply stuck them in the pond so I had him think of how to make them fluffier on the ends). Adrian also added some river rocks and pond animals from our Safari Pets Toob to decorate the pond he created and finally, he "chopped" some "wood logs" using brown play dough and play dough scissors. He loved that part. Overall, making this pond was one of his favorite activities this week. I think it's partly because Adrian loves play dough but usually doesn't quite know what to do with the dough. When given a project and ideas, then, he's off to work on it and is so proud of the results.

Fish Suction Marbles
Fine Motor/Practical Life: Fish carrying Fish Eggs

Another nice fine motor activity we enjoyed this week was this bath suction pad and marble "kit". Adrian simply had to balance a marble on top of each suction cup using his fingers and that was it. It was extremely easy for him so next time I pull one of these mats out, we'll be using tongs with the marbles or something otherwise, this suction mat activity will have to be only for fun. Not one bit challenging.

Turtle Egg Cartons Craft
Art: Turtle Craft - made with an egg carton

As a pre-planned craft this week, we enjoyed this egg carton turtle. I pre-cut an egg carton piece for Adrian and I and we painted the "shell" one day and let it dry overnight. We also glued the eyes with washable glue that day on the pompom. The next day, we finished our turtles. I poked holes in the egg cartons and we inserted green pipe cleaners from side to side. We then folded them onto themselves. Finally, the head was glued on. Adrian liked making this turtle. He didn't really like getting his fingers green with paint and had a bit of trouble inserting the fuzzy sticks into the small holes but loved the finished turtle. He was very proud of his work. This delightful little reptile was first "made" by Allison's children at Train up a Child, who did theirs with a brown shell. Loved it in brown but we had no brown paint so I figured we'd try making an all green turtle instead of mixing colors again.

Frog Nomenclature Booklet
Language - Frog booklet and Frog 3-part cards

We hadn't studied the frog that much yet. The life cycle yes, but not the parts of the frog so this was our occasion. I printed a booklet and 3-part cards and we proceeded. I got all this material for free from Montessori Print Shop (told you I was addicted lately!). They also have a free frog matching game if you are interested! :)

Turtle Pattern BlocksDuck Pattern Blocks
Butterfly Pattern Blocks

Math - Pond Pattern Blocks

Following last week's huge success with the foam patterning blocks, I went ahead and presented Adrian with "pond themed" patterns this week. He was super excited and couldn't wait to try them out. Just like last week, he picked a sheet on which a pattern was printed (got mine for free from Prekinders) and he would then pick the foam blocks (I pre-cut those from foam sheets) needed and built the pattern by looking at the sheet; not on the sheet. I am showcasing three pictures but he also did a fish and insisted on getting last week's patterns out as well... :)

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Monday, April 29, 2013

By the Pond for Preschoolers - Part 1

"By the Pond" is a wonderful theme to explore. Have you held a week on the topic yet? If not, I truly hope this will inspire you to do so; especially if you live...by a pond! :)

Polka Dots Mushrooms
Math & Outdoor Play : Polka Dot Mushroom Hunting

Well the polka dot mushrooms are out again. When I take time to make something like this, I make sure to use it over and over again as you can see! :) These polka dot mushrooms were originally purchased on Etsy.com from a seller who sold them as natural unpainted drawer pull knobs. They were already sanded and ready for painting so I simply painted them red with white polka dots. I numbered them 0-10 because back when I first made them, Adrian was only 3 years old but they are still fun to have around. Every time he sees them, it's the first thing he goes for. I usually hide them in the yard for him to find with a basket. Gives us a reason to get outdoors and do math at the same time. Sometimes I let him find them in whichever order, sometimes I "spy" a certain number, other times, he must find them in order from 0 to 10. When Adrian is ready, I'll set them out to practice oral addition and subtraction. He could then find the mushroom corresponding to the sum of 2 + 2 and so forth.

Snail in the yard
One of our snails in the front yard; we have at least a dozen roaming about in the morning

Play Dough Snails
The afternoon snails: made with play dough! :)

Adrian loves watching the snails in the grass in the morning. He knows they'll be gone by the time he is back from German school. He's picked some up before too but has since been told he probably shouldn't as snails prefer to go their own way...As such, I thought we'd make some play dough snails. There are plenty of snails by our local pond so it fitted our theme perfectly. We used colorful play dough, goggly eyes and small nails for antennae. Since the weather was nice, we made them outside and sat them in the grass for a quick picture when we were done. Adrian loved the activity so much that he asked for many colors of dough. I kind of wish he would have rolled his dough as well as he usually does instead of running to get more colors but the excitement got to him I guess! :)

Sink or Float Pond Edition
Sink or Float: Pond Edition

Having gathered some natural objects we once again did a "sink or float?" activity. This time, prior to having the items put into the water, I asked Adrian to separated them into two groups: the ones he thought would float and the ones he thought would sink. He actually thought pretty much everything would sink so it was fun to see his reaction when they were put in the water bowl. Later, Adrian went around the yard and tried to found more objects to try out. He tried very hard to find other items that would sink since we had only one (the river rock).

Life Cycle of a Frog
Life Cycle of a Frog

I actually wanted to use one of those little kits they sell to illustrate the life cycle of the frog but it would not have been here on time so I settled with the cards. I got mine for free at The Helpful Garden. If you haven't visited that blog yet, it's a great resource with lots of free materials for Montessori educators. You'll also find the 3-part cards of the life cycle there.

Theraputty Frog Spawn Exercise
Frog Spawn (goggly eyes) Stuck in a bed of Mud (Theraputty)

After having studied the frog's life cycle, Adrian remarked that the spawn looked like eyes. I had to agree, especially knowing I had prepared a little bowl filled with goggly eyes and Theraputty to represent frog spawn stuck in the mud! The idea was the strengthen Adrian's fine motor with the theraputty whilst linking it in with our pond theme. Besides, Adrian had been asking for weeks whether we'd be using the Theraputty in school again soon. He just loves working with it. Theraputty is a bit like Silly Putty but it comes in different strengths and is used by occupational therapists to strengthened fingers and hands. For this activity, I hid the goggly eyes in the putty and Adrian simply had to pull them out which seems very easy but isn't since the putty sticks to the eyes and surrounds them. Adrian loved the activity. We also did the variants below.

Theraputty Frog Spawn
Another version of the spawn in the mud

This time, I spread the theraputty on the table and hid the goggly eyes in it, pushing in and almost completely covering half of them in the theraputty. It was a lot more challenging to get them out this time but Adrian still managed to pull them out and loved the extra challenge. His fine motors most definitely got a work out on that one.

Theraputty Frogspawn Self
Adrian hiding and finding the frog spawn in the mud by himself

Eventually, I let Adrian hide the goggly eyes himself and pull them out himself as well. This activity was thus a progressive one that completely involved him.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring for Preschoolers - Part 2

The warmer temperatures and the sun shining nearly everyday are two big reminders that the school year is slowly but surely coming to an end. I am now multitasking (one of my favorite things) Adrian's current school curriculum with Zahavah's school themes for next year and thinking of Adrian's schooling situation for next school year. Overall, I do expect him to be home schooled a bit less as I plan on having him remain in German school longer (everyday, and including part of the afternoon) but my posts will still feature him (simply not as much; we'll see how much he wants to do). I do believe Zahavah will be featured a lot more in my posts come next school year though, so if you have a toddler,  you'll be delighted! :)

Planting silk flowers playdough
Planting "Silk" Baby's Breath Flowers into Playdough

Although I've seen this activity done here and there and with multiple variations, I remember the day I first saw it on Counting Coconuts as it it were yesterday. I so badly wanted Adrian to do it right away. Unfortunately, that didn't happen until now (1.5 year later) but look at the results! Well worth the wait, wouldn't you say? Picked up fake baby's breath flowers and clay pot at our local hardware store and set out the chocolate scented Tutti Frutti playdough we had on hand for the "soil". Adrian planted the flowers carefully and overall liked the activity but didn't go bonkers over it. I still consider it was a nice practice for when we step out and plant real flowers! :)

Play dough planting flowers
Before Adrian planted the Baby's Breath Flowers

Flower 3 part cards
Botany: Parts of a Flower

I looked long and large for free three parts cards on flowers and finally found some to my liking! :) I actually found LOTS of things to my liking at The Helpful Garden. If you like the Montessori Method and like freebies, you'll LOVE that blog as much as do. Anyhow, that's where I downloaded the cards from. The language for the flower is difficult so I brought in a real flower from our yard to make it more "concrete".

Flower Buttoning Board
Practical Life: Buttoning Flowers/Petals onto "Pistils" Buttons

Buttoning and unbuttoning is part of life but it's still a bit of a struggle for Adrian so I prepared a soft felt sheet with three different sizes of flower buttons. I then prepared three different kinds of flowers to button and unbutton over the "pistil". He had no trouble whatsoever with that "board". Must have made it too easy... :)

Tulip clip cards
Spring Flowers Clip Cards - Math & Fine Motor

One week that I linked up my post to another, I saw these beautiful Spring themed clip cards made by The Measured Mom. Couldn't resist getting my own set. They range from 0 to 20 so it was a great for my preschooler. Get your own set here and check out her other printables. She's got lots great stuff. I've already put aside some ladybug sheets for my bugs unit later this summer! :)

Matching baby mommy animals
Spring Babies - Matching animal babies and mommies

Springtime is "baby time" for lots of animals. I am pretty sure Adrian matched farm animal babies and mommies earlier this year so I was looking for different animals this time. As it turns out 1+1+1=1 has a pretty big pack that includes farm animals as well as pets and zoo animals (labels included too!). I included all of them in our matching activity and it was great fun. Some were actually not that easy for Adrian (the duckling and chick can be tricky) but most were obvious to him. Ah...I guess he's getting older and ready to move on to tougher activities now! :(

Vivaldi Info Sheet
Music: Composer of the Month - Vivaldi

April's Composer of the Month for us is Antonio Vivaldi. Having composed the most famous "Spring", I thought it'd be most appropriate. We talked a bit about Vivaldi first (check out Making Music Fun for a bit of information) and then, listened to "Spring" and "Summer" (why not?) while crafting. It was most enjoyable. I love classical music and Vivaldi is such light and playful music. I'm still trying to figure out "what to do" with our Composer of the Month. I feel like it should be better incorporated/heard more. Something I'll look into this summer while we're "on break". For now, I'm just happy I remember to add a composer every month! ;)

Flower Path
Flower Path - Getting a hold of our Pencil  Grip

A quick filler activity printed from 3Dinosaurs's Spring Pack; a Flower Path. There are several paths in the pack, I just picked this one. Just thought we'd get Adrian to work with his Grotto Grip again. :)

Moveable Alphabet Exercise
Moveable Alphabet Exercise...Not at all Spring Related but out this week anyway...

I've been doing quite a bit of shopping with the Montessori Print Shop lately. My latest acquisition is this series of Wooden Alphabet Cards (bought all three packs). We went through the entire first pack this week (90 cards!) and Adrian LOVED them. I must say from my point of view, the investment was well worth it. It was not expensive at all considering the work it would have taken for me to make these cards. I wished it came in "small" wooden alphabet version but since it didn't, I simply scaled the cards down to 80% and it fitted our small alphabet like it should.  It took no time so it's really not a problem if you have a small wooden alphabet like we do and want to purchase these cards as well. My only "complaint" is not even a complaint; some pictures were "difficult". It simply didn't come naturally to Adrian to think of "gas" upon seeing a "gas station tank" for example. I had to prompt him into getting the word out. I thought of it as a "language enrichment" activity as well...

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring for Preschoolers - Part 1

If you happen to live in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring has officially arrived now but has it shown any "real" signs yet in your area? It was a very slow start for us here in Germany but last week was the first week where we actually got to enjoy sun, warmth AND beautiful blooms all at once. An absolutely perfect week to host our Spring themed week for Adrian, 4.5 years old.

Cherry Blossom Spring Craft
Cherry Blossom Craft

Aren't cherry blossom trees just magnificent? I know they have already gone through their peak in many places but ours hasn't even started blooming yet. *sigh* I had to remind Adrian of how beautiful our tree was last year and show him pictures before we started this craft to inspire him. To make this, you'll need black paint (we used washable tempera), straw, liquid glue (we used washable glue), and two tones of pink silk paper cut in small strips. Although I came up with the idea of having Adrian do a cherry blossom craft myself, the technique itself was borrowed from Meet the Dubiens with a little twist. They blowed the paint on their paper to make the tree trunk and branches and well, Adrian couldn't really get good shapes with the blowing so instead, I showed him how to paint with the straw. As for the rest, he crumpled the silk paper strips and dipped them in glue once the tree was dry and glued them on the branches.

Pot Pourri Smelling Matching
"Pot Pourri" Smelling Pouches

Spring always had a special smell to me. Maybe it's because of Spring cleaning or maybe it's because of the flowers. I'm not sure but I thought it'd be nice to bring in some olfactory activity in for the Spring week. I quickly picked the scent of lavender, lemon and orange to represent Spring. At my local Bargain store, I found a small bottle of lavender oil, then I had some lemon extract on hand and an orange I could use some peel for a good scent. The pouches were actually something I also had. They are spice bags for making bouquet garni. They can be washed after use so they were perfect. To assemble the bags, I put a few drops of oil/extract on one cotton pad and put it in the bag. As for the orange, I grated the peel and put it on the pad making sure there was enough to get a smell. I made two bags of each so they could be matched. Adrian sniffed one bag at a time and then tried to find its counterpart. He eventually had them all matched successfully. I personally chose not to put more than three bags out. I feel like sniffing any more than 3 can make things overwhelming for the nose. 

Pot Pourri Smelling Activity
Smelling Pouches Preparation

Tulip phonogram
Tulip Phonograms - Looking for the Intruder

Phonograms were quite popular for Easter so I brought them back for Spring with this cute tulip mat. It could obviously be done with any word family but I went with "at". I made all the combinations I could think of and then added one that did not exist. Adrian's task was to create the words and read them along. I told him he'd find one flower that did not represent a real word and he'd have to find out which. After trying all the flowers, he proudly handed me the flower "j". I am one proud mama. Original tulip mat idea: Little Family Fun.

Spring flower nomenclature
Spring Flower Nomenclature

Fresh off the presses are my Spring Flower Nomenclature cards including mostly what you'll currently find in our backyard (or what you will soon find anyway) As usual, some cards are not pictured. My goal was for Adrian to know the names of the most common Spring flowers but also to know the names of the ones that grow in our our yard.

Our backyard Crocus! :)

Spring Cleaning Preschooler
Spring Cleaning

I had not intended for Adrian to do any Spring cleaning around the flowers actually but as it turns out, Adrian desperately wanted to get rid of the cobwebs in the trees and on the fence prior to completing any flower picking required for our next activity...I really had brought out the broom only for our garden house porch sweeping activity as part of our practical life tasks "classified" under "Spring cleaning" (along with painting the fence with water)! :)

Matching Spring Flowers
Matching flower cards and flowers + counting petals

Once Adrian was finished with the never-ending cobwebs removal, he quickly picked one specimen of each flower found in our yard. These were brought inside for identification. All our cards were spread on the table for Adrian to match flowers with the cards. As you can see, last week, we had some crocus in a variety of colors, some snowdrops and some scillas. Since then, snowflakes appeared, daffodils, and bluebells. Our tulips and hyacinth are slowly but surely under way...

Butterfly Foam Pattern BlocksFlower Foam Pattern BlockCaterpillar Foam Pattern Blocks
Spring block patterning

A beloved activity this week was this block patterning activity. I printed a few templates at Prekinders and cut out from foam sheets the needed shapes to make two different types of flowers, this caterpillar and butterfly. Adrian chose one of the templates and simply had to reproduce the  flower or bug he picked with the foam shapes. Adrian loved it so much that I'll be printing more templates for next week based on our "By the Pond" unit...

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Earth Day for Preschoolers - Part 3

When I sat down to prepare some activities for Earth Day week, I was afraid I might not have enough for the week but can you believe I actually prepared "Types of Pollution" Nomenclature cards that Adrian and I did not have a chance to go over during Earth Day Week? I guess there was a lot more to do than I thought.  One thing is sure, Earth Day or not, you know what they say, "Everyday should be Earth Day" so maybe I'll pull them out later... :)

Pinwills Wind Farm
Homemade Wind Farm

I bought these cute (and working) toothpick pinwheels two years ago. I thought I'd use them during a summer themed week but thought again when weather week dropped by. In the end, I couldn't think of how to use them but knew exactly how to if it came to Earth Day week: make a wind farm. Using a thick styrofoam board I had kept from packaging, Adrian would simply poke them in so they wouldn't touch one another, in neat rows, and blow on them to see if his farm worked. And it did! He might not remember but he was born in Denmark, one of the leading countries in terms of offshore wind farms and he saw them daily on our walks by the sea.

Earth Day Clay Turtle Coral
Endangered Species : Clay Sea turtle in Coral Reef

I really had planned on spending more time talking about endangered species and showing pictures of them but time went by fast. And we did do a lot of talking too. And we did see a lot of cards too. So...I thought we'd talk and craft a bit instead. My goal was to introduce clay this week. Clay is natural and comes from Earth so it was a perfect timing for this. I would have loved to find a source of clay here but did not so I bought a tub from Crayola instead. Then, I told Adrian we'd make a sea turtle (one of the simplest animals to make in my mind) with the clay. He tried pretty hard to model his after mine (see his on the right) but gave up after it broke up and just rolled the rest of the clay. While we worked the clay, we talked about how clay felt and how it came from Earth but also about endangered species. We let the clay projects dry for 3 days and painted them then. Adrian decided that his should all be blue. I told him it reminded me of coral. He liked the idea and made my sea turtle "swim" through it all.

Clay Animals
Clay Project before painting

Yogurt Cup Sorting Pompoms count
Yogurt Cup & Pompom Counters

I don't know about your children but mine are avid yogurt eaters in the morning. Zahavah eats a great color combo of Danone's/Danon's children's yogurt while Adrian sticks to yellows and oranges. In no time, I had accumulated a nice set of colorful cups for my Earth Day cups and counters. I used small pompoms for counters and for number markers, the back of a cereal box cut to pieces. Of course, these tiny cups won't contain much but they were still challenging because they were so small and light. If I remember right, these are called Danonino pretty much worldwide except in Germany but they look the same pretty much anywhere in the world anyway...

Yogurt Cups Pyramid
Stacking Recyclable Yogurt Cups

While you've got the yogurt cups out...why not stack them into a pyramid? Or several kinds of pyramids? The idea is to play with recyclables; to reuse them in fun ways. This was definitely fun...until I saw the kids trying to do the same next morning with cups that still had yogurt in... :)

Matching Sandpaper Letters Moveable Alphabet
We finally received our Moveable Alphabet...and no this is not Earth Day Related... :)

A long while ago, I ordered from KidAdvance a small set of Moveable Alphabet. Well folks, it is here! Our first package got lost but the second made it in a timely fashion so during Earth Day week, we tested it out. I had Adrian match the moveable alphabet to the Sandpaper Letters. No trouble there. Moving on to the next Moveable Alphabet exercise in my book... :)

Masca, Sp
Masca, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, aka Paradise on Earth
MY favorite place on the planet is indeed the Canary Islands. 
Don't look for me anywhere else after I retire...that is where I'll be! :)

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Earth Day for Preschoolers - Part 2

For Earth Day week, I focused on using recyclables for my activities with Adrian. I tried to make our trays look as colorful and attractive as usual but I tried to proved to him that we could reuse some of our things he called "trash". It ended up being a whole lot of fun AND a rather inexpensive thematic! :)

Cork & Earth Push Pins
Wine corks and Earth push pins

I bought these cute push pins in the bargain sections of Michaels two years ago and believe it or not, completely forgot I even had them. :) My idea was to have Adrian use them on a cork board and pin "some pieces of paper" on with them. Unfortunately, we don't have a cork board...but we do have lots of corks! In the end, it became a fine motor activity with the small rubber pins and small corks.  Rather cute too if you ask me.

Corks and Earth Pins
Corks and Earth; a fine motor experience

ReUse Creative Thinking
Coming Up with Ideas on How to Reuse Common Objects

Ever heard of Guilford's Alternative Uses Task (part of TTCT)? I remembered reading in Psychology Today that most school-aged children were WAY less creative than they were 20 years ago and somehow I was pretty sure my kid was in that lot. Earth Day. Reusing. Let's give that task an informal "try" I thought. I presented Adrian with a newspaper we picked up while traveling. What can we do with a newspaper? I knew he'd say he could read it. I was hoping he'd find other uses. He couldn't. I suggested wrapping objects in them such as when we move. He liked the idea. We searched a bit more but he couldn't think of anything else. I didn't push. We moved on to the fork. Eating was his first answer. Then, nothing. I made a motion like I was combing my hair but he thought it was wrong yet funny. Even funnier was me pretending to use the fork as a launcher. The sock, to Adrian, was to be exclusively worn on his sister's foot. *sigh* No sock puppet? Really? No polishing of window or anything? Well, I guess we'll be working on creative/divergent thinking from now on... :)

Milk Caps UpperCase Lowercase
Uppercase and Lowercase Milk Caps Matching

I'm sure you've seen this before. We've just never done it before (oh the ideas I save for the sake of a theme!). Save lots of milk caps and write lowercase letters and their matching uppercase counterparts on them and have your child match them up. We're huge milk drinkers here but even two weeks did not give me that many pairs. Nevermind that...I'm still saving them for next year! :)

Giant Wall Dot-to-dot
Giant Earth Day Dot-to-Dot Mural using a Box to be Recycled

Dot-to-dots are always fun. A giant dot-to-dot? Now that is extra fun. Since our theme was Earth day, I reused a giant box I was planning on putting in our recycle bin and opened it up flat. Drew some Earth Day drawings and numbered some dots and it was ready for Adrian. I chose to tape mine on the wall because I've been reading that it helps children achieve a proper grip on their pen when it comes to writing. Anything to help! :)

Earth Globe Papier Mache
Papier Mache Earth Balloon Globe

Well this was a LONG craft for a preschooler. I intended on using a smaller balloon but Adrian insisted on using the bigger one. Umpf. Anyhow, the idea came to me from a post I had seen on Our Day Your Journey. She, like us used a balloon, covered it with squares of newspaper and homemade glue (1 cup of flour mixed with 2 cups of water), let is dry overnight and finalized with squares of blue and green silk paper the next day and a new batch of homemade glue. Using a 5" balloon would have been plenty but Adrian really wanted to use the 12" so I helped him a bit otherwise, I think we'd still be covering the balloon. :) After the balloon dried, I intended on popping the balloon so it'd "sit" but Adrian was afraid his hard work would "deflate" so I didn't but you could. The proof? His balloon fell the next day and the balloon "popped" and it is still well shaped to this day. I suggested poking small holes all over the "land" and inserting a battery operated candle inside so his Earth would look illuminated but he told me it would damage his "friend Earth". :)

Papier Mache Balloon
Craft in Progress

M√łns Klint, Denmark and its beautiful chalk cliffs on the Baltic; 
Although Adrian was born in Denmark, he never saw this magical place; He went there while in utero! 
(yes, I did hike this at 5 months pregnant...thankfully, there were stairs! :))

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