Knitting Suggestions

Rhythmic handwork is part of Oak Meadow’s coursework for grades one through three. For this post, K-8 Oak Meadow teachers teamed up to offer some suggestions and simple alternatives that will help to meet the “heart” of handwork, specifically in teaching the technique of knitting.

Meg Minehan: My suggestions are to first try finger knitting, the knitting mushroom, or the wooden knitting star. My children loved those “tools,” and the process was simple, repetitive, and soothing (just like knitting should be). ​For what it’s worth, my son Ian didn’t really take to knitting when it was initially introduced in first grade. However, he picked it up again at age nine and loved it.

Michelle Menegaz: I agree that teaching knitting as an inexperienced teacher can be challenging. I suggest offering the “pre-knitting” activities and really encourage the home teacher to find a knitter to help them, if possible. Also, Sunny’s Mittens is a great book with a story that contains knitting directions right in the events of the tale. I would read a bit of this and knit along with the story. The child would also knit along, if interested. We would read a bit, knit a bit, stop and get our knitting sorted or show what the written directions in the story meant. Very satisfying!

Lesley Arnold: I highly recommend the DVD, The Art of Knitting 4 Kids . If a tutor isn’t available for knitting, then this video is great! Be sure to also check your library, for many libraries have knitting clubs.

Leslie Daniels: Another site that I absolutely adore and share with my Oak Meadow families is called “Knitted Bliss.” It includes story books to inspire future knitters for three different age groups: ages 2-4, ages 4-6, and ages 6-9. The title of each book is a joy in itself!

Meg Minehan: Shall I Knit You a Hat is one of our favorite Christmas books for 6-9 year olds!

Andy Kilroy: My friend Clare, a long-time kindergarten teacher, loves to take yarn into her classroom and just let her kids play with the yarn – wrap it, wind it, tie bows with it, braid it, touch it – just to get the feel of fabric/yarn on their skin. Then when it comes time to knit, they already have the awareness of yarn as a material. I taught my granddaughter to finger knit (she had never done it), and she was very excited at all the possibilities that opened for her! She has also enjoyed exploring loom knitting from kits. Long live fiber arts – let’s not give up on them!

Anna Logowitz: My microschoolers got a great start by making their own knitting needles. They sanded chopsticks smooth, and then glued wooden beads to the ends: nice and simple. It gave them a sense of ownership over their work before they began knitting, which also seemed to increase their frustration tolerance!

Tips for Playing the Recorder

Music plays a very positive role in your child’s development, whether it is through listening to music, singing songs, or playing an instrument. In the first grade, Oak Meadow offers an introduction to the soprano recorder as a musical instrument to play, along with additional, more advanced tutelage offered up through the fourth grade.

The first grade curriculum introduces the recorder with the Beginning Recorder course book; the second grade curriculum follows up with Intermediate Recorder; the third grade curriculum offers advanced lessons in the Advanced Recorder course book; and the fourth grade curriculum completes the recorder coursework with Recorder Duets.

The recorder is a very old European instrument that dates all the way back to the 14th century, possibly originating in Italy. It’s an appealing and appropriate modern-day instrument for young children who are just beginning to unfold their musical abilities and potential. The recorder is also a simple and versatile instrument to learn that allows the player to practice attention and focus, to help train and develop the ear, and to further aid in reading and composing musical notation.

If you, as the home teacher, are also new to playing the recorder and feel that a guided tutorial would benefit you in teaching your child to play this instrument, I suggest watching the Recorder Basics – B A G video. The instructor in the video, Mr. Barnes, demonstrates how to hold the recorder, as well as how to play “Hot Cross Buns” with the notes B, A and G. “Hot Cross Buns” is one of the first songs introduced in Oak Meadow’s Beginning Recorder guidebook.

If your child is more advanced in playing the recorder and has already worked through all the songs in the recorder books offered in the Oak Meadow coursework, Woodstock Chimes provides a lengthy list of familiar songs to play on the recorder. Each song includes its own fingering chart, as well as words to the songs for additional singing pleasure.

As a collaborative effort, Oak Meadow’s staff offered some additional tips for helping to play the recorder:

Sarah Antel
One of the things that stuck with me from music lessons as a child was belly breathing. You can stand in front of a mirror to practice breathing. Additionally, it helps if you stand sideways so you can see your belly go in and out. You should take a deep breath through your nose and imagine you are filling a balloon in your belly and focus on filling your belly with air rather than making your chest rise. In a similar fashion, when releasing air, or breathing out, exhale through the mouth. You should focus on squeezing all of the air out using your stomach. Your chest should not be moving at all. Looking sideways in the mirror, you will see your stomach pull in. This type of breathing allows you to take a deeper breath and have a stronger sound when playing.

Lesley Arnold
Instruct your child to sit up tall (with a straight back) and toward the edge of the seat in order to take full breaths. After finding the right breath for blowing into the recorder, have your child try to imagine gently blowing on a candle flame just so it flickers, but doesn’t go out. The fingers should be curved and relaxed completely covering the holes. The left hand should always be on top! Have your child press firmly to seal the finger holes completely. Lips should cover the teeth lightly. Make sure your child separates the notes by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth or to the tip of the recorder. Clap and count the rhythm, speak, then sing the name of the notes. Then the tune is ready to be played. 

Hilary's Second Day of First Grade…

As many of us begin the new school year, we often reflect on the success (and the bumps) of the first few days/weeks. Some home teachers like to journal their thoughts as a keepsake of these special “first” days schooling their children. K-8 Oak Meadow teacher, Michelle Menegaz, did this on the second day of her daughter’s first grade school year. I hope her sharing inspires you to create your own journal or blog. 1mmenegaz
We had an impromptu Michaelmas (Michael and the Dragon battling in the heavens) celebration when rainy weather cancelled our wonderful homeschool first grade “crossing the bridge” celebration. Sigh. I need to tell you that very little of what I describe next was pre-planned. I had only thought ahead that the clothesline was straight and she could walk under it and that we would do some forms in her practice books. I think the spirit of the day just took over…
So, the next day on Michaelmas, only day 2 of school for us, my 6 and a half year old daughter and I played dragons under the clothesline as I hung up a few things. The concept in play was “the curve and the line.” She either walked a straight line under the clothesline or ran from one end to the other in a big curve – depending on whether the “dragon” (ME!) was sleeping with a straight tail or a curved tail. I used my arm as a tail in mime. If it was curved, it meant the dragon was spewing fire and she had to run in a big curve to avoid it. If it was straight, she could just walk under the line.
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Then we discovered that the pusher poles for the line, made from saplings, were actually dragon pencils (!) and we drew our lines and curves on the dirt driveway, despite the gravel.
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1111picNext we ran up to the young orchard pretending a bigger dragon was in pursuit, climbed a tree or two and checked out the different leaves of the different fruit trees. Mama dragon then told her the secret of Dragon Hill, crowned on top with the sapling arch we made for last year’s home school celebration. The secret was that if a dragon marches forcefully and in a very, very straight line right up the steep hill to the arch and goes through it, on the other side the dragon will be able to fly down the hill in large graceful curves…which is just what we did. (See the little dragon under the orange leafed tree with her wings spread wide?)
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Then homeward to practice form drawing, collecting beautiful bits of autumn color on our way. The curves were dragons (in green crayon) and the lines were their roars. Hilary had a slightly hard time bringing the bottom of the curve around enough so I told her that some of these little baby dragons like to sleep with their nose and tail pressed right up against a log. I put my finger at the end of the paper for the log and she drew the curve from the top of my finger around and down to the bottom of it. She looks proud but a bit afraid those dragonettes might bite!
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Next we made some only moderately successful gluten-free dragon bread following the story linked with Michael in the book, All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton, and Marije Rowling. Then, we went off to a riding lesson while a dear friend baked the bread at her house. During the waiting parts of the bread-making, Hilary made a beeswax dragon that lived under the bouquet of colored leaves next to the beeswax votive candle we had burning.
After the great riding lesson, (all about balance by the way), 1111111picwe met one more friend and headed up the big hill with the incredible view down the valley to make and fly kites and eat dragon bread – at least the parts the dog didn’t get into! 4 kids and three mamas. I followed instructions for a sled kite but I must say it just didn’t work well. I think homemade kites have to be very exact to fly right. The cheap boughten one with the smiling sun on it went up in an instant as they ran squealing down the hill pulling it aloft. I have never seen such pure glee, arms thrust into the air, mid-leap…laughter, adventure, trial and error, run-back-uphill-panting-and-do-it-again delight!
We stayed till dusk and raindrops began to fall, then headed home for grilled cheese dinner and a late bedtime; but what a day!
I realized that our dear wee first graders had indeed stood at the hilltop viewing the road before them, raced on ahead alone, faced a challenge and were headed over that bridge to their next journey of childhood. This was exactly what we had been trying to plan for a formal celebration, which is turns out we didn’t even need!

May the spirit move us always in such simple yet deep ways…

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Summer Reading!

Throughout each grade level, Oak Meadow offers a wonderful supply of classics and other cherished books for you and your children to read throughout the school year. However, free reading should also be encouraged during the summer months. Do you need some summer reading ideas? Here’s a good reading list provided by Common Sense Media. This site also provides a section on Wonderful Wordless Books that offers a list of “wordless books” you might like to share with your children. They are perfect for using as story writing prompts, too.
1Summer-Reading-Image-2014The Bookworm for Younger Kids booklist for June is also available to peruse for good reading materials. However, if you would like to subscribe for each month’s group of booklists, you can sign up for free by visiting the Bookworm for Kids official website.
 

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

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Tissue Paper Butterflies

Fly, fly butterfly.

Whither lies your way?

I fly to the sun

On this lovely spring day.

Fly, fly butterfly.

With wings of colored hue.

From the sun please bring us

A message or two.

Author unknown

I have discovered that watching butterflies is a delight at any age. I am in awe as I watch the butterflies emerge from their winter sleep or return home from their long migration. Butterfly watching is fast becoming a popular hobby. Did you know there are more than 650 species of these colorful winged insects in the U.S. alone? Did you know that people who study them are called lepidopterists?
1monarch-butterfly-on-flower-AWIN0908052-08Butterfly conservatories are a great way to observe many different species of butterflies, but most of you don’t even have to leave your backyard before you’ll notice them flitting about. If you are enthusiastic about attracting even more butterflies, you can plant particular varieties of flowers, such as Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Zinnia, Bergamot, Day Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, and Purple Coneflower, as well as herbs like Tansy, Garlic, and Chives.
1519fg78jCuL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Oak Meadow’s science courses in grades k-4 include various studies of the butterfly. In addition to the suggested lesson activities, you might include a guidebook, such as Robert Michael Pyle’s book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Or perhaps you would enjoy sharing a butterfly story, such as Alan Madison’s Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly or Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Bruce Coville’s The Prince of Butterflies.
If it’s a rainy day, and no butterflies can be observed, you and your children might like to try your hand at making your own tissue paper “flutter-by”. You can make one that looks like your favorite butterfly, or you can create your own colorful design. Once you are finished, you can hang them altogether in a gentle breeze as a butterfly mobile, or you can hang them individually on a stick and fly them about.
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Here are some very easy instructions:

  1. Cut at least two sheets of brightly colored tissue paper into 4” by 4” squares.
  2. Stack the squares on top of each other, fold in half and cut into the share of a butterfly’s wings.
  3. Fold a pipe cleaner in half and slide the tissue paper between the pipe cleaners, gathering the tissue paper a little if you like.
  4. Form the feelers and the tail by twisting the pipe cleaners at each end.

The Art of Language

Andy Kilroy, one of Oak Meadow’s outstanding k-8 teachers, strongly believes in instilling a love of education in our children. She values the art of language, which is so nicely portrayed in the following essay she composed…
151rTvb9VIfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As a teacher who spent most of her professional life in a classroom, my transition to teaching home schooled children has been a joyous realization that there is more to education than memorization, standardized tests and adherence to educational systems that stress conformity and rules. As a mother of five and grandmother of six, I have long realized that sometimes the best sense is nonsense, and that concept is richly illustrated in the pages of a childhood favorite, Winnie-the-Pooh. In today’s stressful and results-oriented world, it is often refreshing to take a step back and look at the value of using language as Pooh Bear does, not to convey specific and important information, but as a means of expression and creativity.
1WinniethepoohYoung children, just learning the joys of reading and language are often charmingly serious. They want to get “it” right, whatever “it” might be on that particular day. They learn that the marks on paper are words and that words have specific meanings, and that to express themselves in the big, wide world, they need to master this difficult thing called “language.” They want to be understood in the world into which they are so earnestly seeking entry. How then do they react when confronted with the fanciful use of language used by Winnie and his delightful friends? Who says words like “heffalump” and “hunny”? Who writes poems, called “hums,” that have a refrain of “Tiddly Pom?” Who speaks of someone who is feeling a bit pessimistic as being “eeyorish”? Winnie does, that is who, and although Pooh is a bear of very little brain, according to Rabbit, he is loved by all for his down to earth good sense and loving nature. Generations of children, and adults, have found great joy in their association with Pooh, who humbly accepts his limitations in the brain department and finds it no great bar to understanding and expressing himself to the world around him, although at times he has to resort to very creative language use to explain his ideas:
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it,” says Winnie!
1tumblr_m49slrKbBa1rwrcuso1_500What a wonderful word is “thingish” as it so perfectly expresses that ineffable “something” that we often can’t find words to express. “Thingish” finds resonance with listeners who have frequently experienced the lack of the perfect word to express their ideas. I submit that “thingish” is the perfect word in some situations to clearly convey the precise meaning of the imprecision of our thoughts! Who among us has not experienced the need for a perfect word, but in our anxiety to achieve precision of language has given up the quest and settled with the inadequate phrase, “Oh, you know what I mean?” How much better to invent a word that conveys exactly what we are thinking? This longing for the right word must be so much more pronounced for our little ones who are just learning language, but who also have important ideas to convey! The idea that, for the youngest among us, this can be a frustrating process, and is best expressed in the immortal words of Pooh Bear:
“My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”
1477d7297a60b5ba057228c41e7bbc9c0So, my plea is to encourage our little learners to see language as an imprecise art form that has life and can adapt, even if their spelling “wobbles”. One has to look no further than the pages of a variety of children’s books to see that our language is alive and well and is in the process of adapting and changing to suit the needs of those who wield that language. It is important we all understand that language is for our use and need not constrain us or rob us of our authentic voice. This is even truer for children as they begin to navigate the world of reading and writing. Encourage them to embrace their ability to use language to perfectly express themselves, even if this expression takes the form of creative words they craft to express their ideas with precision. In the immortal words of Maurice Sendak, a master of this process if there ever was one, “Let the wild rumpus begin!”
For those who would like to learn more about the language of Pooh, there is a wonderful blog post on the Oxford Dictionary web page at: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/11/winnie-the-pooh/
 
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Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring – Part 2

Here is Part 2 of “Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring”, written by Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel. 

Into the Forest

The forest is a place where the spring awakening can be observed and experienced. It is often in the forest that magic can happen. Your child can experience hearing similar to that of an animal with large ears; have them close their eyes and cup their hands around their ears. They can slowly turn around and see if they hear noises they did not hear before. You could each try it and count how many sounds you each can hear.
1Mid May 2011 134A common place for many small creatures to hide is under rotting logs. If you slowly roll one over you may find a variety of insects and spiders, worms, fungi and molds, and perhaps a salamander! If you do find a larger creature like a salamander when you roll a log, set the log off the the side of where the animal is so you do not accidentally squish it. The animal will find its way back to its hiding spot. Keep in mind that salamanders are very sensitive as they breath through their skin. If you pick one up, make sure to not have lotion or bug spray on your hands. You can always rub dirt on your hands to help block the salamander from these products. 
18796358_f248You and your child can make a terrarium so observation skills can be practiced even if the weather is inclement as well as learning the invaluable skill of caring for a living organism. There are almost as many ways to make a terrarium as there are things to fill it with. One of my favorite methods is to use a quart sized canning jar.
 
Begin the collection of materials by examining the forest floor. What can each of16a01348109b26f970c016304b39c5a970d-pi you see when you look closely at the layers of soil in the woods? Scoop some of these layers up and gently lay them in the bottom of the jar. What does your child notice the next layer is in the woods heading up from the soil? Try and use materials from each layer, as is appropriate to the size of your jar, to create a miniature habitat. You can plant seedlings and moss in the soil, insects and other small creatures can be added if you do not plan on keeping the terrarium much longer than a week. Once the terrarium is complete, sprinkle some water into the jar if the soil seems dry, then spread a piece of plastic wrap over the jar top, use a rubber band or canning jar ring to hold the plastic in place, and carefully poke several small holes into the plastic wrap to allow fresh air to circulate.
Finally, you may want to build a fairy house with your child; this is a long time favorite 1b40d695e828a3993e309e9543a892a32outdoor activity that effectively explores the magical side of our surroundings. I like to use natural objects from nature. When I have built these with children, I ask them to allow plants to grow, that is, trying to not uproot a plant or use leaves that are attached to a living plant. I have had fun with students by altering the fairy house when they are gone in such a way so the child imagines that fairies or gnomes visited during the night. Two books that I have found inspiration in are, Fairy houses… Everywhere! by Barry and Tracy Kane, and Fairy Houses written and illustrated by Tracy Kane.
191VB0ZlJQyLSpring holds so many promises of new discoveries with each day. A favorite book from my childhood that I still use is the true story of a family that ventures outside the night of each full moon of the year. They wrote about what they did and the animals they saw; I highly recommend Walk When the Moon is Full by Frances Hamerstrom.  I hope you are able to take the time to slow down with your child and spend some extra moments with a discovery or question that may be found in nature.

Springtime Storybooks and Expressive Activities

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

by Lorie Hill

March roars in like a lion

So fierce,

The wind so cold,

It seems to pierce.

The month rolls on

And spring draws near,

And March goes out

Like a lamb so dear.

Have you ever heard the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” This expression describes the winds that often blow in late winter and early spring. In addition to your circle time activities, your children might find it enjoyable to roar like a lion of wind, and then be like a breeze that blows as gentle as a lamb.
You could also include the following finger play activity:

Five little children one March day (hold up five fingers)

Went for a walk just this way. (march in place)

The wind blew hard and the wind blew strong (wave arms above head)

As the five little children marched along. (march in place)

It turned those children around in the street (twirl around)

Then it blew each one right off their feet! (tumble down)

ArrivalOfSpring-smAsk your children how the weather changes in spring. In my area, spring weather usually means windy days and lots of rain showers. The rain brings flowers into bloom, so we start looking for the new shoots of green. The breezy days are the best for a highflying kite, too! Ah, as I look at the window to a foot of snow on the ground, I can already imagine the smell of fresh spring air and feel the warmth from the sun. After a long winter, it’s refreshing and rejuvenating imagery!

Below you will find a thematic early elementary book list for spring. Most of these books may be found at your local public library. You can even turn it into a treasure hunt as your children try to search for the titles to these books on the shelves.
Waiting-For-Spring Stories by Bethany Roberts
Dandelion Adventures by L. Patricia Kite
It’s Spring! by Linda Glaser
My Spring Robin by Anne Rockwell
Spring is Here by Lois Lenski
The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
The Spring Equinox by Ellen Jackson
“The Sun and the WInd” – an Aesop’s Fable
Story of the Root Children by Sibylie Von Olfers
The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow
Ollie's ski tripFor those of you who are still encountering the more wintry side of spring, I highly recommend reading Elsa Beskow’s book, Ollie’s Ski Trip. It’s a delightful and imaginative picture book that involves Jack Frost, King Winter, Mrs. Thaw and Lady Spring. It’s a story that will be enjoyed by all!
 
Last but not least, in honor of the famous children’s writer and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, who was born on March 2, 1904, there must be made mention of the Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat color plus stencil book, Oh, the Things Spring Bring! Yes! May we all relish in the thoughts of the things that spring will bring!
 
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Make-It-Yourself Scratch Board

1d16a0a28745d1a0d94a7cd4673b3381cOn the coldest days of the winter season, when inclement weather keeps us inside, it’s necessary to find more indoor activities that encourage self-expression. One of my favorite artistic projects during this time of year is to make a scratch board.
 
1Scratchboard2-by-Fred-MarinInstead of creating a picture with pen and ink (or with crayons and colored pencils) on white paper, you can create a scratch board by making white lines on black paper. Scratch boards are heavy sheets of paper covered with two coats of paint: first a solid white layer, then on top of that, a solid black. You scratch into the black with a sharp point and “draw” crisp white lines into the black background. Your scratch board drawing is a reverse of your usual drawings, and it’s great fun!
 
Materials:
Crayons
White drawing paper
India Ink
A bit of soap
Paintbrush
A scratching tool, such as a bent paper clip or a nail
Directions:
1. Color a thick layer of white crayon all over your drawing paper.
2. Brush a coat of India ink over the crayon. A bit of soap added to the paintbrush helps the ink stick to the waxy crayon. Cover the crayon completely with a solid layer of black.
3. Let the ink dry overnight.
4. Scratch a drawing into the black ink. The crayon below the black shows through.
 
If you wish to make a rainbow scratch board, color with many different crayons in a bright rainbow pattern before inking your scratchboard. Your scratch art will be multicolored!
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Animals in Love!

Oak Meadow’s science curriculum in grades k-4 offer blocks of animal study. Did you know that some animals have a natural and innate ability to share love with each other? As we find ourselves nearing the special holiday of love, Valentine’s Day, here are some fun facts about animals in LOVE!
What animals kiss? Snails do. So do many fish. One fish, known as the “kissing gourami”, has been observed kissing for as long as 25 minutes! Manatees hug one another and kiss, too.
What animal brings gifts to his sweetheart? Male spiders offer the female delicacies, such as a fly wrapped in a web. This is done for self-preservation in that the present keeps the female’s attention long enough to give the male time to get away before the female tries to eat him.
How to elephants show affection? They wrap their trunks around each other and swish their tails back and forth.
How to elephants fend off unwanted romantic advances? WIth a slap of the trunk.
What is the most family-oriented animal? The wolf. Wolves usually mate for life, and they even make a point of controlling their population! Generally, a “pack” of wolves consists of a father, mother and their offspring. Only two in each pack mate, but older brothers and sisters all help raise the newborn.
Which animal is best at playing hard to get? The lady porcupine who, if not interseted, will threaten the male by raising her quills!
Which are the least romantic animals? Zebras, wild horses and the male orangutan (who is a real brute).
Which animals are most romantic? Gorillas, elephants and lions all show affection and are very tender lovers to their mates.
If you are interested in some concrete evidence of animals sharing affection, I think you will love viewing the BuzzFeed Community’s selection of “40 Photos of Animals in Love“.
Also, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to read last year’s Heart of the Meadow blog post on “Personal Visions for Valentine’s Day“, I encourage you to take a moment to read and reflect on the special love that you share with your children and all those you love.
1Paws-for-the-News-picture-of-parrots-in-love-www.pawsforthenews.tv_

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