Category Archives: Curriculum

Helping Children Notice and Engage

As we begin our school year together, it’s important to teachers at LCP to encourage habits of observation and engagement in our environment.

Our outdoor time offers important beginnings. What do we see when we look up? What do we see when we look down and under? What are the properties of the natural materials we have available on the playground – sand, water, mud, grass, or stones? Where are the best running spaces? Where can we see and play with our shadows? How does it feel to be under a cherry tree? If we use chalk or other materials to represent our ideas and create, do they change if we add water? Can we find ways to see the wind? How are the leaves that are falling from the trees the same and different? Can we find seeds? What’s growing in our gardens? How can tools like our story boards and magnifiers stimulate deeper investigations?

At the beginning of our school year we are also purposeful in our support of community, connections, and collaboration. Are children investigating together and sharing their discoveries? Can we set up the environment so that children are encouraged to work together to solve problems with materials in the environment? Are there materials or tools available every day that require the participation of more than one child? How can we teachers encourage child to child helping and caring?

Today we are in the middle of our second week of school. There are so many stories and beginning connections already!

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Summer Science and Arts

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to think about summer programs!

We’re beginning the registration process for this year’s Summer Science and Arts Program (June 10 – July 18) at Learning Circle Preschool. The program runs Monday – Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.  with children coming either two days or four, bringing a lunch (peanut and hard nut  free please!) The program is conducted almost completely outdoors, except when it rains.  And the beautiful expansive playground is a cool and breezy place to play even on quite hot days.

The program features an integrated arts curriculum with a focus on the natural sciences, art, music, and creative movement – with lots of time for story-telling, drama and puppetry, too. There are small groups every day, along with time for snack, free play activities, and outdoor play and exploration. The groups are organized with each child’s experience, development, and individual styles and preferences in mind.

What does summer science look like?

There’s a way in which everything young children do is science. Using one’s senses to explore the environment, investigating how things work, expressing curiosity, asking questions, observing, and then integrating all that new information to make more, or new, sense of the world, are all central to how children learn and experience their world. Teachers can follow children’s lead, stimulate new thinking, encourage deeper considerations, offer new information and tools, suggest steps or approaches to try, and join in as children explore together.

Science might look like:

  • Open-ended and child initiated explorations of materials and space in the environment, either individually or in small groups
    • Discussions and investigations of materials, photos, or books brought to a group by teachers or children
    • Use of tools to observe the environment, and then to document those observations to share with others or to compare with other related observations from day to day
  • Questions posed to individual children or a small group with a problem to solve or a topic to consider:– Can we make waves in the water table? What is making those waves bigger?
    – What do you notice happening when we mix these ingredients in the “potion”?
    – Let’s look at how this plant is changing day by day…
    – What living things are we sharing space with when we use our playground? – How can we see the wind?
    – How can we move this ball faster (or more slowly) up or down the ramp system? – What do we know about….
  • Collecting data and noting changes using documentation or charts and graphs over time
  • Making predictions and guesses about what will happen when actions are taken

Teachers find the best topics by setting up a stimulating environment indoors and outdoors, and then engaging with children in that space, watching and listening carefully to collect information on what seem the most meaningful to children. Then we make sure the right tools and opportunities are available for children to pose questions, make predictions, observe, document, reflect, and share.

Science is everywhere!

Here are some photos from last year’s program.

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Ice and other Investigations of the Properties of Basic Materials in Nature

This year we have been even quite intentional across the whole school as we encourage on-going investigations of the properties of basic materials like sand, mud, water and ice, and to encourage children to think about changes in these and other materials over time. We’ve also been thinking about ways to make connections between our investigations indoors and outdoors.

We decided to set up an area specifically for mud play outdoors. This is very basic – two big containers with garden soil are near the sandbox along with a work surface and a variety of buckets, scoops, pans and other tools. If it’s been dry, we bring water over to the space as well – otherwise we encourage children to notice the changing texture of the soil as the weather changes.

Indoors we’ve made a point of using both kinetic (moldable) and fine sand in a variety of ways along with our classroom water tables. We’ve thought together about what we need to be able to mold sand, and children have enjoyed using a variety of tools to create shapes, sand castles and more. They have been interested in cutting kinetic sand into pieces, and have made the connection between all these materials and the natural clay we’ve introduced for art projects.

When the weather first got cold, children were excited to find ice outdoors, and there were many investigations of ice and hard sand and mud. How can we break the ice? How can we get things out of the ice? What makes ice melt? Why is the sand hard to dig hole in when the weather is cold? Each day children have been checking for signs of ice or water. Some children have been quite convinced that it is the light of the sun that makes the water. Others associate melting with warmer weather and think about how the sun brings light but also warmth. Many were unsure about where the water came from on days the ice was gone, and one child said “The sun came and made all the ice go away up into the clouds! I don’t know where the water came from.”

On another very cold day children excited to discover that in a bucket of ice, they could seeing mud and water moving under the ice! How could that happen? Why is it that when we try to reach the water we only feel the hard cold ice?

One day a small bucket was frozen inside of a bigger bucket. Children pulled and pulled until one child pulled it out, and found he had a circular piece of ice with a hole n it where the bucket had been!

Indoors there have been many ways we have investigated ice. We froze a variety of plastic animals into containers of ice and children worked to “free” the animals, concerned for their ability to get pretend food and care for their babies. We used shape molds to create 3 dimensional shapes of ice at our light tables, noticing how long it took before water was on the table too, and noticing which shapes could spin or slide best as they melted. We added liquid watercolors to the molds so that we could better see ice crystals form and other textural changes in the shapes as the ice melted, and enjoy he resulting “rainbow puddles” that formed as the ice melted. We froze paint in ice cube trays so that we could paint with ice as it melted.

Outdoors, we’ve been investigating plants, including a pumpkin, over time and children have been fascinated watching the changes in texture as time passed and as the weather changed. Our pumpkin went from a hard shell, to a soft, flat one, to a frozen disc that was softer or harder depending on the weather. We are still watching as it breaks into smaller pieces.

We’ve encouraged children to share their theories about what they are observing, and this led to small group discussions when children devised some experiments to check their theories. In one class, where some children have been convinced that it is light not warmth that leads to melting, children suggested 2 different experiments which we tried:

– Take 2 shapes, and pour warm water on one and cold water on the other. Would using warm water melt more of the ice than using cold?

– If we left our light table on all day (instead of turning off the light when no one was using it as is our habit) would the ice melt faster from the light?

All this science requires is access to some very basic materials indoors and out, time to observe, a willingness for adults to listen and then encourage further questions, and enthusiastic investigation!

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Play, Projects and Curriculum

At LCP, we believe that children learn best in a playful joyful environment having a wide variety of opportunities for hands on, concrete learning and engagement with materials that are personally meaningful to the children.

We teacher’s experience and knowledge of development guides curriculum, and the curriculum is different from year to year, reflecting the diversity of interests, learning styles, strengths and challenges of the particular children in the group. We seek to prepare a rich and stimulating environment with many possibilities and open-ended materials. We then observe and listen carefully to the children, and make classroom decisions in partnership with the children.

Teachers are also partners in learning with the children, and model the curiosity, research and documentation skills, ability to ask questions, and engagement over time, that are features of deep learning. Diverse experiences, learning styles, and interests are all valued as children and teachers cooperate together to create a “community of learners”.

Documentation of children’s work, of plants or other elements from nature, of classroom collections are at both child and adult level whenever possible. Why do we document? As children and teachers get to know each other, ideas for curriculum unfold and develop. Curriculum includes everything that happens in our program – from finding a cubby for the first time, exploring a new space, getting to know new people, learning a new skill, to investigating a theme or project together. Documentation gives us a way to organize our thinking about what happens, gives us something to show the children to trigger memories and conversation about our time together, and gives us a way to share experiences with parents, who are looking for a “window” into their child’s experience and are often looking for ways to deepen their understanding of learning and teaching in early childhood.

We keep this documentation available over extended periods of time, so that children can share memories of common experiences, deepen their understandings, share perspectives, and re-visit experiences.

There are unlimited paths that can be taken to develop skills. It’s important that we join children “where they are” to establish trust, and to assure that children know they will be listened to and appreciated for their unique qualities and contributions, and so that we can encourage each child as they “learn how to learn”.

Projects can provide a structure through which children can share perspectives on a common theme and learn together. Projects include opportunities to discuss, revisit ideas or common experiences, research an area of interest, develop skills, develop theories or solve an intellectual problem. They can last a day or several months, and may involve the whole class or a small group of children who share a common interest.

Projects typically are begun by teachers based on observations of the children’s interests, and have three parts:
1. First, there is discussion. Children talk about what they already know, what they are interested in, and may identify questions they would like to answer about the topic.
2. The second phase of the project may include activities, opportunities to research the topic, opportunities to talk with “experts” or participate in presentations about the topic.
3. Projects typically end with a culminating event or product that brings closure to the shared experience. This could be a presentation for family, making a book or participating in a performance, or deciding how to share information about the project to another class or to other teachers. Children typically help decide the best way to represent their new knowledge about the topic, and participate in evaluating the experience as well as their participation.

Project questions might include:
What do we know already?
What would we like to find out?
How will we find out?
How will we document or show what we are learning?
How can we share our new knowledge and our work with others?
How did it go? How do we feel about our work?

What projects will develop in our classrooms this year? We are in our first few weeks of school but already have beginnings.

Project Beginnings about our Gardens, Plants, and Seeds
As children investigated our playground gardens his fall, they discovered the wide variety of seeds and are beginning to think more about how plants change and grow. We found seeds together outdoors, planted seeds indoors to watch for changes, look for seeds as we cook with vegetables through our early sprouts curriculum, and recently opened a pumpkin to see and feel what’s inside.

Teachers imagine that this beginning may develop into an on-going investigation of seasonal changes on the playground.

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Volcano Project in the Nuthatch Class
Many children expressed a strong interest in volcanoes in the nuthatch class and teachers followed their lead, offering opportunities for children to draw what they know, research books and photos, and opportunities to create three dimensional volcanoes.

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Ocean Project in the Chickadee Class
After reading a classroom book called An Ocean of Animals children directly asked for more time to talk about “the deep deep ocean”. Teachers asked children to describe more about what they were interested in, and created a board with their questions. Then teachers asked “what would we do?” Children asked to draw, paint, create ocean scenes representing the variety of zones they are interested in, and make a variety of animals out of clay. The documentation of this planning process is posted in the classroom so that children can continue to express their interests as we begin.

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Water Project in the Goldfinch Class
Children asked the question, “Where does water come from?” on a rainy day. This led to beginning discussions of water and rain. After drawing their theories, teachers introduced a book called All the Water in the World.

In another discussion, one child asked about the word absorption and children shared their ideas. Follow up investigations have been on-going in the water table, where a variety of materials have been available to explore absorption. Children also used liquid watercolors on paper towels as an extension of this investigation.

Conversations about water then led some children to questions about sinking and floating, an investigation at the water table currently in process.

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Science

We’re beginning the registration process for this year’s Summer Science and Arts Program (June 11 – July 19) at Learning Circle Preschool. The summer program features an integrated science and arts curriculum. What does summer science look like?

There’s a way in which everything young children do is science. Using one’s senses to explore the environment, investigating how things work, expressing curiosity, asking questions, observing, and then integrating all that new information to make more, or new, sense of the world, are all central to how children learn and experience their world. Teachers can follow children’s lead, stimulate new thinking, encourage deeper considerations, offer new information and tools, suggest steps or approaches to try, and join in as children explore together.

Science might look like:

• Open-ended and child initiated explorations of materials and space in the environment, either individually or in small groups
• Discussions and investigations of materials, photos, or books brought to a group by teachers or children
• Use of tools to observe the environment, and then to document those observations to share with others or to compare with other related observations from day to day• Questions posed to individual children or a small group with a problem to solve or a topic to consider:

– Can we make waves in the water table? What is making those waves bigger?
– What do you notice happening when we mix these ingredients in the “potion”?
– Let’s look at how this plant is changing day by day…
– What living things are we sharing space with when we use our playground? – How can we see the wind?
– How can we move this ball faster (or more slowly) up or down the ramp system? – What do we know about….

• Collecting data and noting changes using documentation or charts and graphs over time
• Making predictions and guesses about what will happen when actions are taken

Teachers find the best topics by setting up a stimulating environment indoors and outdoors, and then engaging with children in that space, watching and listening carefully to collect information on what seem the most meaningful to children. Then we make sure the right tools and opportunities are available for children to pose questions, make predictions, observe, document, reflect, and share.

Science is everywhere!

Enjoy these photos featuring science experiences at LCP:

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781-828-4800
info@learningcirclepreschool.org
www.learningcirclepreschool.org