Tag Archives: children

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A House Planning and Building Project in the Nuthatch Class

Over the past several weeks we’ve noticed a strong interest from the class to make houses. It began by a group of children drawing houses at the writing table and evolved into children cutting shapes they need to make houses, creating window shutters that flap using tape, and even painting their houses at the easel.

We asked families to please email us pictures of the outsides of their houses- any and as many angles as they wanted to share. When we returned from the December break these photographs were printed for children to use to start drafting their plans of how they would want to build a model of their houses.

We also had conversations about what an architect does, and we read the book Iggy Peck Architect. The class talked about how an architect builds things, but before they start building they need to draw, or draft, a plan. Children began drafting their plans for building their collage houses.

We have been inviting children to work on their drafts at the writing table in small groups. Each child has a piece of easel paper with a photograph of their house glued onto it.  Children are encouraged to notice the shapes and details of their house and use a pencil to draw what they notice. They have the option to use rulers if they want to. Teachers work closely with the children to label the different parts of the house they want to include in their construction. A variety of recycled materials are featured around the classroom to give the children some ideas about what they might need to build their house. Children are welcome to suggest materials not featured as well, and we  do our best to acquire what they need for their big ideas. On each piece of paper teachers are writing a list of materials that the children are hoping to have when they enter the building stage of their projects. We are taking donations of materials that may be used for children’s house ideas. An architect’s draft will be displayed next to a surface with their requested materials so that child can look at their plan while they build. We are also happy to find additional materials for the children if they decide they need to adjust their plan while they’re building.

A few weeks ago children began constructing their model houses, based on the draft they created. This is a project that requires many materials and patience, so one child at a time will be working on the building piece. We are reminding the children that everyone will get their turn to build, and we encourage them to visit other children as they build.

Some Extensions

Children have been practicing making plans with other children in the block area. They use a variety of stories to help them plan what to build, and they also access their block journals to draw up their own plans for their buildings. The class noticed the lined graph paper in the book Iggy Peck Architect and were interested in using it. The writing table now offers graph paper for the children to explore. We introduced blueprint templates. Children worked in teams and independently to create block designs based on the drawn plan. This practice will carry over into the house planning idea we have seen such a strong interest for. Children began making their own blueprints as an extension of what we started. Teachers cut out sponges to match the block shapes that children have been using. At a meeting, children helped to match the sponge shapes to the block shapes by using descriptive words and shape names to identify them. Children then helped choose the colors each shape should be. These shape sponges were then used by children to print their own blueprint designs. Teachers laminated each child’s work and children have used the blocks to build on their own and other classmate’s templates.

While children wait for their turn to construct their houses we are offering other building materials. Lincoln Logs have been featured for a couple weeks now, and groups of up to 5 children are sharing the materials. Really interesting designs are being created!

We will be adding different building items over the next few weeks, as we notice children’s interests. If anyone is interested in seeing some of the books we have used during this project, we will be putting together a book list. The books we’re featuring include ones that inspire the construction of houses and also images and stories of different kinds of homes around the world. We will continue to introduce new, relevant stories as the project continues. Here are some of the stories we have introduced so far: Iggy Peck Architect, Rosie Revere Engineer, Houses and Homes, Home, A House is a House For Me, Jack the Builder

Kayla Barrows and Stacey Festa, Nuthatch Teachers

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Thanksgiving Themes

Holidays and traditions are important parts of our lives, and they give us opportunities to reflect, feel connections to our histories, and share experiences with our families and friends. When we teachers are planning a meaningful Thanksgiving with preschoolers, we use conversations to help them:

1. Express their feelings and ideas about family gatherings
2. Begin to develop an understanding of history and the passage of time
3. Find out specific information about the past and make connections between the past and the present.

A focus on personal feelings, family gathering, sharing, helping, and working together, giving thanks, and making and giving gifts to others is of primary importance for young children.

It’s also true that many preschoolers have a variety of ideas and impressions about the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, and Native Americans. Quite a few of these impressions are inaccurate. The Thanksgiving holiday offers an opportunity to talk about features of past cultures in ways that connect to the children’s’ present lives and interests. It is important that whatever information is shared with children be accurate historically. Young children may be interested in talking about how:

1. People live in all kinds of houses now, and did in the past as well. All people need shelter. (If children are interested, comparisons can be made between the materials traditionally used in the past for housing among both Native Americans and early European settlers, and with modern materials used for housing.)
2. People make and use tools, now and in the past.
3. People cultivate and eat a variety of foods, and prepare them in a variety of ways.
4. People need clothing and wear a variety of clothing styles and materials.
5. People from different cultures have their own ways to celebrate holidays and may celebrate different holidays as well. People enjoy a variety of games, and have a variety of customs, but these customs often serve similar purposes.
6. People help each other when they share ideas and work together.
7. The places people live now did not always look the same way as they do now.
8. There are Native Americans now, as there were in the past; modern life is different for all of us.
9. Relatives of the Pilgrims live now; we live now and have relatives who lived in the past; and modern life is different for all of us.
10. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays we do.

This year we began to stimulate ideas about the past by encouraging children to investigate tools and other objects made from materials found in nature near us. We talked about how these tools were made recently using materials that people who lived in our area long ago might have used too. Children created pretend games with homemade cloth and corn husk dolls that could travel in wood or bark canoes. They tried on necklaces made of dyed corn kernels and thought about how the vibrant colors used might have been found. They pretend cooked using wooden mortar and pestles, and used clam shells for scoops. They incorporated woven mats and baskets into games and pretend. We played instruments made from natural materials. A rich display with diverse materials stimulates many connections to family experiences, and gives us opportunities to offer a sense of history in ways that are personally meaningful to the children.

From that beginning, we offered activities that gave children opportunities to create their own materials. Could we use scraps from our beautiful easel paintings to weave? Could we dye our own fabric with something from nature? Could we learn games that use stones or other natural materials as props or tools? Could we create musical patterns using drums, shakers, or other instruments made from found materials? Could we use sticks to create designs, shapes or letters?

Because the children enjoy books we can sing almost every day, we used a version of Over the River and Through the Woods (poem by Lydia Maria Child and illustrated by Christopher Manson) to strengthen connections between past and present. With each experience, children found more and more details in this book’s rich illustrations of things happening long ago and their own personal experience. Whether it is a trip to visit grandparents, foods at the table, games and outdoor experiences children enjoy in cold weather, or other details, repeated experiences with this songbook led to rich conversations about family experiences, and helped children understand that in the past people had similar feelings and experiences around family.

Cooking and harvest themes are central to family celebrations, and we’ve been sharing recipes as well. The children all spend time investigating squash, tasting many varieties of apples, and watching the changes colder weather brings to our beans and other plants growing outdoors in the gardens.

The whole school will be coming together for our own “feast” before we break for the Thanksgiving holiday, and every class has been busy making foods and gifts for everyone at school. The children are preparing apple sauce, a trail mix, and a vegetable-rich pasta salad to share at the feast. This offers children a way to anticipate together, and get ready for a special celebration. Each class has been preparing gifts for a school wide giveaway as well, This offers an opportunity to think about sharing resources, so that everyone in the school community receives something special from others. And it encourages children to work over time. This year we’ve been busy painting large clam shells, lacing, and preparing homemade bookmarks with beautiful results.

Families have developed a school tradition that we share as well. A parent created a small “tree” in our welcome room where children can talk about what they are thankful for, make a mark or have a grownup write a message about it, and hang it on the tree. The children have enjoyed watching leaves and messages get added, and those that are writing for themselves have spent time creating their own messages for the tree with teachers as well. This has become a lovely tradition that informally gives children lots of time to reflect on what it means to be thankful and on the many people and things we have to be thankful for.

We teachers had an opportunity to see that these experiences have been meaningful recently when we introduced a flannel board poem about giving thanks to our youngest children. In this story poem represented with pieces of felt, a child reflects on all the things to be thankful for – things we can hold, see, or hear. The focus of the poem is on good foods, and connections to the natural world. As each piece of felt was carefully placed on the board, the children were completely engaged and thoughtful. When the poem ended, there was a brief silence, and then children spontaneously began to share things they are thankful for in their own lives – family, activities shared, toys, and good foods.

Enjoy your celebrations!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.