Caterpillar Environment

The children are continuing to explore the fascinating world of caterpillars! We have been monitoring the caterpillars in the classroom by recreating their environment in a see-through container. In doing so, the children understand what elements are necessary for the caterpillars to live and what type of environment or habitat they need to survive.

When asked what they see they in the container they identified leaves, branches, flowers, water and the caterpillars. The children were asked what they think an “environment” is. Here were some of their thoughts on environments and their contents:

·      “An area and surroundings.”

·      “It’s a circle of life.”

·       “Caterpillars need chrysalises to turn into butterflies!”

Following their explanations, we laid out paper, scissors, glue, yarn, tissue paper and branches. The students used the materials to re-create what they thought the caterpillar’s environment might look like on paper. The children used their prior knowledge, gained by studying and observing the caterpillars, to formulate and document their own ideas of environments. We strongly support the documentation of children’s work, as it is key to showing levels of progress in understanding and development.

This project allowed the children to be a part of an environment that was rich in open-ended materials and invoked engagement, construction and inventiveness. By vocalizing their different definitions of environments, the children were able to practice articulating and refining their own ideas based on the feedback and thoughts of others.

Extended periods of interaction with nature is important because it allows the students to gain a full understanding of scientific concepts. The deep level of observation involved in this exploration not only furthers an understanding of natural processes and lifecycles, but also instills an appreciation of and deep interest in the natural world that is key in developing into an environmentally responsible individual.

Cauliflower Soup

Over the course of this week, the students in Wonderland Class learned a great deal about an important part of the human body by studying about bones. As a part of the study, the students were asked what they might need to keep their bones strong. Some of their answers were:

  • “Exercise and lifting stuff!” (The student was referring to working out to keep our bones strong.)
  • “Drink milk. It has protein!” (The student was telling us about protein and where it can be found.)
  • “Our bones break without good stuff for them.” (The student was telling us what happens when our bones do not get what they need.)

Student feedback has a great deal of influence on our classroom projects. Because we believe learning should be student led, we use questions and statements from students to determine the direction of projects. These statements influence the project work because it helps the teachers analyze how much the children know, in which direction their minds are going or what areas they need practice or improvement in.

After this conversation, the children were introduced to the mineral calcium and learned about its role in the human body. After doing some research, we decided to make calcium rich recipe- Cauliflower Soup. During the process of creating this recipe, the children were also introduced to a new vegetable that many of them hadn’t been familiar with - a leek.

After discussing our ingredients and their smells, textures and physical characteristics, the children began measuring and adding fractions with our measuring cups. Once we had all of the ingredients mixed, we took our pot to the kitchen where they let it simmer until snack time.

Throughout this experience the children got to practice their research and mathematical skills, both of which are foundational aspects of learning. They also learned about the process of cooking, and how to do so in a healthy way, which instills a sense of accomplishment and independence. Understanding the roles of vitamins and minerals and how to cook healthily are all important in maintaining a healthy body.

The cauliflower soup was a recipe that the children really enjoyed! It was a delicious treat for our taste buds, healthy for our bodies and an exciting intellectual endeavor. While consuming it was an enjoyable experience, being able to discuss its benefits as we ate together also served as a fun, communal learning experience.

Exploring Music

During our most recent Music Think Tank with Mr. T, a piano was reintroduced to the children. The children have a strong understanding of patterns using colors and sounds. To take our exploration one step further, the children were asked to create a pattern using paper and markers.

Over the last few months, the children have developed the skills to create sequences quickly and easily. The children’s marks have gradually improved with each pattern, becoming neater and more precise. Each key on the piano was labeled with a small piece of colored paper and once the children finished their sequences, they were asked to perform them on the instrument.

Before the children can play any key to create a sound, they must be able to identify, recognize and match the various colors. This sound-sight exploration has taught the children to do all of the above. Color recognition and name identification are both stepping-stones in childhood development. Early identification of colors helps to create the cognitive link between visual clues and words, engaging the child’s senses while enhancing their vocabulary skills.

Through this activity, the children learned that patterns are everywhere. They exist in colors, in sounds and even in behaviors such as daily routines. Understanding the importance of patterns, and how to identify and interpret them, is an important foundational skill for more complex mathematical, scientific and communicative tasks that the children will come across as their education progresses.

The growth progress of our plants – Roots

Our students have been participating in an ongoing study of plants. Our outdoor garden has been a great source of interest for the students, especially the eggplants that are growing. These purple veggies have been the choice of study in Think Tank.

This plant exploration has introduced the children to a variety of plants that several of them have never encountered before, such as leeks. It has also helped them understand how plants grow, as well as the physical attributes of each plant such as shape and size. Children discussed the science behind flowers/plants and have observed the growth process of the leeks, carrot tops and eggplant seeds.

During the observation, the class noticed that the leeks had roots growing, while the eggplant seeds did not. Several of the students formed hypotheses to help explain why the plants might differ in such a way. One student mentioned it takes time for the eggplant to grow. Two other students also noted that the seeds do not have roots because they grow on trees.

The class expressed their observations through an artistic medium, creating a drawing with sharpies showing the growth process of the roots. While they were drawing some conversed. “The roots are at the bottom” and “the roots are sucking out the water to grow.”

The class was introduced to the word Sprout:  \ˈsprau̇t\ to grow, spring up, or come forth as or as if a sprout (Merriam-webster). We asked the class, “What does it mean to sprout?” Some of the responses were:

·       “Sprout means that flowers are growing”

·       “Sprouting means that the leek is growing a new plant”

·       “Sprouting means growing”

This plant exploration has been packed with variety of learning elements, making it a very valuable experience. Earth and Life Sciences were incorporated as the students studied the physical attributes, growth processes and natural environments of plants. Understanding scientific processes and using comparisons and observations about items to draw conclusions are all important scientific skills for children to master in order to have more meaningful learning experiences and interactions with the world around them.

We incorporated literacy into this exploration by working on our writing skills. The children created sentences with the new words introduced such as sprout and soil. Writing, along with drawing, build upon fine motor skills and are both great tools for children to express their personal thoughts and ideas.

The class was able to further their exploration by going outside, and as a group they were able to identify each plant. Working together to identify the plants and sharing their different opinions and explanations with one another allowed the children to foster positive relationships, build upon their interpersonal communication skills and participate in team building.

The exploration built upon foundational aspects of cognitive development. The children obtained a greater understanding of cause-and-effect as they observed the relationship between caring for the garden and the growth of the plants. In discussing reasons why one plant might have different properties and growing processes from another, the children practiced problem solving. They built upon their classification and memory skills by noting different plant’s attributes and using their knowledge about each type to identify the plants in the garden.

We will continue to observe the growth process of our plants in class.

Primary colors with flowers and counting

Every week H-E-B donates their expired flowers to our program, and our children are able to continue their explorations based on what we receive. Lately, we have been observing primary colors (red, yellow and blue) in the petals of our flowers, which inspired us to carry out a color study using paint and other materials in class.

 

The children removed the petals from the flowers, counting each petal as it was pulled. This process incorporated a valuable little math lesson into our color study. We placed the petals onto our light table to get a better look. Here, the children were able to use their observational skills to make note of the variety of colors and shades that naturally occur in each flower.

 

In our color study, we are also exploring states of matter and physical changes. We asked the class what would happen if we added hot water to the flower petals.  

 

Some of their answers included:

·      “It will melt the petals!”  (This child was applying her knowledge of a common reaction that takes place when things encounter heat to form her prediction.)

·      “It will change the water.” (This child was explaining that petals mixed with hot water will change the color of the water.)

 

The class noticed that adding petals to hot water creates watercolor. The color change was not the only exciting discovery. The concoction also gave off a new aroma that the children were able to observe. Their descriptions of what happened were:

·      “If we mix all colors it makes a rainbow.”

·      “It smells like licorice!” (This child was describing the smell of the water after adding flower petals.)

·      “It looks like nothing.” (This child was noticing the delay in color showing up in the water after mixing.)

·      “Yellow made green and purple made green.” (This child noticed that the colors of the petals weren’t the same as the color of the water when they were mixed.)

 

We asked the class what are primary colors? The class identified primary colors as yellow, red and blue.  The children conversed about mixing colors and mentioned: 

·       “Blue and yellow make green”

·       “Yellow and red make orange”

·      Blue and red make purple”

 

The class used the watercolor they created (with the flower petals) to paint their hand drawn illustrations of the flower they observed. This artistic aspect served as a nice culmination of our study, providing the children with an opportunity to express their observations and newfound knowledge of flowers and colors.

 

This experience allowed the children to continue their learning about primary colors through sensory exploration (sight, touch, smell, etc.). By mixing the colors, they had the opportunity to practice key aspects of the scientific method such as making predictions and noting cause and effect. Through their hands-on investigation of color, the children were able to see how their actions can create change.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 7.05.10 PM.png

 

From a mathematical perspective, the children’s interactions with the flowers and petals instilled number recognition, sequencing, number sense and one-to-one correspondence. The entire experience encouraged team building and enhanced social skills as the children worked together physically and verbally to make the watercolor and discuss their hypotheses and observations.

 

Paint is a material that we use regularly in the classroom. Through this experience, the children discovered a new way to recycle our old flowers into a fun material that they appreciate. Learning that something old or used can be reused to create something new and valuable, heightens the children’s understanding of sustainability and environmental responsibility.