Exploring Tomatoes

SEASHELL/SEAWEED PRE-K CLASSROOM

In our school and in the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, the natural world around us should be revered, studied, and celebrated. Gabby, our school's Food as a Language Atelierista, works with every classroom, from infants through upper grades. Investigating food allows for many wonderful discoveries and investigations: mathematical shapes and patterns present in foods, color theory, science of plants/foods, literacy, fine motor skills, social collaboration, and more.

The children in the Seashell/Seaweed room have seen tomatoes many times - but this investigation with Gabby allowed them to see a tomato through different eyes. Gabby helped guide the children as they made several discoveries and found various shapes and patterns within the sliced tomato. The children found the location where the seeds are most concentrated and showed this understanding in the drawings. Observational drawings help children to practice several skills: focus, concentration, math, dimensional analysis, analytical skills, fine motor skills, etc. The children are also simultaneously learning about the natural world around them through investigating and analyzing foods!    

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this child-led, play-based project: 

Language/Literacy: During the investigation, the children had to communicate their findings clearly to each other and to their teacher

Mathematics: The children practiced and used mathematical knowledge to make connections and interpretations about the segmented tomato. When creating their drawings, the used directional analysis to create an accurate drawing. They counted seeds, which reinforces one to one correspondence and number sequencing.    

Fine Motor Skills:  In order to create an accurate observational drawing, the children must exercise control and focus over their fine motor skills.  

Cognitive Thinking: The children make connections and discoveries about the segmented tomato and connect this information to previous knowledge to continue to build their understanding of the world around them.

Social/Sense of Self: Taking turns, helping each other make observations, engaging in discussion with peers and their teacher supports a strong sense of self.

Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work  and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by discussing these terms at home! Let your child help slice various fruits/veggies. Explore the similarities or differences. Even a few minutes will greatly aid in your child reinforcing important concepts all on their own. Have them explain to you what they notice and off them materials to demonstrate their knowledge – this could be markers and paper, play dough, finger painting or maybe they can guide you as you draw it! Feel free to take pictures of this process and to bring from home so they can share it with their class!

Following a Child's Lead

In the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, paying close attention to children is of paramount importance. Observing children, how they play, and their verbal and non-verbal communications allows for the teachers to extend their learning in an authentic way. When children are interested in what they are doing, they are far more engaged and this naturally leads to more critical thinking and long term learning. Most importantly, the child has a good experience with learning and being challenged. The children give their teachers infinite opportunities to infuse the projects with classic academics such as literacy, math, and science in a multi-sensory way. Below are some projects happening around the school that beautifully demonstrate children being engaged and learning on their own terms.

SEAWEED/SEASHELL PRE-K CLASSROOM

With the international festival approaching, we have been learning about our diverse cultures. One student's heritage lead us to China. As we discussed Chin as a class, it led to a conversation about eating with chopsticks.  We had a lesson on using chopsticks and incorporated math into our project!

DAY SKY & NIGHT SKY CLASSROOM

The children in the sky class have been making many lego boats and they enjoy the different provocations with play dough. To offer an additional challenge in critical thinking, the teachers set up two separate provocations for the children. With the lego boats, the children were challenged to predict if theirs would sink or float. With play dough, the children were given popsicle sticks and challenged to make a 3D object - this is a common STEM activity because it incorporates so much math, physics, and analytical thinking into the creation.

SAND CLASSROOM

The children in the Sand class are still interested in shapes! We find shapes in the books we read, the drawings we paint, our faces, our environment and everywhere else we can! To further enrich this project, the teachers created shapes of glue lines with cut yarn for the children to place on the glue. This was a difficult fine motor and gross motor task for the children to complete but they did not give up! The children were also presented with tape outline of shapes and colors we have been discussing often in class.

STAR CLASSROOM

Our infants are constantly curious! Food is always a fascination at this age. They instinctively touch, squeeze, pinch, and explore food. The teachers created a beautiful and inviting provocation with apple slices on the light table. We encourage our infants to grow their natural curiosities by giving them plenty of sensory experiences and opportunities to make sense of the world around them.


Painting with Cars

Freight Train and Bullet Train Class

In our school cooperative play and learning is a large part of the day. When children are working on a project together, regardless of the complexity, they are learning critical social and emotional intelligence skills. They must read social cues like their friend being happy or upset by something they might be doing. The children must communicate their ideas and wants to each other. They must wait and problem solve every step of the way.

The children in the Train class have been exploring movement with paint! In our school paint is used for countless explorations in academic areas, as a sensory medium, learning and experimenting with math/science concepts, art, literacy, and self expression. The children in the Train class also love to play with cars. The teachers set up a provocation for the children to merge paint and cars!

The children discovered a covered table with large plates of paint and cars. The children began to dip their cars in the paint and create tracks. This is an excellent and engaging activity. As the children pushed their cars along the table, they became very interested in the tracks they were making and began to push the car in different directions and for varying distances to observe the cause and effect of their decisions. As the tracks became lighter and the children choose new colors to create tracks, they began to see the colors mix and new colors being created! The children shared their discoveries with each other as they discussed the colors they were using and creating. While the children were engaged in their explorations they began to talk and create stories about who was driving the cars and where they were going. This type of story telling is an important milestone for children and a strong link to literacy. They had to respect each other’s tracks and create self imposed boundaries which is a natural way to practice autonomy and self control.

This project is a wonderful example of children being themselves, playing, learning, collaborating, and enjoying themselves while at school.

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this child-led, play-based project:

Literacy/Language: Creating stories about who is driving the car and where the car is going are important skills of storytelling. The more stories children tell, the more they have a positive experience with fiction and using their imagination.

Math/Science/Fine Motor Skills: As the children painted with their cars, the honed their fine motor skills to create the tracks they wanted. Mixing colors is a basic science experiment - the children take 2 separate colors to create a third. As the children continue mixing they are making decisions, gathering new information, making new decisions, etc. Color identification.   

Collaboration/Social/Sense of Self: The children had to communicate with each other to share the paints, cars, and the physical space on the table. The children were respecting each other’s boundaries, expressing their wants and ideas, and working together for the betterment of the group. These are critical skills that must be practiced over and over throughout childhood.

Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work  and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by creating your own tracks! You can use anything you or your child select: plastic animals, forks and spoons, family member’s handprints, sliced, food… the possibilities are endless. Feel free to take pictures of this process, bring in the tracks made, or bring the items used for your child to share with their class!

Learning Opportunites through Play

Day Sky and Night Sky

In our school it is essential that children spend a considerable part of the day learning through play. We believe playing is an absolute necessity that children have. In allowing and promoting play throughout the classroom, the children are far more engaged, relaxed, and happy - which allows the children to be themselves. When children are in their authentic state of self, they can truly learn and develop emotionally, cognitively, and socially. Additionally, when children are playing and being themselves, the adults around them can observe their level of knowledge and stage of their emotional, cognitive, and social development.

A recent child-led and play-based project emerged in the Day Sky and Night Sky Classrooms. The children in this room love to cook. They use real and pretend foods, play dough, sand, dirt, sticks, rocks, loose parts, and anything else their imagination can turn into a meal!

It is truly amazing to see a child being so resourceful and imaginative by transforming anything available to them to carry out their ideas. When a child has the space and freedom to think and create their own ideas, they will naturally develop skills that will serve throughout life, such as: focus, determination, willingness to learn, and self initiation. This is not only true of children, but all ages of people. When someone feels that own part of something, they willingly work harder to realize their vision because they feel a sense of owndership.

As the children cook (or engage in any form of play), it allows vast opportunities for the teachers to infuse academic work into their play. Social and emotional development happens naturally from open ended play. The teachers richen the experience by first asking questions:

"How do you make that type of food?"

"What are the ingredients?"

"Where does that food come from?"

They are endless questions that can led to the science of foods, different forms of cooking, raw vs cooked foods, cultural eating/cooking, geography, etc. One this day, as the teachers questioned the group, the answers helped the teachers realize that the children did not have a true understanding of the words "recipe" and "ingredient". This project could have taken a number of different paths but the teachers chose to explore the meaning of these 2 words.

The children were then promoted to write these words while discussing letter sounds. The teachers are also continually discussing what these words mean and are asking the children to create simple recipes they commonly pretend to make.

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this child-led, play-based project:

Literacy: Writing the words "recipe" and "ingredient" and many other words included in recipe lists that extended from this project

Mathematics/Fine Motor Skills: As the children "cook", they often have to count how many plates/bowls are available and then make the correct amount of "food" to fill them. This reinforces one to one correspondence, addition, and number sequencing.

Collaboration/Language: The children had to communicate with each other what they were cooking, make decisions on who was cook which items, and decide on recipes.

Cognitive Thinking: The children used loose parts to create their "foods" and build knowledge to understand the differences and similarities between foods that are ingredients vs recipes. The children also had to create recipes.

Social/Sense of Self: Taking turns, helping each other, working on a collaborative project with their peers.

Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work  and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by discussing these terms at home! Let your child help you make a fruit salad (or any simple meal) by helping to create a recipe by selecting all the ingredients. You could also discuss a meal you plan to make and have your child help you make the recipe list for the grocery store. Feel free to take pictures of this process and to bring from home so they can share it with their class!

Provocations

Provocations in Seashell/Seaweed and Sand Classrooms

 What is a provocation?

The word provocation is one that you will hear often throughout our school. It is central to the child-led learning that happens every day. Provocations are set up by the teachers in an effort to introduce, reinforce, or further any topic of interest or an academic skill. Provocations are designed to “provoke” thinking and creativity

A provocation can be as simple as presenting natural materials like rocks, sticks, and leaves arranged in an inviting way on a table paired with paints and paper. The child is free to interpret the materials in any way they want. One child might arrange the materials to create an art piece. Another might start counting the items present or see how high they can stack the rocks and sticks. While another might use the sticks to paint the rocks while narrating a story. The goal is for the child to feel free and relaxed to think and create.  Provocations are especially wonderful because they allow each child to work within their comfort level and it exposes children to the unique ideas of their peers. This naturally lends children to learn from each other in a way that is authentic and true to who children are. 

Due to the vast nature of provocations, we will focus on 2 provocations created by the teachers for the Sand and Seaweed/Seashell Classrooms.   

Sand Classroom

Scribbles are taken seriously in our school. There has been a lot of research done about the early marks of human beings. In one long term research by Rhoda Kellogg, she determined that scribbles were not accidental markings but rather deliberate marks. She identified 20 basic scribbles. 

The children in the Sand Class are especially interested in circles! The teachers repeatedly see the children try to draw this shape and point out various things in their environment that are circular. The teachers created simple a provocation to extend their interest in circles. The teachers covered a large table with paper and paired this with circular lids and markers. 

  • The large working area is necessary for young children to have enough room to work - young children draw big and they need enough space to feel free to explore
  • The circular lids provide the inspiration for the desired shape in an object that can be easily manipulated by the children
  • The markers are an important component because markers allows for a richer color mark to be created because young children do not have the manual dexterity yet to apply varied amount of pressure to a writing instrument to achieve a dark enough mark

Providing the appropriate materials allows for the children to work longer and more thoughtfully. In this provocation, the markers are key to allow the child to see a vivid mark with every stroke! This simple detail encourages them to continue to make marks. Working with markers also has the built in fine motor skill of not only using the writing utensil but placing the lid back on the marker! As the children drew circles they engaged in conversations and chose different colors to continue their marks. 

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this project:

Literacy: Creating marks that represents another idea or item is the beginning of literacy 

Mathematics/Fine Motor Skills: The children analyzed their marks to see if they were circular, reinforcement of shapes, creating shapes, using the markers to create a specific shape

Collaboration/Language: The children had to find ways to communicate with each other when they wanted certain colors of markers, they had to respect each others working area, they communicated their creations with each other and their teachers

Cognitive Thinking: The children used a tangible object to observe and then create the shape on the paper, the children are understanding the relationship between marks and symbols 

Social/Sense of Self: Taking turns, helping each other, working on a collaborative project with their peers

Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work  and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by placing 3 varied shaped items on the table and asking your child to give you the one shaped like a circle. You can also go on a shape hunt around the house or have your child bring you things that are a circle. Point out circular items in the books you read together. Give your child pipe cleaners and make circles with them! This can be applied to any shape (or letter, number as your child gets older). Feel free to bring in their work from home so they can share it with their class!


Seaweed/Seashell Classroom

Math is all around us! In our school the children count constantly - we count steps, numbers of legs on animals, our friends in class, plates at lunch, beats of the drum, number of seeds, ladybugs we catch, and on... and on. The act of counting is adding. We highly recommend parents to read the book Young Children Reinvent Arithmetic by Constance Kamii to gain a deeper understanding of how children construct mathematical concepts and why our current educational math model is failing our children. Click HERE to buy the book on amazon. The books offers easy and fun games to play with your child that will greatly aid their development of number sense and give them a very strong mathematical foundation. 

The teachers in the Seaweed/Seashell Classroom know how important math is and created this provocation to allow the children to play with mathematical concepts like one to one correspondence, adding, and number sense. This provocation allowed each child to engage in this activity at a level that they are comfortable with. Children naturally learn from one another and they provided instant feedback to each other while they played.

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this project:

Mathematics: One to one correspondence, adding, number sense, compare and contrast amount

Fine Motor Skills: Pairing this activity with child tweezers added the benefit of strengthening the small muscle groups in their hands needed for writing and challanged them to be patient while they mastered picking up each pom pom

Collaboration/Language: The children instantly started to discuss, debate, and collaborate with each other. Children had to find ways to articulate their ideas

Cognitive Thinking: Each child approached this activity at their comfort level - some began to discuss adding and some focused more on the written numbers

Social/Sense of Self: Taking turns, helping each other, teaching and learning concepts from peers

Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work  and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by placing small objects in a bowl with several cups that have large numbers. Ask your child to fill each cup with the amount designated on the cup. You can discuss which cups seem more full and ask why? If you feel your child is up to the challenge, use a cup with a number less than 5 and you place a few items the cup (but less than the number on the cup indicates) and ask your child how many more is needed to reach the desired amount written on the cup. Scramble the cups and ask your child to put them in order. Please bring in photos or anything else so your child can share it with the class!