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!

Color mixing with chalk pastels

This week, we have had so much fun exploring a new art material- chalk pastels! In order to challenge the children a little bit, we have been giving them new materials for them to mix colors with. This change of pace keeps them on their toes, excited about learning, and broadens their tool set for artistic expression.

We began the exploration by asking the students a question: “If we mix paint to create new colors, can we mix the pastels to create a new color as well?” House Room students all agreed that the pastel primary colors would change!

We immediately began to mix the colors to create our new ones. After a few moments of good effort, the children realized that the colors were not mixing. One of the other children thought the technique was wrong, so we adjusted the way we were holding our pastels and tried again.

When that did not work, we then asked, “Why do these colors not mix, but paint does?” Here are some of the students’ answers:

·      “We were moving our hands too slow”

·      “Because they are not watery”

·      “They are too hard”

After our discussion we decided that water would be our best bet to make the colors mix! We got a small cup of water and began dipping our pastels in it to test our new theory. To our amazement the colors began to mix. Suddenly, we saw purple, orange and green!

To conclude our project, we had one last discussion on why the water helped mix the colors. This is what we said: 

·      “The water made it mix” 

·      “It made orange because it was so wet” 

·      “It melted the colors together” 

This activity was filled with valuable learning and skill-building opportunities. Using their prior knowledge about paint to draw conclusions about the unfamiliar chalk pastels showed the children’s understanding of comparison and contrast. The children built upon teamwork and problem solving skills by troubleshooting as a group.

By practicing different techniques, the children worked on fine motor skills and learned about the concepts of angles and pressure. Science was brought into this exploration as the students honed the process of hypothesizing, testing and drawing conclusions. Communication was key throughout this entire process, allowing the children to practice communicative skills, build relationships and learn to value the input of others. 

Scribble Time

In class, we regularly take time to draw with our markers or paint with a brush. These activities help develop fine motor skills and serve as a great way for us to track the progress of each child’s skill level, writing, and understanding of the concepts we are learning in class.

We highly prioritize tracking the children’s progress to ensure that their developmental needs are being met in a way that is interesting to them. We have noticed that each child has taken up their own methods and styles of drawing and painting in class.

One child has begun drawing loops and circles and has started to use a more comfortable, ergonomic hand position for drawing. Sometimes she will hold the pen with the teachers and write notes along side them. 

Another child translates his interest in percussion into his drawing. He often uses his marker as a drumstick, drawing dots while also making music at the table.  

Another child has mastered the back and forth motion of scribbling and is also very interested in the mechanism of putting the pen in the cap.

While free drawing and scribbling may not seem to have any special purpose, it actually serves as a wonderful creative and emotional outlet for young children. Providing children with a variety of mediums and colors allows them to freely express their thoughts and ideas, establishing a sense of ownership and independence.

Allowing a child to draw or paint in his or her own manner is not only beneficial to them, but also to their peers. In these types of free exploration, the children are able to learn from one another. They get to observe and compare different techniques and approaches that they might not think of otherwise, learning to respect and value the work of others. This instills a sense of camaraderie while affirming self worth. 

 

Sound Exploration

The following collections of photos illustrate all of the different materials we recently used to investigate sound. Our curriculum is heavily based on the “hundred languages” of children, or the ways in which children can express their perception of the world around them. Music is one of those languages. We also focus on experiences that excite students’ senses (sound in this case).

Using water bottle ‘shakers’ filled with different materials, we were able to talk about “loud vs. quiet,” or sound level and dynamics. The introduction of musical instruments allowed students to hear thumping drum sounds, the tinkling noise of the chimes and the knocking sounds from the wooden sticks. The children particularly loved the plastic colored sticks, banging them together and using them to strike different materials inside and outside of the classroom.

Hands on explorations of music and sound are extremely valuable because they provide students with an emotional outlet and tools for self-expression. Along with studying sounds, this experience also allowed the children to apply mathematical skills like addition (counting each time they hit the colored sticks together). It also allowed them to take note of the interesting exteriors of the instruments (discussing the different colors of the sticks).

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.

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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.