Mango Exploration

We recently introduced a new and exciting fruit to the classroom- Mango! The yellow fruit has sparked a great deal of interest in the students, launching many a conversation and opportunity for exploration.

After conducting investigations of the inside and outside of the mangos, the students began a yellow color exploration. Throughout the week, the children compared and matched other yellow objects that could be found in the room. A few of these materials were Legos, flowers, play dough and paint.

Conducting comparisons between objects is important because it encourages close attention to detail and engages problem-solving skills. Making simple comparisons between physical properties lays a solid foundation for discovering commonalities between more complex concepts in the future.

Students used the yellow paint to mimic the inside of the fruit. They used the paint in both the classroom and at the light table, allowing them to examine how different lighting impacts a color’s appearance. The play dough was useful for constructing models of the other yellow objects the children observed. Even the play dough containers were used!

Creating models of the items that the children compared required problem solving along with a great deal of imagination and creativity. Creating their own interpretations allowed them to exercise self-expression. Using their hands to shape play dough, control a paintbrush or work with small Lego pieces builds the children’s hand muscles, which enhances fine motor skills needed for future tasks like writing.

While working with play dough or paint may just seem like fun play to children, they are actually engaging in an important aspect of cognitive and behavioral development. Children use modeling as a way to learn about the world around them. Creating a flower out of play dough requires the child to carefully study the flower. As a result, they learn a great deal about its shape, color, texture etc. Modeling also increases an understanding of symbolism and the ability to make connections between two objects while remaining aware of their separate identities. 

The students also explored mangos with Ms. Gabby during a Think Tank session and as their Food as Language. These encounters allowed the children to use multiple senses while making their observations. They tasted the mango, took in its bright color and felt the textural differences of its various parts. This experience fostered relationship-building opportunities and a sense of community as the children communicated with one another regarding the fruit and worked together to squish it between their fingers.  

They had fun exploring the different parts of the mango: outside, inside and seeds.

Observing Oranges on the Light Table

“Don’t play with your food!” is a common phrase directed at children. Typically, children are given food with one purpose: to eat it. However, our philosophy supports quite the opposite. We believe in allowing time for children to explore the food, experience it using all of their senses, grasp where it comes from and eventually learn to prepare it.

This week, the star of our food exploration was the orange. We brought whole and sliced oranges for the children to interact with. The children held the whole oranges, taking note of the fruit’s characteristics in its most natural state. The slices of oranges were placed on the light table for the children to investigate, allowing them to take a closer look at the inner workings of the fruit.

As the children interacted with the fruit in its different forms, we talked about:

  • Color
  • Smell
  • Texture
  • The name of the fruit
  • How many there were
  • How to prepare and cut it to eat

Allowing children to have this kind of exploration time with food opens the door to a variety of learning experiences. Mathematics was involved as the children counted the produce and number of slices. Practicing the name of the fruit enhanced communication skills, broadening vocabulary and word/object association.

In learning more about the fruit’s properties the children gain a higher level of comfort with the food and are more likely to give it a try and enjoy it. In learning to prepare it, the children obtain a sense of independence and accomplishment.

By engaging all of their senses, rather than taste alone, the children gained a deeper understanding of the fruit. As this happens, children learn to view food as something more than a snack. It becomes a learning mechanism, a source of artistic inspiration and a new way to look at and experience the natural world around them.  

 

Creating Rainbows out of Fruit

For our food exploration this week, we asked for fruits that contained colors of the rainbow. Then, the children were encouraged to create a rainbow using the foods they had. The children created rainbow masterpieces using blueberries, strawberries and oranges. 

 

Throughout this exploration we observed the children and noticed that they were particularly focused on the amount of fruit that they had in each color. This interest evolved into a wonderful math experience. The children also discussed the unique colors of each fruit and how they planned on arranging their fruit rainbow.

Below is an example of a conversation between two children:

·       “I have six blueberries.” (The children counted each fruit they had and categorized them, showing mathematical understanding.)

·       “We don’t have any green.” (This shows how the child was aware of which colors are in the rainbow, and that they were able to determine which colors they would need to obtain in order to create a full rainbow.)

·       “Yes we do, the leaves from the strawberries are green.” (This is an example of how the children implemented problem-solving and communication skills, along with creative thinking.)

We like to incorporate natural materials that encourage play and exploration into our learning activities. The fruit used in this experience was of different shape and color, grabbing the children’s attention. They learned that with a little bit of creativity, fruit is not only a delicious snack but also a tool to construct and express their interpretation of the world around them. Handling and counting the fruit allowed the children to practice mathematical concepts while making scientific observations regarding the fruit’s color, texture, smell, weight, and more. These are important concepts for honing decision-making and keen observational skills.

The project also encouraged the children to explore ways in which seemingly unrelated items can actually represent or relate to one another. At first glance, pieces of fruit and a rainbow are totally different. However, with some imagination and the ability to pretend, the children were able to create their own unique interpretations of a rainbow. This experience was important because it allowed the children to better understand association between different ideas and explore relationships between perception, representation and reality. Being able to spot connections between different ideas or items is extremely valuable because it encourages children to ask questions and improves their problem-solving skills.