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!

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!