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!

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. 

 

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.

 

 

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.