Bug categorizing

Lately, we have noticed that some of the children have started confusing the names of certain bugs and insects that they have come across in our classroom. To resolve this confusion and further our understanding of insect names, we set up an exploration.

Using magnifying cubes to help us get a closer look at the bugs, we placed four ladybugs, four doodle bugs, four snails and two caterpillars out on a large sheet of white paper. The paper was divided into four sections labeled “Snails,” “Caterpillars,” “Ladybugs” and “Doodle Bugs.”

The children were excited to see our critters out of their natural habitats. They immediately started grabbing the cubes and excitedly shouting out which ones they had in their possession. We asked the students if they knew what words were on the paper and they all responded by saying “I don’t know.” We took this opportunity to explain to the children the different word in each square.

Some of the children started to place the critters that they had in their hand into separate sections. They repeatedly asked us which section was what. We talked about the first letter of each section to help them connect it to the name of the critter and some of the children helped their classmates find their correct section.

While they were relocating the bugs, some of the children wanted to bring chalk and oil pastels to draw their bugs on the paper. The children drew bodies, legs and antennas in each of the sections. They enjoyed rubbing their hand and arms on the areas that chalk was used. The bright colors rubbed off on their skin and some of them even started to draw on their arms.

By categorizing the bugs into their correct sections, the children practiced word association. Learning to properly label and name items is an important aspect of communication skill development. Writing the bug names on the table and using the first letters of the names to give the children “hints” also increased the children’s general letter and word recognition skills.

In helping one another find the appropriate category for the bugs, the children practiced teamwork, encouraged positive relationships and enhanced their interpersonal communication skills. Drawing the bugs in their correct sections also allowed the children to further instill their mental connection between each bug name and that bug’s unique characteristics, as a means of remembering the appropriate name.

While this began as a communications based exploration, it also built upon other cognitive skills like counting and categorizing.

Caterpillar Environment

The children are continuing to explore the fascinating world of caterpillars! We have been monitoring the caterpillars in the classroom by recreating their environment in a see-through container. In doing so, the children understand what elements are necessary for the caterpillars to live and what type of environment or habitat they need to survive.

When asked what they see they in the container they identified leaves, branches, flowers, water and the caterpillars. The children were asked what they think an “environment” is. Here were some of their thoughts on environments and their contents:

·      “An area and surroundings.”

·      “It’s a circle of life.”

·       “Caterpillars need chrysalises to turn into butterflies!”

Following their explanations, we laid out paper, scissors, glue, yarn, tissue paper and branches. The students used the materials to re-create what they thought the caterpillar’s environment might look like on paper. The children used their prior knowledge, gained by studying and observing the caterpillars, to formulate and document their own ideas of environments. We strongly support the documentation of children’s work, as it is key to showing levels of progress in understanding and development.

This project allowed the children to be a part of an environment that was rich in open-ended materials and invoked engagement, construction and inventiveness. By vocalizing their different definitions of environments, the children were able to practice articulating and refining their own ideas based on the feedback and thoughts of others.

Extended periods of interaction with nature is important because it allows the students to gain a full understanding of scientific concepts. The deep level of observation involved in this exploration not only furthers an understanding of natural processes and lifecycles, but also instills an appreciation of and deep interest in the natural world that is key in developing into an environmentally responsible individual.

Cauliflower Soup

Over the course of this week, the students in Wonderland Class learned a great deal about an important part of the human body by studying about bones. As a part of the study, the students were asked what they might need to keep their bones strong. Some of their answers were:

  • “Exercise and lifting stuff!” (The student was referring to working out to keep our bones strong.)
  • “Drink milk. It has protein!” (The student was telling us about protein and where it can be found.)
  • “Our bones break without good stuff for them.” (The student was telling us what happens when our bones do not get what they need.)

Student feedback has a great deal of influence on our classroom projects. Because we believe learning should be student led, we use questions and statements from students to determine the direction of projects. These statements influence the project work because it helps the teachers analyze how much the children know, in which direction their minds are going or what areas they need practice or improvement in.

After this conversation, the children were introduced to the mineral calcium and learned about its role in the human body. After doing some research, we decided to make calcium rich recipe- Cauliflower Soup. During the process of creating this recipe, the children were also introduced to a new vegetable that many of them hadn’t been familiar with - a leek.

After discussing our ingredients and their smells, textures and physical characteristics, the children began measuring and adding fractions with our measuring cups. Once we had all of the ingredients mixed, we took our pot to the kitchen where they let it simmer until snack time.

Throughout this experience the children got to practice their research and mathematical skills, both of which are foundational aspects of learning. They also learned about the process of cooking, and how to do so in a healthy way, which instills a sense of accomplishment and independence. Understanding the roles of vitamins and minerals and how to cook healthily are all important in maintaining a healthy body.

The cauliflower soup was a recipe that the children really enjoyed! It was a delicious treat for our taste buds, healthy for our bodies and an exciting intellectual endeavor. While consuming it was an enjoyable experience, being able to discuss its benefits as we ate together also served as a fun, communal learning experience.

The growth progress of our plants – Roots

Our students have been participating in an ongoing study of plants. Our outdoor garden has been a great source of interest for the students, especially the eggplants that are growing. These purple veggies have been the choice of study in Think Tank.

This plant exploration has introduced the children to a variety of plants that several of them have never encountered before, such as leeks. It has also helped them understand how plants grow, as well as the physical attributes of each plant such as shape and size. Children discussed the science behind flowers/plants and have observed the growth process of the leeks, carrot tops and eggplant seeds.

During the observation, the class noticed that the leeks had roots growing, while the eggplant seeds did not. Several of the students formed hypotheses to help explain why the plants might differ in such a way. One student mentioned it takes time for the eggplant to grow. Two other students also noted that the seeds do not have roots because they grow on trees.

The class expressed their observations through an artistic medium, creating a drawing with sharpies showing the growth process of the roots. While they were drawing some conversed. “The roots are at the bottom” and “the roots are sucking out the water to grow.”

The class was introduced to the word Sprout:  \ˈsprau̇t\ to grow, spring up, or come forth as or as if a sprout (Merriam-webster). We asked the class, “What does it mean to sprout?” Some of the responses were:

·       “Sprout means that flowers are growing”

·       “Sprouting means that the leek is growing a new plant”

·       “Sprouting means growing”

This plant exploration has been packed with variety of learning elements, making it a very valuable experience. Earth and Life Sciences were incorporated as the students studied the physical attributes, growth processes and natural environments of plants. Understanding scientific processes and using comparisons and observations about items to draw conclusions are all important scientific skills for children to master in order to have more meaningful learning experiences and interactions with the world around them.

We incorporated literacy into this exploration by working on our writing skills. The children created sentences with the new words introduced such as sprout and soil. Writing, along with drawing, build upon fine motor skills and are both great tools for children to express their personal thoughts and ideas.

The class was able to further their exploration by going outside, and as a group they were able to identify each plant. Working together to identify the plants and sharing their different opinions and explanations with one another allowed the children to foster positive relationships, build upon their interpersonal communication skills and participate in team building.

The exploration built upon foundational aspects of cognitive development. The children obtained a greater understanding of cause-and-effect as they observed the relationship between caring for the garden and the growth of the plants. In discussing reasons why one plant might have different properties and growing processes from another, the children practiced problem solving. They built upon their classification and memory skills by noting different plant’s attributes and using their knowledge about each type to identify the plants in the garden.

We will continue to observe the growth process of our plants in class.

Planting peppers, peas, and squash (Science)

The children have been very excited to help Mrs. Maryam garden outside any chance they get, so we decided to bring some gardening into the classroom! As a part of this indoor gardening endeavor, we planted squash, peas and sweet red bell pepper.

We started off our gardening process by asking the children “What do these seeds need to grow?” The children responded with water, dirt, sun and air. These responses show that the children are taking their prior knowledge about plants, obtained from working in the outdoor garden, and applying it to their new indoor garden.

After our discussion the children began to talk amongst themselves to figure out how much soil they would need. The children used their problem solving, communication and teamwork skills to cooperate with one another and come up with a solution to their soil question. They agreed that they “needed to fill the hole all the way so the seed doesn’t fall out.”

The children then worked together to fill the holes, and put one seed in every spot. Along with this great display of teamwork, the children built their fine motor skills. Handling and planting the little seeds into the soil served as a workout for their hand muscles, increasing coordination and accuracy.

In creating the garden, the children practiced mathematical skills through tasks like measuring the soil. Also, taking care of the indoor garden will require the children to work together to meet the daily needs of the plants. In doing so, they will establish new habits and learn the importance of building routines. Having an indoor garden will also allow the children to more closely examine the plant growth process, make observations and hypotheses about each plant’s progress and practice other important scientific skills.

Having this kind of fun and interesting encounter with plants furthers the children’s understanding and passion for nature, which will establish a sense of environmental responsibility and appreciation. We will check on the progress of the plants every week, and continue to water them daily.

Science: Checking on the progress of our seeds through magnifying glasses

We are very excited to share that our seeds are beginning to sprout! This week we wanted to check on the progress of our seeds, so we brought out magnifying glasses to take a closer look.   

Each child had the opportunity to closely examine a seed. They were extremely excited to see what has begun to sprout out of our seeds. Here are a few of the children’s thoughts about what they saw during their close up encounter: 

- “The steam is coming out of the seed”

- “Those are roots”

- “The roots are for getting the water”

- “After the roots come, the leaves all come”

After everyone got the chance to see the sprouting of the seeds, we all sat down and discussed what we saw. The children primarily focused on the shape and the texture of what they viewed, revealing an interest and understanding of basic geometric and sensory concepts.

One of the children described their experience with the magnifying glass, saying, “When I bring it really close to my eye I can see the stem, and the leaves inside of the seeds.” This group conversation built upon the children’s interpersonal skills and provided positive reinforcement of personal ideas.

At the end of the discussion the children sat and documented their observations by drawing a picture of what they saw. Putting their observations down on paper allowed the children to work on fine motor skills. It also allowed them to engage in mimicking and modeling, which are both important ways in which children learn about the world around them. Drawing what they saw required a great amount of attention to detail and careful observation, while also allowing each child to express his or her personal perspective of the experience. 

This exploration introduced the children to a new and very cool tool: a magnifying glass. More importantly, it introduced them to a brand new side of the plant that they would not have seen otherwise. The children were able to get up close and personal with an important aspect of the plant growing process, while engaging their sense of sight in an exciting way.

Understanding the science behind plant growth evokes an interest in and appreciation of the natural world, showing children that the environment is an exciting place that should be cared for. By caring for the plants daily, the children have obtained a sense of responsibility. Getting to see the positive results of their actions first hand is very rewarding and comes with a great sense of accomplishment.