Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Never Stop Discovering...

...Bones are everywhere!"  - EB, age 5

It's a warm late spring afternoon and the preschoolers have come to visit us at the infant house!  It's always a flurry of activity and excitement as the toddlers and preschoolers meet with joy and the preschoolers return to their old environment.  Our outside space is highly conductive for  large motor.  My goal today was to set up a provocation that would call to our common interest in dinosaurs.  There has also been an interest in deconstruction, so creating an archeology station seemed perfect. 

I set up chunks of dried clay on our table outside.  These chunks of clay were imbedded with dried leaves, petals and grass from a provocation a few weeks earlier.  A few children sat down and I offered brushes, spoons for chipping brushes for dusting a sticks for scraping.  We talked a lot about how the tools could be used and how an archeologist might use them in their work.  It became quickly apparent that there were not enough tools, so we began searching near by for anything that might be helpful.  As they began their work I told a short story:
"Archeologists search for information.  They carefully look at rocks to see what they can find.  There might be bones or fossils.  They never know what they might find and it takes a lot of work."
KC and IR were the first to join the table and they sat down and got right to work.  "Be careful IR!  There's dinosaur bones in there." KC said as he bent closer to his chunk of clay.
"I like big banging!" IR said, and began to use a large pot to bang her clay.
"No!  That's too much!" KC quickly said, looking worried.
Others came to see what was happening and soon the table was very busy with activity.
"We should use water to make the rocks softer!" IR declared.
"I can find some.  Where's the water?" TLC asked.  He searched for a long time, first finding a white cup for scooping and eventually finding the only source of water in the yard: the bird bath filled with rain water.
Some children dunked their entire piece of clay into the water while others simply dipped their brushes.
"I like to use a dry brush," EB explains "because it smooths better."

As they worked many things were discovered inside of the rocks.  "Look!  I think I see something inside!" TLC said with excitement and showed everyone nearby.
"Maybe it's a fossil.  We'll need to break it open,"  EB said as she balanced on the adult sized chair and worked with her brush.

Throughout the afternoon, almost every child became an archeologist by searching for clues, using very careful techniques and talking together about what they found.  Other discoveries were made through their work including the mess that happens when you spend a long time chipping away at a rock and that when you pull at something inside of the rock it might break!  The children found such joy in the work they did and satisfaction of working together through their discoveries. We called it work, because it was.  The focus, longevity and attention they added to the activity emphasized the importance of this new role they entered.  They became the archeologists, hoping to find something new and exciting, yet they found the work of their hands just as satisfying.

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