Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Water Table

Today something new happened. We have been exploring water for some time now- both teachers and children have come up with numerous ways to further our exploration. This ongoing interest encouraged Fish to make the water a permanent area outside!

Today when everyone walked in the pieces of the tables sat unassembled on the group rug. The children explored them as the morning passed. They climbed in one piece. They turned the bottom over. They discussed what it might be and how we might use it.

At circle Fish shared a story with everyone that he had brought with him. In the story a young boy talked about all the fun things he did at his preschool- including a water table and sand table! Fish used this as an opportunity to discuss the table with the children.

After we headed outside, the children helped Fish to set the table up. They chose a specific spot for it to live and learned about how to care for it. For example, there is a plug on the bottom that lets us drain the water out!

As you can imagine, the water table was buzzing with activity the entire time we were outside. Kids poured, mixed, funneled, dumped, and more with the water and tools provided. We look forward to continuing to explore water (and maybe more!) with our new permanent water table.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

End of summer

The summer is winding down and we spend as much time as possible outside soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the beauty in our yard.

Every day I walk around with the children and quietly look at the different parts of the yard. The goldfinches with their two babies eat the last of the sunflowers, followed by the chickadees, then the red heads of the house finches. I talk to the children about the names of these birds as they are a part of our time outside.

I take time to rake the leaves that are already falling and the plums from next door and the plentiful maple seeds.

Some beans are still ready to eat and others are dried, so we harvest the seeds to use for play later or to plant next year.

We find the last of the things that are edible to harvest and the apples are finally ready!

This is how we learn love and appreciation of the outdoor world.  We learn the simplicity of it, the symmetry and the sensory experiences which enriches our lives. 

 Henry Rollins

The Measuring Station

The children ask: How many unifix cubes equals 12 inches?

A few weeks ago, we rearranged our focus areas at the preschool house. Prior to the rearranging, writing and math had lived together on a wonderful oval table. We noticed that having a number of very full baskets all together in one area encouraged a lot of dumping, so we separated the two areas. The math table became a measuring station since many of the kids are very interested in how tall they are or how much space something takes up. I added some new rulers I found while hunting for supplies around town and redistributed the unifix cubes into a basket that's too large for them so that it would appear there was less of them (and hopefully discourage the dumping).

MR shows M.R. and LC the numbers on the ruler.

It's always interesting how changing an area gives it a surge of renewed interest. An area that rarely engaged children since my move to the preschool house in early July is suddenly a hubbub of activity. The unifix cubes and rulers are regularly used to measure any number of things from someone's foot, a chair leg, a finger, the rug, a cubby, and of course each other. How many unifix cubes does it take to make 12 inches? How many inches do all the unifix cubes together equal? The children test out these questions every day as they work directly with applied mathematics.

MR builds the unifix cubes into a tall, tall tower.

In response to the renewed interest, I found some folding rulers to add to our growing measuring station. They have been used in a variety of ways, though the most fun is still folding and unfolding since they are still fairly new. I'm not sure what else the children will lead me to search for and bring in next, but if you have any suggestions please send them my way!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brain Group Continues!

Why Brains?
We're building on what we did yesterdaylast week, the day beforethe day before, and the day before that.

How Did I Invite Them?
I took some tickets and a sharpie outside.  I quietly walked up to the children who had previously shown interest, and I whispered, "Here's the ticket for the brain group!  I'm writing a [pause in case the child wanted to label the letter] yes, a B, and then an [pause] YES! an R! and then an [pause] A! and then [pause] an I!  And lastly, a [pause]... hmmm... bbbbrrrrrraaaaayyyyyNNNNNN... Yes!  an N!"

How Did I Set Up The Group Area?
I brought a body kit that is actually intended for much older children and requires glue for set up and such.

What Was My Intention For Today?
I wanted to provide a provocation that would support more story telling and discussions around the brain's relationship to the rest of the body.

What Did We Do?
W:  What's this?  M:  That's the spine!  It's on your back!  You can feel it right here!

M:  What's THIS?

W:  I'm doing research.

M:  Hey, there's the cerebellum!

G:  I think I can get the jaw bone onto the skull.

M:  If I fit this together right here, I think I can find the brain stem.

W:  Does my jaw bone move like this?

W:  Can we get the brain and skull to fit inside the body part?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Parent Guest Post: Pulling Hair and Processing!

 Eric and I dropped little E off at school one recent morning.  We were the last to drop off so we sat back and watched E play with the other two kids.  E loves to zoom anything with wheels around and around the room.  The other kids were deep in their own play, and Briana suggested to E that he go pick up this favorite green car.

The novelty of zooming the green car quickly wore off, and the toys the other kids were playing with suddenly became irresistibly fascinating to E.  Eric and I had been talking about observing E at play with other kids and trying to figure out when (or if) to intervene and when to step back and let E and whoever he is playing with sort it out.  We welcomed the opportunity to watch Briana in action and see how a professional handles the situation.

Little E grabbed ahold of a car that Z was playing with.  Z’s face said that he wanted to keep playing with the car, a message that E either missed or ignored.  Briana moved in to help Z hold on to the toy saying, "E, I am going to help Z hold on to the toy.  You can tell that he wants it because he is holding on really really tight.”  When it became clear to E that he wasn't going to wrestle the car free, he reached out and grabbed Z's hair and pulled it.  With amazing speed and a gentle touch Briana removed E's grip on Z's hair and told him that she wasn't going to let him pull Z's hair.  E seemed frustrated.  He promptly crawled over to C, who was in a different part of the room and repeated the toy grabbing, hair pulling routine.  Briana repeated her efforts and an unsuccessful E crawled back over to Z to try again.

Eric and I watched these interactions, and Briana’s re-directions for about ten minutes until snack time took everyone's minds off of toys.  As Eric and I got ready to leave, I asked Briana if the other kids pulled hair like that. She said she hasn't seen C or Z do it, but that hair pulling is a thing that some kids do and is generally a stage that children pass through.

As we drove to work, Eric and I talked about what we had seen and our thoughts about E’s interactions with C and Z. I was concerned that E was being too physically aggressive, especially given that he was the only kid pulling hair. I felt that E's hair-pulling was troubling, and I didn't think Eric was taking it seriously enough.

Eric was surprised that I was troubled because he was excited by E’s behavior.  He said that to him E’s behavior showed that he was a kid who knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it.  Eric said that we needed to make sure that E learned successful ways of going after what he wanted, and that he was learning that lesson with Briana's help.

I then began to explain to Eric just how wrong his view was.  A few moments into my explanation, it dawned on Eric and me that we had just witnessed the exact same exchange that was happening between us not twenty minutes earlier at Tumbleweed.  I was little E and had a firm grasp on Eric’s hair.  Eric wasn’t agreeing with me about what E’s behavior meant, and I was going to make Eric agree with me even if it meant pulling his hair. 

In that moment of realizing that I was being way more aggressive than was called for in the particular conversation at hand, Eric, and I also realized that we were looking at E's actions through the prism of our own behaviors as children and adults.  No one would ever accuse me of not going after what I want. I tend to go after what I want, sometimes to a fault and without thinking about how my wants impact others.  Therefore when I saw E pursuing the other children so forcefully, I was worried that he would be like me and be so dogged in his pursuit of what he wanted that he would forget to think about others.

Eric, on the other hand, was the kid who had his toys taken away by other kids and as an adult is sometimes paralyzed by thoughts of how his various actions might impact others or be perceived.  Thus, Eric sees E’s behavior as a good thing because it means E won’t be inhibited by the same challenges that have affected Eric.

In the end, observing our little dude provided a chance for reflection and discussion about how two people can see the same behavior and have very different responses.  We found that judgments are based in large part on our individual experiences and our strengths and weaknesses as people.  It was a great opportunity for us to talk about how who we are influences how we evaluate E’s behavior.  Judgment calls need to be made about what kinds of behaviors we want to encourage in E, but Eric and I realized in this conversation that sometimes we need to step back and look at where those judgments come from first.

BRAIN is for Brain

Why Brains?
We're building on what we started last week, the day beforethe day before, and the day before that.

 How Did I Invite Them?
I took some tickets and a sharpie outside.  I quietly walked up to the children who had previously shown interest, and I whispered, "Here's the ticket for the brain group!  I'm writing a [pause in case the child wanted to label the letter] yes, a B, and then an [pause] YES! an R! and then an [pause] A! and then [pause] an I!  And lastly, a [pause]... hmmm... bbbbrrrrrraaaaayyyyyNNNNNN... Yes!  an N!"

How Did I Set Up The Group Area?
I brought air hardening clay, wire, and scissors for the first part and pens and little cardstock pieces for the second part. 

What Was My Intention For Today?
I wanted to provide a provocation that would support more story telling and discussions around brains.

What Did We Do?

Me:  This clay is a special kind of clay that can harden if we leave it out, and I thought that since we've been thinking about brains so much, we might want to see how we can use this clay to make brains that we can take home.  I also brought this wire because we've been talking about the nerves sending messages into our bodies.
M:  Do we have to do that?
Me:  Nope!  You can use the clay and the wires however you'd like.

M: I want to make these like the nerves. They're like, attached to your brain but not a part of your brain.
Me: And they carry the messages throughout your body?
M:  Yep.  Like all the way down to your legs to tell you to jump.
M:  And I was going to try to make the brain smooth, but brains are bumpy, so mine's all bumpy.  
T:  Can I see?
W: Mine is a brain that got sick so it's getting a shot.
T: Mine too.  It needs a shot right here!
W: Hey, that looks CRAZY!
G: Yeah, look, this one is crazy too!  This is a brain when it's crazy.  [...] And THIS is a brain that can FLY! [...] And this is a brain that's being funny!

At one point, everyone discusses the way that they use the scissors to cut the wire.  G tries to use two hands to see if leverage helps make the cut.  W convinces M to use the scissors in her right hand with her thumb in the small hole.  T finally decides that his wire is actually going to stay as the shot and that it needs to stay long.
W: This is what your brain looks like, when you put your hands together! [she places her two fists next to each other.]
T does the same: Like this?
M: Yeah, yeah! Like this! And look Amy, your brain is bigger than mine!
Me:  Hmmm... I wonder what that's about!
M:  Well, there's just more room in your head, so you brain can get bigger.

(Remember G's first B?)
As the children finish their brains, I offer them a piece of cardstock and a choice of sharpies.  "If you're interested, " I say, "you can write the letters for BRAIN on this, and I'll set your brain on it to dry."

As we made our way to the backyard, M exclaims, "I'm using my cerebellum to JUMP!"  T decides, "I'm gonna RUN!"  G "zoooooms." And W "gallops."

A very funny brain that can fly.
M's intentionally textured brain with nerve attached.
These children have so many ideas about how brains work, what brains look like, how brains change depending on what they're feeling, how brains are what send messages to our bodies about movement and emotions, and so on.  
They enjoy sharing their ideas, showing each other how they do things, creating games out of their work, and generally being silly. 

Ideas for Families
OMSI has all sorts of body exploration possibilities in their Life Hall.
G talked about brains flying, and W mentioned that fish have itty bitty brains last week, and M observed that a grasshopper probably has a cerebellum because it jumps, and I wonder what conversations would arise when watching the swifts
Our Woodstock neighborhood farmer's market has kid-friendly activities and music this Sunday--perhaps a little cerebellum-influenced dancing would be fun.
These kids dig art, and the Portland Art Museum offers free admission to kids under 17 and family tours on Sundays.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

BRAI is for Brains

Why Brains?
We're building on what we started yesterdaythe day before, and the day before that.

 How Did I Invite Them?
I took some tickets and a sharpie outside.  I quietly walked up to the children who had previously shown interest plus a few new children (today I needed six in order for the group staying back to be in ratio with one teacher), and I whispered, while writing a B and an R and an A and an I on the ticket, "Are you interested in coming to do some research in the BRAI [making the sound bray] for Brains group?  Yes?  Here's a BRAI for Brains ticket! You can wait at the gate for everyone!"

How Did I Set Up The Group Area?
I brought the same 3D brain model/puzzle plus a new labyrinth puzzle (the kind you turn in order to get the balls to go through the maze) plus a new body puzzle (with different layers for different systems of the body). 

What Was My Intention For Today?
I've been thinking about T's interest in the puzzle aspect of the 3D brain model, and I wanted to see if I could extend that interest and offer the opportunity for more questions, thoughts, and ideas to come up about our brain's connection to the rest of our body.
I also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to include different children in the special group.

What Did We Do?
My introduction to the puzzles was short:  "Yesterday we worked really hard!  Our cerebellums sent
messages to our bodies about movement, and we gained skills in jumping and balancing.  Today, I brought some puzzles, and I'm interested to see how our brains help us figure them out!"

L and T were drawn to the brain model.  T asked what the different parts were, and as long as they weren't too busy with the labyrinth, W and M would peek over and offer answers (e.g. brain stem, cerebellum, IDon'tKnowJustSomethingThatDoesSomething, and so on).  At one point, L pretended to eat the brain, smacking her lips and "yumming."

W and M (and soon L and even later T) worked hard at the labyrinth.

T and J were completely immersed in the body puzzle.  They were so involved that when everyone else was ready to rejoin the class, we decided to transfer the puzzle to a table in the backyard so that they could continue to work on it.

I didn't want to disrupt their concentration and hard work, so I worked hard to wait for them to look up at me to make comments intended to reflect on their work, "Hey, you're working on the part of the body that has all of the organs!"  T replied, "Yeah, this is the brain part!"

Later I observed, "Hey!  You finished the organ layer, and now you're working on the muscles!  J's helping to find the muscle layer.  The muscles go on top of the organs."  J agreed, "Yep.  I helpin'."

I made silly comments like, "Oh wait!  J's trying to put the skin part down, but we haven't got the muscles there yet!  What would it be like if our skin was under our muscles?!?"  T replied seriously, "We'd be dead!"

My Reflections
 These kids got brains.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Busy Bees

With summer comes sunshine and flowers in bloom... Everything outside seems brighter, bigger, and busier- including bugs! Many of our preschoolers have taken notice of the bugs outside. We often have bug hunt expeditions, bug watching, discussions about the jobs of bugs. This led us to explore one bug in particular with a little more depth at our small group today!

As we got ready to head into the back room for our small group, VR grabbed our bee book and together we made a buzzing sound to see who else might be interested. The buzzing was noticed by a number of our friends and we ended up with around 7 in our small group.

Before reading our book we talked about what we knew about bees:
JK: "Bees are red!"
CE: "And white!"
AS: "Bees go buzzzzzz!"
GL: "Those guys sting you."
OR: "They really nice."

While reading, OR was very interested in pollen and why it stuck to the bees. JK helped hold the pages down so we could look closer at the picture of the bee and the pollen. I made a note to research pollen as we investigated how it seemed to stick to the fur of the bee!

After our book the kids did a bee dance and collected flowers to get pollen from. VR felt strongly that our dance needed a little musical accompiant so he grabbed the tambourine and quickly our bee dance became a dance party!

As we move forward with our bee group and study of pollen, I'm excited to see what other reflections and questions these kids will have. Bees have hair or fur of some sort. They drink nectar. They are actually a kind of brown or yellow not red or white! Pollen STICKS to them! Already we have so many new bee facts.

BRA is for Brains

Why Brains?
We're building on what we started yesterday and the day before.

 How Did I Invite Them?
I took some tickets and a sharpie outside.  I quietly walked up to the children who had previously shown interest, and I whispered, while writing a B and an R and an A on the ticket, "Are you interested in coming to do some research in the BRA [making the sound bray] for Brains group?  Yes?  Here's a BRA for Brains ticket!  AND today, you each get to choose one friend you want to share a ticket with.  When you give them a ticket, you can invite them to come to our BRA for Brains group so we can tell them about the stuff we're doing!"

How Did I Set Up The Group Area?
I drew squares for hopscotch with chalk and bought some long rope.  I decided to video document today.  While I was setting up, I found a grasshopper!  SCORE.

What Was My Intention For Today?
Since we'd done two days of researching and drawing, I wanted to change things up a bit and do a kind of gross motor application of what we'd been learning.  I also wanted to be able to include more children in the activity so that the current Brain group could show their expertise, we could build on our sense of community, and the other children could get in on the action.

What Did We Do?
We watched the grasshopper jump!
We tested out our cerebellums with jumping and balancing feats!
The children created their own games and tests for jumping and balancing!
They negotiated roles, turns, and goals for play!
The original Brain group children shared their passion for brains, celebrating with the other children as they sent messages about movement from their cerebellum to their bodies!
We noticed that at first some of these activities were tricky, and then we gained skills, and they got easier--Thanks cerebellum for working so hard! 

 Also, before we started M asked me what letters were going to be on the tickets next time.  "Do you have an idea about that?" I asked.  "Well, I don't think we can fit any more letters!" she said.  I smiled and replied, "We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see!"

My Reflections
Sharing passion rocks! 

Here are a couple of videos!  Turn your volume down because I'm really excited and close to my phone.