Sunday, May 31, 2015

Advanced Bug Hunting

One of our many focuses outside revolves around hunting for bugs. We flip over stumps to see what might be living underneath. We search beneath rocks and near our plants. We dive into the bamboo to see if a bug may be hiding among the leaves. Closely examining a tree trunk sometimes yields a positive result! Our bug hunting efforts sometimes involve just a few children and other times all of us search in small groups around the yard. Usually once we find a bug we look at it for a while then find it a home. It gives us an opportunity to discuss the life cycles of bugs and their habitats- two things that tend to interest us about almost any living thing these days. The other day, though, the bug hunting expanded beyond our typical territory. Once we found a bug, what else could we do with it?

First we need to find a bug. A few groups bounded around the yard looking underneath things and next to things and on top of things... then A, S, and J found a bug under our stepping stone we recently made in small group! They carefully procured the bug and children from all around the yard took turns looking at it closely. As we peered closely we studied it and compared our observations of the bug to our knowledge about bugs. How many legs did it have? Eight! That means it's a spider. What might it eat? Other bugs! We didn't have any of those, though, so A, S, and J put some grass and leaves into a bowl to make a home for the spider. They proceeded to carry the spider and its' home around the yard showing it various places that we play and what we can do there. After a while, they settled near our small climbing structure. 

A: "This is our spider friend now. It's going to live in this bowl!"
J: "Yeah! That bowl is a boat. It lives in a boat!"
S: "A boat! A boat in the water!"
A: "Yeah, because spiders don't like to be IN the water."
J left and collected a hoop then put it next to the spider's boat home. A watched him intently then asked, "What's that for?"
J: "It's to protect him."
A: "Oh yeah! Because he's bait. We need to put it around him, though."
J: "Yeah! Like in fishing."
A: "Spider bait! Spider bait!"
S: "Oh he's a spider bait!"
I asked, "What are you catching?"
A: "We don't know. Whatever eats spiders. We are just hunting so we needed bait."
S: "We have to be quiet while we hunt now."

Garden Learning

As the weather grows warmer and summer draws near, our interests are almost primarily on everything outdoors: insects, plants, flowers, cloud formations, sunshine.  The garden is part of our daily play and work as we care for it and watch how it changes.  By offering moments to encourage the children to slow down, look closely and notice the changes, the cycle of inquiry happens naturally. 

When children ask questions, we encourage them to observe for their answers instead of giving it to them.  This way, they can draw their own conclusions and notice the things they find interesting.  From their observations, more questions and wonderings arise.  When children are in a constant state of wonder, they notice the world around them in a new way.  Their observations become opportunities for storytelling, new knowledge, and deep understanding.

We have many different parts of our yard where things are growing.  The garden beds are a special place where seeds and seedlings are planted with care, watered and tended.  There are plants which encourage bees to come.  There are others that give us food!  When children are part of the process of growing food for their meals, including the long process of waiting and watching the vegetables develop, they are more aware and connected to the important process.

Monday, May 25, 2015

What is salt?

I have something to show you today.  It's on these trays.  What do you notice?
"It's pink!"
"There's tiny, shiny rocks."
"They're crystals, I think."
You're right!  They are crystals.  A specific kind of crystals called salt.
"Oh I know salt!  We use that while we cook!"
"Yeah, it's really spicy."
I thought you might have heard of salt before.  This salt is very special.  It has big pieces.  You can feel it in your hands and play with it today.  What else do you know about salt?  Where does it come from?
"From rocks, I think."
"The water at the beach is salty"

Salt is all around us and we find it in different places.  Some comes from salty water.  Some comes from inside larger rocks.  Sometimes, there are huge crystals of rock.
"I want to see that."
"I wonder where I could get a salt crystal as big as a house."
"As big as mama!"
"As big as me!"

 The children's conversations continued as the delved into the deliciously sensorial experience of pouring, scooping, feeling and using the trays of salt.  The play evolved into a sorting of the salt crystals into a color gradient, from darkest to lightest..  The children carefully placed one tiny piece into the palette and enjoyed the process of hunting for their favorites. 

Our exploration of salt encouraged the children to create stories as they worked with their hands and the small containers. It evolved over time, but had the same theme: this is real and part of our world.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Many Uses of Pillows

When we play with the same toys every day, it's important to use our imaginations to think of all the different ways our toys can be used to stimulate our minds. I set out the pillows that are kept in the classroom for B and H to play with and watched how they interacted with them.

We can stack them. 
We can do headstands on them.
We can feel how squishy they are.
With a little help we can build a fort to sit in alone.
Or with a friend.
We can rest our heads on them.

We can sit on them. 
We can throw them in the air.
We can have a pillow fight.
Children are extremely good at finding new ways to use common objects. With little help from me, H and B were able to find so many uses for the pillows before they were ready to move on to something else.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Doing it Myself: Pride in Self Care Activities

E starts the process of getting his shoe on by pointing his
toes into the front of the shoe.
E then uses his hand to work his toes further into the shoe and to try and pull the back over his heel.

The other day E decided to stay inside with me as I cleaned. We finished up our work inside then headed for the porch to get our shoes on. I slipped into my flip flops as E watched me. He said to me, "Your shoes are so easy!" I nodded, "Yeah, I wear flip flops since I take my shoes on and off so much." E studied his shoes for a moment, "Watch how I put my shoes on, okay? It's work!"

We have been talking a lot lately about shoes and coats and the various ways we can work hard to get them on our feet. I stepped back to watch E put on his shoes and as he started to narrate to me what he was doing I started snapping pictures. Though its' been a considerable topic lately, slowing down with him reminded me just how many steps are involved as the children work to take care of themselves. There are so many moments that allow them personal success and a chance to take pride in their own abilities!

E noted: "I can stand up to push my foot in! Watch me!"
"Now I gotta buckle these!"

"My coat is right here! That's my name!" E pointed to his name tag above his hook before taking his coat down.

"I flip it!" E placed his coat on the ground. He stood at one end of it and looked puzzled for a moment before heading to the other side, "I stand next to the hood to flip it!"
E placed his hands into his sleeves then flipped the coat over his head and onto his body. The preschool flip allows children to have ownership over getting their coat on easily without an adult helping.

After flipping his coat on this his body, E pulled his sleeves on to make sure the coat was all the way on. Then he looked at me and beamed, "I can even do the zipper!" Carefully he found both pieces of his zipper- this was the first time I had observed him attempting this since moving to the preschool house! We both felt pretty excited. He carefully put the two pieces together and started to zip- but only one side came up! For a moment E looked crestfallen. The zipper didn't work like he thought it would! He slowly slid the piece back to the bottom and started over again. After a few tries, both pieces came up together! The coat zipped up! E zipped it all the way to the top calmly then looked straight at me, "It's done now. We're ready for playing!" I followed his lead, "Yep! You finished getting ready to go outside. Now all of us are ready."

E's trust in his ability to care for himself drove him to keep trying rather than get frustrated with the zipper or at any other moment a challenge presented itself. Successfully completing getting on his shoes and coat helped him to satisfy his intrinsically human need for autonomy. Self care is such an important piece of a preschooler's day! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reflections of Life: A Doctor Story

 At the preschool house we indulge ourselves in the wildest dreams of our imaginations on a regular basis. We are ninjas sneaking from hiding spot to hiding spot. We are sisters planning the most mundane and fantastical adventures. We go to ballet class. We are teachers on a lunch break. We are ship captains on the open sea. We are so many, many things- and all in the span of a few hours (or even less!). These stories that we create through play let us explore so many concepts. We can feel safe testing, failing, and succeeding in the confines of our limitless imaginations. They also let us process our own everyday lives. Often our play is a reflection of life itself. Recently, a few of our children had doctor appointments for various things. Some needed routine check ups, some were seen for possible illness... but all of them needed to process: How do doctors work to heal people or keep them from getting sick? What are the differences between a patient and a doctor? What happens when you go to the doctor?

The doctors check the patient's leg for any injuries.
As I watched the doctor play that occurred over the span of several days I noticed a few things. For the children the roles of doctor and patient were fluid. As soon as you finished being treated, you could become a doctor! You had just been taken care of by other doctors so now you, too, could take care of new patients! However, this doesn't mean you couldn't get sick again. A doctor totally gets sick. What does being sick mean, though? Usually in these scenarios it meant you needed surgery! Surgery didn't necessarily mean that you needed to be cut open, though. Maybe you just needed to lie down on the table while the doctors worked on you and took lots of pictures. However, to read those pictures you need to go to another room. It was interesting to see how much of the doctor play was based on factual information about heading to the doctor. Each child's own experience changed the narrative of the play as the days went by. Some kids received vaccinations recently so they knew all about those- both the kind that comes in needles and the kind you can breathe in. Some kids have broken a bone before so they knew all about x-rays and scans. Each child's own individual experience worked together to form the rich, complex rules of doctor play. Below I've included one dialog I was able to capture from this play. 

LC: He's bleeding a lot so how sick is he?
AS: He's sick for a lot of days so he can't go to school.
LC: Well there's a doctor school you can go to when you are sick for lots of days.
AS: Yeah! You can go to the doctor school, JK.
LC: Okay! We need to look at the science thing to check out his body. You other doctors wait here while I check out his body.
EK: LC! LC! We need to fix him!
LC: Okay JK! You're fixed!
JK: Thanks doctor!
LC: Okay JK! We are dong doctoring you. Next patient please! JK are you a doctor or a scientist now?
JK: A doctor! 

The doctors confer about the best treatment for the patient. Dr. LC looks back to the "dark room" to read a recent x-ray.