Thursday, December 24, 2015

Concoctions

A huge motivator for children is learning the qualities of the world around them.  They want to know how things work, why things work, and how they can effect it.  By offering as many opportunities for children to experiment, ask questions and delve in to the wonderous world and work of inquiry, they guide and shape their own knowledge and continuously absorb what they learn.

One of our favorite ways to to create concoctions.  This is a very exciting work for everyone and something that is frequently asked for during the day.  The set up is often the same, very orderly and with small tools for mixing, small jars and bowls and various powders and liquids.  The opportunities for discoveries are limitless!

Materials:
A tray
Jars
Small Bowls
Tweezers
Pipettes
Measuring Spoons
Small Brushes

Flour
Baking Soda
Corn Starch
Liquid Watercolor
Tissue Paper
Glue
Water

This list of materials really is endless.  The idea is that the tray contains any overflow of materials and also sets a boundary of focus for each child.  The tools and containers are made from glass, metal and rarely plastic.  They are child sized versions of tools adults use.  Often we even talk about and pretend we are scientists or artist working or using these tools!  The loose materials are given to the children in small amounts and named as they are added to the trays, bowls and jars.  Everyone can use what is on their tray as much as they like, but we do not add more.  This limit encourages focus on what is available, moving slowly and carefully, and using the materials thoughtfully.

Once the children are offered the materials, we sit back and observe.  Often we sportscast the words, wonderings and observations of the children to concrete what they are noticing.
"It's exploding!"
"I heard you say, 'The cornstarch feels soft.'"
"You noticed the red and blue turned purple!"
Then we extend their explorations:
"It's exploding!  I wonder how that happened?"
"Why is cornstarch soft?"
"Where did the purple come from?"
And always :
"What did you notice?  What did you wonder?"



Some children remain with this work as long as it available, while others take just a few moments to explore.  Each time it is offered, I have noticed that it creates an almost instant opportunity to focus and the children are drawn in to a refinement of movement that feels very satisfying: using tweezers to grab one grain of salt at a time; collecting just enough colored water to fill the bulb of the pipette; using their fingertips to run through the corn starch and water to see how the color changes.

Over time our concoctions will become more complex, while building on the knowledge the children already own.  Who knows where this exploration might lead us!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Explorers!

During group time one morning, the children entered the room and everything was dark.
"Why is it so dark?" They asked, and I explained that we would be having group time in outer space today.  Everyone seemed to agree that this was a great idea, especially once I switched on the flashlight.
"The brightest light near the earth is the sun," I explained.  Then shined the light on our globe of the earth.
"The Earth!!!" everyone cheered and I brought it closer.  We played a game of the Earth going around the sun, while singing a song:
The Earth Goes around the Sun
The Earth goes around the Sun
It takes twelve months to go around
The earth goes around the Sun.

When the game was over, we all sat down and got close together.  One child held the Sun (a flashlight) while another child slowly spun the Earth and we talked about night and day.  One child said, "So are we astronauts?"
"Great question!  Are we exploring outer space?" I asked.
"Astronauts don't live in space," someone else said and everyone agreed.  Then the idea of being visitors, going out into space to gather information then return home came up.
"We are explorers!" Someone else said.

Then one day, we all became explorers.
"Ok Everyone!  We are going to go on a walk!" I announced and the children who were interested joined me on a walk down the road.  We are very lucky to have unimproved road ways not too far from the school, which offer tiniest bit of wildness to our every day explorations.
 Before we began walking, we went over the important rules: hold your partner's hand, move to the side when there is a car coming,  stay ahead of the teacher, don't run!, be safe.   Then the children began asking me where we were going.
"We are going on a walk," I said, leaving it very open ended and ambiguous.  "I wonder what we will find."
"Are we going to the park?"

"Are we going to the Infant House?"
"Sometimes we go on walks to collect special leaves"
Their answers were searching for some verification of what we might be meaning to accomplish by our walk, so I offered this as a reminder of our earlier conversations about astronauts.
"Today we are simply going to explore and see what we can find.  It could really be anything.  It's kind of like the astronauts!"  This idea caught on quickly and the children were excited to see what we might find.


And what we did find was a huge, huge puddle which had filled in a low spot in the unimproved road down the street.  The children know this place well,
because it is next to the huge blackberry bush.  But today it was transformed into
a new land, which they could splash through or toss small rocks.  On the way back we collected some treasure in the form of small white rocks.  The explorers returned satisfied, yet ready to gain more knowledge on future adventures.