Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Where Are All the Frog Mamas?"

The toddlers of Cohort 7 & 9 have been busy exploring a recently emerged interest in frogs, which has become the focus of our group's project work as we head into Spring.  Together, we have explored books with all kinds of pictures, facts, and stories about different kinds of frogs (poisonous frogs! frogs who carry eggs on their backs! frogs who climb trees and frogs who live in the desert!).  In addition to books, we explore art materials with colors and textures that evoke knowledge we are building about frogs and their lives, and connect concepts like water absorption/resistance and viscosity to our exploration of how frog bodies function in similar and dissimilar ways to our own bodies.  

 One of the main focal points of all of this learning has been the unique life cycle of frogs: from eggs, to tadpoles, to frogs, we marvel at how a creature could start out looking so different from what it ends up being.  In learning about the life cycle of a frog, one question the children are repeatedly drawn to is: "Where are the frog mamas?"  We have learned that many frogs lay eggs and don't necessarily stay with them, but move on to other parts of the pond or river where they live. The tadpoles hatch within a couple of weeks, and fend for themselves right away, finding their own food and developing into frogs over the next couple of months.  

We gather before nap to read about frogs and the various noises they make to communicate

This fact has so much to teach us about the unique nature of humans; our tendency to group into families that stay with each other for years and years is special, and not a trait shared by all animals. How does this fact set us apart from other kinds of animals?  What does this tell us about the act of survival and what each of us needs to thrive?  We talk about how long it takes to grow as a human, and how frogs develop so much more quickly, becoming their adult selves in a comparatively very short amount of time.  Reflecting on this, we consider the extensive support that babies, children, teens, and adults need in order to develop.  These systems of support shift as we grow older of course, but it is easy to find examples of how we all give and receive support as families and community members throughout our entire lives.

A spontaneous circle time to explore a new frog book!

As we continue to immerse ourselves in studying and wondering about frogs, we gain a deeper appreciation for the different ways development occurs and families are formed and sustained.  All of our learning about frog life cycles has been coinciding with a deepening interest in dramatic play centering around caring for babies - anticipating pretend babies' needs and explaining what we know about where they are in their development.  All of this work - reading, artwork, and dramatic play - informs the ability to shift perspective, practice empathy, and consider oneself in relation to the surrounding world, made up of so many people, creatures, and places that both resonate with and confuse us as we relate things back to what we know about ourselves.  Stay tuned for where all of this work takes us next!

"Teacher" LT looks over the babies in her classroom.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Inviting Worms to our Classroom

As spring begins to spring, the children's fascination with the creatures that live in our yard is exploding.  One of our very favorite things to search for are worms!  These creatures can be found all around our yard, under stumps, in the dirt, and often in our hands.  To support this interest we created a worm habitat for our classroom, so that we can observe their homes more easily and to foster a deeper inquiry into the world of a worm.  
The first step was filling a large, glass cylinder with soil.  We chose some from one of our garden spaces that has yet to be planted.  As we gathered the dirt, we talked about our plan:
"We are inviting the worms to visit our classroom.  We want them to be comfortable so they want a lot of dirt.  The dirt is their home!"  With careful movements (and much concern about the glass breaking) we filled the container then set it aside.  The real work was about to begin.  We needed to gather many, many worms!  
There is a corner in the yard where we have been digging lately to see what we can find.  The frequent rain and digging has created a beautifully enticing mud pit that we have been loving.  I got out a large shovel and everyone gathered their own smaller ones.  The children naturally broke into different jobs: worm grabber, bowl holder, digger, worm spotter.  Each child has their own comfort level with getting dirty, touching worms and being in charge of holding the collecting bowls.  At first I did the heavy digging, but soon the children were interested in participating and formed digging teams.  It felt so good when it worked, and the worms were plentiful.  
As we were digging, we noticed that the worms were all sorts of sizes!  Some were very small, some were bigger, but short.  We even found a huge, long worm!  After we gathered quite a few everyone paused for a moment to notice how the worms were moving: 
 scrunching up, then reaching out
pushing the dirt with their heads
trying to find a home
climbing on top of each other!
Once we were satisfied with the amount of worms collected, they were placed at the top of the container of dirt.  Everyone felt quite happy and even surprised at how quickly the worms buried themselves into the dirt.  A few wiggled close to the sides of the container, so we could see just how far they had gone.  After watching for a while, we covered the sides with black paper to mimic the darkness under the earth and brought it inside.  We are feeling excited to observe it during the week to see what the worms are up to!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

"That's stupid!'

Carefully, B arranges two creates next to each other. He then selects a long board and leans it away from himself against the crates, then steps back to look. E and I have been watching, and as soon as the board became a ramp, E began to approach.
"Look at that stupid board.  I hate it."
Fireworks went off in my head.  It happens for me often when children call each other stupid, or mock the way someone says something.  It is my natural reaction.  I feel so frustrated!!  This is my cue to not react. 
"I wonder if you mean, 'I'm curious about what you built, B.'  What I know about you, E, is you love building and figuring things out.  Let's go look closer."  We walked over together. B had stepped back. E knocked over the board.
"Oh wait!  Remember, I won't let you knock down someone's work.  They're using it!  Let's try again. What I know about B is he loves building. I wonder what his idea is."  I place the board where B had placed it then stepped back. b was watching too. E placed a small red object at the top of the ramp. 
"It's going to go down the slide!"
"Oh cool!" I said. Then we were both puzzled when the object didn't move. B stepped forward to take a closer look. Soon, S was curious too!  E tried another object, this time a small block. It also didn't move. 
The thee continue their explorations as I step back.  This potentially negative situation has become an exploration in physics. It is also a firm reminder to me that sometimes "stupid" is an opportunity  to connect. That children are constantly testing out the world around them, especially how they effect each other.  They want it to work!  And I get to help them find that natural path.