Side conversations in Pre-K can often illuminate quietly held misconceptions. The other day, three children were talking about whether or not a particular playground item was alive or not. Piquining my interest, I tuned in. The debate brought in neighboring children and it became obvious that each had their own rules for what might prove a thing’s “aliveness.”
Things the children thought might be alive:
Bugs People Cats Rocks Water Toy Cars
The next day, we set this as our Morning Message.
How do you know something is alive?
You see it moving.
It has eyes.
It can move.
It moves with its whole body.
It is crawling.
It’s moving its arms and its legs.
It can be alive because it moves and tries to crawl around.
They go poop on the potty.
If their mouth has a bubble coming out of it with words.
Collating this list, there was some confusion as a few children felt there are things in the world that are alive, but do not fit these rules. Instead of refining our rules, we had many more questions.we asked the children to draw a picture of something that was alive and something that was not alive. The assignment for the day was for the children to find something outside that was either alive or not alive for me to take a picture of.
The next day, we decided to try approaching this topic from another angle. This time, we asked them to draw a picture of something alive on one side of a piece of paper and something that was not alive on the other. This task was much easier for the children. Every single one drew something that is certainly alive on one side and something that is not, on the other. However, we realized that we, the teachers, had made an erroneous assumption. Although we meant “things that can be alive”, that is not what we said. When a quarter of the class identified their non-living things as things that have died, we realized our mistake. The children weren’t wrong, but we’d missed the concept we were trying to help them process.
As we continue to follow the questions, we’ll see if maybe we can agree on a more inclusive list of rules that will inform us if something is alive.
One of our favorite pastimes in Pre-K is inventing something new with a box. This fall, we had a huge assortment of boxes at our disposal. Before we began designing, we read both Jane Yolen’s What to Do With a Box and Dana Meachen Rau’s A Box Can Be Many Things. We realized that there were so many possibilities, it would be hard to choose just one giant project. To help us narrow our focus, we closed up all of the boxes and pretended they were blocks, instead. After some preliminary “block building” with the pieces we had on hand, a few ideas came to the forefront.
Options provided by the children included a boat, a rocket, a cat, and a castle. One morning, we all voted to find out which design we should choose. At ten votes, creating a castle was easily the most popular choice.
In the past, we’ve always depended upon duct tape for our box construction needs. This morning we began using some new child-friendly box tools. While the hand saws were fun to use, they were a bit difficult for our Pre-K hands to manipulate. However, I was quite impressed with the resilience of the many that returned to using the saws again and again. The screws and screwdrivers were much more comfortably applied. In fact, you might notice that many screws grace our castle as pure decoration.
When the final walls had been battened down, groups of children went off on their own to create accessories. So far we have a chair, a trash can, and two mailboxes. Signs and flags were also quickly posted on the structure.
It’s hard to believe this entire project was put together in one morning. I wonder what direction it will take tomorrow?
This week we read, “How Full is Your Bucket? For kids.” In this story, we learned that each of us has an invisible bucket we cart along with us everywhere. With each negative interaction or event drops of “water” drip out. When your bucket is empty, it can be hard to be kind or helpful. It can also make you feel sad or irritated. On the other hand, with every positive interaction or event, our bucket fills up. We also found out that when we are kind or helpful to others, not only do we refill their bucket, but add new drops to our own, too.
Some days, your bucket seems to be leaking like a sieve. Your alarm clock didn’t go off. You burnt the toast. Your dog stepped in the mud and then jumped on your pants as you walked out the door. All of these tiny little things take from your bucket. Children and adults are more quick to anger, irritate, judge, and outright react without thought when their bucket is empty.
We’ve been noticing when our buckets are losing water and when we can help fill another person’s bucket. Today on the playground, I saw children filling buckets by sharing binoculars, taking turns on the swing, helping others build once a building had collapsed, and by inviting friends to join them in play. If you notice your bucket is a bit low, try a small act of kindness. You’d be surprised how quickly it will fill back up.
One of the children asked us many times if we might try cooking the corn. We asked them how we should cook it. After a bit of thinking, they decided that their mom makes corn in the oven. We weren’t sure where this experiment might lead, but we thought it was certainly an interesting prospect.
The temperature and baking time were suggested by the experimenting student.
These cooked quietly in the science lab while we finished our choice time in the classroom. The children helped us set a timer so we wouldn’t forget to pull them out of the oven. Two students watched the timer carefully for the last 9 minutes.
When Miss. Davis brought them in, the pan was still hot. We noticed they didn’t look too different. We did, however, decide that we should keep them separate from the other corn so we could compare them. One child suggested making a label and another wrote it out for us.
Once we looked a bit closer, we could see some differences between the cooked and uncooked corn. What do you notice?
Now that Applefest has wrapped up, we are finding lots of treasures left behind on the playground. Yesterday morning, the children discovered a few dried corn cobs that had fallen off of the decoration stalks. The cobs moved to the outdoor Maker Space where a makeshift factory was set up. Small fingers patiently and diligently removed every kernel.
This activity continued in the afternoon. Sadly, we discovered that our original corn collection had been accidentally misplaced by the older students. (Chalk it up to practicing perseverance.) No worries! We found more ears of corn to work with and many more classmates joined in on the project. In addition to the kernel factory, an airplane was built nearby where corn kernels could be delivered via leaf plates for hungry passengers.
As we worked, a few of the children came up with a plan for the corn. One child wanted to know if we could cook it. Hmm….we’ll see how that experiment works a bit later. (Don’t worry, we don’t plan to eat it.)
One of our centers had a makeover recently. Due to the sharing of nature collections from both at school and at home, the children have created what they call “The Science Lab.” We have ample acorns, plentiful pinecones, noodle-like nests, and one slightly dead, but way cool, cicada. The children have created their own experiments involving buoyancy, auditory tones, and habitats. Collections are also a great way to practice our math skills.