The Box-o-saurus is Finished!

After a lengthy period of random box building, we decided we were ready to build our box-o-saurus.  The children suggested four different choices for a design.  First, we drew sketches to give us an idea of how we might construct our creation.  Next, we voted using tally marks to find the favorite option.  The Ankylosaurus was a clear winner.

All of the children joined me in the block area so we could begin construction.  As a group, we decided that hot glue would be the best binding agent.  For safety, the children sat on the window seat and on stools around the staging area as we worked.  They directed box choice and position while I glued.  Referring to one of the pictures we have as a resource, they decided that it should have shorter legs in the front, a tiny head, and a club on the end of its tail.  One the first day, we completed the legs, body, and head.  The tail was almost finished, but needed some trimming the following day.

The next morning, one of the children asked for some of the scraps to cut up.  Once he began cutting small strips, he remained diligently working on this task for about 20 minutes.  When another child asked him what he was doing, he replied, “I’m making the spikes for our dinosaur.”  He placed all of his small pieces in an empty box and put it in the block center for later use.

Later that morning during center time, I called over two children at a time to place the spikes on our Ankylosaurus.  Some children were more drawn to the task, adding many, many pieces.  Others put on two or three and then returned to their center.

More details were added that afternoon.  We have been discussing the fact that human do not actually know for sure what color dinosaurs might have been.  We can make guesses, but really any color could have been possible.  With this in mind, each child chose their own paint color for our Ankylosaurus.  At first, the children painted the spot directly in front of them.  Then, they moved on to other areas of the dinosaur’s body.  This was cause for some discussion since some children did not wish for their painted area to be painted over and other children wanted to paint over everyone elses colors to see what the mixture would look like.  The children finally decided that each individual could decide if they wanted a friend to paint on their space and if you were invited, you could paint on someone else’s painting.

Dinosaur Sculpture in Mrs. Allan’s Class

Mrs. Allan, our art teacher, was inspired by the children’s study of dinosaurs.  They impressed her with their questions and facts about the creatures they were studying.  Thus, an idea was born.  The group began a sculpture project two weeks ago.

By the beginning of last week, they had completed our first sauropod model.  In Mrs. Allan’s class, they used torn copy and construction paper to paper mache a large, scrunched paper ball.  They used recycled materials for the legs, neck, and tail.  They also designed eggs and a nest for our new classmate.

When it was completed, it came to live in our room.  Here it is on its first day as a Pre-K student:

We then realized we had a small problem.  No one knew what to call this lovely animal.  Of course we knew that it was a sauropod and S. insisted that it was a Brachiosaurus (she added nostrils to the top of its head in case there was any doubt).  Yet, the poor creature did not have a name.  So we opened up the question on our Morning Message.

We had seven different suggestions (two thought it should be named Robby) and are currently at an impasse as to the final vote.  We are considering putting the decision in the hands of the older children.  Maybe if set up a voting area in the entryway, children could vote as they arrive in the morning?

Dinosaur Dig

For the first time this year, we moved our small sandbox inside.  Encouraging the dinosaurs to roam freely in this new medium has brought about many ideas.  The drift wood from the science center joined the sandy tableau and became a range of props from nests to surfboards to fences.  Once the fences became popular, the small craft sticks were added so that they could make appropriate cages to keep the dinosaurs safe from predators.  While playing with one child, I was presented with the perfect segue into our next activity.  She pushed her hand down into the sand and exclaimed that I had try, too!  She was so surprised by the detail in the print, she began making dinosaur body prints in the sand.  She called them dino angels, referring to her own love of snow angels.

If you are looking for the academic knowledge found in this activity, look no further.  We’ve sorted the contents of the sand box by size, by texture, and by type of material.  The children have arranged dinosaurs in different sets and counted their totals.  We’ve compared the heights of the dinosaurs and the drift wood.  A miniature scale was created using a rock and a piece of drift wood to experiment with “heavy” and “light” objects.  We’ve used our fingers to draw letters on the sand representing the beginning sounds of various dinosaurs.  As the children built walls, fences, and cages, they were dabbling in early engineering, creating a design, testing it, and adjusting it as needed to develop a safe, sound structure.

Yet, as you know if you’ve been with us for very long, each of the children gained just as much social learning during this new activity.  A willingness to share and take turns had to be an obvious prerequisite when some of the dinosaurs didn’t have a twin.  Many of the tools we used for “zen gardening” came only as a single piece, to be shared slowly and with patience.  The dinosaurs, themselves, told tales of family structure, friendship, anger, frustration, forgiveness, and joyousness.  Watching the children work together to decide which dinosaurs would be the Mommies and whose would play the Daddies enlightened us about the children’s development in the areas of social confidence, willingness to share leadership, and comfort with our group.  The students took risks when building new structures, practiced quiet frustration when they didn’t turn out as planned, or expressed pride when they accomplished a challenging task.

This is why our class learns via a project based vehicle.  The children and I have access to all of the academic knowledge we might ever wish to absorb and assimilate while working on tasks and playing in ways that naturally spur our curiosity and social interactions.  We learn, together as a class, as whole people.  The knowledge we gain is intertwined with the actions we do, the emotions we feel, the mistakes that we make, and the challenges we approach.  As we grow and learn, new information is examined and placed as it fits with the old ideas we hold.  Theories that no longer make sense are tossed out (such as “if something is bigger, it must also be heavier”).  The connections we make as we learn new, novel information are what make learning happen.

If Dinos Could Carry Heavy Loads

Sometimes when we get the wiggles, it’s important to invent a new wiggly game.  In this case, we tried “How many pillows can you carry?”  The whole process was quite silly.  Most of the children attempted 4 or 5 pillows stacked on their backs right away.  Understandably, they fell right off.  Then they decided that one might be a better bet.  The variety in form was great.  Some of our dinosaurs had flat backs, some tried balancing pillows on their tail-bone.

The most exciting part for me was watching the children work as a team to find the best way to carry the pillows.  They quickly realized that they could not bend down on all fours AND put a pillow on their own back.  They needed assistance (or would it be assistants?)  Sometimes the helpers held the pillows as the “dino” walked across the floor and sometimes they just helped with the piling and the cheering.

Layers Upon Layers

Our dinosaur environment mural has grown in-depth this week.  Two more sets of children worked on different parts of the picture during center time.  The first group added all things green in our world for dinos.  They began with green paint with a small amount of yellow floating on the surface.  I was curious to see if they would blend it together or simply allow it to streak through the green as they painted.  Instead, one child carefully dipped a paint brush in only the yellow and made a sun slightly above the tree trunk painted by the last group.  Then he mixed in the green and painted more of the picture.   The yellow sun was later painted over with green while I was told that, “sometimes the sun is green when it goes down in the morning”.   (Note to self: Let’s talk about sunrise, sunset, and morning vs. evening.)  The other child methodically painted tree parts with her green paint.  When the first child created green dots on her end of the paper (flying leaves) she took it with great calmness and simply made her tree taller and wider.

Our next group was in charge of the lava.  This was a much-anticipated section of the mural.  At first, lava began streaming from the top of the volcano.  Then, one of the children decided that the nearby tree trunk should really be red, not brown.  Thus adapted, the trunk now looks as though it is heated in the glow of the hot lava.  Some of the lava made it into an arc above the volcano.  One of the children is hoping that he can eventually finish it off with the rest of the colors of the rainbow.  As you can see, by the time this group finished, almost the entire volcano was covered in red, hot lava.  We’ll have to work together to come up with a plan for where the dinosaurs will be able to stand safely.  We wouldn’t want them to get toasty feet!

Beginning a Mural

Our dinosaur research has begun!  Now that we are learning more about these amazing creatures, we are designing a place to showcase our knowledge.  Our new mural began with a discussion about environments and what we might see surrounding our dinosaurs.  The children decided that our picture should include a volcano, plants, trees, dirt, mud, water, and lava.  Painting began yesterday.

The paper we chose for this project is very large, so we had a difficult time finding room to paint on it.  We settled on a section of wall that we covered with drop cloth and scrap paper.  Painting the sky was a very large job, so we used traditional wall paint brushes to cover the area.  Today, two children were in charge of deciding where the brown paint should go.  They sketched in the volcano first and then painted it in.  Next, they chose to paint trunks for trees.  Finally, they added some “mud” along the bottom.


How to Eat Like a T-Rex

This week we began researching dinosaurs, a very popular topic.  Our first activity of the week was to draw what we thought a dinosaur might look like.  Following this, we added many dinosaurs fiction and non-fiction books to our library.  Using this new resource, we are focusing on a different dinosaur each day.

Today, we were talking about the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  One of the first things we noticed was that it had extremely short arms.  Since we know that the tyrannosaurus eats meat, we were trying to discover how it might have caught it’s dinner.  As you can see from the pictures, we used a piece of crumpled paper to represent the “animal lunch” and sat on our knees with our itty-bitty hands in front of us.  After a few failed attempts, we realized that the T-Rex could not have used its hands to place food in its mouth.  Following much hilarity, we discovered the best way to eat like a T-Rex was to simply bend over and grab our food with our teeth.