We are almost two weeks into our latest adventure at WT North Pre-K. This class of small scientists has been flowing right into the new routines. We’ve been slowly introducing materials and tools, allowing the children to become comfortable with the use and care of each before adding something new. As they play in this novel setting, we’ve had many opportunities to observe and wonder along with them.
The children were so excited this morning! Last week, we hung a birdseed wreath outside our window. The children were a little disappointed that the birds didn’t arrive that very moment. However, this morning was completely different. From our window, we observed at least 15 birds rummaging around on the playground and this little friend repeatedly visited our bird feeder.
These sightings inspired many questions and a renewed interest in using the binoculars when we moved outside to explore. I can’t wait to see what other types of birds we might see in the upcoming months.
An unusual box arrived today. Curiosity and excitement are bubbling out the door and down the hall. What could be inside?
- A hamster in a cage, because I saw one once.
- A turtle because ___ put his finger in and he said something bit him. It must be a turtle.
- I think it’s a stuffed cat. Stuffed cats come to your house in a box like that.
- Glass because you said that it is fragile and can’t get hot or cold.
- A turtle because that’s what some other people said.
- A real cat. When kittens came to my house, they came in a box.
We tried listening to the box for clues. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear anything that might give us clues.
Everyone wrote down their ideas using one of our Feely Box Friday forms. The top says, “I think it is a________.” We use the bottom to write about what we actually find.
Finally, we opened the box. Its contents were not what we expected. Inside we found bugs! In fact, there were four containers of them. The bugs are very small and a few of the children were a bit nervous that they might be poisonous. I quickly assured them that I would never invite a dangerous bug into our school. The package also contained some white fuzzy things, two little Petri dishes with what appear to be seeds, and some sort of crispy, hard thing that reminded the children of a butterfly “cocoon.” I’ve set up all of these items in an observable space so we can keep an eye on them. Our little scientists are looking forward to watching this drama unfold.
This week I visited Sabot School at Stony Point in Richmond, Virginia. Sabot is a Pre-K through grade 8 independent school running a program that is Reggio Emilia inspired. I’ve been a practitioner and learner within the Reggio inspired world since 1996 and I continue to find ways to grow. This year Sabot’s school-wide Umbrella project is based on the book, Listen by Patty Wipfler. As I explored the corridors filled with beautiful, child-designed projects, I was reminded of the wonder within the child.
When observing children it can be easy to jump on the first sign of a shared interest. For instance, this year’s class has been strongly devoted to playing “family” since day one. In the beginning, I thought, “Oh! I see they are curious about families. We can dive right into this!” In past years, this meant quickly gathering supporting materials (books, real-world-objects) to support the development of questions and ideas. I was worried that if I waited, I would miss the opportunity to build on a shared idea. This week at Sabot I learned to change my lens a bit.
As teachers, we are encouraged to listen with our whole being to understand a child’s true intent. First observations regularly point out obvious, surface topics or trajectories. Upon further observation and questioning, we can draw forward the children’s thinking. We can help each child bring their theories to light and assist them as they test these ideas through investigation.
When reflecting on this family play, I am beginning to wonder if it is not so much the family unit that they are exploring, but the power of being in charge. In this game, there is often one member of the family that is “in charge” and directs the others’ actions. It is not always the same child. Sometimes “the boss” is more diplomatic, sometimes more autocratic. Whatever style the family leader tries on, the peers’ reactions to requests (or demands) begin to create an internal rule book for “how to be in charge and still get people to do things with you.” I’m looking forward to exploring this perspective on “family play” with them in the upcoming weeks.
A little while ago, we realized we had a visitor in our class. This little friend was attempting to pick out a lovey (we think?) Being kind hosts, we created a special place in our classroom for our visitor to hang out safely.
We learned that our new friend needed special food. Hamburgers were just not going to cut it. We also found out that it required hiding spots to feel safe and a small capful of water to drink.
Many names were considered including Buggie, Boogie and Spiderman. After a class vote, “Ellie” became the official name of our new friend. (Although many still call her “Buggie.” I’m including a picture at the bottom of this post, but I should warn you, if you are not a fan of spiders…..close this window now.
Ellie inspired us to find out what type of spider she might be. At first, we thought she was a Grass Spider. Then we realized that her abdomen is not the right shape. We’ve also observed that she is not making webs. Our current thought is that she is a wolf spider. If you have a different idea, let us know in the comments. We can always take ideas from “the experts.”
A few times each week, we go foraging for food for her. We’ve put in ants, mites, pill bugs (isopods) and unidentified teeny tiny bugs. Soon, we will need to let her free to roam before the cold weather hits.
An now……meet Ellie:
This morning’s weather proved to be little finicky as it rained on and off for over an hour but that didn’t deter our youngest explorers. We prepared ourselves with boots and raincoats and then embarked on the great outdoors to enjoy the unseasonably warm day. It wasn’t long before a student noticed a small worm making his way up the side of boulder. We theorized about how he was able to hang on to the rock without any arms or legs. We studied how his body would shrink and then stretch as he so effortlessly moved across the rock once he reached the top. Then, before we knew it, there were two worms crawling across the rock. One student proclaimed that there were so many worms out because it was raining and worms love water. The students took turns gently touching the worm and then squealing with joy. It always amazes me what wonderment can be found on what might seem like a dreary day.
Today, we introduced the students to a new chapter of Forest Fours by implementing a writing component to our day. Each child received a special journal that travels with us while on the trails. The students are allowed to draw pictures of the games that they are playing, the structures they build, or the specimens they see while out in nature (fungus, birds, rocks, deer, etc.). They also are allowed to collect things like leaves or small pieces of moss and tape them into their journals for safe keeping.
In addition to the journals, we borrowed four Polaroid cameras from Mrs. Weber so that the students can take pictures of items that would be too big to fit in their journals. The pictures are then taped onto a page and the students write about what they observed. The journals will travel with us each time we venture into the woods and the children are allowed to fill their journals to their heart’s content whenever they deem it necessary.
Since it’s inception, our class has used Forest Four days to play in an unstructured setting so that they could explore and create at their will. The addition of the forest journals allows students to extend their learning by giving them the opportunity to write, even while outdoors. Through this activity, the students are practicing skills such as fine motor development, phonemic awareness, self-regulation, observation, categorization, identification, and much more. We look forward to sharing our journal entries with you in the future!
Last week, one of our students discovered a big, green caterpillar who was walking along the sidewalk that leads to our parking lot. We brought the plump little guy into the classroom so that the other children could observe him as well. After placing him in a clear container, we noticed that he had positioned himself near one of the top corners of the container and had started making long strands of silk from one side of the container to the other. Some students thought that perhaps he was growing more hair, while others knew right away that he was making a cocoon.
With the help of our fabulous science teacher, Ms. Capezzuti, we learned that our new friend was a Polyphemus caterpillar and would eventually turn into a moth. We also learned that Polyphemus caterpillars are silk caterpillars and can easily be reared indoors, so we decided to let our him finish making his cocoon in our container and release him after his metamorphosis. According to our research, he should emerge from his cocoon in about a week. In the meantime, we observed him while he finished making his cocoon and have been noticing what he looks like now that he is in his pupal case. We are looking forward to seeing him emerge from his cocoon, stretch and dry his wings, and then release him back into the wild! Yay, science!
We found an excellent orb weaver specimen on the playground!