The Science Lab

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.

We are Family!

Our families are made of so many different people. Yesterday’s Morning Message asked, “Do you have a sister?”  Children who do have a sister put their names inside a circle that was labeled “yes.” Those without put their names outside of the circle.  Today repeated the question about brothers.  Taking it a step further, we put two circles on the floor and handed each child a doll to represent themselves.  If you have a sister or brother, you put your doll in the corresponding circle.  If you do not have either, you put your doll on the outside of the circles.

All was well, until someone discovered that they needed more dolls.  One of the children realized that they had a brother and a sister and didn’t know what to do with their doll.  Mrs. Pless asked for solution suggestions from the group.  We had a few ideas percolating.

Idea #1:

Put dolls who have brothers and sisters in between the two circles.  We tried it, but the children realized that then it looked as though those dolls had “No” siblings.


Place the two circles on top of one another and then place all of the sibling dolls in the new, single circle.  Children who have only one sibling quickly realized that this wasn’t going to work.

Idea #3

Pick up the top (now stacked) circle and slide it over so that the two overlap only a small bit in the middle.  The overlap is where you put dolls who have both brothers and sisters.

We have certainly had classes figure out the final solution in the past, but we’ve never had so many thoughtful experimental ideas.  It was quite exciting to watch their mathematical thinking stretch.


Pre-K Nature Day

Monday our City friends joined us for a day of play, songs, hikes and other nature based activities. Both groups of children enjoyed getting to know one another on the nature playground.  Mr. Cooper took all of us for a hike before lunch, which we ate outdoors.  Many of the children chose to work on one of our two new weaving looms.  One is stationary and the other will travel back to the City Campus Pre-K playground.

Categorizing Keys

2015-10-08 (12)Now that we have a giant pile of keys to rifle through, sorting them into categories seems only natural. In small groups this week, the children are choosing their own classifications and adding keys as they meet the requirements. Today’s group of three children broke off into two sorting sections. One child quickly established his own set of piles while the other two worked as a team to designate key properties.

After we’d sorted, the children created signs for the categories. The titles are a testament to your children’s creativity and insight. We had groups of “really mini”, “circle-top”, “hammer”, “froggy”, “suitcase” and “oval”. It was quite interesting to see which sets overlapped in characteristics and name.

Leaf Sort

Our interest in leaves last week inspired a throw-back morning message today.  Four leaves were featured and we encouraged the children to support their choices with evidence.  Some noticed that a leaf was a different shape or had a different proliferation of spots.  Others pointed out the color differences.  We were interested in finding many ways to group even a small selection of items.

Once we had experience with finding a single difference, we expanded the activity to combining like items to make sets.

The children invented the “rules” for these set circles.

The "not spikey" leaves.
The “not spiky” leaves.
The "spikey" leaves.
The “spiky” leaves.

The problem occurred when our final leaf was placed in the “not spiky” set.  A few children disagreed about the general “spikiness” of the long, fern-like leaf.  It looked “spiky” in its overall profile, but each individual leaf was actually rounded.

The children decided that it must go in both circles.

This one is both spikey and not spikey.
This one is both spiky and not spiky.

As you can see, another difficulty arose.  If the leaf was in-between the circles, it was in neither group.  If it was creating a bridge between the circles, it was partly in both circles.

What if we place it so it hangs in  both circles.
What if we place it so it hangs in both circles.

It took a bit of playing with the string, but they did discover that if they overlapped the string, it would make a section for a leaf with both attributes.

Will it fit in this intersection?
Will it fit in this intersection?
Now we have a diagram that explains how our leaves fit together.
Now we have a diagram that explains how our leaves fit together.

Beginning the Ball Study

Our newest research topic is bouncy and buoyant. It rumbles and rolls. The shapes and sizes astound!  The children want to learn more about:


Before break, a basket of random bouncy objects was discovered on one of our shelves.  Before we knew it, the balls had made their way into every section of the room.  There were balls in the kitchen, balls in the art area, balls rolling down planks, balls sliding down steps.  It was obvious which direction our next study would take.

We’ve only begun to explore the properties of balls this week.  Below is a cross-section of a few children plying their sorting skills on the spherical objects.  Later we’ll post a short video highlighting one of the new games they’ve invented.


A horse is a horse, of course!

In our study of horses, the children were intrigued to learn that there are many different types.  Once we began to recognize a few of the distinguishing characteristics, the children became curious about our own plastic horses.  We scoured the web for an easy to use guide to help us in our new quest.  Once printed, this image helped us figure out how many bays, palominos, appaloosa, and roans we had in our collection.

Tasty Mathematics

A large collection of paper ice cream cones arrived in the math center this week. During small group time, the children have been finding ways to group them together. We’ve been recording their attribute choices to find out what the children value in their ice cream. The sorting rules they have used so far are:

  • Colors (pink, brown, white, yellow, blue, and green)
  • Cone Shape (triangle and rectangle)
  • # of Scoops (1, 2, 3,  and “a lot!”)
  • Size (big and small)

This morning, the ice cream cones were requested during choice time. After dumping them out, sorting them all, and mixing them back up, the children decided that we should use these for our dessert shop. We discussed what happens when a customer approaches the window at an ice cream shop and the role of the worker.

Child: Welcome to our shop. What ice cream do you want?
Me:  I’d like one scoop of vanilla, please.
Child: (searches through the pile to find the right one)

Searching for the right order.

Child: Here you go.
Me: I need to give you money, right?
Child: Yes.  One money.

Paying “one money” for a single scoop.

We decided to use the magnet square blocks as our cash since they were handy and easy to count. At first, all of the ice cream cones were “one money”. When I began ordering cones with eight scoops, the children caught on quickly to the need for higher costs. After negotiation, we finally decided that cones would be $1.00 per scoop. At first, they attempted to charge me $1300 for a cone with one scoop, chocolate dip, and peanuts, but we found out that the pricing on that item was a little too steep. Eventually, the sharp sales-children bargained for one dollar for each add-on plus the original one dollar per scoop.

Counting scoops.

Later, the counting bears were added to the mix as “Gummi Bears”.  They, too, were one dollar per bear.  We practiced more one to one correspondence by placing each bear on a “money magnet” to make sure we had the right amount of payment for a handful of bears.

Isn’t it exciting when the children grab an idea and run with it?

Data Analysts in Pre-K?

Single Venn LoopBet you didn’t know your child was a data analyst.  Sure they are!  But don’t start a bank account to collect all that lovely income yet….  Data analysis in Pre-K refers to the ways young children collect, represent, analyze, and visualize the information they encounter.  It sounds a bit complicated, but really we do it all the time.  Anytime we take a quick poll to find out how many children like cats better than dogs or who’s got mittens vs. who’s brought gloves we are collecting information and analyzing it.  We can then use that data to compare which is more or less and even which might be equal.

One of the ways we organize data is by sorting and classifying it.  To help support these skills, teachers provide children with easily identifiable attributes such as colors, shapes, or obvious group relationships.  This past week, I introduced the class to a single loop Venn diagram.  Our first experience with it was on the morning message.  The question of the day was, “Do you have an “Aa” in your name?”  Children who did have an “Aa” wrote their name inside the circle while those who didn’t, wrote outside.  Later we compared how many names had “Aa”s and how many did not.

At center time, I provided a group with a single Venn loop and a box full sorting materials.  Although I did suggest the first set (“Put everything with wheels in the circle.”), the group came up with many more of their own categories.  This early in the year, all of them used only one attribute to distinguish a set.  “Put all of the fish inside.”  “Put everything that is orange inside.”  This is wonderful experience for them to both follow another child’s attribute choice and for them to define their own.  As we progress through the year, we’ll practice classifying using more than one attribute, adding another loop to our diagram.