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?
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?
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.
Two of our dear friends moved back to Florida last week. We are already missing their smiles. Sigh….
No worries! The children have a plan….
We’re going on a road trip to Florida! Yippee! Oh, fine, it is only imaginary, but we can still make our plans. To assist in the planning, I photocopied all of the pertinent states from my trusty road atlas and stitched them together with old-fashioned scotch tape. The class was quite surprised to find such a spaghetti mess of roads between here and there. Yet undaunted, they began to take action.
First, the children decided we needed a car to get there. Enter our trusty stand-by, a nice empty box.
Here are a few bits demonstrating the process and explaining some of the technical details:
At Morning Meeting today we were discussing the upcoming change in weather. For those of you not in our locale, it is 56 degrees here today with rain. Tonight, this will change drastically. We are expecting up to a tenth of an inch of ice this evening with 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow and a high of around 17. I posited the question, “Where does the ice come from?” (They weren’t too keen on my idea that the ice came from trays in the sky.)
When they decided that it came from the sky and the rain, I wondered where the rain came from. One of the children offered that it happened because of the water cycle. She then explained to us that the water cycle meant that the water on the ground evaporated, went up into the sky, made clouds, and then fell back to earth. We tried to find an explanation of “evaporate” and only came up with “you need to have something yellow, like the sun” to make it happen. Finally, another child explained that the sun made the water hot and turned it into vapor. The vapor then goes up to become the clouds and the water vapor parts bonk into each other and get heavier, making it rain. (I still think my idea that there is a big watering can sprinkling water on the Earth is more interesting.)
Then I began to wonder where the snow came from. It took a bit of thinking, but it was finally decided that when it is cold, the water “melts” and turns into ice which turns into snow. I foresee some experiments in our future.
Welcome back to school! I hope all of you had peaceful holidays filled with rest and joy. During the vacation, I was reflecting on some of the play I’d noticed appearing repeatedly in various parts of the room.
Many months ago, two children created a “boat” using wooden arches and blocks in the construction area. I’m sad to say, I can’t seem to find a picture of this creation. Allow me to explain that the arch was set on the curve so that it would rock sideways if pressure were applied to either end. The rest of the boat balanced in the center of this waving contraption. At the time, I didn’t realize that this would become an activity captivating most in the class.
Since, I’ve noticed balancing fanciful creatures, other balanced block structures, and lots of experiments balancing bodies throughout the playground and forest. I’m looking forward to directions we might take as we play we these mathematical, kinesthetic ideas.