Showing posts from October, 2009

Intentions and the Umbrella Project

Each year at the preschool teachers choose some things they want to concentrate on. We call these intentions, and they are a way of narrowing our focus and learning something about a concept that interests us or seems to pertain to a particular group of children. If you have tried to work as a teacher/researcher, you know that documentation can quickly become overwhelming. Inspired by the 'Declaration of Intent' we saw in Reggio Emilia, intentions help teachers choose a path for the year. Teachers no longer have to document everything, but can concentrate on certain topics or threads.
This year we have chosen a school-wide intention or "Umbrella Project" on the concept of PLACE, which could encompass all of the classes, from the 2 year olds through the 8th graders. An umbrella project is a series of provocations based on an idea that is meant to spark creative thinking and connect students across classrooms and age-levels. This investigation springs from the last 8 y…

Toys in the Forest, continued

When A. and I brought her toy outside, and she showed what it could do, the other children all wanted to make one. During this time, two things that would become provocations for later inquiry occurred;

1. As they tried to tie the gumballs to the string, they noticed that some worked better than others. What was the difference?
Some of them were mashed down, and others were more "pokey". As we searched for more of the "pokey" gumballs, the children found a tree where they were growing and green. This has sparked an investigation of gumballs in the Rainbow room.

2. After making many toys, the children started asking if they could take them home. With encouragement from teachers, they instead looked for a place where they could keep the toys in the Forest, so that they could find and play with them later. They found a tree whose roots formed a sort of basket, and called it the toy box. Later,a group of forest room children found the toys, sparking questions and curio…

Robot Revisited

Luke came into the studio to make another robot. I asked him to draw a plan, and he drew his favorite picture, his Mom driving her car. Brads have been available in his classroom, so he had been practicing with them for about a week. He found the tray of silver cardboard and chose his pieces for the car. He could not punch the holes himself, but was very particular about where they should go, so I asked him to make a mark in the right spot and I would punch them. After he built most of the car, I suggested he use plastic for the windshield. He liked the see-through quality very much, and then made a Mommy robot that could go in and out of the car. After seeing the sophistication of this construction, I am excited to see where Luke might go next with these materials, but I wonder what the word robot means to the Garden room children?

Toys for the Forest

Avery continued to come to the studio over several days to try to make another toy to play with in the Forest. She seemed happier going out with her class each day (her class has an intention to go out into our wild space every day), but came into the studio as soon as they came back into the school building. I could see that she wanted to include movement in her toys. Her ideas ranged from a catapult type 'flinger' to something like a marble race. Her drawn plans were very beautiful, incorporating rays from the sun ("that gives power") and paths along which an object could roll or propel. These seemed to be simple machines disguised as toys.

In an effort to stick with the Rainbow room intention to let the children make their own place in the forest (the area outside our playground fence), we went outside to look for materials to build toys with. The tape and popsicle stick toy A. had made earlier didn't hold it's appeal outside. 
I have noticed over the years …

Circus Animals -Three year olds

Thinking about Circus animals continues. For the Garden room children, it seems to be more and more about how to use the media to represent an animal, rather than ideas about performances or Circus-ness. Here is a Zebra, Daddy and Little Zebra, Tiger, Ziggy (dog), and Aligator by Beverly, Kaiya, Adelina, and Bella.

Spiders and Spidermen

Three boys who are interested in Spiderman costumes went outside to look for real Spiders or places where Spiders might like to be. They were thinking about Real Spiderman, and what they might like to do about him.

Do you have to wear a Spiderman costume if you wanted to be Spiderman? Is that important?
Henry said "No, you have to be strong." Abel thought it was important. Benjamin said that you had to spray webs to be Spiderman.
I asked Henry about his blue and red clothes. Were they a Spiderman costume? He thought about that.
Abel considered this and said, "Well, I have a blue shirt and red pants and blue pants at home. But it doesn't have webs on it." He seemed pleased that clothes might work to help make him a Spiderman.
I asked "How could you do the webs? How do real Spiders do webs?" Benjamin guessed  they just spray out webs from their hands, and start weaving it. This led to a debate about webs. Do they come from fingers or wrists? Do real spid…

Robots, Hole Punchers and Plans

A group of three year olds came to the Studio to work on Robots. They had been constructing with nuts, bolts and metal pieces in their classroom. I asked them what makes a robot and they described someone with a head, eyes, body, arms and legs. That sounded like a person to me, so I asked them what the difference between what they described and a regular person. Luke said "Robots are like persons, but say funny talk, like 'R-O-B-O-T'" (in a machine voice). Lukas and McGuire agreed.
They used cardboard and brads to assemble their robots,a happy robot for Lukas, and Cat and Car robots for Luke. The hole punchers were too challenging for them to use. I wish I could find a very easy to squeeze, durable hole punch. The brads were very satisfying since they made robots with movable parts.

We usually have the children make drawn or verbal plans before starting work. This helps them think through their idea along with the process and materials they will need to bring it to fru…

Forest mapping

The Rainbow room is spending part of each day outside. The class of 4 year olds can be as active as they like. I enjoy observing the interplay of the cognitive and the kinesthetic that this type of outdoor learning in the Forest brings out. Children can run and jump, sit and draw, sing and dance, or calculate and count when the space is wide open.

On this day in late September the children had the idea to measure the labyrinth so that they could see how big it was in order to put it on a map they are making of the Forest. Children proposed different ways of measuring, including walking through it and counting your steps, and using a string to trace the shape of the labyrinth. It was so interesting to me that they posed such a knotty problem for themselves right from the beginning of the year, one involving measurement and scale. These are difficult problems for people of any age to solve.

Interactions with materials

Today the youngest children at our school visited the studio. This was the first time many of them had been into the main building. It was interesting to see their interactions with each other, the space and the materials in it. A group of boys thought about what they could do with a yellow and a white string, a black spiral notebook binding, a red holder for a steel wool pad, and a wooden spool, concentrating hard and inventing many combinations. They chose the objects from an array that was layed out on a long bench. The boys played with the objects and put them down, drew a little then passed the pieces to each other, figuring out how to connect and re-connect the objects.

Some other children found uses for materials that were like a game, or a dance, rolling and stacking wooden spheres and using marker tops and modeling clay by turns as they explored and noticed what the studio is.