Feather to Wing; Soaring feels like a soft pillow...

In collaboration with the Rainbow room teachers, the investigation into feathers has continued. The challenge of looking closely and representing individual feathers, and then thinking about how they are part of a bird is challenging for the 4 and 5 year old children in this classroom. The children do not seem to perceive the individual feathers within their pictures and sculptures of birds, no matter how much observation of feathers they have done. They talk about feathers, and flight, and birds, and they represent all of these things beautifully. 
Piaget seems to say that part/whole integration is in place by age 9 and has to do with his ideas of concrete operations and logic. I usually find these kind of development by age determinations to be way off, but in this case the children really don't seem to grasp the relationship between feathers and bird the same way I do, and I want to understand this. That's why I want to keep the children looking at feathers as well as birds. Will more experience speed up their whole/part understanding? 

I'm remembering art school, and reading about the idea of a gestalt...this is what happens to me when I see theory in action in the classroom -I get curiouser and curiouser.   
Last week we showed a small group that I had made a wing, explaining that I didn't think it would fly without any feathers. Could they make me some feathers?
"Anna, you will have to flap really fast. If you flap VERY fast, it will be like a hummingbird.
Q. What part of a feather makes a bird fly? 
L. "The part in the middle, and the feathers (indicates the hairy parts of a feather)"
G. "So, I guess the 'feathers' make the breeze, and the stick makes it move."
N. "The bone (indicates the part in the middle of the feather), it makes (the feathers) flap."

P. told us about a movie where you felt like you were soaring (my word) above the Earth. "You put on a seat belt, then you go into the screen, and they go up, up, and you're looking down at countries."
Q. Do you know the word 'soaring'? 
All of the children say yes, B. puts out her arms as if soaring in the sky. What do you think soaring feels like?

"Soaring feels like flying." P.

B. "(Soaring), it makes the bird rest, and you can even swoop down and come up."

As they talked, the children made feathers. The used paper and straws, clay, and painted feathers using a feather as a brush.

N. "I've been on a plane before."

P. (In the movie) "I was up high... really high, above the clouds."

feels like a soft pillow.


  1. I am so behind in reading and posting, but finally am on break and able to catch up.
    I was cheered by starting to catch up with this post. Besides being a feather picker-upper type and gazer of birds, I have done similar investigations with my students.
    I like the way you think about the whole/part-Piaget theory and am also curious.
    One time, when I did this investigation (it IS a favorite, and new and fresh with every new group) I realized that what the children cared about was flight and the poetics of flight and the mechanics of flight. It was thrilling.
    I had forgotten about taking the kids to the area right before the airplanes land in Wash DC and the pilots saw us, and came and spoke ti us after landing.
    I am interested in watching this project evolve and especially your ideas towards it.
    So glad I am back to reading your blog. Take care.


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