We may be in the last few weeks of school, but we are galloping along with pleasure. I asked the children what they would really like to do before the end of the year, and their hopes were pretty simple: play "Duck, Duck, Goose," have some more sprinkler fun, wear their pajamas to school, walk to the waterfall, and write or draw in their nature journals. "Okay! Let's make all of that happen."
Eating the Weeds
You may notice your children picking and munching on weeds as you walk along the edge of your yard. They all know how to identify wood sorrel by its heart shaped leaves (for the children who don't remember its official name they call it the "heart shaped leaf" plant). It has no poisonous look-alikes and grows all over the place, so it's a great wild edible to know. We talked about the importance of being really confident we have the right plant and how we should check with a trusted adults before eating things. We also talked about how if something doesn't taste good, it's important for them to spit it out right away. It's one time when I really don't mind spitting.
The Art of Telling a Story
Nancy has been helping us hone our storytelling skills in her last two visits. Last time she taught the children a story about a tailor and his beautiful coat. This time she led the class through a wonderful story that layers like a Matryoshka doll.
The children also got to practice their storytelling skills with our new puppet theater. After seeing the first few shows, I realized this was a great chance to reinforce our conversations about elements of a story. So we talked about how stories have a beginning, middle, and end. We discussed how most stories have some sort of problem (or a series of problems) and some sort of resolution (or partial resolution). We identified main characters and secondary characters. The children pulled out these elements from recent read-aloud stories and talked about what made them like a story. Then they worked in small groups to create a puppet play. Humor is a big part of what they all like in a story, and once one group discovered that it was super funny to have a puppet fall out of the front of the theater, it became a common theme. But their stories are beginning to be more coherent and enjoyable, even for the adult in the audience.
Our Theme: Simple Machines
Our work with simple machines continues to unfold. Inspired by How Do You Lift a Lion? I challenged the class to lift me up. They were sure that a lever was what they needed, "The seesaw kind not the hammer kind." I love random comments like this for the understanding they show me. We canvased the burn pile, and they discussed the possibilities. "We need a long one. She's really heavy." They found a really long board, put a rock under the middle, and tried to lift me up. They found all of them could stand on one end, and the board sort of bent to keep all of us on the ground. One contingent said, "We need a thicker board." Some others said, "We need to move the rock." "Maybe we need a taller rock." They pursued their theories, recruiting friends to help lift and move. I watched out for splinters and smooshed fingers. Eventually they found success, and each child took a turn pressing down on the board and pushing me into the air.
The children have been looking for simple machines at home and bringing in pie flinging catapults and many geared mechanisms.
They continue experimenting with their marble runs. Though they originally all wanted to work individually, many of them decided to start joining their structures pretty immediately. While this brought more materials and more ideas into play, it also necessitated a whole lot more compromising. This is one of those projects where I feel like I could probably leave the room for 15 minutes, and no one would notice because they are all so busy testing and adjusting their creations.
I love the way they are truly building their understanding of simple machines.