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Grappling with Big Ideas

Who knew there could be so much ice and so much mud all in the same week? Adventure walks and recess centered around sliding on the ice, cracking the ice, gathering armfuls of ice crystals, and trying to break off a huge shelf of ice amidst a thick fog. On that warm day, all the mud came out. Mud to make mysterious chemicals, mud for painting on rocks, and mud to smear on faces. It was a little window into spring.

Theme: NYS History

We jumped into some big and some smaller ideas about colonial times in New York. We took the shortest field trip ever to the Corallo's living room to watch a movie about the first European explorers, life in the New Netherlands, and the takeover of the British, leading to the name change, New York. We stopped the action to discuss some of the major themes and define words like canal and bowery (from the Dutch word for farm). We talked about why the Indians and colonists fought over land, resources, and taxes.

We used a variety of nonfiction texts to learn about the homes of colonists. The children looked for some facts that came up in each of the books and pictures. They then further processed this information as they illustrated and wrote a page for their history books about houses in the New Netherlands.

We also started to map out the first scenes in our play, working in small groups, and focusing on Henry Hudson and the Dutch East India Company. The children are helping to develop the script, and we even started painting the Half Moon, Henry Hudson's ship. Everyone practiced some tongue twisters and vocal warm ups as we try to get more comfortable with our voices and bodies working in front of an audience.

Meanwhile on the playground, a group of children were playing "Hunter Gatherers." I listened in as they divided up the jobs of their encampment, sharpened their spears (rubbing down a long stick with a shorter one), and went out to find food.

Martin Luther King, Jr and Civil Rights

Young children have a really strong sense of justice and fairness. It makes tackling issues of racism and civil rights easier. We talked about why we are having a 3 day weekend and learned a little bit about Martin Luther King, Jr. I read two books about him and an excerpt from his "I Have a Dream Speech." The children articulated their sense of the injustices of segregation, and we made it personal by imagining how it would feel to be told we couldn't sit in a particular restaurant or play in a park. We talked about some of the ways civil rights advocates worked to create change: boycotts, marching, and sit ins. We also talked about how each of us can make changes and stand up for fairness. In all our conversations about race, I want the class to feel their power to be heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr, but also feel the power of the unnamed followers who made it a movement.

Library Fun

I had to laugh when I saw the imaginative play shaping up during free choice time the other day. A number of children were acting as librarians, making library cards, checking out books to classmates, and filing returned books. There were signs being made and lists. A few children created new books to add to the shelves. It wasn't the first time they have played library, but they were doing it on the morning when I was planning on officially opening up our class library. They already know how to anticipate what I might write in a morning message, but it was sort of uncanny.

Regardless, we have a sign out sheet, and the children are eager to bring home some favorite books. The only limitations are that they can't take out a new book until the old one is returned, and they can't borrow the actual library books I have on our theme shelf (borrowed on my library card).

I believe in the power of children, but this week I was especially struck as I listened to our class discuss colonial times and the civil rights movement. They are working on big ideas, figuring out how to make things fair, and I enjoy challenging them to grapple with the gray areas that become apparent as we look at both history and today.

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