One of our students brought in a beaver skull and a muskrat skull to share with the class this week. She shared the beaver first, then moved onto the muskrat. But she asked everyone to guess who the smaller skull came from. "Look really closely at the teeth. Feel them with your finger. Do they feel the same as the beaver?" I loved hearing her lead this inquiry like a seasoned environmental educator. Another student brought in a Lego creation he had been working on for weeks that involved a series of gears, and we examined his work, connecting it to our recent presentation on gears. Someone else brought in a book she had written. I love how eager all of our students are to share their discoveries from home and from the school day.
This same sense of collaboration challenges and enriches all parts of our school day. The children work with partners to solve math problems, read with a buddy, and help a friend to spell words for some writing. They have been industriously creating a series of shelters and fairy houses in the woods. They argue and disagree and compromise and problem solve.
Taking Our Learning Outside
The oak trees in front of the school were glowing with color, and I knew it was time to try to capture their glory. We headed outside for a science and art lesson. I explained that sometimes we make rainbow trees that grow tutus, and sometimes we try to make something that is as close to what we observe as possible. First we examined the bark and came up with words to describe what we saw. Many children were surprised to discover the bark was grey not brown with slight greenish patches from various lichens growing on it. They talked about the vertical lines that moved along the trunk. We compared the branching to an ash tree and a maple tree. Then we settled down on the grass to draw the trunk of the tree with crayons. Once that was in place, we did some careful looking at the leaves. Were the leaves evenly spaced over the whole tree? What colors did we see in the leaves? Then we added them to our oak trees. A huge flock of geese honked their way by overhead, and many of the children chose to add them to their artwork. Again we looked closely and tried to use words to describe what we saw. While they just looked like black v's from a distance, we could see their heads, necks, wings, and bellies when the zoomed by directly above us.
Our PreK Class with Cheryl
Although they are always learning about and exploring 'feelings', our 3 and 4 year olds will delve into them deeper this month. 'Lama Lama Learns to Share' demonstrated what to do instead of grabbing something we want. Circle songs such as 'If You're Happy and You Know It" and 'Pat-a-Cake' worked in having us check in with each other's faces and bodies. Children explored felt board ghosts with different expressions, cut out shapes and drew jack o' lantern expressions to show its feelings, and used puzzles and photographs of children to create and identify with how they were feeling each day. Music/movement and nature/art explorations- from rock n' roll ABCs, painting the letter 'H' in the air and on paper, to creating Fall collages and placing acorns into numbered grids- all proved to be fun ways to grow our heads and hands alongside our hearts. What I love most about our school is that free play alone nurtures social emotional growth, allowing the time and freedom to be a child and learn naturally.
Theme: The Human Body
We are delving into the human body, and we started this them by generating ideas about what we know and what we want to learn. We split into 4 groups to brainstorm as much as we could about the body. Some of the children had some specific knowledge like the digestive system includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Other children got more philosophical about how humans are a part of nature. Everyone is eager to learn more about their hearts, their brains, and "how everything actually works in there."