"Hands on learning" is one of those key phrases that pop up in everything from school brochures to curricula. I love the way the words describe the activity so accurately. Our children have their hands all over their learning as they build, construct, design, tinker, write, draw, and repeat. When they reflect on what they have done, they own it because it came from their hands, and their joy is evident.
The Young Engineers Club was really busy constructing mock gingerbread houses this week. The K/1 math group experimented over two days, and the 2/3 math group joined in for the second day. We talked about right angles, equilateral triangles, squares and cubes. Like any good engineers there were heated discussions about the merits of various designs. Snow load concerns prompted most children to make slanted roofs, but one contended she would simply shovel it in the winter. The kids were so excited to make their structures, and we're hoping to make this a yearly tradition. Once we have the design process down in paper, we can eventually graduate to dough.
Tapping Into Expertise
We love having visitors to our school! Erin came to talk to us about plants and their different properties. The Wildcraft game helped everyone think about the benefits of everything from burdock to horsetail. The children smelled calendula flower petals, then used them with beeswax and oil
to make a special gift for our families. We're doing our best to keep it a surprise! We hope she'll be able to come back in the spring to take us on a walk around the school to find more of these plants.
There comes a creativity burst it seems when it gets colder and the students settle in more with each other. Play is literally brought to new heights, experimenting with rolling down the hills, riding trikes fast backwards with faces bursting with laughter and new dramatic play (reindeer instead of horses of course). The 3 and 4 year olds focused on the letter 'M' this week, read many winter books including Owl Moon, recited a nursery rhyme about kids playing by the light of the moon (wow!), and the older students created "moon artwork" which they taped to our classroom walls "to help the youngest with the letter sound." Morning circle focused on the days of the week now that we have our color wheel mastered. The feeling of being "scared" was explored and had everyone identifying/sharing. "I have nightmares at night." "My dog is scared of lightning." We were hands on making an herbal holiday gift for our families, molded 'rivers' in our new indoor sandbox and cut a plethora of snowflakes and triangle carrot noses for our snowmen. From stained glass evergreen triangle trees hanging in the lunchroom to banging on our rhythm sticks to the ABC song and marching 'backwards' for our morning song, this group of littlest ones weave in learning with creative joy seamlessly.
Theme: Local Geography
Each child made a book this week inspired by Me on the Map. They started with a small square of paper, "This is me." Then they added a slightly larger square, "This is my room." They built up through their house, state, country, and world. We read There's a Map in My Lap, a nice general introduction to maps and geography. We reviewed the cardinal directions and drew compass roses. Then we got more specific with New York State Land and Resources. We put up our state map and talked about what we noticed: bordering states, Canada, the Finger Lakes, the Great Lakes ("Wow! They're huge!"), the Hudson River, our capital Albany, Long Island ("Because it's long and it's an island.") and the Adirondacks. To try to grasp that people have been living in this area for 12,000 years, we looked at a string that was 12 feet long, 1 foot for every 1,000 years. Then we talked about how Europeans and Africans have been in this area for about the last 400 years, and we marked that off on the string. It's pretty striking. We talked about glaciers and how they helped to shape our state. Then we used salt dough to model different landforms and experimented to see how they might change under the pressure of a glacier. We continued using our salt dough to model imaginary worlds, then stood and looked down on our models to make a written map of the world. The children took a partner on a tour of their world, highlighting some of the landforms and events that helped to shape it.