Pumpkins and Chemistry and Play
Learning through play is a big part of what we do at our school. Children roll dice to collect ones, turn those ones into tens, and eventually turn their tens into hundreds. They role play "store" and exchange money for acorns or fruit or fancy sticks. We act out different challenges that arise with our friends and brainstorm solutions for those problems. This week they also planned a few weddings.
We observed closely to make sure that all feelings were being respected and that everyone was on board with what was happening - weddings can bring up some strong feelings. Some of the organizers of our school lined up flower girls, ring bearers, and other attendants. A few visionaries came up with a color scheme. The artists made rainbows and flower garlands and arranged the space. It was quite a production, and it was all student led and directed. The end result got mixed reviews. While some children were pretty excited about the culmination of all their planning, a few others said, "It was kind of boring." They thought next time there should be better music and maybe some entertainment.
Cheryl's PreK Reflections
Hands on learning and growing occurred this week. "There are hard things but we can do them" chimed in a wise 4 year old. That can-do attitude seemed to be a theme as preschoolers started the week off with a field trip to Barbers Farm. Farmer Cindy encouraged us to all "think good vibes" to get her challenging tractor to start up (and it did)! We joyfully bumped our way in a straw bale wagon away from the farm stand and into the breathtakingly beautiful farm in the Schoharie Valley. Sun broke through the gray clouds as Farmer Cindy taught us where our nutritious food comes from with hard important work. She harvested and handed out kale, swiss chard, fennel, celery and turnips giving us the chance to learn through our sense of smell, touch and taste. We listened and watched as a classmate demonstrated the cycle of a pumpkin seed being planted, flowering, growing fruit, and finally, ripening. Lucky us got to pick a pie pumpkin to bring home as well as indulge in Cindy's homemade pumpkin bread, cider, apples and popcorn grown on the farm. Farmer Cindy was not afraid of hard work, and generous in her sharing!
That hard work and sharing continued in the classroom and in our play as we worked on using our words and not our hands with each other and asking for help when our fingers couldn't push the cloves into a clementine or tie a spider's pipe cleaner legs to a pinecone. It was witnessed in a student clutching a beloved stuffed animal at drop-off bravely and two others singing the "Mommies Come Back" song as they waved from the window. It was seen as they swept their snack mess into a dustpan, asked a friend "how can I help" or when a student made it to the potty just in time. We will continue to grow each day, sometimes two steps forward and one step back, but never giving up our hard work because it is so worth it. The fruits of our labor are so sweet, and, the friendships and kindness, priceless.
The older children had a challenge this last week - could the make a penny cleaning solution? We talked about how the copper in pennies combines with the oxygen in the air to make copper oxide and make the pennies less shiny. The children had a variety of household ingredients at their disposal and worked with a partner to come up with a recipe (or materials list and procedure) for their penny cleaner. We let the pennies sit overnight and compared the results. We looked for the common ingredients in the solutions that produced the shiniest pennies and developed some ideas about why some of the other ones might not have worked as well. Ask your child to tell you about the findings.
We finished up our theme this week, and I asked the children what they had learned. Their list was impressive! They talked about the 3 states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Someone mentioned that sometimes two different things come together and form a mixture, but sometimes they won't mix. They told us about pH, acids, bases, and litmus paper. Someone else talked about how two things can make a reaction like baking soda and vinegar or Mentos and soda. They talked about how temperature can change the rate of a reaction - that when molecules heat up, they move faster. They mentioned that everything is made up of matter. They talked about atoms, elements, neutrons, protons, electrons, hydrogen, helium, and water. Now not every one of them has a complete understanding of all of this, but I love the idea that when they are studying chemistry again with us or in high school, this vocabulary will be familiar to them. I want them to think about Theresa's bouncing balloons as they learn the periodic table.
Stream Study Continued
Last spring, the Schoharie River Center took our kids on a stream field trip that had them all very excited. When I asked them what they remembered, the flood (pardon the pun) was impressive. "My partner held the big net while I scraped my feet on the bottom, and then something ended up in the net!" "We flipped over lots of rocks and found things underneath!" "I fell in and got all wet and had to change my clothes."
Scott helped all of our kids look again at the life we can find in a stream and explained how that life can tell us about the water quality. The children were very eager to see their critters on the big screen by using the fancy microscope. They also made connections to other times they have been to creeks and rivers and the life they've found.