Our Kind of Hands-On Learning
"Hands-On Learning" has been a catch phrase during most of my time as an educator. It makes sense that children learn from doing - when they mix colors over and over again, they learn that red and blue make purple. When they listen to a bird call, look up pictures of that bird in an ID book, hear a read-aloud about the bird and respond to it through painting, they are really starting to get a handle on that bird. When they design their own experiments and travel step by step through the scientific method, they are more likely to remember what each of those steps includes. It can take some time, but it's worth it when I see the lightbulbs flashing, and I know they have a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
Cheryl's PK Reflections
Spring was peeking its head out this week which fit in nicely with our study of groundhogs and "Groundhog Day". Outside preschoolers ran excitedly to ride the boat seesaw and bikes, basking in the iceless driveway and the sun's strong rays. An ice store opened with ice popsicles to buy (for free!). Water from the rushing icy creek was listened to and collected (with mittens on) then dumped over and over into other buckets. Shadows were admired and chased after. I love the simplicity of their play and 'work'. Lil' ones practiced using their sense of hearing to listen for "the seeds stirring under the dirt" and for birds, using binoculars and bird books to identify what they heard and saw.
Ask your child about the difference between classical (Beethoven and Mozart) music and other types of music listened to; we observed how certain music makes us dance a particular way, how some like different music than others, and, how music can get louder and softer. Our ears practiced listening to different instruments and different animal sounds too - there was even a special appearance by a pet woolly bear caterpillar who was quite the quiet animal. The beloved story "Owl Moon" showed how being real quiet in the winter forest could reveal magical sounds to the most patient observer. After listening to a sound recording of a real great horned owl, many were inspired to create their own art.
Visiting New York State's Capitol Building
It's important to learn about government, and we spend time studying it in depth each November. We followed up on that learning with a trip to see the place where New York's legislative and executive branches do some of their work. The kids were wowed by the "voting boxes," gold walls, ceiling fiascos, Million Dollar Staircase, whispering fireplaces, and stone carvings. It's easy to feel small in such a big setting, but our tour guide helped our kids feel special. We learned that 17,000 bills come to the capitol each year, and that it doesn't cost any money to propose a bill. The children saw the doors that the lobbyist can't cross - keeping them in the lobby and earning them their name.
Our Theme: Science Symposium
After a month of diving into the scientific method and developing their own experiments, we finally shared our results with our community. Each group made a tri-fold board with their question, hypothesis, materials, procedure, results, conclusions, and new questions. They also tried to figure out how to have a "hands-on" portion of their presentation. This led to adults and PreK students testing mouse traps, doing splits, jumping with tape, smooshing slime, and all sorts of other interesting experiences.