Friday, March 29, 2013

Learning Through Play Outside

I use to just watch the kids when they played outside to make sure no one got hurt and that they played nice.  Now I realize that their outside play contains important learning opportunities such as social skills, cooperation and problem solving! I am learning to grab onto these opportunities more and more!

These two were trying to create a teeter-totter with our logs, but it was not working out so well!  I loved watching them problem solve and work together to come up with a solution!

Now it works!

Collaborative Marble Mazes and Marble Runs

The kids were very excited to work together on large scale marble mazes and a marble run.  They chose to make a marble run out of paper tubes and cardboard and two marble mazes, one with legos and one with a giant geoboard and rubber bands.  The teamwork and problem solving were amazing!  We had to work through the process of talking about their plan as a team, and learning to listen to each others ideas.

The provocation- Giant geoboard, rubber bands, lego board, legos, and marbles
When the kids started making the marble run, they decided they wanted to make it zig-zag back and forth.  Then they went to work!

Testing it out with a marble to see if what they have so far will work
What they have so far!  
The kids still have some problems with the marble run that they will try to fix after Spring Break.  They are excited to figure out ways to fix these problems!  I love hearing their conversations as they figure things out!  I wish I was better at getting quotes!  That is a part of documenting that I am still working on!
When the kids started working on the geoboard and lego mazes, they figured out right away that they needed to create a barrier all the way around the outer boarder.  They would test out their mazes by having someone lift them up and move them up and down while someone else would move or place new rubber bands and legos on the boards!  I loved listening to all of them think out loud to each other!

The rest will have to wait until after spring break!  We will keep these experiences available for them to explore.  The kids have been asking a lot of weather related questions and they found the first flower of spring in our natural play area! This may guide our learning when we get back!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ramps, Gravity and Marble Mazes

The kids have been working hard to create ramps to make their cars go certain distances.  To reinforce what we have been investigating we did some experiments dealing with ramps.

I got this lesson from an amazing teacher in our building, Mrs. Atkin!  I tied a string to a piece of cardboard.  The kids were to try to make a ramp that would make a cylinder stop rolling when it got to the end of the string.  It was great watching the kids adjust the ramp based on what happened when the other kids rolled the cylinder down the ramp.  They realized right away that the cylinder went way to far if the incline was high!  You could see the problem solving going on in their brains by looking at their faces!  They were concentrating so hard!  They were also verbalizing to their friends things to try! It took two rounds of trying before one of the kids got it to stop at the end of the string!

Through this experience, they learned that if a ramp is high, objects will roll faster and further.  If a ramp is low, objects will move slower and not as far.  But why?  I decided to give them another experience about gravity to see if they would make a connection.

The kids timed how long it took to for a ball to hit the ground when dropped.  We discussed how gravity pulls down very fast!

We then timed how long it took a ball to roll down a low incline and a high incline.

We discussed how the ball was much slower rolling down a low incline and it rolled down the steep incline much faster!  They realized that gravity pulls an object down a steep ramp faster. The lower ramp was almost "blocking" gravity!

 My favorite part of this experience was their documentation.  They really did a great job recording what they noticed!

Next, the kids made some marble mazes.  They came up with a plan, then put their mazes together.  We used puff balls instead of marbles.

When they played with them, they noticed that if they had too steep of an incline, the puff ball would just go over all of the straws.  They figured out that they could control the speed of the puff balls by the incline they created to move it through the maze slower.

They had a lot of fun playing with these.  This experience gave them some ideas for the type of projects they want to do to show our learning, which we will start this week!  Here is a sneak peak of something I made for one of their ideas!

A giant geoboard!  It is huge!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Force and Motion- An Inquiry About Gravity

Why do they not need to apply a force themselves to make a car go down a ramp?  We investigated.   I had them jump up and notice that they used their legs to PUSH them up.  But what pulled us all back down?  There were a few kids who had gravity in their schema and told the class about it!  We watched a video of astronauts floating and talked about how we would all float away into space if gravity did not PULL us down to the earths surface!  We came to the conclusion that gravity pulls their cars down their ramps!

Again, I decided to reinforce this science concept with art!  We took a canvas outside with some paint and put it in a box.  I squirted paint (using the PUSHing force) onto the canvas and threw in four marbles.  The kids took turns using the canvas to create a ramp by pulling one side up higher than the other and let gravity pull the marbles down the ramp!  In this way, we created a collaborative piece of art by using GRAVITY!  It turned out so beautiful!  The kids loved it and it reinforced that gravity pulled down!

Using gravity to pull the marbles down the ramp.

Documentation showing both investigations about Force and Motion

Force and Motion- A Lesson on Pushing and Pulling

This week we continued investigating force and motion.  The kids are really getting into their ramps so we have been making connections between our new learning and the ramps that they have been making.  We discussed the purpose of ramps and decided that ramps help things go down.  As the week went on, they also came to the conclusion that ramps help us get up too!  They noticed that there are ramps all around us!  They mentioned ramps in our school in one of the hallways and the slides on our playground.  They also noticed ramps on roads in the form of hills and ramps on sidewalks to help their bikes go over curbs.  I wanted so bad to point out that ramps help us go up, but wanted them to come up with that conclusion based on their own experiences!  Sometimes, we as teachers just need to wait and let them discover it, rather than just telling them!  (It's soooo hard!!)  All of the sudden someone remembered that there was a ramp that helped us get up on our play equipment on the playground!  So now they realized that ramps help us get down AND up!

They all now know that NOTHING will move without a force!  They are always asking "What kind of force makes us move?  What kind of force makes this or that move?"  So we investigated!  We came to the conclusion that every force is one of two things!  Pushing or pulling!  We made all kinds of things move, including our bodies!  We use our muscles to push our bodies and make them move!  We push a toy car.  We push and pull scissors to make them cut paper!  We push and pull our pencils to write!  I loved seeing them making connections with these two forces to real experiences!  To reinforce our learning, we did one of my favorite things and used art!  They made three dimensional sculptures using the two forces of pushing and pulling!
The first step was to make a plan.  Next, they used their plans and the two kinds of force to create their sculptures.

Pushing and pulling to create a sculpture.
The sculptures with their plans.
More sculptures with plans.

How did this connect to their ramps?  They need to PUSH to get their cars up a ramp.  But what is pulling them down the ramp?  They really don't need to apply a force themselves to get their cars down a ramp!  Hmmm....looks like a lesson on gravity is in order!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Force and Motion Inquiry- The Introduction

Ramps and a Focus on Persistence

Here are some activities that have been going on since December during the kids play:

Do you see the reaccuring theme in their play?  These kids have been obsessed with ramps and creating motion!  One child created a catapult out of blocks!  So we have decided to inquire about force and motion.  I have a feeling this will also take us into some simple machines!

As the kids made ramps, the problem solving, teamwork and persistence amazed me.  These are qualities I want to instill in these kids to help them in the future.  I was so proud of them!

The kids have also presented to the class how they built their ramps, problems they ran into (The car wouldn't go through the tunnel, the car kept falling off the ramp, the car wouldn't go as far as they wanted...) and what they did to solve the problems.

We have been having discussions about persistence and how important it is to have it!  We discussed what would happen if people did not have persistence and just gave up!  This group does not give up when things get hard because of their persistence.  I want to make sure they know what this quality is that they have, how important it is and how proud I am that they have it as 5 year olds!  I think this will be an ongoing theme with anything they do in our room!

After observing all of these ramps. we came up with a definition for the term "motion."  They realized that motion is movement.  We brainstormed different ways things move.  They came up with all kinds of motions!  Jumping, rolling, running, falling, slamming, pushing, pulling, etc.  The next day, I laid out a bucket of items and asked the kids if any of these things can have motion all by themselves?  They quickly came to the conclusion that in order to move, things need help!  I let them know that the help they were thinking of is called "force."

The next day we did a lesson idea that I got from an amazing teacher in our building, Mrs. Atkin.  The kids each picked an item and had to provide a force to make it move.  Here are some of the kids coming up with ideas on how to create a force to make items move.

Swishing a duster, blowing tissue paper, rolling a paper tube, making a frog hop.
They also thwacked, threw, squeezed glue, pushed and pulled scissor handles, and so much more!

The kids then brainstormed some questions they had about motion:

What force makes us move?
How do cars move?
What force pulls us back down after we jump up?  (I threw that one in!)
What force makes the wind move?
How does rain and snow come down? (Yay!  I was hoping they would start asking questions about weather!  That is such a fun inquiry!)
I can't wait to see where this inquiry takes us and how they apply it to the ramps that they have been creating!

Science Fair

This week our school had it's annual Science Fair!  The kids got to have a taste of it during the day, then brought their families in the evening to enjoy!  Here are some photos of a few of the science activities the kids were able to explore during the day (There were so many more set up in the evening that I did not get pictures of!).

light and shadows
color mixing
tornado tubes
blubber, feely boxes, life cycles, informational books

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Today we did all things Dr. Seuss!  We have been reading his books and discussing his writing style during Reader's Workshop for over a week.  They have noticed that he uses a lot of sight words in his books and loves to rhyme!  They noticed some word families!  They also love his imaginary creatures!  Today we started out with a couple visitors!

Me and my amazing Teacher's Assistant, Mrs. Hoang...I mean, Thing 1 and Thing 2!
The kids wanted in on the fun, bringing Things 3 thru 29!

We made oobleck which is a very cool substance that is both a solid and liquid at the same time!  Just mix one part water to 2 parts cornstarch!  They were very amazed and enjoyed both making it and playing with it!
Mixing oobleck!  So messy but so fun!
Solid AND liquid!  We discussed the properties of each.
 Then of course, we ate Green Eggs and Ham!  I even showed them real green eggs from a friend of mine who has their own chickens.  They have natural green shells!  All of them except two loved them and even asked for seconds!

This one in the picture below let me know that she does not like eggs...but she tried them and it looks like she likes the green ones!  Haha!

What a great, fun day!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Animals in Winter: The Project- Part 2

This week we started creating the animals to add to the habitat for our project.  Each child picked an animal that hibernates, migrates and adapts.  I gave them each a picture of their animal to use so they could make their animal as accurate as a five year old can!  They knew that they were documenting what the animal looked like by creating a model of it.  They looked at the main color of their animal and painted a paper tube to match.  Then they used paper to create the parts of their animals.  They were concentrating so hard on the pictures and their models that you could here a pin drop!  A teacher thought they were at specials because the room was so quiet!

After they made the animals, they created labels for them to let everyone know what they were and what they did to survive winter.  They then added them to the habitats they created.

One student hanging her hibernating bat upside down in the cave.

They also labeled the habitats.

I didn't get a picture of the ocean label.
The hibernation group wanted to investigate animal tracks and add them to our project!  So they did!  They looked at a book we had and some pictures of tracks that I printed for them, then created tracks based on what they noticed!

The migration group also decided to create a map to show the migration paths of geese, monarchs and gray whales.  They added pictures of the animals and and some facts that they learned about the migration of these animals.  They plan on using the map when they present what they learned about migration to the rest of the class.  They also plan on teaching the rest of the class that the top of the map is North and the Bottom is South.  One student also wants to let everyone know where East and West is on the map and that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  Here is the map they made!

They have since labeled Canada and Alaska on their map
Of course, all of our investigation has rubbed off on their play!  They create caves out of our moon dough and play with the animals in the caves.  They role play and play hibernating animals using our cave.  Of course, they also play animals chasing each other around the room on all fours!  One student made a bear paw that fit on his hand our of construction paper and tape!  I love seeing them use our project in their play!

The next step is the presentation of what they learned.  The three groups (hibernation, migration, adaptation) will each make a video to show to the rest of the class.  We will put all three videos together to present to other classes who are interested in learning about how animals survive in the winter.  We are hoping to finish this on Monday!  That will end our (more than) five week inquiry and project about animals in winter! 
The kids have already let me know what they want to explore next!  Simple Machines is what they have been interested in and have already been exploring extensively during our free exploration time (though they do not realize what they have been creating are called simple machines)!  I will use their past explorations in this new area to start our study this week!