Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Waiting Game: Trying To Figure Out Student's Interests.

After we had finished our Sky Inquiry, I was at a loss as too what the kids would want to investigate next so I started setting out things for them to explore to see if there was anything they would want to dig deeper into.  I tried plants and seeds.  I had observed a few checking out the flowers and seeds that they were finding outside.  I set up an area for them to explore the parts of a plant,

their favorite flower, the dandelion,

and let them plant either marigold or sunflower seeds.

None of this really interested them.  The stations were not visited and their was minimal interest shown when I read books about this subject. After giving it some time, I decided to move on.  Our caterpillars came in so I thought we would try butterflies.  What five or six year old isn't curious about butterflies? I set up an area for them to observe the caterpillars and explore butterflies through literature and art.

I couldn't believe it when only about 3 kids showed any interest in these caterpillars and butterfly books.  Most have had these same butterfly kits at home so this was all old news for many of them! The caterpillars were mostly ignored until they became chrysalises. They didn't even want to paint butterflies! After the butterflies emerged, the kids were very excited about them and observed them... for about 5 minutes and then they too were ignored...

Our school is doing a school wide Caring for the Community Rally and the focus is on caring for pets and pets without homes in the local shelters, so I as we started talking about this I noticed a buzz starting to happen.  They all started talking about their pets and asking questions about each others pets.  They started getting very animated as they talked with big giant smiles.  I remembered the Vet office they created earlier in the year as a side project and how much they loved that... so I asked if they would be interested in exploring pets further and I got a very excited reaction from them!  Pets it will be!  Stay tuned as we wonder and find out all that we can about pets!

But what about the time spent on these other things? Was that time wasted? Absolutely not!  I don't set up the whole room when I am testing an interest.  Just one or two areas.  The kids were still introduced to the concepts and some great discussions happened and we enjoyed some good books about these subjects. The very small groups who were interested enjoyed spending time in these areas.  It was still time well spent. The kids will have many other opportunities in their lives to learn more about any of these subjects.  Not everything will turn into a large scale inquiry or project. Some will turn into small group inquiries, some will be explored through play, and some will just not happen at all... and that's okay.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Rainbows, Prisms and Clouds: A Kindergarten Sky Inquiry

The kids had been showing interest in clouds so I asked them if they wanted to investigate the sky. They did so I found out what they knew and wondered so that I could see what direction this inquiry could go.  For the past two years, our sky inquiries led to the sun, moon, stars and planets, but this year the kids went in a different direction.

Most of our initial discussion seemed to revolve around the colors of the sky, clouds and rainbows. I started out by putting out invitations to explore sky colors in our art area.  We read "Sky Colors" by Peter Reynolds and I put out pictures of the sky around them for inspiration.  They created some beautiful Sky Colored art!

Each day, one of the kids gets to look at the sky and mix paint to try to match it. They then paint a stripe on our canvas to show the color of the sky that day.  This art piece will be titled "April Sky."  At the end of the month, we will use it to figure out which color the sky was the most during the month of April. This is a perfect mix of art, science and math.

The kids started talking about how rainbows were made, but were not satisfied with the answer of rain and sun.  Some started wondering how rain and sun created rainbows.  We watched a video on youtube that told us the sun's white light is made up of all the colors mixed together.  When they all mix they look like white light.  A prism will bend the light and separate it into its separate colors.  The kids thought this was pretty cool, but I could tell they wanted to explore this further. I set out a prism, box, CD, and flashlight for them to explore and see what they noticed.  They loved exploring with these materials.  They were fascinated and made the connection about the raindrop being a prism and bending the light!

We also saw an experiment where if you painted all the colors on a circle and then spun it really fast the colors would blend into white to show that all the colors mixed together make white.

We created one, but could not get it to work.  This was a good lesson to show us that not all experiments go as planned!

Of course they wanted to paint rainbows so some friends helped set out all the colors and we invited friends to come paint.  Our room became a very colorful place!

After we learned all that we could about how rainbows were made, I took them outside to see what they noticed about the clouds.  We laid down and discussed what we saw and noticed.  Some kids from other classes playing outside laid down with us and joined in on our discussion.

Through the week, we observed the sky and the clouds and learned that there are three main types of clouds: Cirrus, Cumulus, and Stratus.  We did an activity where each child created each of the three types of clouds and showed which were the highest and which were the lowest.  We started to discus the project for this inquiry and came up with a teaching mural in the hallway to show what they had learned.

Part of our group wanted to show the order of the colors in all rainbows.

We found material from a cloud a previous class made and used that for the our raincloud. A couple friends decided to paint raindrops directly on our mural while others wanted to make some that were more three dimensional so they strung blue beads onto yarn and hung them to our cloud along with some blue fabric and ribbon we found in our fabric drawer.

Some wanted to show the raindrop acting as prism and bending the white light into the colors of the rainbow.

The kids were noticing the different types of clouds as we watched the sky each day. We explored them through some books and the internet and showed what we learned by making the three main types of clouds.

Some kids wanted to show the three main kinds of clouds on our mural so we found some materials and they got to work!

We made some and added them to the top. Here is the finished teaching mural!

I wonder what they will explore next?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How Did We Explore the Concepts of Physics in Kindergarten?

Physics in Kindergarten? Absolutely!  This is why play is so important in Early Childhood Education! How else could children begin to have a basic concept of how physics works unless they have a chance to explore and experiment with it freely. Future knowledge of these concepts will be built upon the foundational knowledge developed from these playful experiences.

I had come up with the idea when I had noticed that while exploring through super heroes the kids were very engaged in the catapults and exploring motion.

They also were starting to create ramps in our Maker's Space and asking for marbles and balls to roll down them.  I thought this would evolve into an inquiry on simple machines, so I set up some experiences for them to explore screws, inclined planes and levers.

It was not easy getting those screws into the wood!  They were really building up some much needed fine motor muscles!

Here they could explore with inclined planes and see how the angle affects the motion of the object rolling down the plane.

At the Lego table they were challenged to create a maze and then figure out how they could move the marble through the maze. They needed to create an inclined plane to make it move.

They explored motion and gravity through creating art by dripping paint and seeing how the angle made the paint go down quickly.

They explored motion through inclined planes by creating marble paintings by dropping paint on their paper and rolling a marble through it.

They explored levers by using catapults and different objects to predict and then find out which object the catapult would throw the furthest.

Here they are measuring and comparing lengths to show how far each object was catapulted.

I set out a marble run to explore.  They loved this!  Many became frustrated and had to figure out how to get their marble run to stand by itself.  They enjoyed seeing how high they could make them and watching the motion of the marbles as they went through each part. This area was such a big hit, I decided to show them a video of a Rube Goldberg Machine. This is when our inquiry started to go in a different direction.

Rube Goldburg Machines are so fun to watch and create!  Here is the link to the video that I showed the class that inspired them for the rest of this inquiry! You have to watch it!  You will love it! Once they saw this, all they wanted to do was create Rube Goldberg Machines!  They started out simple, but then when I added the ramps to the building area, they got very creative when using both old and new materials to create more complex machines. We continued to watch other videos of Rube Goldberg Machines for inspiration.

The friend below had to figure out how to keep the marble on his track.  He figured out he needed a boundary on each side.

They learned very quickly that Rube Goldberg Machines never worked the first time, and usually not the second or third time either.  When I was watching them, I was so proud because even though it was frustrating for them, they showed true grit and continued to problem solve until they could get it to work.

Below, this friend had to figure out why the corks did not fall as the dominos did.  He ended up using a math manipulative we have with the properties of a domino that was thinner and would knock over easier.

The teamwork and collaboration amazed me.  They worked together and listened to each others idea. When the machine did not work, they worked together to figure it out! Noticing the attributes of the dominos, the group below created the domino effect using blocks and tunnels.


Can you see the collaboration and teamwork in the pictures below?

In the next pictures, this group of girls were trying to create a machine using dominos and cubes.  I love how they created decorations around and within their machine. When they were done, they wanted to take a video to show the class. We took the video but ran into a problem.  The dominoes did not fall.  They had to stop and figure out what went wrong.  They were so disappointed because they had worked on it for a good 30 minutes, but after the initial feeling of disappointment, I saw that that they have learned how to handle disappointment.  They decided right away they would try again the next day.

We showed the video to the class and they helped them figure out why it didn't work. We also watched a video that showed a giant domino run so they could observe how it worked.

The next day, they spaced the dominos based on what they learned so they would have room to fall and hit the next one.  It took them almost 45 minutes because they kept falling down before they were finished.  Again, they handled their frustration and persisted. This time they were successful!  Both videos of the failed one and successful one can be found on my Instagram account darlamyersclass.  You have to check out their reactions when they succeeded! All that work was worth it for them!

This friend below was exploring how both speed and angles affect motion.  He had to figure out the incline of the tube to get the marble to be fast enough to hit an angled block hard enough to change direction and then hit the rock.  He kept trying and trying, adjusting both the incline, the angle of the block and the rock each time until he was successful!  The look of accomplishment in their eyes was so wonderful to see!  They were all so proud of their creations.

So do you think play is just play anymore?  Can you see the complex skills they are developing that they will need in order to succeed in school and in their future careers?  Can you see some of foundational skills being laid for physics, and geometry here? Some of their most important learning comes through play!

That being said, we also have been working hard in math and literacy!  We have been studying fairy tails to help us with our story comprehension and retelling skills.  The experience below offered them an invitation to retell the Three Little Pigs.

They also loved writing their own versions of the fairy tales we read which showed such great thought and imagination!  Some of their books spanned across six pages! We also had a STEM challenge where they had to develop and write a plan to build a house using nothing by index cards and masking tape that would be strong enough to withstand the "Big Bad Blow Dryer!" Then they had to follow their plan. They had a lot of fun with this!  We gathered and tried them all out and discussed what attributes the houses that blew away or stayed put had in common. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the houses!

 Stay tuned for next time when we find out what the kids will be interested in exploring next.