Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Haunted House Project: Interest Based Learning

The day after Halloween, the kids wanted to know if they could turn the Dramatic Play area into a Haunted House.  I really didn't want to, Halloween was over after all, BUT... I try to follow their interests whenever I find out what those interests are, not mine!  It is when I align the curriculum to their interests that the most learning and best work happens!  So... Haunted House it would be!

We started by creating a list of what our Haunted House needed. We took that list and created expert groups to research and create each part!

Before we even started, the authentic writing started!  This friend wrote a sign to hang near the area that said, "Haunted House. The scary Haunted House with scary bats. With spiders."

The expert groups met and researched the part that they were going to make.  Here the spider team is counting the legs and eyes they will need when they make their spiders.  They also used books for their research and looked at pictures of webs.  They learned that spiders have 8 legs and can have from 2-12 eyes, but most have 8! After their research, they created their spiders and webs.

The house team looked at pictures of Haunted Houses to come up with a design for the outer house portion of ours.  They said they needed black paper and yellow for the windows so it would look like the lights were on.  They also wanted something spooky looking out the window!  They also decided we should make a sign that says, "Haunted House."

We had an "atmosphere" team whose job it was to create a scary, but not too scary atmosphere for our  Haunted House!  They decided to make a stormy atmosphere! They created a three dimensional cloud out of some material that has been used year after year whenever we have needed a cloud. They strung blue beads on yarn for rain and strung yellow gold and silver beads onto pipe cleaners for the lightning, bent into a lightning shape, and hooked them to the cloud material.

They used a model to measure and cut blue ribbon for more rain. We didn't want it long enough for friends to grab.

They wanted to paint a storm so that it looked like a window with a storm outside.  They mixed colors to make the perfect color for a stormy cloud.

As they used the iPad to find pictures of storms, they noticed that the lightning was white rather than yellow so they decided on white paint.

Here is the bat team researching bats with Miss Weaver, our Wright State Student.

The monster team decided on a skeleton as a scary, but not too scary monster. They used the iPad and books for their research.

Here is their finished Haunted House!

This was the first experience they had with project based learning.  It was very small scale, and based on their interest. Because of this, they were excited and used the skills that we have been working on naturally.  This experience has shown them that as kids, they can accomplish something big together! They are so proud of what they made and used so many skills as they created it!  Authentic writing and research with a purpose was the biggest academic focus here.  This is just the beginning of the things that they will accomplish this year!  I can't see what else they do this year!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Investigating Pumpkins

Since the kids were so interested in apples, I figured they would be interested in looking closer and learning more about pumpkins so I set up the room to foster their curiosity and see where they may go with it.  Here are some of the invitations that I set up and the exploring and creating that happened in those areas.

I purchased pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors.  So many of the kids think all pumpkins are orange!  When they walked into the room, their interest was piqued, but it did not get a lot of visitors!  They just were not as into looking closer at the pumpkins as they were the apples, which surprised me!

To try another perspective, I added a scale and unifix cubes for measuring. This grabbed their interest!  They loved seeing how heavy the pumpkins were and documented them by drawing the pumpkins and writing the number they saw on the scale.  We used the terms heavier and lighter to compare weights which is a common math core standard.

They also enjoyed seeing how tall they were and recorded their observations.  I wish I had gotten pictures of their documentation of what they noticed here!  With some guidance in the beginning, they did a great job of making their thinking visible!

We moved the pumpkins to another table to document what we noticed as we looked closer.

Some beginning physicists were exploring the concept of balance!

I have a lot of sculptors in our class so I made sure to make an area to show what they notice about pumpkins through the language of sculpture.

A couple friends decided to work as a team to create a pumpkin patch.  It took them three days to finish it! The detail was amazing!  You could tell they looked closely and made sure to add the stems, leaves and vines!

I was so impressed with this!

Many kids have started using post-its to label their work when they leave it out for display. Authentic, meaningful writing at its best!

I made and area for kids to show what they notice through transient art. Not as many were interested in this though!

I set out some opportunities for STEM experiences in our engineering and block area!  The STEM challenge was: Can you make a gate that will hold the five little pumpkins using these materials? My engineers loved this!

The hardest part of this one was making it sturdy!  They fell over very easily!

I set out paper for them to plan or document what they made in both areas.

Some of my architects just wanted to use the pumpkins as loose parts in their structure creations!

Because of the interest in weighing the pumpkins, I provided balance scales and heavy glass beads for them to explore the concepts of heavier/lighter, and equal weight.

For fine motor practice to develop their finger muscles, I provided a huge pumpkin with screws and screwdrivers.

I would say they really, really loved this!!!

At the end, I cut open the pumpkins for them to explore.  They documented what they noticed about the insides of the pumpkins.

After Halloween, the kids decided to change our Dramatic Play area into a Haunted House! This will be our first small scale project!  Stay tuned to see how it turns out in the next post!