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Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Dragon Project

I have had a really hard time figuring out a common interest for a large scale inquiry and project with this group.  We have had a lot of small group interests in sound, animals, etc. but no topic that the whole class loved together as a whole...or so I thought.

I knew that Chinese New Year was coming up so I thought to put out some invitations to explore the Chinese New Year, Chinese culture and China since they seemed to enjoy our Holidays Around the World Inquiry. As I was looking for ideas, there were a lot activities relating to the dragon and dragon dances.  All of the sudden, it hit me.  Ever since the beginning of the year, these kids have been trying to make dragons at our maker's space.  Also, every time a dragon is mentioned in a story, they would all get very excited.  I wondered, so I looked up their year on the Chinese Zodiac and guess which year all but one of my little friends was born in? The Year of the Dragon! I started coming up with a plan! Below shows how I began the process.  I added many more ideas to it later.


I started out by showing them a video of a dragon dance.  They were mesmerized!  I also showed them a video about the legend of Nian and the Chinese New Year and how they were all connected.  Their interest grew.  They wanted to make a village, create drums to scare Nian away, create a dragon... they had come up with so many ideas!

Grabbing onto this interest, I started out with some invitations for them to explore Chinese writing.



I put some black and gold paint with red paper for some process art using these traditional colors.  I added some Chinese characters we learned how to read if they wanted to use them in their art.


They also saw a video with some Chinese Fan Dancing.  They wrote a plan and then followed it to create their own fans.


We had some very beautiful fan dances! They collaborated and came up with their own choreography! We put on some traditional Chinese music and performed some very beautiful fan dances for our class. 


I set out some invitations to explore dragons and what they look like using different art materials. Here they used paint and Sharpies to show what they noticed about dragons and then wrote a sentence about the dragon they painted.



They could create sculptures using plasticine clay (great for creativity and fine motor skills):



They could use the materials below to create (play) and then write a story about dragons:





In math, they explored symmetry by creating "squish-painting" dragons. They had to add details to the paint and make sure they kept it symmetrical.


We compared and contrasted dragons and dinosaurs and discussed what mythical creatures were:



But most of all, they wanted to create a Dragon Lair and a dragon to do the dragon dance.  We came up with a list of what we needed. 


The kids crumbled up brown paper so that it would look like rocky cave walls and I hung it up in our dramatic play area. The kids then glued sparkles all over the wall since dragons love treasure and sparkly things (just like they do)!




We made some signs to warn people of the dragon and added some "diamonds," "rubies," and "gold!"!




Of course we needed some dragon eggs for the nest! Dragons use trees to build nests!




Now that the dragon's home was done, we needed the dragon!  I collected some boxes, bottles, fruit cups and scrap paper and the kids went to work!



They painted some water bottles with acrylic paint and I cut them and hot glued them where they told me to put them.


Now they were ready to play and create stories in this area!


I had bought some scarves and a rainbow ribbon to use as open ended materials for dramatic play.  They felt they would make perfect dragon wings!



They wanted to present a dragon dance for other classes so we added a body.


The kids wrote 6 page stories about dragons.  They worked very hard on these knowing that they were going to be reading them to kids from other classes!



They practiced reading them to friends.




They created clay dragons to show the other classes what they noticed about how dragons look.





Our parade was a reenactment of the villagers trying to scare the dragon monster Nian out of their village. They made monkey drums because the dragon is afraid of loud noises.  


Some fan dancers were going to dance using their red fans since the dragon is afraid of the color red.  We chose a dragon leader to lead the dragon our of the village back to its lair with our rainbow ribbon. 


This video of one of our parades is the CUTEST!


After the parade, the kids read their books and shared their projects! The other classes loved it!  


The kids were so proud of all that they did.  You could tell that they felt very accomplished and that they did something special by sharing it! It is amazing how purposeful everything becomes when they know they are going to present what they have created!

This was such a wonderful inquiry to encourage creative thinking (which is such an important skill for them to have) in art, story-telling and writing! The monkey drums have started a HUGE interest in sound, instruments and rhythm!  That will be our next large scale inquiry which we will start after Spring Break!

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