Category Archives: Exploring Nature

Caterpillars to Butterflies to Goodbyes


Goodbye Worms, Hello Caterpillars

Moving into June, we said, “goodbye” to our worms and said, “hello” to our Painted Lady caterpillars! The entire kindergarten division ordered these ahead of time so we knew they were coming. However, since we had studied our worms so closely , had the inquiry steps almost down pat, and were always full of wonders, we were more than ready for our next study. Having caterpillars also inspired us to broaden the scope of our inquiry from one exclusively focused on worms to one that included the entire subject of insects and creepy-crawlies.

When we received our caterpillars, Madison gently placed them into their new temporary home (a laundry hamper with mesh sides). She showed us the mushy food that we needed to put in the hamper so that the caterpillars could get big and strong enough to climb up branches or the sides of the hamper, attach themselves to something, and form chrysalises.

The caterpillars didn’t lend themselves to as much of an interactive study as the worms did since they needed to be left alone inside of their mesh hamper. However, they taught the children the art of careful observation and patience.

We set our new friends up where our worms used to live. This became our little observatory. Every day the children would come in and check to see how the caterpillars were doing and if any of the caterpillars had formed chrysalises. We made a predictions graph to guess when we thought our caterpillars would form chrysalises and later on, we made another graph to show our predictions of when we thought they would emerge as butterflies.

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Spring Brings A Worm Inquiry

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Spring Brings a Worm Inquiry

April 2015 revealed the budding beginnings of a new inquiry. From all our talk on caring for the Earth, the benefits of compost and producing nutrient-rich soil, we have begun to wonder about worms and other mini-beasts. I asked the children if they would like to study worms close up by having worms in the classroom and it was a resounding, “YES!!!”. Madison and I decided we could have our very own earth worm tank to enhance our learning. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I did this last year and the children not only loved it but also learned so much from it! Even those who, at first, were timid about touching the worms ended up learning the values of bravery and trying new things.

This post will showcase our journey throughout our Worm Inquiry and reveal how it transformed into a broader study of insects. As always, our scientific investigations were used as a means to also tap into math, language and the arts, allowing us to cover many curriculum expectations. The big idea that I wanted the children to understand was that although worms are small, they are indeed very important to the soil, the plants, animals and to us! I can definitely say that this goal was well reached.

Enjoy!

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Springtime Learning!

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As our students create, explore, learn and grow, they are discovering the world around them as well as who they are, as individuals. Through each choice they select, mistake they make and alternative point of view they encounter, our children learn what makes them, them! The more opportunities we give our little ones to explore their interests, the more their spirits are nurtured and soon they emerge as their authentic, true selves. As the year is drawing to an end, we have been so lucky to have witnessed over 40 different personalities take shape and grow. As Spring brings new light to our days, it also brings with it the development of our little ones’ identities. And so with this post, I bring you some of the experiences that took us through our Spring months when we were not involved in our other inquiries. Some of the experiences may be small but they still played roles in developing our students’ personalities along their journeys.

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Kinderbucks + Meaningful Play = Inquiry!

Kinderbucks Continues; Understandings Deepen

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Shaw was an Irish playwright and socialist during the 1800s. In his text, Treatise on Parents and Children, Shaw claims that formal education of the time was deadening to the spirits of children and detrimental to their intellectual development. He advocated for an approach that was child-directed and inquiry-based.

Kinderbucks continues to be a popular spot to play, explore and learn. As the children play, I try to simply observe as much as I can. When the moment seems appropriate, we sometimes enter the play and expand their understandings by having them draw on their own experiences at coffee shops to help them better focus their role playing.

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Here you can see how neat and tidy the children have been keeping Kinderbucks. They take pride in keeping it this way because of the sense of ownership they have over it – it was their idea in the first place and much went into it’s planning! You can also see children taking on various roles such as ordering, serving, baking, and making receipts.

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Fallin’ for Fall

The past two weeks can be best summed up using the following quote by marine biologist and conservationist, Rachel Carson:

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In addition to all of the wonderful learning related to our city inquiry, children were presented with a provocation of fall-related items. In our sensory bin, Madison and I put gourds, pumpkins, dried maize/corn, strawberry corn, stones, pine cones and magnifying glasses. At first, only clipboards with paper and markers were set beside the table to encourage recording of exploring, wondering and representing. As you will see in the photos, these two clipboards were not enough and this centre seeped onto other tables and even onto the floor as children needed more room to do their exploring.

Now, if there’s one thing one would need to know about teaching young learners, it is this: you can make almost anything sound amazing and fun if you present it that way and truly believe it yourself. Many people would assume children would find this learning centre boring and be done with it after just a few minutes. By modeling our excitement to look closely at the items, admire their imperfect beauty, and draw/write about what we see, many children kept busy with the centre for days (and weeks!). I told the children that they were all scientists because they were doing exactly what scientists do by observing, examining and asking questions that lead to discovery. The children LOVED learning that they were real scientists. Have a look at what happened…

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Learning About ‘The City’, Learning About Life

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend everyone!

Something to Contemplate…

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Carlina Rinaldi is the President of Reggio Children – the International Center for the Defense and Promotion of the Rights and Potentials of All Children – and has worked closely with Loris Malaguzzi, pioneer of the Reggio Emilia Approach to teaching and learning (the approach that inspires my own work). You can learn more about the Center and this approach by visiting www.reggiochildren.it

Essentially, this quote captures nicely, how adults – parents and educators alike – need to slow down and simply listen and observe children. Rather than demand responses from children, we need to give them the time they need to process, ponder and ask questions, themselves. Likewise, rather than immediately provide answers to children’s questions, we need to give them the time and space necessary for them to come up with an array of possible solutions and to consider where and how they can search for answers that make the most sense to them. Giving children these opportunities sets them up for a future of lifelong learning and teaches them how to function in a 21st Century world where so much information is available. By doing so, they learn to consider multiple perspectives and solutions, to sift through those possibilities and to choose which ones speak to them. Like my website’s slogan states, it is our duty as those that watch and guide our future generation, to find ways to ignite the spark for learning within children. This approach empowers children in becoming courageous learners – learners open to taking risks and appreciating the various pathways to seeking answers. You can read more about this within my post, A Little Bit of Courage

Now, keeping all of that in mind, onto this week’s learning…

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The City Inquiry Deepens

Combinatory Play’ and the Creative Process

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I’d like to set the tone for this post by highlighting something once said by the amazing, Mr. Albert Einstein: “Play is the highest form of research”. Einstein is credited for having strong feelings regarding the importance of liberal arts within the education system and for his belief that the secret to true genius lies in ‘combinatory play’ – the process of creativity. The more one partakes in joyful play, the more she is able to combine and recombine a collection of new knowledge, information, memories, inspiration, and existing ideas in order to produce new ideas. If you’d like to read more on this, you can check it out on BrainPickings. Within our classroom, children are given many opportunities to play and are also given the tools and guidance to learn how to learn. Discover what we’ve been up to this week…

A City-Sized Inquiry!

Our City Inquiry continues to deepen through many explorations and learning experiences. Although you can’t really read the writing or see the photos, I wanted to give you a glimpse of our city inquiry board that is in the works. Come on in and see it close up!

Documentation boards/panels like this, have several purposes. First of all, they make the students’ and educators’ thinking visible and showcase the processes and pathways occurring throughout the room around a certain inquiry (in this case, the city). A shared understanding is created and ongoing dialogue and reflection is promoted through the display of the photos, work samples and captions. Documentation panels allow educators to celebrate the rights of individual learners (perspectives and talents are vast within every class) as well as make it clear to the children that they are being honoured and respected for having ownership over their learning (the children themselves, decide which direction to take the inquiry based on their interests, wonderings and experiences). By highlighting the inquiry, making it clear what is happening and where it started from (the beginning experiences or thoughts that began the inquiry), children also feel a sense of accountability over their own learning and the learning of their peers.

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A Worm Inquiry (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in which I explained where this worm inquiry came from and how I prepared for it (see the last post), I will now describe what happened when the children were introduced to the worms. Enjoy!

Engaging Students at the Science/Worm Centre:

My prized worm tank was complete and ready for its worm inhabitants. This new provocation was, at first, hidden from students when they came into the classroom the next morning. I started off reminding them of their wonderings yesterday about why there were no worms in the soil at the mud table. I told them I wanted to read them a story about a worm to get them thinking more about worms. I read, “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin.

As we read the story, certain questions arose about whether or not the book was giving us real facts about worms. Initially the students stated that the book was fiction because they could tell it was more like a story and did not have a table of contents like the non-fiction books we have looked at did. As students asked questions or made predictions as to whether or not something in the story was a real fact about worms, I recorded their thinking on chart paper. I was surprised when some children talked about worms being good for the soil and the environment! This was something I kept note of because it told me that some children had a fairly good background on worms. The chart paper became quite crowded and messy but the children know from me reminding them, that thinking is sometimes ‘messy’ and not always ‘neat and tidy’.

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Our ‘busy paper’ as we wondered and talked about worms.

After the story, we review our thoughts from the chart paper. I asked the children how we could find out the answers to our questions as well as find out more about worms. The children are becoming very familiar with this process of “researching” or “exploring”. Some answers included: Look on the iPad or iPhone, look on the computer or Internet, ask Scientists in Sweden (yes, Sweden!), look in non-fiction books, and finally…. look, study and feel worms by bringing real worms into the class. A few children actually suggested this last idea. A few children immediately stated that this would be impossible because there’s still snow outside and the ground is frozen. Other children brought up that fisherman have to buy their worms from a story so maybe we could buy worms from a store too. The children discussed a possible plan of action with one another for a few minutes while I left the circle to go grab the tank.

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