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.

Spring Brings New Light

I’ve always seen the season of Spring, especially, as a time with so much opportunity for learning and creating. Although it is now June, I still wanted to share with you, some of the learning experiences that we partook in over the Spring months. Much of these activities occurred at the same time that we were involved in our Vet Inquiry. A great deal of our attention was directed to that particular study but we also made sure to notice and honour the wonderful new light of Spring and all it brought with it.  Enjoy!

Easter & Holiday-Related Activities: Where do they fit in? 

Throughout my blog, I have explained at various times that themes-based learning does not work for me personally, in my own practice. Instead, I am passionate about utilizing an inquiry approach as it is something that blends in seamlessly with my own teaching style and that I am able to deliver confidently. While this is true, I don’t see the harm in offering select seasonal or holiday themed activities if they are meaningful to my students and promote specific skills or learning. This year I’ve been teaching a population of students who participate in many of the major traditional and commercial Canadian holidays – this including Easter. Since many of the children were talking about Easter, the Easter Bunny and the ways that their families had been preparing for the holiday, Madison and I put out a few optional Easter activities for the children to explore.

The Egg Hunt table was a sensory bin filled with Easter grass and plastic eggs with letters and word endings written on them. The students put egg halves together to create words and then recorded them on the charts on clipboards. I was so excited to see some children working there who typically were not drawn to these sorts of activities. They became so excited when they made words and realized how easy it was. I think it was a great activity to help some of the children get over their fear of spelling words ‘wrong’ or not being able to spell because there were not many halves that couldn’t go together. It got them to slow down and hear the word endings and then to blend the beginning letters with those endings to create real (and silly) words. The fact that they experienced so much success here was also a forerunner for their breakthrough in becoming better readers and spellers.

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Chocolate playdough was also a huge hit. It was put out with various loose materials and books about chocolate chickens and chocolate Easter Bunnies. The children strengthened their small muscles and practiced fine motor control as they placed the materials onto their sculptures. Creativity was also explored as they constructed many interesting creatures while enjoying the natural scent of the cocoa powder that the playdough was made with. Take a look!

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Rarely do I set up an invitation to learn or explore that does not include at least one book! Pictures are a great source of inspiration for children while they are creating. When books are placed alongside another activity, the children eventually (or immediately) are drawn to opening that book up to see what’s inside. This is a great way to get in some on-the-spot word or reading practice!

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Here, it is evident that the children were being very purposeful with their placement of the materials. They took their time and found effective ways of making the materials stick into the playdough. They also experimented with different shaped eggs to see how they could create their own chocolate playdough eggs, using the plastic ones as models.

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L created this Easter Bunny using much thought, planning and problem-solving. She decided that the Easter bunny might be sturdier if she connected the limbs using toothpicks.

Spring Creativity

As mentioned earlier in this post, Spring is such an excellent time of year to look at things in a fresh new light. With the weather and environment changes, the children began to speak about the kinds of phenomena they were noticing outside. To extend that thinking and see what new kinds of ideas and questions we could spark, we set up a variety of invitations that asked students to create or re-create images of spring.

Transient art using loose materials is something I find extremely effective in developing creative thinking. It brings the focus back to the process rather than the product. The children work together or alone to put down what appear to be random pieces of materials. Over time, the pieces form an image that was either planned prior to beginning the project or constructed along the way. Beautiful scenes of spring that included trees, flowers, grass and blue skies brightened up our room. Some of these pieces were also created on the light table! Have a look…

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I find that these frames help give the children a clear image of where to form the picture. Just look at these masterpieces!

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This light table invitation encouraged children to create scenes of what spring looks like to them. I also just love the mosaic pieces on the light table!

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Friends worked together to create more elaborate scenes. Check out the these ones! The bottom right scene shows two people outside enjoying spring (one person is the student and the other is me!).

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Absolutely love the images that were created. Top left: There’s that scene of the two people again but this time we see how both students had connected their pictures together. Top right: The blue clouds float atop a flower bed.

Drawing and writing about plants also became a popular choice during Thinking and Learning Time. As you will see later, the children became fascinated with this topic after planting flowers in pots for their Mother’s Day gifts.

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Left photos: Children created images of the steps or stages of plant growth – seed in the soil, roots beginning to grow, sprout emerging from the soil and plant developing. Top right: M looks closely at the sprout emerging from one friends’ pot. It gives her ideas for drawing and writing. Bottom right: One of our favourite springtime books, “The Dandelion’s Tale” by Kevin Sheehan about a Dandelion passing it’s legacy on to it’s ‘children’ as it’s seeds blow away in the wind. So sad but so touching!

Spring-Inspired Paintings

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I was inspired by all of the beautiful spring flowers popping up in the grocery store every time I passed through and thought it would be a wonderful experience for the children to paint the flowers in an open-ended style of activity. We set up vases of different flower arrangements and watched in awe as the children created beautiful, stylistic pieces right before our eyes!

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Here are a few of our invitations that we set up to inspire the children to paint the flowers. We are so lucky to have the beautiful, natural lighting that surely adds ambiance to our displays.

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L always works so carefully. She studies her subject matter before and during her work. Each line she draws and colour she chooses is purposefully chosen and a part of a plan. I’m in awe while watching her create!

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Each of the children’s paintings reflect their individual style and personality. I loved observing them while they drew and painted to see how they would put it all together. It also showed me a great deal about their creative approach – how quickly or slowly they work, the kinds of details they add or choose not to add, if they choose to replicate the image in front of them or use it as a starting point for their own imaginative design ,etc…

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One of my favourite parts of observing the children while they paint is watching them when they stop and look at what they’ve done so far. I wonder what kinds of things they are thinking about. So much is going on in their creative minds during these moments!

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Top photos: The children also painted our C02 Crispy Wave plant that (supposedly) helps purify our classroom air. On many of their paintings, they combined their knowledge of Global Warming from our past inquiry in these paintings by labeling the plants and using arrows to show the flow of the C02 being absorbed and the oxygen flowing back out. Love when the children make connections like this!

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The more the children paint, the better they get. They truly are little artists!

Celebrating Our Mothers!

Mother’s Day was another holiday we honoured over the springtime. I think it’s important to show love to our families by saying ‘thank you’ as often as we can. Mother’s Day presents an opportunity for us to do this. We celebrated this special holiday with our “homeroom class” (Class B) and Class A celebrated in their French class.

First, the children were each given a plain pot to paint. They were provided with an array of colours and were given no major limitations in what they could create. We placed out some photos of painted pots for inspiration. After the pots were dry and given a coat of Mod Podge, we filled them with soil and the children planted marigold flower seeds. These were to be the gifts they would give their mothers for Mother’s Day.

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The children also created homemade cards to go with their pots. Each child was coached in taking their time and working on using their neatest printing. They sat in small groups to complete this so that we could provide them with sufficient support.

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The best part of the cards were the front covers. The children thought up reasons why they loved their mothers and wrote them down in list format. Each list was absolutely adorable and showed so much love and appreciation for the mother it was written about. Here are a few:

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The one below really touched me and in my opinion, spoke volumes about how important the small things are to a child. The line – “You tell me about your day” – suggests that what we do in our lives as adults is in fact, important to our children. When they look at us, they are looking up to us and it is with that responsibility that we are reminded to not only be inspiring role models to our children but to also take the time to share, in conversation, our daily lives with them. Telling them about our day – even just one small thing that we encountered or were involved in – really does mean a lot to our children and also teaches them how to share and how to listen. This, in turn, broadens their knowledge about the world and helps shape them into compassionate, aware and open-minded individuals.

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Finally we held a Mother’s Day Lunch for all the mothers of our Class B students. The children were ecstatic to have their moms join us for lunch. Madison baked delicious berry crumble muffins, made up some yummy fruit salad and we also offered iced tea and lemonade. Something so simple turned out to be something so meaningful for both the students and the mothers. The moms chatted to each other and with their children and were shown around the room by their little ones after eating lunch. The kids were so proud and it was a grand success!

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Our Trip to the Children’s Festival

I wanted to throw in a few shots of our trip to the Children’s Festival for the parents who follow my blog. I know they will like to see the kinds of things we got up to. It was a cold and rainy day in May – one of the coldest in a long time! We weren’t really dressed for it and all of us were quite cold and shivering. However, despite the cold, we had lots of fun going around to the various tents to conduct science experiments, play with musical instruments, watch magic tricks, listen to musical/dance performances, get our faces painted – and the highlight of our day – see an acrobatic comedy performance by a French entertainment group. So much fun!

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Having fun at the instrument petting zoo!

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Top left: Bus ride home and we’re so glad we came! Middle left: Loving the puppets and actors in costumes who came by to give us a laugh. Bottom left: Sipping some hot chocolate to keep warm! Top right: Waiting for the bus and staying warm inside of the War Museum lobby. Bottom right: Showing off our face paint!

 

I hope you enjoyed catching up on some of the wonderful memories we have from the spring. I feel that the spring months were truly a time of growth for our children. When I look back at older photos of the students, I realize that they not only changed physically but also emotionally and socially. They are transforming, before our eyes, into stronger, brighter and even more capable little beings.

In my next post, I will share some of the great math activities that we got up to over the last few months. See you then!

One thought on “Springtime Learning!

  1. Jen

    I love all of your Reggio inspired, open ended projects and Inquiries. I am inspired by your ideas and trying to add them into my classroom. How do you write your lesson plans?
    Thanks!
    Jen

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