Tag Archives: science

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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From Melting Ice Caps to a Global Warming Inquiry

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Here, M wears a hat she made with a word bubble that says, “Stop Polluting!” – all her idea! She, along with many of her peers, have become passionate environmentalists over the past month. Read more to find out why!

From Melting Ice Caps to a Global Warming Inquiry

In my last post, Polar Learning Flourishes!, I shared our learning experiences throughout our Polar Inquiry, which had taken place during the winter months. One finding that intrigued the children, was that the ice caps were melting. We talked about what the possibility of melted ice caps would mean for the animals, people and the land in these regions and concluded that polar animals would need to either adapt to the new conditions or they could die off. We were sad to think that the Inuit and other people living in the Arctic would be affected negatively in various ways as well (e.g., the animals they used to hunt could be extinct, their traditions would be changed, etc.). I could tell by the children’s keen interest in this topic that I had to plan some interactive lessons and learning experiences to help the children better understand the situation. And so began our month-long investigation on Global Warming…
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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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The Evolution of a Project

In my Halloween post, I left off with the image of our class pumpkin and explained how the dripping wet wax made us think of gravity. The children then began asking questions about gravity and the related topic of outer space. In this post, you will see how our newest inquiry has emerged and evolved since that day. Prepare to be inspired…

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Setting the Stage for Investigating & Learning

As I’ve explained in previous posts, Madison and I run a program based on the philosophies of Emergent Curriculum, Project-Based Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning and Reggio Emilia. The melting crayon wax on the pumpkin began a conversation we had no idea would come up prior to the moment. It all started when I posed the problem to the group: How come the wax is dripping down the pumpkin and not dripping sideways or upwards? Many of the children immediately responded that it was due to gravity. I was quite impressed and so to find out more about the children’s conceptions of gravity, I asked them more open-ended questions and invited them to share with me what they knew about the topic. Naturally, some children began to connect the idea of gravity with the subject of space, believing that in space, there is no gravity. I then moved on to remind them about something we had talked about before: Scientists look closely at things but they also ask lots of questions. I welcomed them to ask questions about gravity or space that they would like to know more about. As they asked their questions, I recorded them on chart paper.

The next day when I had Class A, I showed them the pumpkin and posed the same question about the wax. To my delight, they too, were quick to explain the phenomenon of the downward drips with the concept of gravity. A similar discussion arose and we added more questions to the list from the previous day. You can view the collaborative inquiry questions in the photo below.

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A Worm Inquiry (Part 1)

Introduction & Pre-Inquiry

The worm inquiry developed from smaller inquiries surrounding the topics of farm life, dirt/soil and mud. It grew into something we had never expected, integrating so much of the curriculum and developing, within our students, a tolerance and respect for other living things, an understanding of the careful balance of systems within our environment and for some, the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and open their minds and hearts to these tiny (but important) creatures. This post will set the stage for how it all unfolded. 

As we moved into the spring this year, I read the story “Stuck in the Mud” by Jane Clarke as directed by the Early Literacy Intervention Program (ELIP) that my school’s Kindergarten team was taking part in. The program and the books utilized are geared towards improving language development for Kindergarten-age children.

Both of my classes of students really enjoyed the book but seemed to be most interested about the subject matter – the farm, farm animals and farming in general.

We found an old farm toy in storage and brought it out along with some farm animals to see what the children would do with it. They absolutely loved these toys and said that we should build the rest of the farm like in the pictures from Stuck in the Mud (the fields, landscape, etc.). We asked how this could be done and some children suggested putting the farm toys in the sandbox.

That evening my teaching partner and I emptied the white sand from the sandbox and filled it with real potting soil to make it more like a real farm. We also thought it may be interesting to add soil to our water table and let the kids mix in some water to discover what would happen.

The children were ecstatic over the more ‘realistic’ farm landscape and brought other materials over from around the room as they saw fit (e.g., tree/wood pieces, rocks, etc.). They set up the farm in various designs over the days. They were also over the moon about adding water to the soil at the water table. They easily predicted it would become mud and played for days at this table, mushing it between their fingers, using different mixing/measuring tools and molding shapes with it. I also read them a book about mud and after, we made a word web of words that describe mud. They began to use many of these words at the ‘Mud Table’ while playing. A DECE from another Board visited our classroom to learn more about inquiry and took careful notes about what the children were saying/doing. She concluded that surprisingly, many of the children had admitted to never actually playing with mud before and told her how interesting and fun it was for them.

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Top Left & Bottom Left: Our water table/sensory bin filled with mud. Top Right & Bottom Right: Our sandbox filled with soil and farm toys

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