a little house for the pumpkin

IMG_0390We have been talking about many ways we can be responsible both at home and at school. Back in October, the students were interested in seeing if the seeds from our pumpkins would grow. They placed seeds in plastic bags with paper towel and water. As the seeds sprouted, they decided we needed to plant them in soil because they were becoming too big for the plastic bags. We planted a few of the seedlings and it wasn’t long before we noticed a stem had snapped. An impromptu conversation about caring for the plants responsibility, led to a discussion about planting a garden. Because it was November, the students knew that planting a garden at this time of year would result in the plant dying.

I: “We should make a garden shed. You make it with wood. You get a big piece of wood and cut it. Then get some screws and screw the wood. Then when you’re done doing the nails you have to lift up the wood and screw them together and put a door.”

R: “We could make a little house for the pumpkin.”

I: “And put a rain cloud in the house.”

Mr. P.: “That’s interesting. Some plants are grown in a house called a greenhouse.”

R: “We could make a greenhouse! A little one for the classroom.”

And so, construction of the greenhouse began. The students brainstormed materials they would need.

greenhouse 1

Once materials were collected, they began to construct the greenhouse. Structures, choice of materials and stability were major concepts that were discussed as the students experimented and problem-solved. Tape seemed to be the binder of choice. Regardless of the amount of tape they used, they began to realize that tape wouldn’t give the greenhouse the stability it required. When asked what other materials they might use, “S” suggested they try string.

greenhouse 2

Stability also came into play when constructing the roof for the greenhouse. I found it interesting that despite the conversation about the problems with using masking tape, the students continued to use tape until they realized that it would not make the roof stable. “M” said it needed something underneath it to make it strong.

greenhouse 4

Finally, the students needed to plan how many pots would fit in the greenhouse and how much plastic they needed to cover it.

greenhouse 5

After days of construction, our greenhouse was ready to house a few plants. We are now wondering if a pumpkin will grow.

greenhouse 6

 

uncovering curriculum with help from the food truck

food truckAn interest in the amusement park inspired the students to research things they might find there. As mentioned in the last post, they became very intrigued by food trucks. We googled images of food trucks and the students decided which pictures they wanted to print to use as a reference. A group of students was very interested in finding the proper wheels needed for the truck.  Once they chose an image from which to model their wheel, they decided they needed something round to use as a basic template.  They compared a few different materials and quickly decided that the tree cookie was best.

food truck wheels

Another group of students researched other elements needed for the food truck. They discussed the need for a “sign” to show the foods they could sell. This need for a “sign” led to discussions about a menu board and how they are the same or different from restaurant menus. Our Early Literacy Teacher, Mrs. Pierre, supported the students as they researched and organized their menu board.

researching menu

A problem arose when it came time to prop open the serving window. The cardboard was too thick for the students to cut, so they asked me to cut two strips which they would use to hold up the window. They soon discovered that the cardboard began to bend and would not support the cardboard flap. This provided an authentic opportunity for problem-solving while experimenting with different materials. After trying more cardboard, pipe cleaners, thin popsicle sticks and thick popsicle sticks, they decided on pieces of dowel and string because the dowel was “…long and the popsicle sticks were too short.”

food truck problem solving

constructing food truck

The food truck is now open for business. While engaging in dramatic play, the students have been developing their literacy skills as they refer to the menu and write food orders and receipts. They are counting and adding amounts of money and they are reflecting on the need to revise their play.

food truck purchase “O” decided they needed a copy of the menu behind the counter so they could also refer to the prices as their classmates ordered. She also noticed that “… at the food truck we don’t have any cents. Just dollars. We need cents because I wanted the snow cone and I needed 3 cents, but “S” said we didn’t have any cents.”

“M” decided to work on food orders. He found images on the iPad and decided to use one as a model. Based on the picture, he wrote “010” on all of his copies. This led to an interesting conversation:

Mr. P.: How do you use this order?

M: You give it to the chef and he will know what to make.

Mr. P.: Why do you have “010” on all of them?

“M” looked at the number and read them as the number one. I asked him to look closely at the number and covered the first zero.  He realized it was the number 10.

Mr. P.: “Why do you think it says ‘Your Order Number’ and the number 10?

M: It’s for the customer.  Customer #1, Customer #2, Customer #3 (counted to 10).

Mr. P.: What will happen if they all have the same number?

M: You will get all mixed up! You won’t know who is first, second, third…                            I need to change them.

food order

As the students engage in play at the food truck, I’m noticing that they are not only reflective, but that they can and do evaluate what is working and what changes need to be made to further their play (and their learning). It’s also a reminder for me to be present. If we see the child as capable and as protagonists in their learning, and we see ourselves as researchers, then we will be able to recognize curriculum expectations being uncovered as students and teachers engage in the research together.

the “changes” project

brainstorming changesIt has been a particularly busy couple of months. During that time, “planning” for inquiry has continued to evolve.  When I looked at the big ideas in the curriculum, one that I saw repeated in different subject areas was the notion of change. We began November discussing what we know about change…and the Grade 1s know a lot. Through their brainstorming they shared that leaves change colours, caterpillars change into butterflies, the weather changes, clouds change, years change, seasons change, and the sun and the moon change. We went on a “changes” walk to see what changes we could find. One of the things the students noticed was that their shadows changed. Based on this observation, we went outside one day to trace and measure our shadows. We decided to use our feet as our unit of measurement. The students discovered that in the morning, their shadows were one size, in the afternoon, they were shorter, and by the end of the day, they were very long.

measuring shadows

During our second visit outside, “J” compared his shadows and had a theory about why they were different and what he might find on the third visit:

“The sun was at the top, then at the middle, then after it’s going to be lower at the bottom.  Then our shadow at the bottom will get shorter, but when it’s (the sun) high in the middle, it’s (the shadow) getting a little bit smaller and when the sun is getting lower it’s (the shadow) going to be small.”

In order to allow the students to continue their investigations of light and shadow, I put some flashlights out for them to explore and make connections to their experiences the previous day.

exploring shadows

They soon discovered that the size of the shadow had to do with the distance at which they held the flashlight:

H:  When we do it higher, it looks different.

S:  Look.  If you do this (raises hand) it grows big.  If you do this (lowers hand), it goes small.

H:  You can make any shadows with light. Look! The shadow comes on the wall!

Mr. P.: Why do you think that is?

H:  I don’t know. Maybe because there’s no light and this is like the sun because the sun glows and a flashlight glows just like the sun.

The investigations of light and shadow also led the students to explore colour and light. They were fascinated at how the light changed colour and projected onto objects.

flashlight and colour

They also began “mixing” colours by laying different coloured tiles on top of one another to make new colours.  This reinforced their Kindergarten experiences when they mixed primary colours to make secondary colours using paint. This was an opportunity to make connections to their prior learning while exploring colour using a different medium.  We will no doubt continue with colour exploration in the new year.  Our “changes” project will also continue to evolve.

rethinking calendar

calendarAt the beginning of the school year, I have very little in the classroom. The first days of school are all about getting to know each other and building community. They are also about inviting the children to take ownership of their learning environment. After celebrating the birthday of our classroom library, we began to discuss special days. Birthdays, Diwali and Christmas were the first to make the list. We also talked about other important events like the first day of school, assemblies and pizza days. “How will we know when these days are coming?” I asked. The students were quick to reply, “We need a calendar.” In groups, they represented what they knew about calendars.

As I was cleaning the room at the end of the summer, I came across an old unused calendar. I knew I wanted to involve the students in co-constructing areas of our classroom. This included the calendar, so I kept it for reference. They immediately noticed that it had boxes and numbers. Some recognized the year. Others noticed the days of the week. “S” noticed empty boxes along the top row of certain months and wondered why they were empty. We also looked at a commercially prepared blank calendar.

observing calendar
A group of students was particularly interested in creating our classroom calendar. They were given bristol board, two sizes of blank stickies and the calendars to use as a reference. It was very interesting to see how their problem-solving unfolded. They began to lay out sticky after sticky without giving it any thought. There was no consideration for how many small and large stickies they would need. Some overlapped, some didn’t. Eventually they ran out and asked for more. I asked how many they needed and they didn’t know. When I asked them how they could find out, it took them a while to decide to look at the actual calendars. They counted the boxes on the calendar and compared the total with the number of stickies they used. It turned out they actually did need more, but before I handed them over, I asked them to take a closer look at their calendar to see if they needed to make any changes. They began comparing row by row and realized they needed seven stickies in each row, so they began to re-configure their arrangement.

comparing calendars

Once everything was re-arranged they could clearly see how many stickies they needed. “O” told her classmates that they needed “five here, four here and three here.” When I asked how many that was altogether, they counted and decided they needed twelve.

calendar stickies 2

With the stickies finally in place, they used metre sticks and markers to draw lines and label the days of the week. After a few days we had our first calendar! We took a class survey to find out if we should keep the calendar blank and stick numbers to it or if we should write on it and make another calendar next month. It was unanimous. Others wanted a chance to make one too. I love when they inspire each other!

constructing calendar This whole process was yet another reminder for me to slow down. The discussion this group had around constructing the calendar was rich and the problem-solving in which they engaged was authentic and meaningful. I’m sure I’ll be frequently reminding myself of this lesson as our year progresses.

discovering units

measuring branch One day, as I was holding up the branch that had fallen from our tree, several of the children called out, “It’s bigger than you!”  I asked them how we could find out how big the branch is.  Although the children know the word “measure” it’s always interesting to watch their understanding of this concept develop.  When they said they could “measure” it, I asked them how they would do so.  One student said he needed a string with some numbers on it.  Another said “with units.”  This prompted an interesting discussion on what a unit actually is.  Measuring the branch became an interesting exploration for a group of children.  Some asked for string.  Some walked along the branch and counted as they pointed to parts of it.  One of the children used her finger to measure the branch.

fingerspan

I put out some number cards and a measuring tape (a.k.a.; the string with numbers.)  Two of the SKs explored the string while one of the JKs used the number cards.  She laid them out and accurately counted how many “cards long” the branch was.  The numbers however, were all out of sequence.  measuring with number cardsI was very tempted to prompt her to put them in the correct order, but I decided to be patient and see what would happen.  Within a few minutes, an SK friend came over and said, “The numbers are all mixed up,” and she helped her JK friend put them in order.  It was very powerful to watch them learn from each other.  When she was done, she said there were comparing measuring units14.  “14 what?” I asked.  She thought for a bit and said, “Units?”  I still was not sure that she understood the meaning of unit, but further exploration would reveal the children’s learning and understanding of this concept.  She then decided to use some linking cubes to measure the branch.  When I asked if her measurement would be the same she said, “No, because these are smaller.  These are 14 (counts the cubes).  We need more!  Maybe we can use something bigger!”  

Over the last few days, their understanding of a “unit” continues to develop.  Here are a few of the ways the children explored using different units to measure the branch:

measuringbranch2

shapes and lines all around

photo-8We have been exploring lines and shapes.  We decided to go on a shape hunt around the school to see if we could find any interesting lines and shapes in our environment. The children were very observant and noticed lines and shapes everywhere.  They were so observant in fact, that it took us quite a while to walk the short distance from our school play area to the sidewalk!  We found many different shapes and lines.  These are just a few that the children decided we should document.  photo-9

We have also been talking about ways in which artists use lines and shapes in interesting ways.  The following day, we looked at a few of Kandinsky’s paintings and the children shared some interesting thoughts.

Several Circles -1926

“It’s about planets and circles.”  kandinsky-circles-1926-granger

“Two bigger circles and small ones inside.”

“Big, tiny and medium that they painted.”

“The big one looks like earth.”

“He made lots of circles and made shapes like circles.”

Composition VIII – 1923

kandinsky.comp-8“He made flags.  They are all tangled up with sticks.”

“I see some shapes — triangles — lines that are straight — circles and squares.”

“Yesterday we saw these shapes.  Triangles and round ones and rectangles.  We saw those on our shape hunt.”

“I see half circles.”

“I see a ribbon.”

“It looks like arrows attacking the bow.”

Squares with Concentric Circles – 1913  04-0192_l

“I see all shapes, big and small.”

“I see squares.”

“They look like rangolis.”

Kandinsky’s artwork along with what the children noticed on our line and shape hunt inspired some beautiful artwork.  Some children represented shapes and lines on transparencies which we hung in our window.  Others printed shapes using different objects.  Some painted their concentric shapes which we hung from a branch to make our own Kandinsky tree.  Others created larger paintings.

photo-7

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it’s raining pinecones

Thanks to the strong wind the other day, pinecones came raining down on all around our play area.  A few children began collecting them, then a few more joined in.  Before we knew it, a pretty large group formed.  They organized themselves and collected branches and pinecones.  The children took a hoop and used it to sort the branches from the pine cones.  Then they began asking if they could go inside to gather clipboards, paper and markers.  (We’ll have to organize an outdoor bin of these materials for future inspirations!)

The next day, the morning group found all of the pinecones and branches that the afternoon group left behind.  They too were inspired….to build a campfire of course!