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


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.

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.


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:


embracing beyblade play

testing beybladesA group of boys has been very interested in constructing beyblades.  It started with them spinning letter blocks on one of their corners.  Yes, I was hoping the letter blocks would encourage them to read the letters and maybe make some words, but they were much more interested in spinning them.  One of the things I’ve learned from the Reggio approach and about the inquiry process is to question my initial reactions, to honour the things that interest the children, to be patient, and to understand that we sometimes have to step out of our comfort zones.  So, rather than ask them to stop, I looked at the situation as an opportunity for this group to engage in some science and math explorations while developing some literacy skills.  I encouraged the boys to make their own beyblade so they went over to the studio and many of them decided to make them out of cardboard.  They soon found that their creations were not very sturdy and did not spin for long.  A few days later, they moved on to using the linking cubes and there was no turning back.  I asked why the cubes were better.  beyblade pointy part

“Because this thingy can spin on it.”  

“You have to try and balance the beyblade with the pointy part so it doesn’t fall.”

The play soon became about smashing their blades into one another and it was clear that it was time to gently guide the play and to add a provocation that might take the learning to a different level.  I decided to lay out different surfaces and observe how the boys might use their “beyblades.”  Construction paper, cardboard, a woven panel, a section of carpet and a section of the floor became defined testing spaces.  Using SMART Ideas, I also projected a cliplet of a clock to see if they would make use of it.  I sat back and observed.  They immediately began to try the different surfaces.  One of the boys also took recording beyblade resultsthe lid from one of the bins and decided to try that.  It didn’t take long before they were all around the hoop on the floor.  The next day, I posted some pictures of their play on a piece of chart paper in order to encourage them to record some of their observations.  This inspired some of my earliest as well as reluctant writers to record their findings.  I asked them where their beyblade spun the best.  They all agreed it was “on the floor because it’s not so rough and not so light,” and that their beyblade would spin longer.  When I asked how they knew this, they pointed to the clock to show me, but none of them knew how to use the clock.  They all counted at different speeds as their blades were spinning, so we talked about using the clock because it was “fair” and we learned how to count the second-hand as it moved.

After speaking to a few teachers recently, I discovered that students in their classes have also been interested in beyblades.  Another of our Kindergarten classes made a stadium.  It would be interesting to pay them a visit.

Our friend Ms. Babalis from the York Region District School board has a wonderful blog where she has posted what the children in her class discovered about spinners and movement.  I plan to share her post with this group to see if it will inspire them further.

mini “fall fair”

One of my team partners had the idea of using some of the items the children have been collecting to have a “fall fair” (thanks Melissa!) Based on what the children brought in, some of the categories were, biggest leaf, smallest leaf, longest piece of grass, and bumpiest gourd.  The children counted bumps, sorted leaves and compared blades of grass.  One of the children explained that we needed “that long thing with numbers on it” to measure the grass.  Others thought they could use some of the materials we had in the classroom.  I thought the children might enjoy awarding “ribbons” to their items, so I copied a clip art ribbon to encourage some writing.