Tag Archive | dramatic play

Going Smaller – or Bigger

 

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What to do when one activity, which had been fueled by lots of imagination, cooperation and  enthusiasm becomes stagnant and uninspired, yet children still insist on “playing the game” or using the materials? I change the scale!

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We have a group of horse-crazy girls who have insisted on riding the hobby horses every day they are at school. EVERY DAY! They are the best of friends and love to gallop around the lower playground. They are happy and engaged with each other. Yet, the play was the same and there wasn’t any new ideas or problem solving. I invited them up to the Garden Classroom, but nothing really grabbed their attention. I got together with their teachers and we decided to gather the girls and have a meeting. We called this gathering, the “Horse Committee.” After drawing pictures, the committee members shared some interesting facts, such as…

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Horses eat hay, horses have manes, the farmer takes care of the horses, horses can be a boy or a girl and they live in a stable, and stables are made out of wood. Lesser known facts include, horses and mice are good friends.    

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Using this valuable information, I gathered up some materials and let the girls help me create a “small world” of horses.

We started with the materials I had on hand and continued to meet with the original group and others to find out what else is needed.

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One of the most important items had to be made. Air-dried clay was purchased and given to the committee to be made into small mice.

 

As time went on, other animals were added.  A “farmer girl” and her chicken were purchased and instructed to take “care of the horses.” The original “Horse Land” is now a farm and all animals are welcome.

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 I am still gathering information and adding materials. Soon, a stable will be built. Meanwhile, other children have enjoyed interacting with “The Farm” and adding their own bits of knowledge and experiences.

And the original “horse girls?” They will ride up to the back fence in the Garden Classroom, hitch their horses up, and visit to see what is new and play with their favorite horse.  We check in with each other on the progress we are making and see what materials are still needed. As you can see, this little committee had a great time together while expressing their knowledge and using their imaginations. They created a “small world” that expresses their passion and deepened their understanding of their trusted steeds!

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Meanwhile, I had a group of fort builders that started last year with Justin – then in the 3 Day program. He became an expert at pinning cloth together onto branches and loose parts such as tires. He taught this skill to others. The activity continued after he returned as a member of the 5 Day class. Others joined the team and took on different roles. Some built the main structure, using branches or tires, others pinned the clothes together, while others added different accessories such as pillow and books for reading.

Over the weeks, enthusiasm waned, and other activity centers such as writing and the Map Center were drawing a good portion of the “fort builders” away. (Typical for this time of year as the older boys start to show a greater interest in drawing and writing.)  The fort building became more of a solitary activity and I realized something needed to be done to extend the learning and fire up some social interactions.

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After refusing to bring out the cloths one day (YES I DID!) I invited my lone fort builder over to the rug, where lots of natural materials are available for building and one other child was already engaged. He stood there for a moment, and then I offered him some cloths – smaller- but similar to what he had been using before and his eyes lit up. He knew “the language” of cloth and set to work. Same as before, just a smaller scale. The advantage of this new venue, was a greater variety of materials, and possibilities. (I believe I have shared this photo before, but I wanted to tell the “backstory.”)

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One interesting result of this collaboration, was a return to the big fort building, but in a new location. This time, they are using the large branches in a new formation.

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This is fun stuff.  If the activity starts out big- go small. Or, if the activity starts small –go big. I love it!

 With Joy!

Francie

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More Adventures with Pumpkins

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Pumpkins!? Still?! Yes! The pumpkins continue to enchant and inspire our young investigators.  It has been my objective to provide a variety of activities to fulfill our need for a variety of learning styles and what Howard Gardner describes as “multiple intelligences.”* But what is so interesting is how an abundant variety of pumpkins and gourds in itself can fulfill the need for a rich learning environment for our children.

Here are some examples of the many activities and discoveries that continue to stimulate the learning and imagination of the children of Hanna.

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Children love to climb on top of the larger pumpkins and show off their great courage and ability to balance on such a massive orb. .

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More fancy tricks!

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One of the most surprising uses for the pumpkins and gourds was how several children incorporated them into their play. This fine specimen turned out to be a wonderful stand in for a baby.

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This scene is the beginning  a very deep and prolonged story acted out by several girls in the 3 Day Class. They used the pumpkins to represent a family who were going on a trip “very far away on a different planet.”

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At one point, a pumpkin was used to “put gas” into the dinosaur.

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In this scene,  the family had arrived at the planet and were being settled into their beds. What a wonderful adventure!

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Another interesting use for pumpkins came about while Kendra was watching the 3 Day afternoon group rolling pumpkins down the slide. She gathered paper and taped it to the slide and positioned bowls of paint at the top of the stairs. This activity garnered lots of excitement and was a natural extension of what the children had been doing with the pumpkins.

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Another example of a negotiated curriculum was a project that Lori (student teacher) initiated after watching the children paint the pumpkins. She recalled a favorite activity from her childhood where she paper mached small balloons that were filled with such things as beans or rice. After they dried, the  finished products could be used as musical instruments. This project would end up (we hoped) looking like the dried gourd we use as an instrument.

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Our pumpkins continue to entertain, inspire and offer opportunities for learning. One of the things we are curious about is the sprouted seed that was pulled out of the inside of this cracked pumpkin!

I hope that you feel the same sense of wonder that I felt as you look at how the children engage with mere vegetables. The great varieties of pumpkins and gourds that lie around the pepper tree and under the climber have brought a storybook feel to the Garden Classroom. Yet, it is the children who bring the magic and make the Garden Classroom so enchanting. It is their curiosity, vivid imagination, inexhaustible energy and  developing intellect that fills us with gratitude everyday and especially in this time for Thanksgiving. As for the pumpkins, I believe they will continue to inspire new adventures and investigations when we return after our holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving! With Joy! Francie

* “Howard Gardner of Harvard has identified seven distinct intelligences. This theory has emerged from recent cognitive research and “documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways,” according to Gardner (1991). According to this theory, “we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.”

The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide, by Carla Lane /tchweb.org

Creativity, Curiosity and Innovation Explodes in The Garden Classroom! (Part One)

The Garden Classroom was very busy last week! The children have become very comfortable and confident as they explored and made many new discoveries. The Art Cottage was filled with artists and other creative and inquisitive minds. Some children have returned to favorite themes of play (The Pirates are back!)  and materials.  They are using more complex language, interesting props, greater collaboration, and problem solving to deepen their play.  Others are leading ME on new investigations and projects. Here are some of the new discoveries, innovations and projects that took place in The Garden Classroom this week. (Note: I experienced a technique difficulty last night while trying to post a rather long entry, I’m trying to see if I can resend it in smaller doses.I will be posting the rest of this entry later this afternoon.)

As mentioned above, The Pirates are back and armed with richer vocabulary, more intriguing and complex plans and the band has increased in size! I’m not sure why, but all of the pirates require clipboards. I quickly went on my own treasure hunt and scrounged up several from other classrooms and the shed.  Each clipboard has a pen tied to it and is ready and available for any pirate (Or scientist, artist and author.)  Now our “executive” pirates are ready to “make lists” (as one pirate told me) and treasure maps or whatever. Aaaargh!