Tag Archive | science

Little Moments – Little Joys

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I think I can speak for everyone here at Hanna Fenichel who returned to our daily routine after the holidays: it was filled with cheerful   greetings of “Happy New Year” and pleasant reunions. We shared stories about our travels and adventures, family gatherings and the delicious calories consumed. I will be honest- I did not return to school filled with a great deal of energy or any creative ideas  What activities that did  take  place in the Garden Classroom had a common theme: easy and fun!

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I set up some  attention-getting/no-fail activities starting on Monday with what my young scientists called, “purple,” “explosion,” “volcanoing,” and “volcano eruptions” science.  In laymen terms, colored vinegar and baking soda. This has to be the BEST scientific experience for young children. They never tire of the seemingly magical, colorful bubbles and exciting eruptions.  Unfortunately, I ran out of baking soda, but that wasn’t the end of the excitement or learning possibilities.

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I filled up our “lab table” with a ton of corks and water and outfitted the center with some tools that the scientists called, “pinchers,” and “catchers” and some nets. Again, simple ingredients combined with the joyful curious minds of young learners created an opportunity for learning AND they had a blast!

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This science was called “up science” by Cameron. Which makes perfect sense. He and his fellow scientists experimented with the corks and water displacement. While using the scientific method and learning about water displacement and buoyancy, they got so excited when the corks popped up!  I think I will be adding some metal items to the corks on Monday and see how our scientists react to these new properties of density and weight.

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Along with the excitement happening in the Science Lab, several of our nature lovers helped me fill up the birdfeeders and made sure the birdbath was filled with water. (This is a very simple birdbath using a lid from a pot and placed upside down on some bricks.) I assured everyone that we get feathery visitors every day.

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I have seen lesser goldfinches, house finches, dark-eyed juncos, a dove, hummingbirds, sparrows, and the most common of all- crows, after the children leave and the Garden Classroom gets very quiet.

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Wyatt enjoyed looking at my favorite book for young birders, Smithsonian: The Bird-watcher and saw where former student and artist Livvi Belle got her inspiration for the birdfeeder we are still using. It uses a plastic water bottle. Wyatt drew a design for the decoration he will add to the birdfeeder he is looking forward to making. He also shared with me how he has a birdbath at his home and how his mother fills it with a hose.

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After we hung up the birdfeeders, one last chore remained. Luella needed to hang up the sign she created last school year (with the help of some friends) that invited the “birdies” to come and eat.

As the week concluded and the creative juices started kicking in, I began to see where we can begin to build on these little moments of joy as we start to think more seriously about our annual Art Show and what kind of lasting memories these children will leave behind as they move on to elementary school. I see the possibilities of a book featuring our favorite science experiments to share with future students. I would LOVE to make a more permanent and beautiful birdbath for our lovely, feathered visitors.

I am NOW filled with energy and my creative juices are running, thanks to my wonderful, exuberant students! Happy New Year!

With Joy!

Francie

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Thrills Found in the Unexpected

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So much of what we do as early childhood educators is provide provocations using some interesting materials in an inviting setting, and step back and observe. No pre-conceived notions; no goals; no expectations. We just provide some open-ended materials that children can interact with using their own ideas to discover and to create. Hopefully, with a little bit of scaffolding on our part (or not) new learning and a greater understanding or appreciation of such things as nature, physics, or math will occur.  I literally hold my breath when a child approaches a table presented with such things as a lump of clay and some seed pods or drawing materials and a magnifying glass near something interesting such as our resident monarch caterpillars and chrysalides.

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Sometimes the expected happens, as when clay was presented last spring and the children designed sculptures using the seed pods. But then the extraordinary happened! After I had explained to the children how slip is used (liquidized clay used as a “glue” to hold pieces of clay together) they started picking up leaves off the ground and painting them with the slip! The results were stunning! Totally unexpected and their discovery inspired me to make these leaves into a permanent art installation. You can see the finished piece in The Garden Classroom on the back fence near the Mud Kitchen.

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The new school year has begun with new materials being presented and old materials presented in new ways. Last year’s newly created Science Lab, this year’s addition of the Mud Kitchen, the Art Cottage and Outdoor Atelier continue to engage and delight the children.

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While I continue to create what I think are inviting provocations, not all are initially observed or get positive reviews There have been two wonderful exceptions (So far!) that have left me feeling really excited. I see lots of potential for artistic endeavors, creative thinking and problem solving.

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From the moment I spotted the little holes in the leaves of our milkweed plants, I knew that a marvelous journey was beginning and all of us at Hanna would be have a grandstand view of the life cycle of one of earth’s most amazing creatures – the monarch butterfly. We have not been disappointed! Most of the children knew that the caterpillars would turn into butterflies, and knew the basic biology of how that happens. Good grief!  These kids were raised on Eric Carle’s great children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar! No need to dwell on this concept. What I was looking and hoping for was a “how” or a “why” to explain and explore the process. The response I got was MUCH different and so lovely. Actually, I was enchanted.“L.” is 4 years-old and attends our 5 Day program.  After drawing a newly discovered monarch chrysalis or “cocoon” as she called it, I asked her about her drawing and this is what she shared with me, without any other prompting.

“It’s a cocoon! Maybe tomorrow it’s going to get into a butterfly.

We need to make a room for it for it to live. There are all kinds of things caterpillars need when they wake up.

A leaf for their bed. There’s a nest where they poo and pee, There’s food. They can have food in a little cup.”

How profound!

This brought out all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings in me. First of all, she pretty much summed up what Abraham Maslow described as the basic, biological and physiological needs of people, not only to survive but which must be met before they can be motivated to achieve the next level of needs.

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Second, I was so taken with L’s feelings of compassion that she expressed through her list of “needs” for this tiny, little creature. She had formed a relationship with the chrysalis, which although quite beautiful, also appears quite lifeless. L saw the potential and appreciated the future of this little green package. I’m not sure that L’s proposal of a “room” for the chrysalis/caterpillar will be very practical, but I was very excited and filled with anticipation as I approached L several days later to get more details from her.

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She was eager to draw out a plan for the room. Choosing oil pastels, L began by drawing a few rainbow hued, rectangles and enclosed them in with a square box. Besides the rainbow, it features a large window. So far, the most significant part of the window is a “rug” just like the one that covers up the window in her bedroom that she “rolls it up and down so I don’t get scared like in the middle, middle dark night.” Oh my!  We’ll talk more on Monday. I’m hoping that another naturalist and artist, B (who is also in the 5 Day program) who was representing the life cycle of the monarchs with oil pastels while L was drawing her room, will join the discussion. I wonder where this investigation will go next! It’s all pretty amazing!

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The second discovery is more serendipitous and took place in a center I created over the summer and expanded this fall. This is actually my favorite part of the Garden Classroom. It features an old-fashioned, maple, colonial style coffee table that you are more likely to find in your grandmother’s living room than in an outdoor classroom. It is now hosting a variety of natural materials such as stones, sticks, seed pods and pinecones. (I received some of them as gifts from my friends C and H in the 3 Day program.) It is also where last year’s leaf creation is being displayed.

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It was here, in this setting against the far back fence where I created what I hope was an opportunity to create without an additional enticement of glue, or clay or even play-dough.  No instructions, just a sheet of black paper behind a matting. I did provide a bit of inspiration by propping up a large format book featuring the art of environmentalist artist Andy Goldsworthy.  The cover features rocks placed in a spiral. I was just hoping that a child would discover the items and appreciate their beauty and see the potential.

 “J” from the 3 Day PM class found these items on his first day of school. I watched from afar as he placed first one stone and then another down on the black construction paper. He framed the stones with some sticks and then added a few more sticks. He was very focused and engaged and working very intentionally. None of the placements was random. Then he walked away.

I went up and admired his work and took several pictures of it as a way to create a permanent record of his lovely art. And then I walked away. 

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An hour or so later, I started to remove J’s arrangement and made a discovery. The center had lost its shade and the paper had been exposed to the sun’s rays. The sun had faded the paper around  the arrangement and created an actual memory of where J had placed the stones and sticks! Now, besides having a digitalized recording, there is an actual piece of art to share with J! J and his family have been on vacation and I have not had a chance to share his new, permanent piece of art with him. I have shared it with some other children and they have created new pieces of faded art. (For lack of a better name or at least until a name is decided by the children.) While not quite as serendipitous as J’s piece, it is still an intriguing art form. I am hoping to gather a group of children to discover their hypothesis as to how this is happening and what else is possible. I’m trying to formulate some questions to get this investigation started. Any ideas?!!!

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This is the type of work that thrills me: provoking a child’s curiosity, to get them thinking creatively and being inspired to go beyond the unexpected! 

With Joy!

Francie 

Natural Scientists

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All children are natural scientists. They ask questions, create a hypothesis, test and prove or disprove their hypothesis. Several children demonstrated their understanding of science by experimenting with some kitchen scales that I had purchased from a thrift shop.

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Not only did they discover the engineering principals of how the scales worked, they also had an opportunity to refine their scientific vocabulary using words such as small, large, lighter, heavier,  and variations of the terms such as large larger and largest.

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On Wednesday I brought in a bathroom scale. My scale is “old school” and features a large dial and numerals. When stepping on the scale, you can watch the arrow as it moves around the dial to land on the appropriate numeral. Perfect for small children as it demonstrates when something weighs more, the arrow moves further around the scale and stops on the appropriate number.

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While the 3 Day morning group wasn’t able to identify the numerals on the scale, they still demonstrated their knowledge concerning the concepts of weight.  

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After R, J, H and C piled several items on the scales we used a marker and took note that the items weighed 10 pounds.

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They wanted to weigh the pinecones. I asked them how many pinecones would it take to weigh 10 pounds, R said, “Many! Many pinecones!”  After reaching their goal (with the addition of a few more items) R and H entered into a timeless discussion of how big their dads were,  Pointing to the highest numbers on the scale, R said, “My dad is this all the way up here!” H pointed to a number a little lower on the scale saying, “My dad, he’s this much!”

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When the 5 Days classes came out, A and G immediately came up with a plan! Demonstrating their knowledge about numerals, they worked on getting the scale to register 100 pounds.

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After having some difficulty balancing the items on the scale and still not reaching their goal, I suggested that they stand on the scale. Still coming a few pounds short, A looked around and picked up a concrete paver used for building, and after stepping on the scale…the arrow landed on 100. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Such wonderful collaboration! What wonderful scientists!

 

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

Cooking is a Science!

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I am not afraid to state the truth: I am not a very good cook. I tend to turn up the flame too high because I want to hurry things along. Of course, I end up burning the bottom of the pan. Because I have an apple tree, I try making an apple pie at least once a year. Every single time, my husband (he worked in the campus bakery while in college) salvages the crust for me. I always manage to burn at least one batch of cookies in every batch I bake. It is very sad.

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But I am fascinated by the science of cooking. It is so interesting to watch onions caramelize, soups thicken, and especially how that combination of flour, butter and water turns into the perfect flaky, crispy (and delicious) receptacle for hot, sugary slices of apples.  (Did I mention I love to eat?) So I was very excited to find a recipe that takes just two ingredients and involves no heat! It is a recipe that is supposed to be similar to a very expensive, commercially made product called moon sand. I couldn’t wait to try it out!

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Here is the recipe: Mix 5 cups of flour with 1 cup of baby oil.

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That’s it! And the results? Fantastic! It’s fail proof! And the best part? There is a very dramatic change. Well, it is not quite as dramatic as mixing baking soda and vinegar but it is still very noticeable.

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I made a batch of “moon sand” with a small group of children from each class. As the children mixed the baby oil into the flour and the powdery consistency of the flour changed to a moist texture that, instead of falling through open fingers clung together and held its shape.  The texture is soft and fluffy. It smells just as delightful as it feels. Note: Glitter can also be added. Color doesn’t work because of the oil.  It should be stored in a plastic covered container.

This week we were using silicon cupcake holders and (for the 3 and 5 Day children only) small plastic pumpkins and fall leaves that were intended for table decorations to make “cup cakes” with the moon sand. Next week, I’ll be switching the cup cake holders for small wooden bowls and seed pods and acorns for decoration. I am hoping that the children will discover that they can make an impression in the moon sand while using the seed pods.

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DO try this at home! Please share your results by posting a comment!

Sciencing!

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This week, children were observed blowing the bubbles created when a wash basin was prepared for washing paint supplies. I captured the moment when a group of girls took out the beautiful decorative butterflies found in a treasure box and placed them in a small branch on the table. Included in this picture you will also see small, plastic caterpillars (found in the same box) lined up end to end by one of the girls in the same group.  After carefully setting out materials in the “Science laboratory” it was a pleasure to see many children pump colored vinegar into the baking soda poured out on a tray. The result was a chemical reaction that inspired the children to shriek with excitement. After one child pumped a little bit of vinegar and got the baking soda to fizz, he was  inspired  take the pump off the bottle and pour the entire content of vinegar onto the plate of baking soda.This  created an explosion of color and fizz. When another group of children experimented with eye droppers as a way to apply vinegar to the baking soda, it was discovered that the jar of vinegar fizzed and bubbled over when a handful of baking soda was added to the jar. In this case the child exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call a potion!”

 

These are all examples where the children are working with materials in a physical manner that encourages them to become better observers, communicators and classifiers while having fun. These are all types of activities defined (in one of my favorite textbooks from my early years of studying child development and early education) as “sciencing” – a verb whereas “science” is a noun – a thing..

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A sciencing activity can be carefully planned and materials gathered and set up as an enticing invitation. Or what often happens, children are drawn to an informal or accidental event such as a paint spill where we can observe an example of density and gravity in action or bubbles in a bin of wash water. Both planned and serendipitous events are part of our day. Both offer exciting and fun possibilities where we observe, make predictions, articulate a hypothesis, quantify or classify a group of objects.

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What’s next?  With the help of my student teacher Lori, I will be adding display space and storage, new supplies such as test tubes and a variety of basic ingredients and a work table that will help the children do what they do naturally: follow the scientific method. While the children pursue such things as the art of making “potions,” it is my goal to help them pursue such basic science themes as objects are made of basic units, basic units come in three forms: solids, liquids and gas and finally, objects change over a period of time. Happy sciencing!

*Newman, Donald A. Experiences in Science for Young Children

Creativity, Curiosity and Innovation Explodes in The Garden Classroom! (Part 3)

 

 

 

 

Here are the last  of my observations that took place int The Garden Classroom last week that I just had to share! 

During Camp Hanna, Sarah brought in a tomato plant for the garden. It was planted and lo and behold, we returned to school to discover a tomato growing! Two of our 5 Day boys discovered this lovely green tomato and they were very eager to pick it. Lisa helped the boys determine that the tomato was not ready to be picked by using the small plant marker to compare the color of the tomato on the vine with the red, ripe tomato pictured on the marker. The boys backed away from the plant. One of the things that gardening teaches us is to be patient, so I was pleased to see their willingness to wait.  I am wondering…will they be just as excited to eat the tomato as they will to pick it?

ImageSometimes, we the teachers are stunned by what a child says, does or observes. These final two observations fall under that category. I was entranced as I observed this young child from the Transition Class as he made a discovery.  I was very fortunate to see him as he sat inside the tunnel and traced the seam that connected the two parts around and around with his finger. He was calm, focused and present. I learned a lesson from this young man.

Image       Kendra and I were standing near a young learner from Transition while she rinsed her hands in a tub of water after experimenting with clay. As she finished up this task, she continued to watch the water. After a moment she looked up at us and said, “I see trees.” Kendra and I looked down and sure enough, there was a reflection of the overhanging trees in the murky water. We were delighted that she was so observant.  Another child came over and swished the water around and the reflection disappeared! We all watched as the water once again became calm and the trees appeared once again- like magic. This was a discovery that deserves more exploration.What other reflections can we find? What are the children’s hypothesis concerning what a reflection is and how it is made? Lots of good stuff here to explore and inspire some wonderful creative thinking!

Image        Whew! Now that I am caught up with reporting last week’s exciting events, I am already starting to rub my hands together with anticipation and trying to decide where I will start when sharing with you about this week’s discoveries and adventures. With Joy! Francie