We started with making dough! The children spent three days making dough. Our intention was to make dough one day and the children’s learning, enthusiasm, and yes, some dropping of the dough made our decision change! We noticed and reflected that the children learned so many skills in three days. By the end of the three days, some children were telling Christy, the assistant in our room, the ingredients we need, the order to put them in, and the correct measurements. They were using measurement words and several of the pizza vocabulary.
We began with talking about each of the ingredients. The children labeled the items and discussed other recipes where they had seen that type of food before. We also gave the children an opportunity to taste the salt and sugar. We discussed how each of the items tasted and the children had the opportunity to write their names on chart whether they liked the item or did not. The children who needed help writing their names were guided by older children on how to write their names. They then returned to the table and as they waited for the yeast to dissolve in the mixture they discussed what the crust would taste like. One child shared, “It won’t taste like the sugar. I think we only put a little bit in. If you put a lot in then it taste like sugar!”
After creating batches of dough, the children started to take this into their play making play dough pizza’s or preparing dough at the Happy Joe store.
A well picked project is a project that motivates and excites the children. Each day, the children (and the staff!) should be so excited to learn the newest information or role play the information they have already learned. We turn our entire classroom into our project. For instance, during our tree project (click here to find out more!) the children turned our poles into trees and we created a grocery store called Hy-Vee during our Hy-Vee project. With this project, we have added extra tables, materials from Happy Joe’s, and chairs to create our own restaurant. The children have been discussing the types of pizzas and have been incorporating this in their play as we learn more about the restaurant.
I am lucky to be a part of a center which has a nature explore certified outdoor space. Outside, we have items available to use to extend and continue our projects outside. To help enhance this current project, we have picnic tables, art materials, a house furnished with tables, chairs, dishes, pans, and tablecloths, and a Mud Kitchen. For those of you unfamiliar with a Mud Kitchen, we have created an area outdoors where the children can experiment, use, and play with mud. The area has materials including dishes, pans, bowls, whisks, spades, ladles, and cabinets. One morning, several girls rushed over to the Mud Kitchen. Several minutes later, I watched these same girls walk over the house which is near the Mud Kitchen area. “Does anyone want anything from Happy Joe’s?” Several children made their orders and the girls returned to the Mud Kitchen. The girls used water and mud to create pizzas, baked them in their oven, and then called over their peers to join them for pizza.
Each year, month, week, and even sometimes daily, I try to challenge myself to do something that is out of my comfort zone or something I wouldn’t normally do. Sometimes, it is trying something new and learning about it for the first time. Other times it is something truly uncomfortable for me to try. I think trying out new things is good even if I do not feel that way as I prepare for it. Over the last few months, one of my colleagues has been encouraging me to offer more opportunities for the children to create three-dimensional items on a larger scale and with a variety of materials.
Although, I am not at that goal yet I know that this work and they way I handled it is a stepping stone towards large representations. On this day, two boys were working with paper towel tubes. I noticed them using the rolls in block center. The four rolls were being used to hold a piece of paper and they were using it as a building. I mentioned it reminded me of a building at St. Ambrose University. This then turned into a discussion of buildings which have columns. One child says, “Can we use these to make a Happy Joe’s? But I do not think the one by our school has tower (columns).”
Thus began their creation. I offered to bring up a picture of the Happy Joe’s. The two boys spent forty-five minutes creating their Happy Joe’s store. They used pictures from the store as well as their memory from trips that they have taken there with their families. They started by discussing what materials they might need. They brought over string, scissors, a hole puncher, and markers. They worked on holding up the four paper towel rolls and asked for a box of some kind to help balance the paper towel rolls. After a small search, the children found a box. They hole punched the paper towel rolls and added string. After attempting to connect this to the box, the boys decided they did not need the paper towel rolls as the real building did not have these. The boys began to transform a box into the store. They started by cutting out doors in the front and the back of the building. Each boy leading the efforts on their side of the box. They youngest boy brings over a Happy Joe’s box and copies the words onto a sticky label. He connects this to the box by the side of his door. After both doors are cut open and labeled the boys decide one needs to be an emergency door like the one at the restaurant. He uses a red piece of paper and cuts a piece off and places it in the inside of the door and writes fire on it. Another peer joins them and the boys share what they have done so far. He reminds the boys that they need tables and chairs. The boy goes into the treasure chest (click here to find out more!) and finds baby food containers. “If I turn these upside I could make a table.” He then shows them the piece of fabric he has found. “See this is the table-cloth. Only some restaurants have these.” Another child shares that we need tables and he begins folding business card like pieces of card stock in half. He then cuts them to create chairs. The child who created the chairs watches this work and then shares, “Those look like booths when they are not cut.” He folds one in half and places it on the back wall of the restaurant. He then reminds friends that Happy Joe’s has to have a kitchen to bake all the pizzas. A friend finds a small rectangular box and they connect it to the shoe box. They decide to return to it the next day finishing it off.
The following day, another child offers her opinion reminding the boys that a parking lot is needed for the customers to park. She marks lines on a piece of paper and finds cars to ensure they will fit in each of the parking spots she has created. She then tapes her paper to the box. The children then act out going to a Happy Joe’s store before asking if it can be put up for display.
The children had been using the pizza boxes in their play as they delivered and orders pizzas. As the children played, the teachers helped, by modeling, using the size terms for their pizzas. We began to wonder where we could find the actual sizes and a child suggested looking on our iPad. We went to the Happy Joe’s Website and were able to find that Happy Joe’s has four different sizes. They carry a Little Joe which is six inches, a small which is nine inches, medium is twelve inches and a large is fifteen. One child believed that we needed to have the sizes up on display (as the do at the actual Happy Joe’s). She set up her work space using paper, pencils, and a ruler. As soon as she began to create the first one she realized that using a ruler might not work. She asked other friends how they created their pizzas and the other children began to run in the same problem. She tries several other ideas and then begins to feel frustrated. Mahi tells her about a pencil protractor and wonders if they could go look for one around the building. She decides to create her own. She wraps a string around a pencil and measures six inches. She holds the string down at the beginning of the ruler and stretches the string to six inches. She then moves the pencil around in a circle. After the circle is created, she measures it and realize it is too big. She then moves down to five inches and creates a ten inch pizza. She continues to do this until she finds the perfect measurement, three inches. She continues this method until she finishes the medium pizza. She then asks to come back to it tomorrow.
The following day, she returns to her work and realizes she can not use a ruler as she needs a fifteen inch pizza. She tries the method she used the day before using a measuring tape. She creates several different pizza outlines and each time she measures them they are not the correct amount. She gets an idea to trace a circle item and begins bring items over that are circle. She then realizes and shares, “I have to get a pretty big circle because small circles are not going to work.” After ten minutes, she finds a laundry basket. She measures it and it equals fifteen inches. She traces it and re-measures to make sure it was fifteen inches. The measurement is seventeen. She tries again and the same thing happens. She then realizes, “I was measuring the inside but traced the outside!!” She continues until she finds an item that will work. Her work is currently being used as part of our Happy Joe’s Restaurant.
We believe in repetition. Not only because the articles and the books support it. Not only because we see what repetition does with our children. But because we know it works!
Over the course of the last two weeks the children continue to create a Happy Joe’s store. Each day one more item is added, a child who has not been a part of it joins, or a child uses a vocabulary word they hadn’t before. On Thursday, the children sat down at the front table to greet Mahi and share with her their evening events. Two of the children had been to Happy Joe’s the night before and had lots to share! One of the children, a veteran to project work, went to her cubby and came back to show us her treasures. “I asked the waitress a question about the restaurant and then we asked for all this stuff so we can learn more about it!” She shares with Mahi. The children discussed the items and the trip to Happy Joe’s. After discussions, one child decided that we had to re-create the store. The children, without any help from any adults, moved four small tables to create a restaurant setting in family living. Several three-year old children brought over the Happy Joe’s menus to the table. The nine children in the room at that point were all involved.
As the children sat down to begin to serve pizza. Two of the boys noticed something, “We can’t start this store! We need an oven like that book.” One of the boys runs over and brings the book called Pizza Man. He brings it over to his friends and flips to the picture of the ovens. “We have to make these to cook the pizza’s!” He calls over two other children and then begin to look at the picture. “We need a rectangle block because this oven is a rectangle.” Another boy agrees but says, “Not the small one. This one.” He picks up a long hollow rectangular block. The other boy tells friends, “You need a place where a big and a small pizza will fit.” Together, they decide to use rectangular unit blocks to create an oven. They then use model magic to create pizza’s and fill the oven with pizza’s for their friends. After the pizza’s are cooked, they return to the tables.
As the play starts up again in the family living area, the children use a waitress pad to begin to take orders. The children ask their customers what pizza they would like and then want to write those words down. A child rushes to the word wall and notices that we are missing several pizza names. She asks Mahi to get sentence strips and she dictates all of the words to be added. Mahi writes these words out and the children add them to the word wall using tape. This play scenario lasted 45 minutes with all nine children.
After culminating the last project, the teachers begin to look for common threads of play or interest in order to begin a next project. As the teachers observed, we noticed that the children were doing a lot of restaurant play. After a week of play, we heard the children discussing several restaurants in our area that they might want to learn more about. At the end of this week, a child asked if she could lead our daily large group.
Before she lead group, this child and I discussed what she wanted to talk about. At group, she told children “Today is a special day. We get to pick a new project. If you want to pick Happy Joe’s raise your hand, if you want Jimmy John’s touch your nose.” This continued with several more restaurants. The voting continued until the children with the child who was taking the lead brought it down to two choices. She then shares, “I think we decided it. We are going to learn about Happy Joe’s! When we come inside, let’s write down our questions, OK?”
Thus a new project begins!