We had an opportunity to go on a walk with a parent. This was our first walk of the season so the children began to create rules for the expectations of our walk. In their rules and directions, they decided to bring one bag for litter pick up and one for the collection of tree items to investigate. Upon our return, we had collected a whole container full of nature items which included items such as acorns, bark, branches, twigs, leaves, and pinecones.
In the afternoon, several children began to represent what they had seen on our walk. One child added paper towel rolls around the pole in our room which we had transformed into a tree. “I saw the roots by the tree. Over the grass. Like this,” he said as he added the rolls to the base of the pole.
Another child represented another part of our walk. He cut open a bag that had been holding our oranges from snack. He then wrapped it around the tree. “I saw this on a tree. My friend told me it protects the tree.”
Nature can be added to your treasure chest or as in our room, we have to separate containers. To learn more about the treasure chest, check out the Coconut Tree post. We also use the nature items we brought in to sort and classify them, create patterns, use them for a scavenger hunt, count or add them, or as we did after our walk, create mobiles.
We began with sketching our ideas for our mobiles. The children labeled and created their “plan” of what materials they would need and how they would set it up. They then started and created mobiles which we currently have hanging in our classroom.
To make your own mobiles in your classroom:
- take small steps
- view the children as capable and confident
- gather items for the mobile
- create the plans
- offer children the opportunity to continue to work on these for several days
- give the children an opportunity for trial and error
- support the children
Enjoy the beautiful weather!
With any project, we immerse ourselves in the project and provide the children with as many opportunities as possible to explore items, sketch, represent, discuss, and learn new vocabulary. The Tree project was no different. We are fortunate to have an outdoor place space, which the children and families have named the Beehive, be a certified Nature Explore classroom (for more information check out arborday.org). After the holidays, we ask families to donate their evergreen trees so that we can add them to our playground. We had the opportunity to explore these trees both in and outdoors.
While indoors, we spent time using magnifying glasses and looking at the pine needles up close. We created lists of our observations several days before even begin to sketch. Some of the children added words such as:
We then began to sketch what we were noticing. Since we have been spending time creating lists about the characteristics of the item we are sketching we have noticed more detailed sketches. The first time we tried this technique, our children wanted to sketch right away. We talked about the importance of observing and that sometimes you notice things you did not know if you continue to observe. The second time we tried the activity, the children asked to sketch on the second day of observation. After continuing the technique for several weeks, some of our older children are beginning to create their own lists of characteristics with friends!
You can create observation lists with the children in your classroom! Begin with an item of interest (preferably project or nature based). Set the item out and tell children you would like to create a list of items. Model by making the first statement and encourage children to share. The very first time may not turn out as anticipated but have faith! Once you try it, share with us! We’d love to hear your success and what we can do to help!
After about two weeks of investigations, sketching, and learning about the coconut tree. The children wanted to represent their knowledge by creating two coconut palm trees in our classroom. One child created the plan of how to make the coconut trees and what materials needed to be gathered to begin the representing. Kara documented all of her ideas and then the child and I went into the storage room to gather the materials.
Once in the classroom, the children began the representing! They started by building up blocks around the poles so that the children could reach the top of the poles. The then used tan colored paper to cover both poles. The children used fine motor skills and based on their abilities cut the tape with scissors, tore it, and/or helped a peer in this process. During this process, several children worked on other tasks. Some children worked on rolling model magic into small balls. Another group, spent time rolling or painting the model magic brown. A child (3.3 years old) spent time in the back of the room working with the green paper and had a book near him for reference. Kara observed him for several minutes and then asked him what he was doing. He shared he was making slits in the green paper to make the green paper look like the palm leaves in the book.
A child who had been to Florida before remembered that coconuts and the bark of a coconut tree had a different texture to it. The children decided to add a thick twine to our poles and some of our coconuts.
You can encourage children to represent by offering them a treasure chest. A treasure chest is a box of items that we use for representing. We started by having the children add items they thought were important to creating various items. We continue to add as our box becomes empty. We have a list below but the opportunities are endless! Please let us know what is in your treasure chest if you have started one!
Some items in our treasure chest include:
- easter grass
- wax paper
We continue investigating….
The most important thing to remember when doing project work is that the best project is the ones the teachers learn from as well. My assistant and I are always really excited to find out what we will learn next! We have learned so much from our past projects and we know we will learn the same amount if not more from our Tree Project. We then have our own questions to add to the children’s web and when the children ask us a question, we can honestly answer. I don’t know, let us write that question down!
Tree Anticipatory Web
When the new project is determined, we spend time creating an anticipatory web. This web is what we anticipate the children to want to learn or have already told you they want to learn from the project. My assistant and I spend five to ten minutes brainstorming. We put each word we think of relating to trees on a post-it note. An example for this web was apple tree, leaves, stump, etc. Once we have stopped brainstorming ideas, we begin to put them in categories. After we place them in categories, we create a large web on paper. We then use each of the terms and add them under a heading for the category. We then add our curriculum domains and our curriculum objectives. We also add Spanish, Greek (my home language), and Sign Language to our web. We will then incorporate these terms in those languages in our classroom. We typically start off small by only having five words in all three languages. As interest persist, we will add more.
This web is a working document. You will add to it or maybe even change directions. For instance, you could have started a web on boats. The web might also have a category on fish. You might find out several weeks after webbing that the interest is actually fish. You would then re-web using fish as the middle.
We had our catalytic event for our new project: Trees.
The children created the Trees for our Tree Project!
My assistant and I had just finished reading a book that was given to us by our director called Inspiring Spaces for Young Children. During the early morning, several children started to decorate the poles that are in our classroom. As they used paper to tape around the pole, Kara (my assistant) shared that it looked like the book we had been reading where the classroom used the poles in their classroom to construct trees. One of the children asked Kara if she could bring the book into the classroom so the children could see it. As they were creating, the rest of the children were with me at snack. We began talking about what we knew was on trees. The children created a long list of items which included: bark, branches, leaves, snow, birds, birds nests, and bird houses. The children then created a list of materials for me to get when I took snack back. These items included pipe cleaners, model magic, string, and “whatever looked tree like.”
Once the materials were brought to the children, Kara and I stood back encouraging the children to tell us what to do. The children broke out in work sessions. The children broke into groups including: wrapping the pole, coloring leaves, cutting tape and adding it to leaves, adding leaves to the trees, wrapping twine around the pole, making birds, birds nests, bird houses, covering paper towel rolls, and adding the rolls to the tree as branches.
Each child spent time creating something for the tree. Some children spent thirty minutes in this process while others spent as much as two hours!! As parents came in for pick-up, the children were so excited to share their hard work.
How you can find the beginning of a project in your room…
begin documenting common threads on children’s play
share your ideas and thoughts with the teachers in your classroom
once you believe you have determined the common thread; bring in an item that would support that
Stay tuned for our next adventure!