Preschool Triple-Post: Plants, City-Planning, AirPlane

Hummingbirds are speedy creatures. They hover near a flower, sip nectar, move on quick to the next…. It’s hard to keep up with the Preschoolers and Teachers in our Hummingbirds Preschool, hence this triple-sized post!

Row by row:

1. The children’s Mother’s Day gift was a potted flower along with a book documenting the flower’s growth through the child’s own drawings, week by week. A major learning experience and a heartfelt gift!

The third photo is of the finished scribble map – This was a few days of free drawing. Click on it to take a closer look – you can feel the movement of the children through the overlapping lines, and see evidence of their visual processing of rivers, coast-line, roads, and even the text boxes.

The learning process can be mysterious. We love, though, when something spins out into a new way of looking at an old project, which takes us to the next row:

2. Mixed-media map-making on cellophane. This is a new stage, combining the levels of learning so far:

– First, years of exposure to real roads, cars, city-scapes, etc.

– Second, play with toy cars

– Third, marker drawings of roads and train tracks on paper for toy cars to drive on, plus collage on top

– Fourth, 3-D construction of a city-scape out of card and paper, including tape roads

– Fifth, interaction with a real map on cellophane with markers

– And now, combining all the above elements: markers, tape roads, 3D construction, cellophane, PLUS a new thing: Road signs! One of our brilliant teachers found a source of realistic, small cardboard traffic signs that were included here. Amazing.

3. One child brought an interest in airplanes to the classroom a long time ago. During the sculpting process with salt dough, he developed a couple different techniques to make an airplane, exploring many of the different parts. Other children were tickled by the idea and we saw other airplanes emerge from the dough – some only briefly.

This week, a cardboard box was brought in because a different child wanted to make a house out of it. But the “stickiness” of the airplane idea was evident – the box got wings, windows, and a tail added, along with a great number of cryptic, creative other bits and pieces.

To provoke deeper exploration of the plane, the children were asked if they wanted some photos printed from the internet. The pics above show them using the photos cooperatively to plan out the airplane parts.

“We forgot the propeller!” one child said. The engines were added underneath the wing following discussion of the different places that an engine could go: behind the nose of certain planes, or under the wing of others.

That’s all for today. Next week might be another double or triple post…

We are starting to see a synergy of idea-sharing happening in our centre, as the children’s and teachers’ interests and competencies blossom. Considering we just opened 6 months ago – Triple cheer for CPCC!

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Mailbox construction

“I’m going to mail a letter!”

Kids in Finches have been referring to good old snail mail in their everyday play for quite some time. Teachers were quick to note this make-believe play as an activity that is rich in pre-literacy preparation, bringing excitement and wonder to the acts of reading and writing.

A few weeks ago, Finches children began studying a mail box that they found on a walk. Photos were taken of them examining it, and then printed.

Since then, a box has been prepared to become their very own Canada Post mailbox for use in the classroom.

Pictures above show the box being painted, as well as wooden letter-forms being used to spell out CANADA POST, using the logo in the photograph as a reference.

Although the final use of the mailbox in the classroom will be very educational (pretend letter writing, “mailing” letters to friends, etc.), the process of making it is just as important. Kids (and teachers!) are learning to plan, collaborate, think creatively, use visual reference materials, and be patient with the slow process of making something big.

Here comes the sun

It is almost summer! Sunshine is streaming in the windows of our east-facing classrooms in the mornings. Also, we recently got a hold of some old overhead projectors, for use in shadow play, projections of drawings and paintings, etc. All this is provoking explorations of light.

The Hummingbird Preschoolers have been using their sunlight to grow carrots, with drawing studies along the way to show the process. (Pics coming soon!) But in both Finches and Robins daycares, sunlight is being harnessed for artistic and imaginative purposes…

The photographs show various applications of coloured cellophane, cardboard, paint, clear cellophane, aluminum foil, permanent markers, and plastic wrap.

Light could be an entry point to many types of learning:

  • Artistic – colour, transparency, hue, contrast
  • Scientific – properties of colour, properties of shadows, colour mixing
  • Imaginative – projecting coloured light on ourselves and our surroundings can set a mood or spark an idea
  • Emotional – warmth, comfort, energy, love

It’s worth wondering what questions to ask children to get them thinking about and appreciating all this copious sunlight and the things that it can do.

Dinosaurs, Boats, Dinosaur boat?

It is hard to limit myself to 3 photos a week! These are from last week when Robins daycare set up painting on recycled materials on a tarp outside.

Something early childhood educators must consider are the healthy quantities of space and time that it takes for kids to absorb, process, and learn. Ideas or interests can circulate under the surface of play for months, with splashing moments of realization, reinterpretation, or production that seem like they come from nowhere. Quiet, free art-making outside provides a wonderful dose of space and time – and a breath of fresh air to boot!

We were excited to see a boat reemerge from these new materials. The Robins daycare kids, for those of you who don’t know, are also currently Major Dinosaur Enthusiasts. In the photo above the two interests are combined!

Gotta love the imaginative strangeness of a dinosaur boat. Why, how, when, and where is the dinosaur sailing?

The middle picture is of a creative display that one of the Robins teachers made to showcase the outdoor painting experiments. This is a clever way to deal with extra pieces of art, reminding children of the “process” rather than worrying about each individual “product”.

Water Wall

In Finches daycare, an idea seeded and grew right into and over our week! Instead of continuing with the car project for now, teachers got excited about making a Water Wall with the children.

A Water Wall is a structure designed to direct water in various streams, drips, and flows when poured over-top. The children talked about waterfalls, containers, and funnels before embarking on this project. Each child was able to choose a container and pick the spot on the “Wall” (a donated scrap piece of linoleum) to attach it. Then they discussed what holes should be drilled or cut into the container to allow water to pass through it, and where the water would go next. (Lots of big hand motions, “Wooooooshhhh” noises, and excited grins.)

Children stood behind a fence at a safe distance to watch a teacher use a power drill to follow the children’s instructions about drilling holes and attaching the containers. Then, children from the Robins daycare were invited to help paint the wall according to a few instruction from the Finches children. A few different kids worked together on it with great cooperation.

We hope for a sunny day next week for our inaugural Water Wall exploration with a big tub of water, buckets, cups, raincoats, and rubber boots!

Make scribbles meaningful; Construction photography

Scribbling is an important stage of every child’s expressive developmental process. Fine motor skills improve as they learn to move pens or crayons around to make marks on paper. There is also the raw tactile joy of early mark-making that adults can so easily forget – how awesome is it that we can make paper a different colour by rubbing things on it! Imagine life before the invention of ink or graphite or lead…

There are probably infinite ways to channel scribbling into meaningful and thoughtful activities without losing any of the fun. Here are two of them:

1. Scribbling on clear plastic on top of another picture, in this case a map, and then remove the plastic to see what marks were made. If you’ve been reading for a while you will know that this work was in the Preschool as another provocation in the map-making project. Children began following the markers along the lines of rivers and roads, and discussing things like clouds and houses. “Where do I live on here?”

2. Scribbling on paper that is taped over-top of various items to explore texture and shape. In this case, yarn, buttons, paperclips, etc. were taped underneath. The bumpiness of these objects make the scribbling process more complicated and interesting.

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The last image today is a set of photos taken by the Preschool children of the construction that is going on upstairs! The kids learned how to use the zoom function of the digital camera and spent time watching the image change on the digital screen. Then we drew their attention to the construction through the window. Some of the children’s words while watching:

“I can see the man – the construction worker. Hey look! My dad used that (wrench).”

“It’s for fixing, maybe … fixing houses.”

“The ropes are for tying up there!” (Metal cables)

“I see wood. They’re gonna put them up there.”

“I see a drill in that constructor’s hand. They put the screws back.”

“Moço da construçao!”

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Next week: More car project!

Car Photography and Sculpture Book

Today children in the Finches daycare took turns using a digital camera to take pictures of the parts of a car. This research is one step in an on-going project to figure out how to make a large race-car (probably out of a cardboard box).

“You put gas in it and then the gas turns into smoke and then you need more gas”.

It was interesting to see how the young children used the camera. Instead of wide shots of the entire car like many adults would take, they were much more interested in close-ups of certain interesting features. This seemed to fit with the nature of the questions we were asking: “What parts are there?” “How could this have been made?” “What could this part be for?”

Learning along the way: Car parts and functions, camera skills, sharing and turn-taking, communication, observation skills, inquiry and critical thinking

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Another exciting event today was the quiet release of our first mini-publication: Airplanes, Dinosaurs, and a Four-Necked Giraffe: Sculptures and Stories by the Children of Charleson Park Children’s Centre. A copy is being kept in each daycare and the preschool for the children to look at with teachers. So far the 22 participating children seem extremely proud to have their work represented on a page of the book. (Later versions may include more children as new sculptures are added). Stories range from hilarious to cute to profound.

Currently parents/families are invited to pre-order a copy if they would like one by signing up in the Centre by April 16 and paying $10 to cover printing costs on recycled paper. However, we may consider offering copies to non-families after some consideration of the best way to do this. Please e-mail Nestlingsnews@gmail.com if you are interested!