Thursday, March 3, 2011

where we will go nobody can know

The last few days have been really exciting. I anticipated the children's interest in dinosaurs might lead to an interest in reptiles but what has emerged is a real interest in eggs. Their conversations and ideas have been inspiring and we've been luck to have Ms. P with us who has experience with the Reggio philosophy and therefore is a documentation expert. I will try to give some sense of our beginning study here.

Yesterday at morning meeting, I let the children know that we've noticed a great deal of play, art, and talk revolving around dinosaur eggs. I had a balloon with me and I blew it up until we reached a consensus (over the laughter) of what a dinosaur egg may have looked like. Afterward, I prompted them to think of another animal that lays eggs and the idea of a bird came forward. As the conversation continued a few children came up with the idea to build a nest and a tree house on our playground. Six children emerged, being very enthusiastic about this idea of theirs. That small group joined Miss P to draw their plans. Below each plan are their words.

K: My plan is that we can make names of birds in the trees so they know what tree to go to and we put bird food there. These are the nest and these are the houses. Maybe we need paint and we buy wood to make the house. We can find leaves and build a nest. Nest comes from leaves.

Z: This is one leaf. This is a climb. Climb, climb, climb. We can make a house and a bridge.
Ms. P: Why do the birds need a bridge?
Z: Because it’s too tall.

P: That’s a tree house. This is a ladder to climb up the tree. We are going to find bird nest
Ms. P: What can you use to make a nest?
P: Leaves and grass to make a nest. We can go to a zoo and see how a chicken hatches an egg. Then we can take the egg. This is a bird and her egg. She is trying to hatch the egg. She is using her beak to hatch the egg.

C: My plan was there’s two ladders and we can split up in two groups so we can both climb up the ladder and see the bird nest and the house they got eggs.
Ms. M: What materials could we use to build a nest?
C: Some twigs and some yarn, that’s it. Oh and some balloons so he can decorate it!
Ms. M: Have you ever seen a real bird’s nest?
C: Yeah, across the street. I saw it up in that tree, now I don’t.
Ms. M: Where did it go?
C: It went on vacation (referring to the bird)
Ms. M: What happened to the nest? Did the bird take it on vacation?
C: I think the nest broke.

Today, these same children carried forth their plans with such purpose, as you can see below.

Since K showed interest in creating signs for the birds to know which tree to fly to I asked her if she was interested in creating those signs. She was excited to do so and used the fantastic book Bird Songs From Around the World to find images. I gave her a set of post it page tabs and asked her to mark the birds she has seen in our neighborhood or ones that she thinks live in our neighborhood. She paged through the book carefully finding exotic birds that I wish lived in our city.

She used bright colors to write the name of each bird and drew a picture of the bird, so the birds would find the right tree.

Later, Z joined her and they created bird signs together.

Meanwhile, A, P, and C were busy carrying out their plans by constructing a bird house and nest with mostly recycled materials.

Busy hands as you can see.

There was a problem getting the pieces of cardboard to affix to one another using scotch tape, I'm not sure if this was due to the heavy coat of oil pastel on top of the cardboard but it was time to use the big guns...the glue gun! This was the first time we used the glue gun and the boys were very into it.

Tada! P's bird house with a little help from his friends.

and C's bird nest with some contruction help from Ms. P. Each side was cut from cardboard and took a lot of effort to come together as a stable nest.

As I looked around the room today during our working time I was so struck by the juxtaposition of what it looked like as an observer, which was chaos versus what was happening beneath the surface, which was each child completely engaged in the study of eggs in their own (self-directed) way. I watched a documentary last night, The Waldorf Promise and it really made me think about my own education, which was truly unremarkable. I don't feel like I ever had much ownership of it in my early years. It is that unfortunate reality, the reality of the majority, that makes days like this so inspiring and reaffirms that we are moving in the right direction, at least in our class.

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