Sunday, 8 November 2015

Looking Closely at Ladybugs

Creating an Invitation

October has been a busy month filled with investigations. The children continue to explore the classroom environment as well as the natural environment outside in the playground. The month began with an interest in ladybugs. Several children used the observation collectors from the science area to place the ladybugs in that they were observing outside during recess. In our early years program we encourage the children to look closely, to take the time to slow down and we find this helps with their investigations. We want them to use all of their senses to gather information and experience their learning with their whole body and mind. 

"Nature is PAINTING for us,
day by day,
pictures of infinite BEAUTY if only we
have the eyes to see them."
~ John Ruskin ~

There are many special moments that occur when working with children. Those times when as an educator you just stand back and watch in amazement the work of a child. This was one of those moments. Within our classroom we carefully create invitations for learning. These are spaces with are carefully crafted using learning materials that will spark the children's interests and expand or extend their ideas. The beginning of this ladybug interest however was created by one of our students. She brought the collected ladybugs in from recess and placed them on the table. Next she began to collect items from around the classroom. Items such as markers, clipboard with paper, pencils and magnifying glasses. She carefully arranged them on the table and as she did there was a flutter of activity around her as several students became interested in what she was doing. When she finished she sat down and went straight to work. Looking closely at the container of ladybugs and recording what she saw on the paper. 

The children continued their investigations during play block. Ella, Emma and William shared their ideas with me as they wondered about the ladybugs. Ella said, "He has a crack hidden in the middle and the wings pop out." I asked her where she found the ladybugs. She replied, "Outside on the tree." 

Next to share their ideas was Emma. She said, "It's really young because it is a baby ladybug." Ella added, "Because it is little." William joined the conversation and shared, "The legs were smaller. That is not a baby. The baby would be smaller. That one is younger cause this one has more dots than that one. Some ladybugs are all black." Then Emma said, "The baby looks like a tomato." This initial dialogue between the children emphasizes their ability to look closely and make connections with their ideas and thinking around ladybugs. I wanted to expand on their ideas so I offered to them a book about ladybugs. The children looked at each page in the book and discussed their ideas further.

On one of the pages the children found a picture of two ladybugs. They resembled the two ladybugs they had collected from the school yard and they took immediate notice of this. They shared, "It is a match to ours." They continued to look at the pages in the book. When they came to the page with the photo of the ladybug larva there were many ideas and a new question emerged. 

Ella shared, "It is a caterpillar." Emma wondered, "Maybe they eat leaves?" Then Emma placed an acrylic red leaf on the photo by the larva's mouth. Ella said, "What do caterpillars eat?' William answered her by saying, "Leaves and bark." The children discussed their ideas for quite some time. They were unsure if this was a caterpillar or not. I did not provide them with them answer. Allowing them the discover the answer on their own after further investigations would be so much more meaningful as we encourage them to become life long learners.

William shared his observations from one of the pages in the book. He said, "These ladybugs are poisonous. Cause if you look really close there is a stinger."

The children had also discovered a ladybug that had died. We placed the ladybug in a plastic lid so we could make observations. The children also began to record what they saw on paper. Using the materials that Ella had offered in her initial set up of this invitation. When the children came to the page in the book where the ladybug was laying on it's back Emma shared, "He is playing dead." She used her previous knowledge to make this connection as the children had not heard the text of the book yet. 

We moved the children's invitation to the writing centre and added the text, "Ladybugs" along with the question, "What do you wonder about ladybugs?" 

We also offered this loose parts tray to the children at the writing centre providing them with another opportunity to display their thinking other than drawing and writing. 

The children continued to collect ladybugs and we needed to create a proper habitat so that they could survive a few days within the classroom. After this looking up we provided the ladybugs with the following, raisins soaked overnight in water and split them open and fresh green leaves. The children also sprinkled a few drops of water onto the leaves so the ladybugs could have a drink. Establishing this habitat with the children deepened their understanding of what living things need to survive. As well we wanted to instill in them a responsibility that we should carefully care for all of God's living creatures.

The children continued to observe and document their ideas over the following few days. We posted their pages up within the classroom. 

Lovely Ladybugs created with the loose parts tray.

After a few days we released our ladybugs back to the school yard. The children still had some unanswered questions so we created this invitation to see if we could expand on the question, "Is this a caterpillar." We recorded the children's thinking on Post it notes and placed them around the photo of the larva. 

We gave the children time to think about this question and several children shared their thinking. Then I read the text, "Ladybugs" to the children who began our investigation with this question. 

After reading and discussing the text they each used the loose parts tray to create a ladybug. I asked them, "What did you learn from listening to the book?" Emma shared, "I learned about ladybugs that is is not a caterpillar. It's a larva." William said, "They don't look like ladybugs when they are born." Then Ella spoke. She shared, "That they have lots of spots but some do not" Emma added, "Counting their spots do not tell it's age." I asked this group of children if they would present their finding to the class the following day during shared learning time. They readily agreed and I looked forward to their presentation.

During shared learning time the children presented their findings from our ladybug investigations. This allows the children an opportunity to consolidate their learning and teach each other. 

The children's interest in ladybugs was represented in many areas of the classroom. Ella used the ladybug specimen to create this loose parts story at the inquiry table. She displayed her understanding of the anatomy of a ladybug by representing how many legs she thought the ladybug had along with their spots and wings. By looking closely we can see her thinking. 

At the math table we offered this invitation to explore with a loose parts tray, counting fans and the text, "Ten little ladybugs." The children often worked here during play block. Looking at the book and creating with the loose parts. 

We observed them creating patterns, making homes for ladybugs, baking ladybug cupcakes and preserving each others work through documentation. When I asked Ella about her work at the math table she shared, "I am writing down Sophia's work." This statement gives us evidence of the importance of providing the children with a meaningful and reflective classroom environment. That they see value in their work and celebrate the ideas and accomplishments of each other. I could not have been more proud of this moment. 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Gift Of An Acorn

Nature's Collections

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each year the two beautiful oak trees in our schoolyard bring a bounty of acorns. The season of autumn bears many gifts such as the changing colour of the leaves, the production of seeds on so many plants and trees, birds migrating and so many other wonderful moments. The children began noticing some of these seasonal changes and began to point them out to us. We were excited for them to begin to share their thinking around these ideas. 

After filling the sensory bin with acorns we provided a few tools to assist the children with their explorations. They eagerly worked with the acorns and shared their ideas with peers as they scooped the acorns into the wooden bowls. The children noticed many details about the acorns and shared these ideas readily. This was the beginning of our initial observations with the acorns and we allowed the children time to use all of their senses to explore their acorn collection.

When we are first beginning an inquiry or investigation with the children we often give them many varied opportunities to observe and share their thinking and ideas. After working in the sensory bin for a few days we created this invitation to look closely at the tables. Bringing a small group of children to the table to explore the acorns. This gave us new thinking and the children shared their ideas and previous knowledge about acorns with each other. One of the greatest gifts of emergent curriculum and inquiry based learning is that  ultimately the children take ownership over their learning and really beginning to teach each other as they develop the skills to become life long learners. 

Providing the children with a variety of ways to express their thinking is an important part of our early years program. Some children may be more adept at verbally sharing their thinking while others may show their understanding through a drawing. This invitation to create observational art using the acorns as inspiration was greeted with enthusiasm by the children. Each child approached this creative task with their own interpretation of the acorns.

A Space for Further Reflection

The inquiry table became a place for wonderings and further investigation around acorns. The children explored the texts provided and used the materials offered to develop their ideas and we observed and recorded their work here for further reflection. As educators we use these moments to plan with the children our next steps within the classroom. 

The children never cease to amaze me with how they work with the materials provided. I placed a photo of our oak trees at the inquiry space. How appropriate it was for this child to pick the mirror up and use it to observe the reflection of the photo. Such a beautiful way of looking closer. 

We shared the book, "From Acorn to Oak Tree" with the children during shared learning time. After reading the book one of the children stated, "The acorns turn into big oak trees. There are different types of oak trees so there are different kinds of acorns." This prompted a search for a variety of acorn types. I collected a few and brought them in for the children. This week we will plant some of the acorns to see if they grow. The children look forward to seeing what happens. They have shared an understanding that we will have to water the acorns and that they need soil. We look forward to continuing this interest and sharing our explorations with you. We wonder if our acorns will grow?