We’ve been learning a lot about our favorite animals as we’ve been moving along in our animal study. We have a stockpile of books from the library and every couple of days we read about a new animal. I ask the children to tell me what they remember about the animal, and we make a list. Sometimes the facts spark lively discussions (is it fair that the female lions do the hunting, but the males get to eat first?); other times the facts elicit gasps of surprise (did you know that turtles don't have teeth?). I then throw out a question to hypothesize about—why do coyotes have bushy tails? why do horses have manes? why do turtles have shells? Etc. I am again reminded how important the concept of protection is among small children by the answers they formulate—bushy tails on coyotes are so they can protect their babies by whacking bad animals; horse manes, because they are so beautiful, distract lions who might otherwise want to chase them. Their hypotheses are very logical and there has been far less magical thinking than earlier in the year, which leaves me curious. Then we get to work at “drawing club” to draw the animal. We look at pictures and discuss the fine features. In the past we've heard a lot of “I don’t know how” at drawing club, but the children are getting used to thinking about where to start (usually the head) and what kind of shape is needed. The rest seems to follow. We will continue along in this way until all of our favorite animals are covered, but I am interested in more than fact-learning. I wanted to get input from the class, so I went back to the list we generated about how to learn about animals. I reminded them that they thought we could learn about animals by looking at them. I asked if they had any ideas for how to do that:
Me: Where could we look at animals?
Me: Oh yes, there are a lot of animals at the zoo. Is there a zoo in Iowa City?
I went to a zoo, but you have to drive to get there.
There’s a zoo in Des Moines.
Me: Hmmm, since there is no zoo in Iowa City, I wonder if there is another place in Iowa City we could see animals?
I’ve been to the Natural History Museum and there are animals there. The animals are dead, but they used to be alive.
Yeah, the animals lived long ago and now they are dead behind glass so all the kids and the people can see them.
They are dead, but they aren’t lying down, they are like real, but dead.
Me: Where is this museum?
It’s downtown by the buildings
What followed was an exciting discussion about a possible field trip the Natural History Museum. Ideas were thrown around about how to get there. The idea of a bus came up, but some were concerned about car seats; a plane was suggested, but Jack told us there is nowhere to land a plane there; then we remembered when we went to the apple orchard and we took cars. We decided to think about either taking the bus or our cars. Our next steps will be to write a letter to the museum asking if we can come. Stay tuned!