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!
Children are fascinated with animals. Perhaps they can relate to the vulnerability of the small animals they come into contact with; maybe pretending to be a cheetah or lion makes them feel fierce and powerful--feelings that many small children crave. Stories and shows are abundant with animal characters—some cute and furry while others quite scary (ask any child what the scariest animal is and they will likely say a wolf). So I’m not surprised by the level of animal play in our preschool, but this class is particularly interested. Every day we have children pretending to be kitties or cheetahs or caring for dinosaurs in the art room dino hospital. Our animal “stuffies” and our little animal figure toys are well loved and often make their way into pockets and backpacks. Searching for bugs and frogs was a favorite activity in the fall and I expect it to resume in the spring. Given this interest, we are embarking on a class animal study. The study began by listing everything we think about animals, then we brainstormed ideas for how to learn more. We are just a couple of weeks into the study. I’ll be documenting our theories, learning, and conclusions along the way.
In the fall, it was suggested by our plant group that we make our plants happy by giving them some grass. We decorated our tiny pots with gems, jewels, and glass shapes. Then we carefully filled our pots with dirt, sprinkled seeds, and sprayed with water. Initially, our grass did not grow. Clayton had brought his pot home and reported that his was indeed growing. After some comparing and brainstorming, we concluded that we were not watering ours enough, so we changed our watering technique. And IT GREW!!! But sadly, when we came back after Winter Break, our grass was “laying down, it’s not up, it’s like it got tired.”
Me: what do you think happened to our grass?
C: It didn’t get enough water.
V: It was lonely when we were gone.
A: Yeah, and sad. I can sing to it. Maybe that will make it feel better.
C: Yeah, and it needs more water.
Me: Do you think the grass got any water when we were gone?
L: We should give it more water.
So we continued with our watering schedule and Aliya sang to it, but the grass did not improve.
Me: we’ve been doing a lot of watering and singing, has the grass changed?
Me: Do you still think it’s lonely and sad? We’ve been back to school for awhile now.
N: I saw what happened. When some kids were making their pots, they put a jewel in the inside, under the dirt. The jewel made it so the water couldn’t get in.
Me: Did the water get in when we first watered the grass, when it grew?
N: Yes, but then it got bigger and then the water couldn’t get in anymore.
Me: Hmmm, what do you think we should do?
N: Take the jewels out and do it again.
Me: Start over with new seeds?
C: But we can’t use those pots. We need new pots.
Me: Why do we need new pots?
C: Because those pots have the germs of the dead grass, and it will go to our new grass and make them dead too.
And so, we began the process again, taking care not to put any jewels into the dirt this time. We watered every day, and our grass is growing again!
5 day teacher