Sunday, May 15, 2016

Our Rainforest Inquiry

Several weeks ago, we noticed a few children building a structure using blocks and the acrylic lid from the sensory bin.
S.P.:  This is a forest.
A.P.:  No it's a rainforest!
Mrs. Albanese:  What's the difference?
A.P.:  A rainforest is far away.  It rains there a lot!  
S.P.:  Yah but I think the animals are the same.

So we went down the hall to the library and searched for books that could possibly help us find out the difference between a forest and a rainforest.
Several children became intrigued with our new books and wanted to draw some of the animals.
We read this particular book, The Magic School Bus In the Rainforest, to the children over the course of the week to see if there was more interest.

A.R.:  I think the toucan is a cool bird.
Mrs. Albanese:  What makes it 'cool'?
A.R.:  It is so colourful!

The large structure the boys built kept growing taller and taller so I suggested we move it to the hallway where there was more room for all to help out.


One particular boy, A.P., took such an interest in the rainforest that he brought in books from home as well as small creatures to add to the creation.
The more we read and researched, the children began to tweak their project.
They found out that a rainforest has 4 layers, lots of moss, rocks, vines, waterfalls, etc. and animals live on different layers.

I left out a large map for the children to compare to the one they found in a book.
They wanted to use the map to label the rainforests from around the world.
We borrowed the globe from the class next door to get another idea of what the world looks like and try to find the rainforests.


While we were researching the various animals that live in the rainforest, we noticed that the children were so excited to read and learn more about the anaconda snake.  We read that this snake is about 6 feet long, on average, so we decided to see how long that really was!
The children began making their own anaconda to add to their rainforest!

Students were hard at work researching other animals and drawing them to add to the rainforest.



Making the vines was probably the best part!
Everyone wanted to help paint and cut (we left the hanging part for the educators!).
This particular student was very keen on recording his new found knowledge on a documentation wall.  This display was created by the students, as they added their drawings and pictures throughout the inquiry.



We watched several videos of a rainforest and some students were captured by the many different sounds you can hear!  This student tried to re-create all of the sounds with found materials.

This rainforest inquiry lasted for several weeks, as many children delighted in playing with the animals and adding to it by drawing and researching the animals that live in the rainforest.
It's still in our hallway as we hope that parents, staff and other students in our school will pass by and see the wonderful creation and learning that has taken place!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Magnets...Documenting through a "Learning Story"

We are always watching to see what the children are interested in, if something sparks their curiosity, and planning around those ideas.
Here's a great example of what happened when we watched one child explore a magnetic wand she found.




 This child was fascinated by the wand "sticking" to many things in the classroom.  She did notice that it didn't stick to wood!
She created a "magnet ship that pulls in all things that are magnetic".
After careful observation, we created a quick and easy learning story using PicCollage.

Learning stories were developed by Margaret Carr and Wendy Lee, both from New Zealand.
They are "narratives that describe learning and help children see themselves as powerful learners."
(Pedagogical Documentation in Early Childhood by Susan Stacey)

Although the above learning story is brief, it was a way for us, as educators, to see there was an interest in magnets and made us think of ways we could extend that interest.

The next day we created this provocation, or invitation for learning.


We wanted to start simple so a few types of magnets (wands and horseshoe) were placed on the table with various objects, some magnetic and others not.
Then we sat back and observed.



E.S.:  It sticks together and I'm not even using the wand!

M.R.:  I am trying really hard to put these together but they won't go this way! 

M.R.:  Let's try together!
J.M.:  It's still not working, I don't know why because I'm strong!  Let's keep trying!


We began to notice that the children realized that the magnets had 2 ways of working: "sticky" side and "pushing away" side.  They are certainly on the right track with their thinking!


We decided to try a fun experiment...we froze a variety of magnets in ice cubes to see what would happen.
Here are our wonders...
"Would the magnets be able to attract through the ice?"
"How would we get the magnets out?"
"Is everything in here magnetic?"




A.M.:  We stuck together!!!

This provocation was created by the children as we noticed that they started documenting their own learning by taking pictures of objects in the classroom that they found which were magnetic and not magnetic.  They wanted to continue to explore that concept.


After just over a week, the interest in magnets slowly started to fade away, despite our efforts to alter the provocations.  Sometimes these things just happen!  The children are telling us that they have explored, questioned, and learned all that they wanted to.

We wanted to compile our documentation so we sorted through the many photos we took and read over our notes.
Since it wasn't a big inquiry, we decided to create a learning story.


This was a wonderful way to show our learning!

Try it out!
I created this learning story in PowerPoint.  Simply add pictures, text boxes (which you can add borders around or shade them like the header).  I find it to be the easiest and most user-friendly program, especially is you are just starting out with documentation!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Cloud and Air Inquiry

For the past month, the students have been wondering about clouds and air.
How, might you ask, did this inquiry unfold?


It was our first week back from Winter Break when we were taking a close look to see if any of our seeds had sprouted more when we got onto the topic of living and non-living.
Mrs. Albanese:  How do you know if something is living or not?
A.R.:  It needs lots of things like water, sun, air, food.
L.G.:  The plant is alive because it's food is soil and water.
After discussing further why we thought the seeds were living things even thought they weren't sprouting anything yet, one student wondered:
J.F.: We need air to breathe.  But I wonder what is gravity?  Doesn't it have to do with air?

As more students began wondering about air our discussion quickly turned to clouds.

E.M.:  What are clouds made out of?

M.P.:  Can you catch a cloud?

We created a large web using the questions that were formulated and dove into this inquiry.
The students were very interested in looking through the books on clouds and air and drawing their findings.






As we researched we learned that clouds are not all the same!
Here are the students painting and writing about the different kinds of clouds.


We studied an artist, John Constable, who was known for painting clouds back in the 19th Century.
His pictures inspired us to paint a few of our own!

Mrs. Albanese:  What do you think clouds are made out of?

J.M.:  They are made out of fluffy white cotton balls!

S.S.:  No - they are made from the stuff that's inside pillows.

M.R.:  I think they are made from stuffing.




 We tried a "cloud in a bottle" experiment (idea taken from Bill Nye The Science Guy).
The students loved trying to "catch the cloud"!
We realized that clouds are not made from pillows, feathers or fluff but they are made out of tiny water and ice drops.


To learn more about gravity, we set out this provocation: "Which object falls down faster?" with a variety of objects ranging in weight, from a rock to a feather.





My colleague in the classroom next door found this really interesting idea on Pinterest and we wanted to try it out with the students.  You can see how rain drops fall down fall clouds by using shaving cream on top of water and dripping blue food colouring in the bowl.
Before we added the food colouring we asked students to draw their predictions as to what would happen and how clouds release rain drops.




We added the food colouring!
(It actually took several attempts at making rain.  When we came back the next day, nothing happened with the food colouring!  So we tried it with less shaving cream.)


The students enjoyed mixing the shaving cream to get a "tornado" effect!


We thought our inquiry would head in many different directions (that's the beauty of an inquiry!) - a few children had discovered a section on hot air balloons and tornadoes in the weather books.
We will have to see if we will revisit those wonders and dig a little deeper!