We recently completed a cricket investigation with the Preschool class. One day, the teachers had an idea to ordered Bearded Dragon Crickets in the mail to add another dimension to our study on dragons. Once the crickets arrived, the children had an opportunity to observe the crickets eat. After discussing what was happening, how the crickets ate, how they’re related to dragons, why they’re named this name, and what kind of teeth crickets have, the children began drawing the crickets.
Normally, we would’ve encouraged the children to represent their knowledge in a different way, meaning after discussing the characteristics and habits of crickets, we would’ve encourage them to draw, sculpt, mold, or create something to deepen their understanding of the subject. However, this time the children began drawing the crickets on their own! It was a wonderful surprise to see them automatically begin sketching and link these two processes together (discussing a subject and visually representing it to further understanding what they were talking about and observing).
While the children were drawing, the discussion slowly turned into a mathematics lesson because the children began counting the cricket legs. At first, they tried counting the legs on the actual cricket, then counting the legs in their drawing (to make sure it was represented “correctly”) and then they began counting the total number of legs in their drawings. Even if the children drew too many legs for one cricket, we encouraged them to count other illustrations with six legs per cricket.
Below is a video that shows how this math lesson began with the children’s interest. We never once instructed them to begin counting the crickets or legs, they simply did this on their own! This activity is important because it demonstrates how children want to learn and how learning through interactive activities and sensory play can lead to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the subject. Many adults assume that children’s need to be taught and if we don’t teach them, they’ll never learn. We take the opposite view in that. We believe that children are capable human beings who deserve respect and naturally want to learn. Moreover, we also believe that children are capable of learning through activities such as observing, listening, pretend play, painting, and tasting and are able to learn by themselves and in groups of other children. Meaning, children don’t just have to memorize things… they can learn from each other and through sensory play!
During this activity, the children worked on counting, sounding out words, and fine motor skills through drawing! Developing fine motor skills at this age is crucial to their dexterity and brain development. Fine motor skills involve the ability for children to manipulate their hands and fingers to do things like tie a shoe, hold a fork, and turn a page. In other words, fine motor skills are the building blocks for stability, sensation, and bilateral coordination (the development of hand dominance, meaning one hand will manipulate an object while the other “helps”). Moreover, fine motor skills are important for early communication skills in young children because it affects their ability to write a name, use a computer mouse, and draw a picture; which are all early forms of communication.