Dragons have been the topic in our classroom since our initial dragon fruit exploration (click here to read the blog post). Since so many toy dragons have been provided to continue the investigation and interest in the topic, one day the children began building a dragon house out of blocks to house all of the toy dragons! At first the children created the dragon house out of blocks in our block area, however after they were finished, we asked them what materials they would need for a “real” dragon house. Below is a list the children made:
- Tissue paper
The dragon house also needed to have:
To get a better understanding of what the dragon house needs to look like, the children created drawings of features that the dragon house should have.
One of the features wanted the dragon house to have is a slide. They created illustrations showing how the slide needed a ladder attached to it and eventually they decided to construct a 3-dimensional representation of the slide. Once they gathered several materials, the children began using cardboard to cut out the shape of the slide. Working together, the children added a sponge to the end of the slide, used duct tape to attach the materials together, and broke pieces of sticks in order to design a ladder. After their slide construction was finished, they decided the slide should be the color blue and proceeded to paint the ladder altogether.
This project is an excellent example of how the children had a concise and thought-out plan and how they worked together through the entire project to ensure the slide mirrored their initial illustrations. The incredible part of this project is that several times they would face a problem, something didn’t look right or wasn’t stable, so together they would take the construction apart and try it rebuilding it another way! During this activity, the children explored advanced processes involving mathematical and scientific concepts, like developing a hypothesis, measuring, angles, gravity, weight, proportions, and more. However, the main point we want to emphasize with this project is how children can learn from each other in a collaborative environment and how continuing to develop a project on the same topic is extremely beneficial. Since we view children as human beings who have the right to be recognized as both the source and constructors of their own experience, we have no doubt that they will have the ability to learn without being directly taught (meaning they can learn from playing, learn from other children, and learn from experience). By giving children the opportunity to fully develop a project and continue a project through several different angles, it allows them to have the time and space to express themselves and grow their understanding. (For example: this project began with dragon fruits, then transformed to dragons, and ended up being an activity focusing on the construction of a house/slide, not necessarily a fire-breathing dragon.) In order to do this, we as teachers understand that learning takes place when the adult-child relationship is not constrained by adult-imposed time restrictions and that we need to create time for children’s thoughts and ideas.