Children constantly absorb information from the world around them. They look, touch, smell, hear, and taste all while drawing conclusions about their surroundings. Sensory play is thought to only be for babies and toddlers, but sensory play can successfully extend into the grade school age. The perception of sensory play is so limited that many only view it as a child working in a sandbox, paint, or trays of water, however sensory play goes beyond items that children can touch. In fact sensory play is an activity that allows children to receive information through all of their senses. With this in mind, the children of The School of Wonders use food purchased during field trips and their sense of taste as a basis to explore various foods and connect the students to geography.
Each week, the children visit local grocery stores with the initial intent of purchasing food to cook. However, the teachers are discovering that the students have not only begun to recognize that foods are sorted into “food families,” they are beginning to realize that foods look differently depending on where they originate.
The teachers considered the ideas that were being tossed around by the students, and as a provocation asked them, “Where do you think the apples from this week’s field trip are grown?” The students began with general answers, “Apples grow on trees. They just grow on trees.” The teachers continued to probe, “Where? Anywhere? On a desert? On an island?” The faces of the children began to change as they thought about these questions. They began to move to the computers in search of the answers.
Through their research, they learned the various regions where each particular apple originated and discovered that apples are grown all over the world. They have been introduced to a few new vocabulary words such as hemisphere, cardinal rose, and southern and northern. The children were able to locate places using the four cardinal directions and now integrating these words into their everyday understanding by describing their location as well as objects and places in relation to other locations using these terms.
The children used watercolors as a material to express their understanding of continents and geographic terminology. With each grocery store trip, the children not only experiment with food, they are aware of a new opportunity to examine a different geographic location.
This type of exploration allows children to not only build understanding through sensory experiences, it strengthens their cognitive skills providing them with the opportunity to improve their thinking skills which include memory, intelligence, reasoning and problem-solving. This approach to learning opens the door to more than just one educational experience, it expands the whole potential for learning in other areas aside from geography such as math, reading, science, art, social studies creating a more holistic approach to learning and viewing the way children think and draw conclusions.