Tag Archives: pre-k

How Can a Little Thing like Salt be so Strong?

Recently we have had an area in our classroom dedicated to dragons.  The dragon area evolved after one project about fruit.  We looked at dragon fruit and the children said it was called a dragon fruit because that is what dragons ate, “A long long time ago before people and before God there were dragons, they ate dragon fruit, and the ingredient in dragon fruit was fire… This is how dragons were able to blow fire.” We explored this “theory” and parents participated by bringing in dragon figurines to play with as well as several storybooks about dragons.  They enjoyed it so much that it became our “sand, ice, and water area.”

Since then we use the dragon figurines as a means of different provocations to encourage imaginary play, or to incorporate science. Recently we froze the dragon figurines inside of big blocks of ice and gave the children dishes of salt to use.

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Albert Einstein once said, “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.” In this provocation the children gave meaning and value to this experience by discussing how salt was melting the blocks of ice.

Some things said in their conversation:

  • Ice feels cold and hard
  • When you put salt on ice and bang it so hard it breaks
  • Salt goes through the ice because it’s really strong
  • Salt is hot
  • Salt comes from the sky

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“How can something so little be so strong?”

SALT IS STRONG—

After the children made these observations, we were able to set up different experiments for them to do, so they could elaborate and test out their thoughts and ideas. It is important for us as teachers to observe and listen to what the children are trying to understand. In Reggio Emilia based teaching the teacher is a guide where projects are child-led and emerge based on the child’s interests. This is how our curriculum develops day to day, by listening to the children’s inquiries and feeding their thirst for knowledge with new provocations to create a rich learning experience. In this provocation they discussed what they saw happen with the salt and ice and one child asked, “How can a little thing like salt be so strong”? We began discussing other things that are little and strong.  Some things the children said were little but strong was:

  • An ant that can pick up a leaf
  • Medicine-it kills the germs
  • Little people
  • Fire ants are so strong, it makes you burn
  • Butter is strong from ice and salt and can never melt
  • Ice is strong

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The children used their sense of sight, touch, and hearing to make observations and hypotheses in order to investigate the chemical properties of salt and its reaction with ice. Visually the ice and salt are the same color but their textures are very different. The sense of touch was an essential part of this exploration because it was a way to distinguish the ice from the salt. Ice is cold and wet and salt is rough and dry. More observations the children said about how the salt is melting the ice:

“It’s cracking with the salt on it. The salt is going down or up.”

“Salt makes the ice melt because there is water in the ice.”

“The water inside makes the salt melt inside.”

“The salt makes the ice warm.”

“Salt melts ice and then it becomes water.”

“Salt is more powerful then ice.”

” We try to bang it, we try to scoop it and the top broke. We used a lot of salt to get it out.”

“Salt makes ice crack a little bit.”

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Salt not only has chemical properties but a history of its own as well. Its been used for many, many centuries as a way to preserve food and travel long distances. The history of salt derived from people experimenting and testing theories like the children are able to in their self-led inquiries. A long time ago salt was a scarce resource, which made it a prized possession for many civilizations. Chinese folklore from almost 5,000 years ago documented their discussions and experiments on the notion of there being 40 different types of salt.  In the 1800s Americans learned how to mine salt from Native Americans by boiling brine from salt springs. By allowing the children to experiment and test theories they will be able to repeat history and come to the same conclusions, and perhaps new discoveries.

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Fast-forward to today and salt is used not only to add flavor to food but also to minimize the dangers on icy roads during the winter. By using the dragon figurines to explore how and why salt can melt ice, it gave the children a first-hand experience of how the chemical properties of salt functions with ice. Just imagine; the children now have an understanding of why cities use salt on icy roads because of this provocation!

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This experiment has allowed the children to elaborate on their own ideas and explore their own hypotheses, which has led to a number of other topics, questions, discussions and projects. Please check back to see how this project has evolved with salt, butter, solids and liquid in the upcoming weeks!

To read additional blogs on Dragon Play:

 

 

 

Source: Saltworks

 

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Seed Study

The children recently took a closer look at pineapple, pumpkin, and cucumber seeds by utilizing the light board. The seed study was inspired by several different projects, however it started with our Edible Leaf Project and Edible Seeds Project.

In order to further the study on seeds and continually develop the project, we placed thin slices of different fruit on the light table. The children loved observing the fruits and immediately began pulling all of the seeds out and lining them up on the light table. Pulling the small and barely visible seeds out from the fruit allowed the children to work on their fine motor skills and develop the muscles in their hands and fingers. After all of the visible seeds were lined up side-by-side, some children began counting them while others created drawings and sketches. Continue reading

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Camping

Last week, a few teachers were observing the children in the dress up area when we overheard them talking about camping. The children were using their imagination to create a pretend campsite where they were gathering different foods to put together and pretending to sleep in sleeping bags. They laughed and giggled while they pretended to eat marshmallows around a campfire. To encourage the children to express their knowledge of camping in a different way (thus deepening their understanding of the topic), we provided them with paper and markers and asked them to draw what a camping area looks like and the tools a camping area needs. Below are a few of the items that were drawn and discussed:

  • A backpack
  • Food
  • Marshmellows
  • Ropes
  • Hats
  • Candy
  • Hot dogs
  • Sleeping bags
  • Campout books
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • A tent
  • Fire
  • Logs
  • Campfire
  • Something to sit around fire

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Based on this discussion and the drawings, we provided the children with materials like tents, pillows, and blankets for the afternoon. Our goal was to encourage the children to pretend like they were camping; however their creativity far surpassed our expectations. They enjoyed lying in the tents and pretending to sleep, however once they saw the tents outside the door, they decided that they just had to build a campfire! Since we conveniently had several pieces of wood outside, the children worked together to organize the wood and other materials outside the classroom and create their own campfire. While we are more than willing to go above and beyond to let the children learn, we encouraged them to use their imaginations with the actual fire 😉

In order to create a campfire, the children gathered several pieces of warm colored paper and rolled it into a ball. After placing the “fire” in the middle of the wood pile, the texture differences were astounding! We discussed how the wood was rough, hard, flakey, and not easily moldable, while the paper was shiny, smooth, thin, brightly colored, and easily bendable. After their campfire was finished, the children gathered around and held their hands to their faces (pretending to be cold) and eventually sat around the campfire.

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While this activity didn’t teach the children much about camping and survival, it was a wonderful exercise for pretend play. Studies across the globe have demonstrated the cognitive benefits associated with pretend play, like increases in language usage, organization, divergent thinking, ability to integrate emotion with cognition, and the expression of both positive and negative feelings. According to researchers, when children use toys to introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy. Moreover, several researchers have concluded that an important benefit of early pretend play is its enhancement of the child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and ultimately creativity. So why is pretend play important? It increases children’s imaginativeness, curiosity, and can help down the road when children are learning about complex mathematical concepts and reading advanced books!

“Imaginative play is a precursor of conceptual thought – in which possibilities are explored upon the inner ‘stage’ of a child’s imagination.”
– Erik Erikson

 

*We are hoping parents could bring materials that could help us in transforming our dress up area into a camping area. Please bring any and all materials; this would be of great help in continuing the project!

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The Legend of Dragon Fruit, Part 2

We are currently developing the legend of the dragon fruit! Last week we examined a dragon fruit in class and all of the children asked what this strange “fruit” was. We wrote the word “dragon fruit” on the light table next to the fruit and started the exploration by sounding out the name of the food and going over the letters in it. 

This gave us an opportunity to read. To illustrate this and expand their understanding of letters, we would ask the children to think of words that sound similar to the word we were sounding out. So, for the “d” in dragon fruit, they came up with the words “dog” and “duck” because all three make the “d” sound.

After this activity, we asked the children why it’s called a dragon fruit. Their responses invoked deep level thinking and illustrated their curiosity: Continue reading

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