Attached is a brief summary pdf of our work with Amy's class. Enjoy.borts.pdf
In our last meeting with Teacher Frances' students we created playgrounds for the class worms. The students have been learning about worms: where they live, what they eat and how to hold them. We used this interest to support the design thinking involved in creating a playground and extend their learning about worms through play. By filling a large tube with dirt and putting out possible materials to build a playground we found the children fascinated with where a worm could fit. The students brought the worms from their worm home (already in their classroom) and began to inhabit the playground. With different sized tubes they explored the possibilities of where worms would like to play, how many worms could play in each area, what materials worked better for worms to go through and slide down, as well as how the different worm attractions allowed the worms to do different things like slide, crawl, and swim. While trying to put a worm through a straw Raya realized the worm was too big and found a new slide for the worm where it easily fit through and won't hurt the worm.
Students dug for worms in their worm home and decided that when the worms went to the playground they would also like to be under the dirt like where they had found them. Multiple students created tunnels under the dirt and through different materials so the worms could crawl through.
All of the worms survived.
Tuesday we continued our fort building outside under the small trees. Using photographs of the fort from the previous meeting, we took inspiration from the construction and tried to remember how it was built. This time, ropes were integrated into the construction to hang blankets on and clip things to. We even rested wooden planks across the ropes for shelter.
As we started construction by draping a blanket over a tree branch, Augie exclaimed, "I know what this is...I think its a Bort!" He then educated us on the difference between a Fort and a "Bort." The idea of a Bort was inspired by his baby brother and sister who call forts 'borts'. The characteristics of a Bort are listed below:
1. "Borts are different than forts because they don't need attachments."
2. "Borts can come in all different shapes and sizes...it depends on how you build a Bort."
3."Babies live in Borts."
As construction continued, the "Bort" became more complex and i think it eventually evolved into a "Fort" (because it had attachments). I was then captured as prisoner and taken into the fort and not allowed to escape.
I was re-reading notes from earlier in the term, and recalled the presentation from Ken Robinson from the TED conference. A quote that stuck with me was "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never be original." I find this intriguing because the kids we are working with at the LabSchool work as if being wrong doesn't exist. They keep with what they are doing, diligently in most cases, until it doesn't work or falls down and they begin again. They ARE persistent. In the Habits of Mind exercise Beth and I both thought persistence was not something 2/3 year olds are capable of... To my surprise, they are quite persistent, and work at something until they are finished.
For Ayuko's Thursday class we kept on working with the trucks. The teachers explained they are going to be introducing the children to earth week, and perhaps the garbage trucks they are crashing around could also do some collecting of recycling items. We made decals for the trucks to take on and off so they kids can choose if they want to collect trash or recycling. Last week, the kids loved just crashing the trucks, now that we have introduced building a home for the trucks, they are excited to build and take care of the trucks.
At the beginning of free-play Cormac was pretending to be a kitty and crawled around the classroom, under tables and rubbing his cheeks on Beth.
After a while he decided he needed to build a house for the kitty, and tried to squeeze into a banker's box. Watching him, while very cute, was also very informing. He moved from building truck houses, to a kitty house, that soon grew to a kitty house for the rest of his classmates, fitting five of them. They figured out how to make a window, and knew they needed a bigger space when another child came along wanting to be a part of the kitty house.
In a parallel play with the kitty house, Sam and Katie start stacking blocks to make a tower.
Beth whispered to me, should we show them how to make a pyramid (stronger base) Katie started building a pyramid, not hearing us talking about how to show them or encourage them to build something that could actually stand up. She explained she knew how to make it stronger. "Can I show you something Sam? Can I show you how to make it really strong? Sam, I'll show you."
When the two accomplished the "unthinkable" Sam shouts "It worked, It worked!!!" The amazement and excitement from their team work was great!
When Katie and I arrived to the school, the children had built a stage and were ready for a performance they had written starring 'Batman', 'Attman', 'Superman' and 'Ghostman'. When we entered, two of the children handed me a ticket to the show from an envelope and said it would admit '5 people'.
After the performance, we went outside with the goal to build the biggest fort we could with the materials we had.The outdoor fort building seemed to engage the kids in a fun and constructive way. Some of the things i observed were how more kids became engaged/curious as they realized what was going on. Some wanted to get involved in building, others wanted to explore and play in the fort. One of the most interesting methods of construction came from Jillian who, in order to reach high in the trees, built a scaffold for herself out of blocks so she could reach high enough to clip the blanket in the tree (The scaffold became an important part of the fort's enclosure wall). I also enjoyed seeing the cooperation, communication and creativity that began to occur in using clothes pins to clip sheets together and connect them to branches. Thinking about where to put blocks for a wall also became an important decision. "Where are we going to eat?" asked one child while another responded, "we have to build a room first".
I think that bringing the blankets and blocks outside was effective because it made the kids begin to think about indoor materials in more didactic ways. It was something they had not done before and Amy said they hope to continue the process in the future.
Today Ian and I met with our classroom again. This week we built off our work from last meeting. Last week we built forts (spaceships) inside, but this week we opted to work with the children outside.
Learning from last time where energy was high and attention spans were short, we wanted to give the children a defined goal of building a fort that everyone could fit into. We posed this goal to the children in the beginning of our time.
In order to challenge the children we brought out fabrics for them to use in their fort building. We wanted to use an element they were not quite familiar using in the outdoor setting. However, we did reintroduce the wooden building blocks, which are the same as they use inside.
So, we first began with the fabrics and chose a spot in some trees to build our fort. We posed questions such as "Where should we put our sheets? How can we keep them up? Can we drape them over some branches?" in order to prompt the children to drape the fabrics over the branches. We had to show the children how to do this and then they caught on and did it for themselves. In order to secure the sheets we introduced the tool of the clothespin to hold the fabrics together. This helped the children place the sheets since gravity wasn't working for our benefit.
Since we only had 4 sheets some children got preoccupied with putting the sheets up and then taking them down to put them in a different location. Therefore, to maintain a structure I started collecting some wooden building blocks with one student. We carried all the blocks over, but the children were hesitant to actually start building with them. It may have been due to their fascination with the new material of the sheets than the old blocks they are use to working with.
Near the end of our session block walls and barriers were made. Some children even made a secret room for the "superhero squad" within the fort. Other blocks were stacked to construct a makeshift scaffolding to clothespin the fabrics to the taller branches.
We left the fort up on the children's playground which will allow them to continue with their fort building while we are gone. We also took pictures of the forts so that in our next session we can either recreate the forts out of clay or draw them.
I included a pdf of our hard work:
So I watched the video Jack and Pete made with their experience in the classroom. It was interesting to watch the problem solving process that the students had to go through to get the ball into the bin, and then building upon that, making the wooden blocks domino. It would be fun to set up a camera to tape the whole lesson we teach so we can watch it after and watch the other children. It is hard in the lab school to be aware of what is going on around you because their is so much action occurring. As in our group, during free play you usually spend most of your time with 2-3 students and you become aware of their learning process, but it would be interesting to see how the other children approach the problem.(which could be captured in a video form)
Here's a link to a video of the 'machine' that the kids built in Ross' classroom on Tuesday April 13. We showed the them a clip from 'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' where Pee Wee uses a Rube Goldberg machine to make breakfast for himself and his pooch Speck. We then demonstrated the board game 'Mouse Trap', explaining the different parts and how the were all necessary for the machine to run, we let the kids play with the game for a little bit, then we asked the who wanted to help us build our very own machine...
The kids were great. They took right to building and problem solving with minimal advising from the 'older kids' (me, Pete, etc.). To be honest, we probably wouldn't have been much help anyway. The girls that I was working with on Tuesday (Hadley and Riley) would usually solve any problem they came across about 5 seconds after it had been identified (which I sometimes helped with a little- "Oh, it's not working huh? Well where is the problem? Okay, well why do you think that is? How do you think we can fix it?"). The machines we ended up with at the end of the day weren't really complex or anything, but they worked, and the kids had essentially designed and built them all by themselves, which was a pretty satisfying result for all of us.
After about an hour of playing/working with the kids, Pete and I came back to Rapson Hall, edited the video above, and just talked about our experiences for a little while. We then came back to the classroom for a de-briefing session with Ross and the two TAs, Laura and Jenny. We talked about what we had seen and what skills they were developing (problem solving, new words like 'contraption' or 'apparatus', purpose/goal orientation, sequence and interdependency, etc.) and what we could do on Thursday to make the project more successful. One thing that Ross kept stressing was repeated exposure, he said, "Repetition is key for them to be able to process it." which made perfect sense to us, "the more you do something, the better you get at it" right? We also wanted to try to involve more kids in the project, we had maybe 5 or 6 kids working with us consistently on Tuesday but we wanted to try to generate more interest for the next session. We thought that we could show them the video that we had made of them building/playing (appealing to their vanity) to kind of refresh them and possibly show the other kids how much fun we were having. Then maybe some more examples, explaining all the parts, then just set them loose and let them build.
The Early Childhood program uses this sort of abstracted categorization of thinking processes to analyze what they observe and help shape their approach:
It's actually very similar to the way that we've been analyzing in our classroom, and I suppose, in the spirit of this course, the design process in general. The three teachers helped us break down what we had seen using this framework and their specific expertise, which was really helpful as weren't always sure exactly what we were looking at when the kids were playing. Of that meeting came a slower more repetitive approach than Pete and I had anticipated. We were all set to move forward and try to build a machine that would actually perform a task (like feed the class' pet rat for example) but we realized that the kids needed more Exploration and Inquiry time before we could move on to Utilization.
On Friday I greeted the students with Teacher Frances and Teacher Theresa at the curb while Melissa shared the zoo book with the students in the classroom. Teacher Frances had emailed the parents the night before to inform them the structure of the day could be slightly different if the students wanted it to be. She had suggested a few students start the free playtime outside with Theresa and me looking for worms and making bird feeders. As the children came to school we gave them the choice and because they had found out what they could do the night before many students were excited to build bird feeders and dig for worms. We had developed a step by step photo series for the students to reference as they created the bird feeders. We began by asking about a class pet, similar questions to those asked earlier in the week at the zoo. The students decided that if we wanted birds to visit the playground then we should put food out for them. The bird feeder was made of a cardboard tube covered in soy nut butter, rolled in bird seed, and then a string was thread through and tied so it could be hung from the trees. Eleanor made hers with simple instructions and referencing the photos making this an activity she would repeat the entire time we were outside, making 5 bird feeders total. Other students and their parents wanted to make them together. Jade began with her parents and then took over smearing the peanut butter across the tube.
When the interest on the playground turned to finding worms the students found small shovels and began digging holes to search for worms. Because the class already has worms that live in the classroom a few of the students wanted to find more to add to the ones inside while others wanted them to stay outside. Eleanor and Jade made small homes for the worms by filling boxes with dirt. Andreas said "I want to put him in the dirt, it's his place. Get him out!" (of the small box home)
The students took turns holding the worms. Eleanor exclaimed "It's a worm! It's growing, it's growing!" Teacher Frances explained you have to hold the worms with an open hand so they don't get injured. Andreas explained "I stretch my hand out."