April 2010 Archives

Playgrounds for Worms

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.

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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.

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All of the worms survived.

Forts vs. Borts

DSC04537.JPGTuesday 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.DSC04537.JPGDSC04538.JPG

Things I've been thinking about...

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!

Building Stories

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'. showticket-thumb-729x1200-39209.jpg

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.

Amy's Class Fort Building Outside

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:


Response to Rube Goldberg Structures

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)

4.13.10 Rube Goldberg Video (Ross' Class)


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.

Finding a Pet for the Class

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.

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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)

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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."

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ZooBook, dancing, and reading

Frances' Class
Friday April 16

We get to the classroom early to start laminating the ZooBook and getting the bird feeder project set up.

Once kids start arriving, a few are invited right away to go play outside, dig up worms and build a bird feeder. Beth is outside with those projects, I am inside with the rest of the kids. There is brown play-dough set up, a station to modge podge. They have a soiree coming up where they auction off items to parents the children have made. The items Frances' class will sell are vases with cut out tissue paper glued on. The first child to arrive is Quinn, he didn't come to the zoo, so he was kind of tentative getting used to me. He soon warmed up and worked on the vase. Lucia worked on the vase as well. She is very quiet and answers quietly to any questions I ask. She works quietly, then everyone moves on. I asked her what color the tissue papers were, "this is yellow" I hold up another "Green, dark green" and "green". She knows and differentiates darker blues and greens from their lighter counterparts.

When the accordion doors open up the kids move on to new things. Both Henry's are washing and drying clothes. Henry Decker puts the clothes in the washing machine first, knowing this is the right step to take. They look around for soap, asking for soap. The classroom has little tiny jugs filled with water and a tide "label" to use.


Lucia is at the table and starts to set it with forks, knives etc... Soon she sets out food, hot dogs and tacos. I ask Max if he likes tacos. He answers "no... they are too spicy"


Soon Natalie (student teacher) turns on the music and gets some kids to start dancing. Some kids just stare at her. Others start banging drums (Henry Decker) and dance with her (Abbie). Quinn and Brenna dance with streamers.


I notice Jack is very quiet and ask if he is sleepy. He says no but then runs to his locker and gets his stuffed animal/blanket. I then ask if he'd like to read a story. He lights up and we go to a quiet place to sit and read. Soon others join us and we read a few books, as well as the ZooBook. I ask Jack and Henry De. if they recognize anyone in the pictures. They are able to name their classmates right off! You can't even see faces in some of them.

We read one book, at the end is a picture of the illustrator, and Henry Decker says it looks like the dad from the story! VERY observant!!!



At the end of freeplay time, we are at the sand table. Andreas is using the funnel, and starts to get a curious look on his face. The sand is no longer emptying from the bottom. He adds more sand (to a full funnel) and looks at the bottom, I ask him what he thinks is going on... He says "it's stuck" and dumps everything out to start over.


As instructed when the children are drawing, I ask Andreas what he is drawing... "Lines" he answers.

Home Building for Trucks

At the LAB school, they teach and introduce work by telling social stories. For our truck homes, we developed a short little story asking questions about homes, and what kind of home would be good for which kind of truck.

Thursday April 15, we visited Ayuko's class.

We get to class and set up our truck house stories.
The other teachers get the rest of the classroom ready. Natalie is setting up a breadstick making station.
Kids start coming in - the sand table and worms are the biggest hit.
Madeline is playing at the table and tells the others (and Beth) "spiders don't scare me. Some are poisonous though".

I show Elliot the truck social story. He is interested for a bit. The story has a firetruck on it, and when Ebisaa sees the truck he tells me he is going to be a fireman when he grows up.

Playing at the sand table, I tell Madeline she does a good job of filling up the ice cube trays (using a little measuring spoon). She says "yep, I do. Just two scoops fills it up!"


Cormack is playing with the worms and shows me the caterpillars. He tells me "these are caterpillars, they'll turn into butterflies."

When the teachers open up the accordion doors, the kids run to the back and instantly pick up trucks and blocks. We show them the social story they heard a bit earlier. We ask them if they want to make a house for their trucks. They yell yes! We show them the paper boxes we bought and ask if they think the truck will fit. They try it out, and tell us yes. Then we get blocks down and they start creating little garages. Using the boxes as roofs too. We have to get them to work to share trucks and blocks. A few start taking blocks or boxes from other's truck homes. We encourage them to share, and work together, some are very receptive to this, others don't like it. By the end of it, three boys worked together to build a big tunnel/truck home.

Elliot was adding blue blocks to the roof of the boys' long tunnel. Beth asked what it was, and he said "A flue to let the smoke out". We were both dumbfounded by his vocabulary and asked him again... Same answer. Future chimney sweep, perhaps?


When the boys continued on to another fort/house for their truck, this one was big enough for them and their trucks to pass through. At one point there were 4 trucks and half a 3 year-old trying to get through, Sam calls out, "too much traffic!"


Sam was driving a garbage truck, and was very vocal about him picking up garbage. "It's garbage day!!! Pick up the garbage! (over and over) At one point we decide that a garbage dump would be best, because his garbage truck is filling up! We build a ramp to back the truck up on to, and then have a box below to catch all the "garbage" (little trinkets from the classroom).


I notice Eleanor sitting quietly on the phone by herself, she talks very animatedly to whoever is on the other end. "Who's there?! Hellllooo? I''ll be right there" Once she notices me watching her from across the room, she gets a self-conscious smile on her face and talks more quietly and turns away.

At the start of free play, one of the teachers lets Madeline do some typing. She is all business. Later on Katie and Ebisaa begin. Ebisaa knows what letter his name starts with, and shows me. Katie begs for a chance to show me she can spell her own name, and her brothers. Ebisaa soon gets tired of typing, and lets Katie show me her name. She does a great job. Both kids had a hard time telling the difference between the L and the I. (On a mac they are a little tough to tell apart) Ebisaa comes back and helps me spell my name. I tell him the letters and he finds it. Again, L and I are tough for him. I tell him the L has a little tail on the end and the I is just a straight line, this helps him find the right letter.

As we were leaving, all the kids get into a circle for large group (a teacher teaches a small lesson). Cormack is playing peek-a-boo with Beth and me, instead of listening to the story. I think we were a bit of a distraction for him.

Pictures from Amy's Class...

Here are some pictures of us building our forts!




Reflections from April 13, 2010

On Tuesday Ian and I taught our first lesson with Amy's 3-5 year old class at the lab school.

We arrived early on Tuesday in order for Amy to introduce us formally to the class in their morning meeting. Last Friday Ian and I did observe and play with the kids during their free time in order for the children to become more comfortable around us.

On Tuesday Amy posed three different projects the children could choose from for their free play time. They could either play with clay, or built forts in Ian's group or my group. Amy asked each child individually what they wanted to do and then the group split up. There was about 8-10 children who started off free play in fort building. Of course, over the next 45 minutes of free play that number changed drastically. At the end of free play only 2-3 children, total, remained building or dismantling the forts. From our Friday observations of the children and what their patterns of play were during free play, Ian and I came to the realization that it would be a challenge to maintain the attention of the children throughout the entire free play time. It is in the child's nature during this time to bounce from activity to activity during free play.

Fort building began between two groups. Ian's group (since the boys all like him better) had 5-6 children building their fort, whereas my group was smaller (2-3) children. My first intention with the fort building was to gather my group and pose the question, "Where should we build a fort," and look around the classroom for a location that the children normally didn't building a fort around. Instead, I was taken aback by the fact that as Amy told the children to go to their teams the children just jumped right into gathering their blocks and carrying them off to a space they felt was right.

I had pictures of "forts of nature" to show the children which I hoped would influence their designs. However, once again I was surprised when one of my students yelled, "This is my spaceship!" and then all the other children in my group agreed. From then on our fort was the spaceship fort.

I noticed the first thing the children did was to build a floor. They built the floor with the 12 x 12" wooden blocks. This is the block that most children can carry 1 or 2 of, and with the square shape it is easy for them to put them together. After this main staple of a block was used, questions were posed to the children, "what should we do next? Do we need walls for our fort? What should we make them out of?" With these questions on hand, the children brought over more blocks to construct the walls. However, now I began to see the children bringing over different sized blocks, including some of the larger blocks and ramps.

One goal Ian and I wanted to work on with the children was prompting the children to use ordinary materials the children always interact with in the classroom in a different way. Amy discouraged us from bringing in any fort materials for the children to experiment with because then the children would have needed a separate time just to look and play with it instead of building. Therefore, we decided to use items found in the classroom. I took fabrics out of the costume bin and asked the children in my group, "Where can we put these fabrics? Should they be our ceiling?" The children enjoyed this, but they didn't know how to keep the fabrics to stay up, until we suggested using tape.

Once the fort was established, the children that were working with me decided we needed extra toys to adorn our spaceship fort with. They brought food from their kitchenette area, and we hid the food in the blocks, or our pretend "refrigerators." Some children brought over fake insects and had them crawling over our fort. At any rate, at one point our fun turned from building to inhabiting our fort. At this point the children became particularly frenzied. Up to this point they were engrossed in bringing blocks over from the wall to our fort and stacking them. However, now that the fort was made, they started to "play" pretend.

When it appeared that the children were loosing focus, Ian and I tried to engage the children once again by prompting them with the goal of connecting the two forts with a tunnel that we could crawl under. We wanted the children to use materials they normally didn't use, so we brought over the stools from the reading area and showed them how we should put them together. The children were against this idea, and I couldn't persuade my children to make a door for the tunnel. However, once one child crawled under the makeshift tunnel, then the children more easily took to the idea.

I think the most cumbersome challenge Ian and I face is engaging the attention of the class for the entire period of free play. I have had limited interaction with children at this age level, but while I am working with the children at the lab school I am constantly asking myself, how can I make this fun and interesting for the kids? How can I get them excited about what we are doing? When we started on Friday I had no clue how to approach the children. I am use to playing my relatives and doing all the work for them. However, I listened to the student teachers in the classroom and watched how they engaged and asked the child questions in order for the child to come up with their own decisions and conclusions.

I am definitely looking forward to next week and what that lesson may bring...

a zoo book + a home for your truck

After Melissa and I attended the zoo with teacher Frances and her class we meet back at the LAB school to digest our different observations and discuss how best to share them and the photos we took with her students. We came up with a zoo book that walks the students through their first field trip by revisiting each exhibit and the conversations that took place. We hope to use multiple photos of each student so they can personally connect to the book and their own experience of the zoo. This Friday we will bring the book into the class to share it with the students during their free play time and it will be available to them in future classes as well.

Next we meet with Ayuko and further refined our plans for her Thursday class. To fit best into what her students current interests she asked us to develop a building activity around building garages for their toy trucks or a home for their trucks. Similar to other story boards that hang around the class to guide play, we developed questions along with photo comparisons that will hopefully help develop useful and meaningful play around the problem of a 'homeless truck.' We suggested this problem could be extended to a home for a worm (also a current interest) or a play home for the students if the class seems engaged to continue. We will meet Ayuko's class tomorrow and begin our first play through design thinking activity.

forts and "bad good guys"

We arrived to Amy's class this morning to the children and teachers sitting in a big circle. Amy had some photographs of a garden they are going to visit as a class. She spoke of the symmetry of the garden and entertained many of the kids questions. Many of the children were flailing their hands to anxious to speak. one child asked "do they have tomatoes?" then another asked "do they have cucumbers?"

Then we began organizing the class into three groups based on their choice. one group could build a fort with me, the other with kaitlin with the ultimate goal of finding a way to connect the forts. other children had the option to go play with clay.

Observations: children immediately went to the big blocks for stacking.
some children put on capes or costumes.
some children wanted to photograph the construction, but more so they wanted to photograph the other children and the teachers.
the children were talking to each other about the fort and the "character" he or she was. there was a dog, a pilot, and the dog's owner, etc.
as some of the children's 'stories' or 'scenarios' unfolded, some kids thought it would be fun to try to keep others out of the fort, excluding some and causing some friction.
some children decided they were building this fort to "keep the bad guys out." so the walls "needed to be tall."
one child said he was a "bad guy" then he said he was a "good guy" then he said he was a "bad good guy."
one child wanted to build a ramp, another a tent.
there were kids that wanted to use the building planks as swords.
i heard the clanking sound of blocks hitting each other and the sound of the children talking to others...some were even talking to themselves.

When asked where the coolest place in the room to build a fort would be, the children wanted to build how and where they were used to building in the classroom (the large open space in the middle). they wanted to stack blocks in the center of the room. We challenged them to think of a different place a fort could be made and with what other materials or furniture the fort could be made of. We also developed a method of clipping a sheet onto an easel to secure it as a tent fabric. We attempted to connect the two forts that were built with a tunnel, but the children grew tired and disinterested, waiting for snack-time. It was somewhat difficult to organize the children and get them all on the same page, so we took a break and ate snacks.

Through this exercise, the children learned some of the proportions of space (how big a space needs to be in order to fit your body into it.) they also learned cooperation (although some children did not want to cooperate). other lessons and observations include: patience (some children had more than others), and the willingness to figure things out (like how to make an opening or how to secure a blanket as a roof.)

This week was a good test and a good experience. I'm not yet sure what next week will entail.


The Como Zoo: Observed.

This morning at 9:30am, Beth and I set out for the Como Zoo. We met up with a few families waiting by the main gate (the zoo opens at 10am). Frances introduced us, and a few parents approached us asking specific questions on architecture. We tried to explain the goal of us being there was not to teach architecture and buildings, rather that we were interested in the intersection of how we work (Design Thinking) and how they work. One mother explained to us how her father was an architect, and she tried to explain to her 2/3 year old grandpa was an architect too!
As soon as the doors opened at 10am, the kids rushed in, with very excited smiles and voices. As we passed the main desk, some kids waved and said "hello" to the strangers. Our first stop was the Primate Building. One little girl saw tiny monkeys and squealed "they have little moustaches!" her mom asked her a few questions, "what kind of monkeys are they?" "little ones" she answered "they have tails, long tails" she noticed and commented on the monkey "they hop on the stick and don't fall down!" As the monkeys cleaned themselves "look at his tongue!"


More monkey business: "I wanna sleep with the soft orangutan" "he's big and furry"

Since today was a rainy day, many of the kids had rain boots on, and were very interested in stomping through puddles. One boy told his mom "I wanna go in the puddle" while another boy declared "I need puddle boots!" he was wearing only little shoes that let the water in.


As we walked toward the American Bison exhibit, a mom said "look there are buffalo" and a boy ahead of her turned back and said "no, they are bison."

In the week before and earlier in the morning, teacher Frances showed them a social story of how the trip would unfold. She explained to each of them they would be seeing each animal house in a specific order. She told us they do social stories any time they want to introduce the children (and guide them toward a certain behavior) with something that's new (eg. before the first fire drill). She sent us a link to the story they heard before the zoo. one boy when asked by his mom what was next, knew because of this exercise that the water animals would be next.

All in all, it was a great trip! It was a good way to get our feet wet (literally!) and observe the kids. We were both a little unsure on how much we should interact with them. I tried talking to some, saying "wow, thats a big cat!?" and they were scared. So maybe the next time we meet they will not be as scared?

It was great to see how the children understood concepts such as home, mom & baby, and also how they interact socially. Teacher Frances commented on how the big, hairy monkeys were all dads... that moms don't usually look like that to them! Their world is big and new, and they are all trying to make sense of it.

Zoo here we come!

Beth and I were invited to join the youngsters on their field trip to the Como Zoo. We will be helping the teachers and student teachers observe and document the trip. The trip will allow us to interact with the kids, but more importantly observe them working and seeing. This opportunity will *hopefully* help us direct our design thinking project better. Right now our project is lingering in limbo because our plans were overlapping with the teachers' current plans. This is fine, and we knew we had to remain flexible, so our work may include mostly the observation of how this age group works, rather than directing a project outright.

Observe and Experience

On Friday, Kaitlin and I took a trip over to the Lab School to get a first experience with our 3-5 year old class who we will be building forts with. Our goal was to observe the interactions between the kids and also between the kids and the teachers to get a first taste of the environment (there are 3 student teachers and 1 teacher). I have grown up with little cousins that I interact with often, so i thought i knew what i would be getting into... it was a little overwhelming walking into a class of 18 youngin's that are all running around, some wanting your attention, others keeping to themselves. It was chaos! The children were just coming from the gym and it seemed that all of them new exactly what they wanted to do when they came back into the classroom for "free play." - like a daily routine they had. some went straight for the big blocks and started stacking and throwing them around (they built a 'spaceship'), others painted pictures and others observed the classroom chickens, others read a book and others went to the kitchen to make some "play food" and others were doing the most random things. It was an observation that their focus on one task did not last long... the children that were building with the big blocks got caught up in another task, but then came back to the blocks later and wanted to destroy their creation. a few kids tore the 'spaceship' apart and then began walking over the scattered blocks, re-naming the creation 'block island'. (this theme did not last long).

There were a couple small altercations between kids and it was interesting to see how the teachers responded to that. And also how the teachers focused their attention between observing the children and interacting with the groups and individuals.

In our project, i think one of the most challenging things will be to maintain the children's focus on a goal for a longer period of time in an "organized" setting. I think the goal must be open ended in order to let their imagination work, but it also has to be controlled in a certain way that the rambunctious ones do not get out of hand. Also, How can we grab the interest and attention of as many kids as possible? Can all the children be focused on one objective in a group? How can you cater/respond to their individual interests at the same time?

Forts and 4-year-olds

We discussed some of our goals for this project and integrating the idea of 'sequencing' into the fort-building process: A way for the kids to document and reflect on their process (possibly through photography or drawing).
Some of the other goals we have, focus around the ideas of:

- cooperation and teamwork
- empathy and awareness, shelter
- part to whole relationships (building and environment)
- the concept of material and object
- scale and proportion
- and the manipulation of a familiar environment.

2 Year Olds . . .

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Today we met with our teachers and their student teachers. The teachers (Francis and Ayuko) explained what we have to look forward to in the next few weeks. While the children are very active and "play" diligently, the teachers look for opportune moments to teach and guide the children's learning. Beth and I walked away amazed at how much more guidance is given to the students than previously expected. We obviously don't have a good grasp on the minds of 2-3 year olds!
The methodology of the Lab school is to record (both visually through photography and writing notes) how the children are interacting and learning. The parent's are given updates as seen here:

Each teacher also has sheets in the classroom detailing certain activities, interactions, and conversations among students, and between student and teacher. These sheets were great to see, giving me a better understanding at how intelligent and creative the kids are. Ayuko described one moment to us where a little girl was using the felt board to make flowers. When questioned by Ayuko about why the flower didn't have a base, the child realized the plants she was mimicking (at the table next to her) had stems, and was quick to correct herself. As small children, they are asked questions to provoke moments like these.

Next week we were invited to join Francis' class on their field trip to Como Zoo! We will most likely simply observe and document the trip, but it's a good opportunity to incorporate some of our project ideas!

The Project idea was to take the children on a nature walk, and gather "specimens" to examine back at school. Ayuko's class has already planned a nature walk for next week, so we will either incorporate our project with hers, or use a different idea in the process of being developed. This second project will be a fort / home building exercise where the children start building with blocks, and move to the drawing easels and perhaps bring the building outside. We were advised that to get them building, we simply need to suggest ideas, and if the children want to run with it, they do, if not... you just go with the flow.

We knew from the beginning we needed to remain flexible, and today was a great example of that. We just need to facilitate and foster their learning through play, asking questions and provoking answers.

4/6/2010 Rube Goldberg Brainstorming

Primary Lessons:
-cause and effect
-roles / responsibilities
-language / labeling

Secondary Lessons:
-motor skills (small / large)

Week 1:
day 1:
-show examples (mousetrap, dominos, videos, etc.)

day 2:
-physically act out machine (relay, tag, playground, timed races, etc.)

Week 2:
-design / brainstorm / invent machine / etc.

Week 3:
-build / run machine

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