Monday, 27 October 2014

Beautiful Stuff Project

During the months of September and October our class has participated in a Beautiful Stuff project. After reading a resource this summer Beautiful Stuff! Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman and Lella Gandini I was inspired to have the students help create our own materials of Beautiful Stuff.
Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found Materials
In the past I would have collected all the materials and bought several things from the Dollar Store for the children to use in the classroom for their creations (of course I still do frequent the Dollar Store). However this year I wanted to see if more children would take to the materials when they became part of the process.

In the middle of September, we sent home a letter to the families encouraging them to fill their bag with Beautiful Stuff. We gave them suggestions of things they might find around their house. Quickly the children filled their bags and brought them back to the classroom. As soon as most of the bags were returned we had a class meeting to share some of the things within the bags.

In order to make each child feel special for the objects they had brought in, we made a point to slowly open each bag one at a time and let the children oooh and aaah over the materials dicovered within. Opening all the bags took several days and lots of anticipation.

P.T. I see lots of colours.
C.L. I see different colours of blue.
A.H. There's pink and orange,
B.Z. There's a giant,
Ms. C. You mean this sphere is very big,
C.L. I see long things and short things.
C.Y. I see beautiful things.
C.L. A marble
T.T. I see lots of stars.
A.L. I see a prism.
Ms. C. What do you see that is special?
D.Z. I see a pattern.
O.Z. Princess

Once all the bags had been opened and all the materials were mixed together in our Beautiful Stuff basket, the next step was to sort through it. In small groups the children sorted the materials various ways. Floating things, soft things, hard things, pointy things, rolling things. In the end we decided as a class we would do a final sort using a colour scheme. All the yellows together, reds together, etc...

Sorting by sticky things, things that rolls, things that twist.
Finding different ways to sort our materials.
Making sorting rules.

Sorting by colour.

Once we had all the materials sorted into the various plastic containers, during a class meeting I proposed that we co-create a Beautiful Stuff Alphabet (inspired by Joanne Babalis). In the past I have always put up the Jolly Phonics letters for the children as a reference. This year I wanted them to take ownership in creating the important resources in their classroom. I collected all the bristol board pieces needed for this project and included the Jolly Phonics picture cues for each letter (I still feel some children need these references when beginning their writing experiences).

As the days went on our co-created alphabet was beginning to take shape. Every student had a chance to work with a letter of the alphabet and decide which materials they wished to use to create the letters.

Our co-created Beautiful Stuff Alphabet is proudly displayed in the classroom as a resource for writing.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Our Snail Inquiry

Throughout the month of September, every time we went outside to our outdoor learning environments the students were always in search of finding snails. It all began when we went into our school's Eco Garden to look at the various plants that had been growing over the summer. One of the student's found a snail hiding on the underside of a big leaf.

Watching the snail come out and slither around.

This child was so enthralled to see it come out of its shell, he wanted to show all the other students. Many of them were interested to watch what the snail did next.

As the students continued to look for and find more snails, we decided that it would be ok to bring a few back into the classroom to observe further. We had several discussions about the importance of both creating a natural habitat for the snails while they are inside our classroom as well as the importance of releasing them back into nature as soon as we were done with our inquiry.

Creating a habitat for the snails.

The students took pride in helping to create the habitat. I bought a clear glass bowl for easy viewing and a strainer for the top so the snails could still get fresh air while not escaping outside of the bowl. The habitat was placed on a low table where the students could go observe and draw what they were seeing.

Looking closely and drawing what we see.
As time went on, a group of students began asking questions and wondering a little deeper about the snails and their life.

Creating habitats at the Loose Parts centre for the snails.
We did some research on both the internet and in books. The students were keen to draw pictures of this learning and write the information in order to create their own class book about snails.

watching the snail as he hangs upside down.
Drawing pictures and writing about what
 we learned.

This was a great learning experience for the students. They were engaged in literacy skills while reading and writing about the snails. They were also engaged in mathematical skills while creating snails with patterns at our Loose Parts centre.
Our Snail Inquiry station.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Colourful Inquiry

Throughout the month of September the children were drawn to the big painting easel every day. We had large papers set up and tempra paint with big brushes for them to begin creating.

As we listened to them talk about the colours, we began to notice that some of the children were mixing colours and becoming excited about the new colours they were creating. We decided to set up some experiences for them to experiment with colour mixing.

Below is an invitation for the children to come to our newly created Art Atelier. This is where they will experiment with coloured water in the primary colours. They mixed the various colours to make new colours. Together we learned that Blue + Yellow = Green, Red + Blue = Purple, and Red + Yellow = Orange.

An invitation to mix colours in our Art Atelier
Red + Yellow = Orange

Red + Blue = Purple

Blue + Yellow = Green

The children also experimented with adding more of one colour to make lighter and darker versions of the secondary colours.

Then we gave them some cornstarch. This ended up in two discoveries. The children soon realized they could make very light and milky colours, however some also noticed the consistency change in the liquid. It became "goopy" "slimy", and "hard to mix".
"really light orange"

"look at all my greens"

"I like mixing the white powder - it's sticky!"

"I'm going to add lots of the white stuff - it's goopy"

"Look so light colours"

"I'm making pink and purple, and blue. All light"
Some of the children went back to the big painting easel later in the week to again experiment with colour mixing to create more colours for their paintings. This time they were specifically talking about how they were going to make the colours green, purple, and orange.
D.Z. made a picture of himself using only the primary colours.
He mixed some colours to create new ones.

"I like orange - yellow with red."

"Yellow and blue make it green."

Here's another friend who tried making pink
with her hands.
We are continuing to experiment with colours and see how when the primary colours mix together with various materials we can change them to new colours.

We have taken lots of pictures during this inquiry and the children have helped us create a document panel in the classroom within the Art Atelier. This documentation panel contains lots of the children's own writing explaining what they saw happening during the process. What a great way to have them write authentically. Please make sure to come and visit our new art space and read through the documentation. The students are very proud of their work.