Sunday, 8 February 2015

Snow and Ice Inquiry

This winter was long in coming to our school area. We waited all throughout the month of December without any snow falls. Luckily for us during the end of the January month brought a lot of snow for us to play in.

On the day after the first real big snowfall and declared snow day, the children came to school dressed for the weather - which was great to see. When I asked the students who had played outside the day before, to my dismay only two students replied that they had played outside in the snow for a little bit. Fresh snow is the best time to play outside for hours. So we didn't undress and get ready for indoor activities that day - we prepared to go outside and plat in the snow.

As several students have been intent on building marble runs at the block centre, I proposed the question: "Can we make a maze - similar to your marble runs - outside in the big field?"

We had a bit of a whole group discussion about mazes. Some students had no idea what a maze was, however as we added to our schema more students began to visualize what a snow maze might look like.
"A maze has lines to follow."
"I saw dead ends."
"It's very, very long."
"I've been in a corn maze before. I got lost."
"How do we make a dead end?"

As we headed out, some students kept their attention on making mazes, while others just wanted to play in the snow, burying themselves, trying to make a snowman, making snow angels. This was ok with us as educators, knowing that these little ones rarely get the chance to just explore snow from a playful point of view.
Making mazes and snow angels in the freshly fallen snow.

Burying a friend in the snow.

Digging in the snow to see what id underneath.

We feel it is important to allow the students to have extended periods of playtime outside in all weather conditions, as the country we live in allows for all these experiences. Throughout the week as more snow graced our playspace we continued to ensure the students had long periods of time to play in the snow.
Making a snow train and travelling to far away places.

Building a snow castle. Putting a flag on top.

Making a door for everyone to come in.

During the week we engaged in several science experiments: How sticky is the snow in different weather conditions. This question came to us as on the very cold days the children noticed that they couldn't make a snowball to roll and make bigger. They experimented with throwing the snow in the air.
"It doesn't stay together."
"Look Ms. Clark it's falling apart."
"I can't throw it far."

The children have been wondering about polar bears within the classroom and while outside they decided to try their hand at building a den/igloo for polar bears. This activity had the children working on figuring out how to get the snow to pack hard enough into the buckets so that when they turned them over they could get out a shape to build with.
Packing the snow into the containers.

Carrying ice blocks over to our structure.

While working with the buckets of snow the children were quick to point out the various 3-D shapes they were making.
"I made a cone."
"This one is a rectangular prism."
"I think this is a cylinder."
When ask what shape they want to make for the floor of their igloo - all the children replied with a circle.
Creating the circular base for the den/igloo.

As they began to make the igloo, placing snow bucket after snow bucket beside each other, many of our younger students were able to count the snowcastles lined up. This depicted how they could count using one-to-one correspondence.
Counting the snowcastles.
As the students worked through this very important scientific investigation process of planning, experimenting, and problem solving they began to see the fruits of their work become a visible structure. By the time it was time to go inside (as some of our kiddos were becoming cold) they had completed the base of the igloo - learning that each "snowcastle" needed more snow to fill in the gaps. We examined the bricks on the school to see how the bricks were held together.
"The bricks have that grey stuff."
"It's cement"
"What can we use?
"I know - let's use snow!"
How do we get the 2 shapes closer together? 

Research lead us to fill the gap with snow.

We must always realize that lots of our curriculum can take place outside. Using the children's play, we can find the curriculum expectations to support and extend their learning.