Early Childhood Curriculum Update

November/December 2019

Mott Class - Preschool

In November, the Mott Class completed their exploration of “Babies,” culminating with a Baby Museum Showcase and began a new inquiry into “Light.” The month also saw continued observations of seasonal changes as well as the incorporation of a daily gratitude practice.

We began November with a visit from a pediatric nurse. The students asked questions and learned how babies are weighed and measured, receive vaccines, and how to keep babies healthy. We also reflected on our “baby research” by reading When I Was Little by Jamie Lee Curtis and making journal entries comparing and contrasting what the Mott children can do now versus what they could do (or not do) as babies.

The Baby Museum Showcase was a concept that originated from the free play observed in the classroom. During morning exploratory play the children had frequently been seen “getting ready for a show.” This play involved setting up rows of chairs, creating sign in sheets, and providing hand stamps to indicate attendance. These play patterns were incorporated into the concept of a Baby Museum “Show” with different exhibits displaying various aspects of our baby exploration.

In preparation for the Museum the children created posters with drawings, student written words, and student dictated/teacher written signage to help indicate different areas and exhibits. The Mott Class also spent time reflecting on the work they had done. Students were provided with photographs taken throughout the eight week project, and students dictated their reflections. This was a valuable way to document the progress of the project and allow students an opportunity to remember and review some of the activities covered.

After decorating the classroom with student designed signs, posting documentation pictures, and arranging the classroom into various showrooms (complete with rows of chairs, sign in sheets and stamp pads), the Mott Class opened their show to family members, teachers and older students. Children acted as docents and led their guests through the different exhibits, explaining their discoveries and demonstrating the skills they have learned throughout the exploration. There was a diaper changing and blanket folding exhibit, baby food and cooking exhibit, stroller construction exhibit, bunk-bed building exhibit, and our rice babies were displayed with pulleys and ziplines to demonstrate our work with “Babies on the move.” We also have been compiling photographs of our classroom babies, Lucretia and Mott, from their visits to the children’s homes over the weekends along with written dictation of the children’s experiences, which were displayed in a large photo album for museum attendees to look through. Mott students had opportunities to present information to their peers and lead question and answer sessions with small groups of children.

Along with finishing the “Baby Project,” we continued our natural science observations through leaf collecting and sorting, repeating an earlier activity of predicting which colors we would find in nature. We created a large-scale landscape over a number of days exploring color mixing, creating textures in paint with different techniques and tools, and adding collected leaves to the trees to make a three-dimensional collaborative work of art. Along with our observations of trees and leaves, the Mott Class created a Tree of Thanks in the classroom. Throughout November children and families were encouraged to dictate or write down what they feel grateful for onto paper leaves to decorate a classroom tree over the course of the month. The more children practice giving thanks the easier and more natural expressing gratitude becomes for them. There is a variety of research that outlines how deeply the practice of noticing, feeling and showing gratitude can positively impact young children. By the end of November our tree was full!

During the final week of November, before Fall Break, we introduced the new topic of Light to the students. Some of the literature we have introduced for this unit include You Are Light by Aaron Becker, The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan, Lights, Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows by Natalie Rosinsky, Lights by Donald Crews, The Sun by Thomas Adamson, Sun Bread by Elisa Klevan, Shubh Diwali by Chitra Soundar, Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant, This Is The Dreidel by Abby Levine, The Winter Candle by Jeron Ashford Frame, My First Kwanzaa Book by Debrah M. Newton Chocolate, and 8 Candles and A Tree by Simone Bloom Nathan, Secrets of Winter by Carron Brown and Georgina Tee, Daylight, Nightlight by Franklyn M Branley, and Sky Color by Peter H Reynolds.

We reorganized the classroom to include areas of light and dark, with twinkle lights, flashlights and electric candles added for exploratory play. Our nursery was transformed into a dark cave, and children began using lights to create shadows. We began to discuss what we already know about light during group brainstorming, and considered what we want to know more about. The children had many questions about sources of light, the sun, moon, and stars, as well as lightning, electricity, and fire. Initial investigations led to a large group discussion about the sun and sunlight with a demonstration of earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun, play with solar system puzzles and a three-dimensional model of the solar system. We also went on a shadow hunt and traced shadows that we found, discussed when and how shadows are formed, and practiced creating our own with different light sources. We observed a candle burning, noticed the light bulbs throughout our classroom, and thought a lot about how the sun gives us light AND warmth. For cooking we made our own Sun Bread after reading a story in which a baker makes a large sun out of bread to bring light and joy to people during dark times. The tale provided a great segue into a discussion about how we can spread our own “light.” This abstract concept can be difficult for young children to grasp, but the Mott class did a wonderful job brainstorming how we can help friends feel better when they may feel sad or “gray” .

As we entered into December, the students continued our discussion of light. We read stories about different holiday traditions and how light is used in many different ways to celebrate. We created watercolor fireworks for Diwali, tissue paper lanterns for Moon Festivals, counted candles for Hanukkah, and molded beads to make necklaces for Kwanzaa. During Meeting for Worship we listened to older students sharing wishes for the world, and talked about what our wishes for the world might be.

Our scientific exploration of light and shadows led to inquiry of how light travels through objects. We learned new vocabulary - Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque - and performed a science experiment with various materials and objects from the classroom and a flashlight. Children predicted the outcomes and tested their theories, and we recorded the results on a large chart. We have continued to use these new vocabulary words when describing different materials during exploratory play inside and outside. We continued to investigate how light travels by making a shadow puppet theater under the loft, and the children cut out paper shapes and experimented with creating shadows using their hands and bodies against the screen in front of a light source.

We also noticed rainbows dancing around the room from the prisms hanging in our windows, and read about how light is reflected and split into many different colors when it goes through a prism. We discussed what colors the sky can be, and how the colors change in the sky depending on where the light source of the sun is. We read Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds and decided to paint our own sky. The children painted on both sides of a large transparent sheet of plastic with all the colors of the rainbow, which we hung in the classroom window to catch the light and change its color.

We will continue to explore light after the Winter Break with a field trip to the DaVinci Science Center and a visit from an electrical expert, as well as demonstrations from the Rustin class where they will share their study of circuitry and robotics with the Mott Class.

Rustin Class - Kindergarten

The Rustin Class has been busy studying light. We have read a lot of books on light and electricity and have learned a lot of new vocabulary including circuit, battery, conductor, and insulator. We began the unit studying shadows and how shadows need a light source to be created. We used SNAP electronics to figure out how to create a circuit. Then we created brush bots, tiny robots made out of a toothbrush and motor. We even painted with our brush bots! Then we wandered around the school trying to figure out what was a conductor of electricity and what was not. We used wires with alligator clips and an LED light to create a circuit that was only completed when the clips touched a conductor. We have been using playdough that can light up LED lights!

The Rustin class has been studying different holidays that incorporate light and candles in their celebrations. We even read Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani and traveled around the world with the characters in the book.

We have created portraits of ourselves with the Light inside of us based on an interview and self-portrait by the artist Maya Christina Gonzales. We listed what creates the light inside of us including “the light is in my throat and mouth because I love to sing” and “the light is in my fingers because I like to build.” We created other art based on books about light like The Flashlight and we painted with corn syrup and food coloring paint to make shiny light pictures.

In math, we are working on addition problems and patterns. We have been creating our own patterns and even made a huge quilt out of pattern blocks. In reading, we are working hard on “pulling apart words” ( ex. “cat” is /c/, /a/, /t/). We have been doing a lot of sight word work including playing sight word musical chairs!