Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores Land, Water, and Air

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Katie Heimsath and Tina Brimo in the three year old Koala classroom.  The class had just ended a unit on Space, but Katie and Tina noticed that the children were asking lots of questions about the Earth, so they wanted to spend some time focusing on the Earth’s ecosystems, creatures, land forms and conservation.  I joined their class for one of their first lessons focused on the Earth. Below you will find a reflection from Katie and Tina, along with images from the lesson.


What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?

Our class was wrapping up a long unit on Space and we thought it would be a great idea to take a closer look at Earth.  It was a pretty natural transition between units.  Our kids were eager to compare Earth to other planets in our solar system that they had recently learned about.  We wanted to start our study of Earth with some basic ideas, one being that our planet is made up of a few things: land, water, and air.

Why and how did you choose the visit?

We chose to visit the National Gallery of Art to spend some time in front of their huge landscape paintings.  The one we chose, Lake Lucerne by Albert Bierstadt, is extremely visually appealing and had all the elements we were discussing in the lesson.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?

Since we were starting a new unit, our main objective was to form a foundation for the class to continue to build on.  The end goal of this particular lesson was to convey that Earth is made of some of the same things as other planets, but the way they are combined makes it possible for us to live here.  This lesson was also broad enough for us to gauge the children’s interests and think of ways we could further explore Earth throughout the unit.

What was most successful about your lesson?  How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic?  What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?

Our class was so excited to apply what they learned about other planets’ atmospheres and surfaces that the main ideas of the lesson flowed very smoothly and naturally. We didn’t really struggle to make connections with the topics.  We planned several activities that were short and sweet, which included lots of movement, turn-taking, and encouraged the children to share and apply the knowledge they already had about Earth.

The gallery we went to is large and has plenty of room for us to sit comfortably and have a lesson. We were careful to go earlier in the morning so there would be less people visiting the museum; doing this ensured that we didn’t feel rushed or in anyone’s way.

This gallery is also full of other landscape paintings to reinforce the topics we were covering. Later in the week we talked about land forms and bodies of water, which our class was quick to recognize in our later visits to NGA.

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic?  What was challenging regarding logistics?  What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

All in all, the lesson went very smoothly.  After taking turns with the sorting game, our kiddos were feeling a little restless and were having a hard time staying still and respectfully quiet.  We had initially planned to read Earth Dance by Joanne Ryder in the gallery, but attention spans were short.  We made a last minute decision to read the book outside on our playground.  As we left the museum, more inspiration struck, and we made our way over to the NGA Sculpture Garden to read the story there instead.  Fortunately the weather was nice, and there was plenty of space for us to incorporate movement to the book.

Here are a few images from their lesson on Land, Water, Air:

IMG_1393 The Koalas visited the National Gallery of Art to begin their exploration of Earth, specifically what elements it is made of.IMG_1400They found Lake Lucerne by Albert Bierstadt, and sat down for their museum circle. Katie began by explaining that the Earth is made up of land, water, and air, each of which is depicted in Lake Lucerne.  She asked the class to observe the landscape and find something in the land, in the water, and in the air.  The children noticed animals, trees, people, flowers and a castle on the land, boats in the water, and clouds in the air.IMG_1412Next the class played a game to categorize items into where they are found: the land, water or air.  As a group they identified that a shark goes in the water, a plane flies through the air, and a cow belongs on land.IMG_1417Then Katie gave each child a picture of something that belongs either on land, in water or in the air.IMG_1425IMG_1426After carefully looking at the object or animal in their picture, Katie called each child up one by one to stick their picture on the environment where it belongs. IMG_1432Once everyone had had a turn the class had three pages full of objects and animals that are found in the water, air or on land.IMG_1437After completing their sorting game, the class began to head out of the gallery, however they stopped when they spotted more landscape paintings by Thomas Cole, and identified elements of the land, water and air.IMG_1442
After their visit they headed to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden to read Earth Dance by Joanne Ryder, which asks the readers to use their bodies to imagine they are different aspects of Earth.IMG_1469IMG_1459The children spread their hands out wide and spun around like Earth.IMG_1453   IMG_1466
They raised their hands to the sky to be tall mountains, and whispered like breezes through the trees.IMG_1467IMG_1464
They pretended windswept grass was tickling their cheeks and roared like icebergs cracking.  After sitting during the museum circle, the children loved getting up and moving as they used their bodies to pretend to be different parts of the Earth.

After ending their unit on space, the Koala class focused on Earth, and what makes it unique and suitable for life, unlike the other planets in our solar system.  Through their lesson on Land, Water, Air, the class was introduced to Earth’s geography, and why it is important. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their unit on Earth! See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!