Teacher Feature: Toddler Class Explores Liquid

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Logan Crowley. His two year old classroom was learning about the senses and decided to spend a week learning about how a liquid, solid, and a gas feel. Below you will find a reflection from Logan and images from his lesson on liquid.Liquid_Cover

What were your topics of exploration?

We were learning about the five senses. During the week of this lesson, we were exploring the sense of touch and learning how to describe how things feel. We also wanted to compare the textures and properties of various things. I chose to focus on the three different states of matter (solid, liquid, gas) and for liquid, water seemed like a great choice.

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

I didn’t expect my toddlers to necessarily be able to identify and define the states of matter, but I wanted to get their brains firing and thinking about how things felt when they touched them and what words they could use to describe what they’d felt. I also wanted to engage their sense of touch in general and give them an opportunity to experiment with water.

What was most successful about your lesson?

Even though a lot of them just ended up pouring the water on the ground rather than into the empty cup, I think I was definitely on the right track in that they loved to practice pouring and it let me know that they’d probably enjoy more opportunities to pour in the future. I was also surprised with how engaged they were with the book. Finally, even though we ran into some trouble with our original plan (we were told the kids could not walk barefoot in the water feature), the kids were great about it and still had a fantastic time playing with the water.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

I would have organized the pouring activity a little better, perhaps demonstrating first or having them come up one at a time. I also would have had a backup plan ready for them to be able to play in the water (having them bring sandals or water shoes, perhaps), since I found myself having to improvise when they could not go barefoot.

Here are a few images from their unit on liquid:

DSCN2670It was a cold day but that didn’t keep this class from learning and playing with water. Logan bundled up his group and walked up to the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art. This in door space is large and equipped with a beautiful glass ceiling. It makes for a wonderful environment to be in when the weather is not ideal.

DSCN2678DSCN2696Logan began his lesson by providing each child with a pitcher of water and a cup. He invited the children to pour the water and watch as the liquid moved from one container to the next. A number of the children touched the water with their fingers and also sampled it from their glass.

DSCN2683He then read a story Water by Frank Asch. The story explains the different states of water and Logan explained that today they were experiencing water as a liquid.


DSCN2717Logan picked this space because there is large fountain that produces a very thin film of liquid on the floor. Guests are encouraged to interact with the fountain by walking through (with shoes on) and touching it. The children really loved being able to interact with this liquid in so many different ways.

This class had a wonderful time learning about liquids! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Kindergarten Classroom Explores Sol LeWitt

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Rebecca Adams. Rebecca is the Arts Enrichment Educator for kindergarten and has been working on a large mural with the children for the classroom. For inspiration, she decided to spend a day learning about Sol LeWitt. Below you will find a reflection from Rebecca and images from her lesson.

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What were your topics of exploration?

We used the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt to explore the collaborative nature of large-scale artwork, and how using teamwork leads to a successful experience of the creative process in addition to an eye-popping product. This was also a technical exercise in one approach to handling a new medium (professional grade acrylic paint and medium on heavy weight watercolor paper) that mimics the skill set we will employ in painting the classroom mural. The limited palette and ‘hard line’ approach refine (fine motor) brush control and prepares participants to use color intuitively while demonstrating formal knowledge of fundamental color theory & color mixing.

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

My primary objective was to enhance their understanding of the process required to complete large scale collaborative artworks while practicing and becoming comfortable with a new painting medium and technique. We also used rulers to anchor the underdrawings of these small paintings along with colored painter’s tape to help direct a three to four color palette. This priming technique facilitated their critical thinking skills when confronted with the “problem” of building a balanced, non-representational composition using unfamiliar tools & materials. It also gave them an opportunity to use a similar “recipe” as Sol LeWitt and expect different outcomes.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The most successful part of our lesson was watching and discussing a 10 minute video clip of studio assistants working on Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings. The magic of seeing teamwork reveal a polished, larger than human scale product helped the children connect to their own efficacy as an artistic “unit.” This conversation exercise in confidence building made teaching a combination of a new skill set more attainable. It was clear to them that communication and cooperation was far more important and effective than individual virtuosity. Another strong factor of the lesson was how the multi-sensory nature of this particular set of tools and materials kept them engaged and asking thoughtful questions throughout, while building a new vocabulary (e.g. “palette knife,” “bold,” “dull,” “transparent”) Their fine motor skills were assessed and greatly improved as well.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

I would suggest working in small groups of about three to four children at a time. It is helpful to have a “half-finished” and a “finished” prototype on hand to show the children. I also think it is helpful to have a “conclusion” circle so that the children can see others’ artworks, ask questions, and re-review the inspiration video.

Here are a few images from their unit on Sol LeWitt:

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Rebecca decided to pull a few students at a time from the classroom for this lesson so that she could have more one-on-one time with the students. Rebecca began her lesson by talking about Sol LeWitt and his work and then showed a video on his murals: “Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective” (http://youtu.be/c4cgB4vJ2XY).

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She also shared with the group Sol LeWitt: 100 Views edited by Susan Cross and Denise Markonish.

DSCN2302Rebecca illustrated the first step in the process.

DSCN2308The children then got straight to work using rulers and tape to design their paintings.

DSCN2311She then asked the children to select three colors and start painting between their lines.

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Rebecca gave the children high quality acrylic paint which required the added step of using a palette knife to mix in medium to make the paint a bit more fluid. The children also needed to combine their paints together to get the color they desired.

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The children really embraced the multi-step process and were able to hone their fine motor skills throughout the project! Sol LeWitt is a great way to get ready for painting their own mural in the classroom. The group will use a grid and also need to work collaboratively to create their one large scale painting.

DSCN3139Here is a sketch of what the children decided to include in their classroom mural.

DSCN3138Looks great so far! Can’t wait to see the final product!

 

This class had a wonderful time learning about murals! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week and watch to see the finished mural at the end of the school year!

Teacher Feature: Toddler Classroom Explores Pandas

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Megan Gallagher. Her two year old classroom was learning about the animals and decided to spend the day learning about pandas. Below you will find a reflection from Megan and images from her lesson.

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What were your topics of exploration?

Our toddler class had been discussing animals for several weeks. This lesson was specifically on giant pandas. We started the lesson in the classroom with a sensory activity. I created a “panda forest” in the sensory table with bamboo, dirt and panda figurines. The children were encouraged to explore the items in the sensory table while we discussed pandas. We had been talking a lot about how pandas eat bamboo and many of the children enjoyed pretending to feed the bamboo to the panda figurines.

We then took a walk to the Smithsonian Castle to see the “Panda Cam” they have set up that live streams video from the pandas at the National Zoo. We had a special circle time at the “Panda Cam.” In addition to our daily circle activities, each child was given a piece of bamboo to hold while we read two books about pandas. The first book was Five Hungry Pandas, which is a counting book about pandas eating bamboo. The second book we read was My Panda Book which features photographs of pandas engaged in different activities and encourages young readers to consider what the pandas are doing on each page.

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

I wanted the children to take away the concept that pandas are real animals that engage in behaviors unique to them. I also wanted to give the children many different ways to contemplate pandas, so that the concept they formed would be as complete as possible.

In addition I wanted to make sure that my lesson had a sensory component and gave the children the opportunity to interact with some of the real objects we have been discussing.

What was most successful about your lesson?

I was happiest with the sensory exploration part of my lesson. Giving toddlers the chance to touch and engage with different textures is critical for their development and I am always looking for ways to incorporate sensory based activities into my lessons. I was also happy that the kids were able to see and play with real bamboo. I like to involve some of the real objects we are discussing in my lessons whenever possible. I feel it gives the kids the best opportunity to fully understand a concept.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

If I was going to teach this lesson again I would bring along a tablet with a video of pandas being active as a backup for the “Panda Cam.” The panda on the live stream was asleep the entire time we were at the Smithsonian Castle. The kids still enjoyed watching the camera, but I think they would have been even more engaged if they were able to watch pandas moving around. I also definitely recommend bringing a manipulative for the kids to hold, as there is nothing to touch at the “Panda Cam.”

Here are a few images from their unit on pandas:

DSCN2555Megan began her lesson with a panda themed sensory bin. She added live bamboo, organic soil, and small plastic pandas for the children to explore.

DSCN2598As they played, Megan explained that pandas love to eat bamboo and the children began feeding it to their pandas.

DSCN2615The children loved the sensory table!

DSCN2632Since there are no actual pandas on the national mall, Megan decided to take the group to the next best spot for viewing pandas: the Smithsonian Castle. The Castle offers a live stream of the giant panda enclosure at the National Zoo. You can also access this camera on the National Zoo website: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/WebCams/giant-panda.cfm. To add a hands on component to her lesson, Megan brought along a piece of bamboo for each child to hold and explore during their visit.

DSCN2641Megan also read two different books about Pandas: Five Hungry Pandas by Alexis Barad-Cutler and My Panda Book. The class enjoyed comparing the images of pandas found in the books and on the screen.

This class had a wonderful time learning about pandas! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Two Year Old Classroom Explores Bats

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Elaine Mullally. Her two year old classroom was learning about animal habitats and decided to spend a week learning about caves and the animals that inhabit them. Below you will find a reflection from Elaine and images from her lesson on bats.

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What were your topics of exploration?

We  began the lesson by reviewing the features of a cave habitat (dark, stalactites, and stalagmites) and then focused on which animals call it home. This particular day we learned about bats and introduced the word echolocation.

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

I wanted the children to be able to identify caves as a dark habitat that might be challenging for an animal to live. Since this lesson focused on the bat, I also wanted them to be able to understand how they have adapted to live in this environment through echolocation.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The most successful part of the lesson was the echolocation game we played during circle time. The class was very excited to pretend to be insects while I pretended to be a bat using echolocation to find and eat them. The silly bug and bat goggles helped them get into character. They were also able to demonstrate the way sound bounces from a bat, to the insect, then back to the bat’s ear by rolling a ball back and forth.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

I would have chosen a different activity or game to play in the museum, or perhaps just find a book to read after observing the cave. It was a little too much for them to play a silly game twice and control their bodies in the museum.

Here are a few images from their unit on the bats:

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Elaine began her lesson by re-introducing the group to caves. She then ready My First Book of Animals Homes by Eric Carle. The pages of the book are split so the top and the bottom pages turn independently, allowing the children to match which animal goes with each habitat. The students were excited when they were able to match the bat with the cave.

DSCN2341 DSCN2342Elaine explained to the group that because of their environment bats need to use echolocation or a special type of hearing to catch their food. She used the green glasses as a way for the children to assume the bug character and black sunglasses with sharpie darkened lenses to become the bat.

DSCN2345She gave each child the opportunity to be the bug and then played a game where a ball represented sound traveling from the bat bouncing off the bug and returning to the bat.

DSCN2347Elaine would roll the ball to the child and then have them roll it back.

DSCN2359To show she had echo-located the bug she would come over and tickle the child.

DSCN2369She then took the group up to a cave in the Gems and Mineral Hall in the National Museum of Natural History.

DSCN2381Elaine reminded the children of the echolocation game they played in the classroom and then challenged them to send their “sound” or ball around a stalagmite to the bug.

DSCN2400The group had a great time using their echolocation in the museum.

This class had a wonderful time learning about bats and caves! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Two Year Old Classroom Explores Frozen

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Shawna Williams. Her two year old classroom was crazy for Frozen and Shawna and her co-teachers decided to embrace the film as a way to introduce many different sub-themes including an introduction to Norway. Below you will find a reflection from Shawna and images from some of her lessons.

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What were your topics of exploration?

We were doing a unit of study on the book/movie Frozen. Within that theme we explored: ice, magic, castles, Norway/Arendal, winter, ice harvesters, Fjords, communication, love, Harry Potter, the life cycle of a snowman, and coronations.

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

We wanted to expose the children to geography, language, math, science, and life lessons by using the movie/book Frozen.  By acting out scenes, singing, dancing, dressing up and reciting quotes we wanted to bring the book/movie to life.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The children were truly engaged. I believe these lessons were successful because almost all of the children either had read the book or watched the movie and had already fallen in love with the story. Every day, the children looked forward to the lesson and were excited to learn. Not only was it a fun theme the children really enjoyed, but it was also a content topic rich with educational opportunities.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

I had a lot to share with the class about Norway and I felt like I could have organized my objects a bit better for easy use. I would suggest to teachers that they should have a clear vision for their lesson but not to forget to have fun with it because when children see your enthusiasm they won’t help but feel excited as well.

Here are a few images from their unit on Frozen:

DSCN2222Shawna began her lesson by showing the children a globe. She explained that there were seven continents and Norway is located in Europe. She took time to show each child the country on the globe and then invited them to try and find the matching spot on the larger globe.

DSCN2218While the children waited they practiced counting to seven on their fingers.

DSCN2214Shawna showed the group a few images of the country and then read them a Norwegian folktale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

DSCN2242 DSCN2247Lastly, the group spent time looking and discussing the Norwegian flag and then took turns painting their own. 
DSCN2263 DSCN2266 DSCN2269Since they had spent time in the classroom talking about the people of Norway, Shawna took the group up to the Mammal Hall at the National Museum of Natural History to see if they could match some of the animals on exhibit to ones that also lived in Norway. The children had such pride when they made their match.

DSCN2279The last stop for the visit was a large map found in the Hall of Human Origins. Here, Shawna re-emphasized the location of Norway and reiterated the information they had learned about the country.

This class had a wonderful time learning about Frozen and Norway! Be sure to check back for a new Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Infant Class Explores Music

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Katy Martins, Nessa Moghadam, and Noel Ulmer. Their infant class was all about sound so they decided to do a unit learning about music. Below you will find a reflection from the team and images from their lessons.

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What were your topics of exploration?

We were exploring music and dance.

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

We wanted to expose the class to new sounds and spaces and encourage them to try out new ways to move their body (for example: clap their hands, bounce, etc.).

What was most successful about your lesson?

We found that this topic was a great way to get the whole class involved. Each child was given the opportunity to explore different instruments and experiment with their new environment no matter their level of mobility.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

We suggest to other educators to have a plan for helping each child enjoy the museum visit. Bring along boppies and blankets to help those children who can’t sit up or aren’t quite as mobile.

Here are a few images from their unit on music:

DSCN1808The class started their unit on music at the National Museum of American History to see guitars from the 1960s. The educators brought along instruments for the children to use and a print of Juan Gris’ Guitar, Newspaper, Glass to use as an additional comparison. 


DSCN2160The teachers also invited a parent to come in to play a guitar for the class. Throughout this lesson the children were shown prints of guitars, a collection of different types of guitars, and given opportunity to hear and play the guitar. By providing multiple touch points it illustrated to the children that the same object can sound and look different but still have the same name. 
DSCN2194The class then moved on to the piano. A SEEC educator from the toddler classroom came to play some music with the children. 
DSCN2209They had a wonderful time exploring the keyboard and hearing the different sounds it could make.

DSCN2486Katy, Nessa, and Noel then introduced the children to a genre of music, Bollywood. The class went up to the Beyond Bollywood Exhibit: Indian Americans Shape the Nation (http://smithsonianapa.org/beyondbollywood/)  at the National Museum of Natural History to listen to music, play some instruments, and try out some dance moves.

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DSCN2476The educators brought along a blanket for the children to help make the space feel cozy and welcoming. The children had a wonderful time using the instruments and seeing themselves in the mirror. 

DSCN2512The group then hopped into the strollers to listen to some of the Bollywood music found in the gallery.

DSCN2531Their last stop was outside of the exhibit to see large mirrors with images of different dancers. The educators helped demonstrate some of the poses and a few of the infants even tried them out.

This class had a wonderful time learning about music! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Four Year Old Classroom Explores Don Quixote

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Emma Cowan-Young and Carrie Heflin. Their four year old classroom was learning about Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and decided to spend a day talking about the royal court. The class began this exploration because the students were very interested in the Camelot unit done in another classroom. Emma and Carrie liked how the other class had discussed chivalry and being knightly to one another, so they decided to do a similar unit but with their own spin. Carrie had recently seen The Man of La Mancha and realized it would be a great  way to connect the castle and knight theme with a wonderful story of someone who uses their imagination to make the world a better place. Below you will find a reflection from Emma and images from their lesson.

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What were your topics of exploration?

This lesson was a part of our exploration of the literary masterpiece, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. In particular, this lesson focused on the part of the story where Don Quixote visits a Spanish roadside inn, which he actually believes is a magnificent castle. He envisions the grumpy innkeeper as the lady of the castle, and the young, poor waitress as a beautiful princess named Dulcinea. I took Don Quixote’s visions as an opportunity to teach the class about medieval castles, more specifically, who used castles during this time period.

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

I wanted the class to be able to identify the people who used castles. I also wanted the children to differentiate between the people who lived in the castle (i.e. Queen, King, Prince, Princess) and those who worked in the castle (i.e. knights, squires, stable boys). By taking the children to see a real crown that belonged to a member of royalty, I was able to illustrate how important those kings and queens were during the medieval time period.

What was most successful about your lesson?:

I believe that the most successful part of the lesson was the children’s comprehension of the importance of the royal family. In much of the literature they are exposed to, kings and queens, princes and princesses, are presented as fictional and magical characters. Through this lesson, I believe the children understood better that royal families were once real (and in some places still are) and had jobs overseeing their land or territory.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?:

If I were to do this lesson again, I would pick a more accessible object. The Gem Hall at Natural History is not the most ideal space for a museum circle, and the cases were at a height level that made it difficult for the children to see with ease. A possible replacement object could be a portrait of a royal family adorned in their fanciest attire.

Here are a few images from their unit on Don Quixote:

DSCN2061Emma began her lesson at the National Museum of Natural History in the Gems and Minerals Exhibit. She gathered the group in front of the Maire Louise Diadem. 
DSCN2064Emma had printed out images of the court before the lesson and had the group work together to identify the different members of the royal court. She then had the group decide which people would work vs. live in the castle. 
DSCN2080The group then spent time looking at the diadem and Emma brought along a crown for the children to try on. Emma then went into greater detail about the duties and role of the royal family.

DSCN2093Emma ended her lesson on the royal family by reading King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey  Wood. She asked the children to show her a thumbs up if they heard one the names of the people who work or live in a castle.

DSCN2099On the way out of the gallery, the children took a closer look at the diadem.
DSCN2105When the group got back to the classroom they began making their own diadems.

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DSCN2122 They were a huge hit!
DSCN2126Previously during this unit, the class made their own sock horses. This child was excited to try out wearing his crown while riding his horse.

This class had a wonderful time learning about the royal court! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!