Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores Gardening

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Erin Pruckno. Her three year old classroom was learning about Eric Carle and Erin decided to spend a week focusing on The Tiny Seed. Below you will find a reflection from Erin and images from her lesson.

Gardening_Cover

What were your topics of exploration?

In this unit, we were using the books of Eric Carle to engage with a variety of topics that our class wanted to explore, topics like animals, food, rainbows, and more. This particular lesson was from our week on plants, using The Tiny Seed to guide us. We focused on the parts of a plant, the plant life cycle, what plants need to grow, and in this lesson, how we garden to care for plants.

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

One of my objectives for this lesson was for the students to develop a sense of their role in tending plants—many of them are interested in the plants on our playground, so I wanted to encourage their sense of responsibility in caring for the natural environment. I also wanted to foster their language development by introducing new vocabulary for the different tools we use to garden, which would also add new elements to their dramatic play. Finally, we used the lesson as an opportunity to organically build letter recognition and phonemic awareness as we named and labeled the different tools.

What was most successful about your lesson?

My students really enjoyed picking out and adding tools to our poster of “Gus the Gardener.” Making it into a game by telling them to close their eyes and pick is always a hit too! I also think that the lesson was successful in encouraging my class to think about the sounds associated with letters as they matched a label with text to the corresponding image of a gardening tool. They also were quick to pick up on the new vocabulary, using the words for tools they previously didn’t know as they played with them on the playground later that day!

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

The fun part of this lesson is that it doesn’t have to just be about gardening! I’ve also used a similar format to introduce the job of a paleontologist and all the tools he or she needs to dig. It could also work for exploring other occupations, like doctors or builders. During the museum portion of our visit, we were very lucky that there were two paintings side-by-side that allowed us to compare and contrast gardening indoors versus outdoors. Another teacher could accomplish the same thing by bringing in an image of a different kind of garden in another painting, or by comparing and contrasting two different photos or prints if they can’t make it to a museum. Visiting indoor and outdoor gardens would be another opportunity for making comparisons about the kinds of gardening and the tools we need.

 

Here are a few images from their unit on gardening:DSCN2891Erin’s class was spending time exploring the wonderful world of Eric Carle and decided to spend a week on his book, The Tiny Seed.

DSCN2886The group had read The Tiny Seed several times throughout the week so Erin decided to have the class work together to re-tell the major plot points.

DSCN2889Erin then read a new book to the group: A Seed Grows by Pamela Hickman. The book introduces the different tools used in gardening.
DSCN2898Erin brought out some of the tools found in the book and introduced the group to her illustration: “Gus” the gardener.

DSCN2904 DSCN2922“Gus” needs his tools! Erin invited each child to pick a picture of a garden tool and add it to the image. They all worked together to try and identify the different images.

DSCN2937Erin then had a second bag with the names of each tool and invited them to pick a word and match it to the image on the sheet.

DSCN2939The class then headed out to the National Gallery of Art (NGA). On their way into the museum one of the NGA gardeners invited the students to check out his gardening tools.

DSCN2960The final stop was to see Miro’s The Farm and Matisse’s Pot of Geraniums. Erin asked the group to do some close looking and describe what they saw in the two paintings. She emphasized that these paintings were both of gardens but one would be found indoors and the other outdoors. Erin then brought out “Gus” and had the group work together to identify which tools could be used to plant in either garden or both.

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

What is a Smithsonian Early Explorer?

Recently SEEC and the National Museum of Natural History formed a new partnership. We are already lucky enough to have two spaces inside this amazing museum and now, we will be offering a very special program in NMNH’s Q?rius jr. Discovery Room. This brand new early learning initiative, Smithsonian Early Explorers (SEE), builds on SEEC’s 25 years of success combining the best in early learning practice and the rich environments of the Smithsonian Institution. A small cohort of young learners, together with their caregivers, will have access to the best of the Smithsonian Institution and a curriculum focused on STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Here’s a small taste of what to expect.

Museum

Classroom

Free Play

Learn More

Smithsonian Early Explorers FAQ’s
Registration
Cynthia Raso: rasoc@si.edu or 202-633-0121

Summer Fun: Building Collections with Your Child

If you have a child in elementary school, they have probably come home with some sort of summer packet. I’ve seen the “packet” take various forms: from a list of innovative ways to encourage reading to a dull packet of worksheets. Either way, parents and educators alike want to encourage learning outside of school and during a time that has been characterized as the “summer slide.”  I hope some of the ideas on how to build a collection will inspire your family to engage in playful learning this summer. Adjust as you see fit for age and your schedule.
table
  1. Choose a topic in which your child is interested and then find a space in your home where you can place a table and don’t mind hanging things on the wall.
  2. Begin building your collection by visiting your local library and selecting several books.
  3. Find other toys and household items that you don’t mind donating tohousehold objects the cause.
  4. Use these items in a way that they can explore them with their senses, i.e. what does the flower smell like or what sound do seeds make in a bottle. Also allow them to manipulate the toys or objects so they are using they are able to discover how things work and practice their fine motor skills.
  5. Flower PartsBuild a model, draw pictures and display.
  6. Add vocabulary words.
  7. Take it outside of the home and “experience” the topic, i.e. pick flowers or keep a journal of flowers you see during your day.
  8. Looking at flowersTake to the community and visit a museum, local store, etc. Take pictures and post in the collection area.

Helpful Hints

  • Collect, create and display together!
  • Keep the collection at their height.
  • When they are ready, change it up or expand on the topic, i.e. flowers – gardening – water cycle.
  • Let them come and go on their own and edit along the way.
  • Have fun!

 

 

 

Smithsonian Pre-K Classes

Renaissance Composition 2

Acting out a Renaissance Composition

In our first blog, I talked about what the museum education department does at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center. Just to recap, we have two educators who work specifically with our classes here at the lab school. Our director, Betsy Bowers, heads our professional development efforts (more on that later) and my main responsibility is to promote and coordinate our outreach efforts for families who are not enrolled in the school.

Comparing Jackson Pollock paintings

Comparing Jackson Pollock paintings

With Labor Day in our sights, I thought it was the perfect time to take a look ahead at what we are doing for our community families. Last year, we started offering preschool courses. These courses took place over a four-week period, meeting Saturday mornings. Each course had a theme (more information) and met for two hours. In the first portion of our morning, we would do some sort of introductory activity. This activity ranged from exploring a discovery box featuring cultural objects to comparing two paintings. Almost always these activities were meant to be done independently, meaning child and caretaker working together separate from the teacher. (These classes are very literally family classes, so caretakers play an important role). After our initial work, we would come together in a circle to discuss what they had done. Our discussion led us to an introduction to the museum visit.  

Cary teaching

Using hands-on objects to teach in the galleries

After bathroom breaks and the putting on of coats, we head to the museum for what is typically a 20-30 minute visit to one to two objects. During our visits, we use hands-on objects to engage the children in a multi-sensory experience and inquiry to guide the conversation. Museum educators are likely familiar with these approaches of object-based learning and the inquiry method. For educators who are unfamiliar with these approaches, let me suggest SEEC’s line of professional development seminars and/or MOMA’s inquiry course offered through Coursera (just completed it myself, very informative).

F2003.2

Freer Gallery of Art
Shiva Nataraja, ca. 990
Chola Dynasty, India
Bronze
Purchase–Margaret and George Haldeman, and Museum funds F2003.2

After our visit, we head back to the classroom where we wrap up with a final project.While it’s most often an art project, I do not limit myself to that platform. This is extremely helpful for two reasons; first, sometimes it is not developmentally appropriate for children to recreate the art they have just seen and second, sometimes it’s not culturally sensitive to recreate the art either. A good example of the first scenario is when I did a lesson on the Renaissance and I wanted to talk about composition. They were not up for the challenge of creating a masterpiece that depicted, balance, dynamism and fluidity. However, they could connect to these concepts by acting out their own birthday party photo and seeing the results. And when we do our class on Hinduism and visit the Freer’s Shiva Nataraja, we opt to look at videos of Bharatnatyam dance, do a sample of mudras and keep a beat with bells on our ankles. All activities are meant to build upon the concepts introduced through the lesson in a way that is interactive and self-directed.

This year we also offering infant and toddler class, so keep an eye out for future blogs about these audiences. In the meantime, let me know what is working for you with young audiences in your museum!

CREATING COLLECTIONS WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

Do you have a collection? What do you collect? If you are leaning toward “no”, think again.

On June 14th we ran our day-long seminar for professional development, Creating Collections with Young Children. After establishing soap, tea, buttons, and cooking pots are all valid collections we moved on to the Why?

Why do you collect?   Is it to preserve a memory of a moment? Is it because youwere inexplicably drawn to an item? Is it out of function? Or something you’ve just done for so long you don’t know anymore?   Weather it’s a stack of family photos, a closet of shoes, stickers for scrapbooking, or trinkets from your childhood, they all tell a story.

As humans, collecting is part of our hardwiring. From the days of our hunter-gather ancestors, we still use that natural instinct to process, categorize, and understand our world. The more exposure we have to a concept, the wider our knowledge becomes on that topic. Expanding our mind’s collection of “tree” allows for flexible thinking; it is no longer only a triangle on top of a stick but can flow from a sapling to redwood to a sculpture to a print.

We’ve all discovered the end-of-the-day pockets full of treasures on our toddlers, so we know that the drive to collect it there. They may not be able to explain to us why, but these items chronicle their story.

So how can we use this universal predilection to enhance their learning?   In our seminar we explored a collection on chopsticks, containing prints, text, advertisements, and plenty of hands-on time with the object. We discovered how important is to have a varied collection that presents one idea through multiple entry points. With this basic concept you can use collections to introduce a topic, explore a topic, or expand a topic.

Matisse chat

  • Talking about patterns? Give your students collections of wallpaper and fabric swatches. Throw in Matisse prints and shells to see how they come alive in art or nature.
  • Doing a unit on birds? Sort a collection of feathers, or create a collection of nest materials. Add in Audubon prints and binoculars and magnifying glasses.
  • Interested in the food? Bring in a collection of labels to sort. Top it off with Warhol prints and various containers.

These are just a few way that our wonderfully willing audience of teachers and museum educators brought collections to life. How can you bring collections into your classroom?

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center – Museum Education

SEEC_Castle

The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center or SEEC, as it is commonly called, was founded in 1988. It is currently housed in two locations at the National Museum of Natural History and another, at the National Museum of American History.  The school serves children ages 3 months – 6 years and boasts a staff of early childhood educators, art educators, a music educator, a resident scientist and a department of 4 museum educators.

It might seem odd for an early learning center to have a museum education department, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider all that museums have to offer young audiences.   And because of SEEC’s location on the National Mall, it is able to integrate the museum into the fabric of our students’ daily experiences.  Children are naturally curious and museums offer an ideal setting for them to explore, investigate and learn.  Encountering an object helps a child solidify their understanding of a concept and it sparks their imagination.  Whether it’s a trip to the National Zoo to see the snakes, a visit to the Castle to explore architecture or a stop at the Hirshhorn to see examples of modern art, the children are exposed to a variety of disciplines and ideas.

Sara_Vishnu1

Pre-K takes a trip to Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to see a statue of Vishnu

So, what do museum educators do here at SEEC?

  • We educate students within SEEC and the larger community – using methods unique to young learners.
  • We are a conduit between our classroom educators and the museums.
  • We maintain and offer resources to support the classroom in the form of hands-on objects, prints and books
  • We provide high quality research and information on objects within the collections and assist our classroom educators in framing that information in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • We plan special programs within SEEC and for museums across the country.
  • We have a unique understanding of museums and early childhood development and combine those perspectives to offer training to early childhood and museum educators.
  • We believe that young children can benefit from museums and we hope to encourage museum professionals to embrace them as an audience.  Similarly, we hope to encourage early childhood educators to see the museum as an informal learning environment for their students.

    Sara_Vishnu2

    Museum Ed leads Pre-K circle on Vishnu

Our hope is that our blog will open a larger dialogue about early learning and museums.  Please join us and share your thoughts!