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!

Teacher Feature: Four Year Old Classroom Explores The Invisible Man

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Nicole Pyles. Her four year old classroom was learning about The Invisble Man by H.G Wells and decided to spend a day talking about the digestive system. Below you will find a reflection from Nicole and images from her lesson.

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What were your topics of exploration?

The Digestive System- Via the story of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

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

I hoped that my class would begin to be able to list key parts and function of the digestive system and retell the events of chapter 12 of The Invisible Man.

What was most successful about your lesson?

I thought that the lesson was well paced and did a nice job accommodating different learning styles. I started the lesson at The Museum of Natural History in front of a human skeleton. I used a pre-kindergarten appropriate book as well as an intricate model of the human body to teach my class about the digestive system. Later, in the classroom, students created their own collage of the organs used for digestion with colorful and textured materials, which enriched the lesson with a fun and creative activity.

Overall, the goal was to illuminate a relevant plot point in the story of The Invisible Man; the idea that even though the Invisible Man (Griffin) was invisible,  he could in fact be seen when he ate and digested food. I liked that the lesson helped my students understand the science themes in the book, as well as helped create an idea of the journey of the character Griffin in our story.

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

When doing an involved art lesson, it is very important to organize your materials very thoroughly. We created several different parts of the human digestive system, so it is necessary to have the material well organized for each student before the lesson.

Here are a few images from their unit on The Invisible Man:

DSCN1992Nicole and her co-teacher decided to read The Invisible Man  by H.G. Wells after their class was introduced to Mr. Invisible in a The Secrets of Droon book. The kids really latched on to the character and would often set a place for him during snack. These teachers decided to connect that character to the one in the H.G. Wells classic and the students loved it! The group would read a chapter or two of the book each day and focus their lesson on topics discussed. In one chapter, H.G. Wells describes how the organs of the Invisible Man can not be seen but the food can. The kids had a great time imagining a piece of bread floating in the air slowly disappearing. Nicole decided to teach the group about the human digestive system in front of the skeletons at the National Museum of Natural History. She brought along a model to illustrate the digestive organs that were no longer inside of the human body on view.

DSCN1993Nicole walked the group through the different parts of the digestive system by showing the organ in the model, the written name, and location of it on her own body.

DSCN2017 The kids had a fun time finding the coordinating organ on their own bodies.

DSCN2020When they returned to the classroom the group each had an outline of a body and a bowl full of “organs” made out of different materials.

DSCN2024They started with a straw for the esophagus.

DSCN2037This child is working on making his large intestine with tissue paper.

DSCN2040Here is the (almost) final product! A straw for the esophagus, balloon for the stomach, string for the small intestine, tissue paper for the large intestine, and a sponge for the liver (not shown).

This class had a wonderful time learning about the digestive system and The Invisible Man! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Tina Brimo. Her three year old classroom was learning about super heroes before heading into a unit on art. Tina and her co-teacher decided to use the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a way to transition. Below you will find a reflection from Tina and images from some of her lessons.

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What were your topics of exploration?

After learning about superheroes, my co-teacher and I asked our class what topic they would like to study next. Among the many answers were “Ninja Turtles”. So we thought why not study art! We used the artists that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are named after as a bridge from superheroes to art. I was very excited for this unit mainly because I knew the topic could easily connect something familiar to the children to the unfamiliar art of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo.

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

I had a few objectives not only for this particular topic but for our entire unit. First, being a school in a museum, I wanted my class to continue to build their knowledge of art history. I especially wanted them to be able to recognize familiar works and artists.  Second, I incorporated various techniques and tools used to create the art so that the children could experience the process of art making.  I wanted them to start learning to appreciate the journey.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The entire unit was a success!  Personally, I loved visiting the Capitol and seeing the art in the ceiling with my class and fellow teachers. It was amazing to see the looks on their faces after demonstrating to them how Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine Chapel and they had the opportunity to do their own “ceiling” paintings. At the end of our art unit, we had a gallery show.  We had many VIP guests, including parents and the Officer who gave us the tour of the Capitol. It was beautiful. Reflecting back, I think I have met my objectives. The children love being able to recognize paintings in books and in the museums. On a recent visit to Air and Space a child even exclaimed, “Tina, look it’s da Vinci’s Flying Man.”

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

Had I known that my class would be so interested in this topic, I would have expanded a bit more on each artist. I also would suggest having them build one of  Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions together. The children could come up with the materials needed and the steps to build their creation. It would be a great team work exercise.

Here are a few images from their unit on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

DSCN1827Tina started the unit by visiting the National Gallery of Art. She wanted an art rich environment to help introduce the different artists. DSCN1832Tina brought along metal bowls to represent the shells of the turtles. She then explained that each Teenage Ninja Turtle was named after a different real-life artist. Tina printed images of the artist and coordinating turtle. The group took turns looking at different images that these artists created. Including, Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci they were sitting in front of in the National Gallery.

DSCN1851Each day Tina introduced a new Turtle. For her lesson on “Mikey” or Michelangelo she focused on his Sistine Chapel. She showed the group how he would get high on a ladder and paint the ceiling.

DSCN1854Tina projected an image of the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of the classroom so the children could have the experience of looking at the work from below. 
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The class had a chance to try out drawing on the “ceiling” by laying down under a table with markers and paper.
DSC00066 (1)The group then went to the U.S. Capitol to see the Apotheosis of Washington on the ceiling of the rotunda. (http://1.usa.gov/1C1Qmmm)

DSCN1939For Tina’s lesson on “Leo” or Leonardo da Vinci she took the group to the National Air and Space Museum to see a life-size model of the Flying Man. 

DSCN1949Tina reminded the group that da Vinci was well known for his paintings but explained that he was also an inventor and made many sketches of his ideas.

DSCN1984Under the flying man, the children took turns looking through some of da Vinci’s illustrations and creating their own models. 

This class had a wonderful time learning about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the artists they’re named after! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Preschoolers Explore Calder

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Justin Pyles. Justin is our Art Enrichment Educator who works with all of our classrooms. Based on the interests of the preschool children he decided to spend some time teaching them about Calder. Below you will find a reflection from Justin and images from some of his lessons.

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What were your topics of exploration?

In this lesson we were looking at the artist Alexander Calder and exploring the concept of balance. This was accomplished through circle time, art activities, and a trip to the National Gallery of Art (NGA), to look at his epic mobile in the foyer of NGA East Court.

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

The learning objective for the students was twofold. First, I wanted the students to understand the concept of balance and how it applies in art. Next, I wanted students to meet Sandy (the affectionate name given to Alexander Calder). Calder has a unique child centered attitude towards the creative process that makes him a perfect introduction into the lives of the people behind the art.

What was most successful about your lesson?

I thought the museum activity was particularly effective and innovative. Giving the students the opportunity to understand the concept of balance through the use of wire, beads, and shapes in front of the large scale mobile created an authentic experience of the concept while observing it in practice.

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

I think there are many variations on how to enact any lesson and would encourage teachers to be flexible, positive, and respond to the needs of the children and the museum environment. It is such a blessing and asset to have the resources available to the educators at SEEC!

Here are a few images from his unit on Calder:

DSCN0875Justin began his lesson by introducing Alexander Calder to the group. He explained that his nick name was “Sandy” and that he loved to make lots of different types of sculpture. He read the group Roarr: Sandy’s Circus  by Maria Kalman and showed them some images of Calder’s work on the iPad. Justin also brought out some of the materials and tools that Calder would use to make his sculptures.

DSCN0884The group then headed off to the National Gallery of Art to see a large example of Calder’s work.

DSCN0893Justin explained to the group that this type of work is called a mobile because it is a moving hanging sculpture. He encouraged the children to spend time watching the mobile to see how it moved slowly around in the space.

DSCN0896Justin then described how the mobile had to be perfectly balanced so that it would move around without tipping over. To demonstrate that concept he used a slightly bent wire with shapes attached on one side. On the other side of the wire he gradually added beads to balance the wire on his finger.

DSCN0898 DSCN0902 DSCN0903 DSCN0907The children had a wonderful time working together in teams trying to balance their own mobile sculptures.

This class had an awesome time learning about Calder! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Kindergartners Explore Insects

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Cathryn Kis. Her kindergarten class was learning about insects and decided to spend a day learning about mosquitoes. Below you will find a reflection from Cathryn and images from some of her lessons.

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What were your topics of exploration?

We set out to explore what insects are, what makes an insect an insect, how many insects are in the world and other fun filled facts that caught our curiosity. We worked on defining the characteristics of insects and how they are the same or different. The class was particularly interested in the most unique or dangerous. We had fun using the Insect Hall in National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) as well as Dr. Adamski, an entomologist at NMNH, to get a wonderful hands on experiences with insects.

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

I wanted the children to learn about the mosquito through both folklore and scientific research. I liked the idea of being able to use one topic and make it span across many different areas of learning. We read the story Why Do Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema and I wanted the children to work on sequencing. Since the group enjoyed this story, I used it as a way to practice as well as a way to define the various story elements. The children worked collectively as a team on this activity and had open discussions about which parts of the story went where. From the science aspect,  I wanted the children to use the museum as a way to learn facts and identify the different parts of the mosquitoes.

What was most successful about your lesson?

What I found most successful, was the fact that the children were able to retell the story, put the parts in the correct sequence and have fun doing the activity. They were able to take the information they learned and play a chase game on the playground using the mosquito buzzing sound and acting out some of the other parts of the story.

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

I might have had an additional set of story cards to sequence. By dividing the class into two small groups, the children would have needed to collaborate and also take on more responsibility in the activity. This may have led to even deeper discussions of the story and given me an opportunity to see which kids needed more practice with this skill. In addition, I think that providing puppets for each character in the story would give the children a wonderful opportunity to become the storyteller for their peers.

If you are planning to use this lesson in a museum I recommend arriving early. At times it was difficult to hear the sound of the mosquito despite the speaker we brought along to use in the space. I also suggest having a hands on specimen of a mosquito to better explore the different parts of the insect.

Here are a few images from their unit on mosquitoes:

DSCN1712Cathryn began her morning gathering with a fill-in-the blank activity. The chart outlines for the children what their day will look like and also gives them an opportunity to practice their writing.

DSCN1720 Before the lesson, Cathryn made cards ahead of time that had images of the characters and labels that sectioned the book into categories. The class had been reading Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema so they were familiar with the characters and plot line during this lesson. She asked the group to remind her of the different characters in the story.

DSCN1724As Cathryn read the story, she worked with the group to move the characters to the different categories.


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DSCN1739During their journal time she had the students create their own characters to further emphasize the different components of a story.

DSCN1744The group headed to the museum in search of a mosquito. They found one in the Last American Dinosaur exhibit located in the National Museum of Natural History (http://www.mnh.si.edu/fossil-hall/last-american-dinosaurs/).

DSCN1764Cathryn showed the group images of the different varieties of mosquitoes and pointed out the parts of their body. 
DSCN1784She then had the group listen to the sound that a mosquito makes.

DSCN1792Cathryn also brought along images from the book and had the group think about the differences and similarities between the story and scientific facts about the mosquito.

IMGP8084At the end of their unit on insects, the class hosted an exhibit!

IMGP8102Parents and other educators were invited to visit their version of the insect hall and meet with the student entomologists.

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IMGP8088Each child conducted a research project on a particular insect and was available to relay that information to visitors.

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IMGP8090They also created 3-D models of their insect. The models were housed in their “enclosures” which often featured the types of food and habitat of that insect.

IMGP8096 IMGP8097The exhibit even featured a reciption complete with insect inspired treats and snacks.

This class had an awesome time learning about insects! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Infants Explore How Things Move

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Meredith Osborne. Her mobile infant classroom was learning about how things move and decided to spend a day comparing how birds fly and fish swim. Below you will find a reflection from Meredith and images from some of her lessons.

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What were your topics of exploration?

We were exploring “How Things Move”. I always like to start with the concrete/familiar and move to the abstract, so we began the month looking at how we, as mobile infants, move our bodies. It was particularly fitting to focus on how we move, as this is a skill that all the children in my class are working on, experimenting with, and perfecting.

On this particular day, we had expanded to “How Things Move: By Land, By Air, and By Sea”. We started by visiting “The Birds of D.C.” and “Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America” exhibitions. To keep with the idea of starting based in the concrete, we went outside earlier in the week to look at the birds on the National Mall, which introduced the ideas of birds and flying. Since we were not able to touch any of the birds in the exhibitions, I brought toy stuffed birds ( falcons, mallards, and cardinals) with us to hold and explore while in the exhibition. We also listened to bird songs, tried our best to mimic the birds by flapping our arms, and attempted to copy the bird calls. Later that day, we played with feathers, felt their textures, dropped them through the air, and blew air through them.

After visiting the bird exhibitions, we moved on to “How Things Move: By Sea” and watched the fish swimming in the coral reef aquarium. While watching the fish, we talked about what we were observing and sang the song “Let’s Go Swimming” by Laurie Berkner.

In the afternoon, we dropped objects in water to see what would float and sink. I asked the group, “did anything swim like a fish?” To finish up the lesson, we did a semi structured story time (structured for the teachers in that we built a routine, but mostly unstructured for the children), where we read “The Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.” I laminated images of the characters in the books for everyone to hold while we read the story. While “The Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle did not fit perfectly into the lesson for the day, it did fit perfectly into the overall lesson of “How Things Move” and we had been reading it all week to become familiar with it. By reading it daily, the book quickly became one of our favorites. We ended the storytime by singing our closing song, “If You are happy and You Know It!”

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

For this lesson, I was interested in introducing the large concepts of what floats and flies. I was also hoping to practice some gross motor skills through flapping our hands like birds and to provide a sensory experience through touching water and feathers.

However, with this age learning objectives are very fluid. My goal is to provide the children with a new experience and see how they interpret it and work to make it their own.

 What was most successful about your lesson?

In a word: Experimenting. In a reflection on our classroom, one of my teaching partners explained she likes “how we try new things and are not afraid of it.” It can be hard to experiment, because you need to find the balance between routine / stability and the change that comes with trying new things. Both routine and new experiences are vitally important to the mobile infants; it is the challenge of the teacher to make sure that the classroom has an appropriate balance of both for each individual child.

Experimenting can also be a difficult thing to observe. I go into the classroom everyday knowing that I am experimenting and changing variables to see how the children will react. As a result, this means that no lesson will be the ideal. For this particular observation, we had just started doing our semi structured story time. We, as teachers, were working to establish a routine and the children, as learners, were working to comprehend the purpose of story time. It was exciting to do, but it had not been worked out fully. We have changed several things about our story time format and continued to make our stories more interactive since this lesson took place.

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

I would recommend that other teachers observe their mobile infants carefully and try to change the lesson according to the child or group of children’s individual needs and interests. Planning is very important for mobile infants. It is good to plan an experience that starts with the concrete and moves slowly towards the abstract, but do not be upset if your lesson does not fully jump into the abstract, as that is not developmentally appropriate. Provide experiences that involve all the senses if possible. Reach for ways to incorporate touch, taste, smell, and sound; do not rely purely sight. Always have new things for little hands to hold and explore while they are looking at an object. Enjoy your time interacting with the children! It is your opportunity to learn from them as much as they are learning from you!

Here are a few images from their unit comparing the movement of birds and fish:

DSCN1613Meredith began their lesson by passing out different stuffed birds for the group to hold and explore. They then headed straight to The National Museum of Natural History to see the “Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America” (http://bit.ly/16SbzAu).


DSCN1636As they wandered through the galleries they worked on matching their bird to the ones on exhibit.

DSCN1647Meredith had pre-downloaded sound bites of the different birds to share with the child once they had made a match.

DSCN1656When the duck was matched the group all quacked and flapped their “wings.”

DSCN1659The group then headed up to the Ocean Hall (http://bit.ly/1zLDrSx) to watch some fish in action.

DSCN1667The group was mesmerized and loved being able to get so close to the fish.

DSCN1672While looking at the fish, Meredith lead the group in singing “Let’s Go Swimming” by the Laurie Berkner Band.

DSCN1689After nap, the children gathered to read the Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. Meredith had printed and laminated images from the book to give the children something to interact with during the story.

DSCN1699 DSCN1700Once they had finished, Meredith passed out feathers to the children. The group had a great time blowing on the feathers and watching them float to the ground.

 

This class had an awesome time learning about how things move! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!