Teacher Feature: Toddlers Explore the Ocean

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Dana Brightful. Her toddler classroom was learning all about the ocean and decided to spend a day focusing on anemones. Below you will find a reflection from Dana and images from some of her lessons.


What were your topics of exploration?

Our topics of discussion that week were Oceans and Coral Reefs. We specifically focused on symbiotic relationships between clown fish and sea anemones and the importance of coral reefs and octopi.

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

My main goal for this particular group of children was for them to understand the importance of working together like the sea anemone and clown fish. This group is working on building their relationships with each other and to consistently work cooperatively.The activities that were included in this unit encouraged hand holding and the importance of collective responsibility in the classroom.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The children really remembered the vocabulary words like coral, ocean, clown fish and even anemone. Also, that week, the group was particularly successful walking together as partners holding hands and even beginning to identify the feelings of their classmates.

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

I would actually have done the tunnel portion (hiding from the shark) in an open space, like the classroom. The space in the museum or smaller spaces proved to be a challenge and the idea/ concept was lost on the group.

Here are a few images from her unit on anemones:

DSCN1450Dana stared the lesson by asking the group to dive into the ocean.

DSCN1458Down on the ocean floor they found coral, an anemone, and sand. The group took turns passing around the different items and reviewing the different sea creatures they had studied earlier in the week.

DSCN1461Dana then explained how clown fish live in anemones. The anemone keeps the clown fish safe and in turn it keeps the anemone clean. To emphasize this point she used puppets to sing a song about their relationship. Here are the lyrics  (sung to the tune of ‘This Old Man’): I hide you, you clean me, clown fish and anemone, They work together can’t you see? Living in the coral reefs!


DSCN1475The group then walked up to the Natural History Ocean Hall to see the clown fish in action.

DSCN1485After they had a chance to observe the fish, they ventured over to Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry (http://bit.ly/1CklPMe) to see a photograph of an anemone. Sitting in front of the photo, Dana introduced the game they were going to play in the museum. She was going to be an anemone and a child was going to be a clown fish. Dana used a paper plate, streamers, and string to create an anemone hat. She also made an additional hat out of a paper plate with the colors of a clown fish. The children took turns wearing the hat and pretending to be a clown fish.

DSCN1487 DSCN1489She asked one of the other teachers to be a predator trying to catch the clown fish and Dana told the children to quickly hide in the anemone (the tunnel). The kids had a blast playing in the museum.

The class had a wonderful time studying oceans and has now swum on to their next topic. Check back next week for another teacher feature!


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.



Free Play

Learn More

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

Perfect Spring Break Family Museum Visit

signSpring and summer break are just around the corner and I know a lot of our parents are looking for some local, inexpensive family outings. Well, look no further than the Museum of Natural History. I am sure a lot of families have done it’s most popular features but, for this visit we are headed up to the top floor to  Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation. This jem has a lot to offer the younger child in your family.

First, it’s spacious, colorful and inviting. Read our recent blog on environment – it makes a difference.

Second, there are a lot of mirrors.  From infants to preschoolers, mirrors are fascinating portals to understanding more about themselves and how their bodies work.

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One of SEEC’s classes practices their yoga.

Finally, there are interactive sections where you can listen to music, watch a video and sit at a table set with Indian food. This will give your child different types of sensory input and provide a chance for some dramatic play.

Depending on the age of your children, you can choose to approach the exhibit from several perspectives, here are some ideas:

 families6 months – 18 months: Babies are learning to recognize themselves and their families. Take the time to look in a mirror and identify baby and yourself. Describe your features and talk about your similarities and differences. Head over to the family photos and pull up a family photo on your phone. Compare it to the families on the exhibit wall. At home, share a book about families or sit down and make a toy family. This is a great opportunity to begin talking about how not all families are the same. Even at such a young age, you can begin to lay a foundation for understanding and respecting diversity.

listening station19 months – 3.5 years: Toddlers love music and dancing, so it is great that this exhibit features a listening station. Pick a couple of tracks and see if you can compare their tempo or guess the instruments. You might simply ask which their favorite was. Give them a chance to dance to the music and then go to the outer hallway and see the images of Indian dancers. Notice how the dancers are moving their body and what they are wearing. Build on the experience at home by listening to more Indian music or discovering that of another country. Look up a few videos highlighting different Indian dances and watch them together on a tablet or computer. Similar to the infant experience, introducing your toddler to the arts of other countries will help them gain an appreciation of their culture and, those of others.

photo (5)Preschoolers – Early Elementary:  A great way to connect with young children is to begin with their personal experiences. Since food is universal, the table would be a great place to begin a conversation about the foods we eat at home or at our favorite restaurants. The exhibit can teach children about food from India AND about the many cultures that contribute to the food we eat in the United States. If food doesn’t interest your child, consider talking about some of the notable Indian Americans like football player, Brandon Chillar or fashion designer, Naeem Khan.

Finally, consider going to visit the Freer and Sackler’s collection of Indian art on another visit or grabbing a bite of Indian food at the Natural History’s café.

Like with any visit, keep in mind some of these helpful tips for visiting a museum with your kiddos and enjoy!!