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.


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. 
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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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!

Teacher Feature: Toddlers Explore Family Traditions

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Anna Wilson. Her two year old classroom was learning all about family traditions and decided to spend a day focusing on decorations.


What were your topics of exploration?

Our class was exploring family traditions and holiday celebrations. It can often be hard to address the holidays at school because people celebrate many different things, but we decided that we could explore some of these traditions together. We spoke to each family to find out what customs they observe. We then made lessons around these ideas so the students could connect what they learn in the classroom to their home life. This particular lesson focused on holiday decorations. We explored the National Botanical Gardens to see the greenery and trains that many of our families talked about putting up each year.

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

The main objective for this lesson was for the students to learn about themselves and others in a way that they could connect to and understand. We wanted to give students opportunities to become a part of the classroom and community so that each child feels accepted and gains a sense of belonging. We also wanted to provide opportunities for our students to use their senses to explore the objects during the visit.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The students really enjoyed seeing all the wonderful plants and trains. They were engaged and excited.

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

I would recommend bringing manipulatives for the students to hold. They aren’t allowed to touch any of the decorations in this space, so something they can handle will help them stay engaged.

Here are a few images from her unit on holiday decorations:

DSCN1547The visit began at the U.S. Botanic Gardens. During the month of January the Gardens create lush scenes for model trains and decorate their green house with seasonal plants.

DSCN1559Anna and her co-teacher slowly wheeled the group through the gardens asking the group what they heard, smelled, and saw. The kids also enjoyed communicating with each other through pointing and squeals as they moved around the displays.

DSCN1570They especially loved the little tunnel in the space. Their teachers made train sounds and had the group pretend they were a train traveling underground!

DSCN1573Anna was very careful to give the group plenty of time to look. She would narrate what the group was seeing and ask them to predict where they thought the train would show up next.

DSCN1597After spending a long time looking at the trains, Anna found a quiet spot in front of the Christmas tree to gather the group. She asked the children to use their different senses to explore the tree in front of them. Anna then passed out jingle bells to each child so they could have a manipulative to use while she read Snowballs by Lois Ehlert.

DSCN1587The group explored the bells with all of their senses.

DSCN1602Anna noticed that the group was really enjoying the space and the bells and decided to read a second book (Jingle Bells by Darcy May). 

The class had a wonderful time studying family traditions. Check back next week for another teacher feature!


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!


Teacher Feature: Two Year Old Classroom Explores Trains

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Carolyn Eby. Her two year old classroom was learning all about trains and decided to spend a day focusing on the Little Red Caboose. The teachers had decided to focus on this topic because the children were showing continued interest in trains. They were pretending most objects were trains and wanted to talk about them during their walks in the community. In addition, one focus that SEEC toddlers have is walking safely together. Since they are just learning how to walk on “trains” there is a lot of interest in what trains are all about, how they stay together and, of course, train safety. This unit was able to connect all these aspects into one cohesive lesson. Below you will find a reflection from Carolyn and images from some of her lessons.


What were your topics of exploration?

Our class was spending time learning about the different parts of a railroad train such as the locomotive, tank car, and so on. We had spent the week looking at different cars and their various functions. On this specific day we were talking about the Little Red Caboose and how it keeps everyone safe.

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

I wanted the group to understand the safety function of the caboose and its location in the order of the cars. The class has a great sense of compassion for each other and characters in books and by personifying the caboose through the book Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter I was able to illustrate how the train “keeps an eye out” for the other cars.

We were also able to work on some developmental goals by involving dance and call and response during our circle.

What was most successful about your lesson?

I found that the most successful part of my lesson was the connection between the book and the work of art. We visited the Smithsonian American Art Museums to see Train in Cole Town by Jack Savitsky. Both the illustrations and painting had a funky feeling which made the flow from reading the book to looking at the art work very easy for the group to connect. It was really fun to spend time looking at the painting, imagining how it could be an extension of the text we were reading!

Surprisingly, right around the corner were several other train paintings! We decided to stop and spend some time discussing what we saw in those works. We wondered about the people riding in the passenger trains and where the rail road tracks may lead. These conversations were exciting and included thoughtful connections to previous units since the class had been spending so much time working on trains! Sometimes the best parts of a lesson are not planned!

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

It was difficult for me to think of an age appropriate activity that I could pack up and take with me to the museum. I loved singing with the kids and reading them a story, but I feel like the lesson could have made a greater connection with the group if they had a hands activity to do in the gallery. Also, I would have probably spent more time talking through the lyrics of the song which may have resulted in a more dynamic discussion.

Here are a few images from her unit on the caboose:

DSCN1509 Carolyn introduced her topic for the day by creating a small red car to add to their bulletin board train. She reviewed the parts of the train that they had previously studied and asked the group where they thought they should put this car. Carolyn then explained that this car was a caboose and it had a very special job.

DSCN1513Carolyn then played a video for the group with the tablet. It showed a musical group singing “The Little Red Caboose.”

DSCN1515Carolyn wanted to provide multiple exposures to the same song so she also sang a slightly different version with the class. She also showed them a few train movements to do while they were singing. The group loved them!

DSCN1530Following the story, the class walked up to the Smithsonian American Art Museum to see Train in Cole Town by Jack Savitsky (http://bit.ly/1xh3FWZ). They spent some time looking at the work and talking about the different parts of the train. They thought about where it might be going and how quickly or slowly it might get there. Carolyn then read The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter.

DSCN1539Carolyn asked the group if they could see similarities between the book and the painting. The children had a lot to share and were able to talk about the role of the caboose in both the book and the work of art.

DSCN1544On their way out of the museum the group spotted a few more train paintings. Subway by Lily Furedi  (http://bit.ly/1DPTbDW) served as a great way to review passenger cars. The group talked about what the people were doing on the train.

DSCN1546The children also spotted train tracks in Third Avenue by Charles L. Goeller (http://bit.ly/1BUh9yj). They wondered where they were going and what kid of train would use that type of track.

The class had a wonderful time studying trains and has now chugged along to their next topic. Check back next week for another teacher feature!


Teacher Feature: Two Year Old Classroom Explores The Human Body

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Javasa Finney. Her twos classroom was learning about the human body and decided to spend a day learning about hair and how the human body grows. Below you will find a reflection from Javasa and images from some of her lessons.


What were your topics of exploration?

During the months of October and November the Penguins were exploring the human body.  We talked about the different parts of the human body.  Some of the parts we focused on included:

  • hair
  • skin
  • mouth
  • bones
  • eyes
  • brain
  • heart

In addition to how these body parts work we had a lot of fun learning about the five senses.  We talked about nutrition, how important it is, and how what we eat affects our body. Then they made delicious food from the different food groups with my co-teachers throughout the week. We also talked about the importance of sleep and how important exercise is for the human body.  They were extremely excited to have the opportunity to go exercise at the Washington Monument.

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

I wanted the class to learn all about their amazing bodies. My main learning objective when teaching the kids about the human body was for them to learn about how important their bodies are and how to care for them. I also wanted them to learn all the bodies’ functions and abilities.

What was most successful about your lesson?

During the time we spent learning about the human body there are two lessons that I feel were extremely successful and memorable.  The first one would definitely be when a baby came to visit.  The child is currently a student in the infant class here at SEEC.  The five month old was our model for the lesson. During this lesson I talked to the Penguins about how we start out as small babies.  We talked about how different a baby’s body is compared to older people.  We talked about how when babies are born they don’t have teeth and can’t talk, walk, run, or jump.  They learned that during the first year a baby sleeps and drinks a lot and cries to communicate.  During circle time we made observations about the baby’s body and talked about how fragile it is.  Then the Penguins had the opportunity to touch him.  It was wonderful to see the children light up and respond to the child.  The second most successful and memorable human body lesson was our lesson on hair.  We learned how hair can be many colors, textures, and lengths.  We talked about the things we use to care for our hair.  Then the Penguins had the opportunity to try on wigs that were different colors, textures, and lengths. This lesson was followed up with a trip to the National Gallery of Art.  We went to look at the “Little Dancer” by Edgar Degas sculpture. First we made observations about the body and then we had the Penguins take a closer look at her braid.  The braid is made of real human hair, coated and held in place by wax.

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

During the first lesson, if I were to do this again, I wouldn’t keep the baby on my lap the entire time.  I realized later it would have been nice for the kids to see him crawling, playing, etc.   For the second lesson about hair, I would have picked a different day to go to the National Gallery of Art.  The day we went there were several trips there and the room with “Little Dancer” was extremely crowded.

Here are a few images from their unit on the human body:

DSCN1370Javasa began the week by exploring how our bodies grow and change. As a way to illustrate this development, Javasa invited a child from the infant classroom to visit. She wanted the class to look at the baby and compare his body to their own and the teachers’. Javasa explained that people start by needing a lot of help from adults but as our body changes we become more independent.

DSCN1373Javasa explained that the baby couldn’t feed himself, talk, or even walk yet. She showed how the baby would eventually learn how to do all these things as he gets older.

DSCN1382The next day the class moved on to Hair. Javasa read “Hair” by Cynthia Klingel and Robert B. Noyed to introduce the topic. The book helped students understand that people all over the world have many different types of hair and hair styles and each one is as special as the next.

DSCN1387One of Javasa’s co-teachers shared her collection of wigs as way to talk about how hair can be all different colors, textures, lengths, and styles. She explained that hair comes in a range of color but if you want certain colors (for example, pink) you would need to dye it that color.

DSCN1390She showed the group a zoomed in picture of a hair follicle. The kids couldn’t believe how the root of their hair looks.

DSCN1393Javasa went on to explain that hair can grow curly, straight, or wavy.

DSCN1397 DSCN1398The group spent a long time looking and touching their own hair.

DSCN1409Then it was time to try out new hair!

DSCN1415 DSCN1431They had a wonderful time trying on the different wigs!

DSCN1436 DSCN1438The group then walked over to the National Gallery of Art to see Degas’ “Little Dancer.” They were fascinated by how Degas used real hair for the sculpture. The children discussed the color, length and style of the dancer’s hair.

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

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.
household objects
Flower Parts
Looking at flowers
  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 to 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. Build 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. Take 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!




Pondering Play


When museum folks think of “play,” the “go to” place that comes to mind is often one of the many amazing children’s museums found across the country. For many, when used together, the words “play” and “museum” conjure images of boisterous children engaged in hands-on learning experiences in an interactive museum play space or exhibit. On the other hand, early childhood educators are inclined to think about play in the context of their classroom. A carefully structured environment supports literacy development in the dramatic play area, pre-math concepts in block building and social emotional growth during “free choice” time. Whether working in a museum setting or classroom environment, educators that work with young children recognize the power of play in developing skills essential to one’s future success in school.Transportation line up

What does “play” look like for young children in a traditional object centered museum setting? Is it possible to help early learners embrace the “free choice learning” aspect of museums in a constructive and meaningful way? On RapidIn early May, SEEC will launch a new two day professional seminar called, “Play: Engaging Young Learners in Object Rich Environments.” Museum professionals and early childhood educators will collaboratively explore potential intersections between play and traditional object centered museums. The workshop will feature new approaches to museum learning used by SEEC educators as they determine how to best connect children’s emerging interests to museum exploration. This pilot program makes use of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection and enlists the perspective and expertise of participants as workshop content takes shape over the course of the two day Smithsonian based seminar. No doubt you have some questions, considerations, or examples of your own that come to mind as we post these thought provoking questions about play in museums. Please share!

Through SEEC’s flagship seminar, “Learning Through Objects,” we have had an opportunity to present ideas about using objects and museums to build critical thinking skills in young children to hundreds of museum and classroom educators. SEEC’s latest “Play” workshop takes this foundational information to the next level as we challenge ourselves to consider how to support positive learning experiences for young children through the use of play, objects and museums. Participants will consider the role that storytelling and question asking takes in play and museums as we encourage children to become curious explorers, creative thinkers, inquisitive learners and 21st century problem solvers.

Checking Out the Car