Teacher Feature: Toddler Class Explores The Moon

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Melinda Bernsdorf. Her toddler classroom was learning about opposites and decided to spend a week learning about the sun and the moon. Below you will find a reflection from Melinda and images from her lesson on the moon.

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What were your topics of exploration?

In our classroom, we have been talking about opposites. This week, we looked at day and night, something very familiar to the kids, and discussed the differences between these two concepts. We talked about the noticeable differences in the level of light, and the different objects we see in the sky during day and night. We started in the atrium of the National Museum of the American Indian. There is a large skylight that has metal work resembling a sun which lets sunlight shine into the space. There is also a set of prisms, and as the outside light shines through, rainbows move across the walls. We then looked at the amazing star scape on the ceiling of Our Universes in the National Museum of the American Indian. To focus our attention, we brought “telescopes” we made earlier in the week, and found shapes in the stars. To deepen our discussion on the moon, we talked about the texture of the surface, and each child was able to imprint their own Styrofoam moon with finger shaped craters. We also talked about how our actions are different in the day and night. There was lots of discussion about sleep and play.

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

Exploring opposites is always a great way to involve our kids in scientific discovery and early math skills. I want the kids to become more familiar with the vocabulary on these subjects. We compare and contrast, and talk about observation and investigation. In this lesson, I wanted to bring the attention of the children to a more complex conversation about an everyday experience. I also wanted them to have a great immersive experience, reading about the sun and brightness in the atrium where they could see it shining through the prisms, casting rainbows on the walls, as well as talking about the moon and stars while sitting with “telescopes” under a night sky.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The kids really enjoyed the telescopes. They recognized their work from earlier in the week and felt a sense of ownership and pride as their art project became a tool. They focused on the stars and moon longer when using the telescopes, and having a tactile object that related to the lesson helped lengthen their attention span.

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

Trying to extend our lesson with the Styrofoam moon would have worked better in the classroom. I was hoping for an art activity that would lend itself well to the museum environment, however I ended up asking toddlers to sit for too long. Between the time in the atrium and then the time under the stars, we became a bit antsy. When I attempt this lesson again, I think we might talk a little more about the moon and its surface on a different day. I would also like to expand this project by having the kids paint the newly-cratered surfaces of their Styrofoam moons with a mud or clay based liquid, and decorate the other side of the Styrofoam with orange and yellow tissue paper. This will give them a tactile object that represents both the moon and the sun. Like the telescopes, these could be made ahead, and brought with us to the museum to bring both aspects of the lesson together.

Here are a few images from their unit on opposites:

DSCN3274Melinda took the group straight to the National Museum of the American Indian for their lesson. When they first pulled into the museum she had the group stop and observe the light coming from the ceiling portal.
DSCN3277Melinda then showed the group an image of the sun and asked them to compare it to the light that was coming out of the portal. They talked about the shape and the amount of light they could see.
DSCN3282Melinda gave each child the chance to look closely at the image.
DSCN3284She also referenced a book they had read earlier in the week about the sun.

DSCN3300They then headed up to the Our Universes exhibit. The ceiling of the exhibit has a moon and is covered in stars. Melinda passed out telescopes that the children had made to help them look closely at the night sky. While the children were looking, Melinda read them Moon Game by Frank Asch.
DSCN3298The group loved looking closely at the book through their telescopes. 

DSCN3317Melinda then shared with the group an image of the moon and styrafoam circle. She talked about how the moon is covered in craters and that they were going to use their fingers to squish the foam and make their own craters.
DSCN3313They enjoyed the sensation of the foam squish beneath their fingers.
DSCN3324One little girl especially liked comparing her circle to the moon.
DSCN3329Melinda also had the group look at the House Post from the Dís hít (Moonhouse) of the Kwac’kwan Clan. She pointed out the circle shape and how the carved image on each post could reflect the different phases of the moon.

DSCN3335 DSCN3337They took one final look at the sun coming through the portal and compared the two images of the sun and moon before heading back to the classroom.

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

Teacher Feature: Infant Classroom Explores Flowers

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Noel Ulmer, Nessa Moghadam, and Katy Martins. Inspired by the spring weather and blooms, their infant class decided to paint with flowers.  Below you will find images from their painting experiences with flowers.

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Here are a few images from their unit on the flowers:DSCN2973Nessa began the lesson by reading Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. The team had the children sit in high chairs so they could have a nice flat and accessible surface to do their painting.

DSCN2977The children were first provided with silk flowers to touch and explore.

DSCN3003The children used all their senses!

DSCN2999Then it was time to try out painting with the flowers.  The teachers had pre-made sheets with a vase for the children to add their flower prints.

DSCN3008The teachers added a clothes pin to the shortened stem of the silk flower so they would be able to get a better grip. This was great activity for them to work on their fine motor skills. In addition, the babies began to notice that the painted blossom leaves marks where ever it lands.

DSCN3012DSCN3030The children were interested in exploring the painted flower in many different ways, including smelling and touching the wet paint.

DSCN3023They had a great time!


DSCN3045The teachers decorated their room with images of flowers, art prints, and images of the children. After painting, this little girl came over to check out the paper flowers on the wall.

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

Teacher Feature: Toddler Class Explores Liquid

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

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

What were your topics of exploration?

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

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

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

What was most successful about your lesson?

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

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

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

Here are a few images from their unit on liquid:

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

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

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


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

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

Springtime Fun: Full STEAM Ahead

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It has been a long time coming, but spring is finally here and it is the perfect time to introduce your child to some of the changes that are occurring right in front of their eyes. I recently did a lesson on clouds for a family workshop and that, coupled with, some fantastic lessons from my fellow teachers was the inspiration for this blog. These ideas are a blend of natural observation, art, science and museum visits and have all the components of STEAM. STEAM is a popular and important educational movement, which advocates for using science, technology, engineering, art, and math as a means through which children can learn and develop critical thinking skills.

Parents, remember you are your child’s teacher too. When you teach them you are expanding their world,  sharing your interests and bonding. Don’t feel like you have to be a Pinterest guru and spend hours developing a lesson or buying materials. Instead, keep it simple and have fun by using ideas that are easily accessible and follow your own interests.

Clouds and Rain

Natural Observation

  • Walk outside during a light rain and enjoy the feeling of the water or notice the water droplets on the leaves.
  • Feel the ground after a rainstorm and notice the difference in texture and weight when it’s wet.
  • Notice how the sidewalk changes color after its wet.
  • Take a picnic to a nearby park and spend time observing the clouds. Look for shapes and movement.

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  • Fill a cup with water and top it off with shaving cream. Add food coloring. Eventually the food coloring will begin to fall when the shaving cream is too full, just like rain falls when a cloud is too full of water.
  • For infants and toddlers, they will enjoy watching the color and might not understand the concept of the cloud, it will help them understand from where rain comes.  Consider using different colors and having fun with it.

Literacy

  • Eric Carle’s The Cloud works well for infants through preschoolers. When you are reading to your child, remember to include them in the book too. In this book, for example, you could ask them what sounds a sheep makes or encourage them to move their arms like a wave when the cloud passes over the ocean in the story.
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3-year-olds at the National Gallery of Art

Museum Visit

  • Choose a straightforward piece like Ships in Distress of a Rocky Coast by Ludolf Backhuysen at the National Gallery of Art and bring a few simple scarves to reenact the wind from the storm.
  • Choose something more imaginative like the Dangerous Logic of Wooing by Ernesto Neto at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. We made  tactile clouds by filling white nylons with marshmallows. Even the adults loved them.
  • Don’t live in DC? Visit your local museum or explore these pieces online with your child–that is some worthwhile screen time.

Art Project

  • Make your own clouds with blue construction paper, cotton balls and glue.
  • Make umbrellas using a half paper plate and Popsicle stick. We used do-a-dot markers to decorate them. These are not messy and the perfect size for older infants and toddlers to use.

Gardening

Now that you have had some fun with clouds and rain, your child might be interested in other, related topics. Here are a few more ideas!

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  • Get out the sand toys and play in the dirt. If you want to keep things a little neater, you can always grab a large tub and fill it with dirt. I find that a little goes a long way. The sensory experience will give infants and toddlers the chance to experience different textures and to practice filling and dumping.
  • Preschoolers might enjoy the opportunity to plant a few seeds and watch the outcome of their efforts. Not only will they see the physical changes that will occur, but they will likely take ownership and pride in their planting.

Museum Visit

  • Local gardens are everywhere! Even if you just visit a neighbor’s garden.
  • Visit a farmer’s market.
  • My top DMV choices are: the Victory Garden at the National Museum of American History, the US Botanical Gardens and Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring

Fun in the Kitchen_SAM0126

  • Use this chocolaty recipe for making dirt and include some gummy worms for added realism. The kitchen is a great place for a young child to learn because of the countless learning and developmental opportunities like: math – sorting, counting measuring, fine motor skills – pouring, stirring, sensory input, practice working together and following directions.

Literacy

  • Lois Ehlert’s books Eating the Alphabet or Planting a Rainbow.
  • Flower Garden by Eve Bunting and Kathleen Hewitt

Keep visiting us for more ideas. Enjoy your time together and the beautiful spring weather.

 

 

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: 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!