A love for teaching young children

Supporting parents in the educating of their child













Saturday, May 4, 2019

Constructivist science activities on ECE level with water concepts and nature table

photo from www.teachpreschool.org; retrieved online 5/4/2019


"Research and practice suggest that children have a much greater potential to learn than previously thought, and therefore early childhood settings should provide richer and more challenging environments for learning. In these environments, guided by skillful teachers, children’s experiences in the early years can have significant impact on their later learning. In addition, science may be a particularly important domain in early childhood, serving not only to build a basis for future scientific understanding but also to build important skills and attitudes for learning." from Karen Worth's article Fall 2010 "Science in Early Childhood Classrooms: Content and Process"
Science activities that allow children to explore and build their knowledge and skills is the premise for this post:


Examples:

1.  image from The Mailbox--2nd and 3rd grade level electronic newsletter--water depth and pressure experiment; place a soda 2 liter bottle with 2 holes taped over then filled with water and sealed into a tub kind of bin or pan; remove tapes at same time while asking the children to guess where the water will come from first; and ask them why it happened where it did

2. image from The Mailbox--2nd and 3rd grade level electronic newsletter--condensation phase of water cycle experiment; add water to the fill line on the cup; seal tight in the plastic bag; place in a window that gets good sunlight (solar heat); when will evaporation (and later--how much evaporates) take place...can children see the condensation?



3. the water station exploration activities photo is from www.nstacommunities.org; retrieved online 5/4/2019; children can explore gravity and flow; volume with different sizes of containers and funnels; even a sponge can be saturated and see how much can be squeezed out and measured


4. this next example is not to shame the website Education.com but to show how a worksheet can be the inspiration or springboard for a teacher to guide her/his children's curiosity 

Cut apart the images, laminate or place inside sealed clear plastic bags and display on a wall or tabletop where children can do sink and float comparisons. A bowling ball (pink item with 3 holes) is not practical for an indoor classroom environment so make that one a button; same for the log--impractical but a twig would be ideal; a small apple; a rubber duckie; key; and horseshoe magnet complete the list of items.

 A large clear storage tote filled about 1/3 with water should be enough to either suspend or not these objects.

 Place a large beach towel or shower liner underneath in case a child or two are exuberant with putting items into the water.

 Extend the exploratory time during the next couple of sessions by asking children for suggested classroom items to try. (crayon, pencil, wooden spool vs plastic spool; paper clips of different sizes; plastic lids; etc.)

My understanding and application of the constructivist theories in cognitive development is to allow children opportunities to explore and experiment with the teacher guiding and providing materials first. Then as youngsters are asking questions and showing desire to change, inspect, and analyze, vocabulary, facts, data, and skills can be shared later. For the above sink or float activity, gravity and buoyancy are large words for little ones. How can those be defined in basic terms?

Are daycare centers, preschools, and primary elementary grade classrooms still allowing exploratory learning?

Or has this disappeared under the 'umbrella' of testing and assessment?

Let me know in the comments on how early childhood science is approached.

From the USA heartland,
Becca S





Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Constructivist theory in ECE classrooms and is it still being used today

Recently I learned that the teacher education program at Ohio Christian University in Circleville, Ohio promotes Constructivist theory and practices. I was very excited to learn this because I really enjoyed researching about Jean Piaget and Les Vygotsky while getting certified for FACS and working on my master's degree that has an emphasis in early childhood education.

To start my research, I found an article that is a general overview about constructivist practice in the classroom:

https://classroom.synonym.com/childcentered-approach-early-childhood-education-8614207.html

From 2017, I have found a response article about an argument within constructivist theories pitting Dewey versus Freire, but the author favors using both:

https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/07/dewey_and_freire_need_each_other_to_fight_a_greater_enemy_conventional_schooling.html


From 2011, this is another basic overview of how and why constructivism should be used in ECE classrooms. An important phrase that stood out for me as a good reminder of this theory was "trial and error":

https://www.funderstanding.com/theory/child-development/constructivism-and-the-developing-child/

Some blogs by teachers that I've enjoyed reading and following are:
a. Prekinders
b. Pre-K Pages
c. Skilled in Second
d. Not So Wimpy Teacher
e. Tara West's Little Minds at Work
f.  Preschool Plan It

*disclaimer: I'm not saying these all support constructivist theory however in the areas of science, math, social studies/community helpers, building, dramatic play, centers and tinkering trays, you will find great ideas. They also have electronic newsletter for updates and often have freebies

Another great teacher/classroom source for ideas come from The Mailbox. They have free electronic grade level newsletters; currently I'm signed up for the preschool age group and grades 2-3.

From Facebook, STEM Teacher Tribe is a great community to join. The grade levels vary but many K-4 and 5-9 as well as math specialists and science specialists, even some technology specialist teachers.

To fully follow constructivism, the teacher needs to be a facilitator and guide, the provider of a huge array of materials that children can explore, build, and collaborate with their peers whether it is putting together a tower, fort, bridge, ramp for cars, etc. Concepts and skills 'accountability' comes through conversations, before and after type KWL charts with either whole group or small groups of children that are interested in a certain topic, etc.

Educators: give me some feedback on your successes and failures with constructivism especially in today's divided school culture between heavy testing and objective stressing versus flexible individualism.

Still in love with all things ECE-related,
Becca S

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ECE Food Crafting Experiences for preschool children to enjoy

Snakes?

Cars?

Spooky houses?

Sure! Sounds fun! 

What about to eat? huh? oh, no!!!!


Have a conversation with your group about frosting, candy, plastic knives, etc. are your tools for the activity and they are not to lick their fingers or knives while assembling your food creation. As one who did food experiences exactly like these with 3s, 4s, and 5s and also as a certified grades 6-12 FACS/home economics teacher with 9 years experience teaching culinary arts, please make sure to find ways to involve each child and have all supplies available and near the work area before beginning. Those little ones will be bouncing up and down in their chairs!!! They will be so excited!

These photos are not from my experiences with preschool but have been gleaned from the internet and look more professionally done than what finished food crafting with little ones will look like. Don't fret, however. In their eyes, they've helped create a masterpiece and they will also just as quickly will want to eat and destroy it. 

That's half the fun, I think. The other half is the playful learning and building of skills that will be occurring. Fine motor skills will be strengthened when using plastic knives to frost or cut and when placing candy or cookie particles in different places. Safety concepts and skills will be reinforced when setting up and proceeding through the food crafting experience. Make sure to state real world science safety and observation skills connections while children are working. While eating, take time to question the children about sizes of different food pieces that were used for more math skills besides any measuring or counting while assembling.

Isn't this snake almost too cute to eat?!?!?! My four-year-olds did a snake or caterpillar looking creation using Twinkies for sections with green-tinted vanilla frosting to cover the outsides of each Twinkie. So each child got to unwrap one, frost it, and place it on the display tray.

Way back when working with three-year-olds for a pre-Father's Day activity, we crafted a car using a purchased pound cake for our base with a little bit of carving out, a blue-frosted graham cracker became the front windshield, and we also had chocolate-covered mini doughnuts for tires. Our car's exterior was red-tinted frosting. And I think we had black string licorice pieces to resemble wipers for our front windshield!

This is a yummy chocolate-y haunted house! Working with a group of 3 1/2 year olds, our spooky dilapidated house was made with a purchased pound cake, Swiss Cake Rolls or Ho-Hos for corner type rounded towers, crumbled Shredded Wheat cereal for dried grass, malted milk balls served as decorative stone pieces to top the corner towers, and a chocolate frosted sugar wafer cookies for the front door.

Remember with this type of food crafting of desserts, frosting is the "glue" to hold all your bits and pieces together...well, at least long enough hopefully to snap a picture and hear the oohs and ahs from the children!!!

Another tip is don't be a perfectionist when food crafting with early childhood learners. This is a playful learning opportunity for them to build fine motor, math, and science skills.