Learning Through Play

Momma Tip: Get Messy and MIU!

As a teacher, I’ve had many experiences where lessons did not go as planned; students did not find the activities interesting and so chaos broke out in the classroom. It is at these moments when you pack everything up, put it all away, and MIU: Make. It. Up.

This happened over the weekend with my kids. I was all set on getting some projects done around the house when arguments broke out, tears were shed, and toys were everywhere. So we cleaned it all up and went outside.

Sidewalk chalk is always a good go-to for us, but we had a bunch of tiny pieces that were too small to hold. We gathered them all up in a bowl and used small dowel rods to crush them up. We added some water to help. Many of our pieces were black, so that became the dominate color.

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Once everything was crushed up, it was pretty thick but not chunky. It was a good texture for finger paint!

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Emma did not want to get messy at first. She’s always been neat and tidy, never liking much mess. As a former Pre-K teacher and creative type, “mess,” to me, is usually a side effect of discovery, creativity, and ingenuity. I always encourage my children to get messy  as long as we clean up when we’re finished.

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It didn’t take long for both of them to really dive in!

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I mean, who doesn’t want their entire hand painted???

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I was surprised to see the black handprints dried a light gray on our driveway. Emma bear-crawled up and down the driveway with her hands covered in chalk!

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They were having so much fun, all I did was sit back and take pictures!

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…because who doesn’t love these faces?!

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Once we had exhausted our homemade chalk paint, I did find some old chalk paint markers. We decided to try them out. The colors were beautiful!

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The consistency was much thinner than our homemade version, but extremely vibrant. Both kids loved the drip patterns.

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I loved that the driveway started to look like a Jackson Pollock painting!

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The sense of joy that radiated from this little one as the colors dripped onto the driveway was amazing to witness!

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They both had so much fun! I could go through and tell you all of the wonderful educational aspects they were gaining out of it, but honestly, I was a momma that was simply happy that they were happy! We were outside enjoying the sunshine and some time together making art and getting messy. Our neighbor even came over to join in on the fun!

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I’m sure we looked crazy with the kids completely a mess, both sets of shoes, clothing, and faces covered in liquid chalk, and our driveway covered…

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…but I loved every second of it! Matt came home from work right in the middle of our little project. After being married to me for 7 years he’s learned to just roll with the punches when it comes to stuff like this. 🙂

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I’ll be sad when the rain washes all of it away. I’ve definitely taken plenty of pictures, and we can always mix up another batch in the future.

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So the next time you are in your classroom or at home with the kids and the chaos train starts rolling into the station, remember to MIU! I promise you the experiences will be much more meaningful and engaging when the children are interested in what they are doing. And who knows, you may end up with priceless art on your driveway in the process. 🙂

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Wishing you well,

Heather

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Curriculum, Lesson Planning

21st Century Learning in Early Childhood

21st Century Learning in Early Childhood

What is 21st Century Learning?

The short version? The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (or P21) was the answer to major companies saying students were graduating college and were not ready for the work force. My husband who was a manager for a big-box retail store would come home complaining his associates would not be able to get projects done or would bicker and argue over the smallest details and never make actual progress. Basically, our students were graduating book smart but socially stunted. Companies like Intel, The Walt Disney Company, Ford Motors, and Pearson were looking for the “4 C’s” to be included in students’ education: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

P21Framework-copyrighted
Graphic from P21

While shown separately here to make referencing easier, P21 values all aspects in this framework, including the pools to help facilitate learning, equal in their importance. Everything is integrated into the overall outcome.

21st Century Learning in an Early Childhood Environment

The ironic thing about 21st Century Learning is most preschool and early childhood centers are already doing it. As professionals, we know better than anyone that a child learns best through play and interacting with peers. Not only that, we intentionally set up our day to have students work and learn together in groups. It is very common in the block center to see students using both woodblocks and toy animals. What usually happens is the students will use the blocks to create houses or shelters for the animals to live in. They then act out imaginative episodes with their peers. While this might seem like simple play to the average viewer, the trained early childhood professional knows it is much much more than that! Students are using their creativity and critical thinking skills to first build a shelter out of the blocks. Is it big enough? Is there a roof? They then collaborate with their peers to share their resources and build a structure together. The rest is all creativity and communication. Is it raining outside and our T-Rex needs to go to sleep? Maybe he’s hungry and needs a car to drive to the grocery store! The dramatic play here is endless. This is just one example, but learning opportunities like this happen continuously in all centers.

So if we’re already doing it, why isn’t it being recognized? Honestly, it’s because by nature teachers are modest creatures. We’re not explaining all of the learning happening during the day. We have to remember that the majority of the people we serve do not have degrees or training in any sort of education field. While it is something educators eat, breathe, and live, to the untrained eye this same dinosaur and blocks scenario just looks like simple play time. We also need to educate our parents and families on what learning looks like in early childhood because it’s not all finished worksheets, flashcards and writing samples. I always coach my teaching staff to brag about all of the learning taking place in their lesson plans. Those daily reports are their time to show off all of the wonderful experiences in their classroom so why not take credit for everything happening? If you come from a center with a prescribed lesson plan, what does your newsletter look like? What do your conferences look like? Make sure you’re giving yourself all of the credit you deserve!

Wording is everything!

Below is a sample lesson plan from my Pre-Kindergarten classroom. The theme was “Engi-nuity” where we were studying famous buildings and architecture from all over the world. At the end of our two weeks, each student selected a structure to recreate using whatever materials they thought would work best. I’ll first show you some examples of how I worded the lesson plans, and then show some final products at the end.

Sharing Our Ideas & Art History: During morning meeting we used our Promethean Board to look at the architectural design of the Eiffel Tower using Google Earth. We learned about the lead architect on the project, Steven Sauvestre, and why he designed the Tower using triangles.

Developing Our Imaginations, Music & Movement: As we worked during Project Time, we listened to traditional French music so we were totally immersed in the culture of the time period the Eiffel Tower was built. Our teacher would point out different instruments like the accordion so we could hear its timbre.

Building Our Skills, Computer & Technology: We researched famous structures all over the world while utilizing the program “World Explorer” on the computer. To properly navigate the program, we needed to use simple mouse skills like “drag and drop” and click on specific items when prompted. We will use the information we gained during this individual activity to help guide our selection of a structure to recreate.

Building Our Skills, Manners: We worked together as a class to build a 3D puzzle of the Eiffel Tower. While it tested our critical thinking skills, we also had to collaborate and communicate as a team to finish the puzzle correctly.

Sharing Our Ideas, Literature & Language: We worked in small groups to research information about our chosen structure. With help from our teacher, we worked on our handwriting and phonemic skills as we wrote three interesting facts on our structure information poster.

Becoming a P21 Exemplar

While the wording of your lesson plans is a great first step to P21, I must stress that like any accreditation, there is a process involved. If your center is interested in becoming accredited as a P21 Exemplar, I recommend taking their Preliminary Quiz to see if your center should apply. There are also great resources on STEM, professional development opportunities, and even a parents’ guide to 21st Century Learning and citizenship on their main website.

Wishing you well,

Heather

 

Disclaimer: Photos and information used with permission from Partnership for 21st Century Learning.