Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why Play Based Learning? (Exploring Rube Goldberg Machines)

Why Play Based Learning? Kids are naturally curious about how things work.  Through their play they are natural scientists!  They are always wondering..."What would happen if I did this?" And then they do something to find out.  They are constantly wondering why, and if we don't tell them all of the answers, they will naturally, through their play try to find out the answers on their own. This is why play based learning is a must in Kindergarten.  It is literally how they learn about the world around them and how it works.  When play is taken away and replaced with screens, think about all of the base concepts about their world that they are not learning and figuring out. This will make it harder for them to figure out when they are older!  I cannot stress enough that children learn so many important concepts through play!

Cause and effect, transfer of energy, ramps and levers...these are physics concepts that can only be explored through best way children learn...through their play!  I had noticed the kids setting up dominos and then knocking over the first one to see the chain reaction.  After seeing this interest, I showed them this video of a huge and fun Rube Goldberg Machine!  They were amazed! Click the link and enjoy!

This too Shall Pass Rube Goldberg Machine

I set out materials to invite them to create their own Rube Goldberg Machines!

They went right to work!  During our play block, this was a favorite activity.  In the pictures below, you will see children developing much needed 21st Century Skills.  These are the skills that they need in order for them to be successful in life!  Critical Thinking Skills, Creative Thinking Skills, Collaboration, Communication Skills, Problem Solving Skills, Perseverance when things don't work out as planned, working well with others as a team, dealing with disappointment, Grit, and taking responsibility.  Could any of these skills be honed in any other way in children other than play? Can they solve problems if they don't have any to solve? This right here is why play is so, so, so important at this age and must be a priority in their learning environments in school and at home! Check out these images of them and their creations:

It took multiple tries to get dominos set up without them all falling down multiple times!  They really showed how much perseverance they have developed by not giving up even when they were extremely frustrated!

Documentation showing how their machine will work! Authentic writing. "It is going to hit the car."
I noticed an interest in mazes as they played with the dominos so I set out an invitation to create their own mazes.

I also set out an invitation to create a maze with Legos.  They loved this and really had to use those critical thinking skills to figure out paths that would work and get the marble to its goal! In the first maze below, the purpose was to make the marble touch the door in order to be able to take the "door" off so the marble could go through to the next one.  How brilliant is that??

For children to succeed, the skills developed during these play opportunities are equally as important as Literacy and Math which is why equal time must be made for opportunities like this for our children in our classrooms.  Our goal is to create adults who can succeed. These 21st Century Skills are non-negotiable for success.  They need to develop them early while all these connections are happening in their brains during early childhood.  That way, they will be able to grasp these concepts on a more complicated level when they are older because they explored them when they were younger. Early Childhood Educators, don't ever doubt your importance!

During our play block, they used their knowledge of literacy and math when they needed to use them.  This made for authentic literacy and math experiences when the kids use the reading, writing and math skills I have taught them without even thinking about it.  They just use them naturally...because they need to.  The more they use the skills in play, the better they get at them.  While they play, I notice what their needs are academically and help them get to the next step.

All of this is why I am so passionate about helping other kindergarten teachers keep play in their classrooms too!  I am so lucky to work where play is valued.

Exploring Butterflies

I hid something new in a box and told the kids that they could guess what it was!  The only clue they had was the size of the box.  They came up with some great guesses!

They were very excited to see that there were caterpillars inside of the box.  Immediately they began to wonder things about the caterpillars.  "Are they predators?" "How many legs do they have?" "Are they a type of worm?" "Can caterpillars grow up?"

I set them up a few different ways for the kids to observe and record what they notice.

I made sure to also incorporate books for research and paper for observations and story paper for butterfly inspired stories.

I also set out an area for small world play but added clay for them to create their own butterflies or caterpillars for their stories.

 My family took a trip to a butterfly house in Cincinnati and a blue morpho butterfly kept on landing on my husband.  I showed them this picture and it became one of their favorite types of butterflies along with the monarch.

Th kids created sculptures of a blue morpho butterfly emerging out of its chrysalis. We stuffed a paper bag with scrap paper and used the iPad to see what their chrysalis looked like. They were light green, round on the top and pointy on the bottom.  They went about trying to replicate it!

 They used blue and turquoise tissue paper on a paper plate to make the blue morpho butterflies.  They accented the wings in black like the photos we had seen and then they asked if they could add glitter.  This group would add glitter to everything if I let them!

Some friends enjoyed using the language of sculpture to show what they noticed about butterflies.

I loved how they also recorded their observations and labeled the parts of the butterfly while at the sculpture table!

 When they finally hatched, we discussed what, as living things, they needed to survive.  They knew through our research that they needed nectar so we put our flowers in it.  I added orange slices to make sure they had enough. They really enjoyed watching the butterflies use their proboscis to drink from the orange slices!

After observing them for a couple days, they started debating what type of butterfly they were.  Most thought they were monarchs because of the orange and black coloring.  Others thought it was a painted lady because it had a brown body.  We watched videos of the cycle of each kind.  They noticed the monarch caterpillar and chrysalis was very different from ours.  They realized our butterflies were painted ladies based on the type of caterpillars they were, what their chrysalis looked like and the brown body.

Finally, it was time to give them thier freedom.  We took them outside and let them go.  One decided to stick around and let the kids take a very close look for quite a long time!

We documented what we learned by creating the butterfly life cycle to hang in the hallway to show other students what we learned.

The kids also loved creating butterflies out of coffee filters in this oldie but goodie activity!  They used water based markers to create beautiful designs on the filter and then we sprayed them with water.  The affect was bright and beautiful!  They wrapped a pipe cleaner around the filter for the body and antennas.

Here are a few other things going on in our room!

Exploring the attributes of three dimensional shapes.

Subtraction Smash!

Exploring the attributes of two dimensional shapes.

Creating addition and subtraction stories using insects.

Writing and reading sight words or c-v-c words the old fashioned way: with a quill and ink (or in this case, liquid water colors).

In our dramatic play area, they have turned it into a jewelry making area!  A lot of math is happing in this area!  Patterns, symmetry and measuring mostly.

The kids have been showing an interest in knocking over dominoes so next, we are going to explore Rube Goldberg machines and see where that takes us!