My latest curriculum has been about Spring, which encompasses a lot of things that the kids have shown interest in. We have extended our learning from last month’s “Travel” when we talked about compasses, to keep talking about directions, and migration, and on the playground they are very vigilant for birds now. We also learned about magnets a bit more when we talked about compasses, and were have brought that back as we talked about migration, but also the Earth, how it spins, and how seasons work, and as we build on those ideas it’s fantastic to see them really understanding.
In my class we have a really wide range of kids; some kids are very far ahead intellectually, but not as developed emotionally, others have sensory issues, some are still pretty clumsy and working on motor control skills. My job is to try and create tools for learning that in some way work for everyone, and to create many different ways to access learning, so that if one activity doesn’t reach a particular child, another activity will.
The sensory bin I created for my class was smaller than ones I have used in the past, because I wanted it to be for a smaller number of children, so that children with sensory issues would still be able to experience it without being overwhelmed or overstimulated.
Inside the Spring themed sensory bin, I had different sized, shaped and textured seeds, but I also put in magnet letter S’s and number’s 6 and 7 as well as squares. Our letter of the month is S and a sensory bin can be a great way to explore letters and numbers in a tactile way to help make those connections in a child’s mind outside of handwriting or reading. Touching the S while thinking about Spring, Seeds, Six, and digging using a Shovel to explore will help form concrete connection in memory.
Another great opportunity to find ways to involve all children is take a little trip outside, either t the playground or on a walk. The outdoors provides a lot of things to observe and explore. Some great advice I got from a fellow educator a while back was to think of the outdoors as an extension of the classroom, and as such I should think of ways to have lessons or use classroom materials outside as readily as inside. This last week I gathered some of our class materials to have some class time outside. Inside our class we have “stations” with different activities, and so I set up something similar outside since it was a structure the children are used to. We had a station to use magnifying glasses to look at budding leaves, one to touch worms in the worm bin and observe them with magnifying glasses, and one to observe trees and do rubbings of the bark. Each child was able to exercise their own choices and chose their station. One thing I observed was that changing things from inside to outside reinvigorated the kids interest, and each child tried each station, even if they tried it by themselves after the other children had become engaged with something else. It ended up being another great way to help their explore and develop their own autonomy, foster their curiosity, and help children with special needs have the space or time they need while still being able to explore and learn.
Bringing the Outside, Inside
One final thing we were able to do that got questions flowing from the kids, and got them working on some fascinating creations was to bring elements of what they had been exploring outside, inside. The way I chose to do that this time was to take pieces of leaves, sticks, seeds, pine cones and pine needles, and other natural materials that we had been observing outside and to explore them inside. We built structures with them, used some with the dollhouse and our kitchen materials (this will require a good cleaning after), and we used them to paint with instead of paintbrushes, which was ain interesting sensory experience for the children. Many of the children even created impromptu Spring stories to go with their paintings. Expanding methods of learning means learning becomes more organic and unprompted.