Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Indoor Spider Web Weaving

The children have continued with their interest in spiders so today I thought it would be fun to have a mini spider playscape that promoted cooperation, storytelling, and mathematical observations.

We used two sturdy logs. I stuck pushpins into the top surface of the log and encouraged the children to connect the logs with a mathematical experience or tool we have in our classroom. The children immediately suggested that the pegs on the log reminded them of our geoboards. We brainstormed how we could use the pegs to make spider webs. The children were keen to weave and wind fuzzy white yarn in order to make as realistic a web as possible.

As the children wove they counted how many times around the pegs they went - 1, 2, 3... They noticed shapes emerging in the web and compared to see which was the largest shape. 

"Look! I see so many triangles! How many are there?"

"The outside needs a longer piece of yarn than the middle."

"It reminds me of a pizza with all the little parts inside."

The children wanted to connect the two logs together with a web so the spiders could move from one place to another. They needed to cooperate and problem solve how to connect the webs without disrupting the original one. Once the web continued they needed to find a way to keep the web from unraveling. They noticed the bigger spiders were heavier and would sink lower on the middle web. I overheard much rich mathematical conversation as the children played with the spiders. 

At the end of the day we unwound the web and I challenged the children to think of what we might add to the logs tomorrow to make the spider playscape even more interesting....perhaps some prey for the spiders? What would you add to the playscape?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Patterns in Nature

"Go down deep enough into anything and you will find mathematics."
Dean Schlicter

It's amazing what you can see when you look at everything through a mathematical lens. 

On Friday one our of children came to school clutching a tiny snail in his hands. He was so excited to share it. "Look! It's so small and slimy!" he giggled as he opened his fingers and revealed it to his peers.  The children asked if we could put it in a clear glass aquarium so they could observe it for the day. 

In kindergarten this is not an uncommon request; children find many treasures in the outdoor world and bring them inside in order to explore them further. We are always finding natural artifacts in our classroom - rocks kept in the children's coat pockets, wild flowers stored in cubbies, pinecones and leaves strewn about the room. The old me - the teacher who I was before I fell in love with math - would have smiled at the children as they observed the snail and complimented the experience with literacy materials such as nonfiction books and drawing tools.

But on Friday this was not the case. Ever since my own mathematical mindset grew over the last few years, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask the children what math they noticed in the snail.

"Shapes...it's a circle! I see circles!"

"There are swirls on it, like when we made swirly lines with the gems."

"It's little and other snails are big."

"We can see how far it goes with it's slimy trail."

"I see a pattern...the shell has colours on it."

Although there was interest in all ideas, the children focused mostly on the patterns on the snail's shell. I wondered if it was because we had recently explored patterning with loose parts.  

The children helped me create a 'Patterns in Nature' exploration area where the snail could be observed and other natural patterns could be investigated further.

I added close up photos of other animals so that the children could notice many interesting and different patterns...

It was fun guessing what animal owned the pattern and seeing the different ways we could describe what we saw, since many patterns were not neat and linear and had to be investigated further in order to be uncovered.

We also added some nonfiction books about shells and other patterns in nature. Photos of patterns from a recent trip to Fighting Island were also added to the centre so our SK children could reflect upon their experience on that trip and make connections to the current activity.

Some children spent time observing and drawing what they noticed while others just enjoyed watching the snail.

Later in the day we went outside for some play and the children began noticing some of the patterns occurring in the garden. I encouraged them to document what they saw using the class iPad.

Here are some of their findings. Can you guess what where these patterns might be found?

Many people wonder how children can engage in rich mathematics in an inquiry-based, child centred classroom. Although I also introduce ideas to children through interesting provocations and whole/small group lessons and activities, it's easy to see from the small act of a child bringing a snail to school how educators can cultivate a genuine interest in and appreciation of math in daily events. When one looks at the world through math-coloured glasses, you never know what you might discover! Math is everywhere!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spider Ring Roll

We played a fun game that capitalized on the children's love of spiders and encouraged subitizing and comparing quantities. Spider ring roll was a fun and easy way to infuse some math into a small group experience. You can see from the pictures that many children were interested in trying the activity out!
To play this game each player rolls a die (or multiple dice if you would like to encourage subitizing and adding). That player identifies the number rolled and puts that many spider rings on his or her fingers. For example if a four is rolled then you get to wear four sparkly spider rings.
Once every player is wearing their rings the hands are compared. First the rings are counted and a number is identified and then the children see who is wearing the most rings. Player with the most spiders on his or her hands wins the round!


Friday, October 14, 2016

Spider Dramatic Playscape

The children have been fascinated by spiders this week. We have read stories about them and used them as math manipulatives in some of our ten frame activities.  Today the children hoped to bring them outside.
"We can use yarn for the web! We can spin a web ourselves for them!"
The children took turns weaving and winding a light coloured length of yarn around a circle of tree stumps.
This took some coordination and effort as the children had to move over and under the yarn in order to create a realistic web.

"Look at all the shapes! There are a lot of triangles in this web!"  Math is everywhere, even outdoors the children observed!

After the web was created the children used the stumps as chairs and sat in a circle in order to play together more effectively.

As an observer I overheard much rich oral language in the children's discussions. They were roleplaying that the spiders were a family on the hunt for food - this involved turn taking, speaking in role, and the use of specialized vocabulary in order to make the play meaningful and realistic.

Many children participated and although the spiders looked quite realistic, no child was too scared to play.

As an eco-focused school instilling a love and respect for nature and all living things is a priority. What better way to help children appreciate nature then by encouraging them to play with realistic spiders right out in the beautiful autumn sun!

Eventually the spiders were on the move and found new homes in the yard! I can't wait to see what adventures await us on Monday!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cooking Apple Sauce

A big thank you to Miss Nadine for helping us to cook apple sauce! The children helped to clean and prepare the apples in order to cook them all day in the slow cooker!

They were fascinated by how the gears worked in the peeler and how they could easily take the skin off in just a few turns of the handle!

We used kid friendly choppers so the children could help cut the apples into tiny pieces. This was great experience using a cooking tool as the children followed the directions in the recipe.

The apple sauce cooked all day (and even some of the night) and the children had an opportunity to taste it...

...and then vote as to whether or not they liked the apple sauce.

More children liked the apple sauce than didn't, and the children were able to analyze our chart and compare the numbers in each column.

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