With fall in full effect and Thanksgiving only days away, we have been having a blast in our classroom. As the change from summer to fall is subtle in Texas, my students are constantly on the hunt for signs of fall when we are outside. On the playground, they have been looking for leaves that have changed colors, acorns, and animals who are preparing for winter. Each day students have found new treasures for us to bring inside to add to our “wonder table.”
In addition to observing the natural objects with scientific tools at our “wonder table”, we also created fall leaf prints during exploration centers. To do this, we simply took some leaves that we found and painted them with fall inspired paint colors. Then we pressed the leaves down on white construction paper. The prints looked beautiful and the children had a great time with this activity. During this art activity we were able to discuss the different parts of a leaf and why leaves change colors. It was a great way to build scientific vocabulary in an authentic way!
Another favorite activity was learning how to write like a Wampanoag. After watching a few videos from Plimoth Plantation and reading a few books to better understand that Wampanoag culture, my students were so excited to learn how to write like them! Using black paint and a key, my students filled our mural paper with story after story. We used these murals as a decoration at our Thanksgiving family feast and my students loved reading the stories and symbols to their parents!
By far one of our favorite Thanksgiving provocations or invitations included Legos and a simple prompt. I asked my students, “Can you build the Mayflower using the tools on the table?” They LOVED this. Day after day my students eagerly visited this center trying to create the Mayflower.
They worked so hard on their creations and were so very proud of them!
This year, I have been dabbling with having an open ended art activity set out as one of our morning centers and it is such a hit with this group. This week I set out paper plates, blue, yellow, and white cardstock, popsicle sticks and my circle punchers. When I introduced the center, we practiced labeling a large drawing of the Mayflower and discussed the different parts of the Mayflower. Then, I presented the materials to my students and told them for their art center for the day they could create the Mayflower using the art supplies. They created fabulous Mayflowers independently! I loved the discussions that emerged from this table and how my students referred back to their resources to see what they needed to add to their ships. This was a great way for students to show what they were learning in an artistic outlet!
(Note: Do you notice that the table is a mess? Does an independent art table make you nervous?? In my classroom, the kids know that I am not “afraid of or mind a mess” (as long as it gets cleaned up!) In fact, we often say, “messes are a sign that you are learning!” In order to manage the mess, I have a few things in place that help my students take ownership and responsibility of our materials and areas. At my sink area, I keep a constant supply of baby wipes (I don’t like the kids to use Clorox wipes due to the chemicals found in them) and paintbrush containers. Once my students finish their art projects, they place them in the hallway to dry, wash up, and then clean their paintbrushes and place them in the paintbrush containers. Then they wipe down the art table. After each rotation, students clean the table so that it is ready for the next group of kids who come to it. Art projects don’t need to be intimidating! As long as your teach your students how to care for the materials, they can use paint and art materials successfully!)
While studying about the Pilgrims and Wampanoags we learned how important corn and spices were to them. We watched a video of how Pilgrim ladies would grind spices and churn butter. We also saw how they would pound corn kernels. To bring this to life for my students, I brought in a variety of spices, a mortar and pestle, and indian corn. I also made plain play dough.
At this station my students were invited to practice grinding the spices, take the kernels off the corn, and use the mortar and pestle.
As my students began interacting with the station, the classroom was filled with an enchanting aroma of star anise, fennel, cloves, and cardamom. The students LOVED the way it smelled and came up with fantastic stories about what they were doing.
They added their freshly ground spices and kernels to the play dough and pretended that they were Pilgrims and Wampanoags making food in their homesite.
They used their five senses (really only four because they didn’t eat it!) and discussed what they were noticing about the textures and smells they were creating.
They created beautiful creations!
Not only that, this center helped develop my young learners’ fine motor skills in such a fun and authentic way!
It also naturally helped my students practice turn taking, problem solving, and collaboration skills.
I hope that you can use some of these ideas with your young learners!!