Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Dragon Project

I have had a really hard time figuring out a common interest for a large scale inquiry and project with this group.  We have had a lot of small group interests in sound, animals, etc. but no topic that the whole class loved together as a whole...or so I thought.

I knew that Chinese New Year was coming up so I thought to put out some invitations to explore the Chinese New Year, Chinese culture and China since they seemed to enjoy our Holidays Around the World Inquiry. As I was looking for ideas, there were a lot activities relating to the dragon and dragon dances.  All of the sudden, it hit me.  Ever since the beginning of the year, these kids have been trying to make dragons at our maker's space.  Also, every time a dragon is mentioned in a story, they would all get very excited.  I wondered, so I looked up their year on the Chinese Zodiac and guess which year all but one of my little friends was born in? The Year of the Dragon! I started coming up with a plan! Below shows how I began the process.  I added many more ideas to it later.

I started out by showing them a video of a dragon dance.  They were mesmerized!  I also showed them a video about the legend of Nian and the Chinese New Year and how they were all connected.  Their interest grew.  They wanted to make a village, create drums to scare Nian away, create a dragon... they had come up with so many ideas!

Grabbing onto this interest, I started out with some invitations for them to explore Chinese writing.

I put some black and gold paint with red paper for some process art using these traditional colors.  I added some Chinese characters we learned how to read if they wanted to use them in their art.

They also saw a video with some Chinese Fan Dancing.  They wrote a plan and then followed it to create their own fans.

We had some very beautiful fan dances! They collaborated and came up with their own choreography! We put on some traditional Chinese music and performed some very beautiful fan dances for our class. 

I set out some invitations to explore dragons and what they look like using different art materials. Here they used paint and Sharpies to show what they noticed about dragons and then wrote a sentence about the dragon they painted.

They could create sculptures using plasticine clay (great for creativity and fine motor skills):

They could use the materials below to create (play) and then write a story about dragons:

In math, they explored symmetry by creating "squish-painting" dragons. They had to add details to the paint and make sure they kept it symmetrical.

We compared and contrasted dragons and dinosaurs and discussed what mythical creatures were:

But most of all, they wanted to create a Dragon Lair and a dragon to do the dragon dance.  We came up with a list of what we needed. 

The kids crumbled up brown paper so that it would look like rocky cave walls and I hung it up in our dramatic play area. The kids then glued sparkles all over the wall since dragons love treasure and sparkly things (just like they do)!

We made some signs to warn people of the dragon and added some "diamonds," "rubies," and "gold!"!

Of course we needed some dragon eggs for the nest! Dragons use trees to build nests!

Now that the dragon's home was done, we needed the dragon!  I collected some boxes, bottles, fruit cups and scrap paper and the kids went to work!

They painted some water bottles with acrylic paint and I cut them and hot glued them where they told me to put them.

Now they were ready to play and create stories in this area!

I had bought some scarves and a rainbow ribbon to use as open ended materials for dramatic play.  They felt they would make perfect dragon wings!

They wanted to present a dragon dance for other classes so we added a body.

The kids wrote 6 page stories about dragons.  They worked very hard on these knowing that they were going to be reading them to kids from other classes!

They practiced reading them to friends.

They created clay dragons to show the other classes what they noticed about how dragons look.

Our parade was a reenactment of the villagers trying to scare the dragon monster Nian out of their village. They made monkey drums because the dragon is afraid of loud noises.  

Some fan dancers were going to dance using their red fans since the dragon is afraid of the color red.  We chose a dragon leader to lead the dragon our of the village back to its lair with our rainbow ribbon. 

This video of one of our parades is the CUTEST!

After the parade, the kids read their books and shared their projects! The other classes loved it!  

The kids were so proud of all that they did.  You could tell that they felt very accomplished and that they did something special by sharing it! It is amazing how purposeful everything becomes when they know they are going to present what they have created!

This was such a wonderful inquiry to encourage creative thinking (which is such an important skill for them to have) in art, story-telling and writing! The monkey drums have started a HUGE interest in sound, instruments and rhythm!  That will be our next large scale inquiry which we will start after Spring Break!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Exploring States of Matter in Kindergarten

Our Student Teacher, Mrs. Madison, was noticing that our students were very interested in slime and had also been asking to make their own slime and play dough.  They were bringing slime and silly putty from home to share with the class. She decided to run with this interest and connect it to a study on the properties of the states of matter.

She started by introducing the three states of matter: Solid, liquid and gas and their properties.

Here, our friend is showing how liquid takes the shape of its container.
 Mrs. Madison set up a station for those who were interested to make a batch of slime.  They really enjoyed exploring the properties of their slime! Stretchy, slimy, sticky were the describing words used most! It was more of a liquid in that it took the shape of its container. We mixed Elmer's glue, borax and food coloring to create the slime.

Another group wanted to make slime. After they mixed it, they noticed it had different properties than the slime from yesterday!  This was more the consistency of Silly Putty! We noticed it started out as a liquid but was more solid than the slime after it set. Rather than stretching, it would rip apart as seen below.

Next, we set up a station for making play dough.  We found a recipe using cold water so that the kids could mix the dough!  We displayed the recipe for them to follow.

They loved the sensory experience of mixing the dough with their hands!

They asked for some rollers and loose parts to use with the play dough so I helped some of the kids put together a tray with materials to use.

Mrs. Madison brought in some books and used materials from our room to set up an area for them to be scientists and explore the properties of solids, liquids and gasses.

Here you can see scientists hard at work!

We read the book Snow Balls by Louis Ehlert.  The illustrations are created by using loose parts so we set out materials for them to make snow people like Louis Ehlert.  We mixed equal parts shaving cream and glue for them to create the snow people on black paper.  First they drew the shape of their snow people. The kids then dabbed the mixture thickly on the paper and choose loose parts to decorate their snow people.

After they dried, Mrs. Madison showed them how the mixture changed from a liquid to a solid!  They turned out adorable!

We read "Snowmen at Night" and the kids wrote what they thought their snow person would do at night when they were left alone.  We displayed their writing along with their snowmen.

The kids explored the chemical reaction that takes place when you mix baking soda with vinegar!  They loved this activity.  I love their reaction the first time they see what happens!

Mrs. Madison discussed how when they mixed, they formed gas!

We also made root beer floats and discussed and recorded the solid, liquid and gas that they could see.  I made the mistake of putting the root beer in the cups first so it was not as easy to see after we added the ice cream.  If I did this again, I would put the ice cream in first, then pour the root beer over the ice cream! Usually, you can see the brown root beer as the liquid, the solid ice cream, and the bubbles filled with gas.

We set out some salt and liquid watercolors with some glue and let the kids experiment with salt painting. They loved observing how the colors and spread out across the salt crystals!

We discussed that all matter has properties and set out an invitation for kids to find items in the room made from these three properties.  They found many in our room made out of metal and wood. Only our rock collection was made of stone!

I set up an area inviting kids to explore immiscible liquids (liquids that will not mix.  I used vegetable oil and water with food coloring.  The kids used droppers to drop the water in the oil and see what happens!

"It bubbles!" was the the observation I heard the most as the water would drop down in a spherical shape to the bottom.

Here a friend did not use the sheet I has set out, but used another means of showing what she noticed. This is a true authentic use of writing with not push from me!

Mrs. Madison set up an experience for them each to create their own immiscible liquids bottles.  She mixed powdered paint with the vegetable oil to give it different colors, then colored some water with food coloring and let the kids pick the colors they wanted.

They poured each liquid in their bottle using a funnel and then added some beads for fun! Mrs. Madison hot glued the top of the bottles and wrote "Do not drink" on each bottle.

The kids loved shaking their bottles and seeing how the bubbles of liquid would blend together to form a new color, then when they stopped, the colors would separate again!

In math we are focussing on addition.  We have been discussing the concept of adding as we subtilize, and decompose numbers but now we are adding the symbolic element. I added a recording sheet to my addition bottles for the kids to try and write addition sentences for each bottle.  There are two sets for them to try.

I am also using one of their favorite toys to practice the concept of adding and introducing the concept of subtraction!  They are loving this game! I got the template from

This has been an amazing couple weeks filled with science!  Many of these can be done at home to! The kids loved exploring the properties of matter!  I am so thankful for having such a wonderful student teacher such as Mrs. Madison to come up with so many amazing experiences for these kids! We will miss her!