Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Learning Lurks EVERYWHERE!!

Learning is lurking everywhere!  Let young children lead the way, and learning will be found!!

What began as a spontaneous, "whoops, what was I thinking" kind of a moment turned into a plethora of discoveries loaded with learning.  It's also brought back grand memories of firing corn across the lunch room back in the 80's!!  (yep...color me guilty of participating in food fights...however, in my defense...I shot CORN, people, not mashed potatoes!!)

SIDE NOTE:  we were originally simply balancing conversation hearts on spoons.  We were just seeing how many conversation hearts we could keep on a spoon while walking, standing on one leg, closing our eyes, holding the spoon with our lips etc.  LOADS of brain and muscle work going on.  Then, what evolved came from a moment of "hmmm...what should we do now...".


Spoons and conversation hearts.  Admittedly, catapulting conversation hearts with plastic spoons was not one of the brighter spur of the moment ideas to come out of my brain. From the first "clink" I thought..."oh dear, what have I done?" The fun was catagious though...and so, I let the fun that I started continue. ***Please note: one learns quite quickly the correct way to hold a spoon when launching hard conversation hearts...you take one of those in the noggin' from close range, and...well....you aren't going to do that again! :)

Catapulting conversation hearts = not my brightest spur of the moment idea! (whoops)
Fast forward to the next day. 

 We replaced the conversation hearts with soft, foam shapes!!  MUCH BETTER!  And just LOOK at the learning ALL WHILE PLAYING!! 

All I did was toss a handful of plastic spoons and a bunch of foam shapes on the floor.  The kids did the rest!
I literally just plopped the spoons and foam shapes, then stepped back to
see what would happen

On the floor is Erik...he has the spoon pointed away from him, but he
has not grasped the idea of aiming yet.  Molly on the other hand, is about to plunk herself in
the head.  Soft, foam shapes makes it a painless surprise!

Look at Ty's eyes.  He has his sight on his target, not on the shapes, or spoon in his hand.
Ty is 5, and understands "aiming".

What I quickly noticed was all the learning going on while the kids catapulted the shapes.

1)  Small motor skills:  one just cannot work those fine motor muscles too much!
2)  Math: counting backwards from 5 to "FIRE!"
3)  Eye-hand coordination as they added a basket to aim at
4)  Visual tracking:  interestingly I noticed the older ones had a target in mind, their eyes were on the target (notice Ty's eyes in the photo above).  My two's and some threes had no idea where the shape was going to go, and after they fired it, there was a delay from their eyes shifting from the focus on the spoon, to where the shape might have gone.  There was no connection yet on the relationship of the placement of the spoon and the location of the launched object.

Notice Jack's eyes.  They are looking at the shape on the spoon..he has no plan of where it
might go.  He is focused on what is in his hands without a
thought of where it may go.

Notice his eyes again....looking in the opposite direction that the blue square flew.
He has not yet connected the position of the spoon to the direction
the shape will fly.  Jack is one month shy of 3.
One of the things I love about simply plopping something down, and then letting the children lead from there is how one activity will evolve into another, and sometimes another.  All loaded with learning and power.  Power in the hands of children...the feeling of freedom to explore and use materials in different ways.  Giving ownership of discovery to children is powerful.  Here is what evolved from catapulting foam shapes:

Molly decided to gather the shapes into a container.  Molly is 2.
She is practicing eye-hand coordination and grasping skills.

Ty is gathering shapes in a container as well.  Ty is 5 and has excellent eye-hand
coordination, and his grasping skills are fantastic...but this same activity still works those
same areas for him.  He has a deeper plan though.  See the empty container?  He is developing
a plan as he is picking up the pieces, but he's not quite sure what it is.  As I was observing
I could just feel the gears turning in that brilliant mind of his!

His plan has emerged...dumping the shapes from a larger container into
a smaller one takes a lot of focus and coordination.

Collaborating with Molly to fill yet another conatiner with the shapes.
Being able to work together as a team to accomplish a goal is
a valuable skill.

Eventually, all the shapes were dumped into one big pile and Cole
joined the fun bringing along the sorting trays he
had been using as a cymbal.  (my ears were grateful for
this collaboratvie effort!!)
So...there you have it.  You just never know where learning might be lurking!  This all began with plastic spoons and conversation hearts....  PLAY COUNTS!!

IMPORTANT NOTICE:  do not attempt catapulting conversation hearts at home.....the stunt children in the photos were protected with good quality toilet paper.