Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Day (CAUTION: this post is loaded with unexpected learning!)

After an energetic phone call from "my Jenn" (aka:  my idea bouncer-offer, oh-my-goodness-this-ever-so-simple-plop-turned-out-amazing sharer, fellow child care provider across town and dear, dear friend) I simply HAD to have a pumpkin day like Jenn did!

I wrote up the announcement and request for pumpkins immediately on my private group on Facebook that is just for my daycare families (a GREAT tool).

The following day was to be PUMPKIN DAY.  I had no plans other then I knew there would be 10 pumpkins joining us for the day!  I have learned to appreciate the ability of young children to lead their learning.  I was prepared for spontaneity and openly willing to grab whatever I needed to enhance their thoughts and ideas!  Let the learning begin!!

Little did I know that the learning would begin for some the evening before!  Two brothers used LOTS of imagination speculating what we would be doing with the pumpkins both the evening prior and in the morning before arriving!

I have fabulous families, so every child showed up on Pumpkin Day carrying their very own pumpkin.  The only specifications for the size of the pumpkin was that their child needed to be able to manage it.

From the second everyone arrived with their pumpkins the learning was through the roof!

1)  Comparing and contrasting.  Children are naturally attracted to the size of things.  They love things that are BIG as well as small.  So many skills were being polished in this OH SO SIMPLE of moments.  Skills like:  using words to express ourselves and share knowledge, understanding measurement, observation, descrimination and the art of conversation (waiting while others share their excitment before you share yours).  All of these skills are the basics of many life-long skills from letter and number recognition to expressing ourselves appropriately and valuable social skills.

2)  Our favorite pumpkin song has the line "I draw one nose, I draw one mouth and two eyes that can see!"  While singing that song, and holding our pumpkins, I thought...wouldn't it be fun to draw faces on our pumpkins, wipe it away and draw a different one?!

Washable markers worked great for this, and ONE baby wipe at each table to be used for wiping the pumpkins clean.  I purposely "plant" conflict for children to practice managing every single day.  The one baby wipe needed to be shared by all the children at the table.  This not only encourages sharing but also conversation, patience, cooperation and organizing.

3)  Pumpkins are HEAVY.  Two things happen when a child carries something that is big and heavy.  First of all, there is that all important, and often times under-appreciated sense of pride.  The second is the heavy, big muscle work that also gets under-appreciated, and the fact that large muscles play an important role in handwriting is often times overlooked.  It is safe to say that lugging heavy pumpkins around the room is a pre-writing activity

Two year old Trillian really struggled to carry his pumpkin.  Lifting heavy things helps children
get in touch with their bodies and learn what muscles are doing what.  Coordinating the correct muscles
to accomplish the task at hand is a life-long skill!

SO impressed with my crew!  We were all watching and encouraging Trillian to bring his pumpkin over to where

everyone else was sitting.  Finally, it was suggested that he roll the pumpkin!  Not only is there
fantastic problem solving going on here, but also acting out the meaning of a new word!  Later, when Trillian was playing
with a ball, he kept saying "roll?"  :)
4)  Organizing is a valuable skill.  Organizing both peers AND pumpkins is an extremely awesome opportunity to polish life-long skills!
Upon 4 year old Ethan's suggestion to line up the pumpkins from biggest to smallest, everyone pitched in.  Ethan took the role as leader, and helped the younger ones and best pal Gavin hopped in to make corrections.
After naming the pumpkins big, medium and was realized that there were still 7 more pumpkins laying their nameless.  This sparked a most awesome moment of brainstorming words that meant BIG, words that meant medium (which, we could not think of any) and words that meant small.  Children love to share what they know...and they were eager to offer their ideas!!  I was hearing words like: "gigantic", "enormous", "large", "huge", "humungus", "teeny", "tiny", "eensy" just to name a few.
I noticed that as the children shared their words, they manipulated their bodies to match!  YES!  Acting out the meaning of words is a great way to enter that information and gives children a firm grasp of the meaning.

Teamwork was used to bring over the really, really big pumpkin we have decopauged the day before in order to add it
to the line-up!


teensy weensy
5)  Prediction and problem solving were two more skills that I would have never guessed we'd be polishing up on pumpkin day!

All I did was challenge the children to fit all of the pumpkins into this really big bag (from Ikea).  I followed up the challenge with one question.  "Do you think they will fit?"  (I thought for sure there was no way they would fit, as did the children....boy, were we surprised!!)

After a group of children fits 10 pumpkins into one bag -- -they want to lift it up!!  Talk about using BIG MUSCLES!  There was also lots of teamwork, words, cooperation, collaboration, idea sharing and loads of fun going on!!

The next challenge I gave the children was to see if they could move all those pumpkins all by themselves!  LOTS of self pride going on here as the children all cheered for each other!!  Large upper body and back muscles being used to pull this heavy load!


6)  Taking previous knowledge and applying it to a different situation or environment.  As we were getting ready to head outside, the children all requested the pumpkins come out too.  And so, knowing that following children always leads to wonderful learning opportunities -- out they came.

The great thing wasn't the pumpkins, was the bag!!!  The children pretended to be the pumpkins while their friends pulled them around the yard!

Judging from the expression on the children's faces (see photo below...and all above!), Pumpkin Day was a huge success!  The children were completely in control, and I'm so glad they were, as I could not have planned such a wonderul morning full of learning and completely lacking behavior issues!  The children's interests lead the way, and you can't deny LOADS of learning occured!!  All I did was observe, document the learning (with pictures), follow and enhance when needed.