We are 4 days into the school year and today did not go exactly as planned. Well.. there really was no “plan”. The children are still getting acclimated to their new space and new teachers so there really wasn’t a set plan. However when two children handed me bird nests at the door this morning, light bulbs went off in my head and I developed a plan to explore the nests. I had big ideas and expectations, we were going to discover what kind of birds lived in the nests, where did they go, what did they eat, what materials did they use to make their nests. All sorts of inquiry, provocation and discoveries were floating through my head. I had visions of total engagement everywhere, this was going to be awesome! Child directed, teacher facilitated, emergent learning was going to happen in my classroom today. And it was all going to revolve around nature, learning outdoors and bird nests!
After our morning meeting, I rather enthusiastically told the children I had something to show them. I took a large round mirror and placed it on the floor in the center of the children’s sitting circle. I turned around to get the birds nests to place on the mirrors and when I turned back, all the children had huddled together looking at the mirror. They squeezed together to get a view of themselves and each other. Conversations and funny faces were non stop.
I tried several times to draw their attention back to my bird nest enthusiasm. My attempts were unsuccessful. It wasn’t going to happen, I was losing them to a mirror! A common household fixture! Hmmm, I paused, shrugged and looked at my assistant teachers. Sometimes we have to let it go and go with the flow. We switched gears to follow the children’s lead. We gathered our additional mirrors in the room and placed them in the circle so all the children could participate. I then created an action direction; 1, 2, 3 switch. Since all the mirrors were different sizes I wanted the children to be able to view themselves from different reflections. On the count of 3 they had to move to another mirror and describe what they saw.
They laughed, chatted and explored with their different facial expressions. They got up close with themselves, turned their heads for side views, and one child observed me from across the room. As they switched they noticed different observations. We turned off the lights to see if their observations would change. I then asked if they could build their faces in the block area. We knew there was a giant mirror on the wall and they could use that to help them reflect. They began to create using the different materials in the block area. To capture and document their work, we held a round mirror to reflect their real face. This also helps to give their work ownership.
Here three half circle were used to create the round face and then a smile.
This child used blue eyes and a giant smile to reflect herself.
Here is a different kind of smile with half circles coming together to make full circles for eyes.
Notice this child used the animals to create a circle head, then used the blocks for eyes, nose and mouth. The two round blocks outside of the animal circle are legs.
This face has block ears and used part of the rainbow blocks as a mouth.
This child used a spool table as her canvass. She used the center of the “table top” as her nose.
Dominos make a circle, smiling face with eyes and nose side by side.
This boy found two sticker dots on a block and made that his eyes.
To finish off the lesson we read The Way I Feel and discussed the different facial expressions and their meanings. We talked and documented in our journals how the different faces mean different emotions. Emergent curriculum did erupt in my classroom but not in the way I expected. It became an awesome lesson, that turned out to be engaging and reflective. This was an easy direction to go because I trusted the children to lead the way. …We never did get to the birds nest but I am still hoping the children will take notice and want to explore more..perhaps follow my plan with a plan of their own? I’ll keep trying :)!
Follow up: I did write this post a few days ago and the children have since taken interest in the bird nests, they even created one outside and keep checking to see if birds are using it. More on that another time.