Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday SOL When do you see the learning?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


We have just had the most terrific week of school. I am convinced that the return to school after spring break is one of the best times of the school year - when you see the learning!

We are in the midst of a transportation theme - cars, trucks, boats, things that go. (Always a favorite topic with preschoolers!) In engineering, we created boats out of cardboard recyclables and foil. We tested them in the water table. As I planned for the lesson, I imagined our test site for the boats to be nice and calm and orderly, like this:

And, for a moment, it truly was! But that was only because the others were still hard at work finishing their boats - adding details, making walls, working with the tape. Within a few minutes, the test site looked like this:

There was a flurry of activity - many, many boats, many, many children, many, many hands, many, many questions and comments - all at once! Both Ms. Kim [Teaching Resident] and I fell into the beloved position of 'guide on the side' - not directing, but encouraging, making suggestions, helping them to find space to work. Truly, these children were instructing themselves:

Why is my boat sinking? 
What does it need? 
The bottom is getting wet. 
I think it needs walls! 
Why is the tape not sticking? 
Is this tape stronger? 
Mine is so huge, it doesn’t sink. 
The foil is ripping! 
Oh no, it is sinking, again. 
Look, this end is down, but this one is up! 
What if I made it bigger? 
Look, mine is floating! 
Mine is small and strong! 

They were self-propelled, unbridled, engaged…moving back and forth between the water table and the engineering supplies. They tested the boats to see if they would float; upon seeing the boat sink, they would rush back to make repairs and modifications; then, they were right back at the water table to test again. (I quickly covered the engineering table with towels, to catch all the water dripping off of their boats.) It was a very organic and busy process with children motivated to solve the problem themselves. I wish I had a video about the activity - these few photos are all I have.

This engineer is directing me where to put the tape!

At the end of this very lively centers' time, we gathered as whole group and I asked children to share about their boats. Did it float? Did it sink? Why did it float or sink? 

Here are their thoughts:

Why Did My Boat Sink?

·     It didn’t have enough pieces
·     The pedal come off
·     Needs more tape
·     Flat parts don’t have energy
·     It was gently wobbling
·     Water went through foil
·     They didn’t have any walls
·     If boats crash, they sink

Why Did My Boat Float?                  

·     A lot of things on bottom
·     Smaller ones don’t sink
·     Heavy walls
·     It had enough energy
·     It was too strong
·     Added more foil
·     It had enough tape and things on it
·     The paper

This is science inquiry at its best! We have a classroom of budding engineers and scientists.


  1. I loved reading your post! Your classroom sounds like a place where learning and fun go hand-in-hand. I also loved the phrase "a guide on the side"-that's perfect! Thank you for sharing this slice!

  2. Wow! How much fun! You captured the environment well with the length of you sentences. I feel the excitement.

  3. What a fabulous example of experiential learning and critical thinking. Having students who are eager to learn after spring break is a gift. This is the natural curiosity and learning model we should all want for our students.

  4. It's always great to see your kids & what they're doing, Maureen. Fabulous week back. I'm not sure I can say the same about young teens coming back. They're enthusiastic to start new things, but often so-o-o tired. changes!

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