We would like to share with our dear readers a recent lesson that occurred at the Early Childhood Center (ECC). As part of their current transdisciplinary unit focusing on "forces that make things work through push and pull," Kindergarten students have been studying the exciting world of gravity. Their curiosity has led to discoveries and newfound knowledge. To understand more regarding the learning that has taken place, Ms. Sarah Metzger, Kindergarten Homeroom Teacher, has shared an article and video below.
As part of our mission, we strive to develop lifelong learners that feel challenged an empowered. One of the ways that we support this development is by having student voice and agency within our classrooms. A recent inquiry into forces in our kindergarten classroom is a prime example of this student voice directing the students learning experiences.
The investigation began when a student noticed that a ramp she had added to her construction project allowed for movement. We sat down with her during this exploration and talked about her observations. She was asked questions about what she thought might happen if the ramp was to change and she predicted that the height of the ramp would make the cylinder roll further. A group of students were keen to carry out this investigation and so gathered the resources needed to work out the impact the incline of the ramp had on the movement of the object being rolled. They used non-standard units of measurement to find out how far the object moved each time and analyzed their results to create a conclusion. They then shared this investigation with the rest of the class.
This led to another question being posed: How do ramps actually work? The students that were interested in this were encouraged to record their ideas using concept drawings. We then filmed their explanations about their thinking. After listening to each other, some students chose to alter their initial idea to include their friends' thinking. After sharing their thinking with the class once again, we decided to test out some of their theories.
After listening to their thinking, it became clear that they were unaware of the idea of gravity pulling things down. As a first step in furthering their understanding, we completed research into what gravity was. We used books and online videos to gather the basic information. The children then reflected on the information they had found out and created diagrams that explained how gravity worked. Some students were able to link this understanding to the reason why balls travel down a ramp.
We continued to provide provocations that furthered the exploration of ramps, allowing children the freedom of joining in each activity. We utilized our outdoor learning time to work with larger scale models of ramps and then brought our findings back into the classroom. The children were asked to lead the reflection discussion each time, teaching the class about their findings and inspiring others to explore the provocations independently. Children revisited the displays created, looking at their initial ideas and talking with each other about how their thinking was changing. They asked for a question board to collect new ideas, which helped inform our next steps planning.During each stage of development, the students were included in the teaching, the assessing, and the planning of next steps. They were encouraged to use math and language skills, science understandings, and artistic expression. The unit was purposeful and meaningful for all involved and the students came away with a dynamic and empowered feeling over their own learning.