That's what the kids would call it.
I prefer to call it discovering.
My science series was targeting force and motion, but I wasn't sure which way it was going to head. When you look at all the standards, there is a lot of information for these little ones to learn. I had no idea what their background knowledge was and instead of doing a kwl with them, I decided on the art of play. Discovery centers. These centers allow students to choose where they want to go, for how long, and explore the materials and bins at their disposal.
I had taught fifth grade for many years but this year found myself working with kindergarten and first graders. I know exactly what centers look like with 11 year olds but had to seek out the advice of the amazing teachers in my building to help me see what centers look like with five year olds. I settled on choice and self regulation.
Each center had a number. Only that number of students could be at that specific center. When students left one center for another, some would come in and take their place. What happened during this time of discovery was nothing short of amazing. As the students navigated the materials, I had conversations with them. I wanted to know what they were discovering; what thinking was going on inside their brains.
Here are a few of those:
Bridget: Look what I discovered!
Mrs. Waugh: Tell me about it.
Bridget: I discovered that when you pull the little gray thing, the car goes up.
Mrs. Waugh: What are you engineering?
Areya: I am making a track for the cars. They are having all of these problems. One went the wrong way into a dead end.
Hannah: Look Mrs. Waugh. We are engineers. We are sharing and working together to make stuff. I’m making cupcakes.
Mrs. Waugh: How are you getting them to move?
Hannah: I’m pulling.
Mrs. Waugh: What are you doing?
Blake: Making a factory.
Mrs. Waugh: How?
Blake: Putting machines in a line.
Mrs. Waugh: What kind of factory is it?
Blake: It’s going to be a factory, that, an apple cider factory. Some hand made machines like this one do the apples. That one takes the juice out and this one peels the skin off. That one smashes the apples into tiny pieces to get the juice from it.
Mrs. Waugh: How are you making your machines move?
Blake: By our hands. We don’t have hand mixers now. It mixes stuff. I wonder if it’s an old fashioned mixer.
It was these conversations that guided my next session, the instruction portion. I had found that many students could tell me that things moved up and down, left and right, but very few people used the vocabulary push and pull. Wouldn't it be amazing if all teachers had the time in their day to allow students to just play?
And we sat and watched and listened.
That information. More valuable than we could possibly know.