Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sit Back and Enjoy

A glimpse of child-generated hypothesis explaining the change of color in leaves throughout the seasons expressed through that is a mouthful and rightfully so....could you express a complex and innovative idea  through dance with your peers giving instant yet constructive feedback?

Consider the following as you watch the video clip:
Why is A changing the silks on the top of our now horizontal "bear block"?
What do P an N represent as they dance in the foreground?
Why does M tuck herself into the "bear block"?
What is the significance of the sound orchestrated by the remainder of the class?

An earlier blog, Switching Representational Modes, will provide more insight if needed.;postID=3509228423679506274

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Provocation Shifts Thinking

Mary and I offered the children a provocation at the table we set each day for observational drawing. We placed a yellow carnation in a small vase of water with three drops of black liquid. The children recognized that this experiment was similar to our thinking about color and leaves.

During the course of several days the children sketched the carnation as it absorbed the black water. Later we discussed what we noticed.

J: The flowers turned green and the petals started turning smaller and crinkled.
A: I think they are getting dark.
AL: I think the liquid is really dark blue and when you take blue and yellow and mix it together it makes green.
I: The water turned black because of the black liquid just like in my theory.
L: This plant is trying to suck up the black liquid and it doesn’t look yellow any more it looks green.
N: I am wondering if this bud will turn into a black flower.
J: I see a little bit of green color in the lower stem.
C: It makes good sense black liquid makes leaves color.

As we listened to this discussion we realized that the children had moved forward in their thinking. There was a shift in the understanding of roots and their role sustaining a tree.

Some of the earlier thinking:

There are pipes way lower than the roots.

The water from the rain goes into the roots and then into the soil.

Rain goes into the tree then pipes take it through the tree to the roots.

I think there are pipes and a water elevator. 

Maybe the rats carry the water up.

Shifting thinking requires much reflection on the part of teachers. What provocations do we offer? What questions do we ask to prompt the children to consider many variables? It also requires a trust and belief in the ability of children to think, collaborate and construct meaning.

Letting go is always difficult. There is a need to control, verify, test and guarantee understanding. The culture of adulthood is results orientated with the need for instant gratification. However, if take children and place them in this culture and insist that they leave their understandings and perspectives behind are children really learning? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stewardship within our Garden

Our Umbrella Project this year revolves around one word "relationships". 
The heart of our collaboration and community is the relationships we have with each other.
Relationship is the primary connecting dimension of our system, howeve, understood not merely as a warm protective envelope but rather as a dynamic conjunction of forces and elements interacting toward a common purpose"
Loris Malaguzzi
In Kindergarten, we  rely on imagery to clarify vocabulary.
 We compare a relationship as a piece of string that connects us together. Some decisions and actions stregthn the string and others cut the string.  
As a class and a group of individauls, we are also in relationship with the nature, grounds and woods that surround our school.
 The children play in the garden several times a day and walk the Forest connected to our campus on Fridays. They are intuned to the changing scenery, the paths and landmarkds and the affordances of the forest and the many opportunites provided by our outdoor space.
One day several students found a brach from one of the tall cedar trees laying on the ground in the garden.

L: We are trying to save this branch from dying.
E: We really want it to be ok.
L: Everyone pull your steering wheel.
P: We are trying to move this tree but we want to show it around to everyone and get good ideas.
E: We want them to help us and we are a community and we really want it to live.
D: We found it lying sideways like it was sleeping.
R: It is a branch not a tree. It is from our cedar trees.
J: My mom put a branch in some water and it lived.
This was offered as a solution to the problem. It would be a way to stop the branch from hurting and resurrect it.


Children have an affinity for animals and nature. They are

interested in observing and experiencing the biology of

living creatures but they have an innate sense of respect and

stewardship for the natural world around them.

  Nature and creatures are often personified.

The children enter into relationship with them….caring for

the natural world, protecting from dangers and administering

care when damage occurs.

Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”"Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living."

Grant Lichtman writes about our School Sabot at Stonypoint

Grant Lichtman an educator, administrator and now an educational blogger,  visited our school a few weeks ago.
He was very excited by what he saw and wrote a post in his blog regarding our mission, focus and development throughout the years. It is  definitely worth reading.
As he toured he was curious, engaged in the discussion and obviously impressed. Please take a look at this post.

This is the first paragraph of his biography as posted in his blog called Learning Pond.
For almost 14 years, I have been involved with independent school education, as trustee, chief of finance and operations, teacher, parent, and volunteer at Francis Parker School in San Diego, one of the largest independent schools in the United States.

I have been either directly responsible for, or intimately involved in, strategic planning, program design, global education, development, marketing, educational technology, admissions and financial aid, benchmarking and trend analyses, and risk management.

 I have consulted on 21st Century curriculum development, written, and given talks to educational and industry groups, and had the honor of teaching a version of my Falconer seminar in strategic and creational thinking to West Point cadets.

Each year I lead a two-week trip in experiential immersion for students to the Philippines where our goal is to understand and experience the fact that 4 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day.


Switching Representational Modes


The Hypothesis for Color: Tablets and Cabinets

A and M developed a hypothesis regarding color change in leaves. The thinking also  involves the absorption of water by the roots of the tree. 

M: The water from the rain goes to the roots and this changes the color in the tablets. They are in cabinets in the trees. The color leaves the cabinets and they kinda melt. The ground makes more coloring tablets when they are gone.

A: Yeah, the tablets dissolve and then the color goes up to the leaves. It takes about 100 days for the tablets to fully dissolve. At Smith Mountain Lake I saw one tree that was yellow. This is how I thought of my theory.

M: We don’t use machines. It is all natural.

We asked the girls to consider expressing the color hypothesis using dance and silk. P was intrigued and wanted to join the process---all three were eager to explore the idea using movement.  

Over the course of several days, the girls played and collaborated using the fabric and dance to convey the science of their hypothesis.

What is the thinking behind this request?

What are the implications for the understanding of the proposed hypothesis if the children move from sketching to dancing their theories?

"Allowing children opportunities to represent a single concept in a variety of media creates more meaning for the concept.

This happens as children reflect on their own symbolization.

By diversifying media, teachers can help children discover multiple ways to symbolize their knowing and return to earlier symbol to gain a deeper understanding. These strategies support the life of a project,"

This quote is taken from a chapter of the Second Edition of the Hundred Languages of Children written by Mary Jane Moran.

We watched the girls think deeply about the movement that would concisely convey their thinking.
What silk scarf would exemplify their role in the process of changing the color of the leaf?

 M. portrayed  the  color tablet in  the cabinet of the tree.  A's movement reveals the flow of the water and its role changing the color. P. is an orange leaf, having experienced the process of color change, she now flutters to the Forest floor during the season of fall.


The girls shared their dance with some of their classmates and then asked for some feedback.
It was a magical moment as we watched the audience (without prompting) move their bodies to create the sounds of a rainstorm (an experience that they recently had during music circle).  
The children understood the importance of water in the hypothesis represented in the dance and  reacted . Their reaction to the dance was spontaneous and quick.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Our Cedar Trees

We play under the cedar trees each day in the garden but today it felt as if we looked at them in a new way. We observed the roots of the cedars diving into the ground and reappearing on the surface at a distance from the tree. 

The tree's gnarly roots emerge spontaneously from the ground. 

Why do our cedars do this? 
What are these roots doing?

TK: The roots drink the water.

C: There are pipes way lower than the roots. The water from the rain goes into the roots and then into the soil.

R: Rain goes into the tree then pipes take it through the tree to the roots.

A: I think there are pipes and a water elevator. 

TK: Maybe the rats carry the water up.

I: The roots go through the tree.

E: Does that mean that the roots grow from the top of the tree down?

A:If you plant a tree you need water. Water is plant food.

N: Roots suck up water. They capture the water.

E: Water helps the tree change colors.

N: The roots bring the water to the cords that are the veins in the tree and that is how it gets water.

We observed and felt the roots of the cedar tree. 
We offered our hypothesis and constructed our knowledge regarding roots. 
Did you notice the questions that emerged?

  • What are the role of the roots?
  • Is water  necessary for a tree and if it is why is it necessary? 
  • How is water is transported throughout the tree?
  • Which way does the water flow through a tree? (from the top of the tree to the bottom of the tree or is it the other way around?)

One of the most powerful ways to work through the process of inquiry is to represent.

As the children represented, new questions were raised regarding our understanding of roots.  What else surrounds the roots of a tree in soil? 

The following are some of the children's ideas:
Water must be in the soil so that the tree can drink. There must be air so the tree can breathe. We know that squirrels bury their nuts in the Fall. Animals and insects live underground near the roots. The children wondered about rock layers. 

Don't tell me the answer!

I was asked this week to answer the following question. "What is the best way to generate curiosity and engagement in a learner?" 

We have learned teaching at Sabot to listen, ask questions, scaffold but offer few if any answers. 

We have watched as students hypothesize and trust the process of inquiry.  They perceive their ideas and understandings as valuable and are empowered to solve problems. The inquiry process makes them take ownership for their learning. 

Anna documented a conversation in the studio that began with a question. 

What color are the leaves growing on a real tree? 

The question initiated more questions. 

How do the leaves on a tree turn colors?

I. and E. begin the development of a hypothesis. The children always begin with what they know, use their imagination to support the pieces that seem unfathomable and collaborate their knowledge and information to construct an answer. 

This answer evolves as more children become involved in the discussion. 

Fairies and dragons live in flying houses. Black liquid comes from the sink and is poured on the roots of the tree.

The black liquid is sucked up from the roots. It goes up into  machines in the leaves. The machines are super flat even flatter than the leaves and the liquid goes to all the other leaves. This is how it changes colors. The machines can't be seen. They are really small. 

Notice the machines are at the bottom of the sketch on the leaves. The black liquid is being sucked up through the roots.

As we begin to understand the intricacies of the theory, we realize that conceptually it is a good start

  • A liquid comes from outside of the tree.
  • The liquid is sucked up by the roots. 
  • The liquid experiences a change transforming the colors of the leaves.
We strive to answer the questions but we value the process and the collaboration between the children who feel empowered to peel back the layers of the world and its mysteries.