Monday, May 16, 2016

Learning from the Chicks

 Mary and I both have fond memories of hatching chicks at our elementary school.  In past Kindergarten years, there have been groups of children  enamored with animals and we have debated fostering a dozen eggs. This year we decided to jump into the abyss and let chaos reign.

The interesting thing is that the chaos never came. 

The chicks seemed to generate a collective purpose, wonder and curiosity in our classroom. Each day the children gather at the brooder and playground and  greet the chicks.They stretch out their hands to the chicks, notice new developments and converse with their peers. 

They hold each other to the standards they feel are respectful of the chicks. "Stop shouting, You will frighten the chicks." "You are grabbing at the chicks. Let them come to you." 
The children match the energy of the chicks and show restraint when interacting with these young creatures.

The chick garnishing the most attention and affection is Lucky, the last chick born. Lucky was born two days after his brothers and sisters on May the 4th (May the Force Be With You aka National Star Wars Day). 

It is human nature to cheer for the underdog and Lucky is a Superhero Underdog.Stories have been written, math word problems developed and pages of the student's chick journals  devoted to the topic of Lucky. It is easy to see how folklore develops because Lucky seems destined for greatness. 

                                                                                                                                                                    Cal documented the inside of the brooder noting the responsibilities we have as caretakers. The children check the food, water, heat lamp and the wood chips  each day. We offer support but this responsibility is held by the children.


We have spent hours debating and co-constructing our understanding of the chicks. 

Cal: The chicks are getting too big for the brooder.
Caroline: They need to spread out and take a break from each other. 
Eve: They peck at stuff all the time. When they huddle I don't think its for warmth but they are frightened or stressed.
Annabel: They peck at everything.
Charlie: They try to fly when they flap their wings.
Shayna: They run and jump and flap to practice.
Cal: The chickens aren't meant to fly.
Annabel: They glide.

Kate: I am trying to understand who they are because they all look the same.
Eve: We can tell them apart by their size but not when they are sleeping.
Avery: Some of the chicks are getting more feathers.
Charlie; They have white feathers on their wings.
Avery: I know the difference between a dad and a mom chicken. 
The dad has tail feathers and mom's don't.
Caroline: Dad chickens have big cockscombs and mom's don't.

 Bryce: The chicks stretch their legs out and look
like they are doing ballet.

Caroline: I like to hold the soft chicks. This is me holding the chicks with a big smile on my face.

We love watching the chicks sleep. They seem to suddenly make a decision to take a nap and just drop into the yoga position referred to as  child's pose. The children replicate the move with giggles. It does cause much consternation for chick visitors due to the fact that napping chicks resemble chicks that have passed into the next world of chickenhood.

Pippin brought a box of worms in this week. He tossed a few worms in and our chicks backed up and stood with a mixture of curiosity and horror as the worms squirmed. When we placed the worms in a second time the chicks had made up their mind to pounce and peck away. The children stood with mouths wide open surprised by the reactions of their chicks and the frenetic energy created by the worms.

Bryce: If I was a chick I would just say, "Who wants this worm? and whoever came would get to eat it."

Eve: Lucky was so kind and he gave his worm to their other chicks. 

Some of the chicks did not even seem to notice the worms.

Annabel: There was a worm escaping through the tunnel. It was taking a risk. 

Charlie: If I was a worm I would Kate it and put it in the water and let it drown some of them. They kept running around because the worms were moving and they didn't like the feel of the worms in their mouth.

Kate: I saw one worm just sitting there and then the chicks snatched it up and ran with it.

Caroline: If I was a worm I would split it in half. If I saw a chick looking at me sadly I would take it out of my mouth and give it to them.

Julia: If a chick dropped a worm they didn't really see it and then another chick would pick it up. Maybe they dropped it because the other chick wanted it.

I think they are not looking down and don't even know when they have dropped it.

Charlie: I saw two chicks playing tug a way and they stretched the worm.

Bryce: They both had two ends and they nibbled at the same time.

Eve: One chick tried to get another chick off the slide but he was too strong and she couldn't get him off. But the chick was like and acrobat and he just got on top.

Annabel: If  I was a chick I always carry the worm to the food and roll it around so it tasted bitter.

It is so interesting to listen to children who are in the height of their social development discuss a community of chicks in light of their social behavior and choices. They are both appalled at the chicks behavior and also problem solving in very impressive ways. Perhaps observing a brood of chick is the most effective way to help young children stretch socially.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Beauty Is A Way of Thinking.

A few weeks ago, I walked through the Kindergarten after the children had left and noticed the light, details and the beauty in the rooms that the children spend their days.

Vea Vecchi, an atelierista at the Diana School in Reggio Emilia, writes, "Gestures of care, research into the quality of form and beauty are testified to in objects which are not only great works of art but ornaments for the body and simple objects for everyday use. This form of inspiration can be found in all peoples and cultures, past and present. It is a filter for interpreting the world, an ethical attitude, a way of thinking which requires care, grace, attention, subtlety and humor, a mental approach going beyond the simple appearance of things to bring out unexpected aspects and qualities. "

 I have heard Vea speak twice and each time she insists that attention to beauty is a primal need for humans. I believe if a community  gives priority to the care of its environment the members will absorb these priorities and strategies  Beauty demands noticing the moment, reflection and a compassion for people and animals that live within the environment. Beauty generates a response. It might be a gesture, a smile, adding a rock to growing cairn on a hike, sketching something that catches your eye, lyrics of a song, a poem or even a meal made from the fruits of the garden.

As I walk around our room I see responses made by children to the environment that they live in at school and home.

Beauty in Nature

A nest given to us by Marla to support our observation and study of birds inspires awe and reverence.

Beauty in the Diminutive

This box of little books were authored by children who were just beginning to view themselves as writers. The spark was lit by an even tinier book made in the studio early in the year by Caroline. The size of the books made them intriguing.

Beauty in Story

On the block table, city people, with a multitude of expressions, lead interesting lives. They each have their own story cultivated by the children. The characters are whimsical and no one person resembles another. These city people include dog walkers, crossing guards, DJs, spies, Egyptian immigrants, Anna Golden and a mom working at Union Bank. They are  prone to dramatic stories that are often solved with magical powers.

Beauty in the Unexpected

Many people who live, work or play in the city have visited the classroom during the last month. They have shared with us the photographs  they have taken in the city, the reasons they bought their homes in the city, thoughts about traveling through the city, places that they like to eat and parks where they play with their families. We learned that most interviewers document in some way and so we decided that we would take notes to document.  Mary and I  review the notes later in the day and are struck by the richly nuanced thinking evident in the note-taking. Children easily and lucidly move from letter symbols to graphics and back again.  It was unexpected and  yet profound.

Beauty includes the Senses

The children  have  conveyed the sights and sounds connected to life in a city. The instrument summons sound and song in our head.   The police officer commands attention with his whistle as the street lights shine above his head. The ambulance drivers move with urgency. Scaffolding in the studio has slowed the work of the children and provoked conversation and debate regarding the people of the city.

I see beauty in the use of words to accentuate the drawings with the words spoken by the city people.

 Julia's urban landscape reveals an unfolding story.

 The architectural emphasis is prominent in Kenny's sketch.

Caroline's rendition of Richmond fills me with happiness because I am overwhelmed with memories of Cinque Terra in Italy. Century old buildings perched on the rocks towering over the ocean. As we passed MCV in the train it did appear that the buildings were perched high above the tracks hugging the side of the hill.

The beauty in Zach's landscape is the one face peering out  against a backdrop of city skyscrapers . 

Accuracy and realism is clearly important to Samuel. Great care was given to the letters scripted on the building. The residents in the city have defined purposes and it is evident that the city is full of life and activity.

The beauty that speaks to me in Zoey's is the abstraction and the freedom that she feels as an artist to take risks and work large and boldly.