Thank you to the Echo Leahy Center on Lake Champlain for hosting Burlington Children’s Space preschoolers. So many wonderful creatures to learn about!
Students in Burlington Children’s Space’s Young Toddler classroom have been collecting objects while walking through our Old North End neighborhood of Burlington, VT. This social practice of collecting began last year when the students were in the Infant Room, and remains a robust facet of their classroom culture. Unlike their older counterparts, who are collecting mostly plant-based materials from the community, these students are attracted to primarily to rocks and wayward bits of paper, metal, and plastic. Yes, street garbage is the toolkit of their research.
Anything found and kept for their collection becomes a tool for manipulating dough in a subsequent classroom encounter. Each tool makes a different mark depending on its composition; the angle and force with which it is manipulated. Marks made and temporary sculptures pave the road to imaginative play as narrative language skills take root in the classroom.
With collected tools and dough, these toddlers invoked:
- nothing sandwich
- puppy food
- “I don’t know.”
During this February’s integrated arts unit on natural materials, I have had to make many curriculum adjustments due to weather. A blizzard preceded our first planned collecting walk, covering all the winter gardens with snow almost as tall as the children themselves! After my initial disappointment at the complication in my plan, I realized we were surrounded by an endless supply of another natural material: snow! Using the plant life we were able to uncover, we packed containers with plants and snow, brought them back into the classroom and finished preparing them with food coloring and water. Some went into the freezer and others back outside to freeze overnight.
Students were fascinated to see that the colors seeped up into the layer of snow which fell on top of the sculptures. When we took them out of the containers the following day, they observed that some were frozen on the outside and liquid in the inside, and that most of the color seemed to stay in the liquid centers. Students were delighted to melt and break the sculptures with their fingers, noting that their hands were warmer than the ice and snow. They also observed the differences and details in the the ice, that the plants had remained in place, and that some of the colors had mixed and changed. We packed fresh snow and plant materials back into some of the sculptures and returned them outdoors for further exploration in the afternoon.
This curriculum was significant to me because it celebrated the impermanence of weather, states of matter, plant biology and certain modes of artwork. Impermanence is simultaneously an abstract concept and completely observable; one of my favorite curriculum threads for early education.
Predictably unpredictable: After last week’s success, I planned ice sculptures for this week too. It’s 45 degrees F today, 60 tomorrow and all the snow is melting in to brown puddles. While waiting for winter to return, we continue to investigate and create art with the plant materials we find on our collecting walks. Meanwhile, the students are thoroughly enjoying the mud puddles.
-Katlyn Bullis, Early Education Teacher: photographs
-Rebecca Mack, Atelierista: words
Each morning is full of transitions; for teachers, students, and parents. We all contribute our individual strengths and have our individual needs for these transitions. Here’s a peek at one of our morning transitions at Burlington Children’s Space.
Original testimony from the Helping Heroes themselves!
What does it take to be a Helping Hero?
Is the costume important?
How do Helping Heroes help people?
This interview gets to the bottom of the story. The secret lives of local heroes revealed! Click the blue link above.