Two weeks ago, a group of students decided to build the Toronto skyline. They were going to the Raptors Game, and a discussion about their plans, led to this creation.
A few other children saw how these students were using the recyclable materials to create buildings, and they decided that they wanted to do some creating of their own. They decided to make Mermaid Land.
Lilah and Devyn made Mermaid Land for their Littlest Mermaid story. Love their explanation of it, including the sandy beach, the darker part of the ocean where the sharks live, and the polluted water. They even made “standers” where the mermaids can stand. They measured to cut the pool noodles just right. Amazing creativity, and such focused work. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry #art #fdk #earlyyears
As we were tidying up on that day, one of our JK students saw these two creations side by side and made a great connection.
B. looked at this artwork at the end of the day today, and said, “That should be the Toronto skyline and that should be the Toronto swimming pool.” @paulacrockett asked, “Do you mean Lake Ontario?” B. replied, “Yes! That should be the Toronto skyline and that should be Lake Ontario.” 💜❤️💚💙💛 What a great connection between the two! #art #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram
It really seemed like we had something special here, but these two creations were taking up our whole back table, and with only a few students involved, we decided that we needed to make a change. We put Mermaid Land away, and we put the Toronto skyline on top of our light table. We put out a small container of sticky notes and markers and the big bin of recyclable materials, with the hope that the children might label some of their creations and add more to their work, but for just over a week, nothing happened. Then one day, we noticed a couple of girls take some plasticine off the shelf and create a couple of mermaids.
They started to use these mermaids for a little dramatic play in “Toronto.” This is when my teaching partner, Paula, suggested that we bring out Mermaid Land and Toronto again, and see if we could revive the interest. This is what we did.
Each day, it took a while for the students to head back to this area. We constantly spoke about cleaning things up and changing up this space. But just as we said, “Let’s put Toronto and Mermaid Land away,” the table started to fill up again. Great things began to happen!
B. was the one that was first interested in making Go Train tickets. He cut paper, looked at my photograph of the ticket, wrote Go, and then numbered the tickets. He handed them out to friends, which was what inspired I., S., and Z. to make their own. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #engagemath #ctinquiry
This experience has made me think about the importance of “time.” How do we give children enough time to get immersed in the learning? How do we know when a project is “over?” How do we ensure that we do not react too fast? The Toronto/Mermaid Land creation process has been a great reminder for me to slow down.
I am struggling with this right now. I have students who are very immersed in their learning, but their projects are taking too long. We need to move on to more things, but they are so engrossed in what they are doing that I want to give them some more time. So in my head right now, I’m trying to figure out how to decide when the project is over. Sometimes a good indicator is the behaviour. When the focus starts to wane, silliness follows, and usually that’s a sign that it’s just about done. But I’m not convinced on that point and I still struggle with how to keep them moving forward while still letting them fully develop and finish their ideas and projects.
Thanks for your comment, Melanie! I think your indicator of behaviour is a great one. I also wonder when you mentioned how “engrossed” they are. I might ask myself, what are they engrossed in doing? Why are they engrossed? If the answers revolve around them learning more and/or applying more of their learning, then the project could be worth continuing. How might you extend this learning to maybe even connect with other curriculum expectations? If they’re engrossed because they enjoy the adding of small details or the interaction with peers (in finishing a group project), then maybe there’s another way to match these interests, but in developing some new learning. What do you think?