Celebrating the PUMPKIN!

I LOVE Fall. I love everything about it. The changing of seasons, the holidays and the awesome curriculum that you can naturally dive into. We are an emergent style curriculum which means that we focus in on topics and themes that our students are interested in and connect to the experiences they are having in their lives. In the Fall, especially in Oregon where we live, Pumpkins grow in local farms and we are surrounded by fields of beautiful pumpkins of every shape and color. Because of this, Pumpkins always become a natural topic of conversation.

We don’t want to just talk about the Pumpkin….we want to touch it, taste it, smash it, build with it and manipulate it in anyway we can. By allowing our students to use all of there senses to interact with the Pumpkin, their understanding, interest and appreciation for vegetables increases. When we introduce Pumpkin vocabulary and life cycle information through hands on experiences, students are invested and interested in learning more.

Check out our investigation of THE PUMPKIN!

Using hollowed out Pumpkins as a bowl we made individual sensory stations. Each Pumpkin shell was full of homemade Orange Slime, Google Eyes and Plastic Bones! Such a fun Sensory exploration.

Giving students a variety of tools and manipulative to explore their pumpkin with. One of the favorites is always the mallets (search for Crab Hammers on Amazon) and golf tees. Students love pounding the tees into the pumpkins!

Isn’t it incredible what our littlest students are capable of?!? Using unifix cubes as a universal unit of measure, students can begin to understand size, measurement and order. Which Pumpkin is the tallest? Can you put them in order from biggest to smallest? How many unifix cubes wide is the pumpkin?

A close up of that Oooooeeeyyy Gooooooeeeeyyyy Sensory Fun!

Loose Part Play

I am a huge believer in the importance of Loose Part Play, and I have really increased the students accessibility to loose parts in our classrooms over the last few years. I get a lot of questions about loose parts and how it works in the classroom. What are loose parts? What are children gaining from this process? How do you encourage loose part play? Are children hesitant to play with these toys? And of course…..what are your favorite loose parts to use in classroom?

“Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials. Loose parts can be natural or synthetic.” -The Theory of Loose Parts Play

Loose Part Play in Action:

When children have access to Loose Part Play regularly, they begin to see Loose Parts all around them! They begin to see the potential of their environment and the opportunists to be creative.

Our program has a really small outdoor space, in order to incorporate Loose Parts Play outside, we had to use a lot of small scale parts. Lots of small logs, wooden blocks, small stumps and wood scraps make for excellent loose part play!

Froebel’s gifts are the original Loose Parts. They are designed to help your students understand shapes, curves, lines and colors through design and manipulation. We love our Froebel gifts!

Giving children access to different types of blocks and encouraging them to combine and create with them is an essential creative process. I love this combination of small dominoes, large dominoes and and magnetic blocks.

Another awesome combination! Using small plastic cups, dominoes, wooden blocks and marbles…look at the fun these kiddos came up with!

These wooden cylinders were really elevated by the addition of cutout squares of cardboard. Students were able to make towers, experience the with balance and proportion and test boundaries!

Solo cups are one of my favorite Loose Parts! Cheap, simple, easy to store and incredibly versatile! Our students love to build with Solo Cups!

A large variety of small Loose Parts on a table can be incredibly inviting! Look at the incredible creativity and teamwork from this group of Preschool students! I love the combination of corks, large wooden dominoes, rocks, tin buckets, dowels, wooden spools and Keva blocks!

Sensory Experiences!

The teachers at The Learning Loft know that as their director, there is no mess too big, no such thing as wasting paint and to encourage the process not the product! Our teachers encourage our students to explore new and interesting sensory experiences everyday…and to create an environment where investigation ad experimentation is encouraged!

Using different types of sponges and cut up pool noodles students explored with paint on paper and wood scraps.

What child doesn’t LOVE slime!?! This is a great way to add new textural and fine motor elements to everyone’s favorite sensory experience! We created this activity using drying racks from the dollar store, homemade slime and scissors.

Race Cars and Paint! This is such a great activity to help bridge the gap for your little ones that love planes, trains and automobiles….and not much else. This is a way to get our little racecar drivers excited about something new in a way that feels inviting, exciting….and speeeeedddyyyy!

Sometimes a REALLY great sensory activity doesn’t have to be messy. Using ziplocks with paint inside on a light table, students who may not be as comfortable with a mess can still enjoy a great sensory experience. Students can use different amounts of pressure to mix colors and practice writing skills.

If you haven’t used Shaving Cream in your classroom, I highly recommend it. Cheap. Clean. And incredibly engaging. Look how fun this activity is! The teachers used Shaving Cream to creative this beautiful heart and then added liquid water colors on top to encourage color mixing and a collaborative sensory experience.

An Emergent Curriculum Study of Tadpoles

When a parent walks into your school with a bowl full of pond water and tadpoles…you have no choice but to investigate the learning possibilities. The teachers of the Bridge Classroom introduced the tadpoles to the students, and than sat back to see which direction the children would take them. This is an emergent curriculum at its finest! The teachers are still planning and preparing activities, however they are following the natural interests of their students! Learning is able to take place in all subject areas and students are naturally invested. Check out our in depth investigation into pond life and tadpoles!