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I think our whole world is a food chain!

By Marisa Campbell

In the past few weeks the Nursery classroom has been buzzing with excitement and thinking about Big Questions, such as, What is a habitat? What do you know about water? and What is a predator?  An interest in water and waterways emerged in the students’ play about a month ago when they were designing a moat.  We looked at where this interest could take the learners and how it could connect to our natural surroundings at Miquon, the season of spring that is currently unfolding, and the innate curiosity and joy that children exude when playing with water.  Enjoy reading about the past three weeks where we took a closer look at our interconnectedness with water, animals and their habitats, planting, designing and constructing a water wall, and learning about new math concepts.


Inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudi and the picture book about him called Building on Nature, we set out clay, small bowls of water, and smooth gems and opened it up for the learners to construct and design.  “Through the sense of touch children learn about the world: tactile sensations often remain longer in the memory than visual ones,” as described in Ursula Kolbe Rapunzel’s Supermarket.

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The students’ voices as we documented:

Tom: I’m making a humungous stone wall!

Evan: It’s a stone house.

Neko: I’m making a big circle and then there’s going to be the house I the middle.

Eli: When it dries, it’s going to be great.  You know how people, like, they sometimes glue stones in.  They put cement stones into stuff..yeah, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Mia: It’s going to have treasures.  They’re gems.  These are the stepping stones cause it’s wet.  And these are the little teeths.  It’s very fragile at the bottom.

Clara: I’m making a gem carpet.

Iris:  I’m making a gem carpet too!  Gems are on the bottom.

Tom: I’m making a wall like Gaudi.

Ginger: I’m making an airport.  I took an airplane to visit Grandpa and Betsy.

To make more connections with water and clay, we read the story Rain School by James Rumford.   Set in Africa, it’s a story about the students’ first lesson of each school year; the adults and children work together to build their schoolhouse using the natural materials found in their surroundings.  Using clay, water, and sticks they construct what will be their meeting place throughout the year.  When the rain comes each summer, they say goodbye to their school until it’s time to rebuild.

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Making connections to Miquon and their world:

Miles: That looks like the playbarn!

Ariella:  They’re using the bricks to fill up the spaces.  Do they need help to get the supplies to the roof?

Maya: They need a bucket with a rope.

Eli: A pulley!

Harriet: My dad was going to make a pulley in his classroom.

Ariella and Declan:  They built a house. A school!

(How long do you think that took?)

Eli: Probably 10 hours…That’s a hard life.

We ponder what “minds fat with knowledge.”

Ariella: Their brains are filled up with knowledge.

Harriet: It looks like it’s going to rain.

Ariella: It’s going to turn to mud.

Harriet: it’s going to fall down.

         IMG_4105A morning message question was What do you know about water?  Some responses:

Quinn: water has waves

Miles: Fish need water.

Tom: Its home for many creatures.

IMG_4276Neko: It has oxygen..

Maya: Sometimes it can be warm and sometimes it can be cold.

Harriet: You can swim in it.

Eli: Jellyfish are made out of water.

Yaz: You can drink water.


IMG_4577We read Butternut Hollow Pond by Brian J. Heinz and took a look at habitats and animals that live near or in water.  We asked the questions, “What is a predator and what is prey?

Maya said, “I think whole earth is a food chain.  Everything is a predator.”

Yaz noted that “when animals come out at night, they are called nocturnal.”IMG_4109Maya: A duck and a beaver need to stay away from predators.

The students created Butternut Hollow Bakery while playing at the water table.  Here is some dialogue that transpired:

Yaz: It’s named after the pond and the pond is very hot so they need ice cream.

Felix: People go in these woods and they get hungry.

Yaz: Like in the Redwoods Forest, there was a café.

Felix: I love cafés

Yaz: While you’re siting at the pond you can eat your ice cream.

Quinn: Here’s Tom the Turtle.

Felix: This frog is shy.  It’s hiding. Maybe it’s too noisy.

A field trip!

We decided to make a field trip to SCEE (Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education) to look at their rain garden, the environmental art, and the animals and plants that make it their home. Former Miquon teacher Leigh Ashbrooke was generous in offering us her expertise in the native plants and species that live there.  She took us on a tour and made our visit so exciting! 

IMG_4371 Leigh introduced us to the May Apple Plant and taught us that only girl plants have a flower.


IMG_4366 Fire Pond: We quietly watched the goose lay on her nest.  We also spied some turtles.
IMG_4405 Pollywog pond was pretty desolate and we wondered where the tadpoles and frogs were.  We decided that it was probably too chilly.
IMG_4419 Cattail Pond: “It’s a crocodile!”

 At Cattail Pond Quinn noticed some “allergy” otherwise known as algae.  Yaz spotted a ladybug and Maya said that the water at Cattail Pond was “even murkier than at Pollywog Pond.”  The students used their imagination and pretended a big stick was a crocodile!


Although the rain garden didn’t have any collected rain water, Atiya used some of our drinking water to demonstrate how the pump would function.

IMG_4426 Quinn: It’s made of clay!
IMG_4368 (1) Welcome Home: students exploring Vaughn Bell’s installation.

Connecting Art with Literacy and Language development

Making a connection with our real-world experiences and in writing and literacy, the student’s revisited the “red door” installation that they visited at SCEE.  They used drawing of objects in the real world and added stories of imaginary worlds.  Ursula Kolbe, in It’s Not a Bird Yet, reflects that “Children invent worlds that are a mix of the real and the imaginary, a mix that offers another avenue for mastering the real.” IMG_4515 (1)

Harriet: That’s a girl behind the fence that’s holding up the red door.  It’s night time.  She’s just waving.  There are blue jay eggs in the next.  The girl is looking outside.

Charlie: This is the red door and this is the door knob.  The door is closed, locked shut.  This is the logs and this is the small logs.  You can use your imagination for the yellow.

Miles: The Red Door

The green thing is the tree.  And this is the mailbox.  When you open the red door, you see a lot green stuff.  This is a lot of rain.  That’s part of the sky.

IMG_4449 (1) After visiting SCEE the students used materials from our classroom to replicate and rebuild habitats they may have seen in the woods or near a pond.


Designing and building our water wall

IMG_4493 We talked about words vertical & horizontal.  “Which way would allow for more students to use?”

Making a blue print

Maya: I’ll go draw that.

Neko: I can help you draw that.

A construction flaw was found ( a leak).  We measured how many ml filled our beaker and after “fixing” the leak re-measured our water level to determine if it was fixed.

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Mathematics and Why It Matters Now

I recently went to a math workshop called, How the Brain Learns Math: Pre-K/Kindergarten.  As an educator and parent I already knew that math was important to teach; I was excited to learn more about why it’s important and the value we do or don’t place on incorporating math into our children’s world at an early age.  I came away with a wealth of information and countless games to make and play with our students, but what I really gained from this workshop was the importance of introducing math as early as possible.  I learned about the brains of 4 and 5 year olds and that the abundance of gray matter in their brains allows for many more connections to be made.  I learned that early knowledge of math not only predicts later success in math, but also predicts later reading achievement (even more so than early reading skills). Incorporating math into play allows for it to have meaning and therefore make more sense, as well as promoting self-regulation and executive functioning.  Math isn’t just about numbers.  Math is a language between quantities and numerical symbols.

In the week following my workshop, I was so excited to play some games and introduce new concepts and revisit old concepts to reinforce our students’ mathematical foundation.  What can you do at home?  Make math meaningful, make it fun and let them make mistakes!  Making mistakes and challenging them allows their brains to develop!

IMG_4092 Looking at more and less and using estimation

Students estimated how many marbles, acorns, and bugs would fill up the window boxes.  We counted 6 insects and 11 acorns and asked “How many is more”?  Everyone agreed that MORE marbles would fill up the box because they are smaller.

Some predictions:

Declan: 15, Felix: 1,000 Ariella: 16 Charlie: 101  Eli: the rest of the bag

40 marbles filled our box


During circle time I introduced a ten frame and asked the students, “How many frames (or rectangles) do you think are on the board?”  We all agreed on 10 because it’s called a ten frame and then we counted to make sure.  Then we did a subitizing activity and talked about the various ways the total could be “seen” or counted. Subitizing is “instantly seeing how many.” From a Latin word meaning suddenly, subitizing is the direct perceptual apprehension of the numerosity of a group. Conceptual subitizing is a form of organizing and recognizing a number pattern as a composite of parts and as a whole.  This concept builds on students’ knowledge of cardinality, counting and patterning.

IMG_4438Showing 4 dots on a ten frame for 3 seconds, many agreed that they saw 4.

“How did you know it was 4?”

Ariella: I knew it without any counting.

Felix: I knew it without any thinking or counting.  It kind of popped into my head.

Then I told them that the number would stay the same but we would talk about how they saw it.

Harriet: It was in a row.  I saw it in a down row.

Declan: I saw it in a square.

Some asked if we could do a different number. This time I showed the students 5 dots.

Yaz: I saw 5 because 5 + 5 is 10.

Declan: I knew because before it was 4 and then I added 1 more.

IMG_4473 Connecting literacy and math we read Splash by Ann Jonas; we used a ten frame to count how many animals fell into the pond.

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Exploring numeral symbol, quantifying, and revisiting a ten frame, the students had a scavenger hunt.  They hunted for semi-circles and then had to find their partner who had the “matching piece.”


Buddies and Author Shares

Our students and their 5/6th grade buddies finally finished writing and illustrating their collaborative handmade books and enjoyed this opportunity to “share” their stories to the group.  The relationships that our students have formed with their buddies and vise versa are a gift to watch unfold.

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Creek Renovation: Front Row Seats!





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