At the beginning of January we opened up Discovery to a group of families to run a whole week of fun and exploration for the kids. Everyone involved worked tirelessly to make sure it was successful with Kirsten and Jennifer organizing up a storm and Sara preparing activities to keep everyone engaged. We received amazing feedback and everyone had a very positive experience. Ms. Sara has kindly written up her thoughts after this first full week of Discovery.
Last week was the first official Discovery Week at Peregrine Discovery in our classroom and I am very proud to say it went wonderfully. Although it was the first time I met a few of the kids, they warmed up to me quickly and were sharing ideas and interests in no time. The interaction amongst each other was also positive and they all seemed to get along quite well despite their age differences. We completed small projects and tasks surrounding our topic of snow, with lessons involving melting, freezing, temperatures, and time. The kids were interested and eager to complete our experiments. I documented their learning, and took photos of what they had made after individual lessons.
The week went well and I had more fun than I thought possible. I enjoyed getting to know each and every one of the kids and by the end of the week I knew who didn’t like certain foods, who preferred playing independently and what makes each of them upset. (Interrupting others talking really made them upset, so we talked about it and had a lesson about interrupting). Even this notion of interrupting was a positive aspect of the classroom. We were having group discussions and they would interrupt each other because they were all so excited to share their own thoughts and opinions.
We had 8 children attend Discovery Week, aging from 3 – 7 years old. Physically, there are vast differences between a 3 year-old and a 7 year-old, not to mention the intellectual differentiation. I was unsure how this was going to play out with two sets of siblings, two 3 year-olds and the ages ranging up to 7 year-olds. Much to my surprise, the week went much better than I thought it could, with regard to their social interaction. The older children catered to the younger children and enjoyed being helpers so much that they would actually wait their turn to assist one of our younger children.
By the end of the week, all of the kids knew that our two 3 year-olds needed to hold someone’s hand going up or down stairs, as well as climb up or down the hill outside. They knew that they needed assistance with their winter gear, as well as with their shoes. If they couldn’t reach something or had trouble with absolutely anything, they could ask, and one of our older children would actually RUN to help them. I enjoyed watching how the older kids naturally wanted to help their younger peers, and the look that our younger children gave to them. They really look up to them, and not just physically. Two kids in particular seemed to be best friends by the end of the week, one age 3, and the other age 6. There were no problems with the mix of age range or siblings being in the same room.
Although I would love to say I am an expert at project-based learning after our Discovery Week, that is simply not the case. I learned a lot this past week with the kids but I think now more than ever, I have questions. The kids loved our experiments, and enjoyed working in pairs to complete different tasks. Yet, by the end of the week, they wanted to work on something different and the interest had decreased in our chosen topic. Rather than pushing the same topic on them, I rolled with it. They started discussing dinosaurs instead and I took note of how many of them were interested. They drew pictures of dinosaurs and had conversations about what different dinosaurs looked like. On Friday morning, I found myself researching pictures of dinosaurs and comparing photos to their drawings. We looked at pictures together and noted the distinct differences they had. Although we were still learning, I wondered why our topic of “snow” wasn’t lasting as long as intended. To be fair, I had created a week’s worth of lesson plans on snow, yet when Discovery Week began there was no snow left on the ground outside. Perhaps it wasn’t relevant enough for their interest to remain. We also had one extremely cold day where we didn’t go outside, which further hindered our plans. All in all, it was a week of experiments, excitement, and discovery.