We explored Pumpkins this week at Bellevue Discovery.
Our long-term project (September through December) is Planet Earth. During the project we focus on different themes: Gardens, Rocks, Fossils, Geography, Inside the Earth, Volcanoes and Outer Space. And of course we have a week of Pumpkins for Halloween. For most themes we build knowledge during Building Block classes (Math Games, Science Lab, School Skills and Drama Club), then have the children solve a problem in their Project Groups, problems such as:
“What can I discover when I dissect a dandelion?” or “What is my rock’s story?”
For Pumpkins Week, however, we go arts-and-crafty traditional – because our highly capable preschoolers also enjoy …
and dressing up for our Halloween party … Mr. Jerry dressed up as Miss Ren. We still held our Building Blocks classes, which incorporated the pumpkins the children brought back from our field trip. In Math Games the children used non-standard measurement to find out how tall their pumpkins were. When the children wanted to know how tall they themselves were, Miss Erica grabbed the big bin of Unifix cubes and let them measure away. In Drama Club the children read and acted out the story-song Five Little Pumpkins. Mr. Jerry added a sixth little pumpkin since our Building Block groups have six children:
They all heard a noise from somewhere out of sight / And the sixth one said, “It’s getting spooky this night!”
In School Skills the children wrote or traced the word “pumpkin” then glued together pumpkin puzzles designed by Miss Kasia. In Science Lab the children explored pumpkins. They observed with their eyes, ears, noses, mouths and fingers before and after Miss Savita cut open the big pumpkins (not the children’s own pumpkins, of course). A multi-day Pumpkin craft was to re-create the scene from Five Little Pumpkins, the well-known children’s rhyme which has been published as a brightly illustrated story by Dan Yaccarino. We had sung, read and acted out the rhyme and now it was time for the children’s interpretation. The three Project Groups approached the task in different ways. Miss Kristen’s group focused on the five little pumpkins’ feelings. Miss Kristen and Miss Michele called out emotions while the children looked in mirrors, making faces to represent the emotions. The children referred to their own emotional faces while they sketched faces on their paper pumpkins. The children’s art work showed five little pumpkins feeling differently about running and rolling, the howling wind and being “ready for some fun.” Even simple children’s crafts can be taken to a deeper level when a curriculum emphasizes higher level thinking, complexity and solving real problems. We work with children who love running, painting, play-dough and dressing up, but they also thrive when they are encouraged to think more deeply. The National Association for Gifted Children Early Childhood Position Statement identifies 15 “core elements” needed for a learning environment to appropriately respond to the needs of young highly capable children. Among these elements are:
- challenging and content-rich curriculum that promotes both critical and creative thinking across all academic disciplines including reading, math, science, and the arts
- engagement in a variety of stimulating learning experiences (including hands-on opportunities, imaginative play, and problem-solving)
This week I enjoyed watching the Bellevue Discovery teachers take an arts-and-crafty preschool theme about Pumpkins to a higher level of critical and creative thinking.