Although this year was my fourth participating in NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child(and despite all the work that goes into the presentation) it never ceases to wow me. The students definitely express their wonder at how all of their weeks of work (and ours as educators) come together to form an amazing themed installation filled with learning and reflection.
This was our finished product:
The Bottom of the Sea—Exploring Deep Oceans
We chose one focal wall to create our seascape, and from the corners of that wall, top to bottom and side to side – each inch was covered with some amazing piece collaboratively worked on over time. The result was a rich tapestry of learning. I had little experts walking around the classroom discussing jellyfish and giant squid along with algae and currents. We discussed every decision we made and slowly peeled back layers of learning to reach core concepts. Most students believed the ocean to be blue – yet we finally chose black paper to represent the ocean depths. Why did we choose it? It was a calculated decision which was wrought by various lessons on the depth of the ocean – waves getting darker and darker the further away from the surface and the sun. Using a flashlight, a tank full of water, and a dark room was one of many scientific experiments explored to both prove and illustrate certain points as much as to discover new ideas.
Neon colors came into play after watching videos of animals deep in the ocean shockingly glow luminescent or igniting themselves in a million stunning lights to make up for the darkness surrounding them. Very interesting conversations sprouted from these lessons – why couldn’t we light up and walk around glowing like those jellyfish?
The experience always serves to challenge the children. They are exposed to the idea of achieving goals over time and working collaboratively to reach common goals. In this way, it is not only an experience both academically and intellectually stimulating, but our interpersonal skills, our pragmatic skills, and our community building are front and center as we take part in the unifying small groups that render us artists, scientists, mathematicians, and more.
As the Week of the Young Child came to a close, telling 16 three and four year olds that it’s time to take down all their work after only five days was a no-chance situation. Keeping it up for weeks after allows the children’s learning to grow deeper as they continue to ask questions and spark discussions throughout. There’s also a deep sense of value in honoring their work for a long time. It’s also easier for them to let go if the material has been up for some time – they tend to want something new fairly frequently.
When it’s finally time to take it down, I’ll make sure to find a gentle way of getting back to a clean slate and getting them excited for summer – I have a feeling it won’t be much of a challenge.