PK4 students have been learning about habitats in their homerooms. In the Studio we have been exploring the African jungle as a way to integrate with their work. We began by learning African songs and instruments. Then we began exploring the inhabitants of the jungle and discovered there were 5-6 ones that appeared consistently in the stories we read and songs we sang. They almost always had lions, tigers, monkeys, crocodiles, giraffes, elephants and snakes.
We learned the song ‘Walking Through the Jungle’, added movement, then added instruments to represent the sounds made by the animals. We also learned a call and response song called ‘Going on a Lion Hunt’. In addition to these songs, we looked at non fiction books and did google searches to find real pictures of the animals who live in the jungle.
We connected our learning to art, through a study of Henri Rousseau’s jungle paintings. We discovered he used bright colors and some different animals in his paintings, including toucans, gorillas, cheetahs and parrots.
We also noticed that his animals were often partially hidden by the leaves, bushes and other foliage. We examined how a tiger, lion or cheetah face looked similar and how they differed from a giraffe, elephant or a monkey. After discussing the different aspects of their faces, students chose an animal to draw and paint. Once the painting was finished, they added leaves of different greens to cover their faces slightly.
Over the space of 3-4 weeks, students learned how to use their thumb and fingers pinching outwards, while rotating the ball of clay with their other hand, to create a pinch pot. Some students challenged themselves by trying something other than the traditional round shape of a pinch pot. Week two we used a variety of clay tools and recycled materials to make patterns on our pinch pots, which had been kept moist wrapped in wet paper towels and covered with plastic.
After waiting for a couple of weeks, so that our pots could dry then be fired in the kiln, students then had the opportunity to paint a pattern or design of their choice on their pots. We sent the pots home after parent conferences.
Pre-K4 students have been learning an African song called Zimbolé. It only has one word that repeats and some actions to match. Students have used this song to learn and practice the concepts of beat and rhythm. They could clap the beat while doing the actions, or drum the rhythm with the djembes(drums) in the classroom. Here are a couple of video s when we were first learning the concepts:
In recent years, the theory of loose parts has become a major influence with early childhood educators and designers of environments for young children.
It was first introduced in the 1970’s by architect Simon Nicholson, who believed that it is the loose parts in our environment that empower our creativity.
These loose parts are placed out in interesting ways with no set expectation for how they are used. Glass pieces may be set out on mirrors with lights to enhance the colors, shells and rocks may be scattered in sand on wooden trays. The materials can be used in conjunction with other materials, moved to other parts of the room and can be designed in an infinite variety of ways. The manner in which students use them is limited only by their imagination.
Loose parts can be natural or man made. In an early childhood environment they can be used both indoors and outdoors. Teachers can provide an array of loose parts for use in play such as stones, gravel, dogs, seeds, twigs, fabric, marbles, shells, buttons, baskets, boxes, ropes, tires, etc.
Loose parts are open ended and hands on, can be adapted to many environments and activities, do not have prescribed uses like many commercial toys, can be combined with many different objects, encourage learning across the curriculum and can be added to by students themselves, who may find objects of interest in the playground or at home.
Loose Parts in Action in The Studio:
Students in Kindergarten had a special visitor last Friday when Xiaojian, who works in the PAC, came by to do a quick demonstration and tutorial on being the Monkey King. He used to perform in the Beijing Opera and one of his characters was the Monkey King. Students were able to ask questions, see demonstrations and try it for themselves. Here is a quick slideshow of our experience:
As we look forward to celebrating the Chinese New Year, I like to take this time between breaks to introduce students to some aspect of the Chinese arts. In the past we have looked at shadow puppets and antique vases and porcelain. This year students will be exposed to Chinese Opera. The types of opera in China are many so we will be taking a general look, rather than exploring one genre in particular, although our experience will be mostly with Beijing Opera. Students will see clips of different types of opera, experience the sights and sounds of the speaking and singing parts, as well as find out more about the music and musical instruments played.
Week one was about the music of Chinese Opera. We listened to a Chinese music ensemble perform a piece from an opera, then learned the names of individual Chinese instruments, such as the pipa, erhu, guzhen, ba(cymbals), luo(gong), dizi(flute), etc. we listened to each instrument individually to hear its unique sound.
We also drew a picture in our sketchbooks of what interested us most, a specific costume, maybe a headdress or the make up on a particular character.
Next week we will focus on the 4 main types of characters in Chineseopera, and how their costumes and make up help us distinguish between them. We hope to have a special guest visit and share his insights. He performed Beijing Opera for many years, most notably as the Monkey King.
The PK4 classes were introduced to two new music friends these past weeks. They are Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse. These two friends come out to share musical experiences with students. We have learned a hello song to sing with them and are beginning to explore the concepts of high and low sounds. Mozart Mouse likes high sounds and students practiced saying hello to him with high voices. Students shared their ideas about other animals that make high sounds, like birds and cats. Beethoven Bear likes low sounds and students practiced saying hello to him with low voices. They also shared ideas about animals that make low sounds, like lions, tigers and dinosaurs. They agreed that dogs can make high or low sounds, depending on whether they are barking or growling.
We listened to a song about high and low sounds, then experimented with a xylophone to practice hearing the difference. For the next few weeks, these two friends will help us learn more about high and low notes in music.
PK3 students are having their first introduction to how we use clay in the studio this week. We have poked and twisted, pounded and dropped clay to see how it would change. Students described the clay as cold, sticky, squishy, hard, smelly and nice.
Students learned that, unlike play dough and model magic, clay needs to go through an additional process before it is completely ready. The process is called firing and it is done in a very hot oven called a kiln.
Finally, they also learned that clean up is a little more specialized, in that we can’t wash our hands in the sink because the clay will go down the drain then harden, which will block the sink. We cleaned our hands in a bucket of soapy water which I will dump out slowly, removing the clay sludge to the trash, so it doesn’t clog the sink.