At the end of last week, a student expressed some frustration to me that we hadn’t gotten to cover any of the topics related to the arc that he was most interested in. Alas, this is a struggle with interest driven learning: how to address the varied interests of 7 different humans? And, isn’t there an expectation for flexibility and engagement with a wide variety of topics? Everything is interesting, right?
As we tug at the self-centered nature of young children, urging them to build awareness of and attribute thoughts and feelings to the humans around them, we also want them to advocate for their interests, develop an identity of their own. This is definitely a delicate balance.
In the interest of positively reinforcing self-advocacy, and also science, we dove into an exploration of evolution and ancient humans this week. We watched a few documentaries, thought specifically about our eyes and how they slowly evolved from the eyes of underwater creatures, started to work on functional, physical representations of our eyes, designed creatures adapted for different environments and climates, and thought about adaptations we might like to add to our own bodies. All of this while keeping up with skills-based routines! Oh, and our literacy and math workshops have been LOADED with human explorations too–wow!
Last week, Mackenzie and Melissa were kind enough to lead us through a comparative study of skulls–specifically comparing the teeth of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores (like ourselves). This set us up really well to think about adaptations, and the way that random genetic mutations sometimes give a creature an evolutionary advantage over others. We watched episode 2 of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, then built beasts of our own thinking, using some chance to create an environment and climate.
Cosmos also turned us onto eyes. These complex organs have an interesting history, and Tyson walked us through the theoretical steps in their evolution. From light sensitive cells, to recessed dimples that allowed light to be focused, to lenses that enhanced detail, to the system now in use in our own bodies. We decided to model this system by making pinhole cameras: the pinhole represents our own pupil, the box represents the eye socket or round structure of the eye, and the tracing paper where our images will be projected represents our brain, which assembles images based on what our perceives and transmits. Plus, there are so many different ways to make a simple camera, I think we’ll definitely try a couple of iterations to refine our product.
As a part of our literacy workshop, we’re reading biographies and news articles. The kiddos of the lower school are meeting weekly in book clubs to discuss biographies they are reading. In order to give kiddos more choice regarding who they could read about, we divided into clubs by topic: scientists, inventors, change-makers and artists. These book clubs have met twice so far, and it’s been great! I get to hang out with the kiddos reading about change-makers, including Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Genghis Khan, Martin Luther King Jr., and a few others. I notice that the discussion really tugs at the comprehension abilities of the Red and Orange Band members, which I think is great: it gets them listening and noticing the level at which kids just 2 or 3 years older than them are reading and thinking.
During Math Workshop the last few weeks, we’ve started a deep exploration of patterns. One of our strengths as humans is our ability to recognize and extend patterns, so we’ve been noticing patterns in nature, drawing designs and turning our drawing into wallpaper, describing patterns using variables, and thinking about how we can model patterns with equations so that we can predict the future. I notice that this exploration has taken a bit of the pressure off of numbers. In this mixed aged group, some kiddos are more comfortable working with numbers than other. Numbers represent a level of abstract thinking that some of these Orange Banders aren’t quite comfortable with YET. But, as we weave in numbers with our study of patterns, predicting and organizing, they have been super engaged.