The Grocery Project

Last week, we took a walk up the street to an international food market/grocery store.

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We noticed the sites and smells, and after talking about wanting to try one the day before, we bought a papaya to bring back to class to try for snack.

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We watched the papaya get weighed and paid the cashier for our fruit.

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My intention was for the children to get exposure to a grocery store that they could then contribute ideas to turning our classroom into a make-believe grocery store, but we also decided to write a story to share the trip with our families.  For most of the story, we used pictures from our experience to inspire the language, but for some parts, the children were excited to illustrate their experiences. As the year progresses, I anticipate more of our class books will use the children’s illustrations. I scanned the illustrations and inserted them into our class book.

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Later in the week, we went to a larger chain grocery store, and set up both in our classroom for shopping. We will explore one more neighborhood store next week and compare the three experiences.

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goodnight, gorilla (and pandas)

what we know about pandas | via provocations and play

Our zoo project has come to a close. I had such an amazing time learning with the children, and it has renewed my belief in early childhood and especially how amazing project work can be. Last week, we wrote and illustrated a book about everything we know about pandas. So many children contributed ideas, knowledge and illustrations to the book at their own levels. It was really exciting to see the 5-year-olds typing out words and labeling their pictures and the 3-year-olds thinking about how to draw a panda representationally.

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I loved presenting the “published” project on Wednesday! In the picture above, Isaac learned that pandas are from China. He remembered that when we looked at the map, China had lots of mountains (and, of course, bamboo).

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I think that we are all going to miss watching the panda cam from our panda dens, although we did take one apart this afternoon to re-use for our next project ;)

panda cam dramatizations | via provocations and play

the panda exhibit

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The children were showing an interest in pets, and we planned a field trip to Petco to tour the store and see my dog get groomed. We decided to also go to the National Zoo, though it would be cold. Prior to the trip, we talked about the indoor exhibits at the zoo, and the children voted on which exhibit they wanted to see. One of the children had already seen Bao Bao, the National Zoo’s panda cub, and excitedly talked about him.  We asked each child what he/she preferred, and tallied the results together. The children voted to visit the panda exhibit first, and then the reptile house. We were lucky to visit on such a cold day because there were so few people there, and we were able to watch Bao Bao, Mei Xing and Tian Tian for a while (which I mentioned here). I thought that this would lead to a conversation between which animals would make good pets and which would not, but the children had other interests…

A conversation before nap time:

Child: What is that dark thing?

Me: What dark thing?

Child (I noticed he was looking at a photograph from the zoo): See it? There by the panda?

Me: Oh that’s like a cave that the panda goes into. It’s called a den. Should we make one?

Child: YES!

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First we painted two large boxes black, and then compared the boxes against our photographs. We noticed that the real dens “were brown with rocks” on the outside, and then painted rocks on our dens.

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The giant pandas at the National Zoo are named Bao Bao, Mei Xing and Tian Tian. We labeled two of the dens for Bao Bao and Mei Xing. We pretended we were pandas, and that citiblocks were the rocks that Mei Xing often lays on and that PVC pipes were bamboo.

A child was pretending to be Mei Xing, laying on “rocks” and “eating” bamboo. She got upset because another child was playing with her bamboo.

Me: Can he be Bao Bao? What does Bao Bao do?

Child: She crawls just like Mei Xing but a little slower.

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I am very conflicted about the use of technology in the preschool classroom, and try to limit it as much as possible. The smart board in my classroom is hidden behind a shower curtain (and also is much too high for my children). However, we did watch the Smithsonian’s panda cam to make observations of Mei Xing and Bao Bao during centers, and they drew what they saw (or acted it out). We wondered out loud about the giant pandas, and kept a list of our questions. One child wondered if pandas had belly buttons. We made predictions and answered our questions using non-fiction texts (pandas do not have belly buttons, at least that we could see :).

My co-teacher and I went to see the amazing Lillian Katz last week, and I have been re-reading her book and reflecting on the project approach (here are some great tip sheets). This is the kind of child-directed learning that I love to do, and I hope by offering children more opportunities to make their thinking and learning visible, we can continue to learn together. I am finishing my first documentation panel of this learning adventure!