Monday, September 28, 2009

Planting Seeds of Wonder

This article by Mary Scott Hackman, the Museum's early childhood program developer, was originally posted on Kidoinfo.It’s a typical Friday morning at Providence Children’s Museum and Preschool Friday is underway. I gather the children to read “Mouse Paint” while their parents look on, and then welcome them all to the color laboratory. The children watch with rapt attention as I dip an eyedropper into blue food coloring and – plop! – into a jar of water. The children are completely engaged as the blue liquid cascades down, creating inky swirls. Before I repeat with red coloring, I ask for their predictions: “What color will we see if we mix blue with red?” “I know…purple!,” shouts Emily. “Do you agree Jack?” Jack nods his head. I add red and it mixes and swirls with the blue until the children all gasp, “Purple! It made PURPLE!”

As the Museum’s early childhood program developer, I feel it is my responsibility to provide experiences that whet the appetite of young learners. Each week, I welcome children ages 3 to 5 and their adults to 30-minute classroom sessions as part of our Preschool Friday series. I offer a panoply of developmentally-appropriate activities that take into consideration the shorter attention span of the preschooler, including opportunities for each child to create a craft with the materials and tools of his or her choice or activity stations where children can play independently.
During a spring series, we learned about life cycles by watching as butterfly larvae grew into caterpillars. One caterpillar spun itself into a chrysalis and eventually hatched a gently moving butterfly. At each stage, children drew their observations in their own butterfly journals, which we had decorated during the first session. We also planted butterfly gardens, dressed up in butterfly wings made from paper bags, and wove beautiful butterfly bracelets.
Parents often see Preschool Friday as a springboard to preschool. It’s an environment where children can develop skills they need as they step out into the world – listening, turn taking and socialization, to name a few. While it is sometimes tempting for parents and caregivers to direct their children’s work, I often ask them to wait and watch, to allow the child to make the project his or her own. I invite them to observe the child’s process.
The beauty of having adults in the room with their children is that they have a shared learning experience, and discussions related to Preschool Friday often occur between weekly sessions. When we were exploring patterns, a child found a beautiful snakeskin in his yard and brought it in to share the next week. The child was proud, his mom was pleased that he was motivated to share his discovery with his Museum friends, and I was delighted that we had started a conversation in our classroom that was of such consequence that it continued from one week to the next.

Learning is an exchange and the power of Preschool Friday is that a learning seed is planted, the seed takes hold, and seeds of ideas and experiences are shared from week to week. Join us for the next Preschool Friday series, beginning October 2, and together we’ll embark upon an exploration of the colors and science of fall!
There's still time to register for the next five-week Preschool Friday series, which begins on Friday and runs through October 30. Program fee is $8 per class; 20 percent discount for pre-registering for the full series. Click here for a schedule of activities and information on registration.

No comments: