Searching for Nature’s Treasures

Throughout the school year, we shall be visiting the park opposite school to observe the changing seasons. As part of our Japanese Culture program, we will be celebrating the coming of Autumn (Aki). Colorful leaves (koyo) are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring. Throughout the month of October, we shall be visiting the park frequently to look for signs of Aki. Today we gave the children special sketch-books and pencils and headed off the the park to see what we could find.

Searching For Nature’s Treasures on PhotoPeach

A busy day out doors!

Today we had a busy day out, full of nature-watching and adventuring. We started by digging sweet potatoes at a near-by potato field. This is a popular Kindergarten experience in Japanese schools at this time of year, and helps children to understand where food comes from and the cycle of the seasons.

We had a picnic lunch in the park and then spent a long time clambering in a section of hilly woodland in the park. This was a wonderful opportunity for the children to work their muscles and develop their gross motor skills. As the children worked together to help each other climb up and down a very steep slope, they were engaged in problem solving, risk-taking and collaborating as well as supporting and encouraging each other. They spent over an hour developing strategies to help them negotiate the slope.

On the way home we stopped to sketch some of the changes we observed in the park this week. We were not the only ones sketching! There were some delightful exchanges between the Kindergarten children and the more experienced adults, out with their sketch-books and water colours.

A busy day out on PhotoPeach

Searching for Nature’s Treasures

Learning about the awe and wonder of nature is an important part of Early Childhood education, particularly as technology and an urban life style become increasingly prevalent.

The weather was so beautiful on Friday that Yuka and I thought about changing our plans so that we could take the children into the park to search for “treasures” in nature. We were aware that this was mating season for the local toads and that the plum blossoms were beginning to bloom. The children thought this was a great idea, so off we went!

The children spent the morning clambering over rocks, paddling in streams, observing the toads lay their eggs and collecting all kinds of treasures often unnoticed by adult eyes. By ten o’clock we had a wonderful collection of interestingly shaped twigs, unusual pebbles, mottled leaves and, most excitingly, a string of toad spawn.

During this time, the children worked together to help each other over rocks and across rivers; they observed and discussed the wonder of nature; they conducted all kinds of individual and group inquiries, including experiments to change the flow of water and to compare floating and sinking properties of various objects they found; they used all of their senses to engage in a shared experience that we can follow up, verbally and in writing, back in the classroom.

Searching For Nature’s Treasures on PhotoPeach

Below are some spontaneous comments we heard the children make to each other.

“It’s a very glorious day.”
“It must be the first day of spring.”
“We are so lucky that we are outside today.”
“This is just like real rock climbing.”
“We’re like the nature experts.”
“This river is a bit tricky to cross.”

“That’s why we have to help each other.”
“We have to wait for everyone, ‘cos we are a team. A KC team.”

KC and KF exploring 3D shapes

Today KC and KF joined together to play a game to help them learn about 3D shapes. Jenny and Aina showed the rest of the children how to play.

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Jenny and Aina sat back to back, so that they could not see each other.
Aina went first. She chose a shape. She did not tell Jenny what shape she had chosen. Instead, she gave Jenny a clue. Jenny asked questions to help her find out what 3D shape Aina had chosen.

Aina: It has a circle and one point and it rolls
Jenny: Does it have 2 faces?
Aina: It has one face
Jenny: It it a cone?
Aina: Yes!
Jenny: At first I thought it was a cylinder because it has a circle and it rolls. And that could be a cylinder. But a cylinder has two faces. So it has to be a cone.

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Then it was Jenny’s turn to choose a shape. Jenny started with a clue and then Aina asked Jenny questions about the shape.

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Jenny It doesn’t have any faces
Aina: Does it roll?
Jenny: Yes
Aina: I need some more information.
Jenny: It doesn’t have any edges.
Aina: So no corners.
Aina: Is it a sphere?
Jenny: Yes!
Aina: The best clue was it had no corners.

Then all the other children worked with a partner from the other class, and had a go and giving clues and guessing each other’s’ shapes. The children had to think carefully about the number of faces, edges and vertexes the shapes had. Many children were able to identify several different kinds of trapeziums and pyramids as well as more simple 3D shapes.

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A trip to Homes

When we returned to school after the winter break, we saw that our fish tank had turned brown. We discovered that the filter had broken while we were all away. The children wrote a letter to Mr Neary asking if he could give us some money to buy a new filter.

Mr Neary wrote back and said that he agreed that the fish tank was very dirty and needed a new filter. So off we went to Homes …

A trip to Homes on PhotoPeach

How We Express Ourselves

We are starting a new unit of inquiry called How We Express Ourselves. The central idea is that people use a variety of languages to communicate their ideas and feelings. The students will be conducting group and personal inquiries into different forms of communication, possibilities with different media and different ways of representing their own ideas and feelings.

Have a look at the youtube video clip below which describes a traditional Japanese theatre form called Kabuki. How do the actors communicate their ideas and feelings?

To find out more about our new unit of inquiry, and to veiw some more video clips showing different ways of expressing ideas and feelings, select Unit of Inquiry from the tabs at the top of the page or from the pages menu on the right hand side.

Learning Beyond the Classroom: Digging Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato digging is a traditional activity in Japanese kindergarten classes. The YIS kindergarten students took a bus to a sweet potato field in the middle of Yokohama. The children were surprised to find a field right in the middle of the city. They spent the morning digging potatoes. When we got back to school, the students looked carefully at the potatoes and made some observational drawings using charcoal. The students then worked in small groups to sort the potatoes into sets. When they had done that, they shared their work with other groups and tried to guess what criteria the other groups had used for sorting their potatoes.

KC sweet potato picking on PhotoPeach