“Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” ~ Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot
In early September I attended a workshop on inquiry-based learning environments presented by Susan Stacey. Throughout what I knew would be a wonderful day, participants had the chance to reflect on the connections between play, curriculum and inquiry. We considered how to create an environment that allows children to explore big questions, given both a planned and unplanned curriculum. We discussed the idea of play as learning, and what children bring to their inquiries (e.g., questions and prior knowledge), what happens in their encounters with materials and with people (e.g., testing theories). We considered all of the thinking and learning that shows them new possibilities, new knowledge and new ideas. We thought about documentation and how to make this available to children and to their parents, and we were given some time to think about how we as educators reflect on our own learning. After filling in a few journal pages with my thoughts, I got an idea! What I really love about such workshops is the feeling of being re-energized, and the sense of wonder that comes with feeling like you are looking with new eyes at the ways you approach doing things. In upcoming blog posts I want to write more about inquiry-based learning, but for now I want to share what this amazing workshop inspired in my classroom.
“Well, maybe I can’t draw, but I CAN sign my name.” ~ Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot
It just so happens that a couple of days prior to the workshop I had found a discarded salad spinner, and decided to present this to the children as an interesting tool we could use to paint. This was a clear acrylic spinner, with a plunger on top, which would be easy for the children to press on, and would allow them to observe what was going on inside it as the paint and paper spun. I prepared several circles of watercolour paper to fit into the spinner’s basket. After reading The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, it was my intention to invite each child to paint their own circle and create a dot in honour of International Dot Day (September 15), and to sign it. I really love to connect art activities to literacy experiences. However, thanks to the workshop with Susan Stacey, I got the idea to turn the painting activity into a small physics inquiry as well.
“Hmmph! I can make a better dot than THAT!” ~ Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot
And so, for the worldwide celebration of courage, creativity and collaboration on September 15, my class engaged in this experience. As each child spooned paint onto their paper and then pressed the plunger to rotate the basket in the salad spinner, we talked about such concepts as force, speed and direction, and their role in causing the paint to spatter the way that it did. Children could make predictions about what would happen, and I wrote down some of their remarks. For example children said things like: “It’s like a tornado!” and “I spinned it and it kid of got a little colour change.” and “It’s going all over the place and there will be lines.” and “The paint splattered!” As each child took a turn we used words like fast, slow, spin, pressure and counter clockwise, which gave us a language for making connections between physics and the art experience. This simple but lovely activity linked literacy, art AND science, and allowed the children in my class to be part of the Dot Day celebration! It will be interesting and challenging to find further ways to engage children in inquiries and celebrate their growing curiosity about and understanding of their world. I look forward to sharing these further inquiries with you.