Summer Vacation: Building Themes

One of the problems with school is the lack of depth of study on any one topic. I used to work at a school that had only two classes a day...language arts/social studies and math/science. The whole grade focused on one "expedition" per semester, centered around a guiding question. But this was the only place where we really stuck to a topic for more than a week or so.

My principal preferred engaging students to pleasing bureaucrats but nonetheless there were standards to address and it was always kind of mind-bending work to label our lesson plans with the daily strand and objective in the state standards. I'm sure some well-intentioned person had a great reason for thinking that large groups of chronologically grouped children ought to be mastering the same thing on day 84 of the school year. But I digress. 

Summer vacation is a perfect opportunity to dive deeper into something-even if you don't know exactly where you are headed at the outset. This week we built some boats out of corks. The next day we went to the library and I checked out several books on boats. One of them had some projects in it, so we used that to build a new kind of boat out of a yogurt container, some clay, a straw and a piece of heavy paper for a sail. Back to the pond we went and the kids wee amazed at how fast this version went zooming around the pond. Laurel thought maybe the sail was better at catching the wind. I thought it being heavier might have been helpful. 

Lest you think our summer break is full of idyllic learning moments, the children were slightly less enthusiastic about the hike to the pond the second time.

I didn't bring snacks and they were not amused at my joke that being unable to walk two miles without some crackers is a first world problem.

Anyway, today we went to visit the science center, which has a great exhibit on water including this sand pit.
You move the sand to create different terrains and topographic lines are projected onto it. Then you hold your hand above it and it makes "rain" - your hand blocking the sensor puts a projection of water on the sand and it runs down into the valleys.

They also had a model of a lock and dam. It provided a very easy to use way to move boats (or rubber ducks!) from one level to another on a water table.

So, we're building a very nice theme around water here and I plan to keep going deeper. I'd like to visit the creek in our park that flows to the river and see what's in there. I will look for some fiction and/or nonfiction books about traveling by sailboat. We'll keep making little boats. I'll check out Netflix to see what kid-friendly documentaries there are. We'll go kayaking on the river. Maybe befriend someone with a yacht. (Laurel's suggestion). We could draw a map of our watershed. I've heard you can take a tour of the sewage plant. We could volunteer with our local watershed conservation group.

I'll be on the lookout for all of the above, but it's a broad topic so I'll also be paying close attention to the kinds of observations and questions the kids bring up.


Anonymous said...

Does the science Center have a microscope that would let L and M look at what is inside pond water? I remember being fascinated by that.


k said...

That's a good question. I bet they do. There wasn't anything set up when we went, but there are lots of classes and demonstrations going on all the time.