Thursday, April 24, 2014


A few weeks after I started at Toad Hill Montessori, in late January of 2014, I began speaking with my students about wind currents. It was a notoriously cold winter with harsh winds, so it was a topic on my mind. I presented some lessons on wind as force and the use of that force to create motion, whether to propel something through the air, across a table or in a circular motion. Or perhaps, to spread watercolors across a blank white page:

One day, I noted several children blowing onto one thing or another attempting to propel it or make it spin. Spin any of the insets in the geometric cabinet and you will see a circle via the optical illusion created by the spinning. It mesmerizes the children, and often, observing parents.

And then there was this leap - geometric shapes were traced on paper, cut out and had a straw stuck through the center for which to balance and spin them on. They twirled and twirled them.

And then, twirled them a little bit more.

Yet, they wanted more than spinning. They wanted their shapes to soar, to ride a wave of air across the room. They picked up their geometric tops and started rubbing the stems of the straws between the palms of their hands - faster and faster. Next, they carefully parted their palms at exactly the right moment and, yes, the tops took flight.

I didn't catch a higher shot of it, but you can see how incredibly focused she was on making it lift off from her hands, and it did.

The blowing continued around the room. I got down on the floor one morning alongside one of my older students and together we blew a hexagon across it. Then one day, one of my five year old boys was watching another boy of the same age blow a paper sail for a recently constructed wooden car across the floor. I watched this boy observe the paper slide across the floor and could almost hear his mind working.

I quietly approached him and asked him to share with me his ideas. He looked at me and said, "Wind doesn't move something in a straight line. It causes ripples under the thing it moves. I mean, it makes the thing go up and down a little bit like a wave, kind of, but a really small wave. It isn't smooth."

I love teaching. I get to hear the unedited, newly articulated ideas of young, great minds. As soon as he shared with me this acute observation, he leaned a little closer to me and said with great clarity, "I'm hungry. Can I go have snack now?" I smiled and let him go.

I went home and through many boxes to find what I needed for the next day. I had decided to harness this wind/ blowing energy by inviting my students and both of my assistants to participate in a little race. I rolled back the rug and placed dried rose petals on the floor in front of several lined up children who were now down on their bellies with their legs stretched out behind them and asked them to start blowing. They did and it was hysterical! The petals fluttered as the fluctuating current of wind - air blown out of the mouths of 4 and 5 year olds - moved the petals to the left and then the right and finally to the finish line at the other side of the wooden, classroom floor.

After all of the children had a turn, I called upon my two assistants to join the fun. Down on their bellies they went and they got serious. They both blew their rose petal half way across the room with just three breaths each. Before you knew it, one of them had their petal across the finished line. It was a blast and its lesson on wind as a force remains a much told story in my classroom.

And then a few days later there was another leap...catamarans started being constructed via cardboard triangles and squares. Too, a golf peg was used for a mast and another square of paper for a sail.

The first catamaran beckoned everyone's attention. At the very end of the morning's three hour work period one day, I invited its inventor to see if he could blow it across the room via his breath. Oh, how we all cheered as it slid across the planks of hardwood.

I asked my assistant to go downstairs into the storage room and grab a fan I had recently purchased in anticipation of this moment. A few minutes later, I sat with the fan on my lap, turned on high, and blew that amazing catamaran swiftly across the ocean of wood that most refer to as my classroom floor. It was a moment of collective wonderment.

The next week, a younger student wanted to construct a catamaran. I asked the boy who had constructed the first one to help this younger student and to please consider sharing his design with him. He did so eagerly. An hour later, they both had made one. One sail had the number four drawn on it and the other had the number five. I asked about these numbers and was told a simple explanation, "It's our ages. I am five and he is four."

And later in the morning, we held an American Cup of our own. Each catamaran won a race, as two were held.

With warmer weather here, we will now bring together the work on wind and the force created by that energy - enough to move cardboard catamarans across the room - and landform / map work. We will cross bodies of water with our own constructed fleet of ships. Continents will be named, as well as those bodies of water which define their borders. We will craft our own compasses and learn how to use signal flags. Oh, we will be so wonderfully we always are.

1 comment:

Tess said...

This sounds so inspiring! i love reading your blog for posts like this. I really admire how it will link to geography and other subjects that are normally compartmentalised.