Field Trip Learning with Multiple Ages

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Dad's first day of Spring Break invited us all--six learners ages 2-20 and two parents--into an educational extravaganza. We visited the Lego exhibit at Leu Gardens. 

Learning surrounds us. It's part of life. Gathered around the kitchen table working math problems, we often forget the rich learning which takes place when we venture out, walk through life together and learn.

Last Friday,  as we marveled at Lego creations and smelled Sweet Alyssum, I remembered how much littles (and bigs) need field trips, time out and about to learn together.

While on our Lego garden adventure, 

  • the youngest learners instinctively balanced on the curbs and looked for rabbits. We didn't stop to run or roll down the hills, though it would have benefited their vestibular development. On another visit, we will definitely leave time to run and roll! 
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  • the elementary learners compared the number of bricks in each sculpture. This allowed for practical comparison of place value and oral practice of reading and saying numbers over ten thousand. 
  • the learners, together, marveled at the patterns in the Lego sculptures. While we oohed and ahhed, we deepened our appreciation for one another and the things each considers beautiful. 
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  • the learners worked together to navigate the map to find the places they wanted to visit. When they had a question, we encouraged them to consult an older sibling. While navigating, heading to the north forest, we heard owls hooting above our heads. We stopped, looked in between branches and gazed at these magnificent birds. We watched as two owls called out their territory and then had a brief altercation with their talons right above our heads! The youngest learners asked great questions as their curiosity was sparked. I am glad we took time to look up! 
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  • the middle schooler with a current interest in horticulture, stopped to read signage which explained foliage. She took pictures of plants she wanted to incorporate into our yard. 
  • the high schooler and college student enjoyed taking pictures of the amazing blooms, chatting about life as they walked along. I loved watching them spend time together and marveling at the wonder their siblings were taking in. 

While visiting the gardens, I was also reminded me that children often tell us what they need. The key is listening (and not having an agenda--ouch!). After walking about an hour, the littlest--map still in hand and spying a nice shady hill--interjected her thoughts,

"I think we need a picnic!"

She articulated her need to stop, sit, and enjoy a snack. Honestly, we all benefited from the refreshing break. Snacks eaten, we headed out for the second part of the self-guided tour. 

After walking and enjoying the outdoors for three hours, we headed to the car. The youngest cried. We instantly thought, "She's ready to go home!" Instead, when I asked about her sadness she said, "I didn't see any rabbits!" Dad decided we should stop at the library on the way home and check out some rabbit books. Tears disappeared and a smile returned to her face. 

A stop at the library was a perfect way to close out our day together. 

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What learning adventures await your family today? Maybe nature walks? Maybe puddles? Perhaps something which will come about spontaneously.

Whatever that learning adventure is, may it be one which is memorable for your family. 

Every. Moment. Matters!  

8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

Rain poured.

Five years ago. One solid week of on and off rain. Our learners caught cabin fever. Petty arguments found themselves frequent visitors to play and learning time. My children and I needed outside time, desperately. When thunder and lightening pushed away, I announced it was time to find the raincoats.

Out we went!

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Catch. Look in the puddle when the water is still. Do you see insects? Do you see any tadpoles? If there are tadpoles, try to catch some in a container. Once home, place in a larger container or fish bowl and observe over the next week or ten days. What happens to the tadpoles?  Draw pictures of each change. This is an amazing first lesson about life cycles. 

Jump. Who doesn't love to jump in puddles? Puddle jumping allows little learners to learn about the properties of water. If the weather is particularly rainy or cold, a raincoat will help keep little learner warm during his or her discoveries. Experiment with stomping. How does the force of stomping effect water displacement?  These experiences build physical skills while placing important files in the brain for later science learning. 

Listen. Listen to the rain drops hit the water. Listen to the rain patter on the house roof. How does the sound of rain change? Once inside, make a rain stick. Find a paper roll. Cover one end with wax paper. Measure (another great skill for littles) 1/4 cup of rice. Pour into the tube. Cover the other end to keep rice contained. Decorate. Shake. Try to replicated the sound of rain. While making music, chant Rain, Rain, Go Away or sing The Eensy Weensy Spider. Differentiating sound, replicating sound, and moving to music are important to auditory and physical development. 

Measure. Take measuring cups and spoons out to the puddle. Experiment with measuring. How many 1/2 cups can be poured into 1 cup? How many tablespoons can fit in a 1/4 cup? If you have a balance scale, compare the weight of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of mud. Compare 1 cup of wet leaves to 1 cup of broken sticks. Measuring and comparing are important math skills for little learners. 

Sink and Float. Collect objects. One by one, choose an object and guess whether the object will sink or float. If the object sinks, place it on one pile. If it floats, place it on another. This is a great activity for children to experiment with making predictions.

Write. Use a stick to write numbers, letters, or words in soft mud surrounding the puddle. For littlest learners, begin with writing the first letter of the child's first name. From the first letter, move to the whole name. 

Count objects. Are there object floating on the puddle's surface? Are there objects around the puddle? Count objects. Are there more objects in the puddle or on the edge? 

Evaporate. After rain, puddles disappear. However, evaporation happens at different rates. Be sure to go back outside to check on the puddles. Are they still there? How are they different each time you return.

Read. Once inside, place wet clothes in the laundry and redress in dry. Choose a few rainy read-alouds while sipping on hot chocolate. 

Some of our favorite rainy reads have been: 

  • From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer (one of three books available in the Math Adventures Math and Science Combo Kit)
  • Frogs, Gail Gibbons
  • Why Frogs are Wet, Judy Hawes
  • Ducks Don't Get Wet, Augusta Goldin
  • Peter Spier's Rain, Peter Spiers
  • Weather Words and What They Mean, Gail Gibbons
  • Down Comes the Rain, Franklyn M. Branley and James Graham Hale
  • Clouds, Ann Rockwell
  • Feel the Winds, Arthur Dorros
  • Flash, Crash, Rumble, Roll, Franklyn M. Branley
  • Weather Forecasting, Gail Gibbons
  • Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, Arthur Dorros

As long as it is safe to go outside, rainy, puddle-filled days can provide memorable learning moments.

It's intentional, real, and relational. And, it matters!

Want to learn more? This Psychology Today article offers further explanation about what really happens when little learners play in the rain. Fascinating!