Below is an excerpt from the June issue of the Bay Farm Beat...
“The child gives us a beautiful lesson – that in order to form and maintain our intelligence, we must use our hands.” -Maria Montessori
The Shop is a place where students can make mistakes, get dirty and try new things. Our tools are our hands and everything we hold and manipulate brings our work to life. This spring in the Shop, students of all ages enhanced their classroom learning with the making of their hands.
The youngest attendees of the Shop, kindergarten, are my free thinkers. These small in stature, but large in ability individuals, haven’t yet built any creative walls in their few years of existence. This makes for a beautifully clean slate for learning and experiencing the world around them in the Shop.
Kindergarten students began January exploring the function of the compass, heading outside on a “direction” scavenger hunt using their instruments, and finding their location on a map they drew. They experimented using the scientific method, recording and comparing the flight patterns and distances of paper airplanes while controlling certain variables. Finally, they wrapped up the month with a shocking magic show of static electricity and the transfer of electrons.
February was an internal investigation of the human body and senses. Students used the vocal visualizer to watch sound come to life on the wall of the Shop. These small hands created a digestive system, making it possible to physically experience the messy process of creating energy from food. Finally, students built a lung and learned how oxygen is brought into our bodies and moved into the circulatory system to help create new cells.
In March, the kindergarten took a trip to Mars on the Curiosity Rover, paying close attention to the weather conditions on all the planets in our solar system. They looked at the moon, gravitational pull, and our tides, finally defying gravity with a rocket blastoff using a simple chemical reaction. In April, we built towers and became domino masters with balance, the center of gravity, and lots of rebuilds. And to wrap up this year of fun and creative thinking, we looked at opaque, translucent, and transparent materials, making shadow puppets come to life on our homemade stage. There just aren’t enough Shop hours to do it all, but we try our best. It has been a blessing to teach these kids, and I can’t wait for next year! Elementary I students want to do everything right now! Every Shop class is filled with investigative inquiry and deeper thinking. My favorite days are when the students alter the curriculum with a “why” question. Let’s find out!
In late winter, ELI students entered a world of basic physics. Students used their design thinking skills as they brainstormed a chain reaction build using balance, skill, and testing. They scientifically recorded the flight distance of their paper airplanes compared to the world record holder design. From there, they looked at air friction, flight, lift and drag as they built their parachutes. And finally, students studied the invisible forces that create the magnetic fields that show us cardinal direction, which was a wonderful segway into the creation of their very own compasses. In early spring, ELI had a blast building with a new do-dad called the Makedo. After learning a few basic skills using these handy little tools, these creative students worked as a team to create the most elaborate fort you can imagine, complete with furniture, a kitchen, windows, and a telephone!
Students began their unit on weather in their classrooms in late spring, so we took a closer look in the Shop through lessons on freezing point and temperature, air pressure, rain clouds, and wind classifications. I think the ice cream in a bag was my favorite. Finally, wrapped this year with a look at natural and manmade light. Students created shadow puppets using opaque, transparent, and translucent materials. They built a solar oven and enjoyed some s’more without a campfire and identified a rainbow in gigantic bubbles. All this and I didn’t even mention the domino mastery and chemical reaction rockets! Next year, here we come!
The students of Elementary II are on the cusp of abstract thinking. It is so exciting to see their ability to visualize the product they want to make and seek out different applications. They are also very interested in learning from their peers. ELII began the new year with a lesson from middle schooler, Maddie Poppish. Maddie engaged her younger classmates with her knowledge of the Han Dynasty and the types of weapons they used to maintain their rule as an empire. She guided the class in the building a crossbow out of pencils and rubber bands and then tested them out.
To learn more about Bay Farm and our specialist programs, contact our Director of Education, Kelley Collins at KelleyC@bfarm.org.