Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. ~ Fred Rogers
Lessons from the Farm
By Terry Dalton, Seacrest Preschool Teacher
In November we began one of my favorite units: The Farm. Such a simple name, for so many lessons. When the children came in, they wondered what was hiding under the sheet. Was it a dinosaur, a car, a monster? We pulled the sheet to reveal... a cow!
1. What is an Election?
In the spirit of election day, the children voted on what kind of cow it should be. Their choices were, a Jersey or a Holstein. The result was five to three in favor of the Holstein. But, in order to calm the dismayed voters, one student suggested painting one side brown for the Jersey and the other black and white for a Holstein. If only every election could be this amiable!
2. How to Milk a Cow
In order to prepare ourselves to become farmers, we watched several very short videos of farmers feeding and milking their cows. Once our cow was finished, the children decided it was hungry and needed to be fed. They promptly gave her a bucked of real hay and went off to P.E. Upon their return, they noticed that her udders were full. Milking time was awesome. Each child found their name on a piece of paper and took turns having a squeeze with their choice of cow.
3. Sorting in Technology
During technology time, Mrs. Paxton provided a wonderful SMART board, farm lesson. We decided which animals belong on a farm (chicken) and which live somewhere else (lion). We listened to the sounds each animal makes and also counted them. The children love using the "giant iPad" in the Math Science Challenge Room. Plus, the "field trip" up to the room is an exciting time to explore our outdoor senses and ride in the elevator!
4. Literature from the Farm
In the library we read a story about a "giant chick." The other chickens think he is an elephant, a squirrel, a sweater or an umbrella. Finally they realize that since he feeds them, keeps them warm and dry and protects their eggs: he must be a chicken! The children are using their words instead of pictures to choose verses to songs, and they are matching pictures to the words we sing as they move their fingers from left to right across the page. So much learing takes plce in the simplest of things.
5. Time management and Farming
Farmers have many jobs to do. They rise with the sun to milk their cow and have breakfast. But of course they have to grow crops and tend to many other jobs around the farm. We counted our seeds and "planted" them on cotton balls. We put these in plastic gloves and hung them in the window to see what happens. We went on to work on more counting and fine motor skills as we counted popcorn kernals. Then we put the kernals into an air popper and stimulated all five senses! We left the lid off, set in our chairs and listened for the corn to pop. We watched it explode up into the air. It smelled amazing. Then we touched the popcorn and finally tasted it. We shared our bounty with Nurse Rae, Mrs. Pearre and a furry little squirrel outside of our classroom.
On our farm, we love stories, especially when we get to act them out! What story could fit better than The Little Red Hen? The children took turns wearing story picture card with the animals on them. Children find a deeper meaning when involved in the action and retelling of a story, including pre-reading and oral language skills, story elements, vocabulary, narrative, understanding and sequencing. After noticing the story cards on the table, the children decided who was going to be each animal, chairs were positioned and an audience assembled. I am sure we have some true thespians in our midst. For inspiration, we went to watch the first grade dress rehearsal of "The First Thanksgiving." Besides showing us about stage presences, the play taught us about the cooperation between the pilgrims and Native Americans. They worked together to hunt, gather and farm.
7. Home Economics - Homemade Butter for Thanksgiving
We finished up our farm unit by making real butter. The children were so excited to see the butter form. They will be bringing this little treasure home with them just in time for Thanksgiving. I'm sure it will make a cherished addition to your table this year.
8. Care of Animals
What would a farm unit be without a visit from real animals? The children enjoyed meeting animals one special morning in our courtyard. They learned how to gently pet the animals. They gave them food. As the children mingled with the animals a sweet peace settled around us. We were all sad when the animals had to leave and are wondering if we can use the voting skills we learned earlier this month to petition for full-time animals on campus! Besides the chickens and bunnies that we have at Seacrest we would also like: a pig, a goat, a cow, a sheep and possibly a giraffe.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful children with me every day. They inspire me with their kindness, curiosity and wonder.