Creating a Culture of Thinking

with an Experiment in Thinking

with 4-5 year olds

The children knew an unprotected egg falling on a hard surface would break, but what about on the sand? We tried it twice, it didn't. They knew from accidental cracks and drops and the dribble from dissecting eggs earlier this year that it ought to break, but the sand absorbed the pressure of the fall.

How do we protect things -- fragile things, eggs -- from breaking when dropped or when they fall onto hard surfaces -- in this case from the top of the tallest part of our play structure onto a platform?

During some rainy days the children decided to build their own structures or encasements to cushion the egg and drop it from the classroom's loft and observe what happens and why. But once the rain stopped they were ready to take the experiment to the tallest place on campus, the tallest portion of the play structure, more than eight feet tall.

The teacher explained how a scientific experiment of this degree would need to have the same criteria, i.e., the same height and variations or choices needed to be similar, if they were going to compare and analyze the results -- important elements of scientific explorations.

These young students created a list of supplies agreed upon by all, and each person drew their own designs. They wrote and dictated their theories about why their design ought to work.

We learned the best time for sharing calm scientific thinking as well as asking deeper questions was later in the day, or even the next day so their post-level experiment excitement wasn't so high and they'd had time to reflect on their own experiments in comparison to others'. Reviewing photographs and videos aided greatly in their thinking -- allowing students to point out discrepancies and connections with more ease.

Using the same variables, i.e., equal height level, equipment standards and an unchanging landing surface didn't, however, create the same results. We will continue to share photos and videos of discussions about what has actually been happening.

The students are aware the goal is a metacognitive look at their own thinking, not just the outcome “will it break or not,” but, of course, they are especially excited when the egg stays intact.

Students are growing in their ability to design and evaluate their devices prior to and after the drop. They are increasing their communication skills regarding the process, and their designs are becoming more complex as we move into the fourth experiment.

Resiliency is growing as the eggs break and also the students are becoming comfortable with modifications, even when their egg didn't break. Yay! No worksheet could touch the depth of this constructivist learning project. Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey would be proud!

Sample Plan for the Day:

9:00 Community Connection, Music & Movement, Sharing, Morning Meeting

9:30 Emergent Curriculum & Project Work ("emergent" = focusing on children's emerging interest in an area that expands on their own awe, wonderment, and imagination, their intriguing questions and ideas, their theories to explain a phenomenon, a new understanding, knowledge, or awareness.

10:30 Snack and Centers

11:30 Math Games

12:00 Lunch

12:50 Clean Up

1:00 Multiple Intelligences in Reading/Writing Workshop, including interactive read alouds, creative storying, bookmaking, and direct instruction in a variety of group structures: whole group, small group, individual; library reading. Reading and writing activities flow from the children's interests, personal relevancy, and their individual and group project work.

2:30 Dismissal

(The above is a general plan which is modified as may be needed to support the children's emerging needs and interests.)