Friday, June 6, 2014

The Dog Project Phase 2...and 3

This is a very long blog post as I am summarizing an entire project in one post.  Its worth the read as it was such an interesting study.  As I mentioned in my first post about our Dog Project, it was odd that we took on a project so close to the end of the year.  Our culminating event actually occurred on our very last day of school.  This project took on a life of its own...guest dogs came out of the woodwork, field trips and professional visitors just clicked and the enthusiasm of the children was high, so we went with it.

In my last post on this topic, I described the impetus for the project and our first guests.  Learning about the guide dog puppies gave us a bit of a direction for our study as the topic of dogs is so vast.  We focused a great deal on working dogs and the variety of different jobs that dogs can have.  We did also learn about various breeds and the features of each breed by "interviewing" our visitors.  By the end of the study we were able to get answers to most of our initial questions...and the many, many new questions that arise when learning.

Here is a brief synopsis of how the rest of the project unfolded...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Sketching In Our Outdoor Classroom

The children had been noticing the various blooming flowers on our playground as Spring finally started to emerge.  First the crocuses bloomed followed by the buds of our daffodils and tulips.

After talking about leaving them in the ground so we could enjoy them each day rather than picking them, the children became more protective of them and would check on their progress.

We brought out clipboards, white paper and colored pencils to the playground each day as the children arrived and encouraged them to "draw what they noticed."

One More Project...Before Our Year Ends

Our project explorations tend to be pretty in depth and usually last for several months at a time. We usually get through two projects per year and then have lots of wonderful ordinary moments when we are providing provocations and watching for new interests to emerge from the children.

With only 6 weeks left of school, we were hesitant to start a new of those weeks was our school break, but there was such an insurgence of "dog" play initiated by the children, we felt it was worth exploring.

One of our teachers has a large collection of beanie baby dogs of various breeds.  We added a few of these to the dramatic play center.  We also set up a provocation center with leashes, brushes, a harness, a dog toy, a choke collar and other dog related items. Most of the children had some experience with many of these materials and had at least seen them before.

The children were very excited by this center.  It inspired many discussions with teachers and with each other.  The children started using the materials on the stuffed dogs, started using classroom materials to build homes for the dogs and some brought in other materials for play.

Two of the students had recently gotten puppies during our school year and they were often topics of conversation.  Their parents also often brought them to pick up time.

To see if this was a topic that could engage all of the children, we did a memory drawing of a dog. It could be about a dog you owned, or a dog you used to have or any time you interacted with a dog at a park or a neighbor's house, etc.  Each child had a specific story to tell....which led to more stories.

Then when asked if they had any wonderings about dogs the questioning began.
We filled our classroom with non-fiction books on dogs and puppies.
I wrote to the parents to let them know about our new study to see if they had any connections and to ask for photos of dogs known to their families.

One of the opportunities that arose from this parental contact was from a family in our class that socializes guide dog puppies.  The puppies go to three homes for several days each to learn to interact with different kinds of people in different settings.  Then they take a test to see if they qualify to be trained as guide dogs. This fit perfectly with our current study and several of the non-fiction books the children found particularly engaging were on working dogs.

On Friday morning we listed our questions specific to this visit and the puppies arrived late morning.  We learning about the socialization process and actually helped with several of the things they need to do each day; be held by different people, hear loud noises, explore different places, go up stairs, go down stairs, etc.  We also helped to feed them and learned their commands for going to the bathroom.  We ended this terrific experience walking them around our playground.

(here we are measuring the puppies compared to a student in order to compare to the older lab coming next week.)

To learn more about taking part in socializing guide dogs, please visit the website 

Next week we have a different dog visiting each day; three dogs at different ages as well as a therapy dog and a diabetes aide dog.  We are working on a visit to the pound or an animal shelter and a police dog. It is tricky trying to schedule all of this so close to the close of our school year, but the interest is so strong it is important to follow it.  Also, since both of our big projects this year just happened to involve vehicles, I wanted to children to experience studying something very different.  Our research will be different as well as our representations.

Plus, who can resist the opportunity for some puppy love??