Thursday, January 27, 2011

Learning Through Play in a Bear Cave

One of the most important components of the project approach/emergent curriculum with young children is dramatic play.  As explained in a great book I have been reading, Young Investigators-The Project Approach in the Early Years,  “young investigators often show what they know through their play. …As children represent roles using the props, they show the depth of their knowledge of the topic as well as their understanding of the roles of adults (or animals in our case) regarding the topic. …The teacher can extend the opportunity for children to show what they know by participating in the play group.  In this way, objects can be requested by name, and the teacher can give specific items to children to see how they are used and to take note of the vocabulary they have already mastered.”

This week we put this in place by creating a bear cave in our classroom.

On Monday the children helped us remove our regular props of dress up clothes, food, dishes and babies.  We then took large cardboard boxes, cut them apart and laid them over the furniture securely attaching them with duct tape.  The children helped with all the kinds of tape they could find around the room. 

We talked about the size of the entrance to the cave and decided to cut it out in the front.  Then we had to do some problem solving as the scissors were not working. 

We ended up using one of the saws from our workbench.

Then we made some rocks for the front of the cave.  This became quite the effort in team work as children crunched paper and tried to tape the rock balls with masking tape. 

Some children did some research to find out how bears create the insides of their caves.  We made some grass by ripping green paper to line the inside of the cave. 

The next day we painted the outside of the cave and added more bedding.  This time we added sticks and twigs (paper towel rolls), animal hair (raffia) and leaves. 

Of course we had test it out along the way. 
A great deal of problem solving is occurring while these bear cubs vie for personal space. 

Once in the cave, they decided they needed food.  We went back to the books to research what the bears store in their caves (if anything) and found out that they will keep a stash of nuts and berries if they can.  A few cubs went off to make food. 

When we were finished, I joined in the play as Momma Bear.  We read about how the bears snuggle up to keep warm, so that is just what we did.  It was a lovely, quiet time inside the cave talking about bears.
When it was time to clean up for the day, I realized that one of my little bear cubs had actually fallen asleep on my lap.  Now that is how you study hibernation!

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