Monday, January 11, 2016

All (Solar) Systems GO!

A lot of times, teachers can have an idea about lesson plans and topics of study that they would like to pursue with their class.  If, however, we are open, perceptive, and indeed progressive, we will find that the children have much better ideas.  For our new, "Systems" theme unit, I initially thought that our next area of study would be the human body (and more specifically,  the digestive system-little people love talking about bodily functions) but the kids took the subject in a whole other direction.

When I  introduced our new school-wide theme and chatted about types of systems (a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole) and when or where we would have heard the word 'system',  the Solar System was enthusiastically added to our list and sparked a lot of talk about planets, the moon, stars, and of course astronauts, aliens and space travel.  That cinched it. Space it is!

We  began reading several books including a collection of poetry And then There Were Eight on the subject and landed on the topic of the declassification of Pluto to 'dwarf' planet status.  The Kindergartners passionately expressed their feelings about this decision made back in 2006 but with the same appalled outrage.  We then investigated the reasons for the change and came up with a general (but apparently unsatisfactory) reason.  We apparently still do not agree with the decision.

To help inspire and inform us further, we took a trip to the Natural History Museum Planetarium and saw a showing of "Musical Night Sky." It  depicted the Solar System's night revelations that included the eight planets, their moons, and the various constellations.   Our docents were very friendly and knowledgeable and were able to clarify many of our questions about the Solar System and its rejected Pluto.  I think we are still feeling slighted, however.

(On a different note, we also had a bit of a surprise just outside of the planetarium doors! We encountered a model of the Caves of Lascaux complete with miniature cave drawings.  We also took a browse through a section of models and displays on DNA.  These exhibits were both very nice follow ups to our previous "Identity" theme unit.)

Later in the week, we created space journals and wrote about some of the information that we have gathered so far.  We are currently designing our own planets and collecting data to make each of them inviting and sustainable.

During our Art lesson shortly after beginning the unit on Space, we began our study of  Spaniard Joan Miro.  I thought him to be an appropriate choice for an artist to study because of his 'out of this world' images and obvious inspirations from outer space.  After viewing several of Miro's childlike pieces that even included one titled "Constellations", we listened to a CD called "The Planets" while creating our artwork.  The children designed pastel drawings enhanced by black sharpies that resembled solar systems, galaxies, aliens, and other UFOs to the sounds of music that simulated blast offs, turbulence and the quiet peacefulness imagined there in space.

Joan Miro

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