If you have been to Marvelously Made, then you have heard the phrase “The children are the curriculum”. Our teachers at Marvelously Made write a lot of our curriculum and use the children’s questions and interests to be their inspiration. Here is an example of how curriculum is created and expanded in the Primary Class.
At the beginning of the year, the Primary Class was exploring with various materials and seeing what happens when you mix them. They had oil, water, and soap. There was no plan or agenda from the teacher, just an open invitation. After a few days of mixing, one student noticed they could make a bubble mixture. The teacher turns around and the students are trying to make bubbles large enough to put each other in the bubble.
This led to discussions of how to make larger and stronger bubbles. First solution was to get a larger pool and a larger hula hoop.
The students explored with the larger pool and hula hoop and realized the bubbles weren’t strong enough and kept popping. During this time, the teacher is providing materials they need and discussing their progress and asking questions that help them go deeper with their understanding. Could the teacher at this point look up a recipe and say “here you go”? Yes she could, but then these students would miss out what was going to happen next.
The next the day when the students came outside they found an invitation that provided water, soap, corn starch, salt and baking soda. The goal was for the students to use the materials to make a bubble solution that works. As the students explored and mixed their various recipes, the teacher wrote their recipe down. They made observations and noticed what materials worked best and which ones did not. They noticed what made their solution too thick, or too cloudy or the bubbles popped to quick, or there were no bubbles at all. As they tested various recipes they decided if they were happy with their bubbles or if they wanted to alter it. Sometimes they realized when they kept playing with a recipe that worked, it would stop working. During this process they learned that sometimes you have to know when to say, “That’s enough.” The students revisited this station for several days. It was not out only once, for them to try and move on. This experiment was ongoing so they could make the best bubble solution. Some students made successful recipes and they revisited it to try a different formula because they saw someone else’s was more successful. During this time the students were revisiting their work, learning how to manage their emotions when frustrated (walk away and revisit it later), they felt the joy of accomplishment and the disappointment when things didn’t go their way. They built up their perseverance and grit as they tried again and again and again. They encouraged and helped each other and celebrated when each other figured it out.
Allowing the students to experiment and create their own bubble solution, provided them opportunities to go deeper in their learning. It allowed them to make discoveries on their own, which will give them a deeper understanding than if you just give them a recipe to follow. During this time the teacher is asking questions and guiding them without telling any answers.
This led to lots and lots of bubbles! We took this one step further and the students took their recipe they made and recreated it, jarred it and took it home to share with their parents. After all the bubbles were jarred the students noticed they were different shades of blue. This led to discussions about why that is. The result is all these recipes made bubbles and there is more than one way to make something. There is not always just one way to do something. That is something that is an important life lesson. There will always be another way to get the same result.
Wait there’s more….
We took this one step further by testing out a few different recipes the teacher made using the same materials. The students tested them and wrote down their recordings of which bubbles worked and didn’t. After hearing the materials of each they could tell why certain ones worked and why the others didn’t. They had an understanding of what happens when you mix salt, corn starch and baking soda with soap. Some recipes used all the ingredients, some used a little or a lot. One ingredient that every bubble solution needs is….soap!
But wait there’s more….
The older group took this project one step further. The students were given the task to price the bubble recipes and find out whose was the cheapest to make and who was the most expensive. They were given prices for the materials and applied them to each bubble recipe and determined the price. This led to discussions about when making things you have to consider the cost of materials along with which materials you choose to use. If you can make bubbles using only soap or using soap and water and the results are the same, but one recipe costs 5 times more than the other one, which ones is the wiser purchase?
When the students take the lead in a curriculum idea it always goes deeper and farther than if the teacher just pulled the idea from a box. During these times the students take ownership in their learning and they realize they have important things to contribute. They have the opportunity to guide what they learn and how they learn, which will stick with them a long time. Will this same experience happen next year? I don’t know, we will see.