Standard: 12C

Explore the physical properties of objects.

posts

The Magic of Magnetism

  “Look!” squeals three-year-old Eleanor.  “I can pick up these two balls! It’s magic!” Have you ever seen young children playing with magnets? The “magical” properties of magnets never fail to captivate early learners and spark a play buzz! Children learn by investigating, observing and figuring out how things work. Magnets fuel that curiosity in […]

Flower Power in the Outdoor Classroom

  “Look, look! Come and see what is inside this flower!”  It’s a warm, late-spring day and our friends are scattered around the yard, discovering the new surprises that have popped up overnight. The flowers are finally showing their beautiful blooms! “Is it a bumblebee?” I ask. They look at me—their eyes big with wonder. […]

Rocking through Early Learning Standards

  Rock balancing or CAIRNS has found its way into our play again this week! Stacking and balancing rocks encourages math and science investigations that are always developmentally appropriate. My adrenaline starts flowing and a smile grows on my face when a two-year-old child exhibits an innate sense of how to balance many more rocks […]

Playing with Sticks

  If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, or driven by the Arboretum on Interstate 88, you may have spotted Joe the Guardian, a 20-foot-tall, spear-wielding troll peering down at the passing cars from atop his grassy berm. Joe is just one of six towering troll statues created by […]

Fort Building 101

  “LOOK!” screams a four-year-old with such joy that we know this isn’t a garden-variety “I want to share something with you” moment. As the gang rushes to her side, they come to a complete standstill, frozen in awe. Oh happy day! Some kind souls have shared a fort with the community! There before us […]

Nest Building is STEM Building

“I found an empty nest! Can we keep it?” Owen’s joyful discovery captures everyone’s attention. Three-year-old Avery comes running. “Are there eggs?” she asks her older and wiser five-year-old friend. “Can I see?” she begs. “Please let me see?” “There are no eggs, just an old nest. Can we please keep it?” pleads Owen. After […]

Water Play!

  “It works! The water is coming out!” Rokia cannot contain her excitement as the discovery of a full rain barrel adds a new avenue of discovery and learning for our week. “How did you do that? Can I have a turn? Get a bucket!” The excitement builds as so many little brains begin to […]

Return of the Sand Gardens

  “I found GOLD!” squeals Laura. Four little friends are quick to join her in the latest gold rush in the sandbox. In the wee hours of the morning, often when the sun is barely above the horizon and the coffee is still being brewed, gold will magically appear in our sandbox. Spray-painted rocks that […]

Chalk Magic

“Vera, Vera!  Come see how bright the colors are in my rainbow!” Four-year-old Owen is ecstatic about his discovery of a colorful collection of wet chalk after a summer shower in our outdoor classroom. This happy accident has paved the way for a sensory adventure as we meet our math and science early learning standards […]

May the Force be With You

    “Look! The people blocks are in a line and they crash at the bottom,  just like when we play on the slide!” This is a lightbulb moment as Evelyn transfers knowledge gleaned from a previous play experience into her current hands-on learning. A chain-reaction domino fall during today’s block play reminds Evelyn of […]

Squirrely STEAM Learning

“If the squirrel comes down from this direction, we can trap him under here!” yells Elliot. The playground equipment sits empty as Elliott, Harper and their fellow “squirrel trappers” congregate at the base of a towering oak tree in our neighborhood park.  The children have long been captivated by this venerable old oak, which has […]

Rock and Roll

  One bright fall morning, I notice that the noise level at Under the Gingko Tree is exceptionally low. A quick glance around reassures me that all of my early learners are safe and accounted for. Then I notice a quiet but intense play buzz happening in our rain garden, so I wander over to […]

Finding STEM in Snow Play

  After months of sequestering and social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, we could all use some fresh winter air! Nature is just what the doctor ordered to stimulate our senses while we meet our early learning standards. The winter months offer an abundance of STEM learning opportunities, so don’t let the falling […]

Shadow Play

  “Do our shadows look like the monsters in the book?” asks James. I glance over and see James and Noa connecting their shadows by overlapping their arms. When we engage children in outdoor shadow play to support active exploration and discovery, their creativity is endless! James and Noa are playing out their version of […]

Finding STEM in Squirming Worms

  “AAAAUUUUGHHHHHHH! Worms! Look, look! They are everywhere!” Eleanor is jumping up and down hysterically. Nothing will bring our crew running faster than a good worm sighting! Let the earthworm exploration begin. We love worms! Last spring, we witnessed an unusual natural phenomenon as a mass of earthworms wiggled out of their subterranean homes in […]

STEM Building in the Window Frame

  “AUGGGHHHH!” I hear screams, a crash and giggles galore. The joy of Magna-Tiles® has returned to our ever-popular window-stacking play. When these colorful magnetic tile mosaics come crashing down from the window frame, the children respond with laughter and joy. By contrast, the collapse of three-dimensional block formations often elicits groans and tears. Something […]

STEM in the Bird Feeder

“I see the daddy cardinal, do you know where the mama bird is?” Four-year-old Noah, binoculars in hand, is busy counting birds in our outdoor classroom. Are you aware that the annual Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up later this week? This is a great opportunity to create a bird-watching station and knock out […]

Rainbows, Sunshine and Superheroes

  “Evie, come look! I’m a superhero! I have superpowers!” calls Jamie from the foyer. Curiosity piqued, Evie leaves her blocks behind to see what her best friend is up to now. “Rainbows!!!” Evie shrieks as she spies the colorful light pattern on Jamie’s wrist. Everyone within earshot dashes over to see the rainbows. And, […]

Ramps, Inclines and STEM in the Great Outdoors

  “Hey, Hudson! How did you do that?” Eleanor is amazed at Hudson’s success as he races a car down the ramp. This is the same car that she couldn’t get to stay on the ramp just minutes earlier. I listen as Hudson turns the car over and explains, “See those wheels? The front ones […]

STEM + Beanbags = F U N!

  I recently grabbed our dusty box of beanbags off of the top shelf of the closet and took the beanbags outside. We rarely played with them indoors, so what was I saving them for?  If a beanbag gets lost or forgotten under the plants and soaked in the rain, who cares? At least it […]

Rainy-Day Block Play

Today’s dark skies and heavy rain have driven us indoors for what started out as a low-energy day. But now it’s even quieter—as in “too quiet.” I can feel my anxiety rising. But as I look around and see the children engaged in deep, calm block play—with wooden blocks strewn all over our classroom—I break […]

Spring Dandelion Day STEM Adventures

Each spring, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of the growing season—from the greening carpet of grass to the buds bursting into blossom on the trees. We especially delight in the dandelions that can turn any grassy area into a STEM wonderland! Dandelions introduce so many math adventures into our early childhood program. The neighborhood park […]

A Small Whiff of STEM

  “I smell cinnamon rolls!” exclaims Henry as he races through the gate towards our outdoor classroom. Everyone stops what they are doing to inhale deeply. “I do too! I want a cinnamon roll!” pleads Noah. My group is quite disappointed to learn that I am not baking cinnamon rolls this morning. The delicious cinnamon-roll […]

T is for Teachable Moments

“Hey everybody! Look at all of the tomatoes that are ripe today!” shouts Jacob to the gang. “Can we eat them for lunch? Can we?” asks Lucus. “Can we eat them now?” pleads Elizabeth. It’s early September and preschoolers around the country are learning about apples, but we have tomatoes at our fingertips. The same […]

STEM Play with Dominoes

  “Hey, Evelyn!  Go get your cell phone and meet me at the stumps!” calls Noa. My head whirls around as I check the classroom to see if a cell phone has actually made its way into school today. Then I see Evelyn running to the basket of dominoes to get her “cell phone.” Whew! […]

Exploring Colors on the Light Table

  As the days grow shorter and the slanting rays of sun that create our rainbows are replaced by clouds, we shift our energy to other forms of investigative play with light and color. “Saaliha, come play with me at the light table!” Nora calls out. Saaliha joins her friend and the STEM investigations into […]

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

“LOOK! We have icicles!” “Can I have one?  I need one!” On this brisk winter morning—much to the children’s delight—nature has given us the gift of icicles. The children’s fascination with these frozen treasures leads to an abundance of “teachable moments” as we engage in some STEM learning while getting some fresh air and exercise. Soon […]

The Magic Tree

  “Do you know about our Magic Tree?” four-year-old Rowan asks Alex. She pauses dramatically before passing on the secret of the beloved old tree that has long been a source of delight and inquiry for the children in our early learning program. “Watch, Alex!” she instructs. “I will push this stick into the tree, way […]