ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

Listening to Children’s Theories and Ideas About Our World

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How do you know the wind is there?

Frequently perceptible, but often invisible, the wind can be a fascinating weather phenomena. Its mysterious nature can bring the languages of science and imagination together. When thinking about the question, ‘How do you know the wind is there?‘, the children‘s voices and illustrations were inspirational. They motivated us to explore the science of wind while relishing in the magical fantasy of it.

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We read many fictional books about the wind. A favourite was ‘Millicent and the Wind‘ by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Suzanne Duranceau. In the story the wind adopts a human persona and becomes Millicent‘s friend. We all particularly enjoyed the stories where the wind is portrayed as a living being with its own personality and thoughts, and some of the children felt motivated to create their own fantasy fictional tales and story pictures related to the wind. A strong thread, which ran through many of the children’s stories, was the power of the wind and its sometimes unforgiving nature.

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Pippa’s drawing to illustrate that the wind is there.

“Trees are windy. The leaves blow off. The tree is bending. See her hair like that? That’s the wind.“ – Pippa

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Jacob’s illustrations of how an artist may convey “twisty wind that goes round and round like a hurricane”.

To begin to learn about the power of wind, we have been experimenting and playing with wind in the classroom. We observed how the fast moving blades in electric fans generates wind and how we can produce a gentle current of air by blowing through straws. We had an amazing time trying to paint using wind from different sized fans, hairdryers and by blowing through straws. It was interesting to observe the children quickly learning how to gain a certain amount of control of these different types of wind forces either by pointing the equipment in the desired direction or by holding them closer or further away from the paint.  We also tested to see if any of these winds were strong enough to make certain objects fly across the room.

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Our experiments led to the question, “why is the strong wind from the hairdryer more successful than the strong wind from the fans when blowing the paints across the paper?“ Some theories included:

“It‘s easier to hold the hairdryer close to the paint.“Thomas

“The hairdryer is stronger. I mean the hairdryer wind is stronger.“Jack

“It‘s smaller, that‘s why it‘s better.“Wille

We now have an anemometer, which we can use to measure the speed of wind. This may help us to discover whether the wind from our hairdryers is moving faster than that from our fans.

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While continuing to consider the question, ‘how do you know the wind is there?’, we decided to construct wind chimes to hang outside in our Early Years courtyard, so that we could look and listen to observe and hear whether there is a wind causing them to move and make different sounds. Everyone brought in various re-cycled materials from home to make our wind chimes. These objects were carefully selected for their beauty and/or interesting form or for their ability to make a sound when moving or knocking against another object. Our completed beautiful outdoor wind chimes, are a perfect way to help us know whether the wind is present.

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After reading information books about the wind and the various forms it can take, we researched some more on the internet, and we particularly enjoyed listening to the range of sounds different types of wind make. We focused on the noises created by a strong wind, a hurricane, a gentle breeze and a tornado. While listening to these different sounds, we each had ideas about how the winds look and make us feel. Letizia said that, “The hurricane sounds like a dragon. It sounds like a dragon screaming. The tornado is a bit like a train.” Pippa liked the gentle breeze as, “It makes me rest.” As we concentrated on each wind noise, we made marks or drew images on paper, which we felt represented each sound. Some drawings were our ideas of how an artist may convey wind, while others were illustrations inspired by the sounds. Afterwards we each put our completed drawings together and made them into individual wind books, which depict our unique interpretations of the different wind sounds.

Building on the children’s interest and reflections about wind sounds, we took it a step further during a music session. The proposal was to create wind stories with musical instruments. Our hope was that the musical materials would provide another way for the children to express their understandings. A group was invited to explore different types of sound makers and share ideas about how the wind might tell a story. The children shared and developed their ideas with each other.

Ellen chose scarves and shared, “I’m doing ballet wind.” She then elaborated by adding, “The day the wind was really strong she pushed us away.”

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 Sharing a story about “ballet wind”.

Jacob chose a black scarf and used it to represent “a scary black wind.” He then blew into a tube and suggested this sound could be the “hurricane roaring like a dragon.”

Lily chose some triangles and told us, “That’s a gentle breeze. It’s only winding.”

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                    Exploring sounds to create musical wind stories. 

When discussing the different wind noises, opinions were mixed as to which was our favourite sound. Some preferred the calmness of the gentle breeze rustling the leaves, while others loved the excitement of the roaring tornado or the screeching hurricane. We now have a graph in our classroom to document and display which wind noise we each like the best. We have recorded each wind sound on separate recording devices, so that visitors to our room can also listen and then add their preference to our graph.

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Jacob chose to explore the science of tornado winds further and read some information books about tornadoes and how they are formed. Jacob then drew his own picture representing how a tornado is formed. After discovering that both hot air and cold air are involved when a tornado forms, Jacob wondered whether he could cause his picture to turn into a tornado! To test his theory, Jacob placed part of his drawing on the warm light of the overhead projector (in the ‘hot air’) and left the remaining part off (in the ‘cold air‘). “Look! My picture will turn into a tornado!“ Jacob cried.

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Our class inquiry into both the science and mystery of wind is still on-going. We have observed the children continuing to choose to look at wind-related books and including the idea of wind in their imaginative role play games. Unexpectedly the concept of feelings was explored fairly deeply during this project. This was particularly evident when we considered the different emotions wind sounds can evoke and when the wind assumed a character in our fictional stories.

Text and photographs by Heidi Harman and Andrea Mills.

Author: Heidi Harman

As an Early Years teacher, I am extremely passionate about working with young children. Their curiosity about almost everything is truly infectious and I enjoy sharing in their learning, discoveries and sense of wonder about our world.

4 Comments

  1. Heidi, what a beautiful inquiry into our natural world. It was a delight to see the children have represented their theories or thoughts through varying mediums. Inspiring to see educators so tuned into the children’s questions and thinking.
    I really enjoyed reading this, well done.

  2. WOW, what a lovely inquiry and so powerful when you allow the children to explore questions like ‘how do you know the wind is there?’ rather than ‘tell me all you know about wind’. Fantastic, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about this inquiry. We were wondering if it had come to a natural end, but the children have returned to school after the Spring holiday still inspired. We seem to have a passion to inquire more about tornadoes just now, so we’ll see where that takes us…

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