As part of our trans-disciplinary unit, How We Express Ourselves, we are inquiring into how we can create and share stories in different spaces. Our Early Years Programme has a strong emphasis on child-initiated inquiries based on the belief that children learn best when their interests are acknowledged as worthy of investigation. Children’s thinking is not only valued but supported and extended through the class community.
For some days the children had been playing with toy dinosaurs, building homes for them using wooden blocks and logs. Exploring this interest through drawing his ideas, Alex shared a picture of skeletons in a museum. He then posed a question, asking if we could construct a dinosaur museum in the class. His drawing and enthusiasm inspired the children leading to a shared class curiosity to discover more about dinosaurs.In order to share our thinking, and to ascertain what we already knew about dinosaurs and museums, we brainstormed, coming up with some ideas as to what we would need to make a dinosaur museum.
With books from the library, we were able to explore different aspects of the life sciences such as meat eaters, plant eaters, tall dinosaurs, feathered dinosaurs, etc. and sharing our theories of extinction. The children demonstrated an understanding of perspective in our class discussions that some meat eating dinosaurs were stronger than the plant eating dinosaurs. They felt that the plant eating dinosaurs would have feared the meat eating dinosaurs. These observations came through in their stories and drawings. We also explored earth science through sharing thoughts around volcanoes, and climate changes.In order to share our understandings through many different modes of expression, children created puppets, engaged in dramatic play and used materials such as clay and paints.Our visit to the dinosaur museum encouraged the children to think creatively. Our guide shared with the children that no one lived at the time of the dinosaurs and that what we know are only ideas as to how these creatures looked and sounded. This knowledge excited the children and encouraged them to undertake research in order to support their theories and make their own conclusions. Acquisition of new vocabulary was embedded in this inquiry with children including words like “enormous”, “extinct”, “paleontologist”, “ferocious”, and “fossilized”, as well as including names of dinosaurs into their conversations.Through story telling with puppets and shadow puppets the children were able to understand that people listen and speak to share thoughts and feelings. They were also able to express their ideas and emotions by making story books and drawings depicting dinosaur stories.Children were fascinated when they realized how big (or how small) some of these dinosaurs were! We compared the heights of dinosaurs using uniform and non-uniform tools of measurement, such as our bodies and wooden block. We checked if our collective height was more than the tallest dinosaur, further exploring mathematical concepts such as measurement and estimation in our inquiry.Through communication, collaboration and negotiation the children were able to explore constructing a dinosaur museum together.Our successful opening of the Dinosaur Museum was the result of a variety of activities initiated by the children in the class.On the Open Day, the children shared their knowledge with their families about dinosaurs. Through story telling with props and self-created shadow puppets they were able to express their ideas and emotions.We asked the parent community to share their thinking and reflections on the dinosaur museum:
“A fantastic opening for your dinosaur museum!” “You are very knowledgeable about dinosaurs and shared a lot of information!” “Wow!! Amazing, well done.” “The children were incredible. A very high level of creativity!” “I have learned a lot about dinosaurs from you!!” “The dinosaur museum included all the important elements a museum should have: pictures, stories, fossils, eggs, dinosaur skeletons, performances and music. The children worked very hard together.”
Reflecting on our activities leading up to the open day, the children said: “I now know the names of different dinosaurs.” “To make the museum we had to share our ideas with each other and we had to work together.” “At the dinosaur museum we got to see how the bones looked and touch the footprints and T-Rex teeth.” “We know that the Sauroposeidon was 20 metres tall and our classroom was only 3 metres tall. “The dinosaurs were much taller than our school.” “Some dinosaurs had mouth like ducks’ and some with feathers to keep themselves warm or cool because they lived in the desert.”
Our exploration leading to creating the dinosaur museum and the open day covered a wide spectrum of skills. The children collaborated to suggest ideas for the museum; they researched dinosaurs by referring to library books and asking the museum guide; involved maths by comparing the height of dinosaurs with the combined height of the children and used uniform and non-uniform tools of measurement; they enhanced their vocabulary with new words; they could express their ideas through drawings, puppets and self-created stories; giving flight to their imagination – a hotel near the museum would help the visitors to spend more time at the museum, without having to drive. A simple idea to build a dinosaur museum initiated by a child resulted in a major exploration for the whole class which was appreciated by colleagues and parents.