{FREEBIE!} Can You Build It? Re-creating famous landmarks during block play

We often change materials around the room and encourage our students to use these materials wherever they like!  A few weeks ago, we noticed a group of girls gather the coloured plastic blocks we had at the light table and bring them to the carpet area.  They began building "towers and castles" all while engaging with each other as to how the structures should be built. 

That afternoon, my teaching partner and I had a discussion about extending the learning happening here.  We decided to print some pictures of structures and landmarks from around the world and add them into a binder set nearby.

The next day the girls noticed the binder and began to look through with sheer joy.
Some landmarks were familiar (C.N. Tower) and many others also caught their eye.

M.P.:  This is the C.N. Tower!  My dad works near there!

K.M.:  Is this London Bridge like the song London Bridge?

A.G.:  This I've seen when I go downtown!

Then they started building some of the structures by looking carefully!

This student spent much time looking carefully at the picture of the Eiffel Tower and trying to re-create it using the blocks. 

When I asked her to describe and tell about what she noticed, she realized that the bottom of her design didn't match the picture and worked at re-positioning the blocks carefully so it wouldn't fall.

Another student noticed that the binder had no front cover and wanted to create a title page for it.  I asked her what we should call it, in which she replied "Can You Build It?"!  So she designed a beautiful cover.

You can download these images (18 pictures total) by clicking HERE.
(Note: All pictures were downloaded from Flickr)

I hope your students enjoy building these just as much as ours do!

Snow and Ice Inquiry

Back in January, when we first returned from Christmas Break, the students were curious about the snow falling and would often collect snow and ice (in their pockets!) to look more closely at them inside.  
You can guess what happened next!!!

Well, I just love the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, and so we read that book with the students to generate a great conversation about the weather.

We like to see if the interest continues for several days before jumping into planning an inquiry, so when we noticed that our students could not stop talking about snow and ice, and collecting it outdoors, we decided to think about where we could go with this inquiry.

My teaching partner and I use this inquiry web when planning for inquiries.  I found this idea originally a few years back from Darla Myers.  Simply draw a web and think about the different curriculum areas you can incorporate.

We set out a provocation using frozen blocks of ice with small objects inside and other blocks of ice coloured with food colouring.

How can we get the objects out?

C.C.:  Mine is cracking now! My hands are cold when I touch it!
(Adding warm water with a paper towel)

N.R.:  It's melting!  We put hot water on it and it's melting fast!

The children collected ice pieces and tried to melt them in different ways:

K.M.:  I can put it in my hands.  See - it's dripping!  The ice is melting!

V.P.:  If you leave it on the counter it will melt.  It turns to water."

O.S.:  Snow melts.

How does the ice feel in your hands?

I.A.:  It feels cold and soooooo watery!

F.P.:  Cold.

One day after coming inside from outdoor recess, some students noticed that our custodian was sprinkling the ground with something.  This sparked a great conversation about what we add to ice and what happens.
One child discussed the ice her dad used on the driveway that morning to "keep everyone safe and not fall down".  We invited her to bring in some of her salt so we could try some experiments using it.

Some children remarked that the salt they used at their homes looked different.  They brought some in to compare and, of course, we tried all 3 salts to see if they all took the same amount of time to melt the ice.

C.F.:  My dad uses this outside so we don't slip.

S,F.:  My salt is different.  It's white.  My dad puts it on the driveway.

We also set up an experiment to see what other things would melt ice the fastest.

I.A.:  It smells like cotton candy!

L.P.:  It smells like chocolate.

F.P.:  It looks like white ice cream. (pointing to baking powder on ice)

We invited children to paint the snow using watercolours...both inside the classroom and outside!

And we used food colouring and eye droppers to add liquid to the ice trays, which we later melted and then watched them turn back to water.  We measured how much liquid there was initially, and then once again after we froze and melted the ice.

Our inquiry lasted several weeks until we got some great (warmer!) weather in February.
I wonder what the students will be interested in learning and researching about next....???