Children, with teacher support, can now make decisions about what to investigate, how to find the answers to questions, and who to talk with or visit. They have the knowledge to progress in the project because the teacher has taken the time to focus the children on the topic, listen to their interests, and build the common experiences that will be the foundation for investigation and exploration.
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The project is off and running! Most young children enjoy making marks on paper. They appreciate the opportunity to communicate ideas in drawing or "writing" that can be "read" by others. They will put considerable effort into representing a reality that has some personal meaning to them. The opportunity to make field notes on a field visit to observe real phenomena firsthand is welcomed by children as young as 3 or 4 years old.
The Project Approach: Display and Documentation Techniques – Illinois Early Learning Project
Their willingness to carry clipboards on a field visit and their concentration as they work to record their observations on paper attest to many children's appreciation of the process of representing their experience. In this paper, I would like to indicate some of the characteristics of young children's map drawing and to invite teachers to examine the maps their children draw for the learning possibilities inherent within this activity. Map drawing is all about the question "where? I will begin with a personal story. It was a long time ago-before I knew anything much about early childhood education.
My husband and I and three sons-ages 2, 4, and 5 years-moved from England to America. As the departure date approached, I began to prepare the boys for the move that was to change their lives. We talked about America. One day my youngest son, 2 years and 10 months old, said, "Mummy, where is America? I tried again. There we will find a house like this one in a road like this one. I took the globe from the table, "These green places are land, and this blue part is the sea. We live here on this map, and America is over here. I gathered my son into my arms and took him to a chair where I told him a story about a family who moved house and packed up all their things to go to another place.
It did not satisfy him in terms of his original question but allowed normal relations to be resumed for the time being. What does it mean, this question "where? For young children, objects and people are located in rooms in relation to furniture. Satisfactory answers to the question "where?
The idea of a location as the name for a large area full of buildings and streets within which is situated the place you call home is a complex matter for a young child. Even more so is the concept of a single name for a large landmass within which are mountains, prairies, forests, lakes, and cities. Learning about location has to begin simply in experiencing everyday life. One group of kindergarten children in a child care center recently made a study of a nearby area of snow-covered grassland with a few trees and a picnic table.
This space eventually became known by the children as the Kindergarten Park. First the children talked about parks they knew and outdoor places they liked to spend time in. Then they took pencils, paper, and clipboards and walked to the space with the trees and the picnic table. It was winter, and there was snow on the ground. The children found interestingly textured surfaces to make rubbings of. They investigated the snow "Can we eat it? They took it inside the classroom and sorted the various small rocks, leaves, and sticks that were mixed with the snow when it melted.
They found an insect.
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Snow was definitely not good to eat. They refroze the melted snow water in the freezer and decided the snow was also ice. Under the snow, there was the remains of last year's grass. Thus, one question led to another as the project progressed. The most significant learning for this group of kindergarten children was about location. Together with their teacher, they decided to make a model of the park-a replica, a diorama. The teacher and the children gathered up what they might need to represent the park. They took a piece of Plexiglas out on to the snow and looked over at the park.
They decided which objects should represent which items in the reality of the park and its surroundings.
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There were the snow hills to be represented by large shells. There was one evergreen tree, and there were several deciduous trees with no leaves to be represented by fir cones. There was the picnic table. There was the fence, and there were people to be represented engaged in various activities. The children discussed the nature and relative location of these items as they developed their representations and decided how each feature of the scene should be represented.
The children took the diorama back into the classroom, and their teacher used the hot glue gun to stick down the various items in fixed locations. This diorama became the focus of various kinds of play by the children acting out the different perspectives on the park taken by other interested users, the people, the magpies and blue jays, the fox, the snowshoe hare, and the insects. Meanwhile, day by day, the blocks, chairs, and a table, bolts of fabric, cushions, and whatever else could be commissioned to represent some feature of the park enriched the context of these kindergarten children's dramatic play.
Visiting experts included a naturalist and road safety expert. A collection of books about parks, animals and birds, plants, and gardens was available for children to look at and for the teacher to read to them. Sharing Examples Already in the project described above, the amount of exploration of space and location is considerable.
Following the construction of the diorama, the teacher read to the children from the book Me on the Map Sweeney, There was also a tourist map of the town in which the child care center was situated available for the children to investigate. On one visit to the little park, the children set out with their clipboards, plain paper, and the intention of making maps.
The diversity with which the children responded to the challenge of map making was surprising to their teacher. One child made a map from her house to the school and from the school to the little park.
The Project Approach to teaching and learning
Another child drew various items in the park in realistic spatial relation to one another, a tree, the picnic table, and the cinema across the road. Twins stood beside each other facing opposite ways and drew in different directions, each starting with the same tree in the foreground. In the next few days, map making became a favorite activity. The children made maps of all kinds of spaces. Parents commented on children asking to see where they were going on the map, and where they lived on the map.
Children drew maps at home, of their houses and streets, and of rooms in their homes. They were fortunate to have a teacher who watched them, learned the various individual levels at which they were understanding their experience of the park, and helped them each to represent their understanding in the form of maps that increased in complexity as time went by. What were these children learning as they worked through their preoccupation with maps?
Maps are representations of physical location. Usually the representational activity known as mapping involves one-to-one correspondence with phenomena observed in a given place and their represented location on a page. However, the choice of details to be represented in maps even for adult use is quite selective depending on the use to be made of them. Phase 3: Concluding the Project The teacher arranges a culminating event through which the children share with others what they have learned. The children can be helped to tell the story of their project to others by featuring its highlights for other classes, the principal, and the parents.
The teacher helps the children to select material to share and, in so doing, involves them purposefully in reviewing and evaluating the whole project. The teacher also offers the children imaginative ways of personalizing their new knowledge through art, stories, and drama. Finally, the teacher uses children's ideas and interests to make a meaningful transition between the project being concluded and the topic of study in the next project.
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Edwards, L. Forman Eds. Chard Eds. Permission for reproduction of these materials for non-profit use with proper citation is granted. This book provides a brief history and overview of the Project Approach and a thorough explanation of how to implement this method for best effect in a wide range of educational contexts.
Intended for those who work with young children as well as caregivers and students in training to do so, readers will understand how to apply this approach in order to gain the interest of children and facilitate their mental growth. The book's chapters articulate the process and benefits of the project approach, identify and detail the three typical phases of project work, and provide specific suggestions for implementing each stage.
The importance of documentation of the children's work to record the story of their investigation and findings is also discussed.