Sunday, 14 April 2013

the marvel of marbles, part three

Marbles have continued to fascinate my students, many of whom have embraced other play areas, other inquiries, and yet still return often to find new ways to play with "things that roll". Our musical marble box became a mini inquiry area in the morning class when someone discovered it could be even more noisy when instruments or materials were placed at the bottom. A xylophone, a glass bowl, wood blocks, a wooden stirring drum, and crumpled paper all gave delightfully interesting sound results. 

D. C., my friend and teaching partner down the hall, has a student whose sibling is in my class. To be precise, this trait is shared by all of us in the Kindergarten team this year, which makes for much communication among siblings about ongoing projects in their classrooms. D is always thinking up great extensions to activities we try with our students. When she saw the golf balls I'd collected at the beach she suggested I try painting with them. Our principal had rescued a stack of large boxes that week and offered them up to the Kindergarten team, knowing well we are always happy for a new provocation material. I discovered that the boxes were large enough to be better managed with two children. Thus "friend painting" was born. Marbles, golf balls, and bouncy balls all went in the paint and suddenly everyone wanted to visit the paint centre again. Side-by-side, two boxes would be rocking and swaying, all the while the children laughing and the balls noisily banging around, even occasionally escaping the box and leaving colourful trails on the tile floor. This was an exciting time for me to document as students observed the trails, the mixing colours, the joy of bumping the balls against the sides of the box, the interesting textures left in the paint by the bumpy golf balls, the sounds of the balls landing in the paint or bumping each other, and other sensory experiences. By far the most repeated phrase was: "This is fun!" as students explored the sheer fun of shaking and rolling the boxes with a friend.
*note: when viewed with iPad or mobile apps there may appear spaces here where there are embedded videos. I'm still playing around with blogger to remedy this.


In fact, mini marble inquiries continued to pop up all around the room, even as I began to break down the main table I had set up back in mid-January. Ramps were becoming a major focus for a large group in the afternoon class, with many students bringing favourite "hot wheels" cars from home to race against their friends. Tracks and tunnels, ramps were assembled and changed every day, all the while other friends continued to follow the marble building project. I wasn't very surprised when the two groups overlapped, with marbles being tested on ramps built for racing cars, and when cars were added to marble runs.

Lego building was another centre that was becoming quite busy. I had pinned a marble maze on Pinterest that was made from the versatile little bricks, and I showed it to one of the builders while he was sorting out different coloured pieces, trying to decide what to build. He was inspired, and attempted a maze. This task proved harder than it looked, and he asked for help. Together we created this simple maze, which has been copied and improved upon by others since.

During the long cold spring that has felt more like an extended winter season, we had several days of small classes, when buses were cancelled or when parents opted to stay home rather than brave the weather. These days were a wonderful excuse to combine classes with one Kindergarten friend or another, to allow students some new friends to play with and for fresh eyes on our ongoing inquiries. When these visits were in our room, my students were wonderful ambassadors, welcoming all others and showing off their work. What we didn't know, though, was how much our marble inquiry would ignite sparks in our guests' classrooms. In D's classes she was seeing marble maze interest developing. We did a lunch-time run to our favourite provocation paradise: the "Creative Zone" recycling centre for Peel teachers. There we found tubes, cardboard gutters, jars and lids for our creative centres, and more. Here are some of the tests and the permanent maze structure that they created in D's room.

One day I went to chat with another Kindergarten friend down the hall, V. Silva. I stopped in my tracks when I saw the "pom-pom drop", or marble maze, on the wall.

Ms. Silva's class-made pom-pom drop.

Like D and I, V is an active Pinterest user, and at team meetings or over lunch we often talk about some new idea we've all pinned from one another to support an ongoing project. I had pinned several such mazes, and they had inspired our first marble maze on the back of the shelving unit. This, however, was not a picture to show my students, but a real artifact. I was excited to tell the kids, and snapped the photo below to show them. The photos below illustrate the excitement that was the result when I showed the picture on my iPad to the group. I can't recall exactly how it happened, but over the course of one afternoon we sent a request: "Can we see the marble run?" and received a request: "Can we borrow your musical (pom-pom) marble run?". We tidied quickly, packed up the musical box run, and headed down to visit our friends for a demonstration, all captured on vine and shared with our friends on twitter.

"A" composed the question with very little help from me, to ask
if we could visit:
"Can we see the marble run?"
I particularly liked the yes/no choices at the top.

V's class sent us this fantastic question, complete with music notes and faces to help us read it. Below you can see my hastily scrawled response: yes, we will bring it to you! We demonstrated how to make the marbles hit the xylophone, how to tape it back together when it falls apart (this is key), and how we often change it when it breaks to try something new. Then we were given a demonstration of their marble drop, captured in the video below.

This visit and exchange led to one of the most touching events of the month: V's class tweeted us to say thank you: "@KinderFynes tak you for geving yor mirbl run, we love it!"
It doesn't happen often, but I was momentary speechless when I read that tweet.

I honestly thought, two weeks ago when I wrote part one of the marble inquiry, that we were finished with these explorations. It goes to show, to use my favourite metaphor for any inquiry project, that if there is still heat in the coals of the ideas in the room, it only takes a spark to re-ignite a roaring fire. The communication now happening between students in the different classes in our team is truly exciting. As I quoted Lilian Katz from her keynote speech at Charles Sturt back in March, these students are learning to write, record, and tweet, all in the service of their interests. Those readers who follow me (and us) on twitter have seen many exciting developments since this day, as multiple inquiries evolve into larger projects and events. It is an exciting time to be in Kindergarten at Thornwood Public School.

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